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Nutcracker choreography???


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My daughter (just turned 14) is a new student at a well respected pre-pro ballet school. We are not just new to this ballet school, we are new to the ballet "culture" so to speak. My daughter has never even SEEN Nutcracker before, let alone perform in it. She has danced for four years at a modern -focused school.


Anyhoo... she has been doing very well at this new school, has been advanced a level from where they initially placed her in September, and has been cast in a demi-solo part in the Nutcracker.


The problem is that literally everyone else there ( at least in her level) has been doing this for years, and alot of the choreography isn't actually being taught at the rehearsals, because everyone else already knows it. The director is saying things to DD like "You're the only one doing this incorrectly." DD is a very hard worker and picks things up very quickly, but she is befuddled and I guess it shows.


I offered to email the director to remind her of DD's inexperience and ask who she might work with outside of class & rehearsal time to learn the choreography, but DD doesn't want this... I'm not quite sure why... she's not talking.


Any guidance?

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This would be a good time for your daughter to speak to the teacher herself, just to say something like "I know I'm not as familiar with the choreography as the others, but I have never done Nutcracker before. I'm really excited to learn and doing my best, but I know I don't have as much experience as the others........"




all the best,




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That's good advice, mom2. I will encourage her to do that.


One more thing... is this typical? I mean, the choreography not being taught at rehearsal. In modern, dancers are almost always cast into new works and so teaching the choreography is the main focus of the first few rehearsals.

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I would say that it isn't uncommon - and by the way, not just in ballet!


My older daughter was in a youth modern company one year; a number of the dances they performed were in the company repetoire, so others had been performing them or watching for some time....she was one of the only new ones that year, so had a lot of catching up to do.




As fate would have it, last year her younger sister's ballet school performed one of these pieces. While my younger daughter wasn't in the dance, it still felt a bit like things were coming "full circle."




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Dear Cee Cee,

It sounds as though your daughter is making exceptional progress at the new school. I wonder if she might have the time to enjoy any of the excellent Nutcracker productions on DVD. Although, this would not help her learn choreography of this particular production, it might help her feel more familiar with the themes and motiffs of the score.



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Excellent idea!!


Continuing along that same vein- does the school/company have a vidoetape/DVD of the production that your dd's doing?? Perhaps they would be so kind to allow her to borrow it?


I can only speak about what I experience first-hand, and as a rehearsal assistant for Nutcracker, the first rehearsals are set aside to teach the choreography, even if the dancers have been in the role previously. In acting the concept is called the Read-Through and again, occurs whether the actors have been in the play previously or not.


It is a way of acclimating and re-acclimating performers to the production and helping them to find the proper mind-set for the production.


Having said that, it is also crucial that dancers wishing to become professionals learn the skill of picking up choreography fast. By yesterday. I would have her ask for a private lesson with a trusted teacher on how to pick things up properly and correctly. If she still has problems after that, than I would wonder if there's a learning challenge that has never been uncovered previously.


My son went to his first professional audition yesterday, and while he didn't get the job, he was complimented that he is a 'sponge' and they would like to see him when he's older. So the ability to pick up choreography immediately is kind of necessary to a professional job.

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I would like to agree with the previous posts. It is not uncommon for choreography not to be taught at rehearsals. When my son became too old to dance the role of Nutcracker/Prince, he was left to teach the role to his successors. And when he was asked to dance the lead for a ballet program out of state, he was given the dvd of the previous performance to learn the choreography on his own.


So I would also suggest that she find out if there is a dvd of the production for her to learn the role more quickly.

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Thanks for the help, everyone. I was able to get my hands on a dvd from a previous year's performance & DD will watch & learn.


Clara76, I understand what you are saying about the ability to pick up choreography quickly. That is certainly one of DD's challenges. She's more often a bit slow and cautious in her movements when initially exposed, but has always been the dancer who "brings it back" if you know what I mean.


I think part of the problem may be that rehearsals were off to a slow start this year because of a family illness for one of the key teachers. They just had their first rehearsals this past week for some of the parts and so things may be moving even more quickly than usual.


Once again, thank you for your help and advice. I have shared your suggestions with DD and she is feeling much better about the situation.

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Moderators, please delete if inappropriate. I tried to send this as a private message, but it said that I was not able to!

I so feel for your daughter! I never had this experience as a student, but I now dance for a large company with a huge rep, and I'm having it daily. Our rehearsals here are done the same way you described hers. I've always been slow to pick up on things. Yes, it is an important skill,but you can be successful and still be slow, as long as you work at it. I work at it every day. Some things that help me...find a couple friends that you feel comfortable asking questions , get the dvd and spend a lot of time with it. For me, it really helps to write every single thing down (sometimes you need to do this with a friend,and sometimes it takes several drafts after several rehearsals to have it all right). I then "study" for rehearsal and read my notes before each rehearsal or performance. Last week I had to do a new ballet with only ONE rehearsal. You can imagine! And there was no dvd! So I got with my dressing room mate and wrote the entire thing out, then studied it like mad and marked in my apartment. I got through the show with no mistakes! Yea! One important thing....tell her to really try not to stress or get upset in rehearsal. When I don't know what's up, I get embarassed and stressed, which makes me slower than molasses. Try, as hard as it is, to keep focused only on the work. No matter what anyone says about the importance of learning quickly to be a pro...the fact is, the audience doesn't care how long it took you to learn the choreography. They only care what you look like doing it. Being slow does not make you a bad dancer. It's true, ADs do care and some of them are going to favor a quick learner. Others are going to prefer a girl with incredible feet, others want a huge extension. No one is perfect, and we all have one aspect of this craft that we have to work on more than others!

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I have a discrepancy between my "capacity" to learn and my "ability" to learn, and can relate to your daughter's situation.


Drilling with videotapes, DVDs, and not being shy or embarrased to ask fellow dancers to review steps has helped a lot this past year.


Also, I used to feel embarrased to try and "jump in" with a corps role I hadn't tried before, because I knew I'd look awkward and bad, but I notice after a couple of run-throughs, I pick up useful information and the situation improves the next time I try it. I've been trying really hard to just be open minded and unemotional about things. It's hard, but has helped a lot. Starts with knowing where to put your body on the stage. Learn what dancer is across from you, and who is in front of you. Make eye contact with your fellow dancers if you can:)


I've seen this same thing with dancers *FAR* better than myself, and have just chalked it up to a learning style thing. Just have to get over the frustration and keep plugging away:) I've found that once I *do* manage to learn something, I know the details actually quite well, and will remember them for the next year, maybe even better than people who "pick up" easier initially:)

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Thank you both for the perspective from a dancer point of view, but before we get too many additional responses, let's remember that this was posted on the Parents board.

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As a parent of a dancer that thinks he learns quickly but messes up all the up to the time he gets on stage. He is a little better now but when he was a teenager, yikes. There are a few things that I found to help him, remind your dancer that stressing out about it makes it much harder to learn the choeography and makes people less inclinded to help. If there is a split cast most phones and some digital cameras have a small about of video footage they can take, if there is one particular part that is bothering them ask one of the other dancers to demo it then tape it and replay it. Often it is one part that wraps them around the wheels and then they start overthinking everything after that or before that in anticipation of getting to the part that messes them up. Sometimes taking that piece out, working on it takes the stress of learning the next section. All the other examples we also used to try and help him like requesting a copy of the actual music so he could listen to it in the car during the long ride to and from the studio as well as watching the tape but beware of that one because some directors make subtle changes from year to year....

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