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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Ballet and attention disorders?


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Does anyone have any advice on remembering combinations for people with ADD? I have a pretty hard time concentrating when my teachers are going over combinations that have more than one basic pattern. It has gotten better over time, but it's really holding me back. I often have ZERO idea how a combination begins by the time a teacher has gotten to the end of it. Like, it could be a pique arabesque or a port de bras or a grande jete, seriously NO idea. Can't remember at all. Petit allegro is the worst. Does anyone else have this problem or any advice?

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hi NicoletteLeFaye- I was so pleased to see your post this morning because I am absolutely having the same problem! I don't have an attention problem (to my knowledge) but I too have struggling dreadfully with this right now. It is really demoralising. I see the teacher talking and think I am listening but in the end have very little idea what to do. I find myself watching more experienced students and know that I am part of a beat behind. I too am waiting with anxious ears for some advice! :whistling:

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Nicolette, I know little about ADD, but maybe you could start from the point of thinking about the strategies you use in other parts of your life? How do you do complex tasks, remember addresses, etc and so on? And see if you can transfer strategies across to ballet.


The other thing to consider is that remembering combinations in ballet, especially as an adult beginner, is hard! Many of us experience difficulties. I find that the more classes I do, the more easily I remember combinations. I try to recognise typical patterns eg the preparation for grand jeté: pas de bourrée, glissade, step step ... and so on.

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It's not really an ADD/ADHD problem so much as a short term memory problem. I (and many new dancers) struggle with the same problem. I try to remember combinations in "packets" rather than in individual steps.


For example: It is harder to memorize a long number by memorizing each digit. 104566: that's six digits to remember. However, if you memorize the number in packets of information, you have fewer items to remember. Thus, ten-forty five-sixty six is easier to remember than one-zero-four-five-six-six. Each ballet step follows the next in a logical (and sometimes predictable) way, so creating packets of information is a logical way to work through a combination.


Also, you could verbalize each step under your breath. Start with the first step as it is being demonstrated/explained, then repeat the first step and add the second once its being demonstrated, etc. Simple repetition will keep it in your mind long enough to perform the combination.

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I love the "packets" idea -- definitely a good strategy -- Thanks for mentioning that.


Also, one thing I find - though this may be "cheating" a bit - is that I can figure out a particular teacher's "style pattern" (not a technical term -- just my own way of looking at it) within a few weeks or a couple of months of being in a teacher's class (just depending on how new to me a particular teacher's "style patterns" are). And whatever helps me do better I will make use of :) . .... in essence noticing the particular "packets" that a particular teacher uses frequently in their combinations or barre exercises.


For me the hardest thing is if taking from a new teacher I am back to "square one" on remembering especially petit allegro then. Also that is why I try to visit other classes from time to time to put myself in a class I am not automatically familiar with so I don't rely only on familiarity with a particular teacher's style in my ability to remember....


Nicolette -- another tip for you which I mentioned on another thread some time ago, but if you write down the combination - right after class for instance -- or sometimes I do this when I get home (I have gotten to the point where if I understood the combo in class -- not always being able to completely execute it but able to often remember it anyway), then I can mentally work it out at home and run through it and sometimes improve my execution of it by repeating it several times that way.


This has in turn helped me affix in my mind different style patterns, too. ..... reviewing it after class after writing it down I have found to be, as I said before on that other thread, "My Secret Weapon".... :ninja:


Sadly this still does not make me that able to do petit allegro in class as soon as the combination has been given, however I can say that in a year of this 'method' I have improved a great deal from when I was completely lost, before. Now I can do if not the whole petit allegro a good part of it and then work out the rest at home...... So I am with you on the difficulty but there is light at the end of the tunnel I feel, with a few fairly simple learning techniques - again the "packets" idea is very good as explained above by lilcris --

-- :closedeyes:

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Another variation on the "packet" method is by using the counts. And singing the names of the steps in time with the music might help - provided you're at the advanced enough stage to know the names of all the steps! :) I do a combination of counts and singing for my students and when they're working on it I hear them chanting - glissade assemble, glissade assemble, coupe chasse pas de bouree, sissone, sissone.


I actually find adage much harder to remember - as you say by the time the teacher has got to the end I've forgotten how she started. Personally, I think this is because they seem to set the adage without music and then the pianist just plays. When I compose an adage I ask for music first and then I do what the music tells me - once you understand the highs and lows of the music, it's much easier to remember something that fits to it well.

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Hamorah -- good points! Yes, singing or "chanting" as if poetry, the steps, as if it were verse AND saying the sequence to the tempo, the rhythym of the combination does really help.


You're right too in that I tend to remember the beginning and end of a combination (adage, petit allegro, anything), when it's given and the middle I often have glossed over or not remembered, during the demonstration. I usually try to pay attention during marking it -- if we do mark -- to the middle of it, to fill in the "blank spots". In any case all these tips really help -- Thanks,

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The singing really does help, or to at least have a rhythmic background for the step names in your mind. When there is a pirouette somewhere in a combination, I started to pick a much higher note than the rest of the combination for that count (for the melody/rhythm thing in my mind) and I feel it helped me to think "upwards" more easily when doing a pirouette.

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Moonlily -- Good idea! These "pneumonic devices" -- and most especially to me, the rhythm/speed/timing of the steps, being a big part of the verse/song/or reciting of them -- makes a world of difference -- the "rythymic background", as you said. The idea of different tone or pitch for a particular step - as w/ a pirouette -- Brilliant! :clapping:

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2 more strategies that I used as a student (with attention and sequencing issues) would be to make a song from the names of steps (particularly effective with petit allegro) or to create a visual story to accompany the steps in your head (very effective with adagio).

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Oops!just saw someone else recommended singing. I highly endorse it! Music uses different pathways in the brain than the ones we struggle with (those of us with learning and memory issues).

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My 17 year old DS has ADHD. He is currently using a Daytrana patch, which allows him some control as to when he puts it on and takes it off. He says it makes all the difference in the world. I assume since he is just about an "adult" that he would continue in this manner.

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I know this problem from my students and usually I say - at the end of demonstrating - "oh, now you don't remember the beginning anymore, isn't it?" and then I tell them again what they have to do in the beginning. This kind of works because once started over they usually get the rest of it somehow together.

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Claude Catastrophique -- That's good to hear. Yes, to me it seems if a teacher is in tune w/ the students she can see people "thinking" and just quickly fill in the gaps -- that would be so quick and smooth... as you said -- to just go back to the beginning and run through that to get people started "on the right foot" :huepfen: . That sounds really nice, and nice for your students, to help them succeed.

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Claude - yes, of course, that really helps and I do that too - especially with tricky barre exercises! However, I once had a group who could not even remember the starting position of their rather long set exam adage. It used to drive me nuts! They pretty much knew the adage, but they just could not remember that starting pose! About 2 weeks before the exam I finally threatened them that I would not allow anyone to take it if they couldn't get their act together and thankfully that worked!

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