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Ballet Talk for Dancers



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Hello everyone!

I am writing this because I had a rather unpleasant experience yesterday that made me think over certain things.

As I have written before, I am currently taking a syllabus RAD grade 6 class and I have been doing quite well, I think. I also do pointe work 3 times a week, which has never caused me any problems or difficulty.

Since my school closed for the easter holidays (in my country it was just last sunday) I decided to take a free class at another studio just to try something different and to exercise a little bit. It was a so-called "intermediate" class (the only level they offered at the time) and I figured it would be ok for me, since the other two levels they normally have in that school are beginner and advanced/professional. I am by no means advanced but I am certainly not a beginner, so I thought I should give it a try.

And the horror started! First of all the teacher didn't even ask what my name was, just in case she wanted to correct me during an exercise. I managed to do a decent (I think) barre, which was pretty normal and not extremely different to the one we do at grade 6. I didn't get a single correction, which is of course a bad thing, because I am experienced enough to know when I need it. Then came the center, which was a complete disaster and which caused my main questions. We had to do some combinations, which were quite hard for me to follow (not so much because of the steps, but because I need a few repetitions before I get the coordination right). Of course the teacher didn't even bother to ask me if I want something shown to me twice, because the other dancers were more advanced than me and she was satisfied with them doing the combinations. And even when I tried to do something, she did nothing, she didn't encourage me or correct me, even when I was not doing that bad.

For example: there was a combination that included sissonnes and assembles and that I cound not do. I felt I would be able to do the steps if I tried a couple of times, but I felt too intimidated to ask (I have to add though, that the worst thing for me in ballet are those particular steps - I can do almost everything of intermediate level pointe work without any difficulty, but I can't for the life of me get an assemble look right - I know that it doesn't make much sense!). I felt completely uncoordinated and stupid and I ended up watching the others. And when we were asked to do pique turns (not on pointe, just simple turns) and I offered to try, the teacher said "don't -it's too hard for you". I have never heard that before in my life! My teacher would have never said that (unless of course in case something might cause injury), even to completely hopeless students. If she sees some potential in you, she makes you try again and again until she sees some improvement.

And here comes my question: I got the feeling that the reason I could not easily follow the class was not that the steps were hard, but because I am stuck to the syllabus and I don't take enough free classes and every combination that is a bit different to what I am used to do is very hard for me to follow. I know that the syllabus is good for improving technique, but I suddenly got the feeling that doing the same exercises for a year has somehow kept me far from learning more things or moving forward. And since I am already almost 29 years old, it seemed to me that I am just waisting my time..

Do you think I should talk to my teacher about it? I feel so confused even about my level and my own skills! As I already said, how can anyone be so good at pointe work (at least at the things we do at the intermediate level) and not be able to follow a simple combination in the center?


Thank you so much for your patience and again, I am sorry for the long post..

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You've mentioned the solution to your problem in your post. You're not taking enough "free class" and stick with just the syllabus. The Academy tells its teachers that they have to teach a great deal of free material in the run-up to the examination, and not just "teach to the test", covering only the syllabus material. Your teacher may suggest more non-syllabus classes.


However, let me say that the other school seems to get low marks in "works and plays well with others". You were treated rudely, and have reason to be indignant. With them. Not your teacher.

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It sounds like you have a very good regular teacher who would listen and act on your concerns. Maybe you could discuss your experience with her and see if you could do more free combinations in your regular class?

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Thank you for your replies! Major Mel , you are very kind..thanks a lot for always answering my questions so fast...

Katie B,my teacher is indeed very good. She is a reputable english teacher who teaches exclusively classical ballet technique and her main occupation is teaching pre-pros and pros at the state dance school of my country. I like her and I respect her deeply. I think I will talk to her and I will try to take more free classes, when possible.


As major Mel said, the answer was sort of clear to me from the beginning, I was just a bit frustrated. You work very hard to progress (especially when you are an adult student who has not much of a future) and a bad experience like the one I had yesterday can disappoint you and make you want to quit. It actually crossed my mind yesterday..if I am so lousy at ballet (as I felt yesterday), and what's more, if I am so stupid that I hadn't realised how lousy I am, then why bother...


Thank you again for your concern :D

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For me, I am always totally hopeless when I take class with a new teacher, they put together steps differently, they don't do the same kind of allegro combinations, all sorts of factors. For some reason I find it difficult to adjust to a new teacher and they way they do things.

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I don't really have any advice or anything new to add, but I just wanted to say that I have been through your situation before. I began ballet learning the Cecchetti sylabus for about a year and then moved to a very structured class when I moved to the city. When I went to ADC (adult dance camp) and was exposed to new teachers and combinations (and the coordination of arms and feet which was a COMPLETELY new concept to me!) I was lost and frustrated.

For me, it is certainly easier to take the "comfortable" class, but I've learned that if I want to really improve I need to get out of my comfort zone and take from different teachers with differnt styles.


HTH :-)



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Hi...although it certainly sounds like the "other" school's teacher was on the rude side, I just want to say that when a new dancer attends my class ( I am a teacher) I hesitate to give too many corrections at first. I don't want the student to feel "picked on" and just want them to get used to my class first. However, I wouldn't tell them to not dance a combination if I deemed it too difficult. I would modify it for them a bit so that they would be able to participate in the combination. That's where I think that, perhaps, this instructor fell short with you... Good luck to you...

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Christos Anesti, elie. :)


I danced RAD syllabus for about a year as a teenager and I disliked the monotony. I also took one "free" adult class a week which offered variety and opportunities to work combinations and steps that RAD syllabus doesn't cover.


Given the poor treatment you received at the other school (and don't fool yourself -- it was poor treatment -- you might be a student, but you're also a consumer and you were treated very poorly by the service provider), I would suggest adding a "free" class to your current RAD syllabus if, overall, you're largely satisfied with the training you're getting. If not, perhaps you need to explore other options.

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Most RAD students tracking recreationally take about 2 syllabus classes/week. The remainder, up to the point of being still recreation are usually, and should be "free classes", which build your "brain muscles" so that you can pick up original material more efficiently.

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I am always having troubles picking up new combinations. I do much prefer my syllabus class as I know what to expect. However, it did not help much in all my other free classes. Sometimes I have the feeling it is even counterproductive, for example en dedans turns are with a fouette in RAD, when my non syllabus teacher wants them with the fouette I am kind of completely lost although I really like turns.


I have about 6-7 different teachers per week (3 of them for RAD), which gives a great variety of teaching styles as well. Maybe you can try to take more free classes or at least a class with a different teacher. There is a big difference between my RAD teachers (all very nice) and although they teach the same steps it is done in a different way which makes me more think about my body (and how this applies to open class)

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knock-knock...I am not sure if this is appropriate, but I will give it a try anyway. Please feel free to delete if necessary. :thumbsup: Not knowing anything about RAD except what I see in students who end up in my class at one time or another, the difficulty is in adjusting to new things, as always, but almost every student of RAD I have had, is well trained, just differently from what I do. They always stand up straight and look elegant. That says a lot in my book.


My students, (all high school age) who study a Vaganova based program, have the same difficultlies when they are confronted by a new teacher with different ways. All students of any age group have this challenge. In time they adjust and it becomes another experience to add to the shopping cart! :wink:

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Sure, no problem, vrs. Changing teachers can be a culture shock, and when you change methods/styles, it can be an even greater one. I was basically trained Balanchine, and when I was required to shift gears to Cecchetti, or RAD, or Legat, I had to adjust, and realize that what I did for one method, I didn't do for another. It wasn't that hard to do, but it did lead to some amusing moments, as with a teacher I had who had been Paris Opera-trained. I did a combination which I thought had turned out pretty well, and her reaction? "Harumph! Balanchine!" :wink:

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Would it eventually be a good idea to follow two syllabi simultaneously, say Cecchetti and RAD?

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I do agree with the advice to try and take classes with more than one teacher. Although you can feel terrible the first few times with a new teacher, it really seems to me a good way to challenge yourself and learn more. It's quite recently that I branched out and tried some new classes and although they still make me nervous, it's starting to be a lot of fun, and I know it's improving my dancing....

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D_S_L, I do not think the discussion can have a general answer. My opinion for recreational dance would have a different answer than for students pursuing a professional career in ballet. Also age group needs to be considered in answering this question. If the question is posed to the recreational dancer only, my answer would be, why not study as many syllabii as possible? As always the teacher is what can make more break a class.

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