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Concerns about starting Vaganova as an adult

Guest newchickDC

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Guest newchickDC

I've recently discovered ballet after not dancing since my teen years (and then not ballet) - what a joy! I must admit I've become a bit obsessive in the 2 months I've taken classes this summer and am now going to 4-5 classes a week at 4 different schools (beginner classes area always only once-a-week :shrug: ).


The most recent class I went to was at a studio that teaches only Vaganova and it was by far the most challenging and strict class I've taken so far. Killed me - but in a good way! But it was the first time I've seen some real diversions from the fairly consistent messages various teachers have been giving. Arms are quite different (much more pulled back), pelvis more pulled under in plié, but the thing I'm most concerned about is the forced turnout.


My natural turnout is hideous, only about 90 degrees. I can improve it a bit with effort in ab and butt muscles, but when I lift a leg, usually those muscles aren't strong enough to prevent my body from immediately rotating into its natural turnout. So these are issues I've been working on in my other classes, hoping that over time, the turnout would naturally improve, but not faking it.


So last night, the new Vaganova teacher physically turned my feet out further than they can go either naturally or with appropriate effort. Does this sort of faking have a benefit? Will my muscles catch up faster over time if I force it like this? Or is this the truly bad, and potentially knee-injuring badness that we're always hounded to avoid on forums like this one?


Also, any potential shoulder or balancing badness from the over-extension of the arms (in 2nd and 5th)in the Vaganova style?


I was also quite surprised to see all the other students put on pointe shoes toward the end of class. I know that people stay in begininer classes for over a year (as I'm quite prepared to expect!), but I was wondering if the Vaganova method encourages earlier pointe than other styles or if I had actually encountered the statistical anomaly of every single person in a beginner class having been dancing for longer than a year or so (and thereby ok to go on pointe)... just surprised me and made me wonder if it was something about Vaganova or just this teacher or something else...


So far I'm having a ball and I really liked the vaganova class, but I'm very nervous about avoiding injury and don't want to continue with a Vaganova teacher if he's either not teaching Vaganova appropriately, or if Vaganova isn't appropriate for my body...


Many thanks!

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To be honest with you, the Vaganova method was never intended for adult beginner ballet students. In order for something to really be Vaganova it must be taught as an 8 year program of study 6 days a week by someone who is certified to teach this method by the Vaganova Academy in St. Petersburg, Russia, as it is intended to be taught. That does not mean that it cannot be adapted to be taught in this country or elsewhere, however, it just is not really Vaganova. Please do not judge the method or program of study without first recognizing that any program of study is only as good as the teacher teaching it. :shrug: It is similar to any course of study that has been codified and issues diplomas for teaching. The diploma does not necessarily guarentee that the teacher is good, only that the method has been studied as a teaching program. As someone who does have the necessary certification to teach this method, I would have to say that you are asking the correct questions regarding the things that seem to be off. It can be approached in a different way. If is is feeling forced, then most likely it is. :thumbsup:

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Guest newchickDC

Thanks folks! It helps to hear that any sort of Vaganova teaching needs to be adapted for adults. I'll go again and really work from my muscles and hips and hope that'll be good enough! The focus on it from my teacher actually helps me pay way more attention to it, and I guess the increased consciousness and effort will beef up the muscles that are really responsible for good turnout anyway!

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Nobody should be forcing their feet to turn out past where the knee and hip can rotate. This will cause injuries eventually -sooner, rather than later, for an adult beginner.


I have taken with some teachers who were Vaganova trained and they used the style (arm and leg positions, steps, etc.), but not all aspects of the training method. The training method assumes you have a dancer who has been screened to be an ideal physical candiate for ballet with 180 degree rotation in the hips. Children with this facility are encouraged to use their maximum (180 degree) turnout at the beginner level in order to increase their turnout even more. (There is some debate about whether or not this works.)


I also find it odd that all of the beginning-level students are one pointe! Unless they are actually intermediate-level students taking a beginner level class for more hours, this seems to early. Once again, in the Vaganova training method, children go on pointe in the first year because they are carefully screened to be ideal candiates for ballet in general, and pointe work in particular (good arches, good leg alignment, full ankle articulation).


I'm not sure that this is the best learning environment for you. Are there other classes in your area?


Hope that this helps.

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Knock knock:


I think I know where you're taking classes. I've taken a few there when I was visiting my grandfather, and while I thought it was kind of odd that they were having beginners do pointework, they were doing like releves, and things like that. I did notice that they focused a lot on turn out, but overall (I took some of their beginner/intermediate classes in June, while I was there) I'd say they were a very good school. I liked it, and it helped me a lot in terms of turn out and strength and overall basic stuff, but I don't know how well it works for adults. While I was there, it seemed like there were a couple of adults who were very, very good, and some of them who weren't really progressing the same way. I don't know if it's the best thing for adults.


However, I thought it was kind of cool that there was a more student-style class for adults, and for me, taking about ten classes there was INCREDIBLY helpful. Like, it really ended up helping me learn what my turn out was (a lot more than I thought) as well as exposing some technical problems I have. So ... I mean, I found them to be very good teachers for me; I don't know if they're the best for you, though.

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I'm pretty sure I know the school you're taking at too. I plan on trying a class there pretty soon, I wanted to make it over there last week or this week, but looks like I'll have to wait till next week. :wink: Oh well....


You should be able to tell from watching the class if the dancers are truly 'beginners' or if they are really adv-beg or int students taking a beginner class. Also, beginner can mean different things depending on the school. Is the class supposed to be a true beginner class or is it really maybe a lower int/adv beg class. If its truly a beg class I would think it odd that they were on pointe. However, if they're more an adv beg class and they're just doing releves and stuff maybe that isn't so weird.


PS: Did you like the class? Do you plan on going back?

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Guest newchickDC

Thanks for your replies... Well I went back to a second class and within the first 2 minutes, the teacher came over to me and started turning out my feet (which of course twisted my knee). I protested that I didn't want to twist my knee. He assured me that there was no way I would be injured. I told him that my knee was already injured, had been bothering me lately, and twisting it (by forcing my feet out) like this was hurting it right now. He sighed and didn't speak to me or correct me for the rest of the class. Since he's very hands-on and corrects everyone constantly, it was clear I had irritated him.


I think that I could learn things there (my arms have improved from only 2 classes), but I'm debating whether or not I'll go back. They're on a 2-week break now (so you can't go next week), so I have some time to decide. I'm already taking 3 classes a week at different schools, this one would fill up two more days, so I'm not sure my schedule and my wallet can absorb it anyway. Undecided for the moment.

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Thanks for your feedback, NewchickDC. You've given me some things to think about. I'm going to try a class there at least so if you decide to go back then maybe I'll see you there. :blushing:

Edited by skaballet
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Guest Vashti

Skaballet and NewchickDC,


I will be attending Adult Ballet Camp at the Kintz-Mejia Academy next week for a full week of ballet. I am so excited. I enjoy taking classes their when I am in town. It is a very good school. They also own the Falls Church School of Ballet. I hope to see both of you in class when I come to town.



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Vashti- Thanks for the reply and information. I won't be attending the adult ballet camp next week as I have to work during the day so I can afford all these ballet classes! But I do plan on taking the regular evening classes so maybe I'll see you there one night!

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