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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Private lessons


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Ok - so reading around on the board, it seems that the jury is out as to the value of these, but here is the situation:


I've just been moved up a level, and its brilliant. It's a bit like going right back to the beginning and turning back into a baby hippo crossed with a baby giraffe - clumpy feet and limbs flying every where! - but it's pushing me hard and that's great.


There are, however, a few things which I struggled with in the beginners class and still haven't really got right, and a couple of things which are new to me, but all the others know how to do. So, I'm booked in for one private lesson specifically to work on turns, petite allegro, and then my teacher is having a think about anything else she thinks I might be able to work on in that time. She won't be teaching, but it is with one of the others attached to the studio. I've been in his class before, and he is an awesome teacher.


I'm just a bit nervous! I've never had a private lesson before, and don't really know what to expect, so I wondered if anyone else had tried this and had any words of wisdom?!

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I had a few private lessons last year, because I was doing an exam but missed seven weeks of classes while overseas, so had a lot to catch up!


Private lessons are expensive, so if you don't need to work on barre work at all, arrange to do a barre on your own beforehand, so that you are warmed up and ready to start centre work in your private lesson. This way you can concetrate on the things which need help, instead of spending precious (expensive) time on routine barre exercises.


Private lessons are also quite intense, because you don't have breaks while other students do the exercise, and you have to be very focussed for the whole time. While you may be fine doing a two hour class normally, 45 minutes of a private lesson can be exhausting!

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As someone who has never taken a private lesson, but has given many privte lessons in the last few months, I would not suggest skipping the barre. The barre is more than a warm up. If there are basic problems with the technique, they should probably be fixed at the barre. Problems at the barre carry into the centere, and quite frankly become even more of a problem. Especially when you say you want to work on turns. Turning well requires good alignment and coordination of a lot of body parts...all of which need to be worked on, slowly and methodically, at the barre.


That piece of advice aside, do not be nervous. There is nothing to be nervous about. I'm sure the teacher is thrilled to give the private (I love giving privates). Just enjoy. It's a class! No one is judging you. If you can afford it...go for it. When I first joined this site, I remember posting something along the lines of this discussion, and I said that I didn't think that privates were necessary unless the student was preparing for an important performance or audition. I had danced my whole life and never took a private lesson. Now that I have been teaching private lessons (one of my regular adult students has asked me to give her some private lessons) I do see the value in them. Some students seem to really benefit from them...others seem to get what they need in a class...with good corrections. Each person works differently. Just go with an open mind and enjoy. Don't be afraid to ask questions. And be prepared. It is going to be exhausting.

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I too have never taken a private ballet lesson, though when I was a ballroom dancer I did weekly privates (a standard practice among ballroom people I'd say). Once I was the only student in a ballet class and that turned out kinda like a private.


In my case I always found the relationship between teacher and student different in private and group settings. In privates the communication is more direct and easy. I would like to say it was more social, but that's not a good word for what I'm trying to say. It's natural to be a little nervous when you experience something new. But put yourself in your teacher's position. The teacher gets satisfaction from seeing you improve on whatever it is that you are working on. If the teacher doesn't help you, my sense is that the teacher doesn't get a rewarding experience.

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Thank you!


I was actually hoping that we will do a full barre, just because it will be an opportunity for me to check that I have got my weight placement and stuff right. It can happen in class (yesterday, the teacher spotted I'd been twisting my grand battment to the side, just moved my foot to where it was supposed to be, and suddenly it all made sense!) but seems like a golden opportunity for little things to be spotted and corrected - and not one to be missed!


I didn't think privates were something I'd ever do, but at the moment, there are a few specific things which feel like they are holding me back in class. My reasoning is, that as a 'one off,' it might give me a chance to move forward, and get more out of my classes. Don't know if that makes any sense though?!

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Tell the teacher that you want to do a full barre. I think that you should do a full barre. Take full advantage of the teacher's undivided attention.

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I didn't think that privates were anything I'd ever adovcate, until I saw how quickly my student progressed. She has had about four of them...perhaps once every month or two months...and I don't think she's going to be taking any more for the moment, but I do think they helped her a lot.

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Hi doormouse,


I've been taking private lessons once a week for quite some time now. I first started because I was working to improve my technique before our recital, and I found them so helpful, that I have continued the lessons. I have also struggled with petite allegro, so I can feel your pain!


As far as what to expect, here's my advice:


Expect to work hard. It's important to do your best so your teacher can help you improve on things that are not as easily "self corrected".


Don't be too hard on yourself if you aren't able to apply a correction right away. Sometimes our brains catch on faster than our bodies. Make a mental note of the correction and continue to work on it later.


Bring a small notepad and write down your corrections immediately after your lesson or as soon as you get home. You will likely receive a lot of really valuable information and you can reference your notes weeks or even months later.


Ask questions! If you don't understand something, don't be afraid to speak up. Take advantage of the one on one time with your teacher and ask for clarification until you understand. I have probably driven my teachers crazy asking the same question 8 different ways until I finally had that "oh, NOW I get it!" moment!


Give yourself permission to make mistakes. (What would be the point of a private class where we just show the teacher everything wonderful that we can do?) Try to remember that by seeing your mistakes, your teacher can give you very specific corrections to help you. Besides, however bad your mistakes may be, your teacher has probably seen worse!


Try to relax and have fun! It's a wonderful feeling when something you learned in your private class starts working out for you in your regular classes.


Good luck to you and let us know how it goes!

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This makes me realise how lucky I am. Last year while preparing for an exam I was getting at least 12 hours a week of (free) private classes for three months and I felt so used to them. And nowadays in some of my classes we are only 3 students. Next time I have a private class I will try to be more grateful for it.

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If you feel that you would benefit from a full barre, then definitely ask for it. The purpose of the lesson is for you to get what you need to improve.


The reason why my teachers had me do the barre on my own beforehand was because they knew that I was pretty good on that section of the syllabus from watching me in group classes, and I really had to concentrate on learning the dances because that was the material I missed while overseas.


Dapixie, you are very fortunate! Private lessons are about $70 an hour here (Australia), but more importantly than the money, you were fortunate to get all of that teacher attention to yourself!

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I found private lessons addresses my problems spot on! I guess it had significantly helped to boost my RAD exam result, and I took three private lessons two weeks prior to the exam. BUT such lessons tends to be more tiring than group lessons, because, basically, you are on your own in there. Although it's tiring, I got corrections that is specific for me, and private lessons also gives a chance for a more thorough dialogue with the teacher. But i guess, because of the cost, you wouldn't need to take private lessons more than once every two weeks.

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I can't really afford to take privates regularly - they are between £30-40 and hour here! I got some money for Christmas, and for complicated work reasons had to cancel going away when I had a week off, so decided this would be a good treat. :)


But if its really helpful, I might think about saving up for one every couple of months if I can. I'm not expecting to be able to walk the following morning, hopefully if I'm working hard, then I'm making some progress!


Booked in for next Friday evening, so I'll keep you posted!

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  • 2 weeks later...

Soooooo.........Class was awesome!


I only had a half hour in the end (although we ran over for 15 minutes!), so we did a short barre - plies, tendus, glissades, then work on pirrouettes and a few little jumps.


I discovered that some of the problems I had I knew about - my core stability is not great, and I have a tendency to want to watch my feet! But discovered a few I didn't - it seems when the left is my supporting side, it is significantly weaker than my right, which makes me lurch sideways a bit! The turns get round, but I flail about a bit trying to 'land' them. Hadn't realised my arms were flying out before I took them from 1st to arabesque, so did some imaginary glue-ing of my fingers together!


Good bits - it seems that I am much better when turning on my right leg, approaching doubles a few times. My teacher spotted some errors in my weight transfer, which I had kind of felt something was wrong but didn't know what it was, and apparently I have nice plies!

I also am told that I have 'swayback knees' - which are supposedly ballet-desirable? So whilst the rest of my body does not belong to a ballerina, it would seem that my knees do!


All in all , very good fun. Lessons learnt would be:

1. That half an hour is a very short space of time.

2. Although I don't deliberately copy whoever is next to me at the barre, I didn't realise how difficult it is to remember exercises on your own!

3. Working alone is hard work, but the things that are picked up on are really useful.

4. Learning ballet as an adult is brilliant, but I think some of the little details are sort of missed when compared to kids being drilled through the very basics from when they are tiny.


I'd love to take some more lessons - definately go for an hour next time! One of my friends has recently moved into the advanced class with me, and although we have different strengths and weaknesses, we are thinking about taking a few lessons together which would make it much more affordable.

Watch this space!

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  • 1 month later...

The class I'm going to is relatively new so for the fist month and a half I was the only student. I was spoiled with an hour of private instruction every week. I progressed so much so quickly at that point I sometimes wonder what I may have missed. Now we have more students and we are going back to the basics, so I'm finding out.

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