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teacher trouble

Guest Daniella64

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Guest Daniella64

OK, Im not sure if anyone is on now, but I need some advice. If you are on you can IM me @ Girlstar64 @aol.com or just reply. I am 20 years old, been dancing since I was 15. I have been taking an Intermediate/ Advanced ballet class with pointe on wednesday nights and we have been assigned a new teacher. He is a russian man, we learn balanchine technique in this school, and he is very strict. First, he has horribly complicated combinations, even at barre. On the floor he aways gives us hard turns and jump combinations you usually only see men do, and us girls have never done. He has us do the combinations one at a time while he follows us and shouts corrections. He tells me I am a very good dancer but I need to work on my turns ( something I am quite aware of : ), so he is always picking on me in class on turns, forcing me to try over and over until I can to a triple to the left, something that rarely happens, and is still never quite right. Anyway, I can do triples if I concentrate and work hard, but I find around him I get intimidated and its like stage fright or something, I freeze up and cannot concentrate on technique or anything but his eyes on me. I get so frustrated I feel like crying. Last class in pointe we where doing fouettes and I kept loosing balance after a few tuens and messing up, and he just yelled for me to do it again, until I got so tired my ankle sort of rolled a bit and i hurt my big toe in my shoe (got a blood blister). By then he was still telling me to try again and I was on the verge of tears so i slipped out of class like 10 min early! It is an adult class, but I have not been back to class yet until today and I am afraid I will be in trouble. The truth is now Im sure I cannot go back into his class but I dont think the director will allow me to switch, she is also very very strict. I just couldn't tell him I was leaving b/c I knew he would say his famous line "what are you chicken?" and make me stay, and i just couldnt stay. When I am in ballet class I concentrate really hard on everything while I simply dance and enjoy moving to the music, his class desn't feel anything like that to me, and I don't feel i will progress is his class. Anyone have a suggestion as to what I should say to him and/or the company director about this. I am so nervous. :shrug:



Thanks! ~Daniella

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Guest temple_dancer

Aargh I'm sorry to hear of your troubles! :shrug: If you're getting injured just from doing the same move over and over again, that can't be the right way to approach things! I'm not professional when it comes to teaching but I know that repetitive practice under stress is just going to make the chance of injury worse!


Can you talk to the director and the teacher after class and tell them how you feel? At the very least, telling them that you feel uncomfortable being yelled at and you don't appreciate being called chicken (that's hardly constructive criticism anyway!)

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Guest MissInga

I have noticed that it takes a while to get used to a teacher in the first place, and this one's technique is a little over the top. My suggestion would be to go to the instructor himself and have a chat. You are the one paying for class!

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Guest Daniella64

Thank you for your replies! I plan to talk to my director about this today before class. I also feel he is having us do things way beyond our level...and all the girls in the class agree, it is not even a senior company class, but the way he treats and pushes us you would think we where in a pro company. I agree that it takes a while to get used to a teacher, technique and combinations and so, he is defianately differant than any teacher I have ever had! The truth is I am a bit nervous about confronting him at this point :shrug: , he really intimidates me, I am not the most outspoken person. I suppose I will talk to the director first, but she is also difficult to deal with, you would think that since I pay for the classes I should be able to choose what I take, as long as its not beyond my level, but I have a feeling when I tell her I would like to take another class instead she will argue it, as she has done in the past. I plan to be quite frank with her and simply say I cannot work to my full potential in that class. I hope all goes well, ill let you know! thanks again!




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Danielle, I am sorry that you are very upset, this is not a way to inspire dancers. Unfortunately it sounds quite typically Balanchine,except this teacher seems to have taken it to the extreme.One thing you don't mention is how long you have been taking this class? I suspect just a few weeks?

If so, my advice would be to stick with it for a bit longer. It sounds like a very challenging class, which is good. Afterall you are doing intermediate/advanced, and those classes tend to be well more challenging. You say you have done 5 years of dancing, and he thinks you are a good dancer, then you should take the hint (i.e. that you are). He sounds like he is trying to get every ounce of energy and effort out of you.

Do please tell us how your talk went?

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Guest kristinene

Ooh, this is always a difficult situation, and I hope that your conversation goes well. I agree with Xena (congrats on being so good - triples, wow!) My best advice is to breathe and remember that it is your body that is dancing, and it is dancing because you love to dance! Just keep that inside of yourself. Listen to yoursefl first. :angry:

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I don't know how this man is, but I had a teacher who yelled at people, which also made me intimidated, and it seemed as she yelled more the more you tried to please her ant if it showed in your face. Then I came up with the idea of smiling at her. So as long as I worked hard and smiled at her as soon as she gave me a correction she seemed happy...I still don't know why, but it worked!


Otherwise I second Xenas advice. You have only been dancing for 5 years and seem to have a lot of potential. So take his effort as a compliment instead. He is really making an effort too when he is yelling and correcting. (Even though he sounds a little bit over the line)


Good luck and let us know how it went!

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I've had some harrowing experiences with intimidating Russian men in ballet class. I think there are some cultural differences which are hard to get used to. It's difficult to not get upset, but I agree with everyone here. It sounds like he's just trying to help you in the only way he knows. It's probably the way he was taught ballet. He wouldn't be yelling at you and demanding more if he didn't care about your progress. As long as you think the technique is sound, and it sounds like your school is probably pretty good(?), think of it as a cultural learning experience, as well as a ballet one. Try convincing yourself that his behavior is funny, rather than intimidating. It's old-school ballet. Lots of great dancers have been taught this way. Personally, I don't believe that one should work to the point of exhaustion all the time. It can get dangerous (as your ankle twisting indicated). But it's quite possible that he wants you to build some strength and stamina. You'll need this to get through a ballet. You may find yourself keeping up better after just a few weeks. When I started my floor barre class, it was HELL. After a month and a half, I find myself needing to add small weights to my ankles to be challenged.


When he asks you to do pirouettes over and over, make sure that you are not stressing out and repeating the same mistakes over and over, or you'll build muscle memory for doing it wrong. Take a breath and concentrate on your OWN body. Look at yourself in the mirror and draw the energy in. Repeat his correction in your head. Not the tone of voice, but the words themselves. Pirouettes are extremely difficult to do under pressure because you can't put too much energy into them, or you'll fall out. I sympathize.


Xena--Do you find the behavior typically Balanchine, or the style of class? I have a lot of Balanchine-influenced teachers, and several of my fellow students are SAB students or NYCB dancers, and I've never found this approach having anything to do with a Balanchine style. Fast footwork (lots of quick tendus), yes. But the teaching approach seems more distinctly Russian to me. Of course, that's a gross generalization. I've never been to SAB myself, and my classes aren't labeled as strictly one style or another. The one or two teachers I've had which come directly from NYCB aren't yellers at all. Seems more like an individual teaching approach more than a schooled one.


My RAD teacher as a kid was a yeller and a drill sargent. She wasn't a man, a Russian, or a former NYCB dancer. :angry: Boy, was she intimidating though.

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I agree with trying to tell yourself (privately!) that his behavior is funny. He really sounds like he is teaching the way he was taught. His intentions are fine -- you just need to get used to his style. And yes, smile at him. It will no doubt work wonders. A simple personal "thank you" after class is another form of respect he will probably appreciate. You know, he might also be experiencing his own frustration at not readily finding the words he wants to be able to demonstrate and correct. Give him your undivided attention and hang in there. I had a teacher like this, although I was a bit older than you. I used to give him a little kiss on the cheek when I left. You'll see that after you keep doing your best and smiling and giving him a sweet thank you after class that he'll warm up to you. This is just his style. Good luck.

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You don't say where you're from. If you're from the US, some of this makes sense. Here in the States we seem to suffer from this horrifying syndrome: "If it's Russian it HAS to be good." Sadly many program directors labor under this misconception. There is a lot of good to be taken from Russian instruction, but there's a lot of bad as well. At the school I work with we find many of our children who come to us from Russian instructors have pretty much had thier bodies abused by many of the things you're complaining about. We see young children with bad knees from forced turn out and repetition injuries. This "drilling" may be accepted practice in Russia but we don't agree with it at our school. We spend much time helping these children heal and teaching them to work safely. Ballet is hard enough without having tyranical indtructors ruin your body prematurely.


In regards to the Balanchine comments, our artistic director was trianed by Balanchine at SAB. I've never heard stories of him behaving badly toward dancers. Quite the opposite. I've only heard of him treating dancers with respect.


There can be a positive here, though. There's an old-school a Polish born teacher here in town, he's well regarded by the professional dancers locally. He was raised and trained in the Soviet system. Like you, I live in fear of this man, yet I've learned to take his shouts and pushing as a form of compliment. This man is unique in that he pushes every student, from the 15 year old girl to the 70+ year old woman, to reach the height of their capabilities. He acts as though each of us could go on stage that night and perform. There is something nice about that approach, especially for adults who usually only get treated as income for a studio. It doesn't feel good when he's shouting at you in front of the whole class, but I know where it comes from which does make it easier to handle.

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