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Breaking the Beginner Barrier

Guest Tiny Feet

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Guest Tiny Feet

I have been taking ballet for about a year now.


I would say I am an intermediate to advance beginner these days. I take 2 beginner classes and 2 intermediate/advance a week. In the interm/adv classes, I usually can hold my own at barre but the center eats me alive sometimes, depending who is teaching. :(


The problem is not that I don't know what the steps are like when I first started or what the combination is calling for. My main hurdle is that I just can't do it as fast. And it can be frustrating at times and I am not sure how I can improve my speed without giving up good technique. For example, a popular combination is glissade, assemble. When I focus on technique, I can't keep up. And when I can keep up, my technique goes out the window. Is there a way to balance this?


Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. :(

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Actually, tinyfeet, that is why there are beginning level classes, and then Intermediate levels, and finally advanced. It takes a long time to be able to handle both the technique and the added speed. One does not become an Int/Adv dancer in a year! :eek:

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Good heavens. :( I've been taking ballet for 2 years, about 3 times a week, and I wouldn't imagine going to an advanced class.


I strongly believe in what my swordsmaster says: useful speed only comes as a result of good technique. Aiming for speed without good technique is pointless, for then you will have neither speed nor technique.


So, my advice as a fellow student in the about same skill level is: take more beginner classes and skip the int/adv, if at all possible. :(

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When I started, I took beginner classes for a year, then moved to intermediate for two years, then moved to the so-called advanced classes. Looking back, I would say that progression was reasonable for me. My sense is that you kinda know if a class is appropriate for you. It is defined more by a feeling rather than any objective criteria.


Center work is always more difficult than the barre. I know it is for me and I sense it is for everyone regardless of ability.


With respect to speed, I think there are two things worth mentioning. One is that as we get older, we get slower. Most people are about 20%-30% slower at age 50 than they are at age 20. Fast twitch muscle cells die and are never replaced. Nerve endings wear, lots of nasty things going on with age. This is something you cannot avoid.


Still, you can increase your speed in allegro, even if you are an old duffer. The secret is just doing a lot of repetitions so that your body completely absorbs the movement. This takes time, a lot of classes, and practice. Eventually, your body will allow you to do things at a speed that was impossible a year or so before.


One thing that has helped me over the years is to practice the center work from the classes I take. In doing this two things happened. One, the extra reps helped me learn the steps, technique, and develop a rhythm for the movements. Second, I’ve found that teachers tend to reuse movement combinations, or at least parts of movement combinations, and once you have a little comfort with those, it is easier to execute them later.

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Guest Tiny Feet

Believe me, I am not taking the Int/Adv classes because I think I am an Int/Adv dancer after just one year! But unfortunatly I do not live in a dance community mecca like a San Francisco or New York. The Int/Adv classes are the only ones available in my area if I want to take classes 4 times a week. Very few studios offers adult ballet much less adult beginner ballet more than twice a week.


I saw a vast improvement when I started taken ballet more often. Even though I know there is set skill levels for a reason, I don't forsee how I will ever improve if I limit myself to taking 2 beginner classes a week. So I take my adult classes where I can get them.


I guess the bottom line goes with what Garyecht suggests, repetition, repetition. So thanks Garyecht for that piece of advice.

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I strongly believe in what my swordsmaster says: useful speed only comes as a result of good technique. Aiming for speed without good technique is pointless, for then you will have neither speed nor technique.


My ballet master quoted his sword master saying the same thing.


Many of the times one loses speed in dance, it's because the body is off balance (weight in the wrong place) or facing the wrong direction. Both of these issues are part of good technique, of course.

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Tiny Feet, if no more classes on the best suitable skill level for you are available, then I too see no other way than to take classes that are available. I am so lucky with my own school I tend to forget that not everyone has all skill levels available practically every day. :) Two classes a week was too little for me too; and keeping at it will certainly help.


Could you maybe explain your situation to the teachers of the int/adv? A girl comes to our beginner2 classes sometimes who is really beginner1 herself (because of her schedule she can't make all her own classes always, or something such); and sometimes the teacher gives her a smiliar but easier center combination than for the rest of us.

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Guest Tiny Feet

Jaana, you are a lucky one, with all those classes available to you!


For the adults here, there are 2 levels of classes. Beginner and Int/Adv. No advance classes at all during the regular season.


Some studios/schools will offer adult beginner and adult advance for summer but that is as good as it gets.


So the beginner classes sometimes may be a little too slow for me when there are true beginners in the class(that have never taken ballet before). Like wise, the int/adv classes may be a little over my head when there are more advance students in attendance.


The 2 different teachers that teaches the int/adv classes have similar train of thought in regards to helping me one off. They don't give me an easier version any more but they will have me do it with some of the other students in the class that are more my equal at a slower pace with the more difficult combinations. But the easier more routine stuff like the glissade/assemble combo, it is full force with the rest of the class.


I would say that a majority of the ladies in the int/adv classes are more intermediate than advance. One or two may be truly advance.


So back to my original question, in order to maintain good technique, is there something I can focus on in particular to help with speed, aside from repetition? :)

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If your 'int/adv' class is not so far above your ability level that it's a danger to you or others to take it - I think you should continue going, work your hardest, and you'll probably fit in there with time and practice :).


So back to my original question, in order to maintain good technique, is there something I can focus on in particular to help with speed, aside from repetition?


Degages (battement glisses), frappes, and petit battements! I hope that lots of these are given in your classes as they will help to build up the speed necessary for petit allegro. Remember to keep well pulled-up so as to free the legs for movement, keep your core muscles engaged, and execute each movement with precision!


I have one more recommendation:


From 'A Manual of Classical Theatrical Dancing According to the Method of Cav. E. Cecchetti' by Cyril Beaumont et al. A quote from the introductory chapter seemed relevant to this thread:


Be sure that you thoroughly understand a movement before you proceed to its execution, for the limbs are the servants of the mind.


You can try visualization. Close your eyes and imagine going through the sequence of an exercise. Try to imagine which muscles are moving and how. In other words sort out which neural pathways should be relaying info from your brain to your muscles without actually expending the energy necessary to execute them full out in real life. Its especially good for untangling the more complicated enchainements!

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Guest Giselle83

well, my experience was this: I took my first year beginner(adult) classes. The teacher was VERY good and my coordination skills really got better. Second year I got into a different ballet school and I started taking intermediate (teen) classes there. WHILE I still continued with my old teacher those beginner classes. It was heavy at the new school cause they studied vaganova which was kinda new for me. But I managed somehow and I got to start pointe too. I can see those intermediate classes only in positive way...that's the year when I truly started progressing. But it was partly cause of the teacher who concentrate into my faults ALOT. All I wanna say is that trying is good and mixing different levels might make the progress go faster :-)

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Tiny Feet,


if your teachers think you are good enough to try and do those combinations, and have stopped giving you more easier ones, then I'm afraid that it might indeed be the case that there is no other answer than endless repetition...


When we first did chaines in my class, it felt so hopeless and messy. I was frustrated and thought that it's no use practicing it like that, as how can you practice something you can't even do once?


But last week I noticed I'm doing them quite well - not good yet, but I stay in balance and go on a straight line the whole diagonal and spot all the way... So it was a question of just repeating it no matter how stupid and awkward I felt doing so.

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