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Ballet Talk for Dancers

The left side gets confused


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Here I will reveal one of my more embarassing secrets- I often confuse my left and right. :blushing:


I do know the difference. But when it comes to switching sides or directions rapidly, changements, or doing things that move to the left or start with the left foot (or arm in some cases), my brain goes into overload and I get really mixed up. The weird thing is, if I don't think about it, I can do it. In other words, if I practice something slowly and correctly enough times that it becomes automatic, I have no problems. Obviously this is a problem when I'm trying to learn something.


If I was driving and someone told me at the last minute, "Oh wait, turn left here," chances are I would either hesitate, or there would be a fair chance I might turn the wrong way. If I'm doing an exercise class or video, I have trouble staying on the right side if the instructor is facing me. However, if she had her back to me, and I was watching in the mirror, I would probably be fine.


I should probably mention that it isn't as bad as it used to be. When I was younger, I used to be even more confusable (is that a word?), but it has improved somewhat with age. That leads me to believe that I can work on this and improve more. On the other hand, I have a history of quitting things that required me to use the skill of switching back and forth, like aerobics, because of embarassment and frustration. So who knows.


So how do you improve your non-dominant side, just by practice? Is there a reason this happens? Or am I just a hopeless case? :D

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My teacher is always saying to us... LEFT- that is the one that makes the L. She is constantly complaining in her amusing way about how much trouble adult students have with directions. So- this might not help- but you're not alone!!! :blushing:


For me personally- I just have this feeling on the right side of my body- can't really describe it- but it helps when I think left to go to the side that doesn't have this stronger feeling. Sounds nuts, I know. :D



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Everybody favours one side or the other. And I think there's a long cultural prejudice for the right side and against the left. In the deep dark past, left-handedness has been connected with all sorts of nasty superstitions (the word 'sinister' comes from the Latin for 'left' I think).


And I think that the left/right thing is also to do with individual loing-held kinaesthetic sense and memory - if you're right-handed and dancing as an adult, then there's a long muscle memory of your body doing things mostly on the right. And now you're shaking everything up and asking your poor old body to do stuff on the left !! :D:blushing:


What I do is position myself at the barre so that facing the teacher I'm working my left side first (ie right hand on the barre). I try always to mark with the left side as my working side, and really work it, not just do a sketchy mark. Then we either all turn so that we all start with the left hand on the barre, or stay & I do it left first, then right. But either way, at the barre at least, I work the left side twice. In the centre it's another story ... Although last night, I was able to work the grane allegro to the left without having to mark it endlessly. At this new studio, my ballet brain is slowly coming back to life!

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Amy, I have never learnt to tell left from right fast, either. My Mom is the same, so maybe it runs in the genes. What I do in ballet class is learn combinations in terms not involving those directions (instead I use terms like, croisé, effacé, towards the front foot / back foot). The advantage is that it makes doing the combination to the other side a bit easier. The disadvantage is that I cannot follow the quick instructions during a combination about which side to go to next ("Now LEFT!") but have to rely on myself.

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I had no bodily sense of left and right when I started, and have had to use all the tricks - standing behind someone, marking same side, thinking upstage/downstage windowside/wallside, right hand writes, left eye is the bad one - but oddly enough, I've been developing a tiny bit of a sense of it. As in "right is the side we start on in ballet class, with <i>this</i> leg front or working." Perhaps if I'd done ballet earlier in life, I wouldn't have failed driving school. ("Now turn left up here. Left! LEFT!")


Now if only I could do something about the teacher who has us start on the left in order to be more symmetrical.

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I am HORRIBLE on my left, particularly in grand allegro! Redbookish is right though, working on the left as much as possible in barre really helps, as does always trying a combination on the left (sometimes it's easy just to not bother with it. But it's much better to get things wrong than not try at all.)

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I struggle a bit with the left side...funny though, I find I have better extension on my left. :)

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Suddenly all I can think of is where I can place myself in class so I can work my left side first. I am not sure it is possible...I am trying to picture the portable barre in center and which way everybody stands but the picture I have in my head is a mirror view. It could be backwards. It is also lower than the others and generally the shorter students use it.

I would love to work left side first so I could mark with the left for a change. I actually aviod marking so as not to get (nearly) double work on one side and ending up strained or just crooked. I have had teachers who would not allow marking, but my memory for combinations isn't what it used to be. I am always watching someone in the mirror.

Interesting dilemma.



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I'm taking a contemporary class right now. It's constantly changing directions and using the whole space a lot more than a typical ballet class. I get horribly confused on which way to turn and what direction to face. Its really difficult to learn the combinations too because they face the back so often. I can't just watch and learn the way I do in ballet. I have to try and dance along, but it's so hard.


It's helpful to get used to this though. When I auditioned for Suzanne Farrell, she did a lot of stuff with fast directional changes and I realized that skill was severely lacking in me, because typical ballet classes are much more "flat" in the use of space.


Maybe Jazz or Modern would help you with this?

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This is so typical of me!! I'm left-handed, but my right side has always been the stronger side...quicker at getting combinations, better extension, turning to the right...even a deeper demi-plie on the right.....everything better on the right....


I usually try most of the tricks here especially starting on the left, marking combinations on the left...if I can get it down on the left, then I can definitely make the transtion to the right with no problem. But it is more difficult to transition to the left for me.

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I had no idea this was so common. I guess it's not just me! There are some good suggestions, but it is nice to see that some people have overcome this with work.


I'm going to start marking on the left and really practicing to see if I can make any difference. My left isn't even as flexible as the right, but I've been doing extra stretching and hopefully it will even out in time.


I guess that's just one of the disadvantages of starting later. :P

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I was trained to think of combinations in terms of 'visual cues' - or patterns. I hardly think in terms of left and right... If you can think through patterns, I think it often helps, although it takes a while of mental training. Remember, even if it's something that you are not used to or you think is not part of a pattern, that itself *is* a pattern.


I thank the stars that I do this - it allows me to pick up combinations more quickly, thus giving me more time to work on them, and also means I get to understudy everything (while I'd rather be actually cast, but hey....).


That said, I hate hate hate the tendency of some teachers to do everything marked on the right - I'm trying to balance myself out. In at least two of my classes (maybe three.... am trying to think...), we start barre working the left side.

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ami, my teachers and my classmates tend to think I am quicker than most in picking up combinations. Now that I think of it, it is quite possible that it's because I have taught myself to learn patters, both in space and time, since I cannot rely on left/right. (I don't feel good at picking up stuff, myself, though, I have to say! :P)

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Learning and seeing things via patterns is a great idea - when I'm thriough my dose of "Freshers' flu" and back on my feet, I shall try that in class.


Further ideas: I find that in the centre, thinking "upstage" leg/arm and "downstage" leg/arm helps - but that's p'raps because I teach theatre for a living. I think what's also important is to think of the position of your body in relation to the space you're in - so it's your corner, rather than the corner of the studio. The good old image of hips as headlights is helpful here.


My pro dancing sister can talk croisé, effacé, ecarté etc very properly, and rarely thinks left or right - she's internalised those basic positions of the body in space from the age of 11 ... We were doing the Cechetti "8 positions of the body" exercise in centre practice last week, and it's very helpful to get your head and body around that way of orienting yourself in the space and in relation to an (imaginary) audience.

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I think all left side combinations should be banned, whether in ballet, modern, jazz or whatever. Well, perhaps if we always started on the left side, I might think right side combinations should be banned.

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