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Ballet Talk for Dancers

How fast should one advance?

Jaana Heino

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This might be a very silly question, but I'm somewhat worried about this.


I've now gone to classes for one academic year, twice a week. When I look at posts by other people who have also danced for about a year, I notice them speaking about things I've never even tried, and I started to wonder if my classes are too easy or something. (They don't feel easy at all, but still :()


For instance, in my level, we are not doing pirouettes or fouettes - we've just only started to do the flic-flac thingo, we practice chaines, and finding our balance on demi-pointe with the other leg in retire (excuse my ballet English, I hope you got that) - but that's it.


In jumps, we're doing different petit allegro things - pas de chats, sissone fermes, glissades, echappés, etc - but no grand jétés, or anything like that, yet.


Are we proceeding horribly slowly, cause it seems to me that other adult beginners posting here get to those things in less than a year? Should I be worried enough to doubt the quality of my training?


I'd like input from both students (what did you do in your classes during your first year?) and teachers (what would you expect a first year twice a week student to be able to do?). :rolleyes:

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Jaana, it sounds to me like you are right about where you should be in your classes. First year twice a week really should be just learning about turning and about finding the demi pointe balance and the relevé strength in the retiré position before learning pirouettes. Learning to spot, turning motivation, preparation, position, etc., should all be done before one starts doing actual pirouettes, and don't even think about fouettés! The petite allegro steps you are learning are totally in line, and the only I might do differently would be grand jetés. I see no problem in first year year students starting to learn how to move across the floor and possibly a bit of a leap here and there :(

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I'm more curious to find out what kind of syllabus your teacher is following. Sounds to me like they are using a fairly slow approach, possibly a R.A.D. program. It seems more of an approach to teaching than the ability of the class to progress is the issue here, so comparing may not be wise.


My teacher follows several schools of ballet, but her theory on adults is to throw everything at them they can take. Sounds like you teacher is following more of a childrens program where you work basics to death before moving along. Nothing wrong with that for children, but I feel adults risk becoming bored with this approach. I know I would go nuts in a class that had still not moved onto other things.


Ask your teacher what the syllabus they follow is or what their theory is behind teaching a class. I'd be curious to know.


Now that I read Victoria's post, it occurs to me to do a little math. I've been able to take a lot of classes in the last year and a half, up to 5 a week most weeks. Based on your 2x a week, I'd say I have the equivilant of 2.5 - 3 years worth of classes for the average student (unsing 2x a week attendance as an average). That in mind, you probably are progressing at about the right pace.


And keep in mind, some people just get it faster than others. Some people remember steps and combinations easier. Some people build strength and muscle faster. It really is hard to compare progress for adults because of all this.

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Guest beckster

I always wanted to know how I was doing compared to everyone else, because I wasn't in class with anyone in anything like the same situation as me. I have been doing teens syllabus classes almost since the very beginning of my starting ballet, and I've never met anyone in real life who was in the same situation as me. My first syllabus class had pirouettes in it! I was going to ask why we consider them to be such a benchmark, but when I think about it, they do demonstrate many important ballet techniques such as utilisation of turnout, balance, releve.


Because I did 1 syllabus class per week for quite a while, I didn't progress very far with vocabulary, although my technique in the set exercises of course improved. After one year, I was happy with most of the RAD work we had covered, which included the standard barre work, complex port de bras, single pirouettes en dedans and dehors, echappe sautes, glissades, jetes, assembles, pas de chat, etc. However, the actual ability to use these steps in unfamiliar combinations was impossible for me, so I can't say that I really KNEW them. Now I do non-syllabus class as well as two different RAD syllabus classes, and I am improving much more quickly. It still does take me ages to learn new steps though - at the moment, I'm finding jete ordinare devant very hard, since I'm so used to derriere my feet just won't cooperate!

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I think Jaana that you sound like you are right on track as both Ms Leigh and Ed have said. I think if you can get as good as possible basic training, later on you will have less problems and less bad technique to correct.

Of course it sounds like you are one of the types that needs a challenge. Its quite ok to take a class at another school, or at the smae school with a different teacher if you feel you need a challenge. But before doing that, talk to your teacher. Tell him/her that you would like to progress a bit more, Am I ready to move onto more advanced steps? that sort of thing, and maybe they will give you advice or suggest coming to their slightly more advanced class. But unless you talk to your teacher, and they should be approachable, then things might not change as quickly as you would like them to. Besides, teachers like being talked to, even if they appear not to, that is what they are there for, to teach you, and therefore, ask their advice, as it shows you are ready to take the next step and that you value and respect their teaching.:(

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Thank you for replies. I think I was a bit unclear - I am not unsatisfied for my pace as such, and I do find the classes challenging, and I have made progress. :)


I was just worried hearing about others advancing what seemed very fast for me, and began to worry about whether I should be even more challenged. :rolleyes: I prefer to learn the basics well before advancing to more difficult stuff, I think.


Anyways, I am going up a level in about two weeks time, when the summer classes start. I'm a bit nervous about it :o but I'm sure it's going to be fun. I'll have to increase the number of classes, though, if I want to advance to the next one after that, says Ms. Satu (and I totally agree).


Ed, I will ask about the syllabus. I know there is one, for the teachers speak about things like steps "belonging" to a certain level, but I don't know what syllabus it is. I have the impression it might be the school's own variation of something. Päivi (psavola) might know? The syllabus probably is the same for child and adult classes.


Ms. Leigh, actually I was not exactly exact when I claimed we don't do "anything like" a grand jete. We have done a moving across the floor with leaps and steps thing, part of which resembles grand jete but which Ms. Satu didn't want to call that (because she wanted us to concentrate on the rhythm of the step-glissade-step-leap-thing, and moving, not on the leap as such).

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Guest Anders

Jaana, that sounds exactly like what we're doing in Stockholm after two terms.


I see it as another manifestation of nordic caution (yet another example of this is Sweden klinging to its Krona although even Germany has given up its precious Deutch Mark). It fits me perfectly - I like having the time to reflect over what I'm learning and letting things sink in before moving on. (I also read the instructions to new electronic equipment before I turn it on.)


Recently I've started to take a class that's technically 2 levels too high for me. It's fun because it entails more dancing, but it also reminds me of why it's so important to learn and master the basic technique (although I am secretly hoping to suddenly do a perfect pirouette before the summer...)

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You'd be surprised how taking a more advanced class can help you. Chances are very good that after a few weeks you'll suddenly find yourself doing things more easilly than ever before. Being challenged on the next level makes all the basic work click into place. And it's nothing to be nervous about, really. The steps are pretty much the same only faster. You'll learn new steps, of course, but the real difference (at least to me) between levels has been the speed of the steps and combinations.


A year and a half I've been dancing and I still don't have a consistent, good pirrouette. I was much better when I was swimming regularly -- it built up the strength in my sides, but I can't swim right now so it's hurting my turns.



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Guest Anders

I hear you on the speed issue, Ed! But you just watch me get that pas de bourre - pas de bourre - assemble at a 100 mph down perfectly in tonight's class!:) (Heck, I'll be lucky to do a proper glissade...);)

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Jaana and Anders, I think it's not only the nordic caution (I'm French and it was the same for me)! I was taught VERY slowly for everything in ballet. I can't remember having done a fouette before my 10th year of practice! So, a long way to go!! I don't think it's good to throw things at you when you're not capable of achieving them... It sounds like you have what you want, and I wouldn't say it's too slow... Building a strong base will help build more durable things on top of those 'foundations' (like a house, if the foundation is loose, it all collapse on top of it)


To me, hearing that you're working safely, slowly and soundly (and understanding the movement as well as doing it correctly) makes me happy :) . There should be more beginner/interm classes concentrating on the important basic things, and less about the jazzy, show-biz aspect. My opinion only, but if you feel bored after a year of practice in the basics, you probably shouldn't be doing it in the first place.


A glissade, an echappé or a changement de pieds are actually beginners' steps, but mix them all together, speed up the rythm and add a few extra goodies in between, and it can be very challenging indeed. After almost 25 years of ballet, I realise I can't get enough of those, and will never undermine the value of them. I do more difficult, challenging -or whatever you want to call them- steps, but those 'basics' steps come over and over again. You should never forget them, and you use them all the time.

They are useful and if you do them well now, it's that out of the way... They will provide a solid structure for the more difficult ones, and that, you cannot take it away!


So, you're DEFINITELY at the right level were you are after a year x2/week.

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