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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Adult class overwhelmed with uni student influx


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Is this a vent, or a search for information? Maybe just the first, because my (mature) response is "just suck it up". But maybe someone has a better suggestion.


The adult class I go to regularly has in the last couple of weeks been swamped by a large number of university dance students.These are dance students at the uni where the teacher teaches, and they are doing as many classes as they can now that the summer holidays are over (remember we are in summer now in Australia) and they have come back to town, although their term does not start for a few weeks yet.


So they behave just like young people do - unthinking of everyone else (not rude, just not aware), push to the front, do extra variations of their own and generally take over the class by force of numbers and activity.


There are some plusses in this: (1) More students increase the income to the school, so help keep it viable.

(2) They are almost certainly the uni students of the teacher who teaches our classes, and their presence will help keep our teacher committed to our own school, which I certainly value and get benefit from.


BUT - it must be remembered that the overall viability of the school basically depends on people like myself who turn up regularly week after week thoughout the year, rather than those who just come for a few weeks and disappear.


I can carry on as well as I normally do in the barre work. But when we get to the centre, it is too crowded, and as I modestly stand at the back (normally I stand at the front) I can't see what we are meant to be doing - and as well the combinations have become more difficult in response to having more advanced students. As well I am working round an injury which means that I cant or dont do lots of things which should be really easy and obvious (the regular class members know this and why). However, I am wondering whether I should just stand at the front in the parts of the centre work that I do, so that I can see (modesty be damned). This is after all what they do - just because they dont have much awareness. But it is a bit unfair if an incompetent old man stands in the front when generally a heirarchy of talent develops from front to back, which in fact can have a lot of advantages for everyone (the ones at the front get more space, and also serve as models for those behind them).


Anyway, they go back to uni when the term starts in a few weeks time (I hope so, at least) and then the problem will go away. So this is partly a grouse that the nice class that I have got used to and where we all usually have a good sense of community has been taken over (I just have to suck that up) - but also what I should do and what my attitude should be to get the best out of the class (and not feel resentful) during the next few weeks.


Any thoughts from anyone?


Thanks, Jim.

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1) Speak to the instructor and ask him/her to remind the class of the decorum necessary in a ballet class. Also ask that they enforce groups for center, or rotate lines.


2) They'll be back to their own classes in a few weeks and everything will be fine. We have some 'regulars' in my gym aerobics class who skip January because the resolutioners fill the classes (a bit extreme, IMO), but they are all gone now so the regulars are back. I'm sure you can make it through a few weeks before these students leave.

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I dunno. If you're injured and the class has been getting harder, I don't think it's such a bad thing to stand in the back. I would relegate myself to the back if I were in your situation, I just don't know how to help you with any advice about knowing what's going on up front. When I'm in a very advanced class, I tend not to go in the front ever. I feel awkward, and I prefer watching the more experienced, advanced, and nimble bodied people go first so I know what I should be striving for.


As for custom combos, I know it's hard to see your class get infiltrated, but one should look at these kids as motivated to try and improve themselves and get as much dance time in as possible to be able to pursue a career. If they add extra beats to their batterie, if they lift their legs extra high, or throw in 3 more turns that fit in the space of music, I'd say just enjoy the free show. They're pushing to their limits, and though we can't do the same, we can watch and enjoy their talent. I definitely don't think that it's a "quit for the month" worthy offense, and sure it's inconvenient at the time, but it can also be positive to see what it is we're learning executed at a higher level. I just wish I knew how to advise you about figuring out what was happening in the front of the class. Maybe you can find another corner to view from, then find a spot when it's your turn? When it's a very full class with advanced people, I tend to go in the last group, but before I go, I'll walk towards a corner with good visibility and out of people's way that I can see, then return to my group when it's time for my turn.

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Interesting. I was once in a class (modern, not ballet) where everyone was a college student except yours truly. The teacher for the class was also a teacher at the college. These students always seemed to me to be just fine as far as manners go. Not a single problem with respect to me.


I'm always at the back of the room, no matter what style of dance I'm doing. I have my own territory and strategies for defending it. Yes, sometimes it's hard to see a combination being demonstrated. If that happens I'm not at all shy about saying that I couldn't see and asking for a repeat. Well, even when I can see I'm not shy about asking anything. Being a talker is a privilege of older age.


I guess I'm pretty calm when classes change in some way, whether it's the students or the teacher. I know from experience that if I'm not that way, my dancing suffers even if it's just me alone. Take a big breath and be calm about what you experience.

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Like Garyecht, the college/university students who have shown up in my classes have all had perfectly good class manners!


I agree you might talk to the teacher... I don't think I'd tell her/him to remind the class of proper etiquette, since if this behaviour is accepted in the uni classes it's obviously not a big concern. Maybe you can mention you've noticed the level has gone up and ask if this will be a permanent change. (It's possible she/he hasn't done it consciously. Or hasn't realized that it's affecting the regular students negatively.) In any event, you may be able to open up a discussion with one quite factual thing.


As for where to stand, if you can't see at the back, stand in the front -- at least when the exercises are being taught. Being able to see the teacher is pretty key to the learning experience in a ballet class, and you shouldn't have to sacrifice your ability to learn for these guests. The young eyes will be able to see from behind you, right?

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Many thanks for your replies - helps me to see it in perspective.


Anyway - the problem has gone away! Like magic! The students have gone! They turned up for a couple of weeks and then suddenly all disappeared! (Their uni classes must have started earlier than I thought, or maybe they've all descended on another dance school.)


They weren't the teacher's students like I thought - she did not know them. So all is back as it should be (and I'm not sorry).


So back to normal, and many thanks for your responses.



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I'm curious and fascinated by this discussion, it somewhat parallels thought I've had about level at different schools. Is this class listed as an "adult class," "open class," beginner, intermediate,...class? Wher I take class there are specific "kids" classes which adults do not take and then leveled classes: intro, beginner, transitional, intermediate ( these classes are for people 18 and over, but "kids" take these classes with permission). What does adult imply, or open for that matter? In an open class differeing levels/capabilities are assumed, does the teacher teach to the average capabiity, the higher, lower....Does adult imply slower? It would upset and annoy me if I went to a class and it was an intermediate class, but was taught at a slower pace. You are right in that more students = more money, however, student go home, and your regulars are the ones who remain, is there a way to reach a compromise?

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Sharon B- at the studios I've attended, adult implies older than 16, or 18 (depending). If it is open the level of the class is taught to whomever shows up that day. If it is registered, the teacher has a better idea of who will be there and can differentiate instruction a bit more.


Since adult is an age, not an ability- this style of class can be very frustrating. I am happy that right now I go to a studio that has an 'adult beginner' and 'adult continuing dancer' class, but many studios in this area just offer a single open adult class. When I called to ask the level difference that makes you no longer a beginner, the woman asked me if I knew all the positions of the feet, and then told me most of the beginners don't!! I was really worried about the mix of people in our class, but since it is registered the teacher is good at telling different people what to do- X take a balance, Y,Z do a single, W do a double, W add beats to jumps, etc.

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This school is adult only, and the classes are graded by level - from absolute beginner courses (which run for a specific period and have a definite limit on numbers) to ongoing higher level classes which are roughly aligned with RAD grades - Elementary, Intermediate, Advanced, then Pre-Pro, etc. Its not advertised as open, so I presume prospective attenders discuss it with the school management before they turn up (so the management must have known about these students).


But it is inevitable that a class is taught at a level targeted at the majority of the students who are there on the day. If more advanced students turn up, the teachers always seem to elevate the level. This has happened at every school I have been to - eg what is called an Elementary level class may end up being taught more at an Intermediate level on that day, depending on who turns up.


"the level difference that makes you no longer a beginner""- that is a generous definition. For many people, it seems that if you start as an adult, you stay a beginner for the rest of your life (though you may progress up through the classes).



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Jim, it is indeed a challenge for a teacher to keep the level of the class "as advertised", regardless of who is in class that day. :)


It is also hard to make everyone happy all the time; just as it is in "real life". ;)


I also teach many adults, and have several levels for them. If there is even one "regular" student in class who would benefit from the "advertised" level, then I TRY to keep the level there, regardless of who else has shown up. I do tell the "newcomers" that if they take this class, then they must treat it as one in which they work on _basics_.

It sounds as if there was a small breakdown in communication is this situation, do you think?

Perhaps the students did not know it was actually a more basic class and were pushing for "more"?



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As a teacher of adult classes, I can say that it can be very challenging to keep everyone happy. I often pitch the level of the class to the majority of the students present. I have two professionals who take my "adult class" and I have two absolute beginners, the rest are somewhere in the middle) I try to keep everyone happy. (The pros know it is not a professional class, but they live in the neighborhood and seem to like me). As a student, I am not thrilled with the large influx of aliens that sometimes happens during vacation times. At the studios where I take class, we get tons to highschool age students during vacation times in classes that are supposed to be for adults/professionals. This doesn't really seem to happen at the studio where I teach.


I understand that these influxes of students during vacation times keeps the studios alive. They are necessary and I deal with it. I don't like it. I deal with it. As far as my "spot" on the floor...I definitly have my own methods of staking my claim and keeping it. However, there are times that I do yield my spot...it depends on who's in class. I usually do not stand in the front line. I am 52. I don't care how good I was at 28, I am 52 ... and 52 is 52. Sometimes there are a number of dancers from ABT and NYCB in class with me...and I certainly would feel like an idiot standing in front of one of them. It's just good manners. HOWEVER, I am definitly not yielding my spot on the floor (and subsequently my view in the mirror) to some university twerp.

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I will just amen what Willimus wrote, particulary the end, I happily give up my spot when the professionals take class, but many times they just want to stand in the back, or at the side barres away from others and just work. I always defer to them when doing center, or going across the floor. However, some know-it-all kid, or person who hasn't a clue ( and we certainly can tell who these folks are), I will not give up mu spot at the barre, or in center.....

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I'd gladly give up my spot (or not try to even take it) if a professional was in class, but if they "pushed to the front" as these kids were described as doing, I wouldn't give it up even to the top professional dancer in the world. There is NO room for pushing in a ballet class, IMO!


(The front isn't a real coveted position in our classes though.)

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I don't really regard uni kids as awful. Uni kids are also very talented and I think are worth watching in the front. Just because they're university doesn't mean they aren't on the road to professionalism. Uni dancers are also pre-pro. Many of the university kids in the state I used to dance in were amazing and beautiful dancers that have gone on to become career dancers. I would freely watch their clean technique and sky high developpés in the front. Also, being an adult dancer, I understand and realize that I have a lot to learn from these university kids that are getting ready for performance still, and that they still have a lot more burden resting on their shoulders of where they move on next in dance whereas being an adult dancer I'm not unaware of the fact that I won't be performing, I won't have a career, and that I (personally and truly) have plateaued.


I would feel awkward standing in the first line in front of a professional dancer, sure, who wouldn't? But I would also feel the same way standing in front of a pre pro or university dancer on their way to becoming a professional dancer. There's a lot to learn being behind these kids, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. Of course, like I posted previously, no one should get in the way of your class experience... you also paid for class. One should find a place to observe and understand what the teacher is communicating, but I really don't feel that that means being in the front. To me, finding a spot where you can see and hear the teacher, then returning to a logical space to execute the combos is typical. But to get sensitive over where you're standing seems a bit strange to me. I also have my place at the barre that I'm territorial over, but it's not life or death and it doesn't affect my dancing if I have it or not. I'm also not opposed to telling a new person in class, "Hey... if you don't mind, that's normally where I stand at the barre. Is it okay if we share it?"


I recently danced in a few classes with unfamiliar people and styles, and when the class was full, I simply walked to the edges of the class and watched the teacher, then when it came time to actually do the combination, I walked back to the end of the lines or behind the experienced dancers. It didn't disturb anyone, it didn't hurt anyone's feelings, and I still got to hear and see what the teacher was saying without feeling like I was jostling to be in the front. Honestly, I would hate to be in the front anyway. I really just don't feel "good" enough to be a frontline dancer.

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  • 3 months later...

I currently take classes with University "kids" really young men and women. I always go in the last group except when the line rotates. I do this partly for selfish reason. I have more time to cement the center combination in place. LOL The students are usually polite and at times have joked with me about stuff in class. I have had a good experience with them. On the other hand, I do understand that if you have an intermediate class, it's kind of frustrating to have a bunch of advanced "kids" come in and the level of the class goes up to a point that the regulars aren't comfortable even trying the combinations. This decisions really is the instructors choice to set class level. You should bring it up to him/her at an appropriate time. I have taken classes that were below me in development and have had a good time just taking it slowly and really working on stuff. Believe it or not I usually find that beneficial. So would a university student if informed by the instructor that the class is at a certain level and that they can use this time to work on the basics. The key is with the instructor. You need to talk to them.


I am puzzled by the idea of having a special place in class. As if you bought that particular space for the semester. LOL I believe that choice of space is in direct relation to when you arrive in class. If you are late. You're at the end of the barre for barre. Take a different spot. Who knows, the instructor might see something that need correction.

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