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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Classroom Competition - Good Or Bad?

Guest adancingartistforlife

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Guest adancingartistforlife

During my career as a dancer, and now as a teacher, I have never been a big fan of competing in the classroom.


My philosophy is that you are dealing with your body, your mind, and getting what the teacher is telling you right, and hopefully having fun with it.


However I have known some dancers that thrive on competing, and I have also known teachers and choreographers that deliberately create competitive atmospheres.


In these atmospheres, I have seen some dancers excel, and some crumble.



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I think there are positive competitive attitudes, and negative competitive attitudes.


A positive competitive attitude may include admiring a co-student and aspiring to do as well as they are at a particular aspect. Looking to them as a source of inspiration, if you will.


An example of a negative competitive attitude may be coveting a particular skill out of jealousy so that the drive to improve does not stem from admiration and a desire to equal, but a desire to defeat and surpass.


I watch my students compete with each other good-naturedly. After class, you'll often find a couple who lag behind to out-turn the other (fouettes, pirouettes, etc). The result is usually smiles, giggles, and the pair walking off the the dressing room together offering friendly compliments and corrections.


I think that, to a degree, ballet is competitive in nature, so I don't completely see classroom competition as a bad thing. However, one must be careful of falling onto the negative side of the equation, as it will indeed eat you up inside and remove you from the original intent behind dance.

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Gosh, I'm so wrapped up in competing against my own impossible standards of perfection for myself that I don't even have room to be envious of other's skills. I'd explode even worse than usual!

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At dance conservatoires, competitive feelings develop to different degrees. Every student, who begins fulltime ballet training will have a different perception of competitiveness, which might develop into an unhealthy form of extreme competitiveness that one can often find in the ballet world. It is certainly less in an adult environment as there is no pressure to become good enough to get a job in a company.

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Guest adancingartistforlife
Gosh, I'm so wrapped up in competing against my own impossible standards of perfection for myself that I don't even have room to be envious of other's skills. I'd explode even worse than usual!



And that is the time-honoured but true saying..."You are competing with yourself"

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Guest Dancing Duranie

Well as an adult student whose only dancing alternative is to dance with teenage competition teams........I see the competition every class. The girls will try to outdo each other with flexibility, technique, preforming the moves, etc. I don't really know any of them personally and have tried not to get to know them. I'm a bit slow on the eightball right now.....going from one studio where we did plies for 5 weeks straight to this one where frappes are done at the speed of light. I just have to compete with myself and when I accomplish something that I didn't think I could I get satisfaction from that; not how well I did it compared to the other girls.


At my old studio one of the girls felt that I was competition for her and the teacher tore me down after class one night. I left in tears. I had even given this girl a pair of pointe shoes because her toes were stubbed up into the ends of her old ones and the teacher wasn't taking them to get re-fitted for over a month. I thought about it for two days and decided this girl could be the best.............and switched studios and teachers. :lol:

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If there is any competiton at all in adult classes it's really minimal. It mostly happens when someone new joins who is considered quite good. Most of the time though everyone is really supportive of eachother and inspired by those with more experience. With adults....there is really no reason to compete. We are all there for are own reasons. All of us have professional jobs during the day and the last thing we care about is who got their leg up higher during developpes. Like other people have said....adult ballet is more about competing with yourself and reaching a level that you didn't think you could achive. Over the summer there were a couple of students that were probably preprofessional and spent the summer taking classes at our studio. They were downright unfriendly, rude, and extremly competetive. Which is why I'm assuming they were preproffessional. But they are gone now. Thank god! :lol:

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My teacher has acknowledged that a little competition can be healthy, but she leaves it up to us to decide if we want that for ourselves. She does not create a competitive environment for the class; it is totally individual. I never cared to compete with anyone, though I have felt others watching me in a way that inferred a "friendly competition." Personally, I find this distracting and wish they would choose another role model. But since it is never acknowledged, all I can do is pretend I don't notice. I guess it may have actually improved my dancing, I'll reluctantly admit.


Occasionally I hear of other dancers thinking that if they studied dance longer, they must be the better dancer (than one who has not studied as long). To me this indicates they do not understand how individual ballet is. So much depends on how we perceive ourselves.


Ultimately, I agree with the comment that other, better dancers in class ought to be inspiration, not competition.

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Guest adancingartistforlife

To me, the act of dancing, being in class, or teaching is almost divine. I know it sounds corny, but for me that is true. there is that saying..."Dance Is Life"...well, it IS


Look at what "life" unrelated to dance has been dishing out to the world lately, and then look at what dance gives to the world, and the people doing the dancing


Look at how it makes you feel spiritually


For me, being in class, or teaching class, and especially choreographing is like church


When the "unhealthy" competition as Dance Scholar London put it starts creeping in, that is some of those other unsavory parts of life creeping in


Look at this excerpt from "10 Blisters" from Sylvie Guillem's website"


Sylvie Guillem - 10 blisters

Edited by adancingartistforlife
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I tend to compete with myself rather than others. I once read a quote attributed to Baryshnikov (altho I'm not sure if it's correct): "I do not try to dance better than anyone else. I only try to dance better than myself." I take that into any dance or fitness class that I go to.


Along the same lines, what I can't stand is people who put on an air of attitude in the dance studio. It's like they're trying to do that for the competition or something. I don't understand and think it's rather childish. :D

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I'm like Lampwick, I'm too caught up with what I'm doing. Especially if I can see myself in the mirror (yuck) - I get even more competitive with myself!


I am, by far, the shortest girl in most of my classes. Not just by a little, but by a good 5-6 inches. Our bodies just don't move the same. And, their legs will always be higher than mine, simply because of their construction.


Growing up we had one really competitive girl, and she eventually moved away but would come back to class every now and then and we all disliked it... it totally changed the atmosphere of class. We were all good friends and good at different things, and respected each other for it. That's how I feel most of my ballet friends are now too, but you do have to be careful at times when you are talking about steps/corrections afterwards. We are all so invested in this, it's easy to be emotional and/or sensitive. We've had some new girls come it at times that are fabulous (this one new girl we have has such a nice penche!) and so nice!!!! There are others who have that sense of competition - and you can feel it in the room.


The worst, is, however, when teachers encourage competition... 'The' teacher' (you've all heard stories), actively encourages it but almost subversively. She'll have two casts for something, and then make comments about how the one girl is prettier (I was the non-pretty one, guess how much that messed me up for a while....), or this comes naturally, or you have to work harder at it, and then throw in some flippant comment at the end about how it's okay because we all work hard. She's judgemental, and I've seen many, many of my friends go home in tears or end up in the bathroom for 20 minutes. My theory on this is that it is the teacher is actually competing with us.... yuck.

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This is an interesting topic to me. I have joined a class of college age students, some of whom have had previous ballet training and others in the class are obviously very late beginnners.


As I am friends with the teacher, she told me a story over lunch about how the girls reacted to the news that I wanted to begin taking class with them. The initial reaction was, "oh a 45 year old woman who USED to be able to dance wants to take our class....isn't that sweet."


Apparently, after my first few classes, they realized that I really DID used to know how to dance, and am actually not so bad at it these days either, kind of gave them a wake-up call....


My motivation for doing this is not to show them up or be 'better' than they are, it is only to push myself to be the best I can be. My fear is that they will become frustrated by their level of achievement and resent me for it. My hope is that I can be an encouragement to them and that they will want to push themselves to be better.


I'm not sure I can do anything personally to prevent that, except to be friendly and supportive of their efforts while still pushing myself to be the best I can be....any thoughts?

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I guess i have been very lucky so far then, all of the other students who attend ballet class have been nothing but supportive and friendly, always knowing how to bring the best of me out - this especially includes my teacher :blink:


I was very nervous about the first class but instantly realised i would fit it and had found a place to learn at my own pace, only having myself to compete with, for that i am truly grateful.


( a very different story to that of my childhood dance classes, where the teacher had favourites and nobody else could ever compare :D )

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Guest adancingartistforlife

Throughout my career, before I retired from the stage after the 60's, 70's, and 80's, whenever I was dancing, be it in class, rehearsing or whenever, I was always known for being seriously focused on what I was doing.


"Raisins, Tuna Fish, Ben-Gay, and Incredibly Focused"


Even now, when I am teaching, or choreographing I'm like that.


However, in the "Old Days" when I would be in class, I would be so focused on what I was doing and what the teacher was saying, etc that an H-Bomb could have gone off, and I wouldn't have noticed.


A lot of people took that as me being rude, snobbish or anti-social or something because I NEVER, EVER talked in class or during rehearsal. It just wasn't done...


That also made some other dancers who were of the competitive ilk try to "get into my head" if you will.


One of several occasions was once the men were doing "amboitee, amboitee, assemble, double-tour" across the floor, corner to corner. So one of the other guys, who had gone in front of me, turned around in the opposite corner and was looking directly into my face as I was trying to spot the combination. Fortunately, I was the type that "timed" my spots, as opposed to looking at something. I got through it.


What differentiated me from the people Papillon was talking about was that I never turned my nose up at people. Never made a point of always being "In Front", I was always courteous of others.


Like the group that always forms in the back of the studio by the rosin box and chatters. That wasn't me.


I guess I'm saying this to say that, people being people, it's going to happen unfortunately. Competition. But when it gets negative, like this guy deliberately trying to distract me during this double tour combination (or people crowding your space, blocking your view in the mirror, etc) that's not good.


As hard as it is, I say try to ignore it, focus, and be considerate of other dancers.


When teachers or choreographers start it, try to focus on what it is they are trying to accomplish with the dancing as opposed to you vs. the other person.


Its REALLY hard. heck, Diaghilev did it....not that I'm THAT old.. :D


By the way, Ami..


"Especially if I can see myself in the mirror (yuck)"


Don't say that about yourself :) Not everyboudy is a tall, thin ballerina. I danced with a woman once in 1974, who was short, stocky, but strong as heck, and an incredible dancer.

Edited by adancingartistforlife
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I agree with adancingartistforlife, Ami, you have a beauiful figure and are a fantastic dancer (some people have all the luck!)


I cant understand what there is not to like :)

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