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Too many corrections for adults?


Andre Yew

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I'm wondering if anyone can offer me advice or commiseration for a situation at one of the local studios where I take class. We just got a fantastic new teacher who gives a lot of good corrections, and won't let you get away with a single thing. She's a little old school in her teaching technique in that she comes around and actually physically adjusts you to be in the right place, and will often sit right next to you and repeat a correction while you're doing one exercise. She won't go on if she sees someone doing something wrong. She's also very specific about arm and head placement for everything. Despite the fact that much of it is more elementary than other classes, it's probably the most difficult and intense class of the whole week, but also one that I look forward to every week.

 

I really like this, especially because not many corrections are given (especially to adults) in the other classes I take, and almost never for some of the finer detail that she works on. I feel very lucky to take her class. However, some of the other regular adults don't like her class because it's hard, and they feel she gives too many corrections after which they cool down too much. I don't understand this as I can stay warm by practicing her corrections while she's giving them to someone else, and she does actually keep the class moving --- we have a complete barre in less than an hour. Because of this, she's been told to give fewer corrections, and some of the other adults are dropping out. I've expressed how much I like her class to management (and to her), and have talked up the class to other people I know, but I feel like I'm the lone voice here, and I'm not sure what to do except to continue doing what I'm doing.

 

Has anyone else been in a similar situation? If you were in my place, what would you do? I'm worried that the class will get canceled because there aren't enough people or the teacher gets discouraged by her students' attitudes towards class.

 

--Andre

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  • Victoria Leigh

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Andre, that is really very sad that most of the adults don't like the class taught this way, as my guess is that she is probably the best teacher they have! This must be why so many teachers don't spend the time and energy to give the corrections in adult classes, because they learn that too many don't want it. Their loss. It sounds like you are doing everything you can to keep the class going, so just keep on doing it, and perhaps enough of the adults will learn that ballet is always about learning and correcting. Just doing is not what it should be. Even professional dancers get corrections in class, and anyone who does not want them should go take an aerobics or jazzercize class or something. :lol:

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Ms. Leigh, thanks for the advice and support. I didn't mean to imply that the teachers are bad: they have occasionally turned out good dancers from their prepro program, but the adults are generally neglected.

 

I also just remembered something else that makes me mad and sad about this: one of the adults who just dropped out recently found more consistent, working turnout in her plies in one class with the new teacher than she had in the many years of classes I had taken with her in the studio. The new teacher pointed out to her that she had almost perfect turnout, and started working with her to develop the strength to hold that turnout. First, I can't remember a single instance of when someone else has ever pointed this out to the student, and second, it shows the teacher's great attitude towards her students: she wants them to have the best possible technique within the limitations of their bodies, and tailors her corrections for each student. If she's giving us her all, it seems to me that we as students owe her our best effort and energy as well. :lol:

 

--Andre

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It probably depends on the class. Adults may take ballet for different reasons. If it is for fitness/movement, intensive corrections might not be necessary and/or appreciated by adults. She sounds like a lovely teacher - hopefully all works out for you. I am sure you have some dedicated adults in your class who appreciate her corrections as much as you do. Good luck.

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There are adult students who do not like to be corrected that much and who prefer a "ballet for fitness" type of approach. Sometimes it is because they have never encountered a serious class and do not understand that ballet is so much more than just spinning and leaping (not a situation much different from some kids!), but I think probably more often it is just because they really actually prefer the sloppy approach. Nothing much can be done about that, and I suppose nothing much should be done, either. To each their own. Just make sure the good teacher knows you appreciate her style! :lol:

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And those would be the reason that most of us do not like to teach adult classes. :D I must say, though, that I had a class of adults for a number of years when I was in Florida, before WSB, who were absolutely there to learn as well as do. They were a wonderful group, mostly intermediate level at best, with a few who had had very little training but worked themselves up to the level because they were consistent and worked so hard. This group, and it was a fairly large group, stayed with me for years and I had a wonderful time working with them! :lol:

 

However, if I had to teach a group like some of those described above, I would not last a week!

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Ms Leigh, I am happy to live in an area where adult ballet is very popular. The school has several types of teachers, some very strict and focused, some running their adult classes more for "fun and fitness". The work-focused teachers generally do not get the "only fun and fitness" students, then, but they still get more than enough of those who like their style.

 

It's funny when there are some people who absolutely refuse to take classes with certain teachers I like very much, while I came out of some of the classes they like best all :D:lol:

 

Edited to add: I don't think there's any teachers who do not give any corrections at all, or students who absolutely hate getting some every now and then, though.

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I absolutely love your attitude, Andre. I teach adult ballet exclusively, and I believe that proper technique and placement is very important for the mature dancer. Even if the student is taking the class solely for fun and/or fitness. Sloppy ballet leads to injuries. I think the safety of the students must also be considered. I would feel terrible if one of my students sustained an injury because I conceeded to their desire to provide a "workout" class where they can come in and re-live their childhood ballet fantasies and can't be bothered with being taught anything. Ouch! I hope I haven't stepped on any toes. :)

Edited by BabyBoomerBallet
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Interesting topic. My experience is that though adult ballet students say they like corrections in class, that is only true up to a point. Beyond that point (which varies by individual) adults tend to get frustrated and impatient. And adults are not like teens who essentially accept the authority of teachers and have mom and dad pay the class fees. Adults have other options and vote with their money and feet.

 

Personally, I don’t think adults take ballet classes because they think that they will develop the skill of a professional dancer or because they want to become physically fit in some sense of the word. I think they take class because they just enjoy whatever the class is like, which of course is a complex of physical, social, and artistic reasons.

 

I’ll disagree with Victoria a little here. The teacher in question may be considered great by ballet teachers in general, but is that judgment based on experience teaching younger people or adults? Is a great teacher a great teacher, no matter what the specific situation is? Is a teacher considered great if all the students drop out? Is a teacher great because of what is done in class or the results that students achieve?

 

In the sports world, I’ve seen coaches who were spectacular at a certain level be utter failures at other levels. And it has been both ways—i.e., instances where people have gone both “up” and “down” the level of participant ability.

 

I don’t necessarily think it is sad that people react as Andre reported. Yes, it would be nice everyone obsessed over detail, but they don’t. That is just the characteristic of adult ballet students for the most part. Adults are not like teens in how they develop, nor their attitudes about development.

 

Again speaking personally, I think a really good teacher, whether a ballet teacher or a mathematics teacher, first understands and accepts his or her students and accepts where they are. Then the job becomes one of “nudging” them along, coaxing, challenging, criticizing, and encouraging in a way that produces results in those students. Teaching is an art form, so I don’t think there is one way.

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My experience is that though adult ballet students say they like corrections in class, that is only true up to a point. Beyond that point (which varies by individual) adults tend to get frustrated and impatient.

I think this is true for everyone. If you pressure and pressure and pressure, everyone's going to break before sooner or later. However, to say that adult students who like corrections in fact do not mean it, is I think wrong in general. I think most of us who say they appreciate it actually do appreciate it, even when we get frustrated. I don't think frustration and impatience over getting more corrections than you feel you can implement should be interpreted as not appreciating getting them! Frustration is something I think every serious ballet student struggles with every now and then, regardless of age. It is not an easy art.

 

While it is true a truly great teacher can inspire anyone, and that you should start from what your students have, I agree with Victoria that teaching people who do not want to really learn can be extremely annoying and I doubt I could last long either, espcially if I had the choice of teaching self-motivated people. Why bother trying to give someone something they do not want, when you can give it to those who really yearn for it?

 

As a teacher at the University, I can accept people not knowing something or learning slow. However, it is very difficult for me to accept people who are in a class no one forces them to take without actually wanting to learn the stuff! Maybe that makes me a bad teacher, but that's just something I am not sure I even want to work on accepting. Somehow I feel that for an adult student to be in a class she does not want to learn in is even more bizarre than for a kid; after all, a kid might be there because her mom tells her to, but the adult most likely pays for the stuff him/herself.

 

But as I said, to each their own. As long as are teachers who actually like giving a "dance fitness" class, and students who actually want to take it, everything is fine.

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There are different expectations for adult students, therefore a difference in approach and attitude, however, good ballet is good ballet, and allowing students to go uncorrected and sloppy is not teaching ballet. That is called holding a class, or giving a class, but not TEACHING a class. While the extent of the corrections might be less or different with adults, due to the differing expectations, allowing them to work without knowledge, placement, alignment, rotation to the best of their ability, etc., is simply not teaching ballet.

 

I agree, Gary, that teaching is an art form. No question. And, there is never only one way! But, I stick to my thoughts above in terms of ballet. They are called "classes" for a reason. If students do not want to learn how to do it as well as they can, and as safely as they can, then they don't belong in a ballet "class".

 

Jaana, I don't think it makes you a bad teacher at all if you have no patience with "lazy"! Not knowing or slow learning is not the problem, in anything. It's being too lazy to want to learn. I have infinite patience with anyone who is trying their best, regardless of their ability. I have ZERO patience with lazy, at any level or age!

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I'm on a plane and heading to CA to be in a class like that! For adults, many teachers "give" class but don't "teach" class. What a great thing to have an instructor that actually believes in adult students and their ability to learn and improve.

 

You could suggest to those students that you hear complaining to try a different class while at the same time recruit your friends who also appreciate detailed feedback. Encourage those who feel the same as you to speak up, (loudly) about how they feel directly to the instructor.

 

The personal corrections at my studio really depend on the instructor, but still tend to be more the on the "general" side. Students who want more personal correction tend to ask detailed questions in the few minutes after class which indicates to the instructor they are interested in the feedback, which leads to receiving more the next session.

 

Keep communicating to the instructor your appreciation of the feedback, ask questions to clarify your understanding, and encourage her to continue doing a great job. Perhaps at a minimum you'll continue to get detailed feedback and she'll ignore that those who send a message that they aren't interested. -k

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What bothers me about this attitude - and I've seen it for a while now - is that it's disrespectful to the students who pay good money to attend classes in an institution whose purpose is to teach the art and technique of dance to NOT teach them. It's disrespectful for students to come into a class in such an institution and not want to learn the material - it would be like going into culinary school and saying that you really only want to learn how to microwave your meals. Maybe I have a different attitude than other adult students in that I want to learn the technique correctly and I want to see progress when I regularly attend classes - I can go ride my bike at home if I want to up my cardio endurance. That's why I take classes at schools who are serious about adult students and their programs of study. Even so, I regularly take classes with teachers who are a lot of fun and give great classes, but I know when I leave the studio that my technique has not improved at all. There are a lot of frustrations about starting ballet as an adult, but this is the biggest one of all for me. I used to be able to take classes with the kids when I lived in CA, and I jumped at the chance so that I could build my ballet vocabulary, but here it's just not an option.

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There always needs to be a balance between giving corrections and allowing the class to continue. If you try to fix everything that's wrong with your house today --- well, you won't have time and you'll go broke trying. Same with ballet. You must prioritize and work on the most important things first, and over time you can fix and improve a lot of things.

 

A good teacher is good at prioritizing corrections and projects, and is good at understanding how each student responds to corrections. My guess is that this teacher is not being responsive to the other students' frustration points.

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