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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Opinions please!

jane s

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I haven't posted for a while (don't get as much chance now I'm in an open-plan office at work & my home PC is busted!) but I'm risking it as it's quiet in here today!


Anyway, the problem is that the class I am in is taking their exam this term & will move up another level next term.


I am NOT at their level at all and have really been struggling with the pace of the class. There are other adults in the class but they are generally better than me.


The level below mine has classes at times when I cannot attend.


The level below them has just got their pointe shoes this term and I have not progressed en pointe beyond simple exercises facing the barre, while the rest of my class are either doing complicated stuff in the centre, or are not en pointe at all and do it on flat.


My options are: stay struggling in the class I am in and basically forget about ever getting anywhere with the pointework, or go down to the easy class who are at my level for pointe but the rest of their work is stuff I have already done.


Staying where I am: Pro's: I will be learning new work I have not done before; the harder barre will increase my strength and technique; I will not lose face; the teacher expects this of me; there are other adults in the class.


Cons: I am not up to the work technically; I find it stressful to be the clumsiest one in the class; I haven't even mastered this level yet, let alone the next one; I will be left to my own devices en pointe and already have no idea if I am doing it right or not; there will a LOT more pointe work in the new level.


Moving down: Pro's: I will already know all the exercises and can just concentrate on technique; I already know the girls in the class; they are at the same stage en pointe as me; I perform better in a situation where I feel more confident with what I am doing.


Con's: I will be bored with repeating work I have already done; I will be the only adult; others will regard me as a failure; they will probably stop work for show rehearsals very soon so I will only get one full class a week instead of two; I will regularly be on average 10 minutes late for one of the classes due to having to get back from work (may not always be a problem as they do not generally start on time, and people are frequently late anyway!); the teacher may not let me.


I have not been happy with my ballet for a while, as I think I posted previously, and I am willing to make changes if it would improve my technique and confidence. Another option would be to take the classes at both levels, but this would involve taking 2 classes on one day with a gap in between, and I don't really want to do that, even if it would be allowed, plus there is the cost factor.


What would you do in my position, particularly with regard to the pointe work? (Pointe is part of the class at all levels, not a separate class, so I would not be able to take just that with the easier class, which would obviously be the perfect solution!).



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  • Redbookish


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"I will be left to my own devices en pointe and already have no idea if I am doing it right or not;"


This one statement pops out at me. Do you feel as though the teacher is ignoring you because you are behind the rest of the class? Maybe you need to discuss your concerns with you teacher. If you are not receiveing appropriate instruction you are not going to improve no matter what level you are at. Especially when it comes to point work!! Wanting to challenge your self it great, but you need the support of your teacher.

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In my opinion the primary goal of all adult ballet dancers has to be pleasure in some sense of that word. If you do not derive pleasure from what you are doing in ballet, you just aren’t going to do it. You will find something else to do that does give you pleasure.


So again in my opinion you just have to choose which of your options is going to do that. I don’t think anyone can tell you what to do. If every option is horrible, pick the least horrible. A good thing about being an adult is that you have lots of time and with time things change.


Personality factors do enter into the equation. Some people get highly frustrated and self conscious when faced with struggle. Others love the challenge. Some people enjoy being “top dog” so to speak, while others find that boring.


Throughout both my athletic and dance career I’ve tried to be around people who were more skilled and had more ability than me. I never minded being the worst. I used others as models, even targets when I was competing against them. I once even moved half way across the country just to be around people who were better than I was. In reflection that was my training strategy, and overall it worked pretty well. But that approach suits my personality well. I wouldn’t recommend it as a general approach.

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Jane, I'm afraid that I really don't much care for any of the options. The cons outweigh the pros in all of them. In my opinion, you need to try and find a different school where there are suitable levels for your abilities at this point in time, and I would suggest less concern about pointe work and more about the technique classes, especially if you are only taking two classes a week. We don't really feel that pointe work is safe unless one is taking a minimum of three one hour and a half classes a week. If you have to stay where you are, the lower levels would be better, I think, because you can work on your technique and build the strength. All dancers benefit from lower level classes if they really work at them. Repetition can be very valuable in perfecting basics and in building strength.

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Whoa. We are in the same boat Jane...


I, also, don't have an opinion for my situation yet. But I totally am considering moving a level down. Because, indeed, the teacher doesn't seem to care about me much; or she's just giving me time to adapt I don't know for sure. But the whole class is able to do some complicated stuff in the center, and since they are en pointe (but we haven't started pointe work in this term yet) I can imagine what they would do with the pointe shoes and that's miles miles ahead of what I can do for now. So, I have post a thread to ask people if it's safe for me to start pointe again with the senior students but nobody had an exact idea.


Apart from safety issues, I really feel so bad about being the clumsiest in the class, and I prefer being with children instead of looking this much "untalented" because it makes me cool off from ballet a bit and therefore it makes me unhappy. Instead of these, I think that I must really move down a level. Repeating same things would be boring indeed, but it makes you realize really little details that you haven't noticed before and by this way you can master all those steps more professionally. And for me, moving a level down will completely help me to learn center work properly enough to repeat them en pointe. How am I supposed to do them en pointe if I cannot do them on flat? =P

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Miss Goodytoeshoes, you are right - all I do is copy what the others are doing as best I can, and adapt centre exercises to the barre as far as I am able! I am concerned as to the safety of this approach as much as anything else - in the easier class I feel I am more likely to get proper attention.


Garyecht, yes, you have me sussed as one of those people who feels really intimidated by being with people better than me, and I am definitely at my happiest when I am "top dog" - although in the case of ballet, this is of course never going to happen, but I do need to feel confident that I am mastering what I am doing to the best of my own physical capability - which at the moment I am most emphatically NOT!


Ms Leigh, you are right in that none of the options is very good! However, I have researched other schools in my area and if I want more than 1 class a week there do not seem to be any alternatives at present.


It is the norm in my school (& more generally in the UK as far as I can see) to start pointe work at a level of 2 x 1hr classes a week - but only at the most basic level, i.e. 10-15 mins at the barre, which is where I am at. The girls who are in the centre do a lot more ballet than that - 3 classes a week at my school plus other classes elsewhere. That is of course why I can never catch up with them no matter how hard I may try!


So if I stay in the harder class I would have to forget about pointe, whereas taking the easier class now may be my one chance to get proper instruction.


Caliope, as I said, I don't even know if I would be allowed to take both levels, even if I could afford it which I am not sure I can. Maybe I could do 2 x easy + 1 x hard or vice versa though. And I may not be allowed to move down either - it depends if the other class has any room in it!


I can but ask!



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Skyish, you must have been posting at the same time as me!


It does sound like you are in a very similar situation - but are you saying that they have all been on pointe, but have now stopped, & will start again soon?


That seems a bit bizarre to me! Surely once you go up you have to keep practicing it regularly?


As you say though, to be able to do a combination en pointe, you would have to be able to do it on flat first.


At least you have the option of going down only one level, whereas I would have to go down two (being pedantic it's actually three, but there is not a class at one of the levels this year so it's 2 levels in terms of the school, but 3 in terms of the grades! Ugh!)


Caliope, no problem!



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Lol everybody seems to be misunderstanding this situation =) But I agree with you, they must not stop pointe work at all. It's something really important and it requires a lot of practice but my teacher is waiting for something that I don't know. They are all on pointe, and they didn't have a break(other than summer break), but although the term has started 2 months ago, teacher says that it is still early for starting pointe work and we will start in November I guess.


And I must add that, actually this studio's seniors are not actually "senior" seniors. I mean you imagine a lot more experienced dancers but they are a little sloppy even during barre-work and being honest, I don't think that it's the teacher's fault; the students just don't care about ballet that much. They "are" experienced terminology-wise and they "can" do complicated steps in the center but not much technically correct.


Anyway so it won't be too hard to catch up with them for me I guess but you can understand how I feel, it's really difficult to try to learn all the combinations and steps by just watching and practicing on your own in a corner. In my opinion my teacher is not too eager to teach me those steps, she thinks that I must not be in her class, so while they are doing center combinations I just stand in a corner trying to do the steps all alone. And it sucks. But I'm lucky because my primary studio is different and I'm taking private lessons there; so I always have the chance to ask those steps to my primary teacher. Nevertheless, I think that moving one or two or if necessary even 3 levels down would be better for me to keep my pride and confidence.

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Perhaps you've already considered this and decided against it, but: Is there any chance of cobbling together a schedule out of classes from multiple other studios? Or is the problem that they all offer your level on the same day, at the same time? Many adults in the US do this, taking a Monday class at one school and a Wednesday class at another, dropping in on Saturday classes at a third studio when they can, etc.

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Skyish, your situation does seem to be kind of similar - except that my class consists of half-a-dozen serious & very good students who are doing the exam & get all the attention - and the rest, like me, who are just left to follow along as best we can at the back and are not actually taught HOW to do anything.


The teacher expects us to watch it through one or two times and then just be able to copy it. Whereas I want to understand the movements I am trying to copy.


Sometimes, after we dance a combination, she will then analyse bits of it, so it finally makes sense - but then not actually give us the chance to repeat it afterwards - so next time we do that combination, several classes later, I have forgotten what she said the time before. I find this really frustrating!


Inside soloist, some teachers have an issue with people going to multiple dance schools - besides which, locally there are 3 or 4 different syllabi which would be really confusing!


And yes, several of the classes are either at the same time or too early and/or far away for me to get to regularly (I commute). And a lot of schools do not allow adults to dance with the teens, or else have only "exercise/keep fit" type adult classes. And I have ruled out several because they are too short (45 mins)!


I guess I will just have to swallow my pride & ask to move down - if my dancing improves as a result, surely that will justify it to her!



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In the last class I swallowed my pride and stopped watching; I moved :thumbsup: I know I looked goofy, silly and out of my age (like a 4 year-old indeed) but it helped a bit, and I realized that I can do more than I thought I could do. But it doesn't help me to learn all the port de bras and head positions included in the combinations so yeah, I really need to move down a level or two. Especially before they start pointe work again :sweating:


By the way, I thought that the teacher is not too eager to teach me but I guess that's those junior-high students that drive her crazy during classes (she's always angry) and kids have all of her attention. (they are not seniors- they've joined two classes together because senior class was made of only 4 students with me) but somehow, they know all the combinations too! :wacko: Anyway, she helped me much in the last class because most of the class was out of town because of holiday. And I got my first homework in ballet, I will work on spotting in front of a mirror :wacko: That's pretty good because I am still not sure if turning will trigger my motion intolerance or not. :wink:


Anyway, I totally understand you and that "adults not allowed" politics; I wish you could find another good studio like me; and that could solve your problem. I haven't seen anything about private lessons in your post, maybe you can ask your teacher for one private lesson a week and she could help you with what you did struggle in the last class in private lessons??

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Yes, it is mainly the port de bras & head posiitons in the combinations that are beyond me too! In the lower level there are not so many.


It is the cost that would be the problem with private lessons - I have thought about asking my old teacher though (who retired) as I think she may still do them. Just one or two may help?

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Ms. Leigh is right of course, but if changing schools is not a possibility, I see you mention some people take the higher level pointe in flats. Could it be possible for you to do that, and take the lower level classes in addition, doing pointe there? That way, you would get basic technique class and basic pointe, but still be in the higher level class for challenge.

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