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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Cecchetti Method


paloma

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I took summer ballet classes at the same place I have taken classes for the past ten years, which is a school affiliated with a professional dance company. They teach Cecchetti, although they have always tolerated variation in adult classes, acknowledging that they come from different backgrounds. I have learned the "head" for barre work to be facing out (away from the barre) and inclined when the working leg is moving devant or derriere. One teacher explained it as wearing one heavy earring--on the right ear when working devant, and on the left when working derriere.

 

I spent my whole summer being corrected--obsessively, I might add--on my RAD head. I was also supposed to bring my foot up the side of my standing leg for developpe, rather than front for devant and back for derriere, as I have always done.

 

I am confused about what I've been learning until now. Has it been Cecchetti or RAD?

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Does it matter in the long run? I've studied in both syllabi and just try to do the combinations as each teacher sets them. I suppose it would have been really irritating though, being corrected ALL the time for something you thought you were doing correctly.

 

But in my experience as a ballet student, it's when we're shifted out of our comfort zone, and our regular habits and patterns that we really test our learning.

 

Would it help to think of all the exercises in class as choreography, rather than set ways of doing things? A teacher mod may know in more detail, but I always thought that while there is a "usual" pattern of inclining the head, and so on, there's no single right way to the exclusion of other patterns and choreography.

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Hi Paloma,

 

I can sympathise with you as I am in the same situation in reverse, i.e. having to unlearn the Cecchetti way of doing things.

 

You are quite right, in Cecchetti the foot always tracks up the side of the knee in developpe whether it is to the front, side or back, and yes, you are likely to get jumped on immediately if you don't do that!

 

Sissonnes are also different, i.e. the front leg does not move as much, and in petits battements the foot is held lower so that the heel and not the toe is in contact with the cou-de-pied. Not to mention the different names for arm positions etc.

 

I'm not sure what you were learning before, but in the syllabus I am doing now (BBO) the head is always turned towards the front foot, be it the standing or working leg, which is all new to me as in Cecchetti there were very few head movements at the barre.

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having to unlearn the Cecchetti way of doing things.

 

Would it be more productive or helpful to think of learning another way of doing things, rather than "unlearning" something? Learning that we can execute steps using good technique in a number of different ways is quite a useful thing to learn, in my opinion. I still feel I have so much to learn in ballet that I worry about "unlearning"! I don't have all that much learnt in the first place! :innocent:

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I can only second Redbookish's advice. I have taken both RAD and Cecchetti at the same time. While it is confusing, just think about different ways to do the steps. I alerted my teachers that I do both syllabi. Have fun learning!

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I've just thought of another one.

 

After years of struggling to do pose turns with my lifted foot in front, now in the new syllabus I have found that we have to put it behind.

 

Sorry, but it just feels like "cheating" because it is so much easier!

 

And also in ports de bras, I have had to learn the "allonge" which would be an absolute no-no in Cecchetti - for one thing, "the arms never stop moving" in order to fit it in!

 

Oh dear......!

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As dancers we have to learn to be flexible and understand that there are many ways of doing steps. In a company if the choreographer were to ask a dancer to perform a step in a way that the dancer was not used to, he/she can't say Sorry I can only do it this way!

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I think my question was not clear--I was just wondering if this teacher is wrong (i.e. calling it Cecchetti when it isn't) or the previous ones were, since they are all teaching in the same school purporting to use the same approach.

 

I would agree that you learn whatever exercise as it is set. At the same time, teachers do not generally add heads until a class has progressed a bit, or if it is an advanced level class. So for her to insist on a particular head when most of the students are still learning the combination (she would repeat it over several classes) or need to focus their attention on the feet indicates she doesn't get how students learn. Exercises with most teachers in the past have been a layering of elements, with footwork the essential part combined with arms for those who are more advanced, and heads the finishing touch.

 

Anyway, that wasn't really my point! I was just wondering whether I had learned Cecchetti or RAD heads.

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I must admit to laughing a bit when reading your post, not at you, but because I'm so much in a similar position!! I often sort of loll the head around hoping to find what the position is or should be (till told by the teacher, that is).

 

Now I have 3 different teachers who have 3 different expectations. Wrong or right, a piece of advice someone gave me here was to think of it simply as choreography. Do what the teacher wants you to do and never mind if it's right or wrong. In the end, if you were dancing professionally, the choreographer would make you do it his/her way anyway.

 

I had a comment made to me by one teacher during a class last year of "I can see the diversity in your training..." She went on to tell me what SHE wanted as a head, so I did that instead.

 

I have the same issues with the way the foot is held in frappe, and always ask the teacher now how s/he wants it held, because of the variations that occur. None of them are wrong; they're just different methodologies or choreographic preferences.

 

If you're really wondering whether the head is correct or not, get hold of a book on Cecchetti method and look it up. It may be available online. I know I have a photocopy of the 8 Cecchetti positions floating around somewhere, with the head included, but even then, at the barre, I'm not sure if it's different from what the centre work is. You could also look up the RAD version to compare with what you learned. They may be google-able.

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I think my question was not clear--I was just wondering if this teacher is wrong (i.e. calling it Cecchetti when it isn't) or the previous ones were, since they are all teaching in the same school purporting to use the same approach.

 

I would agree that you learn whatever exercise as it is set. At the same time, teachers do not generally add heads until a class has progressed a bit, or if it is an advanced level class. So for her to insist on a particular head when most of the students are still learning the combination (she would repeat it over several classes) or need to focus their attention on the feet indicates she doesn't get how students learn. Exercises with most teachers in the past have been a layering of elements, with footwork the essential part combined with arms for those who are more advanced, and heads the finishing touch.

 

Anyway, that wasn't really my point! I was just wondering whether I had learned Cecchetti or RAD heads.

 

 

Having gone through the Cecchetti graded exams, I believe developpe' is entered from devant when the foot initiating it is devant, but it gradually comes to the side of the knee as it moves upward. It doesn't ever quite move along the side of the leg as you mentioned before. It's more of a very elongated spiral. A subtle difference from what you describe. The movement would be the same in reverse, moving from the derriere' position gradually to the back of the knee (or side of your leg as looking straight on to the body). Passe' is executed similarly without ever disengaging the foot from contact with the leg, two diagonal lines that connect at the back of the knee.

 

As to whether the teacher doesn't 'get' how students learn a good student will always attempt to learn however the instructor chooses to teach. It may be a little confusing for you right now but it sounds like her insistence that you incorporate your head in the combination is a tribute to you and shows his/her confidence in your ability , even according to your own admittance that it is a more advanced element.

 

Cecchetti head positions : inclined towards the working leg in devant, and turned slightly in the same direction, chin raised slightly, gaze up and outward. Same leg in derrierre, head inclined toward standing leg, head turned toward working leg, chin very slightly lowered, gaze down and outward.

 

Speaking from a teachers viewpoint, sometimes we like to go on a more focused journey to reinforce areas we think are weak and need strengthening. I think it best to submit to this kind of sculpting as a way of submitting to the learning process. It may just be a phase. Hopefully you'll make a good impression, showing that you are carvable material, even if you feel the teacher may be a little errant in his/her approach.

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The question of whether the teacher is errant depends on the teacher's approach a bit. Too often I think we think of arms and heads as extra add-ons, to do once you get the feet, and not thus fully a part of 'real' technique. The best teachers I've had often incorporate *all* of the body from the beginning, and explain why, and build upon the basic uses of the arms and head (in addition to everything else) from barre through to centre exercises. This holistic approach, in my observation, builds a better coordinated and connected dancer.

 

In addition, students learn in a variety of ways as well!

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Thanks for the explanation of the Cecchetti head positions. The fact that the teacher in question is insisting they are RAD means that she is not clear on her terminology. Since there are some other problems with the way she conducts class i.e. extended discussions about her vacation between exercises, concentrating on correcting one student for five minutes at a time while others stand around, etc. it just underscores the fact that another teacher would be a better choice.

 

Regarding my comment that she doesn't 'get' how students learn, what I meant was that she doesn't understand there are different ways in which people learn, and that good teachers will tailor their approach to meet the needs of a student. This is essential in teaching children, and while adults can meet a teacher half-way, some of the same principles still apply. Several of my fellow classmates in different styles of dance try to master one element and build on it, so I'm not alone in working on footwork first while the arm remains in one position. There definitely is a pedagogy of teaching, whether the field is academic education, adult job training, dance, or whatever. Since this teacher insisted on details, some of us left the class not having even broken a sweat--we were too distracted to get anything out of the exercise.

 

I've noticed ballet students to be really submissive in accepting whatever classes or instruction are available, just by virtue of the fact that the teacher knows more than they do about ballet. It is unfortunate, because being in a class with a poor teacher really does hold you back. There aren't many years left for some of us to still be improving! The school where I dance has a two year, full time program in training dance teachers. So while some teachers are wonderful with no formal instruction, others are able to develop good strategies and skills with something more formalized. Try to seek out good teachers who know what they're talking about! Mistakes in head position terminology are no big deal, but if the teacher is misinformed about other things, it could lead to injuries.

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I've noticed ballet students to be really submissive in accepting whatever classes or instruction are available, just by virtue of the fact that the teacher knows more than they do about ballet. It is unfortunate, because being in a class with a poor teacher really does hold you back. There aren't many years left for some of us to still be improving!

 

By all means, you are a consumer and have the right to choose something you deem more appropriate. I have also been frustrated about similar situations and have wanted to change studios. Unfortunately, I have very little choices so must make due with what is available. You are your own best judge and should be getting what you feel is your money's worth. If you believe that you are not getting the quality you deserve then you should look elsewhere.

 

I hope you find what you you need.

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