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Ballet Talk for Dancers

"old school" teachers


Guest WendyMV

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Guest WendyMV

Hello...I was wondering if someone could give me some professional insight here. My teacher has mostly Russian and some Cecchetti in her classes, but I have discovered (from other studios and teachers) that her habits are very "old school" and maybe not so good for dancers' bodies. A little background about here...she's in her late fifties, trained at SAB and danced w/several ballet companies around the world. Anyway..in pointe class, she makes me do TONS of plie releves in arabesque...I mean 8 on one side, 8 on the other, repeat that and do the whole thing all over again. The other day she made me do that, THEN I had to do the same thing except she made me do as many as I could without stopping. (And after that, she made me do the same amount of plie-releves to arabesque from sissone from the white swan variation over and over again.) I understand she wants to push me, but I feel like she is treating me like a wild horse she thinks she has to break! I mean, I guess I have two questions here..she knows I want to advance more and so she pushes me, but at what point do I tell her she is being ridiculous? She really doesn't even let me breathe between combinations. Secondly, I have also heard that this type of repetition training is great for endurance-building, (which is true) but doesn't allow you to work internally and can also build up bulky muscles and eventually thrash your body in the long run. Any opinions here? At what point do you just stop...I mean, physically I can handle what she makes me do for the most part, but I don't want to hurt myself in the long run. Besides one other teacher that I trained with for a little less than one year, she's been my only teacher. Any advice would be appreciated!

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Victoria Leigh

Wendy, this is very difficult to answer without being able to see you and to know your abilities, but if you have had this teacher for a long time, and have not developed bulky muscles yet or had your body thrashed, (and you are here on the Adult board, so I assume you are not a child), then I think we might assume that you are not being overworked. smile.gif Doing consecutive relevés is, after all, one of the main ways to build strength and endurance on pointe. Are you working towards a professional career? Do you train intensively enough to do this kind of work? If you are a twice or three times a week adult student, then this might well be excessive. But if you are a young woman headed for a career, then it may not be at all. I think we need some more information here before making unseen judgements.

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Guest WendyMV

Well, I am 25 years old and dance 6 days a week...3 hours on 5 of the days, and half that amount on the 6th day. (It's all ballet, pointe, and variations...I recently started jazz up again however.) My goal is to dance with a small regional ballet company when my husband and I move back home (out of state, which will be in about year or so.) The company is non-profit and has quite a few adult dancers in it...actually I believe all of them are. There are a couple other companies I plan to audition for out there, but for the time being I am just training. (I currently live in Las Vegas and am thinking about auditioning for a show here as well...at least for now while my husband and I live here. However, I am very picky about the type of show I would dance in, not to mention the time it take away from my ballet.) I was just wondering because I guess I find that when I go to other studios, the classes aren't nearly as rigorous...(even pre-pro schools, I have taken classes here or there at other places) and yet I guess I am wondering how much is TOO much. I mean, in how many variations would you possibly have to do 18 plie-releves in arabesque on pointe at one time? I can't think of any myself....that is just one example I guess but this is a lot of the way her class is done. Hmmm...I just don't want to be over-killing myself for no reason...especially if I could just be risking injury when I'm exhausted and just trying to get through something just to prove to her I can do it. Does that make sense? I have had other problems with this teacher as well...like for instance, she never gives ANY corrections at the barre and even though it is a set barre every day, I find that when I take other classes at other places, I can't hold everything as well as I do in her class. (It's like I have that barre and my alignment memorized and anything else tends to throw me off.) At any rate, she really just uses barre as a warm-up and that's it....no corrections (and actually she is that way with complete beginners as well, which drives me nuts.) Anyway, that is another topic so I won't go on about that, but any opinions would be helpful here! Thanks for reading my msg!

 

[ February 01, 2002: Message edited by: WendyMV ]

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Maybe this is out of place, but if my teacher asked me to do 100 changements perfectly, I would do it and not argue in the hope that she is doing it for some future purpose that has not yet been made clear to me. In other words, I am sure she is doing it for a reason. Have you asked her why?

If she gives you the brush off then perhaps I would be less than cooperative next time.

 

Or it could be the way they were trained when they were younger, and hence give you the same sort of things, but you'll never know until you ask.

 

Jeanette

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Guest WendyMV

Oh p.s.....I actually do have a minor knee problem. I can dance all out on it, but don't do grande plies anymore. What happened was a while back she made me do fouette preparations on pointe and tried to make me do about 24 of them on one leg without stopping... First of all, I had been coming back from a trip and hadn't had class in a few weeks, and secondly I had never done them before, and it torqued my knee a little big. (She is very pushy sometimes, but I learned from that to just stop when I feel like I could hurt something.) Another day she just decided to make me do 32 plie releves (on pointe)on one leg and then on the other leg without stopping. (I had never done more than 16 maybe at a time up to that point and so I was going to die.) I guess my point is that she doesn't work you UP to anything, she just makes you do it. (This goes for just about everything in her class.) *Sigh--I am very grateful for the things I have learned from her, but I'm just wondering if she just doesn't understand that the body doesn't respond well to constant overdose...I feel like I have all this strength and endurance but I guess where do you draw the line? I want to learn more and be pushed, but there has to be a POINT, right? (I know a lot of Russian-trained people are used to overkill, so am I just being paranoid?) I really want to dance (even if it's just class) for a long time, I don't want my body to be shot in another 10 years.

 

[ February 01, 2002: Message edited by: WendyMV ]

 

[ February 01, 2002: Message edited by: WendyMV ]

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oh, kind of scary isn't it? just having to do something, without having done an awful lot of preparation for it. I seem to go through that every Tuesday night.

So can you now do 32 fouettes? smile.gif

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Victoria Leigh

Wendy, my first reaction to your question, after you answered mine, was very different after I read some of your other posts today. At first I thought, well, yes, there are ballets with a lot of consecutive relevés on one foot, and in order to be able to do like 12 or 16, you need to do more than that in class.

 

However, after reading your other posts about this teacher and the school, I think your instincts are right and it's time to find a new teacher! Pushing you in the fouetté preparations on the first day back, having never done it before, was indeed excessive. There were other things you mentioned that also sound like the title of this topic is very apt. There are a lot of "old school" teachers who use set barres and do not correct at the barre. I find this practice absurd and totally non-productive. The barre is WAY more than a warm up. It teaches the body what it needs for the center. But one needs constant correction, as well as varied combinations, or there will be no learning here. You validated that so well when you said how you were okay in that class but not in others. Being able to do only one barre, one way, is useless except for a warm up. This will not get you to a company when you have to do auditions. frown.gif

 

My advice to you is to find a new teacher ASAP!

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Guest WendyMV

One more question Victoria (sorry to keep dragging this out...!) I have been working so hard the past couple of months that my hips have been getting bigger....I also take pilates and am pretty advanced at that, but I'm just not liking what ballet is doing to my body. I mean, I'm really strong, have good alignment, and have great endurance, but in a year and a half, I have gone up nearly two sizes in my jeans because I've worked so hard on opening up my hips. Plus I had a knee problem, so I had to work on building up my quads to help (which it did) but I probably over-did it because now my thighs are bigger too. (I know I'm not fat, but you know how it is!) Anyhow, I have read that depending on your body shape and type, you can actually get to the point that you WILL get bigger because you keep building and building muscle, and giving that my teacher pushes to completely physcially max us out every day, I believe this is why. (I am fairly small-med. bone but have my mother's hips as far as genetics go.) I have decided to cut back on my classes...I was dancing about 16-18 hours a week, but I'm going to cut back to about 13. So I know losing some of that strength is inevitible, but is there any way I can still lose some of this bulk I've built up? I love dance, but it's sort of sending my self-esteem down the tubes these days! (Oh also, btw, I have found one new teacher so far....I have a performance this weekend, so I have to wait until next week to really check out new places, but the one I've found so far is great.) = )

 

[ February 07, 2002: Message edited by: WendyMV ]

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Victoria , I do set barres but I do correct during the barre, I find that doing set barres for a while, much more productive than changing all the time, you see the child can focus on other things than the steps, it's just like when you learn a new role, until you know it very well you cannot really improve in it.

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Victoria Leigh

Wendy, my guess here is the kind of work rather than the number of hours. I think perhaps the classes you have been taking might be what we call "thunder thigh builders". If the technique is taught right, this will not happen from the classes themselves. If you have a genetic tendency for hips and thighs, then it is especially important that the training not be the kind that builds this, but the kind that emphasizes stretching and lengthening of the muscles.

 

Aubri, what levels and age are you talking about? I don't see a huge problem in this with very young children, but once they get past about the second year, then I believe that they need variation in the barre combinations in order to learn to think. Also the barre needs to vary according to what they will be learning in the center. And if the barre never varies, then they are not learning about different musical accents and rythyms. I really think it is very important that students learn different things at the barre, and it's impossible to do all of them in every class. Therefore, if one varies the barre, you might use, say, temps lié in a combination one day, and a tombé on another day. Or, you might need to introduce glissades. Or, in more advanced levels you might be using rond de jambe sauté in the center, so working on the action at the barre could be helpful. Using the postions of the body that you plan to work on in the center in the barre adage is another thing that can be good. Just a few things, but I think they are important in the training process. I could probably go on at great length about this, but I think this explains what I mean smile.gif

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If you think your barre carefuly, you can include all the basic needed for the center,they are not that many, as far as make them think I prefer do that in the center and the rhearsals are a good complement, I do that for all the levels, maybe a little less for my last year but I do keep the same barre for the week.

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That's the beauty part about the way RAD and other structured curricula are set up. They provide not only for the rudiments, but also for the teacher to introduce choreographic variation on the basics. The problem lately, especially with the Academy, that I've noticed is that Parkinson's Law seems to have taken over, especially the part about "work expanding to fill all available time"! The syllabi are so long, now, that the time available for free class or even free combinations is approaching zero!

 

I can't imagine, however, doing things the way that used to be in the Old French School and Bournonville, where everybody took the same class, from the 10-year-olds up to the highest ranks of the company, sometimes in one huge ungraded class - sink or swim! wink.gif

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