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Ballet Talk for Dancers

So here's the September grouch couch


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I don't often complain, but her's my September, back to school grouch-- well it's a rant, really!


At the moment I am really angry and also upset. One of the studios where I do lovely classes has just been in contact with me to tell me that they do not welcome people doing two ballet classes per week, at different levels. The new term starts tonight, so I've had no warning, and I've already sent my class fees for the whole term!


The new programme has cut back ballet classes from 4 per week to 3. The one they've missed out was known as "Improvers Plus." In a level system which goes Beginners, Improvers, Improvers Plus, and Advanced. I used to do Improvers and Improvers Plus regularly, and when I was fit enough, Advanced.


So OK ... there are still two classes I can do -- the Improvers where I am comfortable, with a bit of a challenge (depending on the teacher), and -- on a good day, when I'm fit and the wind's in the right direction :unsure: -- I can usually manage the Advanced, or at least the barre. Although it's not a pretty sight ... but it's a challenge and a great learning opportunity.


But the new policy is that because apparently they've had "feedback" from people who feel intimidated by more advanced dancers in lower level classes (they obviously haven't watched me in either class!). I purposely don't go to the Beginners class because it is absolutely a never-put-on-a-ballet-shoe beginners class & I don't think it's fair I do that class. The teacher suggested it was better I didn't.


Neverytheless, I have been told that they are asking people who have registered for the same dance style at 2 different levels to choose one class or the other. They also told me that if I register for the Advanced class, I may be turned away from the Improvers class, or vice versa.


I am really angry about this, and also completely gobsmacked as it seems so stupid as a policy. Even at a recreational level, how can doing just one ballet class a week at an Advanced level really be Advanced? How do they expct people to keep up their fitness level and their technique with 90 minutes per week? And how can they expect people to advance on just one class a week?


I was told I had to choose: but even explaining that while I was OK at Improvers, I used the Advanced class to challenge me, I was still told that I had to choose. It's something we often talk about here: getting enough classes to progress.


I am now going to write to the 'Senior Management Team' (who all did train as dancers apparently, although they must have forgotten some of the basics) -- can you all help me with arguments about why this is both an unsafe and an unfair policy?


I know we've often talked here about the "psyching out" that we've all felt in the presence of more accomplished dancers -- pandering to this seems to be behind this new policy (which is nowhere in their printed brochure). I've done class over this summer with some amazing 15 year old bunheads, and I know how easy it is to feel fat, old, hopeless in the face of such artistry & beauty -- but -- I deal with it by remembering I'm a grown up and getting over it. Those of you who have felt this same and find it difficult, perhaps you could give me another insight? If a fair-to-middling but in no way fantastic adult dancer is in your class, do you feel intimidated? What could I say to the senior management about that?


I'm really pretty angry about this as an important form of recreation, art, and community seems to have been taken from me, and for reasons which appear to me tpo work against the very goals the organisation which runs this studio publishes as their "Mission Statement" (and for which they get a chunk of public funding!)


Thanks for the chance to vent! I'm not even sure I'm going to go to class at all now, I'm so upset about this. We used to have good opportunities for adult dancers in my city ...

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  • Redbookish


  • jimpickles


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  • Serendipity


I think you have a right to be upset.

In my own studio, I take classes from the elementary, intermediate, and int/adv classes. And when I'm feeling way out of shape, I think beginning ballet as well to help me remember the basics. How is it a bad thing to want to be able to practice the basics? How many times do we hear that a good plie and a good tendu is the hardest thing to do in ballet?


Maybe you can tell them that when you're taking the lower level class, you're willing to just stay in the back, and be quiet/invisible. But even that sounds silly.


I think the argument that you need more ballet classes to be able to maintain is a good one.


Also, instead of feeling bad when they see better dancers, they should feel inspired.

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Redbookish, apparently, your school doesn't realize that they will loose money if they stick to their policy! I hope you can sort it out and come to an agreement.

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I've had that happen but only in some of the classes I took in England and, there, had been asked to leave because of this issue . Trouble is, in my experience, that teachers will unconsciously pitch to the higher levels, and those at the lower ones tend to drop out if it gets too frustrating. They don't mean to, but that's the way it is. I have found that the pitch changes here, too, although I've not been asked to leave due to that. I voluntarily left one, early last year, because the work the teacher was setting was way too hard for the other adults, and I knew it was because I was in there. Teachers assume we'll be bored if we don't get challenging material, but I take lower level class to work on alignment and feet or whatnot, instead of concentrating on a combination.

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THanks for the sympathy! I should point out, the policy is not against me personally (although it feels like that to me at the moment! :wink: ) but a general blanket policy: People may not enrol for two different levels of the same dance style.


It's bonkers!

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I wouldn't have expected that it would be only for you. As the only adult of any experience at my school, though, I have the unique position of seeing the effect on the other students. Fortunately, we don't have those issues this year, so far, but if a new adult enters my teen/adult classes, I will switch out to another studio for those nights. I don't want the other adults to leave because they are frustrated.

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Serendipity: I think if they can't handle having you in their classes, then they probably can't handle being an adult ballet dancer.


There's so many things to overcome in being an adult ballet dancer: people looking at you funny, people wondering why old people would want to prance around in tights and a leo, and thinking if you're living in a ballet fantasy world.


It's really not an art form for the weak and those who need to be coddled, whether you're an adult or not.


I admire you for being so nice about it, but I wouldn't make those concessions myself.

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Redbookish - I don't blame you at all for being upset! If that is the reason they state for not allowing anyone to take more than one level, then why wouldn't they let you take the advanced class?!


Like Ripresa and Serendipity I take different levels of classes. I'd say my "normal" level would be between beg and beg/int (we have intro, beginning, beg/int, and intermediate) but I take a beginning and a beg/int class, as well as an intro class. The teacher of the intro class made it clear to everyone in the first class that this was for people with no experience but that others would be welcome as long as they understood this. This is my fourth year with her (I've taken other levels with her) and I made it a point to talk to her about wanting to work on the basics and to please pick on me. :wink:

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Well, having been in a low intermediate class that was invaded by the "best students in the school" (It was suggested that they come to our class if they needed more practice time.) I found it very intimidating. The level of difficulty went up considerable because these students were present. I no longer take class there.


On the other side of the coin

It sound like you use good judgment in taking the advance class. No problem there.


You must choose

I think you have answered your own question. No, one class a week isn't enough to improve much less stay in the same place.


You are an adult student

My sympathies. I am growing up too. Ballet isn't set up to really teach adults in many studios. Finding an adult class that isn't advanced or beginning is quite difficult and not necessary geared to nurturing you along. There are of course some place that do.


I do think you have the right to challenge the policy. Seeing that this seem to be a new rule and it isn't written anywhere. Do you want to make waves? I think it may be easier to just go to the advanced instructors and see if it's going to be a problem, assuming they know you. Circumvent the "rule" so to speak. You might try to find out why this new policy was put into place.


Studio situation

I don't know what you situation is or whether you can go to another studio. Possible Option? Yes it's nice to only have to go to one location.


Good luck and it may not be as bad as it seems.

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Serendipity: I think if they can't handle having you in their classes, then they probably can't handle being an adult ballet dancer.


There's so many things to overcome in being an adult ballet dancer: people looking at you funny, people wondering why old people would want to prance around in tights and a leo, and thinking if you're living in a ballet fantasy world.


It's really not an art form for the weak and those who need to be coddled, whether you're an adult or not.


I admire you for being so nice about it, but I wouldn't make those concessions myself.


That's really sweet, but I'm not doing it for myself. If a teacher sees someone more advanced, then often they will try to either pitch barre and center for that person or pitch to the middle, which may not be good for adults who are only just beginning. It hurts me to see beginners given a short shrift in proper training - like working on placement, rolling in, etc. I'm very aware of how much an adult can take, especially in the beginning, because of the injuries I've sustained over the years and hate seeing what I would call, for beginners, "poor teaching." It's not really poor teaching, but not appropriate for beginners. It's not the other adults that are the issue but the way the teacher would teach.


I've been in the situation myself. I was in an adult class with a teacher in the UK. It was originally a beginner class, then I joined. She upped the level and the other adults dropped out (or most of them did). Then two young ladies came over to stay with her, who trained during the year at the Paris Opera ballet (she was a former teacher from P.O.). The level was raised to the point where I couldn't cope and *I* dropped out of that class. So having been IN the position of these adults, I don't want them to experience that level of frustration. They need a class more for them. I don't want to be the one to cause them to leave because the level of work is set too high. I'm there for myself, to work on things that I need to - the same things these adults need.


I hope that makes things a bit more clear! :wink:

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Redbookish, that's really terrible. I can't believe a studio would force adults to choose levels at the risk of losing students (and money). I hope you're able to fight it or have another reputable place to take classes.


I don't want to take away from Red's situation, but I wasn't sure if this was the open grouch couch. If it's not, feel free to make this a new topic. Today was a really upsetting day for me. One of my college mentors (non-dance mentor) who had been working at the school for almost 25 years was fired for no reason. He was told it was due to budget issues, but I think it's because the college president is a moron with no understanding of higher education. This was done less than two weeks after my father (his friend and former boss) retired. Not a coincidence.


After I got that news, I went to a memorial service for Richard Cook. Richard was a former dancer with San Francisco Ballet (among other companies) and taught for years at CPYB, Julliard, and SUNY Purchase. I never had the opportunity to take class with him, but know he was a wonderful teacher, colleague, and friend. The memorial was really touching - Ashley Bouder and Jared Angle performed the Emeralds Pas and Abi and Jonathan Stafford performed the Raymonda Pas. All were former students of his. There were several pieces danced by current Purchase students and recent alumni as well. His passing is a loss for the dance world. :D

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Well, I'll add my 2c also - that I think what's happened in Redbookish's school is crazy.


I LOVE having the more advanced dancers in any class I go to - because I find that they are inspirational and that somehow their body language and style rubs off on me* (the only thing I dont like is if I'm following them and they put in extra fancy bits - but then, I SHOULD remember sequences on my own anyway).


(*mirror neurones again - the brain is practicing, even if the body is not).


I know many teachers adjust the level of the class to the general standard of the students - BUT it seem to me, that they should be aware of this issue and keep it under control (depending on school policy). I.e. if there is a policy that a class is at level X, it stays at level X even if more advanced dancers join.


So my next point is: I wonder if it comes basically from insecurity on the part of the teachers. I know (from personal experience, I'm afraid) that an inexpert or an insecure teacher feels they have to do a "good job" and that means driving the students hard with too much material. I wonder if that's why they raise the level when there are more experienced students there. On the other hand, an experienced and confident teacher knows that what they are doing is coming across at the level that is appropriate, and that they dont have to "prove" themselves to the students.



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Thanks everybody, and I've calmed down a bit, but am actually quite upset about this (trying to work out why I feel so upset as well as annoyed!). I spoke -- quite <ahem> forcefully -- to the dance class co-ordinator last night before doing class, and I've sent an e-mail to the senior management team of the centre protesting. And I'm not the only one affected. There were several people vocally protesting & complaining last night.


The justifications they keep giving just don't sound genuine and the thinking is absolutely bizarre. I suppose it's the illogicality of the policy that really perplexes me: I was told last night that the feedback they'd had was that [unspecified] people felt so negatively about being 'intimidated' by more advanced dancers in classes that they'd left never to return, and that class numbers had dropped.


So they implement a policy which reduces attendance even further? I don't get it :D:blink:


Thing is, it's a community studio with all kinds of dance, so we don't even know which dance discipline this feedback concerned.


But it's basic management stuff: unless you survey all your participants, with open-ended questions about the levels offered etc, the comments you'll get will tend to come only from those with a complaint. I'm not likely to fill out a comments card each week, saying how lovely the class was and how much I enjoyed dancing with the professional dancers who sometimes drop in and how much I learn from them, am I? Maybe I should: an e-mail each week to say how much I appreciate dancing with far better dancers than me!


Grrr -- sorry to go on ... in the scheme of things eg Reebs' college mentor losing his job, it's trivial, but upsetting.

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I totally agree that it seems a most peculiar and shortsighted approach. I take many different classes, and in most of them I am one of the more experienced dancers. But like Jim, I love dancing with others who are better than me - not only are they just so lovely to watch (and I sneakily try not to get in the same group as them so I can watch them), but I learn so much from how they approach their dancing. I pick up tips on using my head and arms, and their beautiful posture keeps reminding me of what I should be doing in terms of pulling up, actively rotating, stretching feet and neck etc etc.


Doing a lower level class enables me to work on turnout and alignment and so on, and some of the less experienced dancers have often commented that they enjoy having someone to "lead" them in enchainements so they don't get completely lost. Usually, the four or five more experienced dancers will split themselves up into groups with less experienced ones to try and help them (subtlely, of course).


And it's no wonder you feel upset, Redbookish, if your opportunities for class are being cut by 50% - I would be upset too!


Would it be worth getting class members to put together a petition asking for the change of policy to be revewed?

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Redbookish, there seem to be two seperate issues here.


The first is the fact that they've cancelled the class that is at your actual level - the other is that you are not being allowed to attend at two levels "either side" of that.


If they hadn't cancelled your level, I think I would be more sympathetic to their point of view - maybe they could allow you to take classes at the upper two levels, dropping the lowest as this seems to be where people are being "intimidated".


But they have - so what are you supposed to do? The Advanced level on it's own won't allow you to focus on your technique - but the Improver level on its own won't challenge you enough.


I think you should focus your objections more on this aspect & try to get them to reinstate the Improver Plus class. I don't see a problem (following their reasoning) with you attending this & the Advanced, but dropping the Improver.



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