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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Dilemma of a new adult dancer

Wilson Wan

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Hello everybody! I am new to this forum and to be honest, this is what i have been searching for quite some time. I always wanted to find an active ballet forum community that i can be part of. Anyway, I am 22 this year and i am from Singapore. I am a male dancer. I have just started dancing ballet last September, with once a week lessons increasing to twice weekly to even thrice weekly. I am studying in a university and I am currently having holidays from May to August. Hence, I decided to go for classes almost daily except for sunday and monday, which are my free days, in order to improve in ballet. I suddenly had an interest in ballet and i eventually felt in love with it. I am roughly 6 feet tall and i weigh 64kg. I believe i can jump pretty well. However i tend to not pointe my foot and extend the line when jumping which destroys everything.


I started out with non syllabus adult classes, which supposedly had a prerequisite of having taken RAD grade 5 exams. I struggled through the remaining of last year. This year i felt that i was getting used to the pace and dynamics of the class but i still felt like a total newbie. It was hard in the beginning as i was kinda left to learn everything at one go. People in my class was doing their nice double pirouettes and i was like 'How do you do a pirouette?'. I managed to survive, thanks to a few good ballet friends elsewhere which taught me some basics. Now I am ready to move on and be a good ballet dancer with nice form and such. In addition, i think i might join in the recital by my teacher, which in august 2014.


Firstly, i feel that my basics are still relatively weak i suppose. What exercises should i be doing daily? I am planning to allocate 2 hours daily in the morning in addition to my night ballet classes to improve further. I am planning to practise developpes, battements, releves, pirouettes, chaines and jetes at the moment.


I do not aim to be a professional dancer and i just aim to be a good ballet dancer with nice form and being able to do some fancy moves such as triple pirouettes, double cabrioles, grand jete en tournant with beats, entrechat-six, double tour en laire, coupe jete en tournant and fouette turns. Of course those are just aims and i might or might achieve in years to come. Well, it's always good to have aims and dreams! I love ballet and i aim for excellence in the things that i love.


In one of my recent classes, my teacher asked the other 3 guys to demonstrate double tour en laires to the class and i was left out in a sense. I know i can't achieve a double tour en laire and i feel damn inferior and lousy basically. This sparked an interest in learning the mechanics and how to achieve it. Apparently, now i am so engrossed in double tours that my single tours are crappy. Man! What should i do now?


I am currently dancing in 2 different schools. 1 has very slippery floors and the other has dance mats. Problem is that i struggle quite a bit in my double pirouettes in the school with more 'friction'. I tend to not press down so much in my supporting leg as it is really friction-y. What can i do about this problem?


I am thinking of mimicking and doing everything that is in the video below and perhaps master all the sequences. Will it help me to be a better dancer in a long run?




I have a problem with my body when dancing. I feel that I'm focusing too much on the steps rather than the form and that's exactly my problem. I look into the mirror occasionally when dancing and i feel that i look like some frankenstein awkwardly moving his limbs around. Hence, i tend not to look in the mirror when dancing and look at my feet more. I suppose people who are new to ballet tend to focus on the steps more than the form and expression. How can i remedy this situation? I want to be able to dance as well as I can and to dance with form and expression. I want to achieve that poise that ballet dancers ought to have. I doubt i can go up to the teacher and ask "Can you train me to have better form?". It sounds weird anyway. I'm slowly learning to use my arms better when in the center. Am i supposed to maintain rounded strong arms always? For example when doing developpe ala seconde.


Another problem is that how do I make my movements clean n sharp? Take for example, grand battements, sissones, steps with beats and many others. I'm doing my best to watch videos and learn from them but i don't exactly get that crucial link. I also struggled alot with petit allegros, or basically when fast music is on. I tend to panic and things go downhill from there. For times when i somehow kept a cool mind, I either barely followed through and lagged abit behind the music. What can i do about this? I read from forums that doing battement jete to the sides can help me achieve faster feet, the emphasis being on turnout and brushing the floor. Is there any other stuff that i can do to achieve faster feet?



Sorry for the whole chunk of words that i have typed. I do not know who i can ask regarding all these stuffs. My ballet teachers always seemed so bussssyyy. Thanks for reading my story. :)

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Hi Wilson!


Welcome to BT4D! I am a fellow Singaporean like yourself! :) Unfortunately, I relocated for university but still am in contact with my ballet teachers back home.


You mentioned that you just started ballet at last year September. Don't be too stressed up about it. Professional dancers spend their child and teen years training to be a professional. Nobody is going to be fantastic over night. Ballet takes a long time to progress and you are taking 5 days of classes which it is really good! You will improve and get there :). You have to be patient and work hand in hand with your teachers.


As for wanting to progess, it is important to get the basics first and know the alignment, rotation, etc etc first before attempting more challenging steps. Like what some members on this board say "take a few steps and you will be able to jump across further"


Have you read this yet? It forms the ABCs of ballet.






Now, I believe that you should talk to your teachers about wanting to improve or so. Often, teachers are very approachable and if you speak to them about wanting to improve and pushing you harder, they would definitely keep an eye on you. And no it is not weird to go up to a teacher and say that you want to have a better form. Teachers would never look at you that way, infact, they are very happy that you are willing to learn and improve.


As for the petite allegro, in my experience, it actually comes with practice. Using of the feet and brushing from the floor comes from tendus at the barre. The barre sets the basics for all of your movements in the center. Going through of the demi pointe to full pointe through the metarsals will help ALOT for petite allegro. Most of the time, the patterns are similar and once you get the jeez of the pattern, you just have to think ahead for each step. i often sing the steps in my head when the teacher demos. When you do changements, start thinking about the next step already.


Yes your arms should always be maintained round and supported from the underarms. It actually gives you the balance when you do adage in the center.


Thats fantastic that you know the terms so it is going to be easier for you. Another way is by reading through ballet books (You can find heaps of them in the Esplanade Lib at the dance section). I often read them and clarify with my teachers if I don't understand anything.


As for the pirouettes, your weight should always be on the front leg. If it is in the middle, you are going to have a harder time to transfer it to the front, if it is too back, you will lean back and that will throw you off the turns. The supporting feet must not shuffle before the turns and that often throws the pirouettes off. Push the support leg DOWN to go UP. It goes in two different directions, the legs pushes it down and then the body lifts it up and that would allow you to balance. Try standing in retire and arms in first without turning to find your center of gravity. Start with single pirouettes and try to stay up on that supporting leg in retire after ONE turn. Don't be too anxious to put the leg down.


Stop worrying so much! :)))) Ballet is difficult for any level of dancer including the professionals!

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Hi chocakety! Thanks for replying! :)


Yeah, i did told my teachers that i wanted to improve. I even asked one of them what aspects should i focus on first at the moment. She told me to focus on my feet as i have to agree that i DO not always brush my feet against the floor for tendus, jetes, battements. I also tend not to pointe and show my feet so it was good advice and she also recommended me to get a theraband and train my feet with it. My other teacher haven't been giving me any corrections in a few weeks already. I doubt i was too good for any corrections but without her corrections, i do not exactly know what to improve in class.


Regarding those 2 links, i have read them before but i don't exactly understand them.


Books wise, i have been reading up on all the ballet related books in my school library since i started learning as i wanted to learn more about ballet. I pretty much finished reading all of them and my school is a teaching institute which means the bulk of the books there are pedagogy related.


My teacher also said the same thing! Press down on the supporting foot to go up, instead of hopping onto it. I don't think that's a problem. My friends says that my arms are not rounded and supported during my turns. So that is also an area that i have to focus on. The part that i am most puzzled over is the platform that my feet is turning on. From my knowledge, a good multiple pirouettes have to start with a good platform for the feet to keep turning on. Maintaining balance on 1 leg is not so much of a problem as i have been working on my balance and control related aspects of ballet. Is it necessary to have a high demi pointe in the supporting leg when doing pirouettes?


Another problem is that I am quite energetic and i have a pretty high metabolism rate. After an hour of barre work, my shirt will be almost fully soaked. Is this normal? I do not see other people getting so soaked. I usually still have energy left after a 2hour class even after doing every single sequence in the centre. Am i not putting in enough effort or should i find some way to use up my energy? I have a 2 2hour classes side by side on tuedays but i usually run out energy by the 4th hour, which is the centre work. I tried eating bananas and energy bars and even sweet drinks. They all failed to provide me the energy needed. Any suggestions? I am running out ideas already.


And once again, thank you for replying me! It means a lot to me! :)

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If your teacher asked you to work on the feet first, work on it first. Once she feels that you have it corrected, other corrections would be applied to you later since it is going to be much easier for you to get the technique and progress on later and not form bad habits. So right now, just work on your feet. Tendus is a good exercise, the feet should go from demi-pointe to pointe and when you close, it is from pointe to demi pointe. Jetes you have to go through the feet and hold it the position. Same for grand battements, use the brushing movement from the floor to bring the leg up and not use your leg strength to kick. The floor is your best friend, use the feet and go into the floor to execute your movements.


Even if your other teacher does not correct, use the corrections that Teacher A has told you and applied in both teachers' class.


Yes, a high demi pointe is CRUCIAL as a foundation for pirouettes. If you have a low demi pointe, the insteps would not be activated and your feet would not gain strength. A low demi-pointe would not let you have the security of the balance and then you will not be able to go up with a strong balance and your turns would be grown off. It sounds like maybe you aren't getting the co-ordinations with the arms. Turns really need co-ordination with the plie and the arms. I can't give you a definete answer since I haven't seen you but I am just explaining what could be happening.


As for the energy, it really starts from your diet from the beginning. Throw the sweet drinks and start being picky about what you eat. I used to be like you where I eat and I just can't find the necessary nutrients. I avoid white food such as white rice and bread and started eating wholemeal and unpolished food. Energy bars are pretty useless and most dancers I know often get nuts and raisins as snacks. Sweating at the end of the barre is normal. I know when I have two classes in a row, I have to change my leotard for the second class cos my teacher was worried that I would catch a cold with my sweat.


Ballet is not aerobics where it is high cardio and you would be dead beat after it. :)

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Wilson Wan, may I add one more thing to the excellent answers you have received so far?


It appears that you started with Ballet-training fairly recently.


Repetition is really a very important aspect in training.


Something to think about:

At a dance medicine congress I attended a few years ago we were told in one of the lectures that it seems to take between 5,000 and 30,000 (thirty-thousand :grinning: ) repetitions of a movement in order for a body to be able to execute that movement really well.

(they said that this pretty much coincides with the often-mentioned "ten years" of near-daily training it takes to train a ballet dancer; the hours and repetitions are comparable to what is needed to learn to play, say, the violin really well)

Try to be patient with yourself, and continue to do the things in class as well as you can.

You will improve. :)



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haha. i see. 5000 repetitions???? That's alot of dancing. Haha. I guess i just have to keep practising then! :)

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PS Wilson -- a fairly new student's additional perspective.... Essential and important in successful ballet training for oneself I feel too, is enjoying it! If the student loves each repetition as bringing them closer to that ever-elusive excellence that we all strive for, your audience (your teacher) and fellow-students will see your love for dance, and ballet in each move as well...the very simplest plie exercise has elements that are part of the foundation for every move in ballet, up to the most complicated. --- Best wishes for success and much happiness on your ballet journey!

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I teach adult beginners and the one piece of advice I can give is "learn to love the process". I see a lot of people come to class, love it, and get frustrated when they don't look like a professional dancer is two months. It takes years of constant work...but if you learn to love the process, you will get there.

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Sometimes it feels like colouring a mandala - each step in the process has its own beauty, not just the completed image in the end. It's nonetheless a goal, but not the end of it all. :)

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Wilson Wan, welcome to Ballet Talk for Dancers, and to the Adult Dance students section of the message board. (Sorry I wasn't here to welcome you properly when you first posted -- real life intervened ... :ermm: )


You've already had excellent advice -- and you've only been dancing for 8 months! It takes time, time, and more time. And that's the joy: ballet is something you can do where you're always learning and always being challenged, and that's quite a thing for adults. I think the ting that I enjoy, 30 years on from you, ids that ballet can be a pastime, but I can also take it seriously, and be taken seriously by my teachers. It's not just a "hobby" -- studying ballet feeds into all sorts of other things in my life.


And as Moonlily and Wilimus say, each in a different way, I'll add to "The journey, not the arrival, matters."

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haha. thanks people! Thanks for reminding me that the process is the part where it matters and not so much of the product! Will keep that in mind.


My teacher has a recital coming next year and i dream about doing all the jumps n turns in the recital. That is also another form of motivation for me.


I strained my left ankle tendon on monday and it hurts when i go on demi pointe, let alone engaging the insteps. I have been icing it for a few days and i did not go for 3 ballet lessons this week already! What else can/should i be doing? I want to dance!! hahaha.

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Hi Wilson -- Get well, and hopefully you will be back in class very soon. The large jumps, turns, and more advanced moves might be approached w/ a bit of caution, to avoid injury. Progressing at a measured pace and not taking on moves or overdoing beyond what your body has built up to gradually as your muscles aclimate to ballet is - I feel - very important, to protect your body -- your instrument.


Some adult dancers/students are in ballet for the long haul and hopefully your teacher too, will advise you in safe ways of performing certain moves. However, personally and please disregard this if it is not to your liking at all, but taking beginning classes that progress slowly for a couple of years before you get in an advanced class with the jumps you are describing seems important (or perhaps taking them simultaneously if you really want the more advanced class..?) might be a good idea. You may not get the best result if you push yourself beyond what your body can safely and securely do, and end up with one, or multiple injuries that might hurt your chances of going as far w/ ballet study or performing, as you would like to. Just a thought - meant to be helpful. A wonderful dancer advised me of that early on in my ballet study and I am extremely glad I followed her sage advice. I see the result of that now in class. I am injured less than others (including more advanced students), and take a "slow but steady wins the race" approach. (Just a note too that teachers in more advanced or intermediate classes are not really going to be as likely to advise you on safety in ballet moves. Those classes are geared toward students who have learned those lessons already. Again that is my observation at least.)


Knowing your own body and its capabilities or limits is extremely critical in my opinion to having longevity as a dancer and is far more important than attaining amazing heights (pun intended) your first year of ballet........ Your body may really thank you later on - Again I am a somewhat beginning student myself so this is just my opinion. Teachers or others more experienced, here at BT4D may see things differently...... Take care -

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thanks ludmilla! Unfortunately, i am just quite injury prone in any sports i play in. Probably due to the fact i go all out while playing. Anyway, i am currently attending a variety of classes, ranging from roughly rad 3-6 range to rad intermediate standard or its equivalent. I learn alot from every class. For the easier classes, i try n focus more on presentation, form and even more on the basics. For the harder classes, i do struggle with the moves itself at times so it's more about the exposure and repetition i suppose.


Injuries wise, I kind of have a phobia towards big jumps as i injuried my metetarsal while training on grand jete en tournant. Therefore, i am actually kind of afraid of doing tour en laire as well, as i feel in 'danger' while doing so. Whenever my teacher ask us to do grand jete en tournant nowadays, i tend to be more careful and focus more on the landing.

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