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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Student demonstrators in your classes?


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I was interested by Hamorah's recent thread about a young student who has recently joined some of her adult classes and has been asked to demonstrate in them -- and by your responses.

 

Students are never asked to "demonstrate" in the classes that I take, so the concept of having someone show the exercise individually before the class does it (aside from the teachers, who tend to mark in the higher level classes and dance more full-out -- though not always 100% -- in the lower level ones) is foreign to me. Sometimes everyone taking the class will mark the exercise together before doing it.

 

Are individuals asked to demonstrate in your classes? If so, do you find it valuable, or would you prefer it not be done? If not, do you think you would gain something if it was added, or do you like things the way they are?

 

Since I'm interested to hear what you think, I'll hold off on sharing my own thoughts for now.

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I always enjoy seeing something demonstrated by someone who can do it properly, whether that's the teacher or another student.

 

In lower level classes, students tend to copy more, and it's awful when you're copying someone who can't do it at all. You get no sense of the rhythm or weight etc. I take classes in a foreign language, so I really have to use my eyes when I'm not sure if I've understood correctly. If no one is demonstrating, I try to position myself behind a "good" student.

 

But if the demonstrator isn't doing it properly... Bad-bad-bad!

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Well, yes and no. In many cases, there is no demonstration needed because students don't need to be shown - just told with a few hand gestures what to do. Of course, these would be more advanced classes. Once in a while, we get students who are corrected individually, and they are told (in front of everyone) to redo what they just executed, then are corrected and asked to re-execute correctly. That's similar to demonstration as well, and it really doesn't bother me because I can see the difference in what that student was doing and apply it to myself.

 

I have been to many classes where a student that is very good at something in particular is asked to demonstrate a movement because they are very correct and amazing - again, I don't mind it. I've also had a teacher ask if we needed demonstration, and if a large number of the class said yes, then the teacher would pick an exceptional student to demonstrate (if the teacher didn't do it himself). I suppose all these outlined situations are very different from the thread you were mentioning though.

 

I know there's probably going to be an open can of worms regarding, "But that student is paying, why would they be asked to demonstrate?" etc. etc. However, someone who has a really great facility for petite allegro is still learning from the teacher and is still participating in class despite perhaps being asked to demonstrate sometimes. Whenever we had a visiting professional taking class, I delighted that I'd get to see them demonstrate once in a while. They never seemed unhappy to even though they were also taking class themselves.

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Our class doesn't have demonstrations. If it is a step someone is unfamilar with, the teacher will show it- but often she only marks the step to give us an idea of what to do, and then corrects us.

 

I don't have a very serious class though, so this may not be the norm.

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We have a girl who comes to our adult class in the mornings. She often will snap to demonstrate something if she is familiar with it, which is pretty much anything new we try. But if she demonstrates while the teacher is introducing it, she better get it perfect or the teacher will get annoyed at her, haha. "You want to demonstrate? Then do it well or you're misleading everybody here."

I'm quite certain, however, the girl in Hamorah's class would bug me, too.

Edited by NoTwoSnowflakes
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Student demonstrators can be great but only a) if they are not creating ego-monsters or teacher favorites or class "queens" and B) are rigorously controlled and are an extension of the teacher, not the demonstrator, if that makes sense.

At least in our class, it's a huge privilege to be singled out to demonstrate something.

Edited by NoTwoSnowflakes
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Thanks for the responses so far. I'll still wait a bit longer before chiming in... For now, I just wanted to clarify that I did not specifically mean "young student" demonstrators. I'm asking more generally if ANYONE demonstrates the exercises (aside from the teacher) to their classmates before the class executes them and what you like/dislike about it (or lack of it).

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In general, I've never been in a class where a student is asked to demonstrate. Extremely rarely a student might be asked to demonstrate a technical point that is part of a pose or position. When that has happened, it has always been demonstrated by someone who really knows how to do it. Consequently this hasn't been an issue. I don't use a demonstration to learn technical points, so I'm guessing that as long as the combination is correctly sequenced, I wouldn't mind a klutz demoing.

 

Just remembered this. I remembered an injured teacher demonstrating. Not in a way that she would further injure herself, but in a way that one could say was klutzy. I gave her points for just managing that, though if you only had a silent film of the demo, you'd probably say it was a bad demo. No one objected.

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I am a rank beginner in a class which is mixed between types like me and then others who have danced a fair bit earlier in their lives. None of us are ever asked to demonstrate. Our teacher does all of that, gav. I cant imagine that any of us would be good enough or reliable enough to be asked. A 'demonstrator' would have to be of a much better level than our class is intended for. Even in my DS's classes, none of them are asked to demonstrate. As a teacher in another field, I think it will typically create tensions amongst the students and ruins the 'vibe' to draw one student out as more able. :nixweiss:

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I as well cannot recall a class where anyone other than the teacher demonstrated. A few times I've had a teacher with an injury ask a more experienced student to demonstrate a particular step that the rest of the class was not familiar with, but nothing like a full combination, and definitely not with any expectation that the demonstrator was to be a model for the rest of us.

 

I feel a demonstration for most exercises would waste a lot of time, and I probably would not attend such a class (though I'd consider it if the demonstrator was a real professional ballet dancer... it is inspiring to see someone very very good do the same combination I'm butchering!). But generally I already have a decent idea of what an exercise should look like without a demo... if it's not translating into my dancing, then either I can't remember the combination or my body's already working its hardest. Either way, the quality of the demonstration isn't really the issue.

Edited by Kendra
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I have only ever had one teacher who regularly used a student demonstrator, and that was because she had a very serious lung disease and really couldn't do it herself (despite teaching from a chair, she was a brilliant teacher, but sadly her health continued to deteriorate and she stopped teaching completely). Because it was a an adult class where some were complete beginners and some had danced as children, she would usually get one of the people who had prior experience to demonstrate. Sometimes one of the teens would turn up early for their class, and then she would get the teen to demonstrate (which was better than what they used to do, which was show off their stretching in front of all us inflexible adults!).

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There is only the one teacher who has someone demonstrate, where I take classes. She is seriously getting on in age, has had hip replacements and can barely "mark" an exercise. She usually gets one of her regulars, who is used to her exercises, to demonstrate so that we will understand her own rather sketchy demonstration. Sometimes, she'll do it the other way round - teach the enchainement slowly and then ask someone to show it, or she'll teach it to one of us and the rest will string along. We're all pretty experienced, so we don't usually have a problem picking up whatever method she uses. The other teachers there are younger and usually demonstrate more or less fully themselves. Personally, I don't really like an up to speed demonstration, because I can't always follow from that. I prefer to have someone talk me through the exercise step by step and then I have no problem with it. I actually pick up petit allegro steps quicker than slow adages!

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Good points, Hamorah! I also personally prefer to be "talked through" an exercise, though my students - most of them - do want to "see it". That is partly my own fault, for I have been "showing" things over the years. (and that partly because I really, really enjoy/ed doing that!)

 

I do not use people to demonstrate very often; only occasionally. Sometimes if it is my last class of the day and they are all very beginners and do not know the terminology at all yet and one student is in there who DOES, then I may ask them to please stand in front during the exercise so that I do not have to do it each and every time with them.

 

Now that there has been this discussion, though, I will try to be more aware of the times I do use someone to demonstrate and also try to explain to the students why I am doing so and why so-and-so is doing the showing, etc. There is nothing like trying to communicate what we mean! :)

 

-d-

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I take a teen class (where I really should not be in...far below my level and I am too old for all these young girls) because there are no other classes around and since it is my childhood teacher, she let's me take that class. I am often asked to demonstrate but the situation is different: The girls know that I teach in the same school adult beginners and they even sometimes take my class. So they rather see me as some assistant than a student. At the beginning I felt awkward doing it. I used to hide in the last row in a corner since it is their class and not mine. Now I changed my mind and try to be more the "assistant" than a student demonstrating. It seems to me that they are okay with it... they respect me just as another teacher taking their class.

 

Other than that I have seen a great russian ballet master finding a clever solution: He pretty much marks his exercises and sometimes it is difficult to understand for new people coming to his class what he means. So he makes different groups and puts usually his regular students in the first group so that the newbies can watch and understand better the exercise or combination. When he is doing easy exercises that are clear right from the first demonstration, he lets the newbies be in the first group. So no one feels ignored, put or held back.

 

I personally do not take students to demonstrate (I teach adult beginners...people who have never taken ballet before) so no one would be able to demonstrate. I may single out a student and let them repeat something they made very well as an example for the others.

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