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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Dilemma of a new adult dancer

Wilson Wan

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Ballet isn't sport, Wilson Wan! Going "full out" in ballet is rather different from going "full out" in running or cycling, or rugby. It's much more about controlled strength than it is about extreme athleticism, although most professional dancers are also extraordinary athletes. But they've been training slowly and steadily generally since the age of 9 or 10.

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Hi Wilson,


It seems to me that the problem is that you are trying to run before you can walk! You say your teacher has told you to focus on pointing your feet and you admit that this is something you are having problems with.


If you want to be in the recital, it is something you will simply have to improve. Your teacher will not want the audience to think that he/she prioritises "tricks" over technique - that is Dolly Dinkle territory!


Don't even think about attempting double tours in public until you can land a single cleanly and point your feet while in the air. And before that, you will need to be able to do changements tidily with pointed feet.


What you need is technique, technique, technique. If you have that, the hard steps and jumps will come much easier when you are ready for them.


The danger is that by doing what you are doing at the moment, the imperfectly executed steps are going into your muscle memory that way, and you will have to do a lot of "unlearning" later on. (I am saying this from personal experience, BTW!)


I strongly recommend that you ask your teacher for private lessons. That will (a) show that you are taking ballet seriously and ( B) enable you to get the personal corrections that there is not time to give you in a class aimed at more advanced dancers.

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thanks redbookish! yeah. Ballet is more than a sport. What i mean by going all out is that i put in more effort i suppose. For example a failli ensemble, i will do my best to jump as much as i can and include beats while doing so. Something along that line. Haha. i know. That's why i am sort of trying to chase back lost time i suppose.


Thanks jane! I have not been trying to do double tour en laires recently already. I just do my single tours if the teacher asks for it. I have this problem of not being able to turn in mid air. Double tour en laires, double pique turns and double saut de basque are impossible to do for me. I know. So i am trying to train and get the technique now. Which is not easy to identify and put into practice. I even resorted to analysing the mechanics behind certain steps. How do the private lessons thing work? It certainly sounds like a viable idea to me.

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Basic science before quantum physics. :thumbsup:

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Hi Wilson,


A private lesson is when you schedule a session with just you & your teacher to work on things specific to you that there is not time to do in the main class. They are expensive, as you are paying for the teacher's time and the studio space, but even if you only have one, it will enable you to get some proper feedback from your teacher and maybe some things you can work on at home.


Of course, it is possible that your teacher may not offer this facility - however, the very act of asking shows that you are taking things seriously, and they may be able to recommend an alternative option.


I am amazed that you are attempting such advanced steps as you describe already! I would have expected you to be working on basic steps such as assembles, jetes, coupes, entrechats quattre, single pirouettes & tours and perhaps cabrioles at this stage! Certainly not double anything!


At home you should be practising barre such as plies, tendus, grand battements, fondus etc focussing on technique, especially correct turnout and using your feet properly. You could also try standing in front of a mirror and practising all the arm positions. As others have said, you are running a real risk of injury by trying to do too much too soon, especioally if you are doing it unsupervised.


From the point of view of performing in a recital, it is much better to be able to execute an easy step with total perfection than to attempt a step that is too hard for you and have it go wrong on the day. If all you are given to do in the recital is classical walks (for example), focus on doing the best classical walks you have ever done in your life!


That is where the sportsman attitude should come in. It is about HOW you do it, not WHAT you do (at least for now!) If you adopt this attitude, you should find your teacher pays you more attention too.

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Great advice Jane (and I know hard won by you!). Good to see you here again, by the way.

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Hi jane! Thanks for replying! :)


I probably will ask my teacher whether she offers private lessons. I probably will take them for a month or so as it can get rather financially taxing in the long run as i'm still a student now. And yeah, I hate to be not treated seriously when i am very serious about it. haha.


Yeah i have done all those that you said. Cabriole too! I suppose i should really focus more on the seemingly easy moves. Sissones and temp de cuisse for example, are some steps that I cannot execute well. At least in the mirror, I do not see the beauty and form in it. I will pay more attention to the tendus and battements.

Edited by Redbookish
Edited to remove text speak
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Ah, sissonnes! Those are the step I really struggle with too, especially sissones en avant. The sideways ones are better.


Wilson, as well as the mirror, have you tried filming yourself & watching it back? if you are doing syllabus classes, maybe you could compare yourself with the official DVD and see what needs to be improved.


Thanks for the vote of confidence, Redbookish - as you have alluded to, I am someone who (by my own choice) went from being in a class that was way too hard for me right back to the basics of BBO Grade 1. In that class I was finally taught correct technique and realised how little idea I had had before about the correct way to perform the movements. I am now in grade 5 "legitimately" after getting a merit for my Grade 4 exam (which I had never ever thought could happen since I had only got a pass for Grade 3).


Wilson, according to the examiners' report, the reason I got that merit was because she could tell that I was "striving to attain" correct technique throughout the exam, i.e. I understood what I was supposed to be doing even if my body could not always achieve it.


I really wish you could come to my school and see how elegant and graceful adult dancers can look doing grade level steps.

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Guest Pas de Quoi

Hi Wilson: Some thoughts for you - words repeated here first told to me by some of my very best teachers - those who taught me the most, and the ones from whom I continue to derive inspiration, each and every time I teach, take class, or perform: "Advanced work is simple things done PERFECTLY" "The slower we go, the faster we get there" "When you start to really like tendus, you are becoming a skilled dancer" "Don't show me stepping and posing - I want to see real understanding of the movement, from the inside out".


I deal with a lot of students who "fake it" and try to "make it" .... but they don't succeed - none of them. As the very wise and experienced moderators on this site state again and again, one cannot take shortcuts with ballet. It doesn't work. Period. I tell my students - "If you want instant gratification, please pick another form of dance".


To get a better understanding of the dynamics of steps, I suggest you take a look at any of the beginning/intermediate ballet videos put out by Finis Jhung. You can rent them through Netflix. He's amazingly adept at getting to the dynamics of steps, and gives great suggestions for truly dancing them, instead of just skimming above the technique.


And ... I will add that I concur with all who've cautioned against practicing something incorrectly. For the first five years of my training, I had horrible teachers. Finally a really good teacher came into my area. He looked my technique and told me I could do one of two things - continue to work incorrectly or start all over again and relearn (correctly) what I had been taught incorrectly. It took a LOT of work to do the later, but I'm glad I chose to do it.

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Fantastic post pas de quoi! Just fantastic. "The slower er go, the faster we get there"... I'm going to start saying this to my adult beginners. BRILLIANT. I had a teacher who said "if you do things WRONG for long enought, they will feel right, WRONG. ".


Wilson, please please please try not to jump into classes and do things that are over your head, it is absolutely not the way to learn this.

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I talk about my jazz mento Luigi a lot. His most famous quote is "never stop moving" but the thing he said the most in class was "dance from the inside". Pas de quoi, I've never heard anyone else say "dance from the inside" ...I love that concept!

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Pas de Quoi, Willimus, and jane -- Wonderful comments!


Wilson, as you can see, this amounts to a sort of religious fervor for many ballet students and teachers alike. Like religion, it requires more or less "total surrender" to the process... :angelnot:


In ballet, some of the things that on the surface may "look easy" in a basic beginner class, if done correctly really are some of the most difficult. It all goes back to the building blocks... just to share my viewpoint, and as others said so well.

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