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Ballet Talk for Dancers


Guest LaurieM

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Guest LaurieM

I haven't started Ballet yet (that's tomorrow - wee!), but I've studied other forms of dance in the past, and have found it difficult to find a suitable space to practice. When I took jazz a few years ago, we were instructed to practice various barre exercises - I did them holding onto the railing of the staircase in my house's front lobby. As for steps that travel - forget it! Nowhere in my house is there enough space. Sometimes I go out in the yard, but that's not really convenient, nor is it particularly safe. I can just see myself leaping into a groundhog hole and breaking my foot (knock on wood).


So how do I go about making the most of what I've got?

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Myself, I only really practice ballet steps in classes. At home, I might stretch or do abs or occasionally try a pirouette (at the living room), but that's about it. Sometimes, after a class the studio is empty but the doors still open and then I might go over something that we just did in class there.


When I began ballet, we in fact were instructed not to do the steps at home before we get to somewhat more advanced levels, to make sure we don't teach ourselves bad habits. The teacher showed us some muscle excercises and stretches that we could safely do watching TV or reading, though, which was nice.

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I have a large panel of wood which I put down over the carpet so I can practice. It doesn't work for steps which travel a lot though.


However, many years ago, I learnt flamenco dancing for a while, and I used to practice in the darkroom at work while I was developing photographic plates (there was a lot of waiting for 2 minutes, wash the film, wait another two minutes etc...). I would have never learnt anything without all that extra practice time!

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Guest beckster

The only thing I really practice at home is combinations which I have to remember from one week to the next (because some of my classes use a set syllabus). I have the music for the syllabus and I just mark through the combinations. It would be very hard to practice anything more than a tendu in my flat - I don't think I want to risk my limbs or the furniture by trying grande battements :shrug: .

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In the hallways at school/work, brushing my teeth, on the street coming back from class, the laundromat (if empty), waiting for the bus.

I'm not really "practicing" though, just trying things out, thinking about problems (e.g. I do plies

on one leg a lot, trying to make them more fluid), trying to make sure I remember a combination.


I do a barre on days I don't have class pretty frequently, but mostly just to warm up before stretching.And I also occasionally do some intensive work on something that has just been bugging me; a 1/2 hour or so of en dehors pirouettes trying to land them up for example. Or 15 minutes of tendus to second at various speeds to work on that weight shift.

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Hmmm... where don't I practice? :wink: I'm always doing stuff everywhere I go... while in the kitchen, at work, on the bus... why walk, when you can do a pas de bourre? There was a while when I was doing a pencheé arabesque or attitude every time I had to pick something up off the ground (I’m not doing it at work anymore, since in the summer I wear skirts or dresses) I had one embarrassing episode in the elevator at work; I was practicing soutenou (sp?) turns in the elevator, and the doors opened when I was halfway around, facing the back. :wacko: Seriously, I do try to practice at home (My one-room apartment is reasonably sized, and is sparsely furnished). I have one of those CDs for use in ballet classes. I try to do a basic barre, and then go over a few combinations that I’ve written in a little notebook I take to class (I write down combinations and corrections after class). But I don’t do it as often as I’d like, mostly due to the usual state of clutter in my apartment! :(

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I’ve converted one of my bedrooms into a practice space. You would never know it if you walked into it right now. The space looks a little odd because there is a minimum of furniture in it and what there is is distributed around the wall. No bed either, though I often sleep there. I store a mat behind the bookcases in the room and sleep on the mat when I sleep there (my personal favorite place to sleep). There is an area rug that I roll up when I practice.


My “barre” is just the window edge, or sometimes the bookcase. At one time I built a small barre on one of the walls but later removed it. I honestly believe the window edge or bookcase is superior to any barre because you really can’t grab either or hold tight to either as you can a real barre.


For combinations, I essentially repeat the last class I took. For those that travel quite a bit, I break them down into pieces and pretend there are two short combinations rather than one longer one. I don’t have enough room to do anything like a grand allegro, so usually I just do whatever the most difficult step was in the last class grand allegro and let it go at that. I also put the rug down to do any kind of jumping just to cushion landings. Turns out there are two CD players in the room, though I only use one.


If I repeat a 90 minute class, it takes me only an hour. I take two hours to practice, and the difference is more reps. For example rather than do a petite allegro twice through as we do in class, I’ll go through it 5+ times. This is great for me, as I’m not the quickest in learning combinations.


If you are just doing a barre, the kitchen works well (nice slick floors so you really feel your foot brush nicely). Counter makes a nice barre.


My garage serves as a gym in addition to a car storage place. I’ve repeated jazz classes there with no adaptations and no problems at all.

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I live in a beautiful old victorian house that we have been restoring slowly over the last ten years. One good thing about old houses, they usually were built with wooden floors. About two years ago we took up the carpet in the livingroom to reveal oak planking. That was the same time I started ballet. The next Christmas I received a ballet barre and so, voila, part of my livingroom is exclusively reserved for ballet practice. I even have a bin with rosin in the corner. If you look closely, you can see circles worn into the finish where I've done my ronde de jambes.



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After spraining my left ankle, my right foot, and then ripping off a toenail, I stopped practicing travel steps at home. I'll still do barre work. If I need to practice a combination or choreography, I'll clear a space and mark it.


I had forgotten how much practicing full out at home hurt till I took a choreography class...........bruises and rug burn.......ouch! They should have dance studios open at 3am for insomniac choreography students and dancers who want to practice!

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