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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Happy and encouraged, and slightly sad and disappointed at the same ti

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So I decided to apply to a summer intensive and got rejected. The age limit for this SI was 12 to 22 and required a minimum level of technique equivalent to RAD Intermediate Foundation. I did pass that exam with merit. But I am 32, so I'd asked if I could still apply and was told that I could, provided I sent in an audition video. I knew it was going to be a very long shot as I've only really been dancing for 14 months now.

I knew this was a very long shot, but I tried for the mere challenge it posed. Anyway, I worked on preparing that video and sent it in. I did not make it.

I received a really friendly rejection letter encouraging me to continue working hard and they said they wanted me to reapply next year.

"....I was very impressed at seeing your technique level given that you have been dancing for less than two years. You must have a very good ballet teacher. When I heard that you wanted to apply, I did not expect I would see a level even worth considering for the SI.

However, as a lot of pointe will be required for almost all classes, I do not believe you will be able to keep up with the rest of the students. I am afraid your technique has not yet achieved the qualifying standard for the SI.

Please do not let this rejection stop you from continuing to dance. On the contrary, I do encourage you to let this motivate you to continue your training and push yourself to do even better. I would also really like you apply to our SI again next year. I do not know you, but from your emails, our phone conversations and your video I sense something I've not seen in adult beginners I have taught before.

Thank you very much for your time and effort spent preparing the dance video. And kudos to your ballet teacher..."


Ok, so this is a pretty positive rejection letter I guess. And the upshot of this is that my teacher now insists on giving me three private 1.5 - hour lessons per week starting next semester to work on technique issues specific to me and on pointe (given that I am not ever going to get pointe training in our regular classes). That makes me really happy. That plus the fact that they asked me to reapply next year even though by then I will be 11 years over their age limit.


But for some reason I am feeling rather blue today after re-watching my video. I am doubting my abilities and thinking I am so far behind other dance students. My dancing could and should be better than it is. I am also worried that I am not going to get any ballet classes for the next five weeks because my school is on summer break. :( Sigh!

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I think it's natural to feel a bit down after a rejection, so let yourself feel that way for a bit -- then, reflect on that rejection letter as an accolade! It's from a complete stranger who was inclined to be sceptical about your training level, and who openly expressed that s/he was "impressed" with your level of achievement. S/he didn't have to say this, but they did. Congratulations!!

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Congratulations are in order. 14 months? really? and you got that lovely letter. You should be proud of yourself. Of course you are blue because you wanted to take the summer intensive and were rejected...but listen to the tone of that lovely letter. These people don't know you. They have nothing invested in you. They have absolutely no reason to "spare your feelings" or "make you feel better". These are busy people with many letters to write, programs to plan, communications to tend to...and what did they do? They took the time to tell you how special you are.


Be proud and keep dancing.


I would like to pass on something to you that a very wise and talented teacher once said to me when I felt like everyone else was ahead of me (I was a late starter). This is what she said:


"It can't be done. There is absolutely no way to go back in time and start studying ballet at 9 years old. It is impossible. And...taking four classes per day, seven days a week (which is what I was trying to do) will only lead to injury. But there is something you can do: You can work hard and sensibly, find the best teachers you can, look toward the future, and dance"


Two years later I earned a position in a small but lovely company...and even got a New York Times review.


14 months is almost no time at all...and LOOK WHAT YOU HAVE ACHIEVED! I'm proud of you, and I don't even know you.

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Wow, you got that lovely encouraging rejection letter AND that lovely post from Willimus? Don't feel blue!


You have no reason to doubt your abilities based on the feedback from the audition. It's fantastic you've gotten so far in a mere 14 months, and with an adult's body. This says great things about you and teacher. Bravo!

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Thanks for Redbookish, Willimus, and Janneke for your encouragement. This is so true Willimus. There is no way to go back in time and do things differently.


I guess what's making me insecure a lot is the fact that we are very isolated here in Cambodia. I only have one teacher and I don't have anyone to compare myself to. We are the first ballet school that opened in the country and there are no other ballet schools. I am the only adult beginner here studying ballet the way I do. Other adult students we have are either already very experienced or even if they are beginners they take classes rather sporadically. Else we have children and they all started from scratch when they joined our school.

So even when I do something well I feel like I have no idea how I compare with other people who have been dancing for the same amount of time as I have. That's what's creating a lot of doubt in me. Maybe that's what made me audition - that wanting to know how I compare. Thing is, I decided to try to compare to others myself in a place where I can't really compete.


This is what my barre work and (a very small part of) my centre work look like by the way.

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You work so hard! You should stop trying to compare yourself to other people - it might keep you from being the best you can be because you feel down. We've danced together so many times, and have had so much fun. Your motivation pulled me out of my lethargy and even though I hadn't been in class forever, you pulled me back out to the literal dance floor & barre (ha ha). Your love and joy of dance made me remember my love of dance - so I dragged my tired, broken, unpracticed body to bounce around with you too. Don't be down, Pixie!

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P.S. Don't forget to spot in pirouette.

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Thank you for posting those links DaPixie. I too was very impressed - you have a really good teacher. You work cleanly and accurately, with careful placing and stance. nice quality, and certainly look as if you've been learning for muuuuch longer than you have!


As LaFilleSylphide said you're not spotting in your pirouettes and you need to push off the floor more with your feet to get more dynamic in your jumps, but you are really doing well and yes, definitely should continue. As you get more experienced, I think you'll be able to get more dynamics generally in to your dancing and that will help. Perhaps do some stretching too. Obviously legs need to be kept at the level that you can control the turn-out, especially in adage, but you could work towards greater height in grand battements.


Well done! You should be proud of yourself, not disappointed. Are there no other summer courses or lessons you could take besides the RAD course?

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Here in South-East Asia it's March and April that are considered to be 'summer'. So all intensive courses tend to be around that time. At Bangkok City Ballet, they will hold their RAD exam prep intensive at the end of August, but I won't be taking my RAD Intermediate this year. I don't think I'd be ready by November. I am especially struggling with double pirouettes and petit allegro. Also, my teacher doesn't like the RAD much (even though he's starting his RAD teacher training soon) and thinks it's too square and academic, which is very much how I am in general. He doesn't think RAD can help me develop artistically as a dancer. He thinks I need to free myself a bit and learn to 'feel' what it's like to be a dancer before going back to do my RAD Intermediate. He thinks my time, money and energy would be better spent still training intensively, but not focusing on RAD at the moment.


We reopen our school on the 29th of July. So, my options until then are:

- take a couple of privates with my teacher when he has the time and take just about every yoga, pilates, chi gong, aerobics, and zumba class I can find locally

- go to Bangkok for a week and take around 10 open adult classes alone and hopefully run into my French and Israeli friends in at least some classes

- go to Bangkok for a week and take around 7 open adult classes with LaFilleSylphide (and hopefully run into my French and Israeli friends in at least some classes) and go shopping and eating with her


I'd personally prefer the third option, but don't know if we can make it happen.


As for my technique, I am really struggling with spotting in my turns. It is very haphazard. Sometimes I manage doubles, a couple of times I have managed triples (though en dehors from fourth to the left only). Whoever said women are good at multi-tasking has obviously never met me! I find it bloody hard having to concentrate on so many things in pirouettes and then also having to spot.


I also lack strength and stamina which makes allegro work hard. By the time I get to that part of class, I am usually already exhausted and find it really hard to jump. When I practice my petit allegro on my own just before class or after a short barre, I have a lot more strength and ballon and it looks a lot better.

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DaPixie, if I may weigh in here, you have been dancing only for 14 months!?

You have accomplished very much in that time. :)


For all the things you mention which you feel you need to work on, I can only say, "repetition, repetition". :)

There is no short-cut.

The body has to perform the same movement so often that the body knows how to do so without the conscious mind doing anything; and this goes for little corrections, too.

I would speculate that your exhaustion by the time you get to jumps is perhaps related to this, too. (but I do not know for sure!)


I hope you can make it work that you can go and spend time with friends and get a nice week full of training before your school starts back!

At any rate, try not to obsess about your progress! It takes time! Work on the "little" things, such as use of feet and resistance to the floor (feet) and air (arms, hands) and economy of movement, doing simple exercises well! It will make the more difficult things so much easier later on.

That is my opinion.



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Just for my (and perhaps her) information, is the spotting why it seems she's doing an extra quarter turn on her pirouettes?

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I think the turn and a quarter is simply because the choreography favors croisé.


DaPixie, really, you've learned such a lot in a year and change! I would take to heart what Willimus' teacher said, and also Baryshnikov's striving for "better" message, and also the encouraging letter you've received.


Doubting yourself never helped anyone (believe me, I would know), so do the best you can to think positively and enjoy the dancing you get to do!

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Ha, we can still see your friends in between classes. :P Let's go shopping and eat more gelato. The extra quarter turn is choreography, but spotting facilitates that. I find it extra useful to spot the corner I'm supposed to end up in when doing an en de dans pirouette - which in many center exercises end up being 2 1/4th of a turn.


Pixie, do you have any videos you can also use? Don't worry about whether your teacher thinks RAD is too academic or not, since you are academic in personality, then RAD is by all means a system that suits you! In fact, most styles start out very academic first and then you progress to the instinctive boundary pushing later when your foundation is solid. You're really on a good path so far. I actually think, having seen you, that in many ways you're much better off - you're learning all the basics that lead up to the complicated, whereas most adult beginners like myself kind of have to vaguely and ambiguously fill in those blanks.

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DaPixie - is there a school where you can learn the RAD Higher Grade 7 syllabus? Or perhaps you can get the DVD and learn it yourself. I teach Grade 7 inbetween IF and Inter, because it's so lovely and dance-y! I had a student who actually came to us from Australia with very good clean technique, but not much movement or dance (for some reason she hadn't yet been taught pirouettes at age 13!). Anyway, she passed her Inter - old syllabus - and then I asked her to go down a level and work on Grade 7. It was the making of her as a dancer. She's absolutely gorgeous now and was even accepted for the Bolshoi SI in Russia this summer!

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Just a note, I think what you have achieved in 14 months is just wonderful. Not many students can dance as well as you can in such a short time. Keep working. There is no short cut. It takes many years and many classes.


You are on the right track.


Don't compare yourself to others...just keep dancing.

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