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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Level question?


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I recently moved to 5 dancing days a week (yay!) and started taking the professional classes at one studio.

However I do not feel 100% comfortable yet as though I can follow most of the exercises brain- and bodywise, I technically suck.

The teacher suggested I should move down a level, get my technique cleaner and gain more strength and then probably come back in a few months.


What is better for improvement?

Staying in the professional level and hope that time and practice will kick in and get it right or moving down and being able to do the exercises on a technically clean level but feeling that there is not much of a challenge?


Or should I mix my schedule? Like adv/pro classes once a week and the rest intermediate?


Any suggestions?


Shulie :)

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We can't see what's going on, but I usually feel it best to take a class where you have competency in most things, but that there are still elements where you are challenged. Yes, split them up, if there's not another class at one place or the other that fits that description.

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Here's my experience. It's like yours, only several notches down the skill leven. A new company in my area offers: ballet fundamentals, intermediate, and advanced/company classes. There's nothing at all inbetween. I took the fundamentals class and while I got plenty of help with small alignment placements, I have to say it was really boring. I haven't had the courage to try intermediate as I've always placed myself as an "advanced beginner." One of these days I'll have to give it a try.


I wonder if they would let you watch the company class shulie? Then you could continue to get your intellectual development going until your body catches up.

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Since the teacher of that class has made the suggestion for you to drop back, I would take her up on it. She has to think about the entire class and not only whether you will benefit from taking the class, but also whether the other students will benefit. It sounds to me as though she was thinking that you might best be served from dropping back a bit and waiting until you are stronger.


You can make a less-advanced class be better by learning how to work the class. Slowing down the steps allows the dancer to fully focus on technique. You can always ask the teacher if you are allowed to challenge yourself during the class by asking for extra tips. So for example, when I take a ballet class that is low level, I will ask if I can add beats when others are doing singles etc.

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What is better for improvement?

Staying in the professional level and hope that time and practice will kick in and get it right or moving down and being able to do the exercises on a technically clean level but feeling that there is not much of a challenge?


Or should I mix my schedule? Like adv/pro classes once a week and the rest intermediate?

I can only offer my own experience, probably several levels lower than yours ...


I have never, in the 3 1/2 years I've taken classes, found the lowest level total beginner class to be without benefit. Remember that quote from Suzanne Farrel, "plie is the first thing you learn, and the last thing you master"? Whenever I go back to a lower level - even the lowest level, for a makeup perhaps - I find that if I really concentrate on implementing everything technical I know, it is totally exhausting and highly beneficial. I quit taking it regularly after 3 years, when a teacher told me I did not need to keep it up - but I still drop back occasionally, and I still benefit from concentrating on the most basic aspects when I do. Sure, most of my corrections now are self-corrections in that class - but that's not a bad thing! And yes, if the changements are really slow I may try to do an entrechat - but I think I benefit more if I just try to do the changement with more precision. If I listen carefully to the instructions and corrections given to others, I still hear things that went in one ear and out the other the first several times they were said.


Here's an example - very simple, but I hope illustrative. Of course we all know to maintain turnout during tendu side, and we all know to maintain a neutral pelvic tilt. Quite recently a teacher used the image of "scooping", like a spoon serving ice cream, to describe tendu side. For me, this suddenly illuminated a merging of the two concepts into an integrated motion. Other teachers have noticed an improved tendu, so it's not just my imagination. It's like magic! :) I would never have gotten so basic a correction in an advanced class.


On the other hand, one of my classes each week (now in the third quarter) is much more advanced than the others, and by any reasonable standard ... I suck. Every quarter I ask my teacher whether she still thinks I should be there, and so far she says I am getting better and to hang in there. It's true; I can get 80% of the barre and 30% of the center work now, which is an improvement. Stretching to attempt these more difficult steps lends a really useful perspective on the middle level classes, so many things there are less terrifying now. I can't work on the basics in the advanced class, but I do learn which basics need the most work.


So that's what has been working for me - most of my classes are at the level where I can do most of the exercises, though not particularly well; I take on average one lower level class and one higher level relative to my competency. I'm very happy to have the challenge, and equally happy to have the opportunity to work on simpler things, slowly and carefully, to get them into my muscle memory.


For what it's worth, I never had any classes in my youth, so getting things into my muscle memory is not easy and I will never be very accomplished - old dogs, new tricks after all! :D But so far I have found it far better to have a mix of levels rather than trying to find and stick with an "ideal" level.

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Shulie, my feeling as a student is that I'd take my teacher's advice. Indeed, when I started doing the most advanced class at my studio, which starts straight after an intermediate level class in which I'm quite comfortable (doesn't mean I'm good at it! :) ), I asked the week before if it would be OK.

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The adult open classes at my school are structured in a similar way than yours, rshevin.


We have Level Basic, Level I (kind of advanced beginners), Level II (somewhat intermediate), Level III (somewhat high intermediate) and Open Professional Classes.


However Level III tends to be mixed with Level II- it is there but is not offered seperately.

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How big is the level gap between your high intermediate and the pro class? Or is this a clear separation as in amateur - pros?

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