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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Why can't we repeat a combination in the next class?


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With one teacher I used to have, we always had this problem. Sometimes it would change even DURING the class (don't ask how...too complicated to explain).


I have only been in the regular adult class a few times so cannot tell yet whether things are repeated (it's only once a week, and I missed intervening weeks due to scheduling issues).


In my regular, upper level class, we have a set barre and a set center with only a few variations every so often. My teacher wanted us to be able to work on specific technique, but now we're all realizing that perhaps it's not such a good thing. This was realized when she gave a simpler, "back to school" barre and we couldn't really pick it up easily.


A different teacher I had last night, for a make up class, uses a set barre and center for a few weeks, then changes it when most pupils have attained mastery. Keeps the brain working.


One lady I was friendly with at the Dance Camp said to me that "Ballet is my answer to Alzheimers!"


Although I haven't had that experience this year, so far (last year it was ALL the time!!!), I think you and I can relate!


It's extremely frustrating not to have the opportunity to correct technique and actually dance through a combo though - I thoroughly empathize!!

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This is really depending on the goal of the class.

If you are attending "open classes" where you have different people coming every day depending on their schedule and needs. In these classes it is generally just a class for the sake of the class. Of course everybody work, and of course the teacher is giving corrections, but it is not a class with the goal to prepare you for an exam, or a performance. In this setting you will not often find teachers who repeat the exercises. A good teacher (very subjectiv opinion of mine of course) have an idea of what he/she wants to work on, and creates the class at it goes along. Working this way it does not really make sense to repeat a grand allegro in one class which has had a different progress than the last class.


I you are taking classes inside of a school structure. Means, you are supposed to have learned x + y + z by the end of the season. Then it is either inside of the syllabus, like in Vaganova or RAD, what to work on, and how to acomplish the goals. You would normally repeat each class for quite a few times. I even had a ballet master in a company who always repeated her classes once.


There are always going to be things that will not fit you, but the most important thing is that the teacher is good.

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In my experience ballet teachers often repeat sub-combinations, that is, parts of a larger combination. And certainly developing the ability to quickly learn a combination is an important part of dance.


Having said that, I do think it is a good idea for teachers to repeat entire combinations over a period of time. Though I think most teachers would say that they repeat combinations, I guess I’d urge them to do more so than they do. Doing so does makes it easier to concentrate on technique or connecting with the music rather than trying to remember what step to do next. Repeating combinations is common in the modern, jazz and Spanish classes I’ve taken and would suggest that ballet teachers do it more often.


Actually, I think there are three different kinds of repeating. One is repeating a combination in the same class, which is fairly common I believe. The second is to repeat in the next class. And the third is to repeat after a few weeks have passed. All are good I think.


How many to repeat? Hummm, I can’t say. Perhaps only 2-3 in a class.


And one benefit to teachers—fewer combinations to invent.

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Our teacher repeats the combinations for about 3 weeks, but she usually adds a few things the second and third week, so they are not exactly the same, but at least you already know the general stucture. I find this incredibly helpfull, and it also gives you a chance to get the feeling that you are really dancing by week 3, opposed to desperately trying to remember what is coming next. She is also a lot more demanding for perfection by the 3rd week. I think it is a very good system (and a very good teacher!). :)

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Honestly, I'd mention it to your teacher (in a polite, non confrontational way, of course). When I was teaching adults, I would never repeat combinations in the center because I was afraid they might think I was lazy/non-creative/not putting enough effort in because they were adults, that sort of thing. I tried to do a "fresh" class each time. If I were your teacher, I'd be very interested in your thoughts and you make a good point.

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As a student, I appreciate it when a teacher repeats a particularly challenging combination in the next class, as it gives me a second chance at it. The first class, my body is trying to figure out what to do, but the second time around, I might have a better shot at adding some refinement to it instead of just trying to remember what comes next and what my arms are doing. I wouldn't want a set barre or set center for more than a couple of weeks, though, as I do appreciate having to think about what we're being given and learning to pick up on things more quickly. I wouldn't think a teacher was being lazy or uncreative if they repeated something for a couple of classes, though, particularly if they explained that they wanted to give us another shot at improving the combinations from the previous class.

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W have it exactly the other way around: We always repeat the combinations from class to class for about a quarter year and than we get something new. It's nice that you can practice the steps very accurate there but sometimes I wish we would have things we change during that time. I have to classes per week that contain the same combinations (but one of the is more challenging in the sense of double pirouettes instead of singles, jumps faster etc.)


I can imagine that it is annoying to get confused every class with a completely new combination. Only being able to do the single movements does not mean that you can link them together automatically!


I'd say that a mix of both would be very nice to have! :)

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I can imagine that it is annoying to get confused every class with a completely new combination. Only being able to do the single movements does not mean that you can link them together automatically!


That is exactly how I feel sometimes! As someone without years and years of intense training, it's nice to have a chance at really getting something once in a while when the combinations are longer and more difficult.

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Thus said, I would love an opportunity to be able to work a combination often enough so that I can put some detail and nunance into it. Last night, the teacher asked what we are thinking while we're doing the combination. I told her I'm just trying to remember the steps. She said we should try to get the feeling of a performance into the combination. I told her I need to know the steps before that can happen and I need to do the combination more than once to know the steps.


I do know what you mean - and I agree with you that it's fun to repeat a combination and learn the nuances. Very few ballet teachers do this. There's only a couple in the past that have done this. One teacher was the best ballet teacher ever in the world and she gave a character class. We'd learn Giselle, Swan Lake (on pointe of course). She'd break up the solos so that over the weeks we'd learn stretches of the ballet. We could not have possibly been able to dance Giselle's solos if it was just thrown at us in a ten minute time frame. I gotta say I LOVED the character class for this reason. You really, really, really can get into the steps and just DANCE!!! You can add your personality and flavor to the choreography. You own it rather than just trying to remember and catch glimpses of what everybody else is doing to remember.


I only have one class now where a teacher does this. It's a pseudo ballet class - more of an exercise ballet class. The teacher has set choreography to several famous ballets and repeats them. Since there are about 20 of them, you never know which one he's going to give us, but when he puts on the music your body reacts to it and you can just fly across the floor. I love it! He's a favorite of mine and I look forward to your class. Course this doesn't help you any, but I'm just trying to say I understand. As to what you can do ... hmmmm....


Why don't you approach it a little differently? I notice you were sort of saying you wanted her to do this because of your lack of remembering steps, etc. Why don't you ask her to repeat a combination ... because ... YOU LOVED IT!!!! Tell her that one of her combinations was super spectacular and you would love to have it repeated because it really improved the opening of your hip or it aligned you or you could really feel that little muscle under your toes in your jumps! In other words, make it a positive for her to repeat it.


The other thing I would suggest is that you could ask for a little bit of a character class as I described above. Ask her if she couldn't tailor a famous ballet and alter to fit the level of her students - and then teach a phrasing each night. Then at the end of the month you could run through the whole thing? Something like that. Maybe one night could include this so she wouldn't feel pressured to do it all the time. It would also make it easier to do if it was an open class.


I definitely would drop the "I can't remember and can't do it" reason. Teachers love to dump on you when you tell them you're being challenged. Like if I told either one of my teachers I'm having trouble turning and want them NOT to give me new turn combinations because I want to practice only one. They would really fly off the handle and give me every turn combination there was in the world to get me to catch onto turning in all sorts of strange take-off and landing positions. I know they'd have me trying to turn from the chandelier before they gave in to my request ... and they would feel they're doing it to "help" me. Yeah, thanks ... whatever.

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I am both a teacher and take a regular class for adults only from a former Brazilian ballerina. She teaches class 6 days a week and repeats the same exercises every day for two weeks. For those people fortunate to get to class several times a week, I think this would get very boring. I get to class only on Sundays. The first Sunday of a given class is when I can work on the "what comes next aspects". I really never think about her combinations between Sundays, but the following week, things come back and that is when I can add nuances and don't have to think as hard.


As a teacher, most of my students are junior high-high school aged. Because they take class twice a week, once with me and once with another teacher, I give them the same barre work for one month. For center combinations, they get one set of exercises for two weeks and then I change the center combos. Having the same barre for a month(again, only one time/week) allows me not to spend as much time demonstrating since by the third time around, they should remember a good deal from the previous two lessons.

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This is very enlightening for me, too. :)

As a teacher of many many adults, most of whom come only once a week (though some are there two or three times...) I run into conflicts often of how often to repeat something or not.

I do tend to repeat combinations (some) from barre and center for a few weeks; students who come three or more times per week "get" the combinations much sooner... the others at least have a "shot" at it.

I, too, often worry that it will be boring for the adults.

Oh, and if I have not written the combinations down, I am likely to forget them myself, and I cannot rely on my students remembering! (I have back-to-back classes all afternoon w/ kids and evenings w/ adults, so I have no time to "reflect" between them to help me remember each combi... -sigh- )

Anyway, now that I know that at least some adults would welcome the same combinations more often, I shall try to do that more!




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