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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Can class be bad for you?


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I'm trying to avoid hijacking the support thread yet again! :D

Apologies in advance for the length of this posting.

edit to add: I'm not necessarily comfortable asking my other teachers about this because the dance community here is small, and I don't know that it would thus be appropriate....


As many of you know, I have one instructor who I'm not fully happy with, to say the least. So why do I attend her classes?


- There aren't that many classes to choose from, and I seriously do want to improve and refine my technique. At this level, I don't want to go below five or six classes a week.


- They are challenging, especially in terms of stamina. She likes 'flashy' things, so it is the only class where we try some trickier turn combinations, etc, that I do not get elsewhere. Also, she gives more pointe work than some others.


- I have somehow, without full consultation (!) been cast for her upcoming show, as a sister to a good friend of mine. That might seem not to be a good reason, but it is highly likely that this will be my last year in Oxford, and I love to perform, and I love my friend. So. Rehearsals have not started yet and all is a bit up in the air, so I'm not fully committed to this yet.


- During term time, the classes are very very very inexpensive!


For me, the first reason is the most important. I want to improve and refine my technique, and I feel like I seriously need a certain number of classes, and the challenge. My concern is that I might be harming my technique though, and that the bad might be outweighing the good. I know quality before quantity, and I'm trying to technically use other concepts from other teachers while I'm in class, but sometimes the nature of the class just doesn't allow for it. I could list a whole range of things that I don't like about her training.


- There isn't enough warmup, especially from plies through to a releve or so - these are the 'tendonitis factory' classes. I've been to many classes since my tendons healed, but after taking her class on Saturday and Tuesday, my achilles are aching.


- Everything at barre is fast fast fast - there isn't enough thought about the purpose of barre. That said, the adage both at barre and centre are static and slow, and seem to me to lend to the build up of muscle and unnecessary gripping.


- Things are focused on looks and flashiness, to the detriment of technique. So what if your hip moves a bit, your leg was so high. Push your legs together in parallel even if you have arque legs - the gap is unsightly. Push them together in first and have a huge gap between hyper extended legs at the heel - the Eiffel Tower look is so beautiful. Does that make you tip your pelvis? Never mind, they are not connected.


- Most importantly, there is not a concern for training or for the dancer. Yesterday was one of the first term classes back. A lot of the girls have not danced all summer - and maybe a third have not danced for YEARS. First class tends to be very mixed in ability as well. It was crowded - 20 people in a room that I think is suited for 6. She made no concessions, did not introduce herself, etc. Flew through exercises without adequate verbal or visual instructions, finished barre in something like 20 minutes of fast fast fast, etc. We are all adults, and mostly students or grad students, and there is no need to make people feel stupid. It was trial by fire, and really really really bad - someone could have been seriously injured. Then the last half hour we did pointe. POINTE! Some of the girls who are dancing with her and doing pointe now only take class twice a week and have been a way from ballet for 5-10 years! (not making this up). Others simply don't have the strenght, and yesterday she didn't even inquire, it was just 'girls, change your shoes'. Hardly any work at the barre, and then throws these girls into ballones, pirouettes, etc. I felt ill. At the end, I almost lost it. After class, I asked her about a step to which she replied "I dont' want you to do that this year, as it seemed to hurt you last year" (referring to tendonitis...) I felt like screaming, as that step had nothing to do with it and she just showed such a lack of knowledge and what not....


All that said, suppose I am strong, and I can manage, and get through her class by using 'other' technical advice in my head, and I can emotionally block out her pettiness. Is the bad outweighing the good here? If I want to be serious (as you all know I'm in this for more than recreation), is it alright to leave these classes without having an alternative? I'm very frustrated right now, and I know that because of that I couldn't list whatever else I think is 'good' about these classes.... but I feel like I have to make a decision soon. I'm considering leaving the classes but still doing the performance, although she hates the fact that she 'shares' any of her students with other teachers (although considering the lack of classes I think it's a MUST for pointe work). If I do that, she will treat me badly, so that is the risk.


I've rambled enough, so will stop now, with one last note. I do not want to stop, or give up whatever opportunities I may or may not have in the future, because of her. I will stop dancing, or reduce the amount, out of my own situations, but not because of someone else's personal issues.

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Ami, the bad outweighs the good when you are not able to deal with it emotionally, as well as technically. If it upsets you, then it is not a good thing. If you can take it knowing that you have to work differently, and deal with that without getting into trouble emotionally, fine. If not, it's not worth it.


I didn't understand the part about being cast as sister of a friend....what does that have to do with anything?

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Guest BalletBrat

Ami, I have a teacher very similar to what you descirbe, and I have to agree with Victoria, if you can't handle it emotionally, then yes, the bad outweighs the good.


I have stopped dancing with this teacher who's classes didn't leave me in a good place mentally when it was time to go home.While her classes were "decent" technically, her demeanor during corrections, or rather, criticisms, was not helping me. I was not the only dancer to have negative feelings about this teacher's "approach" to teaching, and am not the only dancer to have stopped taking her class. If you have these feelings, chances are someone else does too.


I can't make your decision for you, but I can tell you that since I quit with this teacher, I have been much happier. She is not happy that I no longer take her class, and asks me constantly when will I be coming, but she has not had the ###### to strike me from performances, although she would proably like to out of spite. :D


You are a grown up, don't let her jerk you around.

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Thanks, Ms. Leigh, and BalletBrat, for your considered replies.


The casting situation - sorry I did not explain that well. Basically, a friend and myself have been cast as a pair. I think the easiest thing to do would be to walk from everything, including the show. But that would leave my friend in limbo, and I don't think I have the heart to do that to her - plus I love being on stage and there just aren't that many opportunities for adults to go around.


I know many people who have been emotionally distressed by these classes and rehearsals. My lowest was probably about 2 and a half years ago. Yes, I've been considering leaving on and off since then - which is probably a sign. Now, it's not that I'm going home crying because she treats me badly - she doesn't treat me badly as an individual. Sure, she's a bit cold, but when it comes down to it, I know she needs me for certain things in the performance, and even sometimes in class. She'd rather be able to 'claim' us in a performance then get rid of us altogether. I'm past the getting beat up as an individual, and am now just frustrated. My main concern is her approach to technique/training, and how I see injuries come and go, etc. I also see, every year, new students going through what I did three years ago - every year there are new students or different ones who get run through the ringer, and it's frustrating to watch. I think any of you would have been shocked and horrified by last night's class.


I guess, personally, that I have to be on watch, and if it gets to the point that I really emotionally can't handle it, that will be my cue. Technically - it's so hard to tell. I might ask my other teachers to keep extra watch to see if I'm developing any bad habits or losing any of the things I worked so hard on over the summer months. A lot to think about right now. :shrug:

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I understand EXACTLY what you're going through, on so many levels, and I'll send you a PM about this soon.



But Step 1 is define what your goals are.

What are your goals?

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I personally don't like that kind of class, but that doesn't mean it's no good for somebody else. I like for the teacher to give a long barre with lots of warm-up and correction. Also, if she gives a fast combination, and the students aren't doing it very well, she should slow it down and work it out with them. There's really no point in doing something fast if it's not done correctly. (Unless they already do it correctly slower and just need to work on their coordination at a higher speed or something.) Like last night, one of the students in my class was not doing grande jete correctly, so the teacher made us do a different combination entirely which included a brush through first position into a grande battement. This movement is the building block for grande jete. There's no point in just doing grande jete over and over until something changes magically and the student is doing it right. Sometimes you have to break it down and work with the basics. Anyway... I'm rambling.

Just my opinion, I don't think I would enjoy the class you described. I was in a class like that last year, and I actually quit and started taking a class below my level with a bunch of 10-14 year olds because their teacher was giving them more correction than the advanced teacher was. I was getting nothing out of the advanced class whatsoever except a bunch of fast difficult steps with no corrections.

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Hugs again ami. I was just reading an old thread in the parents forum about abusive teachers. Not to get into whether this one is or not, but the consensus there, as Ms. Leigh's post suggests, was that staying with such a teacher is emotionally unsustainable. I've experienced that myself. Even if you want to put up with it, there comes a point when you can't—a straw that breaks the camel's back.


As lampwick's post alluded to, focusing on a goal might help. The dream scenario would be to find an exit plan. It's easy to stay tough when you have something to look forward to.


As for the other students, worrying about them is taking its toll on your energy. Not to sound heartless, but they will need to figure it out for themselves.


My biggest worry is that your tendonitis will come back. Then this class will definitely have been bad for you.


Anyway, I know it isn't easy wrestling with this. You will arrive at some sort of resolution, though, and feel better then.

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f I want to be serious (as you all know I'm in this for more than recreation), is it alright to leave these classes without having an alternative?


OK, I did miss this.


If you want to reach an advanced level, and get professional performing opportunities, you need to relocate and find adequate training. That's a daily class minimum (you actually need more than that), with top-notch teachers. The training comes first. It's taken me almost three years of at least 9 classes a week with very good teachers and a lot of natural facility to begin with. I'm finally ready to start looking into apprenticeships. The training is THAT hard. I don't really know what level you're at right now, but I'm guessing by your posts (correct me if I'm mistaken) that you're on the crux of an advanced technique, but unable to get there. It's the training.


Anything that distracts from your goal, emotional, physical, or otherwise...is a waste of your precious time. Which you don't have much of...Dance careers are short.


Don't be misguided by feelings of "loyalty", or "obligation". This is about YOU. I see too much of people who become loyal to one particular teacher or situation. All that hard work...yet never advance to thier potential, and end up giving up on thier dream.


We get one chance at life.



You're frustrated because Oxford doesn't have what you need. That's the crux of all these problems. If ballet is something you really, really, want...you need to do something about that.


If not, that's fine too. In any case, you need to drop your association with this person. It's giving you nothing but grief.


I have a lot more to say, and I will write to you when I have time. I have more options because of where I live, but there's many many similar issues and situations I've been going through.

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My exit plan is finishing my DPhil and high-tailing it out of here! :innocent: You're right, beck-hen, maybe I shouldn't worry about the other students. That's very out of my nature, but you are right, they have to make their own decision about whether or not the class is good for them. I've seen many promising students leave altogether just so they didn't have to deal with her. Some of them I've felt compelled to at least nurture though, especially when they are friends - one spent so much time sobbing in the bathroom... another developed an eating disorder. It's all reather ugly.


I'm also really worried about tendonitis, and I'm completely convinced it's not *me* - I've taken loads of classes, some on really bad floors, in the past two months. Now, when I'm back in these classes - the achilles are flaring up again. I'm not the only one who's had this, but I am the only one who has been vocal about it.


Lampwick, you are right about the training, and the need to relocate. I've known that for about two years I guess... I'm just stuck here now, having to finish with no money. This is my fear - this person, as you say, causes me nothing but grief - but can I afford to miss out on whatever classes there are? I don't know.


I think you're fairly right about my level. You remember what it's like - relearning everything, but now I'm at a point that I feel like the training I've had for the past few years has held me back more than help me progress, which is why I've decided to vary the teachers I go to and have privates with another one. I *feel* like I'm on the verge of a breakthrough - working on details, on consistency.... and I don't want to reverse that process. I'm also really concerned about not having as difficult pointe work offered if I do leave these classes.


I don't feel any loyalty or obligation to this woman - and she knows that. She teaches at another school where I take classes with others - so she has seen my name on the register and knows, and is not happy, but I am happier in the other classes. She's alluded that she does know, but won't say it. Again, I'm just worried about what leaving might do to me. And I'm worried about what staying might do to me.


My friend and I were writing about this yesterday as well, and about how hard ballet can be. It can make you feel amazing, free, and expressive, but at the same time make you feel horrid. In the end, it's a perfectionists art, and there's always more to do and everything done wrong. It also create so many unattainable dreams, and that's the worst part.


I probably also need a serious assessment by a trusted teacher, and attempt to come to grips with any potentials.


Lampwick, I have a lot to say to you and will respond when I have the time (and the strength!) to do so. In the meantime, thanks, your message meant a lot. :)

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I think you're fairly right about my level.  You remember what it's like - relearning everything, but now I'm at a point that I feel like the training I've had for the past


Ami - when did you start taking Ballet again, and how long have you been studying for? Did you take class when you were younger?... Sorry for all the random questions, I was just thinking about how I started learning Ballet, and I feel it has caused me to pick up some very bad habits - I might try and find lots of beginner classes and start again.


When I first started Ballet (age 17) I attended the same school I took Modern and Tap classes at. The scary thing was that the people in the class were on Pointe, for 10 mins per class, the class was only 40 minutes long and was only once a week :)


Also the teacher was mean, she would constantly pick and me - make jokes - that just were NOT funny - I would go to my boyfriends house crying most days, and the thing is she wouldn't correct me at the time I needed to most corrections! - I of course was naive, I thought this class was the norm - how stupid could I have been!! - So I know what it is like to be in a bad class, with Bad teachers...


I'm still searching for the perfect place...

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I've been dancing since I was four, with VERY VERY VERY good training from the age of about 9 or 10 until I left for uni. Not professional-level when I left for Uni, although some of the girls I danced with were, and a few went on to 'finishing' training at the Rock School, etc, and many went to very very good SIs over the summer. I basically was not allowed to go to 'dance camp' after I was about 12 or 13.... my family was very focused on academics, and my parents guided me with not just their heads but with their hearts. I don't fault them at all - they realise now more than ever how much dance means to me, and they know how much time I spend on it. My mom usually gets me leotards/shoes/whatever for my birthdays and so to help out.


Uni's program was more contemporary-based, and I still danced loads, but not much ballet, and ballet-wise there was nothing even close to the level which I used to dance before. I know I could have gone to other classes in the area, but my funding was covered by scholarship and working, and the scholarship covered university classes up to 21 credits, so that's what I did. I took a few classes here and there during my masters, with not much consistency. So, basically, I had about six years without proper classes/training in ballet. :)


I got back into it seriously when starting my PhD - it was a great way to keep me sane, but also a way to make me crazy. During that year, I was often taking 6-7 classes a week with this teacher. I danced a lot, performed a lot, and even did a lot of pas - including some very hard grand pdd. I was proud of my 'come back', but also shattered emotionally. Then I had another 7 month break in between then and now while I was in the field. Not the best. I thought about stopping, I was so run-down, but then I decided that I would not stop because of someone else's issues.


Since I got back, about a year and a half ago, I've done a lot of soul-searching, and slowly found ways to change the teachers I went to and the way I approached class. My technique is not bad, but it needs some finishing. My ability level is at the cusp. I'm very strong on pointe, have a decent enough balance, and love petite allegro. The teachers here call me if they have a last minute emergency and need me to fill in for a performance or so - I learn exercises very fast and 'dance big' - I have the performance in me, and it shows in every class.... I often do exercises with a huge smile on my face because I'm just so happy to be dancing. After performances my teachers (including this one) have received compliments about my stage presence and I have even received notes in my college mail from people I don't know.


But that's not enough, I've wasted enough time and have been on the cusp long enough. Something, anything, has gotta give. I have a 'perfect' teacher now - and I love her. She might not be as flashy, she might make class go a lot slower, but she TEACHES and we look so much better... and she gets excited for us. It's fabulous. But she's a busy woman with lots of big big projects going on, and she only teaches in Ox twice a week; next week I have my first private lesson with her.... but once a month isn't going to save me if every week I go to the classes I love and get corrections and work on them, and then go to a class or two that makes me lose it all. It then becomes to cyclical to foster progress.


Sorry if that was a rant. My frustration is at an all-time high this week.

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Ami, I know you don't have many options for classes, but if this teacher's class is giving you tendonitis, I don't think you need to be there. There are times when a bad class is worse than no class at all, and it sounds as if you'd be better off using the time for something like Pilates (even if it's just a video that you follow) or yoga. As rehearsals haven't started yet, it shouldn't be difficult for them to replace your part in the dance. I've been in a similar situation myself, and I really don't think you need to be doing something that emotionally and technically damaging.

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Just tell yourself that your current situation is temporary. You know that you need to move on.


Same thing here. I have a few months left until I'm vested in my 401K at work. After that, I'm going to take the plunge at the ballet career. Try and get an apprenticeship and give up my salary position. Yikes!!! I'm technically prepared and I *think* the emotional "issues" are resolved.


It's scary. Major life change. I'm not good at all with change, but seriously, all I do is think about ballet. I'd regret it big time if I didn't try.


It sounds like you are probably ready to do this if it's what you want. Hell, I still have all kinds of technical things to work on in ballet. I'm far from my "peak". I'm not doing crazy turns or super-accurate petit allegro... But how many apprentices are? I see all kinds of corps girls in the very top companies who still have a LONG way to go. Principals still take class and struggle with certain "trouble" areas. There's always someone better. There's always 12 year old kids who seem to already have amazing technique. It doesn't matter. At a certain level...you're ready.


I realized this several months ago. Could spend the next 5 years trying to perfect everything in class, tellling myself I'm not good enough yet. OR, I could plunge in, and work on those things while gaining performing and stage experience. Now the trick is to convince an artistic director that I'm good enough...he he.


But you've had too many "breaks". You'll be done with Oxford soon. Then you probably do need one year of serious, daily training. It can be done at a place like Steps, although this is not ideal. You won't be connected to a company and won't get many performing opportunities. But if you're smart and knowledgable already, the quality of teachers is exceptionally high. I have no complaints about the quality of teaching I've gotten, for the most part. Another option is to find a school attached to a professional company you're interested in dancing for. This is a good way to get "in", but you'd be putting all your eggs in one basket. OR take the year at Steps (or another similar studio), keep your eyes open, and THEN decide where to move onto. That's where I'm at right now. I may still need to "train" with a company for a while before getting hired. It's a long process...And I'm very aware of it, being at the "advanced" age that I am...


Please hips and back, don't fail me now.


Recognise that your situation is temporary. You can't change it right now, so give up trying to "fight" it. Plan for the future you can look forward to and try to sail through right now the best you can...


Don't kill yourself inthe "bad" class. No teacher can "make" you do anything. It's your body. You own it. Take your own pace.

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Ami- Have you thought about perhaps auditioning and doing a final year at one of the ballet schools? Even just auditioning at some of the schools (preferably in a class) would be a good assessment of your skills. I know that your age will make it more difficult, but there is a girl in the second year at my school who is 25. Perhaps places like Elmhurst, Tring are out but it is worth a try.

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RMc - will pm you.


I've made a decision, that for now, I'm cutting back to one of her classes per week. One is level 'lower' and not quite as fast. I'm also going to work at my speed - what's write for my body. Lampwick's right: it's my body, I own it. What's the use of going to a class and getting injured and then not being able to dance at all? I've had more injuries in the 2 1/2 years of classes with this woman than I have had all my life. I've looked up Yoga and Pilates classes, and the schedules of some other classes around - much lower levels but probably better for me. This has been incentive for me to get inspired again, to kick myself into gear, and go for it.


And sometimes fate helps. Last night she spoke with me and said that she had to change the date of the show by a few months (to be a few months later) and if that was alright? I said no - obviously not as that is when I'm supposed to be submitting my thesis. I might still do one character role depending on how my next exam goes, but I don't have to give her an answer for a while. I think I might still do the show, because I can handle the rehearsals as I get to do my own warm up and work at my speed... but I'm going to think about it for a bit. And she's agreed that if I do decide to, I'm not in much group work and I can just work on a solo or so. It's almost hilarious. She was practically begging, as I'm the only person who knows the opening of it as well.


I feel so so so much better. This week has been hellish for so many reasons, and my thoughts were 'at least I have class to make it all better' - but as you all know I've not liked this class for a while, and for it to go all pear-shaped this week was the straw that broke it all. Then yesterday I found out two more people had achilles that were hurting after the class, and a few people who I really respect agreed that the class was actually technically bad for you. I made the decision basically on the spot then, and felt such a sense of relief and of calm (well, helped by a lot of chocolate :angry: ). It feels like such a major decision and change - am even wearing a new sweater and mascara today to celebrate! I even slept better last night. Wow.


I think it'll still be a hard transition, and I'm still going to feel frustrated at times, so reserving the right for a future rant! :pinch: But seriously you all, thank you thank you thank you, not just for the messages here, but for the personal ones and the acts of support. I just need a hug! It's so nice to know that there are so many people out there, who've never met me, but who care nonetheless. Much love. :)

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