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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Teaching Children Ballet


Chronus24

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This seemed the easiest way to ask a large group of ballet teachers at once: in order to teach ballet at a studio, pre-professional, or company-affiliated school, is teaching younger children usually a "test" or "rite of passage" for fledgling ballet teachers? Kind of along the lines of the "if you can teach them, you can teach anyone!" adage? I would hope, after many more years of experience, to transition to a type of teaching capacity, however while I believe I could work with teens, young adults, and adults (pro and rec), the idea of corralling herds of tiny girls (or boys) is not one I would readily pursue or enjoy...Does this then stifle or complicate my chances?

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  • Administrators

Chronus, I'm not sure where to move this, since you are not allowed to post on the Teachers forum. Are you in the YD 17-22 age group?

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Oh, this forum is teachers only. My mistake, I thought regular people could post so long as it had something to do with teaching. But yes, I'm of that age range, so that'd be fine. Thanks!

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Chronus, I don't believe it is a rite of passage at all. In order to teach any levels/ages you need to be trained to teach. Teaching is it's own art form, and not everyone who can dance is automatically a good teacher. Where you start out teaching will depend a great deal on your own history, experience, and qualifications. A professional career can open some doors to get started, but the more education you have in addition to performing will open more doors.

 

Since you are planning for a long ways down the road, just be sure that you continue to educate yourself as you go down that road. Don't worry now about what ages or levels you may teach, but do know that you must be qualified to teach all of them. Beginning ballet (not pre-ballet or creative movement, as that is a separate study) is certainly very difficult to teach, as it requires a great deal of knowledge about how the human body works. Alignment and placement are not easy, and you have to uderstand about all of the physical differences in shape and structure. Ballet is not a natural art form, and the body, in the vast majority of cases, is not intended to do what ballet demands. Knowing how to work with a lack of rotation, flexibility, hyper or hypoextension, feet, arms, etc., etc., etc., takes training. What works for you will not necessarily work for everyone else.

 

You need to know what exercises and steps are appropriate for every level, and how and when to introduce them. When you want to introduce a new step, you need to be sure that they have already learned the things that will allow them to progress to that step. What comes first is critical. This is where a syllabus is important. (If they have not learned a dégagé from a demi plié, how can they learn an assemblé or a jeté? If they have not learned the back cou de pied position then how can learn a jeté over? If they have not learned a retiré position, and how to balance in that position on flat, then how can they do it on relevé? If they can't do it on relevé, how can they do a pirouette? In addition, have they learned the elements of turning, how to use their upper body, how to spot, how to lift up at the end of the turn to bring their working foot down without crashing? All of these things are just little examples of the progression that must be learned.)

 

Moving to more advanced levels requires an ability to create classes and develop them in such a way as to build in all of the elements of classical ballet that go way beyond the steps.

 

So, as you go along the road in your training as a dancer, and then through your performing years, find a way to also learn HOW to teach, and then worry later about ages and levels! :wallbash:

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Excellent response! True too that even now in my early erudition, and in tangent with my personal ballet training, I am trying to observe and learn my own teachers' ways and methods of teaching ballet, as well as the potpourri of other related subjects such as music, anatomy, and history. And I concur that "not everyone who can dance is automatically a good teacher" as it appears at times that some virtuoso dancers have been placed into teaching roles if only to have some sort of osmosis effect rather than to find solutions to younger dancers' queries and confusions.

 

Perhaps silly in retrospect, though it had been a nagging concern for me that teaching small children was somehow required to progress as an instructor. I don't feel it would be since my opinion is that teaching (and enjoying...) young kids is an art unto itself. Thank you for dispelling said qualms.

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I do not 'love' teaching the youngest and smallest at all. My own daughter is 7yo and this is the very 1st year I will have to teach her age, and her. Other years I have subbed and I have found it very challenging. Most of the time I felt like I was a well paid babysitter. This year I am curious if it will be easier or harder with my own in the class.

 

I have been teaching for 20something years now (good grief!). I started with the 9-12 level. Mixed ability. But, I had some adult classes, some advanced classes and yes, some little one's classes (8+). I enjoyed having a mix of classes because each offered *me* something back. The adults (who were beginners) loved being there and really wanted to learn. They were my most faithful flock, lol! The advanced classes gave me the flow of a good class, challenging combinations and older kids with the ability to dissect the details of a correction. The younger levels were the hardest because they had a focus of a specific task during class. One class could have many different combinaitons all aimed at, let's say, the brush of a tendu, all the way through class to the brush of a grand jete at the end. And, I would have to remember to also let them have fun as well! So, I found that I really had to think and work a lot harder in those younger classes.

 

I think that the youngest/newest teachers should not necessarily have the youngest/newest students. This level should have a seasoned teacher who really enjoys this level as well. I still don't love it, but I have learned to appreciate it (and the kids). So, as I mentioned this year I have a young level class. You may find that after some time you, too, may come to enjoy teaching an occasional young level.

 

 

yikes, I thought I was answering in the teacher's forum!

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Aw, I think that in light of the poster's original intentions, this topic could use a suspension of the rules on this thread only. Teachers with experience are invited to add anecdotes, war stories, advice, and so forth....

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I, too, have been teaching for over a dozen years. I hold a Bachelor's Degree in dance, though when I was in school there were almost no programs in the country with a primary emphasis on pedagogy- though where I did my first two years now has a very reputable pedagogy program. My degree was geared as a performance and choreography degree with an equal emphasis on ballet and modern. I have to admit that much of my movement analysis background is the result of good modern training as well as physiology and kinesiology studies(dance majors at the university from which I graduated took more science classes than any other major within the College of Liberal and Fine Arts).

 

As for working with different age groups and levels, I find I love working with both the creative movement classes and the more advanced teen levels. I still teach all levels in between, but my least favorite would have to be the "tween" scene. I don't tolerate the chitchat, gossip, giggling etc which comes with this age group; it is not so much that it is challenging to know what material to give them but how to keep them focused enough to learn it. The hormonal surge, I think, affects the attention span as well.

 

When I first started teaching the little ones(5-6 yrs), I had already had to take some cognitive psych classes. I pulled some of my old textbooks out and also started reading about large and small motor development. Much of this has made even more sense since I have become a mother. What a lot of teachers do not understand is that young children are not small adults, their information processing is very much about copying, and that movement has to be introduced in small increments- for example, teach arm movement separate from the leg movement and once both have been mastered separately, then attempt to put them together. My little students love imaginative play about princes and princesses, tea parties, farm animals and modes of transportation like bicycling or surfing so I try and use ideas like those in class as well.

 

However, at the other end of the spectrum, I feel that with the education I have, I can offer a lot to dancers who have a good training base. There are a lot of "how tos" and "whys" that I can explain about making dance efficient for the body as well as reduce the risk of injury. I still take class with a former Brazilian ballerina. It keeps my mind alert to artistry in coming up with combinations that give them the opportunity to dance and build technique because that is what should happen in class. They need to be challenged to pick up material quickly, with changes in dynamic and directions. That is what makes dance interesting for the audience to watch. At this level, it is important for students to understand that dance is a performance art- when executing develope croise devant, the eyes and head should not just be in the correct position, but there should be a communication be it, "I am longing for something" or "Darn right, that Basilio will be my husband, and how dare you say otherwise!"

 

I have studied with many teachers, some were very well-known for their performing careers, others were highly educated with multiple degrees. I think the best teachers are those that have a passion for what they are doing because they will go the extra mile to educate themselves about their artform.

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I've taught a total of five years. I began with a pre-pointe class of 11-12 year olds, and I've since taught every skill level from beginning 5-year-olds to adult students in their 40s. I enjoying teaching the advanced class, because there is more you can do with previously trained bodies. BUT I LOVE teaching that age group I started with, my pre/beginning pointe level, age 11-12. Their minds are so ready for learning, and their bodies still fairly pliable. Helping them discover the keys to clean execution is a joy, especially when they respond beautifully.

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I've never had to teach children below the age of about twelve and really prefer to teach age 14+. I just don't relate to young children well. I think teaching the pre-adolescent ages requires a definite skill, and as Ms. Leigh said, you really have to know what you are doing. Those early years are truly the foundation of a dancer's technique.

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I must agree with what everyone has said.

 

Each level of teaching has its own demands.

 

IMHO 6-10 are the most difficult and most crucial ages of development to teach. Bad habits picked up at these ages will haunt them later on, slow down their progression, and even cause injuries. It is a huge responsibility to teach these ages, and it should not be taken lightly. Teachers of these groups must juggle keeping the class fun and engaging while at the same time set the ground work for technique and discipline.

 

It is not easy, but it can be very rewarding. :wacko:

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  • 3 weeks later...

I've been teaching just over a year mainly in a local rec center but a couple classes at the studio as well. and i find the 3-5 year olds the most difficult. I've always known i want to teach dance. for me the 6-11 year olds are the easiest and most fun. they listen so much better the the preschoolers and havn't yet goten the attitude of the preteens. i often have a hard time with keeping the preschoolers on task . I love teaching. working in the rec center i have had access to some training about how to teach, all instructors at the rec center have 3 weeks of training a year ( 2 presummer day camps , and 1 review at christmas with workshops particular to your teaching area) all about how to teach and work with diffrent age groups, as well a a program called " HIGH FIVE"

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  • 2 weeks later...

One thing I've noticed in teaching in different studios is that newer teachers tend to "get stuck" with the younger classes because teachers who have been there longer would rather teach the higher levels. I found this extremely frusterating. I agree with, I believe Ms. Leigh, who said that the teacher for this group should be someone who is not only seasoned, but really enjoys this age. But if you are only getting offered "baby" classes, ect. it's probably just the old work your way up sort of thing. It's not a good thing, but I've found it very common. After teaching an entire year of almost only little ones classes, I was ready to pull my hair out and never teach again under the age of 10....however, after two years of not teaching at all, I taught in a summer program and was....since I was new to the school....given the babies! And I found I really enjoyed it because I hadn't been saturated with it in so long. This age group is very, very easy to burn out with, even if you love children!

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Agreeing with what has been mentioned before, it does seem like a rite of passage to teach the "babies" as a beginning teacher. My very first class was a group of 17 :blushing: three year olds...I had no idea what to do with them and no mentor. At that studio we weren't allowed to use props or games-the director wanted them taught only full strength ballet. Needless to say, many little ones dropped because they were bored. (And I don't blame them. I was bored too.)

Then I moved to a new school and learned a lot from another teacher-how to use props, songs, games. It refreshed me! Now I have my own studio and still teach them. (I do have another teacher that loves that age group...she teaches about half the classes and I teach the other half.) They're the hardest group-they are just becoming coordinated and focus is often a big issue. (Especially with daycare kids) They're also the most important financially for a studio-they pay the most per hour.

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  • 1 month later...
BUT I LOVE teaching that age group I started with, my pre/beginning pointe level, age 11-12. Their minds are so ready for learning, and their bodies still fairly pliable. Helping them discover the keys to clean execution is a joy, especially when they respond beautifully.

I really understand what you're saying. I'm an assistant teacher in a pre-pointe class and it is so rewarding. They are able to develop and grow in so many ways and I think that this age group is when they start to really grow in love for dance and it's apparent in their hard work and dedication that as a teacher, you're able to help nurture.

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