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Is This Normal?????

Guest chowder39

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Guest chowder39

Hello All.....I am a first time poster and I have to say that this is such a great board.


Okay, I just started adult beginner ballet. I havn't had any formal training however, just mastered a few of the basic positions that I actually learned in a fitness stretch ballet class. (very informal)


Last Monday was my first lesson. There are only 3 of us in this class. The two other girls have had some ballet experience. I anticipated the teacher starting from scratch, going over the basic positions of arms and legs, making sure our we were aligned right, etc. Well, was I in for a surprise. We were at the barre doing plies in a few of the basic positions and then she jumped into all of these other moves. I really thought that I was going to be taught how to do these moves. Basically, I am mimicing the other girls and the teacher. I'm sure I am not doing things correctly. This is definitely adult beginner ballet. Our first night, she was asking us to do glissades, arabesque, etc. Is this normal? I really thought I was going to learn the basics and branch off from there, you know, the same way they would probably start out teaching children. Is it common to jump right into it the way we did???? If it wasn't for me taking that one fitness class I would have been totally lost. I have no idea what to do with my arms at this point.


Are beginner classes taught this way??? I don't want to quit, but how will I learn the steps without being taught them first??

Edited by chowder39
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Hello chowder39, welcome to Ballet Talk for Dancers! :(


It is, unfortunately, all to common, since there are usually more students who have had some ballet, in the "beginner" classes, than those who are totally new. This does not happen with children, but, it does seem to happen with adults. It seems that at the beginning of each school year there should be a really total beginner class, but I'm afraid it does not happen very often. I think, in a class that small, that you ought to be able to be taught the basics, though. With only 3 students, the teacher should be able to take the time to keep them working and still teach you what you need to learn. Ask for help!

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chowder39, are you in New York City? If so, you are in luck, because many programs for "absolute beginners" start at this time of year. Broadway Dance Center has ballet absolute beginner workshops that go over everything you're looking for; the first session was today but you can sign up for next week—the program runs every Sunday from now until November 6. Dena Moss's Saturday basic class at Joffrey Ballet School really breaks down the material as well.

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Guest chowder39

Hi--thanks for the responses so far. Yes, I have a feeling that the reason why we jumped into everything so soon was because of the 2 other girls having experience. The only thing that helps to alleviate my stress over this is that one of the girls was a total beginner last year without any experience and reassured me it will get better week after week. Okay, that's fine to know, but again, I want to be taught, not play "monkey see, monkey do." The thing is, I am all for and totally dedicated to practicing at home inbetween class, BUT, I don't want to practice moves and positions incorrectly. I will see how class goes tomorrow night. I am going to talk to my teacher and ask her to be totally honest with me --I do not want to hinder the rest of the class in any way , and if that's the case, I can pull-out at the end of the month (I am am paying monthly instead of the whole year at once) and maybe find somewhere else if it's not too late. I wouldn't even mind being placed in a class with beginning teens if it meant I was going to be taught.


Unfortunately, I do not live anywhere near NYC, I am in Upstate New York (Buffalo area) and it's really hard to find an adult class around here. Thanks so much for your replies and hopefully you will see me around here more often.

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I agree that it's a pity you can't do the kind of absolute beginner classes that beck_hen and Ms Leigh mention. But in that situation, could it help to think about the 'mimicking' in a more positive way? Rather than feeling 'monkey see, monkey do,' could you think that this way of learning is about getting the overall feeling of the move? That you're learning things like glissade and arabesque as whole movements, rather than 'frame by frame'?


Even though I've done a fair bit of ballet in all sorts of classes, I find when I'm learning a new step or combination, I need to learn it both ways - from the "outisde in" (as it were) - the whole step or combination in its rough shape, and I try to copy the teacher's shape and overall movement quality, and from the 'inside out" - breaking it down bit by bit. For ballet, you tend to need both ways of thinking about steps and combinations.


Personally, I find that learning bit by bit puts a lot of stress on being absolutely perfect technically. And I'm not! And it's frustrating!! So I like the big 'macro' sense of learning a step or combination, because (even if it's rough technically) I feel like I'm dancing!


But what I also get from all this is a clearer sense of how I learn best. That's also very interesting and will help you learn more effectively. If you're a person who needs to break everything down, then that's really useful to know, and can help you adapt your teacher's teaching style to your learning style (learning and teaching are connected, but different things!)

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Hello chowder39,


One of the classes I take is beginner level with a real mix of experiences. About one absolute beginner each term does join the class, and like you they obviously feel a bit overwhelmed by not being able to keep up with the others. But every single one has progressed to a stage where they feel more than comfortable - I don't think anyone has dropped out for reasons of not being able to keep up. The moral is that it DOES get less overwhelming and makes more sense week by week. This is how I started as an adult learner, the only absolute beginner in class - a long time ago but I certainly still remember the feeling. So I hope you'll be able to keep up the class and enjoy it. Let us know how it goes!

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Guest chowder39

Hi Ladies---thanks for all of your responses. I was able to pull many positives out of each reply. I think that because it was my first "official class," and it wasn't what I expected, it created some stress. Atleast now I know what to expect and can concentrate each week on perfecting my moves a little more.


Redbookish----great point about learning whole moves rather than frame by frame. I suppose if I need to see the moves or combinations in "slow motion," I can just ask.


I just have to keep reminding myself that even though I take the class seriously, this is my new hobby and I should just enjoy it. I can only get better week after week.


Thanks again----wish me luck, I am leaving for class in about 1 hour. I will report back.

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chowder: What incredible luck you have being in a class with so few students! You really can ask your teacher anything you want to know- do not hesistate to ask. Ask like a child would do- let him or her show you the correct positions and correct your movements whenever possible.

Also if it is possible try to get more beginners ballet classes- practise makes the master.

And yes, it takes some time for an absolute beginner to get accustomed and used to the difference in movement and posture - it is a whole new world to you and your muscle memory has to work overtime right now to cope with the loads of new movement patterns.

Do not worry- practise and time makes the master- be patient and work and the results will show up.


Another issue frequently coming up with beginning students:

I would not recommend DVDs or videos for an absolute beginner, not even for a beginning student- even though many of them are marketed off as "beginning ballet videos" (there even is a "Pointe For Beginners" video available- how perverted is that?!) - but they are not beneficial without the teacher`s watchful eye- you do not even realize how much you can do wrong if you are new to ballet.

In worst case scenario you will get injuries and completely messed up placement but for sure you will train yourself bad habits (because you just cannot correct yourself properly yet) if you did try the videos now at your current stage.

If the "beginners" videos were sufficient and good there would not be any ballet schools and ballet teachers around anymore.


However you may buy a good book on ballet technique like Gretchen Ward Warren`s "Classical Ballet Technique" with great pictures to feed your brain. :( (it is very inspirating and uplifting as long as you do not take her remarks on "the ideal dancers body" too serious- after all thats not meant for us recreational students who have the freedom to come in all different shapes and sizes! Yay!)


Have fun dancing! Soon you will be just as obsessed as the rest of us here! :D:angry2:

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You are indeed fortunate to have such a small class.


Adults classes do seem to be a mixed bag. Our school only offers two official adult classes (Adult I/II and Adult II/III), and pretty much the same people show up for both of them. There is a temptation for the teacher to teach to the ability of whoever's there, but my firm belief is that if even ONE person of the advertised level shows up, the class should be taught at that level. (Of course, that's MY belief -- unfortunately, I'm not the teacher!)


Do talk to the instructor. Let them know what you want/need to get out of class. Chances are good s/he can give you a good grounding at the same time s/he makes the class move a little faster for the other students. Remember, too, that it won't hurt them to work carefully on the basic stuff. Last year, we had a bunch of first-timers come into the class in the second semester, and so it was back to the beginning for all of us. It was a great opportunity to concentrate on position and balance and turnout.


And do hang in there! Everything will feel more comfortable as time goes on.

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One more thing -- have you tried Neglia Ballet Conservatory? I have no idea if they have adult classes, but my DD went to their SI this past summer. The training was really solid, the attitude really friendly and inspiring. They are on Elmwood (?), a little north of Rt. 198. (Hope I have those streets right -- at any rate, it's a little southwest of the Target on Delavan.)

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Guest chowder39

Hello again........well, I have to tell you all that my second class was great and the teacher was so receptive. The time flew by, and I learned so much. She actually enjoys and is encouraging questions. She even told me last night that I did a good job. I left there feeling really good! Thanks so much for all of your suggestions.

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