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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Frustration as Adult Student in Upper Level Class


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Hello All,


I am an avid lurker and huge Ballet Talk fan. Normally I prefer to just read posts, but I'm having a bit of trouble and would like some advice. I am in a new town with very little professional ballet, and while I have plenty of teaching jobs, finding a solid ballet class to take has proved very difficult. The studio where I do take class ofers adult ballet, but it is all beginner. Most advanced adults take the highest level ballet class, with students ages 12-18. The class is good, and I leave sweating, which is the best sign. It is always taught by the same teacher (the director) and my problem is that with the rare expetion, in every class she puts us in partners. Towards the end of barre and multiple combinations in center she pairs each student with another (whoever is closest- we never pick our own partners) and has the second group "observe and explain" what they saw to the first group and vice versa. While I believe this is a helpful exercise once in a while, doing it every class is painful for me. I've fought with this emotionally for many months, and while I know this sounds ridiculous, I am just so tired of having a 14 year old correct me! I know I should be grateful and take corrections whenever I can get them, and I am by no means 'diva-ish" or ever disrespectful, but I really dread this part of class. I am there for myself, to work on myself, and while I love corrections from any teacher, I really don't like it when classmates do the same. If I happened to be paired with an older adult (I'm 24) it is not bad at all. We both "get it." But fewer and fewer adults show up anymore, and if I'm paired with someone closer to my age, it's like they're competing with me. That being said, the worst is with a 14-17 year old. They want so badly to impress, that I think they feel they "need" to give a correction or else they're not doing it right. They are always polite, and usually follow with a compliment, so I feel bad for complaining, but I'm just so tired of it. It's not just one combination per class either. It makes me not want to go, but at the same time, I am desparate for a good class! Am I being ridiculous? I know I need to just stick it out, but I'm looking for suggestions on how to do so, or how to make the teacher aware that I prefer her corrections over her students'.


Thanks for any advice!

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My problem with this is two-fold, Isabeara. First, if you are a ballet teacher, and the teacher of this class knows that, then she should never put you in that position. I find it totally disrespectful. Secondly, doing that kind of thing in every class is, IMO, not at all a good idea. It creates too much competition, and it takes time away from actually doing what they should be doing. I would talk to the teacher and explain your feelings.

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Look at it from the teen’s point of view. He or she is probably a little intimidated by the age difference alone. The implication for the teen is that he or she MUST give some kind of correction, whether it’s valid or not. The teen is on the spot. Personally, I’d listen and evaluate what your partner said. You may dismiss it or act on it. I wouldn’t get upset about it. If anything, I’d feel really sorry for the 14 year old put on the spot.


I’ve been in some classes where the teacher used this technique and where I was substantially older and more experienced than everyone else in the class. Personally, I didn’t get much from it, though I do think it benefitted the younger folk.


As to the notion of competition, I don’t think I’ve ever “competed” against anyone in class in any dance form I’ve ever done. I find the concept foreign. And I’m competitive by nature. This year outside of class I competed with a 12 year old boy on difficult steps and tricks just for the fun of it (I love it when he wins too—love seeing younger folk make progress). But in class, never.


You always have the choice of taking class somewhere else. If the class is good despite the teacher’s practice, I’d just learn to tolerate it. Other than the time it takes to do it (giving less time to do other things), I don’t think it’s such a big deal.

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I really don't know what I should think about it and I guess I would have a problem with it too, depending on who it would be to give me the correction. Instead I like it when the first group is corrected by the teacher and the second group is asked to do the combination and trying to do better (with the corrections) than the first one.


I don't like competion in class, I am just dance for my personal joy and to get best dancer I personally could be (and I know that I could be much better). Yes, sometimes I take really good students as inspiration but I do not compete with them, I try to learn from them but in secret :yucky:

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If I understand your main concern properly, one way to approach your teacher would be to say that you feel your position as a teacher in the community (maybe you teach these teens' friends or siblings?) is being compromised. Or, in other words, while you do not always need to be in a position of authority relative to these dancers, you do not want them to be in a position of authority relative to you. This makes it about your feelings about your relationship to the teens rather than about her teaching style or about the teens' behaviour or anything like that. You might even throw in a comment reassuring her that you don't have a problem receiving corrections and in fact really appreciate hers!


I think if I were in your position, I would ask first to do the exercises without a partner. My second choice would be pairing with other adults when they are present and working alone when they are not. You could ask her to suggest a place to stand that would make this unobtrusive when she goes to pair the other students up. I personally would not want to ask a teacher to teach her class differently as a whole, but I think opting out of the pairings still allows her to teach her primary audience -- the teens -- in the way she likes.


Hopefully as a fellow teacher, she'll understand both your concern and your need to keep taking class.

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As one who, for a time, would have killed to have ANY correction in some classes, I still see what you mean. But I see it also from this point of view: the students - especially the younger ones - are being taught to analyze movement. By analyzing and/or teaching/correcting, they are better able to apply this to their own dancing. Teaching a concept is one of the most strategies most proven to enable the person to embed the skill in their own brains/bodies. That may be the reasoning behind why this teacher uses this technique.


I go to several schools. At most, none of the youngers attempt to tell me how to fix things. At one, a student around the age of twelve was bold enough to tell me what I was doing during a pirouette exercise. I did feel a bit put out at first but swallowed my pride and attempted her correction. By golly - she was right! It worked! Now we're helping each other (the students in this particular group, that is) and feel more like we're comrades rather than me feeling like this old lady taking a class with kids because there's nothing else around. I also think it boosts their self-esteem, and shows them that we adults are still learning and can learn from anyone - student or adult. It might make them more amenable to accepting critique from a variety of sources, as well.


I do agree that perhaps doing it every class is overkill. It takes up time that they could use in practicing. Doing it with EVERY student can be laborious, as well. If this teacher does keep up, the suggestion made of having a quiet word asking to be paired only with adults might be one way to deal with it. Be aware though about the teacher - some may be offended and you might lose the right to go to that class if the teacher decides that she doesn't want what she sees is the hassle of dealing with adults in her classes.

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Probably the other adults in the class stopped coming because they didn't like it either. Honestly, I'm an instructor of something other than dance and I teach adults, and I do pair work and group work and I think it is appropriate for my discipline. I do encourage the students to help each other and comment but they rarely do critique each other, and in my classes it could help.


Now, I have to say that with dance I am rather skeptical of this approach. I could see doing this now and then with a class of teenagers just to get them into analyzing movement as someone else said. However, the reason why you are in the class is to get the expertise of the professional ballet teacher and not a 14 year old, no matter how good. If the 14 or 16 y.o. was already dancing professionally I could see this being worthwhile, but if not, that should not be the only form of correction that you get in the class or a regular form of correction.


I also agree with the person who said this undermines your authority as a ballet instructor. I really think you should say something in a very non-threatening way if it bothers you that much. Actually what would make sense to me is that the instructor continue to pair off the teenagers if that method is that important to her, and if you are the only adult, you and she should pair off since you are both instructors and she give you corrections. Since she probably is not dancing in the class she's teaching, it would not be 2 way but I think it would be more comfortable for everyone in the class.

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If you absolutely cannot make this happen differently (and I can see that is a possibility) you might try a different approach - it's an opportunity to teach by example how to take and use a correction. It's an important skill that these teens need to learn if they are anything like the teens of my acquaintance! The teacher may be trying to teach that more than just teaching the particular exercise. We talk a lot about the need for a thick skin in the professional world; but I think that skin needs to be absorbent too.


I'm not even suggesting it would be easy. I've never seen this teaching method, but I do know I hate to see even the videos of performances I'm in - it's very hard to take even with a completely neutral and non-judgmental camera!

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I think the exercise in and of itself is a waste of time, personally. You pay to get corrected by a teacher, not students.


With that said, teenagers will be more honest and harder on you than adults so that part is the part I'd actually find best. If you can't respect their advice then perhaps you shouldn't take their level of class? I don't think it should be an insult to you to "be treated like a 14 year old" considering that a 14 year old in ballet is more likely to be taken seriously regarding training than an adult student.

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I beg to differ, xSugarplum, in that I find that the teens I dance with aren't really honest (but I mean that in a good way, for them). The ones I dance with, and I dance with the advanced level at one studio (so nice to be welcomed somewhere! LOL!), they feel I'm more like a teacher so they hold back on critique-ing, even when asked.


Tonight I took the pointe class with one of the former students actually doing the lesson as a sub. Lovely gal, superb dancer. Corrected me once then didn't after that, but to show I wanted her input, I asked questions. After class, I told her exactly what I had liked about it and thanked her for the help. She's 30 years younger than I am, is not a trained teacher, but did the best she could in a difficult circumstance, and that was pretty good for a beginner teacher, in my view. I think she was worried I would be judging her according to her age. Age and experiences are two different parts - young folks CAN be good to help us older ones, but only if they feel strong enough to comment.


Of course, that assumes that students are taught to be respectful of others in the way they critique. I know there are places where that is not the case, critique-ing or not.

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Hmm, I have problems with this but for different reasons than the ones you expressed. I think the age difference between partners giving corrections, and the fact you are a teacher, should have no influence. That's actually one of my favorite things about ballet, everyone checks their hats at the door so all you are left with is a teacher, and students. The jobs of both are very clear, and if the teacher wants you to work with a partner to correct each other then that is part of the class. And yes I've been in your shoes (although not a teacher), and have gotten some enlightening comments from the younger students. If you want to take class with the teens and not be treated differently because of your age (ie, given special allowances or not given corrections), then I think you should make every effort to fully participate. Sometimes the director of my studio takes the adult beginner ballet class just to get another class in, which is taught by one of the advanced teen students. :-) I'm sure it makes the teen nervous, but they both stay in their roles and the class goes smoothly.


However, doing that every class, and multiple times per class, seems excessive in the amount of class time it uses. I'd be concerned about getting my money's worth, so to speak. And it sounds like you are making the effort to participate as is asked of you, but not enjoying it. I guess if I were you I'd either find a way to enjoy it or at least tolerate it, or stop taking that class.

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Serendipity- maybe it depends on the school, too. I've been to some mixed classes where adults were asking advice on the side between exercises to some of the younger dancers, and they really didn't hold back. I guess it depends how comfortable they are around adults and what kind of age gap it is.


It seems like that's not really the issue with the OP though. The OP is specifically saying she's "sick of 14 year olds correcting her". I think that whether or not OP is a teacher doesn't matter in this case, she is in the class, equal to the other girls in it. If OP chooses to take a class with 14 year olds (even if that's because it's the only class available to her) then she should respect them. If the class is good enough for her, I assume those 14 year olds are good dancers and there is no reason to think OP is above those 14 year olds in anyway. Being a teacher doesn't make one above anyone else. Teachers need to keep learning as well and I think there is possibly no worse attitude than to assume that a young dancer can't correct you. Even if you know how to do a step, it doesn't mean it looks good- maybe that 14 year old has a good eye for that and can help you improve something. I also think it's dangerous to automatically think that the reason you're being corrected is because those younger girls want to impress the teacher- perhaps it's simply because they see things in your dancing that need improvement.


In general I think that if you can't respect your classmates then the class must not be right for you. This class is run in the way you're saying it is run, and short of talking to the teacher and asking her to alter her teaching style, I don't see any options other than a ) learn to respect your classmates or b ) don't take the class.


I'll stress one more time that I think the exercise is futile. But that's not really the issue here- OP didn't complain about the exercise, in fact she liked the exercise when paired with other adults because they "get it" (get what, I'm not sure), OP complained about her ego getting hurt when being corrected by 14 year olds. And to that all I can really say is, it would be beneficial to use this situation as an opportunity for perhaps stepping down a few steps and not taking oneself so seriously.


ETA: Reading the rest of the replies, I don't think trying to talk to the teacher about being "immune" to the practice the rest of the class does, just because OP is a teacher, is a good idea at all. It seems like this studio does these adults a favor by letting them join the younger pre-professional girls. A lot of studios don't like doing that in the first place, but if on top of that the adults who join start making special demands it really sends the wrong message. It seems like this town doesn't have much high-level dance available, the studio itself offers only beginner level for adults, and so the studio is doing these adults a favor by letting them join the younger girls. Singling yourself out by saying you should be "above" those exercises due to age and profession just means you don't belong in the class and should in fact stick to adult classes. These classes are for TEENS, yes you are in it, but you're more of a guest than anything, and if you don't like the way the teens are being taught then don't take a teenager's class. In your position, teacher or not, I would just suck it up and be thankful I was allowed into the class period. Suggesting to work alone effectively tells the teacher and your classmates that you feel you are above the rest of the class. If your status as a teacher does indeed make you feel above these girls- again, you don't belong in that class, IMHO.

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