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I found a comment about class organisation on another board and as I cannot post there and am keen to explore the topic further I am opening a new thread here. Hope that is OK. It may be better suited elsewhere - please feel free to move.


In a response on another thread, a reply stated that "Classes which are not organized well can also bulk muscles by the way they are designed". My interest lies with class organisation in general, although if the knowledge gained can stop the formation of muscle bulk, so much the better!


Is there an ideal or preferred structure to a class and what are the possible benefits of following this or, indeed, the problems associated with following a different structure?


To put my question into context, my daughter takes two short classes a week with a local teacher and there seems to be very little structure to these at all. I have often wondered if this is to her benefit but have trusted the teacher thus far. Some times a class will focus soley on centre work, other times just on character (national) work or a short classical dance and in others barre work will be covered. Only occasionally are all disciplines covered.


Any comments gratefully received!


Edited to make less ambiguous!

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With younger children it is unlikely that muscle 'bulk' will develop. It is probably more from early teenage years that students should be careful. A warm up is important and stretching after class can reduce bulk but apart from that I am not aware that class 'structure' as such can have an effect on muscular bulk. I'll be interested to see what others think though.

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I agree with CDR, but something else struck me and I want to explore it further. You said, "Some times a class will focus soley on centre work, other times just on character (national) work or a short classical dance and in others barre work will be covered. Only occasionally are all disciplines covered."


So my question is, do you mean that the teacher sometimes focuses on different things? Or does she sometimes give barre, sometimes not even teach any ballet at all but just give character??

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Or worse, no barre at all, and just do a center?

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CDR, the structure in terms of the order of things, especially at the barre, and also the structure of the combinations themselves. This would have to do with extension exercises. For instance, if someone put all of the extension exercises back to back, with all of them slow and held, and then followed it with too many grand battements, or grand battements that are too fast to allow a release of energy from under the leg and result in overuse of the quads. A class with too many grand rond de jambe en l'air would also be poor structure, overworking the groin muscles. Or, grand rond de jambe en l'air placed too early in the barre, before the muscles are fully warmed up.


Naturally, you are not going to find well qualified professional teachers doing these things, however, there are a lot of teachers out there who do not have a good sense of order and structure.


As for the classes in question in this topic, I don't remember the age of the child, but it is possible that we are talking about creative or pre-ballet here.

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Sadly, we are not talking creative or pre ballet, although she has not yet done grand ronde de jambe a l'aire! My daughter is 10 and hoping to go to a vocational school next year.


In answer to some of the other questions, yes, there are sometimes classes where there is no barre work at all, some where there is no centre work and, yes, there has been one lesson recently where ALL she has done has been character work.


Although nothing has been said to this effect, I think the reason for this could be that the local classes she takes are syllabus classes and as they are quite short (45 mins) there is not time to go through the whole syllabus so the teacher changes the focus from week to week to ensure that everything is covered eventually. As I said, I have wondered before if this is a good idea and I am getting the distinct impression now that it is not to her benefit! She follows a couple of associate programmes as well, and these do seem more balanced, but I am obviously keen to get the best out of all her classes.


I look forward to more of your comments now I have clarified some of the facts!

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The 45 minute class is totally insufficient to do proper training in ballet. An absolute minimum of one hour, but really an hour and 15 to 30 minutes is really neededl, and she needs a minimum of three per week of these type of regular ballet classes.

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As long as they have a warm up I see no reason not to do a whole class of character - I sometimes do this with my students as we often seem to run out of time at the end of the class, it's not a regular thing though, maybe once a term at most. Obviously this won't help with her classical technique but she needs to do the work for the exams.


Ideally, and in particular if she is hoping to be accepted at vocational school, she should be doing much more than one 45 minute class per week (are the associate classes weekly or monthly?). At least 3 ballet classes per week, one or more of which should ideally be unset work is needed at this age for those that are serious about dance. However I understand the difficulties of schools not being able to offer enough and varied classes (especially in the UK with the different system of ballet training).


As for not having barre work, again I think that is OK occasionally as long as they are thoroughly warmed up before doing demanding steps. I sometimes conduct a 5 minute warm-up travelling in a circle followed by a 'barre' in the centre, for example plies, tendus, glisses, grands battements, developpes etc without the barre. You couldn't do this all the time though as it is harder to concentrate on working the body correctly without the assistance of a barre.


An 'all barre' class, again, would be OK occasionally although I imagine the children get a little bored. I try not to spend more than half of the class on barre work although sometimes things have just got to be worked on further to get them right and this can extend the length of time spent at the barre!


I love the fact that in the US teachers are able to have 1.5 hour ballet classes! Teachers in the UK just couldn't make this work (in general). My syllabus classes for grades 1-5 are 50 minutes long each, vocational levels are 1.25 hours long but that's a stretch as I usually only have a couple in the class that are actually preparing for the exam. The way we get around it is by students taking the next grade up (simplifying things as necessary) or the next level down (sometimes en pointe) and we have an unset class that children can slot into with variations being given in the class to suit the differing abilities. Grades 1-3 go together for this and grades 4-intermediate go together to make the class viable. Most children (and their parents) still choose to just take 1 ballet class per week.


Sorry I'm waffling now! Just trying to say that I understand how difficult it is for teachers to get everything done in a short class although there are ways around it.


If your daughter has been accepted in good associate programmes she obviously has potential and is probably receiving good basic training at her home school which is the important thing at this stage as that's all they look for at age 11 entry into vocational school (plus the usual physical attributes etc).

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CDR, you have summed up the situation here in the UK very well! Discovering this site has enlightened me, with some envy, about the training system in the US.


My daughter takes fortnightly JA classes (two and a quarter hours) and will change to weekly classes next term, so hopefully this goes some way to compensate for the shorter classes at home. It is actually two 45 min classes at home and one of them is a private lesson, so maybe things aren't as bad as I first thought. She also does one hour each of jazz and modern. I had not thought about her taking a class at another level and might suggest that for next term. Thank you for the sugestion. The non syllabus classes for mixed levels are also an excellent idea, but I'm not sure it is my place to suggest that the teacher introduce new classes!

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I think that in the US, we had a program financed by the Ford Foundation in the '60s that raised the general level of consciousness about ballet study. Some of the effects sound pretty elementary, but were a real step forward from where things were before. Some of them are:


Studying ballet is not like studying piano. (This is probably the most important item!)


You can't really improve by practicing alone.


You can't fit all of the class material into an hour's time.


You can't take one class a week and expect to improve.


Multi-discipline classes don't teach very good ballet.


Pointe and character are integral to ballet, and must be taught.


I say that these are generally-held ideas more present in the general population than could be found commonly before the Ford program, but as always with people, there are holdouts, and phonies and frauds are with us still.

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I love the fact that in the US teachers are able to have 1.5 hour ballet classes! Teachers in the UK just couldn't make this work (in general).


Why? :lol:


I guess if I'm understanding you correctly, ballet schools other than RBS, ENB, etc., are true recreational schools. They exist to allow kids to dabble in dance, and if they have talent, ability, etc., then they begin their true ballet training at 11. Is that correct?

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Well in my case we don't have enough students in most of the levels for it to be financially viable. Also schools rarely offer only ballet, children (and their parents) want a variety of classes such as tap, modern etc so to fit everything into the timetable the classes have to be shorter. Also most parents don't see the necessity for longer ballet classes and would be loathed to pay extra for them, especially when they are paying for other techniques too. Those that are keen take extra classes.


Dancing schools in England cannot take students to the level where they just leave their local school at 18 or whatever and get a job in a ballet company. Students have to get to as high a level as possible by 16 and then go to a full time vocational college to complete their training (of which there are only 5 or so good ones in the country, with 2 clear leaders). Even then it will be tough for them to get into a company. Those that have gone to a full time ballet school at 11 stand a better chance as they have had intensive training for longer. So yes, I guess local schools are just recreational here although the better schools will be able to enter their students for vocational exams and get them to a level where they can be accepted into ballet school at 11 or 16.

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CDR, is it a matter of 11 or 16 only, or can students inbetween those ages also get accepted to vocational schools?

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OK. Given that we are stuck with these short lessons for the forseeable future, what class structure would you reccommend to get the best out of them?


Does anyone know what would be the optimum number of hours of classical training per week for a serious 10 year old?


I will talk to my daughter's teacher as well and I will ask in any case if we can up the number of classes next term. I will also ask her how she feels the private classes should be structured given my daughter's ambitions for the future. If I have more information about an "ideal" structure, I feel I will be better placed to guage her response and decide whether I should be trying to supplement her training even further.


By the way, the main intake for vocational schools in the UK is indeed at 11 and 16 but places are sometimes available at other times. In the majority of cases, the availability of these depends on the number of students assessed out of training each year.

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