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Teaching methods for late starters/adult dancers

Guest Giselle83

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Guest Giselle83

Hello! I'd like to hear some opinions about teaching methods for people who don't dance to become professional and for adult students.


Let's take for example forcing turnout in basic positions, and in movements especially done a la seconde. Does your teacher (or if You're a teacher what do you do) let you work with your natural turnout, even it being basically 90 degrees?


What about keeping the supporting leg turned out for example in arabesque pirouette or pique turns. Are those little things just 'forgotten' cause they're not so 'important' when it comes to adult dancers?

And in the end, what about adult students performing classical ballet? do you do it or not?

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I had my adult students (indeed, all my students) work with their natural turnout. I don't see that there's any other option for a good teacher. As for your next question, if the turnout muscles are being used properly, the leg will be turned out in any sort of pirouette. Proper turnout is a very central concept in ballet, and it must be neither neglected nor forced--problems can arise from both extremes.

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Hello Giselle83, welcome to Ballet Alert! Online :)


I agree totally with Hans' answer. Dancers at any age should be expected to work as correctly as possible in terms of using their best rotation for everything, but also not forced into rotation beyond their natural ability. It must be developed gradually, not forced at the beginning.


As for adult students who start as adults performing classical ballets, there are roles in many of them which could be well suited to adult students, but actually dancing the classical corps and soloists parts, probably not.

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I see two definite questions in your query:


Should adults be taught the same way as beginners children?


And are they to be taught with the same discipline, hard working spirit, knowing they probably will not do it vocationally?


To both questions I would answer a big YES. I totally believe (but I know not everyone will agree) that adults should be taught in the same way as children. That is, from the very basics (with natural turnout, of course not forced! :) ) to a more challenging level.

At that said level, the most effort will be asked of them (not that no effort is asked at beginners' level of course :rolleyes: but it will be a different fitness level).


Turnout is an essential part of ballet, so I will always ask students to work with it at *their* own maximum. Like everything else, this can't be forced, and this is truly individual to each. As a beginner, it will be 'consciously' used, so it has to be reminded a lot, and of course, it will not be performed correctly most of the time, or not to the same standard that will be asked of an intermediate or advanced student. That's fine, as I explained above, it is a natural progression, just like in a child who starts to learn.


For the discipline part however, I will always ask the best of everyone, whether or not the student (and I don't make a distinction between children/teenagers/adults) comes for the social and entertaining value of the class, or for a more serious purpose. You have to adapt to the situation, and sometimes, the best of someone will not be much (and it can evolve with time, age, tiredness...etc...) but at least, I need to feel that they're 'working' towards a goal. That individual goal being defined at the beginning of the class (whether at the start of the year, or when they feel they want to change the outcome of the class).

I don't believe you come to a class solely to meet friends, otherwise, you would go for a coffee. It's a physical activity, so that has to be taken into account too. ;)

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Guest Giselle83

Thanks for all of you! It was great to read your replies. I happen to have one teacher, with who I take only one class a week, that tends to underestimate our skills. It is very hard to make her believe that we're more than 'hobby' dancers.


To Ms. Leigh, I meant adult dancers performing some classical dances in dance school's performances, not in any professional way, like with some company.


To balletowoman, yes, that is what I exactly was asking!!! :-)


thanks again for replies!

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Guest grace

i agree with hans and victoria.


i think it is risky to use a blanket statement to the effect that adults should be taught the same way as children. in fact, IMO, they should be taught very differently.


but that doesn't necessarily mean i disagree with balletowoman - i think she just expresses herself differently to me. :)


there is CONTENT and there is METHOD (or methodology). IMO, there are differences in BOTH, related directly to age-appropriateness. but that doesn't mean there is any difference in the quality of the teaching, nor in the respect and/or rapport between student and teacher.


all students deserve the teacher's respect, interest & encouragement. :)

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Hello, Giselle83


I notice you are from Finland, too. In Helsingin Tanssiopisto (the school I go to) the highest level adult students perform a short piece about once a year in the school recital. While most of the people on that level started ballet as children/teenagers and have a head start ;) there are a few who started as adults.


I'm told an adult with average talent and no significant problems (like poor rotation or overweight) can usually reach that level with about 5-6 years of daily classes, if they have the ambition and drive to do so. Some do it in 4-5 years, if they are still young (late teens, early twenties), intelligent, talented and have good body. It takes about 4 classes a week to maintain strength and technique at that level.


So it can be done. Ask your school. :)





(2,5 years down, 2,5 still to go. :) )

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Grace I know what you mean. I would of course adapat the explanation for adults, and not tell them to 'pretend their face is in a beautiful photo frame' when their arms are in 5th position. :D ;)


Adults will usually learn quicker and understand the 'movement' goal and action quicker too, but I believe it is fundamental not to cut corners and go direcly to an intermediate level, just because they're adults. I think it's important to do things facing the barre, go easy with 'harder' positions like derrière and grand battement etc... ;)

They will achieve this at their own pace, a bit like a child. Because if they're normally quicker to understand intellectually, I don't think the body reacts quicker... Muscles also need a lot of time to adapt to what is asked, no matter what age you are.


I think it's often a shame, when I go back to a beginners' class (which is a thing I really like to do, to 'ground' myself again, so to speak), to see that it's not really at beginners level, and see how some 'true' beginners struggles on harder steps, simply because it is evident they haven't understood a more fundamental one. :) I often feel like saying to the teacher: 'it's there, staring you in the face!! Why don't you see that they need more basic exercises, before attempting this harder one?' They're all over the place in a détourné, when they don't even have a good posture on a balance in 5th position! :)

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As an adult ballet student, I desire to be the best that I can be. Even though I never will dance as a vocation, I hope for corrections during class about my turnout, detournee, 5th position, etc. The whole point of taking ballet as an adult to me is streching my body to its reasonable limit, while trying to be as asthetically pleasing as possible. I would be upset if my teacher didn't correct my turnout and remind me of my alignment because I was an adult, and have no hope of doing ballet as a vocation.


I think the reason that any person begins ballet as an adult is because they desire the structure, and the ability to strive for an ideal well defined technic, and a pleasing asthetic, even if it may be unattainable. Ballet for me combines the mental and the physical, and always allows room for improvement. If an adult wasn't look for mental as well as physical exercise, they'd probably be taking aerobics. :P


So, as an adult I want to be pushed just as hard as a pre-professional so that I can get as good as I can reasonably be.

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Other than to say that teachers should be true to their profession and seek to develop the same characteristics in we adults as they might in a younger group, I think it is difficult to be a teacher of adults. We older folks are so damn opinionated. One wants something and another wants something else. Teachers have a tough job and my sympathy.


I have been in a few adult classes that were extremely popular and in which most of the class would say very good things about the class. The only common denominator I can find in these classes is that there is something of a spirit in the class. The class moves and is challenging and you can feel an energy throughout the class. How that comes about I couldn’t tell you.

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Guest grace
We older folks are so damn opinionated. One wants something and another wants something else.
garyecht - you have hit the nail on the head, with regard to adult learning theory: as we get older (all of us, including children), we are increasingly differentiated as people. thus, the challenge for the adult educator: to meet each individual's different needs. :)
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