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Ballet Talk for Dancers

what if something's just too hard?

Guest Ilaria

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(I'm not really new here, I just wanted a less-recognizable username since I suspect one of my new teachers may read this board.)


I am currently in an intermediate level adult class, in which the students range from high school to probably late 20s. I'm 21. Most of us are advanced beginners but the class is taught a bit above us, i.e. we can do the combinations but it ain't necessarily pretty :sweating:


Here's the thing - the teacher puts conditioning exercises into barre, like long series of releves or raising your leg repeatedly up from horizontal. I'm in pretty good shape, and I have a background in sports so I can deal with pain and pushing myself, but these exercises! They go on forever! Last week I could literally feel my back start to seize up during arabesques, and if the teacher doesn't like someone's form we have to do it over. :P I'm okay with being sore, but I don't think I should spend the three days after class walking around like an old woman with my calf muscles hurting to touch them.


Is it okay for me to downgrade these exercises (for example, do releves on two feet rather than one) or stop them early if I feel like I am really being overexerted? I feel like what we are being asked to do is a little much for recreational dancers and I'm worried about hurting myself. I have always loved ballet class but frankly I'm wanting to avoid this one entirely. :yucky:

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I took a (true) advanced beginner class last week that almost killed me. She wanted 64 super fast tendus on each side. 8 front, 8 side, 8 back, 8 front, 8 back, 8 side, 8 front, 8 back, repeat. My shins said "no thanks, not yet" and I listened to them. I did as many as I could, started to feel some pain, did a couple more and stopped, stretched, then resumed. I will never forget those tendus. The other students (who were all less advanced than me, but "regulars" in this particular class), had no problem with them! I guess I need to do more tendus.


It's really important to build endurance, but it's also really important to not hurt yourself. I think you can use your judgement. Usually you can work to a certain level of discomfort to just push yourself a bit, but if it's too much, it's too much.


It helps if your teacher has a good sense of what you're capable of, and just how much you need to be pushed, and when it's OK to stop. Like any good coach. Otherwise, we're on our own to take care of our bodies.

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  • Administrators

Building strength is one thing, causing pain is another. Excessive repetition of certain moves accomplishes nothing, as the muscles get too tired or hurt too much to benefit from the repetition.

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My bias is always to trust that the teacher knows what he or she is doing with any class exercise. The only thing I can say is that: 1) all training requires that there be some stress present (physical or mental), as training is nothing more than your body adapting to the stresses placed on it; and 2) in true adult classes, no one really cares if you “successfully” complete an exercise, as the assumption is that you try your best, but wind up getting what you choose from class.

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  • Administrators

Gary, while I would love to agree, unfortunately there are still a lot of teachers out there who do some very old fashioned things which were devised long before we had enough knowledge of anatomy and kinesiology. Overuse of any one muscle group, to the point of extreme stress, is totally counterproductive. Think about, for instance, 8 grand battement en croix, or 4 grand pliés en every position, 32, or even 16 temps levé on one foot, or 64 relevés on one foot on demi pointe. Excessive, unnecessary, and potentially harmful. Teachers are assumed to know where the boundaries are, but I don't think they all do, not even in this "enlightened" age. :)

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Victoria—perhaps my bias in favor of teachers is due to my really only going to one ballet school, which I think is a really good one. The only “bad’ teacher I’ve ever had there I consider bad only because she started class 15 minutes late. Put me in a really bad mood I will say.


I think I’ll try the 8 grand battements and 4 grand plies just to see what it feels like. In my old age, jumping from one foot has become a major pain, so I’ll nix the temps leves. Ditto with the 64 releves on one foot!! That one does seem masochistic.


Do you happen to recall what the thinking was when people were doing things like that? I mean someone must have thought it was a good thing to do.

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The only thing that occurs to me is that those must have been the things that Pierina Legnani did when she was twenty years old! :blushing:

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I would just add that as adults we all age differently,even though we may be in very good shape. In a dance class that has both teens and adults you may find that younger students' bodies can take more abuse without having days of pain afterwards. And each person may have different physical abilities. I think that as adults it is important for us to know the limits of our own bodies. In order to improve we must work hard and realize that being sore isn't a bad thing. But there is a difference between the pain that comes from a good hard class and the pain the could lead to injury.

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