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Ballet Talk for Dancers

First Class


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What do you remember of your first ballet class? What did you learn from it? What did you come out being able to do after the first class? What about after the first series of classes? What were your biggest fears and achievements in that first class?

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Guest gingembre

My first was so long ago I can't even remember...


I do remember when I started to get serious about ballet - the year before that I was at a "good" school but I wasn't *working* as much as I could (I was eleven). Fall classes start, and -boom- I'm the one everyone is watching to follow the combination. It just hit me over the summer that I had to PAY ATTENTION and work on REMEMBERING the combinations every time. In short, that I had to be serious about it!

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My first class wasn't too long ago, last June. I can't tell you how terrified I was! I think my biggest accomplishment was simply having the courage to show up. I lacked a lot of confidence and was very insecure going into that first class. To be honest, I really hated ballet when I first started taking it. It took me the entire summer session before I could jump to second when I was supposed too. No joke!! Everything was just so hard. Also, I didn't understand ballet culture, and I didn't understand how to take my teacher's comments. The students who had taken ballet most of there lives tried to tell me that getting feedback from the teacher was a good thing, but I just didn't know how to receive it. I took my teacher's dry sense of humor (which I have grown to really enjoy) too personally and I took myself too seriously.


A turning point for me came after that first summer session. I used a lot of the frustration, anger, and embarrassment I felt to find a way to overcome the psychological obstacles getting in my way. We had a month off from school, and I used that time to figure out if I wanted to commit myself to ballet. I took classes at other schools to gain some confidence before returning for the fall session. Taking classes at other schools helped me to see how good my teacher really was, even though he made me really angry during the summer.


Persevering through that first summer session and then returning in the fall was a pretty big accomplishment because I was able to overcome obstacles I never thought I could. Many of my friends who have taken ballet for a long time are surprised by how quickly I have improved. This has been really encouraging for me to hear, because, to be honest, I never really thought ballet would be something I could do.

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My first ballet class was right after New Year 2002. I remember that I was scared to death and thought that pink tights was what the teacher would like us to wear. It turned out that hardly anyone wore tights and leo, and nobody wore pink tights, only black or white ones. I felt a little bit silly :) (not that I care so much about anybody elses clothing today :thumbsup: )


We had to do the "bus-stop excersice" to feel the difference between relaxing/hanging and proper posture. I also remember us doing tendues and the teacher tried to make me straighten my leg in tendues which felt nearly impossible for me! Luckily I got that eventually. After the first class I went straight home and practiced in front of the mirror just to see how my body looked like when doing tendues and I tried and tried to get my working leg straight!

I had, prior my first class talked to a girl from our professional school here and she had told me a couple of things about ballet. My over all impression of ballet was that you should hold your hips still whatever you were doing. I did a lot of tendues while trying to straighten my leg along with keepin those hips still! What bothered me was that my teacher didn't emphasize the hips standing still thing... I think that was the general impression of my first series of classes: that I got dissappointed of how little the teacher told us. That was definitely for our own good: so that we didn't get confused. But I had on the other hand, expected alot more milimeter precision....

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Congratulations on persevering, Hart :):thumbsup:


My first go 'round, I took class for one semester and then gave it up when the summer brought a different teacher and a harder class (two classes were collapsed into one). But I did come back, and have been dancing for a year now.


My chief recollection of the early days is how hard it was for my body to do anything. I thought I had a leg up, so to speak, because I'd watched a lot of my daughters' classes and had this intellectual understanding of what to do. But seeing and doing are two very different things! So, I got frustrated sometimes. And I felt silly. I couldn't even do a sauté properly. My feet would either land far apart, or I'd step on myself!


At the same time, I felt proud of what I WAS accomplishing. I well remember the evening I came home and told my daughter (then age 13 or so) how I really liked the combination of physical work and total mental focus. She smiled wonderfully and said simply, "Now you know."


My expectations were off in other ways. I, too, expected more precision than the teachers actually deliver. And, I expected lots of slim young things who had had some previous ballet training. Nothing could be farther from the truth! There were several other dumpy middle-agers, one person I'd put in the genuinely elderly category, and a couple who, like me, had never tried it before.

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My first class (age 12) consisted of joining in one day in private classes that my mother had in our living room (the teacher was an impoverished ballet student whom we fed for the day). The day I decided to join in, the teacher taught temps lié. I got the combination on the first try, but of course my feet weren’t pointed, my knees weren’t really straight when they were supposed to be. But the teacher told my mother that I she should put me in a real ballet class. So my mother enrolled me in the adult intermediate class at SFB, for some reason. Again, somehow I got all the combinations, but I felt dreadfully conspicuous for otherwise not knowing what I was doing. Fortunately, the teacher (Harold Christensen) told my mother I should be in a beginning class!


In my first real ballet class, the only thing I can remember is doing battements tendus from first position and feeling great when I finally managed to keep my knee straight. The act of pushing my foot into the floor while sliding it in a battement tendu (and in all steps that are built on it) remained one of my favorite sensations.

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I don't remember my first classes, even though it was only about 2 years ago. I took several beginner classes at different studios around the city, and didn't really care for most of them. What I do remember is the first class that I took with the teacher I stuck with, who has continued to be my teacher ever since... my greatest sense of accomplishment was when I finally managed to point my foot in a way that satisfied her- it only took about 6 months of classes, 3-4 times a week!

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Oh, dear -- I just noticed that this the Adult Ballet Students forum, and I started ballet when I was 12. But my first few weeks of classes were in an adult class, so maybe my post above sort of qualifies.

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What I remember from my first ballet class most vividly is being embarrassed for wearing actual ballet gear when everyone else was in jazz pants, loose t-shirts and socks. (No more reason for that feeling after over two years; despite there being no actual dress code all the people have moved from those to some form of tighter wear, and naturally everyone is wearing proper slippers...)


I also remember being irked by the teacher's way of ending every other sentence with "eiks niin?" (roughly, "isn't that so?") when we could never have known if she's right or not; she didn't exactly expect a reply, though, it was only a mannerism. (She still has it, but I have almost completely stopped paying attention.)


I have almost no recollection of the work we did, though. But I do remember that after the class some people who had not read anything about practicing ballet before coming to class (something I found and still find completely baffling) asked about the foreign terms "plié" and "tendu", though, so we must have learnt them at least. :)

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What is the bus-stop exercise?

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My first class started by the teacher arranging us to orderly rows. Then we proceeded to sit down back and legs straight, and point and flex the feet and rotate the legs in various combinations, while the teacher would walk around straightening our backs, and moulding our feet to the correct shape with her hands.


Then we stood up, and the teacher explained what the correct ballet body position and turnout were, demonstrated the basic positions of the feet and arms, after which we practiced standing straight in first position without the barre. That part of the class I remember well, because to my mortification the maximum first position I could take without losing my balance was 90 degrees, while almost everybody else was able to do around 120. The teacher would walk around inspecting our first positions, correcting body alignment. In front of me she stopped, frowned and asked wheter I was able to do more. I told her I couldn't. She did not look pleased, but said: "work with that, then".


Then we went to take places at the barre, and learned demi-plie in first and second, battement tendu and battement jete a la seconde, temps leve in sixth, first and maybe second. In the end of the first class the teacher asked us to imitate her and we would do stuff with arms.


I cannot remeber having any spesific fears in that first class, or achieving anything that made me proud. I was not self-concious about my dress, since I had alredy in advance decided that wearing just a leotard and tights was preposterous - like I was pretending to be a real dancer - and did not. (I wore tights, leotard, and cycling shorts with tight t-shirt over them, plus ballet shoes) I've gotten wiser since, and realized that those garments are expected for utility, not social reasons! :rolleyes: I remember being surprised how physically hard the class was, despite the fact we were just sitting and standing in place.


All in all, I think my experience was made considerably smoother and easier by the fact that our school starts complete beginner classes each term, so I did not have to "sink or swim".


Now afterwards, the thing I'm the happiest about is the fact the I in my complete ballet innocence never realized just how depressing picture my 90 degrees of turnout with knees not over feet presented! :wink: I would have gotten discouraged for sure. As it happened, everything arranged itself: After I started taking more classes my hips opened up and now my turnout is perfectly fine for my current technical level - and there is facility for still more. :D



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My impressions from my first classes almost three years ago were twofold:


1. "Oh my goodness, look at all these girls here", in a hybrid horrified/good way. Fortunately there was one other guy there, but he left after a few classes.


2. Why do my teacher's arms in various port de bras look so beautiful, while mine looked like that of a robot built by poorly coordinated children?


I've got over #1 quickly :wink:, but #2 continues to elude me to this day.



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My first class was in November. I was very worried that I would look like a complete fool and while I did, so did everyone else, so it was all right.

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What a great thread! There are so many inspiring stories here.


My first class was when I was 19. It was a beginners adult class taught by a very 'old school' English woman who owned the school and was very bossy. I just wore the things I had worn at work that day - a skirt and t-shirt (!) - and didn't wear shoes socks or tights. I soon realised that this was not the best thing!


However, we did not do anything very strenuous as I remember. There was barre work, which took up most of the class, and then very basic things in the centre, like tendus and pas de bas. At the end of the class we did a lot of skipping in circles.


Although I wasn't properly dressed and I don't remember a lot about the work, I had a great time and went to that class for the rest of that year. After that I moved to a different school which had more teachers and classes, and got into dancing in a big way.


The first class is important. I hope that anyone reading this who is thinking about trying a class is encouraged by our stories! :)

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Oh, I'm sorry Citibob! I didn't manage to explain it too well, didn't I?


Busstop exercise is when you stand sloppy for 8 counts (as if you were waiting for the bus) and straighening everything with good posture for 8 counts and you continue. This class was especially for adult beginners (I think the youngest was around 19 and the oldest...yeah, your guess :) ) so I think the exercise was just for our tired old bodies to get the hang of the whole straightening and pulling up thing without distraction from movements.

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