For a wedding present, I got us season tickets to BalletMet. We try to catch a ballet once a year or so. And, y’know, it’s been kind of great for my comix.
First, ballet is a completely different way of telling stories. Comix are a hybrid of words and pictures, but ballet tells the story with only visuals.
(This doesn’t work perfectly as narrative – ballet is better if you already know the story, and it seems you can express any emotion by leaping into the air. Ballets tend to be pretty decompressed, story-wise. They spend a lot more time on scenes that might involve dancing; ie. the super-long celebration scene at the end of the Nutcracker. But it really shows what you can do with only body language.)
We saw BalletMet’s Dracula a few years ago, and damned if the lead dancer didn’t pull of a live-action version of a Kelley Jones comic.
Comix is also concerned with finding the right dynamic pose, and so is ballet. The dancers are trained to hold the heel just so, or the hand just so, and get exactly the right line between the shoulders and the hips.
Contrast the ballet to the poses you see on Escher Girls. Many of the poses are almost possible for ballet dancers, although you still have to account for ribcages and the limits of the spine.
Finally, ballet shows the geometry of the human body. Drawing the body in motion demands a good understanding of where the joints are and how they interact. If you lift this foot in a kick, the opposite hip will drop this way. If you raise the arm to strike, the other shoulder will move like so. Ballet dancers have tremendous control over their entire bodies, showing exactly how the pieces can move.
The best thing for comix is to bring in things from outside of comix. If you want another view of human anatomy and body language, you can’t do much better than a trip to the ballet.