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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Class Pacing


ami1436

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So I've decided to skip class tonight. It's an extra class that's not part of the usual offerings, but is meant to keep us in shape when the studio is not in a regular session. Another student helps to organize the classes.

 

The classes are an hour and a half. Last class, we spent almost an hour and fifteen minutes at barre. With fifteen minutes left, we then did an ab routine and grand plies in center. Then we had ten minutes left. We went ten minutes over, but still.

 

On Saturday, we had a bit more time in center, but it seemed inappropriate, especially as many of the dancers who come on Saturday are recreational dancers who are lucky to take class once a week.

 

And oh - in these classes we're doing two grand plie exercises at barre (start with a reasonable warm up facing the barre, then one grand plie exercise, then another). So why a third one in center?

 

I don't mind a class that focuses specifically on mechanics, and may spend more time at the barre. But then the entire class needs to be paced well, what to keep/cut in center needs to be considered, and balancing it out with another class on another day that is more about 'using' that and 'dancing' and movement is also good. No?

 

Sigh. Argh. I'm frustrated, and I'll leave it there without delving into my other feelings about it. Hopefully things improve when the session starts next week. I feel like a curmugeoun, but I have been annoyed enough at the end of the last three classes that I think it is to my benefit to skip tonight.

 

Teachers, am I missing something? I find grand plie in center, especially in fourth and fifth, just not helpful, especially not for some of the more recreational dancers. I also feel like center time should be valued too. And I HATE going straight into a petite allegro without a warmup jump. Even 8-16 counts of sautes in first or changements would be better.

 

Hmph.

 

ETA: I guess this is a full vent! :grinning: And, I should add, these classes have been taught by one of our regular (and good, but hard) teachers. Class pacing has gone by the wayside before, but lately it has been extreme.

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And oh - in these classes we're doing two grand plie exercises at barre (start with a reasonable warm up facing the barre, then one grand plie exercise, then another). So why a third one in center?

 

Do you have a new teacher? I'm not sure what you mean by two grand plie exercises at the barre. Do you mean doing the same exercise on both sides or are you literally doing two separate grand plie exercises on both sides? The second option seems weird and I cannot imagine why. :grinning:

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Nope, not a new teacher (sorry, I just edited above post while you must have been writing). This teacher is known for being difficult, but good, and sometimes does go over class/spends more time at barre, but the last few classes it has been extreme.

 

What we have been doing, for the beginning exercises:

1. facing barre in first - a basic roll through the foot/tendu seconde/releve type warmup exercise

2. Two grand plies in each position, on both sides.

3. Grand plie, port de bras, and releve, each position, both sides.

 

In center, after the abs thing, we do the 3rd exercise (4 count grand plie, 8 count port de bras, plie releve plie tendu/change position) in each position, on both sides, first-fifth on both sides.

 

The ab stuff has been happening in class since last spring or so. The grand plies in center started sometime end of last summer/last fall....

 

As far as I'm concerned, I understand that barre is my foundation, and that some exercises in center are going to be my medicine (for me, anything with adage is medicine anyways). But, even though the ab routine doesn't take long, I can do that on my own. I can't dance, with a great teacher watching, providing constructive comments, on my own. Corrections in center are also suffering. And I'm finding that at barre, almost all the exercises are shown in full, to both sides, even if they are slow. I'm not sure that's needed either.

 

In part, I guess I'm disappointed because I used to love this teacher's classes. Now, I leave feeling like I haven't danced... On Monday when I saw that there were fifteen minutes left in class and we were still at barre... well, I think that was a tipping point for me.

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Maybe the question to ask yourself is, do you "love" this teacher's classes enough to stick through this period of time. As a teacher, I can say there is little I do without reason. You may not like this or that however, maybe the teacher does have a reason. Try to engage in a conversation with the teacher. While it maybe unconventional to do 2 grand plie exercises at the barre :grinning: , one in the centre is not unusual a few times a week. Vent away if it makes you feel better, however an hour and 15 minutes is not the norm at the barre. I have done it, although I am not proud to admit it. :wink:

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I find it strange that this kind of class is being given if the majority of the students are recreational. I sympathize with you for the long barre, but have definitely found myself in this situation (though it was for curriculum classes, not open) multiple times. Let me just say that I feel your pain, but perhaps it's temporary and for a reason. Like vrsfanatic said, ask about it. Your teacher might give you a really blunt answer like, "You guys really have grande plié problems..." or "You need this for bigger jumps..." who knows?

 

My similar situations - hopefully we can be mutual in our past class pains:

- Once, we had a teacher who decided that we didn't know how to tendu or plié properly... after that it was an onslaught of barre for the entire class for quite a while. We sullenly accepted this beating, but I have to admit that my jumps got awesome after he eventually got us back to regular class pacing.

 

- Second time, we had a guest teacher from Paris Opera for a while, and he thought we were just awful musically and technically sloppy, and after getting through half the class' barre, we started over with no music, just him snapping, counting, and stomping or clapping. I don't know why, but for some reason, without the music, our everyday exercises seemed 5x more difficult and he seemed 5x more intimidating (he already was). This went on for weeks, and you can't imagine how happy we were to get music back.

 

- Kirov teacher came, observed us, and decided that our turn out at barre was suitable, but not so hot in centre. We started doing barre in centre for a while, not on our backs floor-barre either, but like.. everything we would do at barre in centre. That was not fun, to say the least, but it was a good test of balance and pretty revealing about our turn out.

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As far as I'm concerned, I understand that barre is my foundation, and that some exercises in center are going to be my medicine (for me, anything with adage is medicine anyways).

 

I feel the same way about petit allegro and adore adage, so you and I would be a good ying-yang tandem :) I'm sorry your class structure is so frustrating...I have felt the same way in some classes. And the opposite is annoying as well; one teacher I had for a short while (longish-term sub for someone on leave) did a very short barre and lots of centre, but I never felt like I got properly warmed up before the long centre portion, and as I was hurrying to class straight from work, there wasn't time to do my own warmup :D And boo to grand plies in the centre...I hate those too and don't see where they are terribly helpful for technique.

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I’m with vrsfanatic in that I always believe a teacher has a reason for doing whatever he or she does in a class. Of course, that’s just an assumption, but I think it’s reasonable in most cases.

 

I also think that people have a tendency to like the kind of classes they are accustomed to. I don’t think it’s ever bad to be in a class where you are out of your comfort zone, at least for a while. No matter the class, there is always something you can work on, and I think working on something you don’t usually work on is good.

 

One language quibble about that word “recreational.” If you aren’t being paid to dance, you are recreational. We recreational dancers exhibit huge individual differences that a teacher must cope with. For the highly experienced recreational dancer, this might make a class less than ideal. But even then, there is something one can work on.

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The question rattling around my head is: Yes, teachers have reasons for doing what they do, but are they always GOOD reasons?

 

I agree with vrs that you should talk to the teacher if you can. Maybe if you can understand what s/he is working toward, the class will make more sense.

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Thanks to all of you for your thoughts, and especially to vrsfanatic for forcing me to think more concretely about this, rather than just reacting. :shrug: Yes, in my profession I'm sure I do something that make the students go hmmmm.... yet I know the reason. But I feel like I also focus on what the students need, and I don't mean to toot my own horn. But, for example, I teach my freshman differently than my seniors. I know that a long barre is not unheard of, but the increasingly consistency of minimal center is bothering me. When I reflect back, I can see this tendency growing over time.

 

That said, I think LaFilleSylphide starts to hint towards where my uncomfortable feelings came from, and that is that the class that was taught for advanced adults was the same as the class taught for an open beg-int level with some advanced students there, where many people dance around once a week or less. To me, the class did not sit right with that group, and may even be harmful/injury-causing.

 

I will go back next week, when the regular session starts. Also at that time, we will have this teacher once a week for an advanced class, and that type of pushing can be good for me. I understand what the technical goals are of the class; there are times, however, when I don't understand the process. And here, vrs, I think the grand plies, etc. are different for a group of pre-pros in their teens vs. a group of adults of varying ages and abilities. I may try to gently ask what's going on, perhaps by phrasing it through what I miss about the classes. (When not lacking time, for example, the choreography of the center exercises is often very lovely).

 

However, one thing I've also learned is that we need to know our bodies the best, and also be wary of things that may be dangerous. I'm always, I think, going to be hesitant when folks give adults of varying abilities certain types of exercises, or those stretches where you slide on the barre, etc. And in some ways, I credit this board for that (and I do mean credit in the best way).

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I like that definition of recreational, but I think it's hard to set the paid vs. unpaid line for that word when many students are still trying to get the most out of their education so they can become professional or university dancers. I think when an advanced adult goes to class hoping to enrich themselves for the sake of auditioning for a company or for entrance into college/uni, even to stay in shape so they can continue teaching or learn new things to teach their students, maybe they can be classified as non-recreational. Though I suppose that the teacher gets paid, but still... the uni student and hopeful auditioner doesn't. Then there are those once a weekers that love ballet, love a graceful dance-related work out, and like being able to participate in ballet (when they previously may not have had that experience prior) - these dancers do it for fun, and while they may be quite serious about training efficiently and well, maybe they have no aspirations for their current training. These dancers might never teach, audition, perform, etc. but will continue to go to classes every week; they might be more appropriately dubbed as recreational dancers.

 

I can see how those uni, teacher, auditioner, driven for self improvement students might reap a lot more from classes like this than say the "I'm doing this for fun" student that can only visit class sporadically and wants to feel the rush of jumping, gliding, and spinning in a ballet class. One can almost say that that adrenaline is like a reward saved for the last half of class for those students I think!

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For Hans—“Good” is a judgment one makes so there are always going to be differences as to what is good. I’m always surprised when I see people with excellent credentials doubt or contradict something that is pretty much common knowledge. Guess that feeds my natural skepticism.

 

My feeling about the term recreational dancer is that it seems to be a term used to describe someone who is “lesser” in some sense, perhaps in terms of ability, but more so in terms of attitude. I would argue that paid teachers are professional even though they don’t dance on stage in companies. To include those who have aspirations (but no income from dance) in the class of non-recreational dancers in my mind suggests that sense of lesser, which is subjective, and which like the word “good” is something I don’t like in a definition if I can avoid it at all.

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Guest Pas de Quoi

I have been reading this thread with interest because I am both a teacher and a student. The term "amateur" can be translated as "lover" of something. In the case of the lovely life long students I teach, they are true "amateurs" in that they are passionate about the art of ballet. They come to class because they love to dance. Not every one wants to dance in a company, have this be their paid job. That doesn't make them less of an artist, in my opinion.

 

With regards to class pacing - the norm for a 90 minute adult open ballet class is 45 minutes at the barre and 45 minutes in the center. I have a hard time getting through the barre in 45 minutes when I am teaching, but I really try because people come to class to be able to dance, not just do barre work. My main concern is getting people warmed up safely and completely. Once that is accomplished, we move on to the center work. It just takes planning and time management on the part of the teacher.

 

I reread some of the posts above - I agree that grands pliés in fifth and fourth in the center have a potential for injury and I never give them. Also, good teaching practice dictates the class should be planned so that both the barre and center flow in a dynamic, yet safe manner. I always give a warm up jump, even if it is simple small jumps in 1st while I count out loud. That just makes good teaching sense. Good teaching practice (according to my teacher training) includes at least touching on all aspects of our artform - adagio, turns, waltzing steps, small jumps, medium jumps, big jumps, port de bras, etc. I try to do that but it's really hard, so I combine things into one exercise when I have to, for the sake of ending the class on time.

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To clarify: what I meant is that a teacher may have good intentions but be misguided when it comes to training students in general or perhaps a particular group of students, such as adult beginners. He or she may have a theoretical ideal that is either flawed or does not necessarily apply to the students in front or him or her. So yes, the teacher has a reason, but that still doesn't mean the exercise is useful or healthy for the particular students in the class. Not saying that is necessarily the case here, but it is a possibility and something to keep in mind.

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Yeah, I mentioned in my post previously too that I suppose teachers get paid, but whether people call them professional dancers or not, I'm unsure. I expect classes to be very demanding when I go to an open one, but I still want to have fun - I'm definitely in the recreational dancer category. I made that cross over when I stopped teaching and I didn't have to think as hard about what I wanted to be able to reap not just for myself from a class, but for the kids that I'd be teaching too. Now I just create policy and administration for a dance school, and sadly there's not much dance or the same kind of physical artistry involved in that. Anyway, in Open/Rec class, perhaps because I've got more training than some of my other peers, I'd be less apt to mind stepping into a class like ami's where we were at barre for the majority of class. However, I would have to admit that a part of me would be slightly disappointed that I didn't get to what I personally considered the "fun" part of class - centre/crossing the floor.

 

I don't know if I would approach the teacher about it. It's hard to say since I have that inherent trust that teachers know what they're doing, but of course... teachers are human too and they also make mistakes. I guess that it would depend on how long this has been happening and how long I thought it would be going on. If it were sporadic, like once a week or something, maybe I wouldn't care much. Like I said, hard to say.

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I can only give my experience with unbalanced classes like this. I rarely post on Ballettalk anymore because I don't like ballet anymore. I went through 1.5 years of unbalanced classes like this, with barres that went from an hour to an hour and a half, with very little center work. At first it didn't bother me as much, because it was not what I had been used to but I was restarting ballet after over a 15 year break. But then I started to realize that it was not helping me--I was not improving. Whenever I went somewhere else to a class it was more fun and I improved. I did speak to the teacher about this a few times and was told that this was technical work that was important. I then began to take classes at another studio in my area because I just felt like it was a waste of my money at my regular studio. At this point it was almost too late as I really had a distaste for ballet by that time. I began to enjoy the other classes but I never regained that intensity or passion for it. This summer I was in and out of town so I could not keep a routine for ballet. Since I got out of the routine it is now more appealing to me to head over to the gym/pool rather than take the time to deal with tights, leotards, plus 1.5 hours and the whole ballet thing takes 2.5 hours out of my day--perhaps a bit more including stretching. It really is a commitment for most adults, including amateurs, and the will has got to be there otherwise there are many more things to compete for our time and attention. I may go back to taking a class a week in the future, because I miss my ballet friends, but it won't be because I miss ballet.

 

My advice would be to talk to the teacher if this continues. If it is going to be a regular thing choose an alternate class to attend. I was probably an extreme case, that it drove me to eventually quit, but maybe not. I think I was in the middle in terms of "seriousness" of the ballet students at the studio I attended. I took it relatively seriously (2-4 classes per week) but I was not taking 5-10 classes a week like the "serious" amateurs were.

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