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Ballet Talk for Dancers

"Stretch Leading"


Artsydancer

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Hi! I'm new to this forum but it's so amazing to see all these ballet lovers gathered in one place to share advice. :)

 

In addition to my regular dance at a studio, at the high school which I attend, students are given an option to take a beginner dance class as opposed to regular physical education. When given a choice between dancing and running, clearly I chose to take the dance class!

 

Now, this class is not what anybody would term "real" dancing. In general, it meets three times a week, twice for 90 minutes and once for 50, but we lose a lot of time in changing into the class "uniform" (yoga pants and a school t-shirt), the same way as a regular PE class does. Our school year has four quarters, and each quarter focuses on a different style of dancing. First quarter was hiphop, second is musical theatre, third will be jazz, and fourth will be tap. The very little technical dancing that we do is at a very basic level, like slow introductions to battements or jazz walks, which makes sense for such a beginner class.

 

The closest that our class comes to resembling a typical dance class is the stretch/warmup at the beginning. Students volunteer to do it ahead of time, in partners, and come with prepared music and do a warmup similar to one that occurs in a jazz class. My partner is another dancer, who's at a lower level than me but considerably higher than the class average, and both of us have experience in jazz and ballet. We do the jazz warmup that we regularly do at our studio, modifying it for a beginner level, but take out things like a sequence of plies or releves in center, because we aren't sure the class is ready for that kind of technique (or even should be, since it's not ballet!), though we would like to be doing those exercises as well.

 

The issue is, the teacher for the dance class is not an advanced dancer. She's a fine level to teach a beginner class, but she did not grow up with much ballet training, so her technique isn't always the most clean. I don't like criticizing teachers, because they are the ones who teach me the craft, so please don't take it as me being rude, but I'm worried that if we try to add in ballet technique, she won't know when to stop us if we take it too far. For example, if we want to have people try doing a series of releves, but they aren't engaging the right muscles and are just sickling, I don't know that she has the training to notice this and correct it.

 

Basically, I'm wondering if we should skip adding in steps like releves and stick with a basic jazz warmup, or, if we are to do the balletic technique, what kind of steps would be appropriate to do? (We aren't given time to really do a barre, but we could do maybe one or two combinations). We don't know if we're overthinking this (though we probably are) but in my opinion it's better to be overly careful then not be careful enough and risk anybody getting injured or anything.

 

Thanks for any advice you can give!

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Welcome to Ballet Talk for Dancers, Artsydancer!

 

I think your situation is a bit unusual, but I'm very happy that you recognize the problems involved in dealing with beginning level classes, no matter what dance form. You are very correct in your thinking that ballet things might be too difficult for them, and, with a teacher who does not have a ballet background, I don't think you really want to go there. I would say it's probably best to stay with very basic jazz warm up, because teaching the placement and use of rotation required to do things like pliés and relevés would require a good bit of time.

 

My question is why is the teacher not teaching the warm up? It is her job, not yours, and she is supposed to know what she is doing. So, even though you don't like criticizing teachers, sometimes there is a reason to do so.

 

The reality is that dance in schools that are not specifically arts high schools there will not be anywhere close to what one does in a good studio, and therefore, most likely not very productive for serious dancers with a lot of training. Possibly a waste of time. I'm sure there are high schools that would be an exception to this, and actually have a dance teacher with adequate training, but I don't think that is the norm.

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I really don't know why the teacher is not teaching warmup! The first month, she offered the sign up sheet, and after experiencing one of her warmups my friend and I agreed that we wanted to do it ourselves, so we get once every two weeks. About half of the leaders are dancers, so we just do what we do at our studio, and the other half don't seem to know what they're doing. I agree it's kind of weird that she doesn't do it, but the entire class is a bit weird.

 

I'm not even expecting the class to be a good one, don't worry! The teacher herself knows next to no ballet terminology and even though it's more focused on jazzy stuff, I think a teacher for any technical class should be very comfortable with their ballet terms and knowledge of technique. Nevertheless, I'd prefer to take this fake dance class and suffer through a less-experienced teacher (though she's been at the school since the 90s!) rather than take PE and run, so I guess that's just what I'll have to do for the rest of the year.

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