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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Questions and demonstrating in class

Sharon B

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When you take class at a new studio, or a higher level class, do you expect the teacher to explain/demonstrate everything? Have you had classes "dumbed down" because someone who isn't as experienced, complained? For example, there is one woman in particular who insists on taking intermediate classes, and then complains that the class is too hard, so the next time she shows up to the intermediate class, the teacher makes the class considerably easier.There is also another person who is always asking questions and for a demonstration, in the intermediate class, because she doesn't have the foundation to do what is expected.I'm sure most of us wouldn't go to a class at ABT, NYC Ballet, Steps, etc., and expect everything to be broken down and or demonstrated. I definitely expect more explanation in the intro and beginner classes I go to, and I don't expect them to be fast paced, however, when I go to my intermediate classes I don't go with the expectation that something I don't know how to do will be explained and or demonstrated.

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No I wouldn't expect the class to be made easier because one person, who is below the level, decides to take the class. What the teacher can do is to take a minute or two to explain something that the newbie doesn't understand, perhaps whilst the others are going over the exercise, but if someone is in over their head, the teacher should not consider them at the expense of the others in the class.

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Yes I agree with the above but in my beginner classes, experienced dancers attend 'to keep fit and work on the basics of their technique' and the teachers make it harder! I battle along as a newbie but build low levels of resentment for feeling bad at my prized class. I know that studios want to keep as many dancers attending and there are commercial realities for them but it still annoys me! Just saying!

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That's really not fair Thyme! She should make the exercises harder for the more advanced students, but not expect you to do them. If it's a beginner class and they are the majority, then it should suit beginners. I have a pointe class which has of necessity two levels in it, so I keep the steps simple for the lower level and increase the difficulty for the more advanced ones. Quite often the less experienced ones try and do the harder version, but they know that they don't have to.

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The intro/beginner classes I take are never made more difficult because someone more advanced is there ( and there are folks who more advanced who take these classes), it is suggested that people with more knowledge and experience add things, like releve or beats to increase the difficulty of exercises if they want to. But the teachers never "up" the difficulty of one of these classes, which is why this whole thing drives me nuts. It is only the intermediate classes that are occasionaly and deliberatey "dumbed" down.

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My thoughts and experiences:


My sense is that "intermediate" isn't well defined and its meaning certainly varies from school to school and even from teacher to teacher within a school.


Every ballet teacher I've had that I can remember seems to create a class that fits the average for the students in the class. It may be too difficult for a very few or perhaps not challenging enough for a very few, though I think a really good student can find benefit in any class no matter the level.


When I have moved to a more difficult class, I have never expected that anything would be done to accommodate me. I did my best and if I struggled, I thought nothing of it. I think struggle is often good for one.


Though it may have happened, I can't think of any instance where someone asked a question in a ballet class beyond a simple clarification of a combination. In classes like modern and jazz where the movements aren't standardized as they are in ballet, questions are much more common.

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in fairness to my extremely competent teachers, they always give us choices between harder variations and easier (relevees vs pirouettes). Definitely and for sure. I guess what I feel is that having the better students in the class shifts her focus away from us beginners and leaves us feeling embattled. At our last class it was just us beginners and it was FANTASTIC! Everything was all about us. I learned more than usual and even almost did a sloppy pirouette :clapping: because that was what we worked on. There werent hard things going on around me and everyone moving faster than usual. When the better students are in the class things seem zippier. I realise this sounds like I am seriously complaining- I dont mean to. Just clarifying how it is different when the class skill level is spread out. :cool2:

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I joined the rank beginner class mid-Fall, and the class stayed where the class was. It's just that rather than getting more advanced corrections, I got really basic ones. My head and arms were totally wrong, but she would just make sure I had the general motion correctly, and I was using the correct leg. As I got better, my corrections got more refined. Other new students joined and I watched her to do the same thing.


Only once did the class get dumbed down. Two of our higher skilled classmates were NOT there, so the teacher slowed down that day's class to review some things she thought we might appreciate seeing again or more slowly.


Other than that, though, it's sink or swim. Fortunately, she's incredibly good at keeping everybody's current level in her mind so while she won't expect more from you than you're capable of at any given time, she will also remember exactly what she's already told you, and she just keeps moving the line so that her expectations go up, with an eye towards getting the bottom of the class caught up rather than the other way around. She doesn't mind an ability gap. She does mind, however, an ability gap and having to repeat herself, heh.

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We only have two levels, so fairly recently, a couple of us were moved, or allowed to move into advanced classes. Now, neither of us is 'advanced' but I suppose our teacher thought we had moved beyond beginners and could be pushed further. I love doing advanced class, it's a proper challenge, where as I can feel quite 'comfortable' in beginners. It does, however, mean there is a massive ability range in the advanced class - with us at the bottom of it!


I don't think the class ever gets 'dumbed down' for our benefit, but sometimes there will be easier/harder options in some exercises. Also, each individual class is a bit different - the Monday class is slightly easier than the Tuesday, and the Thursday (the one we don't go to!) is seriously hardcore, and not suitable for 'intermediates' like me. There are also two mixed ability classes a week.


I think it depends a lot on the teachers - mine seem exceptionally good at teaching a very mixed bunch!

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Most of the classes offered at my studio are small (really small - usually 3 or 4 students) This equates to never really knowing who will be attending or what level will be there. The levels range from 2nd year to advanced intermediate. The teacher will give a basic barre when there are more of the lower level students in the class but will add releves to the exercise for the more advanced students. She will adapt the barre as necessary depending on who is attending the class and give separate combinations in center. The problem with the separate combinations in center is it can be confusing to the more beginner students that are trying to learn what the more advanced students are doing - but that's their choice. The only thing about all of this is when it's just the other advanced intermediate student and myself in class - it can be tough! We get hammered with all sorts of more difficult exercises and combinations!

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Question - In the advanced classes I take, there are three of us who are more 'intermediate,' so we tend to go at the end of an exercise (especially if it's across the floor) together. My logic is that we don't get in anyone else's way - would this be the correct ettiquette?


I mean, it's not that we want to draw attention to ourselves, but our teacher will often come with us, give us something slightly different, or explain bits whilst the other (more advanced) students start from the other side. I guess I'm just hoping that this isn't annoying to the rest of the class!

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I can only speak for myself. When I encounter lesser experienced people in class, I never find them annoying. If they happen to be in my way for some reason (an extremely rare occurrence), I know that isn't their intent and I know I need the skill to navigate round others, so it's good practice for me.


I also have to say that I have great admiration for lesser experienced people who persist. As I said earlier, I think struggle is good. We have all experienced it. So many people seem to give up when they are confronted with struggle. I admire those who keep at it.

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