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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Flying in Formation


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I've had my moments of navigational confusion, believe me, but one of my pet peeves

lately has been doing grand allegro combinations with folks who aren't paying enough

attention to where they are in the room relative to others.


Does this happen to you? If so, this is your chance to vent.. :wub:


This usually happens with a couple of students who tend to stare, mesmerized, in the

mirror instead of looking around them as they move across the floor. They can

do any number of unpredictable things, including stopping for no obvious reason

or not "flying in formation" with the rest of the group, pushing us all up/down stage, etc.


How do YOU handle this in class? I decided to first try the following: positioning

myself so that I can always see everyone else doing the combination -- ie, at the back

of the group. So when the people in front start drifting back, I can stay clear of them.

But then I find myself getting "hemmed in" because the person next to me may be

doing the steps more timidly, and not travelling as much. When I try relocating to the

front of the group, that solves the hemmed in problem, but then I worry that I can't

see those people behind me as well, and it scares me.


I've tried, gently, in a "hey this happens to all of us sometimes" kind of way mentioning

it to the students involved. I've tried sometimes making a separate group with some students

who travel horizontally as much as I do, and are more reliable. I've mentioned it in passing to the

teacher, who sometimes will warn people to NOT stop in mid flight. And, yes, I've checked

with more knowledgable folks to make sure that I am correct in my perception on this.

But it STILL happens, sometimes and it can get frustrating, and sometimes downright scary.


So, what do YOU do when this happens in class? Suggestions would be welcome, including

(but not limited to) wearing a clove of garlic around my neck, charms, talismans, supplications

to departed ballet greats? Whaddya think?

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When I was in a larger class, and we would move across the floor in lines, I would stick to the back line. I would be at the lead of the back line, but this would give me the opportunity to watch the lines in front of me, but stay ahead of anyone that might want to intrude upon my space. However, the teacher at this studio was very good at continually talking about "personal dance space".

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My personal way of solving the problem in grand allegro is to travel a lot more (way, way, way, way more) than everybody else so I'm nowhere near the pack. Everywhere else I just try to stay aware and figure we're not really moving fast enough for anyone to get hurt.

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I hate dancing next to floaters. If they do it in actual pieces that are going to be performed, I'll usual ask nicely 3 times. If that doesn't work, if they're in my dance space while I happen to be kicking, they'll figure it out for themselves very quickly. I've actually only kicked someone a few times and its the SAME PERSON every time.


We got our video back from our performance. You see us in a diagonal line. You see me do a low arabesque........you see me TRY to penche and bring the leg to attitude.....you see my leg stop because she's so close me to me that she was literally leaning over my working leg in arabesque and it wound up somewhere in her chest.


I try to avoid standing next to her in class because she stops mid combination and is usually half a count to a full count behind the music.


wow, I didn't intend to rant.

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Ugh… I know what you mean. Though, oddly enough, I’ve found that this seems to happen less down here in Nashville than it did in New York… It could be that people are more courteous down here, but I think that has to do a lot more to do with the huge wide open studios they have down here. Spacing problems were always compounded in the NYC studios by columns, pipes and a general lack of space.


Anyway, the only solution I’ve been able to come up with is to identify the people who do “float,” as Sea Monkey puts it, and those who don’t. I try to end up going across the floor as often as possible with the people of my choice.


Of course, for repeat offenders, there’s always an “accidentally” misplaced grande battement…

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Knock knock! Not an adult student...but I take a similar approach to SeaMonkey. If they are in my space, when I run into them, they will learn to move. When I am dancing, I do my best to avoid the troublesome floaters, but if the choice is dancing poorly and short changing the combination or kicking somebody in the stomach, I'll take the later!

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Spacing isn't a huge issue in my studio, but, like what everyone else has said, you just learn to know who you want to be next to you or in front of you. I almost never travel behind someone on the diagonal because I travel more than most people in my class. I just position myself so that I am usually in front. I don't know if that is perceived as presumptuous or not, but, in my opinion, it is in both my best interest and the best interest of others for me to do so. On a related topic, in my basic class, people have been squabbling over who is going to go next, missing their entrance. That sure does make my ballet teacher mad.

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Yeah, I hate it too, though I must admit I have ended up in the most weird places and have a tendency to lose my concentration and end up in the way when marking "in the back" while other people are doing the combination.


Another related thing that gets on my nerves is people who are unable to count. I mean, when you are told to do a combination in groups of three, and there are 11 people in the class, you would expect to have three groups of three and one pair (or four groups of three, with one person repeating the combination), right? But no, too often you end up with one group of three, one group of four, and two pairs. :D

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My experience is that the better the class, the less likely it is to happen. That’s not very helpful if you are committed to a given class, however.


I started dance as a ballroom dancer and in ballroom there is a concept called “floor craft.” Ballroom competitors have been known to, shall we say, get in the way of other couples just to give them some trouble. All part of the competitive experience. But with time, one learns to keep an eye out for everyone else on the floor and to adjust when necessary. This is a skill that can only be developed with practice.


I’ve had to apply floor craft in a few ballet classes. I don’t necessarily think it is bad because I do believe that a dancer should always be aware of what is going on around him or her. So my advice is to not think negatively about the experience.


Oh, one more thing. If you are concerned about others getting in the way, try to be in the first group across the floor. Being a male, usually I’m in the last group. At least where I dance, the more tentative people tend to place themselves toward the end, so if there is a problem, it is more likely to be at the end than at the beginning. That sometimes makes for a problem for we few males toward the end, but such is life for the male dancer.

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Oh yes, thank you for the chance to vent, I thought maybe I was the only one who got grumpy about some people's lack of spatial awareness of themselves and others. But I also try to remember I probably get in the way of others as well - especially falling off pirouettes! But I do find people who stop in front of me in grand allegro especially annoying. I usually go in the front because of this - it's safest for everyone!!


But I worry about crashing into people or asking them to move, because I now (have to) do class with a very mixed bunch, including absolute beginners, and it seems very unfriendly to ask them to get out of the way. I think it's the teacher's job to explain that those dancing have priority, and if you've finished, you get out of the way very quickly! But it still makes me grind my teeth ....


And don't get me started on those who stroll back to the corner, and waste time, don't start on their count, and don't get in as many repetitions of the enchainement as possible. Life's too short not to do class as full out as possible, especially if you only have the chance of two or three classes a week.



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SUCH a good topic! Unfortunately, I have found the spatially-challenged in every level of classes - and more often now that my classes bring together people with different types of training. One of the girls who is a LOVELY dancer seems to be fairly oblivious of where other people are in space - we have a very small studio and it really matters! If we are doing things by twos on the diagonal - well you line up with one person in front (horizontally) and the other in back, right???? Well, the person in back will get ready, and instead of going to the front, she stands in the middle or 2/3 of the way back.... so the other person can't do anything no matter where they go. :D:blink::( I just try not to be in her same group....


Okay, so this ended up being more my personal vent than anything else... but thanks for the space to vent! :)

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The best teachers notice when people do it and tell them not to!


Otherwise, I go at the front or right at the back (although the back can be problematic) and get on with it.

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Kate, oh yes, the teachers do, but in case of some people the teachers might tell them over and over again for two years, and they still don't learn to count. :D

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Guest DancingPixie

I am particularly short, and being fairly competent at remembering exercises, I generally get asked/shoved to the front at the beginning of centre - I therefore have to diligently remember to hang back for grand allegro since my legs travel no where near as much as everyone elses! - I'm wondering from this thread whether my efforts are appreciated :D:blink:

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I just position myself so that I am usually in front.  I don't know if that is perceived as presumptuous or not, but, in my opinion, it is in both my best interest and the best interest of others for me to do so. 


I do this too and I have also worried that it may appear presumptuous. I'd rather get out front and not risk being boxed in by someone. It's also a good way of leading by example. :( Of course, as others have said, if there are other people in the class who I know are "good movers" - who are good with blocking and timing, I let them go first.


The other night I was in a modern class with a woman who 1) didn't seem to be very aware of her blocking; and 2) every time she completed the combination she would run back around the room and insert herself into the next incoming group :D We were going in groups of three, so this caused a considerable delay in the whole process. I DID end up smacking arms with her at one point and wasn't too pleased about it, but hey - she wouldn't move and I had no space left. :blink: I'm not sure why the teacher didn't say something to her actually.

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