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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Adult late starters, how much should we know as students...


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I'm sorry if this has been posted before...



I was wondering what everyone thinks about adult students and the amount of technique, we as adult students(especially new beginners) should know after, Let's say...1 year, 2 years or 3 years.. etc...


In terms of technique, combinations, positions(arabesque,attitudes, etc...) musicality, turns (4th,5th, 1 turn or 2.. or 3?) balance, proper terminology, body positions, arm positions, not needing to "visually copy others/teachers, proper heads arms, using arms,legs, heads together, dexterity, memory, jumps, flexibility, strength etc...


Phew.. that's a longer list than I thought. Basically if one was attempting to identify if they were "technically" improving or falling behind based on their level, and the amount of time spent dancing... how would this be determined?


Lets say.. after year 1 - adult students should know........

After year 2.. adults should know....


How do you determine if the level is progressing at a faster rate than your technique.. when should you not try harder classes and go back to the basics (of course the basics are always beneficial - but lets say one could only choose one)

How do you determine if you should go up or down a level?

What is the criteria a student would need to know before they would naturally progress?


Adult classes aren't the same as children's. Most of the time adults squeeze in where and when they can, and this could be in classes beyond their skill level or below. Unfortunately, because the adult student population is so low... a lot of the times, dance teachers just "allow" adults to pop in here or there(miss classes whenever).. or progress on with "their friends" just to keep things happy and running smoothly, even though they may have missed too many classes because of life... or haven't developed the strength necessary for their level of exercises... (After all most adults dislike being told they can or can not do something and most of us want to believe we can do everything)


So, as students we kinda have to troubleshoot....We need to know our own limits/accomplishments, but if you are new to everything how can you really know?? I'm attempting to troubleshoot my skill level and gain a little perspective.


Can anyone help?



Edited by Gambina
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I feel that there are too many different variables to definitively say 'this is where an adult should be after a year'.


An adult beginner will progress at a different rates, depending on:


Previous experience in other forms of dance and/or sport

Natural ability

Number of lessons per week

Whether the lessons are regular or not, continuity

Injuries (whether old or new)


Sometimes I read about adult beginners who are doing XYZ, and feel disappointed with myself that after eleven years, I'm not doing those things. But then i tell myself that it is about making ME happy, and I love dancing, and that every little step of my progress is important.

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I often think about my beginner classes and the people who were in them. As far as I know, not a single one is dancing today. I ask myself why that's so. Well, that was a long time ago, so time is a factor. But even several years ago, the same was true. It certainly wasn't any talent on my part as my ability level was average at the very best. I'm sure there were very good reasons why some stopped--job and family responsibilities for example. I also think there is another. Expectations. I think many people create expectations for themselves that are shall we say overly optimistic. For a good many people when they realize that they cannot fulfill their expectations, negative thinking starts to emerge, which leads to giving up.


Expectations are predictions about the future. It's like predicting the weather I think. Yes, I know it's going to be cold in January on the 23rd, but I don't know if it's going to rain, snow, or be sunny, or even know the high temperature.


I really think whether it be dance or anything else for that matter, we should think more in the present and keep our future thoughts more vague, for dance something like enjoying oneself and making constant improvements.

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I couldn't agree more. I was just having this conversation yesterday with a colleague. A lot of adult beginners think that they will turn into a ballet dancer with a couple of classes a week for a few months. I try to impress on the absoulte beginners that they have to learn to love the process and that improvement and progress are very slow to come.


It is definitely different for everyone.


I have had absoulte beginners that I thought were lying to me, because they progressed so quickely. I have had students tell me they are dancing for years, and they really don't look like they are much past the very beginning. There is no way to predict what one "should know" at any particular time. Just enjoy the ride!

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I think it depends so much on the person itself, on other activity they did in the past and are doing at the moment, the amount of classes and the teachers, the level they are in pure. I have an absolute beginner ballet class and I can see many differences between people who did gymnastics as kids, who are doing Yoga and Pilates since a couple of years, music students and so on.


The main problem is, that adults never find pure beginner classes. So they never learn the very basic that is so important to build on and which has nothing to do that all those fantastic ballerinas out there in Swanlake do.


Then there is a difference between expectations and how they are really doing. With one class a week you will arrive nowhere even if dancing for many years. Even with daily class there are people who will never reach a decent level, others will have a nice technique with twice a week.


Other than that, I see many adult teachers who don't really care about how the people are moving in the class. The exercises are far above the level of most students and it is more about remembering a combination that doing steps technically right.

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I've found that when asessing my own progress, I do better with smaller goals than with larger ones. For example, I will set myself a goal for a month- 'this month I'm going to really focus on articulating throuigh my feet' or 'keeping my knees straight and pulled up' or 'weight placement in 4th'. There are so many things to work on in ballet, that sometimes I get overwhelmed by all of the things which i have to remember, but having an aim for the month helps me focussed. And a month is long enough to achieve improvements but not so long that I lose interest.

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I did ballet for ~7 years when I was younger (5~12 yo) and just recently started taking classes again. I did take other dance lessons/classes and kept up with yoga, and combined that with my earlier training, I do see more progress in each class than, say, a person who's just starting ballet at my age (28). But you know what I really love about doing ballet at my age? That I am in charge. When I was little, I was competing with other girls in class, not having a say in choosing studios, and I felt like I had to "measure up."


By paying my own tuition, doing my own research in choosing studios and teachers, I feel like I'm more in control of my own study of ballet. I don't have that competition mentality anymore. I just look at myself in the mirror and that's all I see--not the girls standing next to me. I think like many others said already, going with your own pace, and doing your best is more important when you're training as an adult.

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I don't know. It appears to really vary quite a bit from studio to studio simply what "knowing" something even means.


I started from dead scratch in the Fall, and I'm quite certain nobody would look at me and deem me to be progressing particularly quickly in the grand scheme of things. But I do see it as a long-term process anyway. I was fortunate that our adult beginner class is truly beginner, and does not cut corners in terms of building the right technique from scratch. We are still only doing half turns, verrrry slow frappes, etc. But you better be turned out, better deploy that foot properly (i.e. heel first in tendu), etc. Nothing gets done until it's done properly. No cheats. If you don't have the extension without pulling your alignment out even a little, you'll instantly get the correction down. Put that foot out more to the side a la seconde but turn it in to get there? Just try that. In a flash, she's behind you, sliding your foot forward with her toe and whispering, "turn OUT". And you better do it or you'll get a poke in the glutes ("I can tell you're not working your turnout"), or she'll simply bend down, and rotate your leg for you put it where your natural rotation ends (and believe me, she knows EVERYBODY'S turnout, so I get corrected to one place, and another dancer would get corrected to another place), smack your thigh and tell you to hold it.


I say this because of what happened when I wanted to add a third beginner class. Because our studio does not offer a third class, I started with another studio. And that class, while taught by a dancer who clearly dances for a living, barely gives corrections. She explains some, with good visualization, but most of the class (including me) doesn't yet know how to translate that into how they should be doing it with nothing more, and she doesn't say anything individual. It's strange. You could float in and out of that class with no problem. Heads and arms were just everywhere, but the one thing they all did was wedge their feet into exactly 180 degree first positions, despite the fact that nobody's knees were even close to matching. No corrections. Same thing in fifth, so in releve, a whole class of knees just sproings to the front. Yet they were doing the same number of "things" our class is doing. Glissades, assembles, arabesques, pas de bouree, half turns... And some things our class just started, like fifth port de bras (holy crap, I get nervous thinking about how I'm going to do a cambre in more than one plane because it has taken a TON of time just to learn how to do the regular cambre in third: extend the neck, keep the face to the side exactly just so, maintaining its relationship with the arms as you go up and over, chest and shoulders just so, how the arms resolve into second as you come up, perfectly timed, nothing rushed in front of the other thing) but these guys are already doing fifth, and none of them appear to have been told where to even look when they do ANY port de bra, let alone how the arms really go. It made me uncomfortable, frankly, like my other teacher might see it and have some kind of instant stroke. And I totally count myself among those murdering fifth port de bra, because it's not like I can even get close without a lot of guidance, and nobody was correcting me.


I don't know. How much should you know? For me, I'd rather spend a whole year getting a small set of basics really, really well. And since it appears to GREATLY vary what it means to "know" things by studio (and this is not a bad studio--it's just that obviously they run their adult classes very differently) it seems like it would be impossible to say.

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