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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Two Good Schools - Very Different Opinions?


tldx

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There are quite a few books written for teachers on the teaching of ballet. Go to your public library to brouse a bit. I would suggest reading Vaganova, Kostrovitskaya, Tarasov and White when looking to read about the teaching of the Vaganova program. There is a new book coming out in September by an American dance critic, Catherine Pawlick about the "updating" of the Vaganova program. This one should be very interesting. You may pre-order it using the Amazon link above.

 

The Vaganova program of study is set up to be taught beginning at the age of 10, 6 days a week, 5-6 hours a day, for 8-9 years of study. These are selected children. There have been many "experimentations" of the implementation over the years both inside and outside of Russia. In Russia, children study general physical fitness and stretching in order to prepare them for the very strict study of the Vaganova methodology for 2-3 years prior to studying ballet in a professional sense. There are pre-ballet classes given at Vaganova Academy which consist of strenghtening and stretching exercises, along with dancing steps (skips, gliding steps, polkas, etc.) and general music and coordination exercises. The children do not walk into their first real ballet class knowing nothing. As a matter of fact, they are astonishingly beautiful physically, not child like at all by comparison to our American children.

 

Simply stated, the program of study in the first year of training in Vaganova is so very slow and complex, it takes a great deal of maturity and physical strength to handle the demands when taught as it has been thought out and structured. This means a huge commitment by the child, the family and the teacher. What is found more often than not outside of the few professional ballet academies in the world implementing the Vaganova program of study (Bolshoi, Vaganova, Stuttgart, Perm, Munich) is a very watered down version of said program. In the US, there are few professional academies (if any) that dedicate the time, energy and money to implementing a course of study for 10 year olds as is implemented by the Vaganova Academy using the Vaganova program of study. Go to youtube, type in Vaganova 1st year to see what 10 year olds look like when trained as the program requires. Also type in Cecchetti and RAD for a comparison. It is difficult to find other methodologies on youtube, showing young children, but there are a few. Also look at the Paris Opera School's few links on youtube.

 

This being said, there are some well educated, good teachers out there doing the best that they can do in their circumstances teaching "Vaganova" in the US and elsewhere. Being one of those few however, I am very honest with my students about the reality of my being able to teach the "Vaganova" program of study under our limitations as a school and culturally. I do not teach beginner ballet in my job. Our circumstances do not allow that. If I did however begin with young children I too would begin at age 7 or 8 with the hopes that in 3 years of study I might tackle the 1st year of study in the Vaganova program. With classes taking place only 2 to 3 days a week, that is a lot to ask of young people. Eventually something has to give. The daily lessons and slow thorough training is an important part of this program of study. Young muscles, joints and bones need time to develop, grow and mold. Young minds need to learn about a very strict form of discipline that is only accomplished through physical hard work and a wonderful feeling of doing for oneself.

 

The business of teaching ballet needs to be honest. Labeling a program of study is an important part of helping families to understand what a particular school is offering. If your school is offering "Vaganova", just make sure the teachers are educated to teach Vaganova which means they have studied the teaching of Vaganova from a qualified person or school. There is no patent, but the credentials should include a teaching course from a qualified pedagogy program such as Vaganova, Perm, GITIS, etc. You might also find qualified teachers of Vaganova who have worked with John White, Karen Morel, Jurgen Schneider, Janina Ciunovas and myself. To my knowledge none of us have offered a full 8 year course of study however even getting through year 6 with one of the teachers mentioned is quite a bit under the belt. There may be other qualified pedagogs training teachers in Vaganova. I do not mean to slight their work. I just have not seen the results of their work.

 

Perhaps schools who hang the sign of Vaganova really mean Vaganova influenced or "style". I prefer influenced as style to me is like decorating a tree or a room. :)

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Guest coupe66
Perhaps schools who hang the sign of Vaganova really mean Vaganova influenced

 

Ms. Schneider and Everyone,

 

I think you are right on the mark here. I am by no means an authority, but from the studios that I have ever seen in my area that advertise "Vaganova", they always phrase it this way: "Vaganova-based" training, and this is what I tell people who ask about our home studio, that it is "Vaganova-based". As a parent what this means to me is that the training is merely based off of or influenced by Vaganova, and not the full, authentic syllabus. Now, our family has been involved in the ballet world for 10+ years, and it has taken me some time to figure that out, largely with the help of reading threads just like this at BT4D. So I think it can really be confusing for those just beginning with ballet.

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Ms. Schneider,

 

Thank you for your in depth response. I am very curious about what a Vaganova schedule would look like - what classes are taken during those 5-6 hours each day, and how that might change as the student progresses?

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Young children in Vaganova Academy study what would be considered ballet technique in the US, 1.5 hrs daily, historic dance 1.5 hrs 2X, maybe 3X a week (sorry I am having a memory lapse), conditioning classes 1.5 hrs daily and rehearsals for various productions 1-2 hours daily. They students are 10-11 years old. The young girls study pointe as well but that is encompassed in the ballet technique class.

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Thank you. And I suppose those hours increase as a student moves up through the levels, eventually adding partnering etc?

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Character, partnering (duet), music, history of dance and acting for dance are added according to the year(s) they are added. The children/students begin classes at 8:30 AM and finish their day at 7:00PM. The day includes all academics and dance related subjects and rehearsals through out the day. Most evenings the children are used in various ballets for the theatres of St. Petersburg. This would mean they are then bussed to the theatre and finish their day at 11:00 when the curtain comes down. Not every level nor every child is used in the ballets every night but from the beginning, the students receive stage experience amongst the professional dancers of the various theatres.

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I'm not sure what PP is, since most schools don't start their pre-pro programs at that age and level, but anyway, I would have to wonder then why she would be put into pre-ballet at the summer program. In pre-ballet they don't even learn technique. I find this somewhat confusing, and I think that I would want a meeting to find out exactly what is they need to "fix", or what knowledge she doesnt' have, that could not be learned in a Level 1 class, at least. I mean, how much can they expect a 7 year old to know already after such a short time in real ballet? (I'm sorry, but I do not consider pre-ballet to be actual ballet. They do learn things leading up to it, but students are usually 4 and 5. maybe 6, and what they are capable of learning is quite limited.)

 

While I might have some questions for the home school, I think I would have even more for this school.

 

We are in a prepro stream at our school. Its by invitation only and they learn Cecchetti technique ballet (not preballet like thier peers) and do the Cecchetti exams and if they are invitied they may join the company.

 

My neice is 7, she is doing preballet/Jazz this year. Its a 45 minutes a week combo class in the beginner stream.

 

My daughter is also 7. She is in the PP stream and the schools performance company (not comp, we dont compete). My DD does 2 hours of ballet tech and 2 hours of company ballet choreo. She is working on the Grade One Cecchetti Syllabus.

 

This sounds like what the poster is referring to.

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When you say, "Company", Albini, is this a student company or a professional ballet company where all dancers are adults and are paid to rehearse and perform?

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Thank you! I think it's important that we all are specific when speaking about these things, because the words used can have very different meanings. :)

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When you say, "Company", Albini, is this a student company or a professional ballet company where all dancers are adults and are paid to rehearse and perform?

 

When she said her daughter was age 7, I think it was safe to assume that it was a student company....

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Not necessarily; look at the video George Balanchine's The Nutcracker. That's New York City Ballet, and the little angels at the entree to Act II are almost always children under 10. It does happen. There are those parts. At the Joffrey, we used to have Massine's "Pulcinella" and there were "little Pulcinellas" who followed a "Grandfather Pulcinella" around the stage. The little ones were usually sub-10s.

 

Now, as to a good one-stop shopping for nomenclature of the several major teaching methods, I suggest Gail Grant's Technical Manual and Dictionary of Classical Ballet.

http://www.amazon.com/Technical-Manual-Dic...8577&sr=8-2

 

It's the best $10 you can spend in ballet.

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I can tell you from personal knowledge that the average age of an angel in Nut at NYCB is 10, now the party girls are another story. They pick the smallest 10 year olds and go down from there. In fact, the cast A Marie in this years (2010) production was a really short 10 year old, she turned 11 about a month after Nutcracker. Sorry, not to sound like a overcorrecting parent! LOL :thumbsup: This is a sore point among the parents of SAB with "normal sized" children. Everyone assumes the cast of children are about 6 when in fact most are 9 or 10. FYI, most of the tiny 10 yr olds do not continue much more than a year or two beyond Nutcracker.

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Guest coupe66
I can tell you from personal knowledge that the average age of an angel in Nut at NYCB is 10, now the party girls are another story. They pick the smallest 10 year olds and go down from there. In fact, the cast A Marie in this years (2010) production was a really short 10 year old, she turned 11 about a month after Nutcracker. Sorry, not to sound like a overcorrecting parent! LOL :blushing: This is a sore point among the parents of SAB with "normal sized" children. Everyone assumes the cast of children are about 6 when in fact most are 9 or 10. FYI, most of the tiny 10 yr olds do not continue much more than a year or two beyond Nutcracker.

 

 

Actually, as the mom of a very petite girl (at just age 11, dd barely clears 4'7" and has been in the 25% for her age range all her life) I don't think that size necessarily has anything to do with one's commitment to ballet or whether or not one will choose to continue to dance. Some kids are just small/short/petite - they have those genes, and are not "abnormal sized" :thumbsup: Not wanting to take this discussion into a different direction or sound overly sensitive here, but I just wanted to add that and note that there are many, many dancers who are "tiny" :rolleyes:

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