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Private lessons or home practice?


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There are two areas that I would really like to improve in (I mean I want to improve in all areas but these two have been marked for now): pirouettes (and turns of all kinds) and adage (specifically my line and stability and correct use of the upper body in particular). In terms of the adage, I think a few private lessons are going to be necessary and I definitely need the practiced eye of a teacher at all times for that. But for pirouettes, I'm questioning whether or not private lessons are really going to help.


Let me explain:

I have a pretty good idea of what I might be doing wrong in pirouettes - alas, there are many things, but some examples would be (at various times, not necessarily at the same time!): not holding arms correctly (too low, too long), weight back or sideways, "crunching" one side (i.e. a shortening of one side of torso/stomach side, usually in the direction to which I'm turning) and so forth. I have had quite a lot of help in this regard - often when we have a guest teacher or I do a master class, teachers will spend time working with me on turns (which I am extremely grateful for but can be a bit embarrassing when a teacher spends 10 minutes of a master class helping me individually with my turns :blush:), but I still feel that things have not quite "clicked" for me. I can do a neat single turn, ending "up" (still en demi-pointe/pointe and with leg in retiré) but something goes wrong when I try that double...There is also a definite fear factor involved in this - because so much attention has been paid to my turns and because I had a situation with some old teachers where I got broken down a bit in this regard, I dread turning exercises. I am scared of slipping, too (ironically, I am less scared of turning en pointe than en demi-pointe :blink:). I feel like I have pretty much convinced myself before the music even starts that I am not going to be able to do the pirouettes.


So, my question is: would it be better to have private lessons for help with pirouettes or would it be better for me to find some time in the studio alone and work on applying all the corrections and learning what works for me? I have the suspicion that if I have a private lesson it's just going to feed into the idea that I am a "bad turner" and doing turns again and again and again can just make me worked up and thus things just get worse. I turn much better when I am calm and relaxed and when I stop worrying about what the teacher's going to think/say.

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I’m a firm believer that one of the distinguishing features of adult ballet is that ultimately we adult students have to be responsible for our learning and for teaching ourselves. We need to be exposed to different teachers and hear their advice and act on that advice in something of an experimental mode. If something seems to work, we keep to it. If it doesn’t seem to, well then that was a good attempt and we just let it be.


I began dancing as a ballroom dancer and in that world, privates are the norm. But in the adult ballet world, they seem to be rare. I’ve come around to the ballet approach relying on patience, taking as many classes as I could, and just not obsessing so much about development.


You did say something in your post that I think is key. You said you were able to do a single and end it on demi-point and in retire. I can do reasonable doubles en dehors from fourth and fifth. Lately, I’ve gone back to doing singles trying to finish on demi-point and in retire, and that ain’t easy, at least for me. So I’m sure you have the ability to do double pirouettes right now.


Why do you have trouble then? You said it yourself—fear. And when you are afraid, honestly I don’t think technical corrections from anyone help all that much. You just have to conquer the fear. What might you do? I offer you these suggestions, which may or may not be useful.


1. Lighten up on your development goals. Yes we all want to get better, but I think the number one priority in adult dance of any type is to simply enjoy class, everything from warm-up tendus to reverance.


2. Remember that more is not always better. A single, effortless, pirouette looks and feels better than a double, triple, or how many other that is not seemingly effortless.


3. When you are practicing turns of any kind, three consecutive bad ones automatically ends practicing that kind of turn. Go on to something else. Persistence beyond that just develops negativity.


4. Doing turns like soutenu and pique turns and even promenade in adagio will help you become accustomed to rotating. I swear there is something like a rotational world that we as dancers need to be comfortable in.


5. In addition, take a class in another dance form like modern, jazz, or flamenco, something that will divert your thinking about turning yet keep you dancing.


6. One advantage of an adult dancer has is that there is no hurry to develop. Most of us see ourselves dancing for the rest of our lives. If it takes longer that we think it should to develop a skill, that just gives us something to work on later. Besides, there is always something we need to work on.


7. Spend some time each day practicing the basic things you have learned from teachers, stopping the moment you feel any kind of negativity.

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What garyecht said is spot on...as adult dancers, it's hard for us to get the sheer hours of time in front of a teacher who is going to give personal corrections and help us work on our weaknesses. so we have to be a little more savvy and resourceful in terms of managing our own practice and development. Like you, I developed a fear of turning because it didn't come easy to me and my first experiences with it were not constructive, i.e., introduced too soon, before I had the fundamentals, etc. but I eventually got there with time and patience. I found that once I had a pretty good idea of what I needed to work on (for me it was keeping weight forward, spotting, shifting my hips more over my supporting leg), I just needed time alone to pick at it and keep working on it, without anyone watching or feeling any outside attention or critique so I could relax and just DO. I put on some good pirouette music and just tried to feel my body doing what I envisioned and little by little, I got over my sticking points (though occasionally they come back on the proverbial "bad day"). I also agree with garyecht in that one has to know when to say "stop", when it's clearly not going well and you're just getting frustrated or practicing the bad habits. Sometimes just leaving it overnight and coming back to it the next day works wonders! Best of luck and be kind to yourself :)

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I am not an adult dancer (well, I am 18, but I am in pre-professional training), but I read through what Garyecht wrote and I just wanted to say thank you, because I could apply most of that advice to myself!!


If I could offer a suggestion -- private lessons don't have to be a commitment; that is to say, you could always take just one private lesson and then continue working on it on your own with whatever insight you gained from the private.

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Vaganova_Dancer, we appreciate your comments, and I know you're a new member, so just a gentle reminder that the situation of Adult Dancers is quite different from those in pre-pro training. Generally, this part of Ballet Talk for Dancers is for those of us over 18, who are not in pre-pro training.

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Gary, thank you for that great advice in your post. It will certainly help me in my ballet journey and I can relate to how nice it is to have the diversion of my lyrical class when I get frustrated with my progress (well, lack of) in ballet. Swantobe, I also struggle with pirouette turns and my biggest problem seems to be my arms which will cause me to lean one way or another, resulting in me getting off balance. In my mind, I "know" what I *should* be doing but my arms don't always cooperate with my brain and it does get frustrating.


At my studio, we don't have the option for private lessons so I keep trying different things at home (though admittedly, not as often as I should). I think for me at least, part of it boils down to the fact that I was never really taught the arm positions at the studio I took lessons at as a child/teen/young adult so I have years of bad habits to break down. I wish there was some kind of "port de bras" workshop I could go to where a teacher would literally place my arms where they should be. While I understand why, on the surface it just seems crazy that something as "simple" as port de bras can throw me off so much - but that is the world of ballet :wink:.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Thank you for all your replies. Some very valuable advice was given above and I appreciate it. I will come back and update soon but suffice it to say my double turns are going okay thus far and I've been doing doubles en pointe recently too. I find that not thinking about doing a double but just thinking of turning in general helps me to be less nervous of turning.


I also wanted to clarify - I am working towards becoming a ballet teacher and I dance with the teenagers at my studio. I dance as many hours as are offered at my studio. So my goals might be slightly different to the average recreational adult dancer's and I don't mind pre-professional dancers posting on here, if the moderators don't mind.

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Vaganova_Dancer, we appreciate your comments, and I know you're a new member, so just a gentle reminder that the situation of Adult Dancers is quite different from those in pre-pro training. Generally, this part of Ballet Talk for Dancers is for those of us over 18, who are not in pre-pro training.


I certainly didn't mean to imply that adult dancers are in the same position as pre-professional dancers! Still, my opinion remains that even an adult dancer could benefit from just a few or even one private lesson -- at least, an adult dancer in the same position as swantobe. My reasoning is that she can pinpoint a few specific areas/movements on which she would like to improve; also, what I understood from her post is that she is taking regular group classes, so she would not be choosing between privates or group lessons. Therefore, I only meant to point out that she may have the option of taking one private lesson and seeing if it gives her any new insight which she can then apply to her regular group classes.


I do understand that this part of the forum is generally for those not in pre-professional training, so I do apologize. I am familiar with adult classes and adult dancers, though, as I regularly take part in adult ballet classes as my school. So, I do have some experience from that point of view as well :) I thought I had valuable advice to offer, but if my advice is inappropriate here then by all means I will refrain from replying to posts in this section of the forum! :angelnot:

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Pirouettes... on the day that they work well it feels amazing, on the days that they dont :wallbash:

For me, I know that I had to learn to feel what was right and again for me (and understanding that I am a very methodical person that analyses EVERYTHING) I had to watch DVD's, read books, read this board, try things out literally experimenting with different things in the kitchen at night and finally something just clicked and I can now pull of double en dehor pirouettes without difficulty... I am now working on triples there... en dedans pirouettes... I am still trying things out, every now and then I get a really good double, but I am still fixing.

Swantobe, I can lend you one of my books and a DVD if you want and you can try to see if it helps...


Adage... I have had the advantage of being taught teachers who teach adage work BRILLIANTLY and my adage work is good... is it hard? absolutely but I have learnt that with some things there are tricks etc, with others, its sheer will power. I did a masterclass with another teacher (who is also an examiner) just before a set of exams and I used to really find (at that stage) that develope to the seconde was virtually impossible until a class with her, was she hard and persistent absolutely, did it work? most definitely. PS my teacher believes and I have to agree that the port de bras make or break the adage and I have to agree with her

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