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Ballet Talk for Dancers

not giving 100%


ruth

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Mel Johnson

And then, of course, there's the old one by Robert Louis Stevenson:

 

A man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?

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  • ruth

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vrsfanatic -I would like to know what you mean by...

 

IMO, when I do use this phrase, "you need to give 150%" I mean a student needs to dig deeply inside, to search beyond what is the most obvious...

 

Ballet students need to be totally self-effacing, open to critisism, trusting of their teacher/coach that when they are told there is more, that there really is! Teachers need to be mentors to students not just disperse technical information. No teacher is a friend to a student, rather a kind of spirtiual advisor. No, I do not mean it in a religious sense, rather someone who nurtures the soul and body. There are different levels of this according to the age of the student.

 

The development of the soul of a student is a process. With a group of ten year olds, the teacher has a responsibility to teach discipline to the student, to obey commands, to accomplish basic tasks, to seek the highest standard. This standard must always be shown through neatness, exactness, praise when the student does accomplish or corrections that indict that the effort was put forth however the standard is higher. And that they can and must do more. The student may not accomplish the given task fully but the confidence instilled that it is possible and that with serious consistent effort it can be attained. In our society we call it education or training. If this process is not developed adequately, the dispersement of information does continue in our culture, since "everyone can learn to dance". It is through accomplishment and failure that a student does eventually learn to trust themselves and the teacher. Unfortunately, for many reasons, sometimes beyond the control of the teacher or the student, students are often times permitted to move forward to more difficult work (the icing on the cake, the candy) without having developed to the highest standard. This is where it gets rather sticky, almost like the chicken and the egg theory. No one cares about the answer, what is important is the results.

 

In my experience, sometime around the age of 13-15, it becomes obvious whether or not the student has the guts to continue in the endevour to seek the highest standards. The stakes only get higher the more someone dances. I am able to say that as a professional teacher of ballet for almost thirty years, my standard has only increased over the years. The carrot is always there, dangling, brilliantly orange, filled with nutrition! So, if a teacher is always digging deeper to search the soul, the meat and potatoes of movement, the artistry, the answers then what is being asked of a student must also constantly be developing and growing.

 

The best example I can give at this moment is that often times a student will achieve a basic task or concept after months of working on it and will be given praise for the accomplishment and in turn asked to tell the others what it was that finally clicked, to put into words how it was done. And what do you think the answer inevitably is? Almost a total quotation of, word for word verbatim of what the teacher had been saying for all those months. (BTW, not to toot my own horn, since I am their only teacher I am able to say with confidence that it was not something another teacher had brilliantly come up with.) It is the time for a good laugh by all, but in a sense what has actually happened is that the student was able "to dig deeply inside" and found out what it actually means to accomplish. Students often times think they get it because they are able to, for example, stand up and coordinate something. That does not make it classical dance!

B)

 

Moments like this are numerous in life so why not in ballet. I can say with joy and a great respect for all of those who have ever taught me anything in life that often times words just pop into my brain and still I am able to say..."oh it that what you meant!" :thumbsup: I for one, will always continue to dig deeper with great pride and enthusiasm!

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The replies to my original post have been quite helpful, but have left me with another question for the dance teachers. What is the preferred role for me, the parent of the DD not giving 100%? Should I just encourage her without pushing and let her teacher do the pushing as she determines necessary? I know next to nothing about ballet, but I want my daughter and her teacher to know I support them both.

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Victoria Leigh

Support is good....pushing is not. Let the teacher do her thing. If the teacher repeatedly, over time, reports a lack of effort, then I think it is time to quit, assuming that you have already checked out the other things, like illness.

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ruth, your question is one that I will answer from two very differering perspectives. As a student and then as a teacher. I am not a parent so with that I cannot help. Neither one of my parents knew anything about ballet when I got started, however, luckily for me, they were wise enough to choose a professional school in the New York metropolitan area, where I grew up, with a good reputation for producing dancers from an early age, who were accepted into major American companies. This in itself, in those days, was an assurance that the training was top notch and something to be respected. Since the founder/director of the school/professional company was also the teacher of the young children, the foundation was securely established prior to introducing other teachers of perhaps differing methods of study. This was not fool proof however. I did have my ups and downs as a teenager when new methodologies were introduced to me. Sometimes it was language barriers, sometimes personality/cultural clashes, sometimes just plain old teenage uncertainty that made my journey a rough road, but these experiences enhanced my development in more ways than they hurt me. Through it all, my parents supported me and my choices. I cannot remember their ever entering into my world of ballet except to pay the bills and pick me up at night from the studio from age 10-13 (I began my studies at age 8), then it was bus it home at night too. I was put on a bus after school at the age of ten to pursue my dreams. If I wanted ballet then I needed to take the responsibility to get myself there (there were two other non-dancing children in the family who pursued sports as I pursued ballet), sew my own shoes, organize myself and my school work (so I thought), put my ballet bag together daily, put together my own snack, eventually wash my own leotards and tights, etc. They never interfered in casting, but they did encourage me to talk about it though. In short, they listened. At thirteen I began auditioning for companies, at my teacher's suggestion, to see where I could possibly fit. I learned I was too young, of course, but I was accepted to various schools of professional calibur, which gave me the confidence that my idea of myself as a good dancer was indeed, on track. SIs did not exist then so it literally would have meant leaving home to go live in Stuggart or say San Franscisco by myself. Again, my parents supported my decision to do what I thought I needed. They did however balk on Moscow. (no I did not audition for

the Bolshoi, but after receiving Days with Ulanova for Christmas one year I decided that is where I needed to go) With that there was no way! In the end I stayed home to study because that is where I wanted to be. It was up to me.

 

As a teacher, I am very impressed with parents who actually would like to speak with me personally about their child's development. In our situation, it is unusual for me to meet the parents since Harid is a residential program, but when I do receive a call from parents, I am more than happy to get to know them as parents of one of my students. It helps me with understanding the child. I do not however appreciate it when parents try to enter into casting discussions further than wanting to know why this or that. I do enjoy parents who do question about a child's progress but do understand that they do not know enough about ballet to enter into a professional conversation unless they have actually danced professionally. I have helped to train many children of professional dancers and have found that these parents have never distrusted what I was doing. But maybe that is because they were in the child's shoes before?

 

Parents need to support their child but also remain objective. I know it is difficult, I have watched my own family members struggle with this as parents of budding athletes. But it is the child's journey to succeed. Children need guidance, acceptance and maturity exhibited by the parents. Parents cannot do it for the children. It does not work in ballet at all. Somehow the bills will always need to be paid, whether through grants or other means. Set standards for the students. Be tough on them about what it means to be honest and dedicated. Help them to know that just because we want something it does not mean we are able to have it. But if we work at something with the highest standards of achievement the possibilities are greater than if we did not!

 

Probably the most reassuring thing my parents ever said to me was that it was okay not to have a career in ballet. Afterall, I was still the daughter they loved with all of their hearts and that without ballet I would not be the wonderful person I am today! I still hold this idea number one in my heart! I have always chosen to pursue ballet as a career and know that if the day comes that I no longer want to do this I can walk away knowing I was good at something and now I want to be good at something else! :ermm:

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Guest BalletAuthor

Would that all teachers (ballet and otherwise) exhibited the insight and wisdom the teachers on this board have shown! :ermm:

 

Alas...

 

PS...When Ms. Leigh said

If the teacher repeatedly, over time, reports a lack of effort, then I think it is time to quit, assuming that you have already checked out the other things, like illness.
she is right, as usual...

 

One of the hardest things for both kids and parents is trying to figure out if and when to walk away!

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Ballet Author

you wrote

"she is right, as usual...

 

One of the hardest things for both kids and parents is trying to figure out if and when to walk away! "

 

And to quote Kenny Rogers,

"and to know when to run!"

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mydarlindancer
Ballet students need to be totally self-effacing, open to critisism, trusting of their teacher/coach that when they are told there is more, that there really is! Teachers need to be mentors to students not just disperse technical information. No teacher is a friend to a student, rather a kind of spirtiual advisor. No, I do not mean it in a religious sense, rather someone who nurtures the soul and body. There are different levels of this according to the age of the student.

 

Response to vrsfanatic:

 

I've really enjoyed your words to us on this topic! I am sharing this topic with my daughter and as it underscores and elaborates so well what her dad and I have always taught her along the same lines in other areas of life. Speaking of your sincerity in caring to develop the child's soul in regard to dance is one that I especially appreciate.

 

Your further remarks on teaching discipline in dance as a first step is one that I wish more parents today would seek to support in their dance teachers! This is a process that time and sacrifice can only produce along with the right amount inner strength, focus and talent. Yet I see so many parents place their children on pedestals instead of assisting the teachers in the process of attaining success on their own speed. Surely each class, every day isn't a great one, and there is always room for improvement.

 

I have seen parents undermine a teacher's efforts in correcting students in a class by refusing to allow their children to participate in the corrective measures. Would this have happened 40 years ago? I don't think so. And if the best interests of the student/future hoped-for dancer isn't being served by parents being supportive of ALL the measures a teacher deems necessary to produce this dancer, then how will same future dancer ever stand well enough on his/her own well-trained toes?

 

I hope you can see what I'm trying to say! Wish there were more like you, Teacher!

Edited by darlindancer
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My DD went to the doctor last week and she is healthy. I also talked to her teacher and she said I shouldn't worry just yet about a couple of "off" weeks. I was unable to speak to her AD. An interesting sidenote is that DD finally started her period, so maybe that is why she has been a little sluggish. Thanks to all for your advice and information.

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A couple of months ago DD(11) was doing "less than best". Ballet Mistress felt she didn't want to dance and was being disrespectful. This is so opposite dd. She's a very sencere sensitive child. I knew it was lack of confidence. One of her classes has 15-18yos. It's very intimidating. A week ago Ballet Mistress said dd had improve a whole level over the month. I knew what it was - confidence. I asked dd why she thought she had improved. She replied "I guess I feel more confident. I think wearing a camisole leo instead of a cap sleeve makes me feel better." I then told her I thought she was right about confidence but i didn't think it was just the leos. I asked her what big happened about a month ago. "The SI audition!"

She was well recieved at the audition and told she has professional potential with proper training. It was so validating. Rather than going through class with a "I'll never be good enough" attitude she's working in class with a "I have potential" attitude. Correction is important and so is praise.

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Correction is important and so is praise.

You have hit the proverbial nail on the head. Praise is SO important. When you compliment a kid, you can literally see them puff up a bit -- they grow in front of your eyes -- and their attitude improves, they try harder, they're more pleasant. As a school teacher, I try to plant positive ideas in kids' heads -- help them to build on what they have already achieved, even if it is less than I'd hoped for from them. It is so much more useful to focus on what they CAN do next class than to shame them for what they didn't do this class. This class is water under the bridge; all they can do is try harder next time, and my job is to put them in the frame of mind where they can achieve that.

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Guest enjoyingtheride

Treefrog wrote,

 

"It is so much more useful to focus on what they CAN do next class than to shame them for what they didn't do this class. This class is water under the bridge; all they can do is try harder next time, and my job is to put them in the frame of mind where they can achieve that."

 

I like that a teacher would care enough to put a student in the frame of mind that would enable him/her to achieve their potential. Good for you, Treefrog!!

 

Where is it that this attitude is lost in some of our teachers? I have heard students talk about the bad mood a teacher is in and make excuses for his poor behavior based on that. A student should not have to get to class and then adjust his/her attitude to keep up with how the teacher happens to feel that particular day.. I hate to see the lack of respect that some teachers have for their classes. Respect works both ways.

 

And the praise issue...it is so terribly important. I hear about some students just struggling through each day with barely a comment, and then others are gushed over. My DK hates to see friends being ignored or badgered by certain teachers, and I believe that it clearly can set the tone for how others also feel about certain students. A class run this way will bring no real happiness, even to those who are doing well enough.

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Guest balletandsynchro

Praise is important - especially when the teachers are very tough on the students. My DD's teachers do not compliment very frequently, so when one is given, it means A LOT! Vicarious is right about the increased confidence and validation from SI auditions, or SI program attendence. Vagansmom wrote under another thread the psychological value of attending an SI - my daughter has only attended 2 SIs but the boost she has gotten, with teachers telling her she has the ability to go professional if she continues with the training, hardwork, taking corrections, etc...helps so much when the negative comments/energy and high level of competition are happening at the home studio.

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Enjoyingtheride, You asked

Where is it that this attitude is lost in some of our teachers?
I think that in some people, it's just instinctive to phrase something such as a correction in a positive manner. In those cases, the teacher is thinking in a forward direction: "What is this student doing right and what will help her/him to move towards the ideal?" These teachers address the positive first, then tell the student about how it can be improved upon.

 

People shut down when they are criticized. They become defensive. We may get cooperation out of them, in the moment , but there is often long-term damage caused by a teacher who feeds a steady diet of negativity to students. When I teach parenting classes and coach individual teachers, I always mention that we should never assume we know what's going on in someone else's head. The movie What Women Want, silly though it is, really illustrates that point. :clapping:

 

But those skills can be taught. Some people have a harder time learning them than others. Most people are able to improve a lot; they just need to be shown a different way to act. They are usually very grateful once they try it and discover that it works! Teachers don't like to be negative; they often feel they'll lose control if they don't behave that way. Often it's simply a matter of being the only way they know; it's what they grew up on and so it's how they teach. Once they learn a new style that makes them feel better about their interactions, they're committed to it.

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