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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Feeling flustered

je danse dans ma tete

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I have a question. I'm not sure what would be best to do about this:


Normally I am pretty decent for a beginner, even my teacher didn't take me for someone new to ballet, which was a huge compliment. My problem now is that combinations are getting faster and more complicated, and the other girls (most have years of ballet experience) can do the combinations, even if they don't have good form.


If I see a demonstration or even watch another group do the exercise, I can usually get it on the first try, perhaps second. But the others in my class, they don't need a demonstration, just to hear the words of the teacher and they instantly know what she means- which step comes when and when to change direction and what direction to change to. We did a combination last week that was totally new, and I felt really flustered. I normally need a moment to process things, but I was in group 1. So I went the wrong way and forgot some steps. Only by the 4th time was I almost getting it. But I felt bad, like maybe I was disrupting other people, and disappointing not just myself but also my teacher. Is is better to just stand back in these situations? I don't know what the right ettiquette is.





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Oh, je danse! :) What you describe is quite normal for everyone at some time or other!! In fact, I wonder if by some time- and space-travelling magic you are actually describing me in class last night :blushing:


A petit allegro combination - glissade, jeté, coupé, balloné devant, into jeté, pas de bourreé, coupé, brisé, start on the other side. Fast, pretty (not when I did it!), but not overly difficult (except for a brisé). And could I do it past the jeté, pas de bourreé bit? Could I hecK? I was hopeless. But you just keep marking and trying, and marking and trying. Go in your group when it's your turn, asnd try to keep out of other people's way if you go wrong (well, that's what I do!). Sometimes it clicks, and sometimes it doesn't


I am having some bad classes at the moment, but two weeks ago felt really on top of things. So there you go :shrug::shrug:


One of my ballet teachers (a very formative influential teacher for me) used to say that it was when we were falling over our feet that we were really learning. I think she was sooooo right, and I hope my current clumsiness & forgetfulness in class is a plateau to another level (well, I can always dream! :wacko: ).


So you should just keep doing what you can in any combination, and gradually, the steps & combinations get into your muscle memory and your body's rhythym. Whatever you do, don't stop or sit out!

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If you don't know the steps, the least what you can do is to mark it (even if you just follow directions). Some of my teachers break down a combination/simplify if it is too difficult, e.g. leave out beats, etc. Good luck :-)

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I know what you're going through. Even though I've been dancing for many years now, sometimes I have those days where combinations just won't sink in no matter what I do.


Usually, I move to the back of the room and mark until I'm ready to go. If you're new and you continue to struggle with this, your teacher should have no problem with you going in the 3rd or 4th group or even marking it until you're ready. Struggling may mean you're learning but struggling too much just gets in the way. Slow down, mark it and go when you're ready.


I used to always have problems with Petit Allegro. I'd hang to the back and sit out, usually because I couldn't process it in my head fast enough. One day it just clicked. Now I enjoy it. I still have problems, especially if it's only called out and not marked by the teacher. So, you're not alone, I'm right there with you! Again, I just mark it a few times until I'm comfortable and go when I'm ready.

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At the studio I attend, we are not allowed to (or at least strongly encouraged not to) skip combinations or stop halfway through and walk off. Sure, it may feel incredibly akward and clumsy some times, but I know it helps me exercise my brain when trying to pick up a new combination, and more importantly, keep going no matter what. Doing something is always better than doing nothing. Mark it as many times as you can, then just do your best and try not to knock anyone over. I think I make some of my best progress when I am forced out of my 'comfort zone' in this way. Good luck!

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I always try and get through combinations, no matter how bad I am and how embarrassed I get, because I know if I dont try them, that is one way to ENSURE that I will never be able to do them.



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You should make it a practice of going in the last group for now. That will give you more time to practice the combination while watching others do it in front of you.

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Well, sometimes self-selecting the group you're in isn't possible.


One thing that hasn't been stated here is how important it is to keep pushing through, keep trying. So much of 'getting' the exercise isn't just hearing/knowing the steps, but also internalising them and getting the *rhythm* and phrasing.... and this isn't just true for petite and grand allegro, but for everything.

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I should say that I used to hang back as much as possible, on the grounds that it gave me more time to learn by watching. Putting off the moment of horror for as long as possible might have been another factor.


However, I have found that it is better to go a bit earlier. Then you are doing it along with dancers who are doing it correctly, rather than with others who are also making mistakes and putting you off. (Also, it you are somewhere in the middle, the chances of EVERYONE watching you are smaller - half the people are recovering from what they've just done, and the others are getting ready. Not that this should be a factor, of course.)



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Je danse, class is the place to make mistakes, so go ahead and make them when you need to! It will help you and your teacher learn what you need to work on. The only way to become one of those students for whom a verbal explanation translates into a dance phrase across the floor is to get the steps into your muscle memory. And the only way to really do that is to do them, not mark them, not watch them (<--though this last can help some of us more than others).


It's very kind of you to worry about etiquette. My thoughts on that are: If it's possible for you to let the people in your group who really know the steps and travel a lot go where you won't be in the way, that would be very kind of you. In a group of three, this would put you at the point in back (unless you're flocking in which case it might not). But don't shortchange yourself in order to make others happy. And don't sell yourself short. I used to be the one who didn't get the combination right away and would put off going. At some point, I figured out that going first helped me learn the material faster. I don't know if that would work for you, now or at some future date, but consider it a possibility.

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When I first started ballet, it seemed to me that the only aim of class was to see if one could do the various combinations done in class. I judged my performance in class by how much I could remember. Literally, my brain worked so hard in those early days that I’d leave class with a slight headache. In retrospect, it was certainly good that my brain was working, but as I look at it now it was unfortunate that I was worrying about the combination rather than the technical elements of execution that were also being taught in the class.


With time of course you get better at remembering and pick up tricks for when you can’t quite remember while you are in the middle of a combination. I know if I knew then what I know now, I’d work on just one technical aspect while doing a combination and not worry so much about doing the actual combination. If I got lost during a fast allegro combination, just make it up, but always do it with technical mindfulness.

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Je dance I had the same problem with you... I had stopped ballet for a lot of years and when I started again I wasn't remembering ANYTHING AT ALL. Not even what battement is... The truth is that my body remembered things, but my brain could not follow. The teacher put me in an advanced class. Not very advanced but I faced a lot of problems, especially in combinations... And as centre excersises and allergos were at the end of the class, I was a bit tired as well from the barre. The first two months I left the class, went home and started crying because I was sooooooo frustrated... I pushed myself so much that I couldn't react... And this had an avalanche effect.. The more I was frustrated, the more I did wrong, the more I got frustrated etc etc


I have discussed this with my teacher and she told me a few tips that have helped me a bit. Most of the times that I could not follow the combinations was because my mind could not follow and not my body.. So she told me when I was not sure about the steps, to ask her again, and when she is showing the moves, to do them at the same time, being fully concentrated. It needs more concentration when watching the combination than when doing it... Secondly, she has noticed that I was performing worse when we had class at night than at the evening. When your day is more tiring, you perform less, as your brain cannot be fully concentrated. So I try to take a nap before class, even for 30 mins. And last (but not least) the most important is the psychological factor....If you think you won't make it, you just won't make it...



I don't know if this will help you but at least I wanted to share this with you.... I felt so alone....

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I'm glad to read this topic. I just try to stay out of the more experienced dancer's way when I go in two's or three's and do my best to do something that resembles the combination. We had a combination this week that had four parts to it, and if I broke it down slowly I could remember what to do and give it my best shot, but at the quick tempo? Yikes. But I gave it a good effort anyway. I found that for me, going in the second or third group was helpful - I got to watch a group or two ahead of me, but I didn't wait so long that I could psyche myself out about it either.

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