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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Frustrated and discouraged

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I usually post on the YD board with technique questions (I am 22) but I feel this is more appropriate for this forum...


I am so discouraged and frustrated, and well, unmotivated at the moment. I will get into that more a little later...for now, some background on me...


I started ballet classes at the age of 3 (I begged my mum to let me start them!) and continued with ballet and modern dancing until the age of 12 and a half...and then gave up (just before going en pointe :) ) to concentrate more on my music (piano) at boarding school (which also made getting to ballet classes a logistical problem). This is a decision I regret more than I can say! (I'm sure there are other return adult dancers who feel the same).


At the age of 20 I returned to classes, and it took me a LONG time to build up strength and technique again (well, it felt like a long time because when I was a child, ballet was very "natural" for me!). Last year (at nearly 22), I started pointe work...I was SO excited...


But now, less than a year later I am so discouraged and frustrated, for numerous reasons.


I go to three 60-minute classes a week. Only two of those include pointe work, and even then it is not a lot (sometimes we only do 15 minutes of pointe work every two weeks!!!). Those two classes are for RAD Intermediate Foundation (I would like to do all of my major exams, as I find a structured syllabus which builds on from the level before helpful in improving my technique and ensuring I have a full "vocabulary" of ballet). The 3rd class I go to is an adults' open class, which I find fun and challenging (it varies from Intermediate to Advanced 1 level, without the pointe).


BUT, this is nowhere near enough ballet for me!


Before you say "find another studio/school" let me explain that in South Africa, there aren't the opportunities for classes that there are in the US, for example (I am very jealous when I read of all US students get to do!). 90 minute classes are not the norm here (60 minutes are). As an adult, there are limited opportunities for improving as a dancer, and going en pointe. Believe me, I have searched long and wide, and the situation I'm in right now is the best that I can find, in terms of the teachers, class-times, and being able to get to classes (public transport being fairly non-existent/dangerous for a girl alone here, and our first subway system is currently under construction). I'm also limited by being a full-time student and working part-time, and financial limitations.


Yet I am SO frustrated...I so desperately want more ballet, more classes, to improve more. I'm bored with where I am (especially as, owing to poor attendance and a big concert we're preparing for, my Intermediate Foundation class is only doing our exam in May next year - we started the syllabus in September last year!!!). There is no Intermediate class at my studio...the next class up is Advanced 1! There is ONE girl doing Intermediate, who has classes in the mornings, and I might be able to join her for one or two, but I do have uni classes in the morning.


What do I do? I feel stuck, and unchallenged, and frustrated. Private classes are not financially feasible. Advanced 1 is too advanced for me. I can't get to adult classes at other studios at the times they have them.


Every time I try to bring this up with the main teacher at my school, she doesn't have enough time to hear me out. And frankly she doesn't have enough time to add another class in for me. Sigh.


(Sorry for the long, useless story, but not quite sure who I could talk to about this!)

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  • swantobe


  • jane s


  • Hamorah


  • dancepig


When I was a young student, our intermediate class eventually reduced to 2 students - not economically feasible for the studio to keep it going. Both of us girls had the choice: we could go down a level or up a level. The other girl was actually recommended to go down the level, but I was given a real choice (I think dedication had a lot to do with it).


My teacher told me that if I moved up, I would have to work extra, EXTRA hard to catch up to those girls, would be put on pointe and would really have to pull up my socks, figuratively speaking, if I wanted to remain in the class.


I chose to move up. It was hard. They were all so much faster than I at catching on to combos, more technically accurate. I had only had about 2 years of ballet at the time (starting at age 12), although I studied on my own for a year, using books, because I wanted it so badly.


It took about a year and a half but I caught up. In fact, by the time I finished at that school, college time, I had been accepted to several colleges for ballet study, and had had been to SIs with some top studios.


The point? So what if the advanced class is too advanced. Go anyway. You'll be forced to work harder. No, you won't get everything right away. Add the intermediate classes to it and you might get a reasonably good schedule.


I definitely hear your frustration. I had the same earlier this year. I pay way too much right now for classes, because the one T/TH class I take is only doing for their recital, so I go to another studio further away, and more expensive, for those days. And this summer, I'm doing a local intensive for only a couple of hours a day, during the day, which I've pre-paid for, and will be paying through the nose for two or three evening classes to supplement, as well as for private lessons on particular things I want to get before going to Richmond. Granted, it'll be tight, funds-wise, but my hobby is worth it for me.


I assume your college doesn't have extra dance classes? Even those which are not ballet-oriented. I took every class my uni offered when I was there, including African-American dance, tap, modern, whatever was there. I even took the classes that were PE level (basic and not taught by "expert" teachers). My whole college schedule revolved around when I could take their dance classes (a lot cheaper than trying to take outside of uni!!), even though I wasn't officially a dance major. :-)

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Serendipity has made several good suggestions. If your teacher lets you move up to the Advanced 1 level, she or he must feel you can do it. Yes, it will be difficult, but if you're willing to work hard, you would get much more out of it than staying back. Also, you might ask your teacher if you can wear your pointe shoes during part of the adult class, either at the barre or in center, wherever you're more comfortable. You should ask your teacher first because it does require some adjustments made on the teacher's part for the exercises. However, this would give you more pointe time. We have several students that do this at one studio where I take class, and I do this at another studio during a beginning class. I take a beginning class to make up some classes I missed - it's the only other time I can attend a class - and I'm using this time to strengthen myself. If your teacher is willing to accept you en pointe during the adult class, work it out with your teacher as to how often, and during what part of the class you'll wear your pointe shoes. It's not easy to make adjustments, but with time and hard work, it can be very beneficial. Good luck!

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I did that last year - took the adult beginner class en pointe and it worked well. She didn't adjust the exercises but allowed me to do so. This year it's not possible as we're not in our usual place and the floor is not the best for using pointe shoes under the best of circumstances. Well, I COULD still do it, but I really don't want to. I'll wait for summer intensive for that.

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Move up to the advanced level if you are allowed to do so! It will be hard at the beginning but you will get used to it. I take the highest level in my school, which would be somewhat intermediate-advanced. The stupid thing is, if I go to SIs, open classes or other schools, there is always one level too "easy" for me and one too advanced. Most of the teachers recommend me to stay in the higher level, others said, that I should decided what would be the best for me. So I usually stay in the higher level. One teacher said to me "Take it as a challenge" and I think that's what you have to do. Believe me, you will feel like an idiot the first couple of classes. I felt like a klutz next to all those girl who could do perfect multiple pirouttes, got the combinations very fast and did them with beautiful technique and expression. But I learn many things from such classes and I still feel like an idiot when I take such classes but it is amazing how much I learn. So go for it, take it as a challenge and you will see: Things will come with time! :thumbsup:

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Can you add other kinds of dance classes? Any kind? Even hip-hop, ballroom, or jazz. I find modern dance really useful for an adult body as well: if it's a Graham-based class, then you're still working your turn out and extensions.

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60 minute classes are not long enough to do anything in let alone cover syllabus work, so I'm not surprised that you hardly ever do pointe work. Also, if you intend taking your exams, you must take Intermediate before Advanced 1 and there is at least three years of training difference between Intermediate Foundation and Advanced 1. Can you take classes back to back at different levels to get more hours?

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Thanks for all your replies - wow!


I'm going to start with the last one first :)


Hamorah - As you can see in my original post, I did not mention joining the Advanced 1 class and I do not intend to do so, because I am aware of RAD regulations and also of the BIG difference between Intermediate Foundation and Advanced 1. The class immediately after mine is Advanced 1, I can't do back-to-back classes because it always follows the Intermediate Foundation class. As for the 90 vs. 60 minute thing - it really is the norm in South Africa to have 60 minute classes.

BUT strangely enough, the girl has private lessons in the mornings for Intermediate has 90 minute classes! I think she requested them, but also, there is more time in the mornings, as there aren't any other classes and there aren't a certain number of classes that have to be fit in before the end of the day.


Redbookish - The time and money factors come in, in terms of taking other classes. If I'm going to have to make sacrifices financially for ballet (which is the case if I take on more classes), then I'd like it to be ballet only, as this is my main passion :) Also, my dancing school only offers Spanish dancing as an alternative, which I don't enjoy, and it would be VERY difficult to get to classes elsewhere in the city in the early-mid evenings as traffic is horrific! Thanks for the suggestion though.

(I HAVE taken "dance" classes at the gym that I am a member of...in the past...but they are down on the schedule as just "dance", so you never know what you're going to get! It largely depends on the instructor! Some of them are, however, just aerobics classes with more arm movements :) But once again, they are in the mornings, usually on days when I have uni classes :( and my favourite instructors' classes have been stopped owing to poor attendance (I could only go to them during uni holidays anyway)


Claude - Thanks for your advice. I may TRY and just do Advanced 1 for fun, but really, as Hamorah said, it is about 3 years' difference in terms of training time (between my level and Adv 1 that is) so taking up that class is not really an option. My "challenge" class at the moment is the Adults' open one, which is Intermediate-Advanced.


Dancepig and Serendipity - You see, the problem is, the Advanced 1 class is about three years worth of technique and training further than where I am now. It's a bit too big a leap unfortunately! My University doesn't have a dance faculty (doesn't offer dance classes at all), so no luck there. The South African Ballet Theatre (SABT) DOES have adult open classes at about an Advanced Foundation level, but alas, they are at the same time as my other classes, and plus they're on the other side of the city at peak traffic time :wink:

As for doing classes en pointe, my teacher is not keen. There is no adult beginners' class, so no "pointe" class for me - the other class is too advanced for me to attempt en pointe, though I have asked :D

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Lau, have you checked out potentially just taking classes with the Johannesburg Youth Ballet? I'm not sure if they'd have options or not, but one of my friends trained/danced with them and received excellent training.

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I am not familiar with the RAD levels but three years IS a lot and very different to mine (my technique was as good as everyone elses in the class, for some maybe even better, I am just so not used to such complicated exercises and then I blank out totally). That's a really stupid situation. I can only think of asking your fellow students and your teacher to make the class 90 min. long...

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Oh - that's so sad! :) I don't know what your video situation is, but if you can rent or purchase a DVD or Video, I recommend "The Finis Jhung Ballet Technique: Art of Pointwork, Level 1 (2007)" Perhaps you could work with this at your house?

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Okay, so seeing my reply above, WHAT am I going to do?


Well, firstly I just want to explain something about the RAD levels, cos I'm not sure how familiar people are with them (not too much cos I don't think you're aware of the IMMENSE difference between Intermediate Foundation and Advanced 1). The RAD levels (in the Major/Vocational exams) go as follows:


Intermediate Foundation


Advanced Foundation

Advanced 1

Advanced 2


Each level takes about a year to "master", so there is a LOT of difference between where I am now and where the Adv 1 class is (for e.g. we are doing echappes to second and releves to fifth en pointe...the Adv 1 class are doing double pirouettes en pointe; and that's just the START of the differences between the two levels). Companies usually start looking for apprentices from Advanced 2, sometimes Advanced 1 (well, that's what happens here in SA).


The conclusion: Moving up to the Advanced Class is not feasible for me, and my teacher would not allow it.


So...possible solutions to my dilemma:


1.) Abandon university and become a ballet teacher, which means that going to class is work or studying :wink: (My parents would be terribly pleased with me, especially as they would have wasted a LOT of money on no degree! :) ) Sigh...If only...


2a.) Ignore fiance's protests that I am "abandoning" him and go to the other adults' class on Thursday evenings (meaning I have a total of 2 hours of ballet on Thursdays). This would also mean that my dance fees go up by 30%. And as I am a student, and fiance makes most (all) of the money, this concerns him financially too...and he doesn't quite get why ballet is so expensive! :)


2b.) Approach teachers and investigate option of joining Intermediate girl in the mornings. Consult university timetable to see if this will be a possibility next semester. Find out about fees (once again, fiance comes into this...)


2c.) Possibly do barre work with Adv 1 class twice a week (when I can make it), possibly doing things flat when they do things on a rise...


2d.) All of the above and stop eating because I can't afford it :D



3.) Invent a time machine so I can work more hours, to earn more money, to do more ballet, plus I'll have more time for more classes :(


4.) Find a very rich husband... :)


Your thoughts?

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Gosh, while I wrote my second post, so many people replied...will reply to your posts after supper!

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Ami - I had not thought of the JYB. I have tried to see if there's some information online about classes, but none so far. The problem is, I suspect they are based on the other side of the city, like the SABT, which makes it pretty much impossible to get to during peak traffic...plus, I have to work too...so not sure about hours...

But the JYB is for aspiring professionals, so...I don't have any professional aspirations...not sure I'd fit in (even if it were just classes) plus I'm much older too. Thanks for the suggestion though, I will investigate it.


Claude - Unfortunately, it is impossible to make the classes 90 minutes long if my teacher is to get any time to spend with her daughter...she needs family time too, and as it is, she is teaching till 7:30pm everyday. Also, the studio is right next to her house, so even if I were to have lessons with another teacher, it could disturb her privacy, so I need to be careful.


Dancepig - I've found a couple of DVDs that look like a good idea, but most of them need to be imported and are expensive, so I need to carefully look through my finances first...

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I vote for this one, as long as your fiancé doesn't mind! :)


4.) Find a very rich husband...
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