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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Progression of pointe training for adults:


Avalon

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Hi, All,

 

I am having some concerns regarding a particular instructor's approach to pointe training; thus I am gathering some information on others' experiences with taking or with teaching pointe classes for adult students. Specifically, I am wodering whether there are any guidelines, or sound practices, formally stated or not, that studios seem to follow in regards to training adults who are beginning pointe students. Of course, many individual factors impact one's aptitude and rate of progress in pointe work, and certainly these factors will affect to some extent an instructor's method and sequence of training. But the behavior and attitude of this teacher seems concerning to me and I am seeking a frame of reference to understand what is going on. Many thanks.

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I wouldn't think that there would be a whole huge difference between starting out kids on pointe and starting adults with regards to the progression of exercises. The Pointe Book: Shoes, Training & Technique

by Sarah Schlesinger Janice Barringer describes typical pointe lessons at various levels at major ballet schools. It's a good reference to gauge whether or not you're doing appropriate work. You probably have this book by now. If not, it's a good one to have.

 

Is your real question about the "behavior and attitude of this teacher " though? What type of behavior and attitude are we talking about? Mean and horrible? Someone not used to teaching adults? Expects too much...too little? Juicy specifics would be helpful to know:)

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I really liked the Pointe Book that was mentioned above ^. Also, I enjoyed watching "Pointe by Point" which is a video I bought---I don't know where. Maybe from Discount Dance or something. I've never taught an adult beginning point, but I'm sure I would start them with the exact same exercises as I start the younger ones. Can you tell us what specifically is your concern?

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First, let me apologize for the typographical errors in my title. I am a terrible typist and, apparently, an even worse proofreader.

 

Thank you for both of the suggestions. I own the "Pointe Book" and I have seen the video referenced (but only twice).

 

lampwick, I was trying to avoid the "juicy details" in an effort to be as non-critical as I could, but I do understand that the question I posed lacks a real focus without such details.

 

First of all, some general details. The class is comprised of me, the only adult, and five company dancers, ages 12 through 15. One has had two years of somewhat sporadic pointe training; the rest of us started this year. This is a 45 minute pointe-focused class that I take once per week. Clearly, this is not ideal, as I am with young, ambitious dancers who may need to be "pushed" a little to adapt to the rigors of pointe. As for me, I am just testing my own personal limits and have little really at stake, except my own personal satisfaction (and, by the way, my safety, which is part of the issue).

 

Because I am a beginning adult student with different needs and different goals, and because I have an injury history that suggests proceeding with caution, my regular pointe teacher allows me certain modifications, such as staying at the bar if I feel I need the extra support, or, most importantly, not doing certain (usually single-foot) exercises that I do not feel at all ready for in terms of strength and technique. I have never had a problem with my regular teacher pushing me outside of the "comfort zone" of my own personal sense of readiness. In fact, the whole decorum of the pointe class with my regular teacher is one that sets a tone of seriousness and caution given the potential dangers of pointe. This is in marked contrast to the tone of the other teacher.

 

I have had two classes, over a period of a few weeks, with this new teacher. In both she openly challenged my decision not to attempt certain center exercises. Now, I did not take on "an attitude" or behave in any way disrespectfully on these occasions. I simply either went to the bar for added stability, or I did parts of the center combinations on demi-pointe. This teacher said things like, "This is pointe class. I better see you up on pointe; I am not going to water down this class for you. You want those shoes on your feet, you do what I tell you to do." When I voiced my injury history, she told me to "get over it." She then told the whole class that my previously broken foot should be stronger because of the break and that I had no excuse for behaving this way. When I said that I was just learning and thought a move was too advanced for me (she called this move "pique fouette" and it was done in center at a very rapid pace) she said, referencing the other girls, "Yeah, well so are they just learning and they can do it." I then told her that my feet were 30 years older than their feet and might need a little slower pace and she told me again that this was pointe class (like I didn't know that???).

 

I do realize that this is not an ideal situation because my needs and goals may be different from those of the other dancers with whom I take this class, but I honestly was worried for some of them as well. I, as an adult, am not going to be intimidated by this woman and am not going to risk my safety and my enjoyment of dance because of her behavior. But the way she treated me clearly intimidated some of the other girls, who tried to keep up with things I just didn't think many of us we ready for.

 

Obviously, she should not treat me the way she did, but I was wondering as well about the idea of assessing readiness for progressing from some pointe exercises to more demanding ones and how a teacher, or a student, would know what is reasonable and what is not. My solution is easy; I am not going to take class with her again. If I get to the studio and see that she is substituting, I will just quiety depart.

 

Sorry this is so long, but I hope I gave you the needed "juicy details," lampwick. Maybe it is me? Was my behavior disrespectful and I didnt know it? Should I be progressing more rapidly and taking more chances? If I can't releve on one foot in center yet, should I just "take those shoes off" like I am being told? Am I just not suited for this challenge? And how would I ever know?

 

I am so glad I have all of you out there in cyberspace to advise me in sticky situations such as this.

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I also teach a beginning pointe class for adults. Having had numerous injuries my myself, I am one who errs always on the side of caution...(ie. "You've been having a hip problem? Don't do this. Don't do this if it hurts, ect") I'm actually really surprised that she's doing pique fouettes in the center with beginning pointe students??? For the first year of once a week pointe, my students don't releve on one foot unless holding onto the barre. I think you were in the right, and I would avoid her class in the future. She may have taken offense that you challenged her in class in front of the others (that would have bothered me as well) but it doesn't seem that you had much choice since she was trying to insist you do things that were unsafe, or felt unsafe for you.

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Avalon, you don't mention how long you have been taking pointe classes, but as Swanilda stated, pique fouettes are a little ambitious for a beginning pointe class, regardless of the age of the student. I also know it can be difficult to find a teacher who is willing to teach adults pointe work. I am a adult beginning pointe student, but unlike you, I take a pointe class with only adults (there is only one other adult that wants to do this type of work, so it is either a semi-private class or private class). My biggest challenge (other than the pointe work itself :clapping: is that the other adult took pointe classes for about a year longer than I have but she had to stop for several years because of health reasons, surgery and work load. You don't say what part of Pennsylvania you're from but if it is possible, I would say that your best option would be to find a different teacher. Otherwise, if you could speak privately with the teacher you're having problems with and let her know how you feel, since you are paying her for this instruction, perhaps the two of you could come to a compromise :3dnod:

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eep I'm all for being encouraged to step a bit out of my safety range in class, but only because I trust my teachers to care enough not to injure me. Sorry but that class at least from your description sounds a bit scary, previous breaks tend to be weaker not stronger for one.

 

In my own adult pointe class it is all adults and we all tend to work some what at our own pace, for example if someone isn't ready for turns they do the prepatory steps, it is also not strictly a beginners class. Unfortunately my work shedule doesn't let me take the pointe class very often so I generally wear pointes during my 2 easier technique classes instead (there are a few of us who do and she gives us slightly different variations, especially for center work), so I can't give you the true progression of the adult pointe class and I am not sure if my own progress is average as I have only been at it for about 2 months now, though I do some center work that requires releve on one leg the other lady who started about the same time as me however does not (she tends to switch to soft shoes at that time). However I am not sure she would let someone on pointe in the first place if there were any health issues and the dancer wasn't strong enough (not making a judgement call of you as I can't see you and besides am by no means an expert!) It does sound if you could find an all adult or at least a class geared for pure recreation it might be a better match.

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knock, knock, teacher here (relax, but please don't lean against the barre :clapping: ). Avalon, it certainly sounds like this teacher lacks the skills to handle a 'multi-level class'. This can be difficult in a regular technique class, but even more so in a pointe class. Personally, I am not convinced that an adult should be in a class with the youngsters unless the teacher (the regular teacher who is consistently present) knows all the individuals and has mastery over the situation. It can work, but all the factors need to lined up just so...

 

In a situation like the one you presented, the teacher has to make split moment decisions, trying to keep the pace of her class, balancing the conflicting needs of two (or three) groups of individuals. Sometimes it's just not a matter of substituting one step for another; tempi, arrangement of steps, etc. can be issues and can leave a teacher feeling like she is trying to give mutiple classes simulateously. Some teachers can do this; many cannot and I'm not sure that this accurately reflects on them as teachers.

 

If this is a regular (ongoing class as opposed to an 'open' class), perhaps you could ask the regular teacher to talk with the sub.

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In a situation like the one you presented, the teacher has to make split moment decisions, trying to keep the pace of her class, balancing the conflicting needs of two (or three) groups of individuals.  Sometimes it's just not a matter of substituting one step for another; tempi, arrangement of steps, etc. can be issues and can leave a teacher feeling like she is trying to give mutiple classes simulateously.  Some teachers can do this; many cannot and I'm not sure that this accurately reflects on them as teachers.

 

 

This is what my teachers do. Especially in pointe class, everybody progress in a different pace. Multi-level teaching is not easy though - maybe you can talk to her after class. But dont let her push you; you certainly dont want to injure yourself :clapping:

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If you can't yet releve on one foot in the center, then you need to be working primarily at the barre. Center work should be very limited. Maybe simple pique movements and pas de bouree, I would guess. No pique fouette yet :P I think you're doing the correct thing by looking after yourself. It's your feet and legs. Sounds like she was purposefully making the experience unpleasant for you.

 

Chatting with any teacher briefly before class or during plie to inform them of injury status, out-of-shape status, or whatever is totally fine. So they don't feel like they're losing it when the students go off and do thier own thing. Actually, my teacher will send people to the barre if they're clearly not up to doing one footed releve. I've even seen her do this (rarely) with certain repetitive demi-pointe exercises if a person is extremely out of shape or weak. And she's a teacher who knows how to push people when it's appropriate...

 

It takes experience to be able to work with a multilevel class. Maybe this teacher just didn't want to deal wth it...so she drove you away. :unsure: I'm probably being dramatic...

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Thank you all so very much for your many perspectives and experiences. I feel much more settled concerning both possible ways of understanding the teacher's behavior and ways of dealing with my specific situation. I am very grateful that so many of you took the time to share your thoughts.

 

Warmly,

 

Avalon

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Avalon,

your story is absolutely apalling! There is no good reason for a teacher to treat anyone this way, especially adults.

 

I take a pointe class that is too advanced for me and find myself in similar situations. I do not do things that I don't feel safe doing. The teacher recognizes this and uses me as a model for younger students as an example of "knowing what your body can do". I am not a beginning pointe student, but I am certainly not an advanced one. My first pointe class was with other beginning students years ago, but I took a long break and came back into a rather advanced class full of 16 year old "bunheads" who can do fouette turns en pointe and some that can do releve arabesques consecutively.

 

Given this scenario, I am always forced to make choices as to which parts of the center combinations I will do on pointe. At first, I would skip all the turns and just do passe or do the preparation and not actually turn. Sometimes, I do it on demi-pointe, and sometimes I do things at the barre. The teacher is very supportive and does not pick on me. This is reality for an adult pointe student.

 

There are some advantages to this class -- I can be daring and try things and sometimes I succeed. I find that it is the quickest way to improve at pointe. But the teacher encourages the fact that I go to the barre to practice certain steps.

 

I hope you find another teacher. It is not worth injuring yourself to please someone who does not appreciate the risks you are taking. To me, dancing is high on the priority list and I avoid things that would prevent me from showing up to class. As an adult, your judgement should not be questioned and your attempts to learn a difficult step slowly and methodically should not be ridiculed. Just remember that as an adult, there are only so many more years you can dance -- every injury you sustain takes away from that little time we have left. I certainly cannot and will not allow anyone to jeopardize my ability to dance.

 

I firmly believe that dancers know what their bodies can do. We wouldn't be where we are if we weren't careful. Pushing yourself a little bit each time is the goal, but pushing yourself over the edge to where you can break your ankle or hurt yourself is just plain silly, and I hope you stand firm in your decision.

 

Good luck -- hope you find a better teacher. And don't ever let anyone pressure you to do something dangerous.

 

 

 

 

 

"This is pointe class.  I better see you up on pointe; I am not going to water down this class for you.  You want those shoes on your feet, you do what I tell you to do."  When I voiced my injury history, she told me to "get over it."  She then told the whole class that my previously broken foot should be stronger because of the break and that I had no excuse for behaving this way.  When I said that I was just learning and thought a move was too advanced for me (she called this move "pique fouette" and it was done in center at a very rapid pace) she said, referencing the other girls, "Yeah, well so are they just learning and they can do it."  I then told her that my feet were 30 years older than their feet and might need a little slower pace and she told me again that this was pointe class (like I didn't know that???).

 

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You are an adult, you know your body better than the a pre-teen/teenager would. Don't do things you don't feel comfortable doing. Your teacher sounds like a bully. Teachers need to push their students, but they should do so in a safe (health perspective wise) manner without unnecessary criticism or sarcasm.

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Thank you all once again for your wisdom, validation, and suggestions. I cannot tell you how helpful you have been.

 

Warmly,

 

Avalon

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