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Ballet Talk for Dancers

After how many hours do you reach your "peak"?


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Someone recently mentioned on here that after a certain amount of hours of ballet ( I know it was a lot!)...that one would reach one's peak level of ability. How many hours is that??


I go to about 6 classes a week which is about 8 hours of technique and pointe ( the pointe being 2 hours).


I am just curious...not hoping for a career at my age;) But I would like to get an idea of how long it would ideally take for me to reach my personal full potential at this rate...? I did dance as a kid....for about four years or so.

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I believe that someone quoted the "10000 hours" hypothesis, as proposed by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers: http://en.wikipedia..../Outliers_(book). The 10000 hours is about 20 hours as week of dedicated practice over a ten year span, a rule of thumb that plays out in much of athletics and in dance training. I have read the book and it's very thought provoking. Of course, the 10000 hours means that every minute of those hours is spent honing the skill, not counting the time spent resting between sets or listening to instruction or watching demos, so it's a lot more actual "time" than 10000 hours, in reality.

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Thanks...and WOW! That IS a lot of time...at least I have time ;) It seems that I will probably NEVER fully reach my potential at this rate....only true professionals it would seem could at this rate of hours needed!?

Would you recommend the book by the way?

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Of course there are many other factors than time. A major one is that we will never know the maximum capabilities of our bodies until we have reached (and probably started to lose) them, which for most of us grown-ups will be before we reach 10,000 hours. This could be because of basic structural limitations, injuries, or plain old aging.


But I don't think we should see this as all doom and gloom (I am a "glass half full" kind of gal after all). Instead, we should look at it as an opportunity to always be our personal best, whatever that is on any given day.

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Sometimes less is more...I was injured due to overuse and now that I am dancing less I am doing better. I am far more flexible, therefore my range of motion is higher. I have reached a goal I wanted to reach and now I am more relaxed. Less tension means more fluid movements and I feel less fatigue. Then, I think, it depends on the qualitly of training too and what other activity you did during the day and so on. Experience is another factor.


Mmmhh, it's a really difficult and thought provoking question. Interesting :-)

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I didn't know the origin of the 10,000 hour, but I've been reading about it in the sport science literature. Clearly, that's an overgeneralization, as many with natural talent reach their peak performance in less than that time. But the basic idea I think is right, that is it takes a really long time of dedicated practice to reach your potential, whether it's 8,000 hours, 10,000 hours or 12,000 hours. Actually, I think whatever the time, when you realize that it's a lot of time that's really good news for the adult dancer. Most adult dances have the mindset that they are going to dance for the rest of their lives. Knowing that you have to invest a substantial amount of time in training to reach your potential gives you continued motivation for continuing after you've had a lot of experience. You know you must be patient and in dance patience is a virtue.


By the way I think I remember reading that Martha Graham said it took 10 years of study to become a dancer. Whether true or not we don't know. We do know it takes a long time.

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Yes. 8-10 years is valid.

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I also see it as a positive thing...as an adult who works from home and makes my own schedule, I can dedicate many hours a week to ballet:) I also spend FAAR too much time studying ballet; reading books and watching professionals on youtube!!!! ;)

There was so much else going on as a kid...I feel that where I am in my life now, I can and want to persevere! Yes, the extensions may not get as high as a teenagers but even concerning that, I am doing far, far better than if I didn't dance, in the fitness and flexibility departments!!!

In fact, I think that people make the excuse of age too important...I am a better dancer now than I was at 12!!!! And who's to say that if one works hard, one can't accomplish remarkable things!!??

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Right now I spend 7 hours in classes. I plan to increase that to 10 hours of dance within the next few weeks.

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But the basic idea I think is right, that is it takes a really long time of dedicated practice to reach your potential, whether it's 8,000 hours, 10,000 hours or 12,000 hours.


I think what Garyecht says here is the right way to look at it: it's not an exact science, but the point that the "10,000 hours" generalisation makes is that it takes a long time, it is slow, and -- the most important thing, I think -- nothing substitutes for lots of repetitions of simple movements, done regularly, over a long period.


If you look at, for example, the Vaganova syllabus for beginning children, you'll see an emphasis on the tendu. To me, from what I've observed, the whole sense of groundedness and connection to the floor that a good dancer has, comes from this early, repeated work on the tendu.

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I realized in teachertraining that ballet is plié and tendu (okay, that's exagereted but I think it comes close). Plié is beginning and ending of every jump, turn, step, it even comes in between. Nearly every movement has tendu in or something that is similar to tendu. Tendu in combination with plié trains many many necessary muscles. Just look at the foot and what it does in a tendu. This is the base of every relevé of every jump.

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I think it's more than just the hours - I have seen dancers who have been at it for years and seriously don't have a clue. I think it depends on so many factors. If you study dance for years, but are not being taught correctly, then it's just a waste of time, so it depends on the training you are receiving and your own natural abilities and physical attributes. In theory if you have proper schooling then yes from age 8 to 18 is about the time it takes to make a dancer, but that doesn't mean that everyone is cut out to be a dancer. Certainly if you start dancing as an adult, after ten years training you will have acquired a great deal of knowledge and ability. As to whether you will have reached your peak - I reckon that's something no-one really knows.


Personally I don't think anyone hits their peak at 18 - I think it takes much longer. Generally mid 20's is more like it, as a dancer gets more performing experience and develops artistically and technically. A professional dancer will keep that peak going for quite some years, but eventually they get over the other side and start slipping downwards. I can tell you once you hit your 60's it's downhill all the way!

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One thing about dance is that there are in my mind two dimensions to development. One is the physical dimension--physicality and technique. I think that does have a point beyond which one does not noticably improve. The second is the artistic dimension, and I am not sure that has a limiting point. I would guess that it doesn't at least up to the point of dementia or death.


I think as one gains experience and finds physical improvements hard to come by, working on that artistic dimension can can be quite rewarding.

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Great point Garyecht - I do agree in the two dimensions that you mention.


I know I was more technically advanced as a teen (not in ballet, but tap & jazz since that was where my early training was in) but I don't think I had that artistic dimension that I do now. Now I can truly "feel" the music and express that "emotion" in (most of) my dancing whereas that was something I was not able to grasp as a teenager. There are certainly plenty of things I used to be able to do but can no longer do at all (or as well as I used to be able to do). As they say, with age comes wisdom and I feel that my life experiences as an adult certainly make me a better dancer overall. At the same time I enjoy striving for that "peak" even though it is nearly impossible for me to get there at this point in my life. I will enjoy that journey for as long as I am able to!!

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I think the academic reference is "The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance" byt Ericsson, Krampe, and Tesch-Römer (Psychological Review 1993, v.100 n.3 pp.363-406). A musician friend gave me the rreference, which I have not myself yet read ... :^) I did scan the "background" section just now and find that references go back another hundred years, so it's no surprise that it's part of the folk wisdom.


I do like the use of the word "deliberate", suggesting attentive practice as well as some effort to find a good teacher or coach!

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