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What do you think of during a combination?


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I took a class with a different teacher last Tuesday and at the end of one of our combinations at the barre, the teacher told us that we should be thinking of the names of the steps as we do them. When she asked the class how many people do this, there was a sheepish silence and perhaps one or two raised their hands. A couple of others offered that they saw the movement or counted. So I was wondering, what do all of you think during a combination? Is thinking the name of each step something I should aspire to or is this a reflection of different learning style - ie. oral vs. visual vs. something else entirely? To be honest, I'm not even sure what I usually do. In this particularly class, I was mainly thinking, "Ahhhh, I'm confused", but that is because the level was too high for me.

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I almost never think of the name of the step. Some teachers will emphasize the "meaning" of the name of the step and remind us to keep that in mind, but that's the only context in which I've encountered this suggestion.


What do I think about? Well, if it's a combination that's hard for me to get, usually I'm focused on keeping track of the next step, or which foot goes in front, or which arm goes up, or... If I've got that stuff down, then I work on quality--whatever I'm trying to focus on--phrasing, feet, turnout, use of back, arms, spotting, the whole bit...

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Depends on what I'm doing...in ballet and modern its mostly counts and how everything fits together so I can make it purty, in jazz counts without a doubt because generally the tempo is a lot faster then ballet and in tap the next movement but I say the name of it in rhythm to the counts cause tap is all about rhythm..


If I'm learning a combination I think about the steps and after I have it down then its music.

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When I am learning a combination, I tend to think the names or count ("glissade hold two, glissade, jeté, assem-blé, entrechat quatre", or something like that). When I know the combination, I'd say I think nothing. I just do it and feel my body to see if it is there the way it should be.

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Such an interesting question! I guess I do a combo of the "name of the step" and "counting" - that is, counting but subbing the names of the steps for the counts when possible. If a half-count is a hold, then I think "hold".


I have an old class video with David Howard and I like how he leads the class - I think it's kind of similar. Also he "sings" along with the counts, a lot of times I sing the names in my head, kind of subbing them for the musical notes if you will.


THe first time I watched that video (remember, I'm an adult student, not really much experience in formal dance classes at all), I was like WOW. That method of singing out the steps just slapped me in the face, listening to him do it. It seemed to me such a wonderfully full method of leading the students - teaching them to hear the music in a certain way along with learning the steps.


:pinch: On a related note, is it considered rude to ask a teacher to give a combination with a count? I'm never sure if figuring out how to fit the steps to the music is part of our challenge for the exercise if it is not addressed (this is for center work only).

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I don't think it is ever rude to ask a teacher a question if you truly need the answer.



And to answer the original question- when I perform I think counts while dancing and what comes next when I am in the wings. In my intermediate class I think about my body positioning, breathing, pointing my toes, where are my arms. In our beginner classes, when the really basic beginners come, she often tells us to say the step out loud while we are doing the combination.

Edited by Skittl1321
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I never thought of it before, but I'm not really counting beats in the music so much

unless it is really new, or something less obvious for me (like doing a waltz/balance

combination against music which is in 6/8 instead of 3/4). Somehow, I just feel I

know where I am intuitively in the music. But I am definitely counting steps and

saying the names to myself; something like:


4 [ step name ]'s left/right/left/right

2 [ step name ]'s front/back

[ step name ] [ step name ]


The other part of my mental chatter during a combination is really a collection of

post-it notes on the above list, eg: "lift your leg! arms!", expletives, queries to myself

and observations on what the other dancers are doing at that very moment.

These are jumbled all together, as in

"Oh #$@! Jane is doing a 3rd arabesque, am I wrong? Arms!"


and occasionally, almost by accident: "Whee! Hooray! This is FUN!" :pinch:

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Very interesting question I think and very interesting answers.


What do I think of during a combination? I’m very inconsistent. It all depends. For the most part I try to think of nothing. Usually when my brain starts working during a combination, I mess up. If I can’t remember a combination, I just might focus on someone else in the class out of the corner of my eye, but that’s it. Again, if I try to think, I’m dead meat.


Especially during the barre, sometimes I’ll pick some technical element to think of. Today, for example, I thought a lot about keeping my weight forward, especially during fast degages and frappe (also fast). Tomorrow, if I think of something, it will probably be something else.


I used to be someone who lived by the counts, but in the last year or so, I seem not to be so aware of the counts. I kinda just respond to the music. I feel it more. Inadequate explanation I know, but words fail me in describing it.

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I'll have to say that I have never really thought about what I'm actually thinking during a combination. Great topic! My thoughts are different depending on the combination. If the combination is difficult to remember then I am most likley thinking about what comes next. If the combination is more basic I can think more about my placement and executing the step correctly. I agree with Garyecht in that sometimes I try to focus on one specific technical element so that I can also try to focus on performing the combination as well. There is so much to think about that I can become easily overwhelmed. I guess the more you train the less you have to think about everything because alot of it starts to come naturally!

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Hmmm... I tend to do different things for different parts of class. I generally only say the names of the steps in my head during during allegro combinations. I tend to count only for fast tendu or degage combinations at the barre, and that sort of thing. For adagio and grande allegro, if I've marked them, generally I don't need to count or say the names of the steps, and can concentrate on technique issues (not that you would guess that from watching my grande allegro).

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Guest prokofiev

Great question.

If we have a combination with something new or unusual thrown in, I'll repeat it to myself in the rhythm the instructor gave it (that helps me accent correctly.) I don't have musical difficulties (since I play for classes as much as I take them, or more) but if I know I'm going to get thrown somewhere in the middle I'll count or say the steps to myself in rhythm to keep focused. For example, sometimes we open tendus (battement tendus jetes, grand battements, etc.) on "&" and close on the beat. Other times it's reversed. Similarly, sometimes we plie on 4 to start a combination, sometimes on 1. If I'm feeling groggy, I say it to myself to be sure.


I write down my corrections after class and review them frequently, so if the combination is not difficult, I'll spend it really coaching myself with the corrections I've been given on that particular thing over the past couple of months. That's one of the things that's helped me improve more than anything, because I'm not just guessing or midlessly doing things. Once my teachers noticed that I remembered what they said and tried hard to work on it in following classes, they've given me a lot more correction, without my even asking for it. :yes:


All bets are off, though, if it's one of those classes where the better students are mysteriously absent and I'm the 'leader' during barre or center work. :wink: Then I feel more responsibility, so I assiduously repeat the exact combination in my head as I go, and when I have a brain cell to spare I spend it on port de bras, alignment, and head placement so that I'm a better example.


The best, though, are DPR's "WHEE! Hooray!" moments. When those come, it's worth all the sweat. B)

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Great topic! I never really thought about what goes on in my head. Now that I think about it, I would have to say, it depends.


For a very fast ballet combination and advanced jazz I count. When I teach beginner jazz I say the steps in time to the music, but when I teach intermediate jazz I can only count out loud, I can't fit words for the steps in time. When I do musical theater it is always the words to the songs, and the dancing just flows-I'm a much better dancer than a singer.


As for most ballet, that is even more variable. As I said above, I count a fast combination. For an adigio or a mid-tempo combo that I feel I sort-of have down, I tend to say the steps in time to the music. For anything I feel I need a lot of work on, I usually will think more of my corrections and what I need to work on than the sequence of steps. And my favorite, for anything that I really feel I know well, I try not to think. I just love to perform and let my body move with the music. Unfortunately this doesn't happen too often.

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I usually "sing" the names of the steps in my head while I am doing them. I'm not the most expressive or musical dancer though, so maybe I should think about how I'm thinking. Very interesting topic!

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It depends whether the exercise is a slow one or a quick one. During a slow one, I try to pass some emotion and correct the form of the dancing (and if the teacher is around, I'll try to emphasise EXACTLY what the last correction was about).


So, in that case, it goes a bit like: 'aaannd lift, don't forget your arm, oooh! Here she comes ARM ARM ARM, good I'm sure she noticed, oops now turn, don't slouch, long neck, breath, low down, AND UP... now other side..'


I think it's my own little language in my head! It would sound VERY weird if we had it in surround sound in the studio. Imagine if we could hear what people think of all the time? :)

In very quick combinations, I no longer think of the steps as it would be way too quick to have the time to say 'entrechat quatre' for eg, so I 'eat' most of the words in my head and I mix the name of the steps with a visual memory and a specific beat on the music for eg... Complicated to explain but it becomes a bit muddled like: 'quat', trois, 'chappé, turn, 7 AND run run run, hop, right, prepare, jet' and quick there and fold and battu trois change and pause. :green:

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I think about the names of the steps when I am learning a combination. I have to. I learn by recognizing spesific patterns and fitting them in into my mental model of the combination.


When executing a combination my thoughts are a jumble. There is a mish-mash of "verbal" and "visual" mental cues for what I have to do next. In addition to these cues I usually think of some technical point, like rotation or placement while my body is actually acting on the cue.


I have never experienced what others call having a combination in muscle memory - not having to think at all about what comes next. However, I do find that after 3 years of fairly intensive training I can turn my body onto autopilot for simple things: "quick one count tendues a la seconde to fifth until next to last beat of this musical strain". And then trust my body to work my legs out and in while I concentrate on something else.



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