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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Early ballet memories

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Do you remember your first ever ballet class?


I don't think I do, but I do remember a pre-class meeting with my soon-to-be teacher. She looked at my feet and sort of groaned a bit and rummaged in a green painted cupboard for an old pair of shoes I could wear to my first class. I was terrified and she....well, she was very terrifying!


And what about 'rights of passage' at your first school.......


These are what I remember:


Wearing the regulation green leotard instead of a home made green tunic which had to be worn for the first couple of grades


Wearing seamed pink tights instead of ankle socks


Being allowed to wear leg warmers


Being allowed on the second barre at the back of the studio which was where the more senior dancers did their barrework


Being chosen to water the floor with a watering can and not being told off for doing it wrong!


And finally and possibly my favourite - being allowed to carry the pianist's cup of tea, in it's bone china cup and saucer, from the studio office to her place at the piano.


Our pianist wore full length gowns, often with a small integral train, to all classes, with six inch heels and her hair piled into a '60s beehive. She also used a very long cigarette holder. She was a really fabulous pianist and a lovely lady and I remember her very fondly.

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Merry, it sounds like you've had some interesting experiences - love the story about the pianist!


My memories?


I remember begging my mum to let me take ballet classes (they must have been pre-ballet). I was 3 and my mum wanted me to wait until I was 5, but I persuaded her to let me start classes at 3. It's weird, it's one of my earliest memories. Apparently I used to stand with my face against the window to watch the ballet girls before I was allowed to start classes, but I don't remember doing that.


I remember when I was 4 I had to change for ballet on my own at nursery school and I couldn't remember whether my tights went over or under my leotard :P . My teacher had to help me.


I remember that I fell asleep on stage when I was 5 :) ...I was a flower and we had to sit behind these netted "petals" on the stage for quite a while and I was so tired...fortunately I was at the edge of the stage so my teacher could wake me up before I had to go and dance.


I remember when I was allowed to start taking "real" ballet classes and what a privilege it was to be asked to attend those classes (at least in my mind :wink: ).


I remember being 6 or 7 and having lost all four of my top front teeth and my ballet teacher told me I had to smile in my ballet exam but I was too embarrassed to smile because I was missing so many teeth at once! Our ballet teacher used to give us a small box of chocolate drops if we smiled in our exams...when she stopped going in to exams with us when we were older she just had to guess if we had smiled or not :D


I remember when I got to get a navy leotard instead of a pink one...it meant I was a "big girl" now.


I remember cutting my hair short and how much my ballet teachers hated that...and the pain of trying to get my short hair into a french plait for my modern dancing exam.


I remember all the national and medal dances we did. Those were fun.


I remember my ballet teacher allowing me to try on some pointe shoes and walk a few steps in them, just for fun and to know what it was like, when I was 10 (I didn't go en pointe then though).


I remember going in for my Grade 5 exam and being nervous in a ballet exam for the first time. It was a strange feeling.

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One of my earliest memories is of being about 3, and having a complete and utter tantrum and refusing to join in with the ballet class. Why? I had a hole in my tights :).


Also, I remember for one of my exams we did the Dolly Dance/Teddy Bear Dance (does anybody else remember that?), and we got to the exam centre only to discover that I'd left my teddy bear behind. Trauma! My father leapt in the car and drove madly round Dusseldorf to find me another one. Oh, and that same exam I put my leotard on back to front and somebody very briskly stripped me down (I was only about 5) and put it on the other way round, and some older girls saw: so much trauma ;).

Edited by Ella77
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I did not dance as a child, but these stories are fantastic.


Incidentally the dolly dance/teddy bear dance is still around.


I loved the temper tantrum about the hole in the tights :)

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I remember liking the accoutrements more than the classes--my ballet bag (those pink rectangular ones with the compartment for the slippers) and a wheelie thing I had with the 5 positions on it--I thought that was fascinating. I was 3 or 4. And I remember, very clearly, hanging off the bar!


In the year-end performance, I was a skunk. My older brother still brings it up every year when Nutcracker is cast--wondering if they need any skunks.


And yes, I do still have the professional photo of my 4-year-old self in the skunk costume.

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When I was three and taking pre-ballet there was a boy in our class, I remember his name and the fact that he wore yellow shorts with red and blue balloons on them. Must have made a huge impression on me! I had a pink leotard and I loved it.


I quit pre-ballet because my dad was late picking me up one day. I remember how terrible it was to wait there alone with the teacher. My mom was so mad at him for ruining my passion for dance. Gladly I returned a couple of years later.


It was great to become one of the "older girls". I was about 10 or 11 and felt really important and professional. There were only five levels in the school back then and I was on the third. We were allowed to wear bright orange leotards (Yuck! But it felt like the best colour in the world after the pink ones!) and white chiffon skirts and that was so great. We got our first pointe shoes that same year. I remember my first fitting, it was really exciting. I loved those shiny pink shoes, I put them on every night and just sat on the floor staring at my feet.


I was horrible at making buns. I had the longest hair and it was always slipping through my fingers. Finally I got it and was very proud of myself.


Our teacher wanted to film a video to advertise the studio and our class was picked for ballet. I remember watching that video over and over. It was so cool to "be on TV"! The downside was I was on TV wearing that horrible orange leotard! :rolleyes:

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What great stories - thanks everyone - they are lovely to read!


I have been thinking about my first teacher, Madame. As I've already said, she was quite scary and I was very shy. We generally used to hope the second teacher, Miss G, would take us as she was very sweet and we enjoyed ourselves more. The worst though, was when they both decided to teach together. Madame would get very cross if anyone asked her a question, though usually her problem was with the student's grammar rather than what he/she had asked, so Madame would go off on a tangent about 'education these days' and we would all wait patiently for her to get back to the subject of dance. This sometimes took ages and was far worse when she had the other teacher to agree with her, though I think Miss G only did so grudgingly and in the hope of getting on with the class eventually. I didn't matter to Madame if we finished 30 or 45 minutes late and she was quite oblivious to any anxious looking parent waiting to take their DD home and wondering exactly when they might be able to do that!!


When we were at the barre Madame would move her chair up near us and poke anything that wasn't right with her walking cane!! If you got through a whole barre without being poked you knew you were having a really good day!! Sometimes she would comment on the dancers to either Miss G, or to the pianist, in no uncertain terms and we would have to pretend we hadn't heard. Luckily Madame didn't think I was 'too bad' (a real compilment!?) and so I didn't suffer too much. However, I still remember arriving at the studio and straining my ears to hear if Madame was in the office (her loud smokers cough was what gave her away - another one with a long cigarette holder!) and we would all start panicking in case we couldn't remember something we had learned at the previous class!


Having said all that, Madame really did know her stuff and was very good at passing on her knowledge once she had dealt with any grammar issues! She was particularly hot on arm positions (thankyou Madame!) and the cane came in useful again. I remember she had a personal hatred of an open 5th position of arms and wouldn't allow us to make this pose under any circumstances! I was surprised therefore to find this was the very arm position used in the only dancing picture I have of her, taken in 1929.

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I wish my memory wasn't so awful, most of what I can recall is from age 9+ or so. I recall the pain of having my hair pulled back so tightly, the Aqua Net hairspray lacquered on for performances, the fear of getting lost backstage or having to cross in the dark behind the back curtain.

Vague memories of a treat of ribbon candy after class in Christmas time, the teacher with a beautiful accent that the girls tried to copy, her giant dog occasionally romping around the studio.

Good stuff :rolleyes:

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Ah, I remember my first ballet class as if it were yesterday. Oh, wait, it was only six months ago! Maybe it's a good thing after all that I didn't start as a child, so I didn't have to deal with bright orange leotards (with pink pointe shoes) or being poked with canes.


What I do remember is seeing my first ballet as a child -- Nutcracker, of course -- and being surprised and disappointed to hear the thudding of shoes on the stage. I also remember developing a love for ballet as a pre-teen, and trying out some moves I learned from books. I don't know how my form was at the time, but at least the positions and certain rules -- pull yourself up! don't sit in your plie! -- stuck with me all my life. I think it helped a bit when I did finally start classes at the age of 44.

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I believe this memory is from my first recital at age 3. We "danced" to a song I still call "The Positions Song." No idea on the actual name. It went something like this "This is position number 1, heels together, arms like a sun. Now we do, position 2, feet are apart, arms are too." Of course, those words might not be accurate. That was over 40 yrs ago!


I remember being jealous of the girls who danced with the dolls! They were big girls.. probably 5 or 6 yrs old!

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Early memories: Black ballet slippers and black short sleeved leotard, no tights, socks. I recall being taught to spot by sitting on the floor and spinning on my bottom. I had the hardcase ballet bag - black, I think. I've seen those are still around! LOL!


My mother took me out of the school after the ballet teacher told her I had two left feet. I was 3 at the time. When I was twelve I re-started ballet and moved very quickly up the ranks. My mother wanted to take me BACK to the original school to show the lady how wrong she was.


I still have my first ballet slippers on a ribbon with my first pointe shoes.

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Oh, and at my childhood studio, the teacher had a little dog called "Nuisance" because he sometimes made a nuisance of himself in classes!


JLNH - My brother would also have teased me if I'd been a skunk! At least you got to dance!


Merry - Our teacher has a plastic fairy wand that she sometimes uses to prod bits that aren't working properly or doing their job!

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I still have my ballet bag I used all through childhood and the last pair of pointe shoes I used back then, they were still in said bag.. just a cheapo nylon pink duffel bag, one zipper, silhouettes of a ballet dancer stamped on it. I stopped (13) before I was old enough to be embarrassed by carrying it around. :(

Also inside was a rather delicate Japanese style fan that I remember being completely enchanted by, I have no recollection though when I used it, presumably a performance of some kind!


Oh and something I don't recall but my mom told me recently, apparently everyone was afraid to physically correct me because they were worried they'd pull my hips out of joint. Being how loose I am now, I can't even imagine how looseygoosey I was back then!

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I only remember the name of my pre-ballet teacher and that she had dark hair.


Of my ballet teacher, the same through all the years, that she was sooo beautiful! She had long blonde hair, and what I especially remember was how pretty she could hold/carry her hands. I tried to but it just didn't work. Now after re-starting I still try do do my hands that way, but now I can do it!


We (me and my sister, she's one year younger) were always late in class - a bit of a problem my dad still has, he never gets anywhere in time! The teacher was very cross with us for that, and I understand that, but we couldn't really help it.


I don't actually remember us doing barre or real center work. I do remember lots and lots and LOTS of stretching! (It did pay off though, by the way she is also the teacher of the youngest pupils at the only real pre-professional school in the country now, and I think back then as well)


And the recital dances! In one we had to dance with a clock, and it had a lot of pliés. In another one I got to wear a purple tutu! I was so happy, the grade above us got to wear them the year before we did, and ever since I saw them I hoped I could wear one!


I still have the videos, but I don't really like to watch them.. :(




Oh, and the worst one. At the end of every year there was a half class for the parents to watch, and after that we would get a certificate of some sorts. One time I forgot to go to the bathroom before class and I asked if I could go before getting my certificate, but the teacher told me I had to wait. Well, it was more urgent than she thought, because the worst happened, in front of all of the parents! :(

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