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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Bourree - how to speed it up


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I've been searching this board, youtube and finis jhung and I haven't found any good videos or written explanation about what my DD has to move or think about to get going across the floor. Her legs are straight and she's moving but she's as slow as molasses and stiff. Any suggestions or links?


(I really hope I posted this correctly. How many errors can I make before I'm sent to the bench?)

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Curandera, I really think that the teaching needs to be left to the teachers! If your DD is having a problem with a step, then she needs to ask for her teacher's help. :sweating:

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Hmm, interesting comment Victoria. Is this the consensus of other parents on this forum? Do any other parents try to supplement their DD's classes by what they have learned from the internet or other sources?


I have started to read extensively on the topic of ballet. I really enjoy "Dance Imagery for Technique and Performance" by Eric Franklin and the Finis Jhung DVDs. My 13 year old DD takes classes at her home town studio and big city studio and still seems to benefit from the small nuts of information I gather from my research.


We think her dance teachers are great but they can't possibly cover everything. They correct some problems but of course there are always more things to correct. I enjoy sharing this process of learning with my DD. She appreciates it and the teachers have seen improvement.


I don't see this any different from going over her math homework with her at home after the teachers have explained something. Sometimes adding another layer of explanation or watching her work the problem and tweaking can get her over a bump in understanding.

Edited by Curandera
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I'm not speaking for other parents.


It is highly admirable that you are studying CD's and reading ballet books, and that you show such a great interest in learning about your daughter's chosen art form. However, teachers do not like interference from parents, and certainly not parents who are not former dancers and teachers themselves. It is HER chosen art form, and I strongly advise that you support her, cheer her on, let her discuss her feelings about it, enjoy her performances, etc., but do not try to teach her ballet. In the end, I think you will find that this is best for both of you. :blushing:

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As a parent of a dd who just turned 14, I leave the dance instruction up to her instructors. I don't have a dance background and I see the tension formed between teachers and overly involved parents. That is not to say that I am not informed, but I don't interfere where I am not needed. If I happen to read something on the forum here that may apply to my dd, I ask her about it. Her reply is usually, "Mom, you're not my teacher." :blushing: She is at a good quality pre-pro school and I have to trust them and let go.


The value of this forum for me is in pointe shoe information, injury support or information, and minor treatments for things like blisters or corns. I don't talk about my dd to any one at our studio beyond chit chat, so this is also a nice place for me to vent or ramble. But, No, I don't come here looking for teaching advice.

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I try to leave the dancing suggestions up to my dd's teacher. I would reinforce comments, advice, correction given by the teacher as appropriate - but I have not tried to do things at home the way you are suggesting.


By way of parallel, I think of my nephew who is quite an accomplished hockey player (he is 16). When we've talked with his parents about giving advice and so forth, his dad says that "my son knows how to play hockey - I don't get involved." What they DO do as a family is pay close attention to nutrition and strength training, but again all this would be with the advice of coaches. I imagine when he was little the parents might have helped with something such as learning to skate, but the mom was a competitive skater so she would have had much more knowledge and expertise about skating than I do about ballet.


It has not been my experience that ballet teachers either expected or desired parents to be assisting at home by way of practice. Using the homework parallel, there isn't an expectation of ballet homework (in my experience) beyond stretching, reading about ballet and going to performances and watching videos of performances. The practice of new skills learned is done in the ballet class itself, so that the teacher can carefully monitor.



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Well I seem to be in the minority on this. I do want to give a specific example though.


My DD had been struggling with her pirouettes. (Like who hasn't right?)


Anyway, in the Imagery book I read, it had a great discussion with great illustrations about LOG (line of gravity). As a suggestion, it said that for many good turners "it is easier to keep the arms close to the spine ... in a low ... position" while in the turn. She did started doing this and it helped.


In a Finis Jhung DVD on pirouettes, the dancer we watched rotated her shoulders slightly back to the left on a right pirouette and this also helped her turns tremendously.


She is now in the top group of turners in her studio.


Like I said, her teachers are great. And they give her some excellent instruction. But these 2 tiny little nuggets of information, have helped.


Both her home town teacher and big city teacher have complimented her on improvement.


Whatever criticisms she receives in class, I research and provide her with these little nuggets. They have helped.


I never, ever say anything at the studio to her teachers. I would never interfere like that. But that doesn't mean I have to sit on my hands while there is so much information out there that can help.

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I would echo that, as a parent, it is inappropriate for us to try to teach, instruct, correct, or direct our DKs' ballet training. First because their training needs to be something they undertake for themselves and own for themselves. If a dancer doesn't own her/his art, they will constantly be seeking outside approval and will constantly be unhappy or dependent on others for satisfaction. Not a good thing for a dancer. Secondly, if we as parents become so involved in our DKs' training, it makes it much harder for the DKs to honor their wishes to 'walk away' at some point if that's where their journey takes them. It is not unusual for a child to reach the point where they have explored ballet as much as they liked and wish to drop it and explore something else. If a parent is too invested in the training, it makes the child worry about disappointing the parent and the decision/change is all that more traumatic.


Actually, I don't think trying to help with dance training is comparable to helping with math homework. Math is largely an objective undertaking once you know the formulas and rules. Ballet is an objective undertaking only in the broad strokes of the exercise or skill. We, as parents trained or untrained in dance, can easily see these broad strokes, but what we can't see are all the subtle nuances that go into making those broad strokes. At any given time, those exercises and skills rely on the coalescence of various elements such as muscle memory, muscle development, muscle maturity, mental and emotion maturity and development, physical limitations, flexibility, and probably a host of other subjective elements that I can't begin to name. The teachers, based upon experience and training, recognize these subtle and nuanced elements, can evaluate the presence/absence of them at any given time, the combination present, the progression in how to coax them to coalesce properly, etc. We parents simply don't have that skill/knowledge and we won't find it in book or video research.


This is actually much more akin to an athletic coaching relationship. A good parent knows that a good athletic coach will not invite nor tolerate parental 'help-- read 'interference' by the coach--with the coaching of an athlete. A good coach knows his/her athlete and has a 'master plan' for coaxing the best athletic performance and skill levels out of his/her athlete at the appropriate time on an individual basis. Sometimes that master plan allows the athlete to move forward faster than others, sometimes it requires that the athlete slow down, re-build, re-fine, or even re-learn fundamental skills in order to progress further. But we as parents don't (or shouldn't) try to interfere with that master plan by imposing our own thoughts or researched coaching techniques on the athlete/coach relationship. That's usually the quickest way to get the athlete 'fired' by the coach.


Same as with ballet teachers, we must trust that they are doing what they believe is the best and appropriate 'master plan' for our child within the syllabus/curricula that is offered at the DK's school or training center. If we as parents are unhappy with the results, then it would be appropriate (as with an athletic coach) to find another training opportunity. It is not appropriate to insert ourselves into the actual training.


I DO think as parents that it is appropriate to learn about ballet training in order to keep an oversight on the overall training so as to know whether something dangerous, inadequate, or unorthodox is going on. I also do think it is appropriate to have discussions with the AD and teachers about their overall philosophy, teaching philosophy, goals and intents for the syllabus/curricula levels, my child's progress, etc. for the purpose of learning more and understanding more about ballet training----but NEVER as a means to participate in the training.

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Curandera, the parents are all so right here. I'm sorry, but what you are doing is just not a good idea. In addition to all the reasons already listed, here is another. There are things that might "work" at the moment, however, if that is not the way it is being taught at her school, by her teachers, it could also make things worse. Not all things that you read or see on videos will be the same method being taught by her school.


For instance, I do not feel that the low and closer arms are good, unless of course she was taking them higher than the position that was taught and further away from her body than necessary. I teach them in a classic first (5th en avant) position, which is rounded but not bent into an angle at the elbows, which happens if you pull them in too far. I do not like anything lower, nor do I feel that it works well. So, if a student came in doing that, and it's not the way they have been taught, I would seriously question it. There are many ways to improve pirouettes, and a whole lot of ingredients in that pie, and only a trained eye will know what is going wrong with a students technique when they are off.

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I do empathize with you; it is so hard to not jump in and try to fix things for our kids. However, I also agree with the others. If my dd wanted extra dance help/improvement, I would ask her to discuss it with her teachers and do some research on her own. The motivation and legwork (no pun intended) need to come from her. Just as if my dd wanted to improve her grade in science, I would advise her to discuss it with her science teacher and do additional research in topics/areas being studied. I wouldn't do the research for her or call her science teacher.

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Dancemaven wrote: "First because their training needs to be something they undertake for themselves and own for themselves. If a dancer doesn't own her/his art, they will constantly be seeking outside approval and will constantly be unhappy or dependent on others for satisfaction. Not a good thing for a dancer. Secondly, if we as parents become so involved in our DKs' training, it makes it much harder for the DKs to honor their wishes to 'walk away' at some point if that's where their journey takes them. It is not unusual for a child to reach the point where they have explored ballet as much as they liked and wish to drop it and explore something else. If a parent is too invested in the training, it makes the child worry about disappointing the parent and the decision/change is all that more traumatic."


Funnily enough, my DD and I have discussed this. Right now, at 13, she is intent on becoming a professional dancer. So we are working together researching what exactly that requires her to do now at 13 to accomplish that goal. Together, we have researched college dance requirements. We have watched some excellent interviews with professional dancers that the Finis Jhung DVDs have in most of their DVDs that ask what path these dancers took.


When I am doing my research to help my DD with some technique I always show her the search words I used and she assists. When I learn something from a book, she reads the passage from the book with me and we discuss it.


In other words she is learning research skills and problem solving so I am helping her to discover "how to" "own her art."


I specifically told her that if this is her goal, dancers must start young and must follow, more or less, these steps.


But I have also emphasized that if she changes her mind at any time, it has not been a wasted effort. Ballet teaches her so much about her body, discipline and focus. That is never a waste. I will not be disappointed. It is her life and she must find what makes her happy.


But if this is her goal, she should do everything she can to achieve it and I am showing her how.


We have discovered Merce Cunningham, William Forsyth (lectures no less) on youtube together. Her current dance teachers won't nor should they show her that now. But my DD has appreciated this time together and has learned how to understand some modern dance steps better because of it.


Just another thought on this topic. We have also discussed what to do if she tries something we tried at home and the teacher says "no, that's not right." My DD knows to say, "yes, mam" and do it the way her teacher wants her to do something. She knows that there are hundreds of ways that any given dance teacher wants her to do a tendu. The right way is to do it the way that specific teacher on that specific day wants her to do it. That this develops her memory and prepares her for the myriad of choreographers in her future.


She knows this is a sign of respect for the teacher.

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We have a dancer at our studio whose mother used to dance professionally. She teaches her dd at home but in a different style. The student often gets a muscle memory response to a certain way of wrapping the foot, for example, that is contradictory to what the instructor would like and it becomes something she has to unlearn. I imagine it is very frustrating. (We don't do low arms, either.)


I am happy to remain a well-informed parent who retains a respectful distance. It may be that different studios have a different atmosphere as well.

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This has turned into a really fascinating discussion, but all I really wanted to know what is entailed in a proper "pas de bourree couru."


I finally found this, "Step 1
Begin in fifth position. Feet are crossed one in front of the other and turned out.

. Step 2
Releve--stand on your toes--in fifth position with your legs together and arms rounded in front at first position.

. Step 3
Slightly bend your working leg (the front leg) at the knee and take a small step forward. The back leg will follow and slide in behind the front leg back into fifth position in releve.

. Step 4
Continue to step forward with your working leg and follow with the back leg across the floor to your destination. Bourree on pointe or releve throughout the entire movement and come down when you're finished traveling.

. Step 5
Switch the front working leg to whatever direction you're going. If you're traveling backwards, the back leg is the working leg and the front leg will follow.

. Step 6
Travel to the side with the working leg the direction you're going in. If you're traveling left, take small side steps with your left leg in front and the right leg following, tucking back behind the left leg in fifth position." on the internet.


I also found an absolutely beautiful example of this on youtube her



I honestly can't see how reading this explanation with my DD and showing her the video is such a terrible idea.


I have yet to review this information with her. But I think she is under the belief that she has to keep both legs perfectly straight at all times. The above explanation shows the the front leg bends slightly and that seems to be the case in the youtube example. I believe this will help her move faster. She will try it, see if it helps and see if her teacher agrees.

Edited by Curandera
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Helping her learn how to research (and enjoying your time together) is wonderful and productive. However, what she discovers in that research---particularly concerning steps, disciplines, styles, etc---should really be discussed with her teachers. That would go a long way to help her learn how to talk with teachers, create and develop mentors, develop her own thoughts and evaluative skills when it comes to dissecting and building technique. I'm sure it is fun and bonding to have these discussions with your DD. That's wonderful----but ultimately, skills, technique nuances, and learning steps from other disciplines need to come only from her teachers and not at home on her own or with you.


My DD started dance at age 3 (and yes, I know that real training doesn't start until age 7 or 8) and has never missed a summer session since then. She is now a rising junior in a contemporary ballet BFA program. I say that only so as to say that my perception of this situation has evolved over the course of 17 years of being a parent of a serious DK, who has had the experience of a lovely home pre-pro studio, a residential ballet program, a release-time program, a post-grad training program, and a BFA ballet program. In the course of those 17 years, I have witnessed all kinds of parental involvement and the results thereof. I have taken the opportunity to 'pick the brains' of some very remarkable teachers (including Victoria Leigh, with whom my DD had the honor of training with for two summers and whom I hold in the highest regard). I certainly don't consider myself much of an expert, but I do think I've learned a lot in these past 17 years.


As Victoria stated, there are many different ways to do a particular skill---and there are an awful lot of nuances that are used to build that skill. At age 13, your DD is still have her technique imprinted into her muscle memory. Her teachers, no doubt, have a particular method that they use to imprint those foundational skills. Sometimes, small changes may improve those skills--in the short term, but if the 'adjustment' is not compatible with the ultimate technique goal (and they are built with small building blocks), later on the out-of-kilter nuance will/can bring the whole house of cards down. At that point, it may be much harder to discern just which element is the one out of place.


Sometimes, it is not even the actual nuance that causes the problem, but an interpretation--either mentally or physically---that causes it. In that instance, it can be REALLY hard to tease out the little nuance sufficiently to correct it. I can speak to this from experience. DD has always had excellent technical training. However, there have been times when she had a disconnect between what the teacher said, what she understood that to mean, and what her body understood that to mean. Early on, it would seem that the correction she actually made improved her skill and alignment, but down the road, it would be revealed that something was 'off'. One issue, in particular, became her 'signature' issue---i.e., every one of her excellent teachers would identify the issue and try and try to correct it to no avail. It literally took years before the source of the whole problem was isolated. Once isolated, she can correct it and is making significant progress, but it is a very concentrated effort to re-train that muscle memory after all those years.


Where did that disconnect arise from? A concept she thought she understood, but didn't really. At the time, she was able to mimic what she thought was appropriate, but she didn't really have the true foundation in place yet, so everything built upon that was a bit 'off'. That is why it really is important--actually imperative---that the corrections, the discussions, and building of nuanced skills come from the directions of the teacher who is very precisely building that oh-so-important foundation incrementally with very small building blocks.


It wasn't that my DD's missed teaching her something, it is more that she was good enough, strong enough, and quiet enough to mimic the broad strokes without mastering the minute foundational nuance. By discussing these building blocks and implementing them with you, rather than with her teachers, she may see some short-term improvements, but risks creating an unnoticed imbalance in that house of cards that won't show up until much later.


In a much easier to understand illustration, think of it as being similar to your DD learning to do jazz pirouettes prior to learning ballet pirouettes: the spin looks the same, the spotting looks the same, but the take-off and the impetus (not to mention the position of the legs) is a bit different. It is much easier to adapt to jazz pirouettes once a ballet pirouette is learned and mastered than it is to adapt to a ballet pirouette after first learning a jazz pirouette. That is why good ballet technique studios co-ordinate the adjunct jazz classes to track with the ballet curriculum, so that the two compliment each other rather than create muscle confusion between the two disciplines.


As far as your example regarding the youtube explanation, rather than just trying to put that 'tutorial' into practice by herself, I would recommend that she first discuss that explanation with her teacher, let her and her teacher discuss your DD's understanding regarding the always straight leg and let them evaluate together whether this is, in fact, the source of her issue with speed. You must realize that the teacher is probably quite aware of exactly what your DD is doing when she is bouree-ing. If she hasn't offered the straight leg correction, I would offer that the teacher probably has her reasons for focusing on some other correction that she feels is more fundamental at this point or that she feels your DD has her plateful with corrections already given, or that her muscle memory is not yet ready to take on this next correction. My point is that the teacher most probably has a reason for letting your DD's performance of this skill progress at its own pace. If your DD discusses it with her teacher, she will learn far more about a lot more than if her leg is being kept straight improperly.

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Laura R: Just to clarify the "low arms." The dancer doesn't start with low arms, she just lowers her arms slightly during the turn.


Victoria Leigh: Posts on this topic are just flying right into each other. As you were posting, "There are things that might "work" at the moment, however, if that is not the way it is being taught at her school, by her teachers, it could also make things worse. Not all things that you read or see on videos will be the same method being taught by her school," I was posting how both her big city and her home town teachers are very pleased with her progress and her technique. Yes, she had been holding her arms too high previously and now by lowering them a bit, she has better balance and therefore better pirouettes.


I also posted that she knows not to argue and if corrected and told she is not doing something right, she is to comply immediately with the teacher's instructions. She's had several ballet instructors and she knows never to say this ballet instructor told her to do it method A. She just needs to learn that this instructor likes method B. She wouldn't be caught dead saying, "but my Mom said..." Yikes!

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