The 7 Words You Can Never Say in Ballet

What makes some people laugh will really offend others.

Jess Ruhlin Comedian Choreographer

Say What!? Rehearsing at Steinhardt

Here’s a story to either offend or amuse:

I recently created some comedic choreography and text inspired by the famous George Carlin stand-up routine, ‘The 7 Words You Can Never Say on Television”.

Still with me? Ok, good.

The piece compares the abstractness of words with the Byzantine conduit of ballet movement and examines how communication is reliant on intent whether spoken or in steps.

I created the movement using Laban Movement Analysis as the lens in considering the delivery, timing, and physicality of Carlin’s text. Then I added my own written script to further explore the comparison with body language, and repeated the movement from the oh-so-offensive Carlin text this time set to a beautiful Handel concerto.

I’ve been curious recently if ballet is only funny in choreography in those moments when it’s done badly, if the art form is just so beautiful that it’s impossible to take the language of ballet and say something amusing without distorting it. So the point of this piece is to play with good vs. bad ballet, as Carlin is speaking good and very naughty words.

Jess Ruhlin Comedian Choreographer

Ballet is subjective! Uh…..no, that’s a pretty terrible pose

I really wish that there were ‘open-mic night’ kind of events for choreographers and dancers. Until that exists, or I know about it, or start it myself, there’s always the traditional comedy cellars here in New York, right?

Always a competitive and thriving scene, I happen to know a guy who’s pretty successful as a stand-up on the circuit. He encouraged me to try to pitch my show to a few open mic nights which resulted in this not-embarrassing-at-all conversation:

Me: So I have a one-woman show that combines choreography with comedic text.

Comedy Club Booker: Is it stand-up?

Me: No, it’s ballet!

Comedy Club Booker: ………….(long pause) Is that one of your jokes?

Always good when your eloquent pitch to perform your labor of love gets confused with a joke. And doesn’t get a laugh.

I am thrilled however to say that I will be performing the piece this coming Tuesday in Maine at a Text and Movement Workshop led by choreographer-comedian Claire Porter. Wish  me luck, or as dancers say, ‘Merde!’ You can say that on a blog, can’t you?

For more dance funnies, check out the LOLBallerinaz Archive

I will try to get some video, but in the meantime, please enjoy these 7 pictures of me rehearsing my ballet, ‘7 Words’. (I’m doing one of the ‘Bad Words’ movements in one of these- Can you guess which picture is one of the 7 deadly symbols of speech?)

Feel free to laugh.

Jess Ruhlin Comedic Choreographer Jess Ruhlin Comedian Choreographer

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