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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Measuring progress


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I first started taking weekly ballet lessons six months ago and have really enjoyed it. I feel like I have learned a lot and improved from my first day, but I still wonder if I'm making steady progress or if I need to work harder. After six months, what would be considered a reasonable skill level for an adult beginner? What should I master before moving on to intermediate ballet classes? Being over 30, I obviously do not have professional aspirations, but I would like to eventually have a bit-part in a community production (but something that requires more skill than the parent dance in the Nutcracker). Do you think being male would make this goal easier (since there are few male dancers to compete with) or harder (perhaps community productions choose ballets with fewer supporting male roles because of the difficulty in filling them)?



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At one class a week for six months, you would still be considered at a beginner level, although not a complete novice at this point. When you feel that you can do everything in your current class with relative ease and confidence, it is probably time to move to a higher level, but ask your current instructor's opinion first.


It is possible that you may eventually be needed in a community production, particularly if you have the opportunity to learn partnering. Sometimes a role can be tailored to your abilities; it depends on what the director needs. Being a male will probably make this much easier.

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Have you spoken to your teacher about this? They would be the best ones to tell you what you need to work on and what possibilities there might be for you in the community productions (based on their experience or other students' experiences).

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I'm trying to set my expectations appropriately, so I guess what I'd really like to know is "How long does a typical adult student take before advancing to intermediate level?" (I realize that it may vary greatly for individual students depending on effort, natural ability, etc.). Also, "How many years of dance training are typically expected before one can perform a supporting role in a community ballet production?" Thanks!

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I think it varies widely from my little bit of experience. In some of my beginner classes there are quite a few who have been there for around 6 months or more and haven't moved up when they've been taking 2 classes a week. I think it all depends on the person and there natural abilities some. There are a few that stay in beginner for a few years. I know I've done almost the same number of classes probably only it is over the course of a like 3-4 weeks and sure while I'm aware of quite a few of the positions in the next step up I know that I can't do them with ease and often times I hang up somewhere. I wouldn't get discouraged as 1 day a week is really light and tough to advance on in my opinion so it would take longer. You could try a drop in class and that would give you further insight into the next level and help you to see where you need to go and how to improve. Even watching an intermediate may help a little.

Edited by silentlysailing
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It also depends on the school. At some schools there is a HUGE difference between any kind of beginner class and an intermediate class. At other schools there is not. At the studio I regularly attend for adults, there are four levels of beginner classes (not including an absolute beginner class, which would make 5).

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My sense is that there is no real standard definition of beginner, intermediate, and advanced classes. Within each of these categories, I’ve seen a huge range of experience and ability. I think there is also huge variability with respect to performance. Depending on the role one is asked to play, anyone from a beginner to a very experienced person might fill that role.


I would counsel against thinking too much about measuring progress and creating expectations, especially for adult students. I mean on what basis does one create specific expectations for a given individual? We are all individuals, progress at different rates, and have different limitations to our potential. If we set specific expectations, the likelihood is that either we set those so low that we gain a false sense of accomplishment or that we set them so high that we gain a false sense of failure. I see no merit in that process.


I think if you want to set goals and expectations, they need to be vague, thinks like making constant improvement and increasing the pleasure you gain from studying dance. Let it go at that.


With respect to levels, all I can say is that it’s good to go by whatever a level seems to be at your school. Don’t be afraid to try classes at a higher level. I think it’s only by experience that you will know if a harder class is right for you. Rather than level, I know that for many adults who the teacher is is more important than level. Nothing beats going to a really good teacher’s class, regardless of level.


Performance is something you just have to feel out. It really depends on the production, casting needs, and simply living in the right place.

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8,760 hours. :clapping: Then you'll be considered advanced.

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8,760 hours. :rolleyes: Then you'll be considered advanced.


Just really interested where you got this number from? (I know you're being a bit "tongue in cheek" but just wondering what your thoughts were behind the number - 90 minutes x 6 days x 50 weeks x years???) :D

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That would only be 19.47 years at that rate, sounds plausible :D

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See what happens when you throw numbers at an accountant?! :D

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I've seen serious estimates of 10 years or 10,000 hours, applicable both to musical instruments and to dance. Figure 4 hours/day in the studio for a pro-track dance student and it works out. :^)


I spent 9 months in the "very beginning" class before adding a "beginning/intermediate" level class. It was another two years before I abandoned the lowest level class completely, however. And I still take a ballet exercise class which is listed as beginner - and I still get useful corrections in that class. You never, ever outgrow your need to attentively practice your demi-plie, you just become more sophisticated about the various aspects of that and other exercises.


In my humble opinion, adult beginners are unlikely to find the necessary amount of complete syllabus and drilling on each exercise, so it pays to continue with classes at a lower level even when you have stepped up to a higher one. This way the missing pieces can still be picked up when they become available. In addition to the basic barre in the exercise class, I take classes at what is called "intermediate" as well as "beginning/intermediate" from several teachers, and I find them all valuable. I learn new things almost every class at every level.


My two cents.

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Ditto on everything olddude said!


I take every level offered at my studio, from intro up to intermediate (it's the highest adult level). The int class is definitely a push, I'm probably a beg/int at my studio. But I learn different "layers" of ballet in each class from just trying to "do" the combination in intermediate to trying to do the combination as perfectly (in technique and execution) as I can in the intro class.


No such thing as a too easy class in ballet (if the teaching is good).

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