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Ballet Talk for Dancers

What can I do at home to improve?


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The way things stand right now, I can only take class once a week, which I know is far from ideal. But, for now, it is what it is. That being the case, what can I do at home that will help me improve in some way? I do not want to build any bad habits (right now I don't have any habits, so I want to be careful to make sure that the ones I do manage to develop are good ones!). I want to do something at home that will be worth the time and actually do something to help me in class. Would it be OK to do plies and tendus at home? How many should I do? I have the Ballet Fit book - how much of their workout at the end would be appropriate for me, with barely two months of class under my belt, to do at home? I also have the Video Dictionary of Classical Ballet DVD, so I can at least see what good technique looks like, from an academic standpoint.


Am I being impatient? Is there anything I can do at home to help myself, or is the answer simply going to class and taking more classes as it becomes possible?


Thanks for any insight or suggestions.

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Taking more classes as soon as it becomes possible is the best way, but if you do work at home, only do what you are very sure you are doing correctly. You might put more time into some floor stretching and working with a theraband to stretch your feet, as these things will help you in ballet without building in bad habits....as long as you don't let the feet sickle while working with the theraband!

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I agree with Victoria, but want to add some other things that I think the absolute beginner can do to aid improvement. First, start recording what you do and hear in class as best your can. At first, that isn’t much, but you will find it gets to be more and more with time. Record both the combinations you remember and the technical points that the teacher emphasizes. Second, go over both those combinations and technical points by spending time practicing them. This might be for just 10-15 minutes at first. I wouldn’t worry about being perfect at this stage. Any obvious bad things you might do at the beginning, you’ll likely learn to correct in the not too distant future. Third, start doing whatever balances you are doing in class. As in all the practice you do, try as best you can to remember the technical points your teacher emphasizes in class when doing those balances. Fourth, play some music (jazz, pop, something with a distinct rhythm) and just move to what you hear. The only requirement in this free movement is to spend some time (say about 30-45 seconds at a time) moving while standing on one foot. Emphasize moving with the music and enjoying what you are doing. Fifth, start spending at least 15 minutes stretching. Sixth, actively start watching ballets—live, dvd, whatever you can. Don’t analyze or think much about them. Just enjoy them.


Personally, I think an absolute beginner should spend at least 3 days a week doing ballet class or related ballet activities as mentioned above.


Even better than what I mentioned above is taking more than one class a week. Impossible you say. OK, I hear what you say, but would encourage you to think harder about how you can take at least another class a week.


And one last thing. Be patient and just keep at it. Dance is difficult, but I am absolutely convinced that with persistence, just about anyone can dance at a level (not professional of course, but nonetheless reasonable) where they can enjoy the experience.

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What about the New York City Ballet Workout DVDs? My (retired) pro-dancing sister does them and finds them quite tough! Although the exercises are based on a ballet class, it's not an actual ballet class, so I don't think (I hope) that you'd pick up bad habits or hurt yourself. Perhaps you could borrow the DVD from your local library and try it?

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Thank you for the replies. It gives me somewhere to start.


I'm trying to get good enough that taking a class that is "intermediate" won't be a completely hopeless endeavor for me. The class I'm in right now is already incredibly hard for me, although my teacher is very patient and encouraging. I know of other classes but hearing them described by classmates in my current class has me feeling very intimidated.


I can stretch at home, and use a theraband, as well as work on balance. I have started making notes after class of things I remember from class and will continue doing that. I have the NYCB workout but never use it. :grinning: DD and I watch a lot of ballet on tape/dvd, so at least I've got that working in my favor already. :D


I love this board. It is so very encouraging and supportive.

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As much as it's possible, watch good ballet. If you can afford it and are within driving distance, do watch San Francisco Ballet perform. If that's not an option, borrow ballet videos from the library. Even some of the most impoverished libraries carry ballet videos. I'm a firm believer in osmosis. What you can't do, absorb. Seeing good ballet helps you visualize good ballet, which in turn can help you perform good ballet.

I know this might not seem so proactive, but it's just coming at things from a different angle.

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I also think that as a beginner it would be good that you make sure you don't forget the exercises you do in class. I'd just mark it at home or go through it in your mind. Then you won't forget the steps and in class you can concentrate more on the technique if you don't have to think to much about the next step.

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Well you could be practicing at home what I should be practicing, but hardly ever get round to. Repeat your class barre exercises slowly and perfectly, maintaining perfect turnout (in supporting as well as in working legs) at all times, keeping limbs that are meant to be absolutely straight absolutely straight, making sure the alignment of everything is perfect at all times, do a perfectly turned out (within your limits) developpe and hold it, and lots more I've forgotten. All these need strength, coordination and flexibility (and are the basis of ballet technique), and because they are slow, you have a chance to see whether you are doing them correctly. If you get corrected in your weekly class, I can't think theres much chance of learning bad habits: if things go wrong it is more likely that you will just make less progress than otherwise.



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Do you have a camera?=) If you do, and if it can work with an AC adapter you are lucky. Set the camera to record a part or all of the class so you can both hear and see the combinations and corrections. I do that sometimes and it really works.


And, I really recommend NYCB workout. It's really tough and it makes you gain endurance sooo much.


For facial expressions and gracefulness watch ballet videos, exercise in front of a mirror, work on spotting even if you are not doing turns yet, because you will have to do them eventually. :)

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Guest pink tights

In addition to watching videos and doing that excellent NYCB workout, purchase some good ballet books.... "Technical Manual and Dictionary of Classical Ballet" by Gail Grant, "Classical Ballet Technique" by Gretchen Ward Warren, "Basic Principles of Classical Ballet" by Agrippina Vaganova, are just a few. Become familiar with ballet vocabulary so when you do have class, you are a step ahead!! Warren is filled with photos, including the 'correct' and 'incorrect'! Also visit the American Ballet Theater video dictionary online.

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Thank you for the additional suggestions. I'm going to see about tracking down those books - I like the sound of one with photos.


I always feel better when I have some sort of plan of action, and now I feel like I have good solid advice for what to do at home.

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Just make sure you get your teacher's and your fellow class mates' permission to photograph or video them! We once videoed an entire barre, and foot level, once at our teacher's suggestion. Oh my goodness, we needed strength to watch it afterwards ...

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The main exercise I found difficult was pirouettes, Im still struggling for clean doubles after two years although turning in general (pose turns or any which we do on a diagonal) comes much easier to me?! :D

Anyway our teacher says that alot of people tense up or are afraid to just let go and turn, she encourages us in class to experiment with pirouettes and offers suggestions appropriate to the individual. Basically I think the sooner you get used to pirouettes, the sooner you will find them more comfortable, practice makes perfect - as they say :P

p.s If you do these at home make sure you have plenty of space :)

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I spoke with some of my classmates after class about some of the other adult classes in our area. It turns out that one that sounded awfully intimidating to me might actually be suitable. There's a range of ability in the class, but the instructor doesn't cater to the highest levels and instead helps bring along the more beginning students. I was under the impression that it might be the opposite, so that was a bit of good news. I might be able to add a second class sooner than later after all!

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