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Ballet Talk for Dancers

ranking within ballet class


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My daughter's ballet class has a ranking system which rules where they can stand at the barre. The places are assigned by the teacher according to how hard the students work. The centre of the barre is the "best" place, then the next best are on either side and so on, all the way to the ends of the barre. I hadn't realised that lots of ballet schools don't do this until I read on this site about students virtually fighting to get the coveted "best" place in their class! My daughter has no complaints about this system and is perfectly happy with it, but I'm wondering if it's done elsewhere? What does anyone else think of this method?

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I have never heard tell of such a designated placement. At all DD's schools, studios, dancers chose their spots at barre----and yes, there were favored spots, but that was more about personal choice than teacher designated 'teacher-favored spots'.


Not sure how I'd feel about that blatant ranking of the students . . . . .

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I haven't heard of designated barre placement. Often the teacher will designate which students should be in the first line for center work, or which students should go in the first group to go across the floor, but that is on a class-by-class basis.

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At DD's school, they can choose were to stand but if they stay in the same spot all week the teacher makes them move around. She doesn't always want the same students standing next to each other all the time.

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Sometimes students defer first choice of spots to senior members of the level - and definitely when company members join class unexpectedly. This is mostly out of courtesy and respect rather than due to the existence of a designated "best spot" favored by instructors. The choice spot (if any) is based on personal preference.

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I have seen a few people, in younger levels, do it by height, but I definitely not by who is better at anything. I would not be fond of that.

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There has never been any "assigned" bar placement in any of my or my DD's classes. Having seen/taken many Master classes from visiting artists, I have never heard of this; not even when I would take professional-level classes when I was out-of-town in New York and would just drop in to a studio. Is the motivation competition, so that students want to dance better to get "better" spots? This would seem too obvious a ranking of students by ability, and penalize those who are just not as skilled or who are dancing for recreational reasons.

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I'm not sure I'd be happy with a system that places students by how hard they are working.


Dd's school usually puts the dancers in height order at the start of the year. The practice continues for the younger set who wait in height order to go into the classroom. It's fun to see them suddenly have to change the order. It happens in certain levels every week! The older girls tend to migrate from their assigned places over time.

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While that seems unusual, I do know that teachers may place students at the barre where they can be seen by the other students. Usually it is because the student is usually able to remember the combinations or because that students technique is very good. it is the same rationale for putting certain students in the first group in center.

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Ugh! Nope, wouldn't like assigned placement based in that manner. Certainly as the dancers mature there is natural gravitation to certain areas. And certainly in some places it is known that senior dancers get certain placement even if it was never assigned per se. But "working hard" should be what every dancer in the classroom does on a regular basis and if there is placement in that regard, then it should be ever changing since on a daily person the "hardest worker" would naturally change from day to day, week to week.

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I am a teacher who does place my academic year (not summer) students according to height, at first. I leave them in that order for quite a while, although I ask that they rotate a space/mirror each class, at the barre and in the centre. As the year progresses, I mix the salad a bit. One week the mix is for one reason and another, it is for a different reason. Our students wear uniforms, but I still need to "see". It can be difficult to "see" if one student never learns a combination exactly and some always do. Exactness in musicality is my goal. It has little to do with who does what better than another.


I was always, as a young student placed center on the barre and in the centre. While I learned to go there automatically as an older student, as a young student, I was not aware that I was any better or worse than the others in my class. What I did know was that my teacher always used me as an example, whether what I did was correct or incorrect.


I cannot say that in the lower levels at Vaganova Academy that the students are placed at the barre according to who is better than another. In the middle years, they have the opportunity, with a new teacher to be seen with a different eye and then again in the upper levels. This is a school that is to produce ballet dancers. It is not for those who may question their suitability for ballet. Only the strong survive. It is not a school to be compared to any in the US. The cultural differences are vast.

It may not be necessary in recreational classes to place students in the class, however having people at the front of barres who are more likely to know the exercises could be helpful.

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I think students at DD's school choose their spots at the barre. In fact my DD has a favorite spot that she goes to every time if it's available. The teachers do choose the groups for the center work and across the floor with the first group being the most skilled and so on. Everyone seems accepting of it.

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Barre placement is also the case with our dd's class. Like Lacetree, dancers are placed from the center position of the barre to the outer ends of the barre. Placement can be shifted throughout the season, usually, due to expectations not being met. Her principal teacher was born and trained in Russia; her methods, traditions, and expectations are very old school Vaganova.


It has been quite an education for our family, we try hard to respect and trust her teacher's ways. We have been on both sides of the barre placement issue and it can be rough at times. On the positive side, I think our dd has developed a thicker ballet skin due to having to earn her spot at the barre.

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