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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Thinking about dropping a class


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With the start of this school year, my DD began a correspondence HS program that allows her to take more dance classes. She has successfully increased her dance hours from 11 to 20.5. Of the 20.5 hours, 17.5 is ballet (of which 4 is dedicated pointe).


This was not the journey she initially expected. She did not anticipate that adding all of those dance hours really does shine a spotlight on everything one is doing incorrectly. Specifically, while she was fully aware turnout should be from the hip, she had been "cheating" at the barre to achieve full turnout before she was warmed up - more turnout at knee and ankle than hip. Because she used to have fewer classes, she was able to escape knee and ankle problems. However, she now takes 9 barres over 6 days, and she very quickly developed knee problems that she struggled with for months!


That struggle included 2 separate 3-week periods of complete rest. After 4 LONG months (including much parental anquish over a daugher in pain), she finally had her epiphany. She realized she had to use the entire barre to warm up her hips. It seems so obvious I know, but for a kid who only has average trunout, it is easy to imagine wanting a shortcut to a nice tight fully rotated fifth position 100% of the time. These days, if her hips are only telling her ninety degrees when she starts barre, she is allowing herself the patience for her body to come around in time for center.


In less that a week, her knees were already thanking her and she was dancing pain free. I want to be clear that her teacher has NEVER told her to force her turnout at the barre, and I think in his way, he was trying to tell her NOT to do that. For whatever reason his message was not getting through, and he was not pursuing the correction with her. Ironically, as she stopped forcing turnout at the barre, her turnout in center literally made a quantum leap forward. In her words, it's ROCKIN'. Not only was she not hurting by the time she got to center, but she was discovering (or maybe rediscovering) her turnout muscles. Shortly after her epiphany, her teacher commented that over the last week or so she looked like a whole different dancer (in a good way), and she shared her "light-bulb" moment with him.


As a result of this journey, she has learned alot about her body, alot about how she needs to warm up, and alot about how she needs to balance her schedule - and this is where the question comes in.


Due to studio time constraints and the desire to give the students enough dedicated pointe class, there is a 1 hour pointe class scheduled after a 1.5 hour modern class. This one hour class includes mostly students that take 4 technique classes a week. Total pointe offered is 3.5 hours with this class. At the beginning of the year, I scratched my head about pointe after modern. I am not a dancer, but it seems the muscles used for ballet are different than for modern ,and therefore the students might be inadequately warmed up for pointe. I did not challenge the scheduling however.


Until recently, I don't think it was apparent to my daughter that this scheduling was decidedly not working for her. However, now that she seems to have fixed the problems everywhere else, this is the one remaining class that triggers knee issues, and she thinks it is because she is not warming up her hips in a turnout kind of way. The schedule doesn't seem to bother anyone else - maybe because they have less hours, maybe because they have more natural turnout than she does, maybe both. Regardless of how the other students are handling the it, she is ready to drop the class, and we are uncertain what the reaction from the Director will be on this one, as she will be the only one dropping out.


We would like to use the turnout rationale to explain our decision as based in some fact. I want him to understand this is not the decision of a capricious 15 year old who wants to pick and choose the classes she attends. She really has thought this through and thinks it is the right thing for her. Is this rationale reasonable to support her decision to drop the class from her schedule?

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Absolutely, Mickey Fan! I think it is great that she has discovered how she needs to work, and that this has made such a positive difference for her. However, the pointe after modern class is definitely NOT a good idea. I say lose it now! :D:)

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That's a SMART dancer you have there, MickeyFan!!!! I absolutely say, drop it.

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