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learning new combinations

Guest beckster

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Guest beckster

Am I the only person who needs time to think about the logic of a combination before being able to do it correctly? The minute there is something unexpected in an enchainment, I need time to think it over in my head - I mean, not learning the names of the steps in the enchainment but actually visualising their execution, which foot lands in front, the transition fron one step to the next - before I can get it right with any degree of fluidity. I know all the steps, I can remember the enchainment we were given, but it takes me a long time to get it organised in my head so that my feet will actually do it! This is in contrast to all the other people at my level, who have been doing ballet for years and years, and can do complicated things straight away almost without thinking. Its like their bodies are on autopilot. I realise this is partly to do with mostly doing syllabus work and not having much experience of being told something once and having to do it straight out. Is it unusual for an adult dancer to have to take the time to learn things in their heads before tranferring it to their feet?

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No you are not the only one...Everytime our class learns something new it always takes me time to cement the new combination into my head.

I do my best to remember the combination in my head. I then take all kinds of time to practise the combination between claases.

My class seems to be full of people with a great deal more talent than I have. I like that though, it keeps me from getting a big head when I do eventually get the combination right. biggrin.gif

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Not unusual, beckster. Especially for people who started late, or are in a class with more experienced dancers, or those who have had primarily syllabus classes. Be patient, it will take a bit of time before you are able to assimilate the combinations the first time they are given. smile.gif

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Hi Beckster,


You sound like you are doing just fine, in fact you sound a bit like me at the moment. Although I have been dancing for ages, this new class I do is Intermediate level and this is how the teacher will tell us the combos . Imagine lots of hand waving interspersed with 'la laa, duh duh duhh, jete laaaaa, pas de walse..du dumm etc etc' Okayee yep got that......not...gulp

It has taken me two weeks to get used to her style of teaching, i.e. she really quickly goes through the combination in front of you and then you just go and do it. The more I think about how I have not actually got the combo, the more I worry, and the more I worry, the less I can actually do of the combination. So I am trying to let myself just let go and just do the darn thing.

I find thinking slows you down a bit and the more time you have to think the more chance you have of getting confused. So now I just go through it quickly in my head and then dance it. Its getting there, slowly, and the music is so fast. So I have to trust my mind and body. Its like something inside takes over for you and when you hit it right, its like your body is doing these intricate steps while you seem to be totally calm inside and enjoying the ride. It sounds totally bizarre but very pleasureble when it happens. Please happen more


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I personally find that the more classes I take with a certain teacher, the less time I need to spend organizing the combination in my head.

After a while almost everything fits a pattern.


Now, getting my limbs to actually execute the movement my brain tells me is coming next is a quite another matter... smile.gif

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Guest Lola_Doggy

Ditto all of the comments above.


I have a short term memory only marginally better than that of a 4x4 inch piece of asbestos.


Along with all of the hand waving and “la laa, duh duh duhh, jete laaaaa, pas de walse..du dumm etc.” I’m often then presented with the addition of doing the entire combination backwards thereafter, two stings for the price of one.


I sometimes fantasize that one day a white board will be up at the front and there presented upon its face are the things I am desperately trying to commit to memory.


Alas, that day will probably never happen, but I am forever hopeful.


On the upside, as I get more and more used to what my teacher does, I kind of start to second guess what comes next, it’s like “I just knew you were going to say that”.


Of course she retorts “and just to throw you off………lets do………blah”. When you have the power, you use it a little.


I miss my earlier self, back then I mopped it up.


Regards to all from Latitude: 38.008094 Longitude: -122.312987.



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At ENB we had a frappe exercise that had unusual (to me!) timing, so on the train home I sat and practised it under the seat, going "Front ,2 3, Side, 2, 3, Back and Side And Front and Side, 2 3, Back, 2 3, Side and Front and Side and Back, 2 3 etc... Maybe it's one in three counts and three in one count? Anyway I had it perfect for the week after, and now several months later it is still in my head and has become a kind of frappe party trick when I want to warm up my ankles!


Also, I videotaped a programme a couple of years ago where there was a short clip of a ballet teacher setting a petit allegro enchainement to a company. I loved this so much and watched it over and over, but could never figure out what they were doing, even though all the steps were named by the teacher, I didn't know what leg to use etc. Well, I am pleased to announce I found that videotape this week, and can now do that combination! I could hardly see it through all the crackles from me playing and replaying it, and i'm not sure it will survive another play, but it's okay, I can remember it now!


I find writing things down helps, when I first started ballet I used to rush out of the studio and try and write everything down before I forgot it, and I still do it now when I learn something. (I have notes on brises from the advice I was given here, stuck on my wall! smile.gif )

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For me, rembembering enchainements - at center or at the barre - is definitely one of the most challenging things about ballet (and there are so many!). Unfortunately, thinking about what comes next often seems to deteriorate the quality of what I am doing at a particular time. Add to that the fact that even if I know exactly what I should be doing next, my body does not necessarily do it...


This point was accentuated at my last class, where we had a substitute teacher who totally showered us with new combinations - everything was different! At that class, it became really evident which students were "returning" adults, and which were - like me - true beginners. The former had much less difficulties in this respect. As frustrating as that class was for me, it only seemed motivate me all the more. I'm gonna learn, you'll see!


[ January 26, 2002: Message edited by: Anders ]

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Guest Douglas Royds

Certainly it's clear to me that the "returning" adult students pick up the enchainements more easily, with the benefit of their experience. What I've also noticed in my class is that there are two types of student. Some are happy to bowl through a sequence at speed, even while making errors, and then to correct the errors as they go over it. Others, like myself, need to get the sequence right in their mind - and bodies - by doing it veeeery slowly until they can "feel" it. Having done this I can generally snap instantly from the slow speed to full speed. The former method is more class-friendly, as I tend to get in people's way while walking things through so slowly! However, it's important that everyone learns things their own way.

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Picking up combinations, especially in center floor work often comes quicker/easier if you can see what step from the barre each movement relates to (i.e. tendu, degage, pas de cheval, coupe, etc.). In my opinion, a good class relates these two portions, not just throws them into one class arbitrarily. The barre should not merely be a warmup-up, but the place where one begins to learn how one moves with a straight leg, in plie, how the leg is released form the floor, etc. The center is where you get to 'proof' your understanding of these concepts.


[ January 28, 2002: Message edited by: Cabriole ]

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Amen, amen, Cabriole!!! Thank you smile.gif (I don't know where you were trained, but I have this feeling there must be some of the same people in our background. Not that that would be too unusual, if one views the links down through the years from one master teacher to another. Trace a lot of the better teachers and they are likely to lead back to a certain few.)


[ January 28, 2002: Message edited by: Victoria Leigh ]

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Guest beckster

That's actually true in science, Ms. Leigh! It is well known that the better scientists in a given subject area tend to have worked with many of the same people and you can usually trace them to a few departments and mentors. Of course this makes sense when you think about it - those students with the best ability are more likely to work with the better people. And the better a person's reputation as a scientist, the more picky they can be about who they take as a student or young researcher. It is self-perpetuating.


And I'm very glad to hear that I'm not the only one who has difficulty with combinations! Sometimes I feel a bit like the kid who turns up to every football practice but will never be good enough to be on the team. Sometimes I even think "why do I bother?". Since I fall into all three of the categories Ms Leigh mentioned, I feel much better. And a bit of moral support from other people in the same boat never goes amiss!


[ January 29, 2002: Message edited by: beckster ]

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Guest salveregina

Everyone's comments reminded me of my days as a kid in class... I never quite got 'en dedans' and 'en dehors' straight for many steps, and once we left the barre I lost my point of reference and became hopelessly tangled in my own feet. Somehow at the end of every combination I ended up on the wrong foot, or turned in the wrong direction -- because I was trying so hard to remember everything that all the other girls had already internalized when they were younger. My teacher tried not to sigh too deeply in desperation after he finished his "dum-de dum, lah, lah, lah, and so on" hand waving and saw me, the lone swan (ugly duckling?) wandering off in a bunch of chaines into the wrong corner. As a late beginner in childhood, I fought to grasp the internal "logic" of class (particularly the barre-center relationship that Cabriole and Victoria discuss) and the logic of the seqences themselves (that Beckster brought up). I hope that when I begin class again in a few weeks I will be able to use the intervening years' experience in decoding and applying other kinds of material in application to what will surely be a daunting task -- being a beginner all over again!

PS- I'm a violist, and the "teacher lineage" works the same way... other musicians can almost always tell that I'm from a particular studio heritage... It is a great thing, to be part of a chain of study, history, artisanship, and craftsmanship!

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Don't worry, this is perfectly normal.. At first, everything seems foreign, but when you've done it for years, you know what will come next.


In a little jump combination for eg, you can be certain that after a glissade, you have either a jeté, or an assemblé. At least, there are a few possibilities only!

It's like when you write, at first you need to concentrate a lot to be able to write a full sentence, but when you're more experience, you feel that after things like 'as far as...', you're likely to find '...I am concerned,..' Not true?


Writing and dancing is the same, fluidity comes with experience. (and once you've done a few horrible mistakes and stains with your ballpoint, you can move on to the fountain pen!) wink.gif

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Isn't it so funny when you go one way and the rest go the other! cracks me up everytime. It used to bother me, but now I just pretend I meant to do it and carry on.


As for the 'why do I bother?' syndrome that Beckster said she gets . I get that. Especially with the intermediate class I do on Tuesdays. I get paranoid thinking that they must be thinking 'oh my god how can she dance in this class..'


But then I take into account two things..one thing which was actually said by a young girl in the class who wants to be a ballerina. She said 'if you enjoy it then there is no reason why you shouldn't do it' and then there there was a quote from Jeanette Lee who plays Pool professionally, which made me laugh..'It doesn't matter if you suck, as long as you keep an open mind and want to try you can only improve'. So with that in mind I go along to the hard class in the hope that I will improve as long as I keep an open mind and enjoy it. biggrin.gif

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