Jump to content
Ballet Talk for Dancers

When is an Adagio not an Adagio?


Recommended Posts

A teacher I study with is highly trained and accomplished (from a "three-lettered" company/has amazing credentials). I only mention this to say that experience and background of this teacher are not an issue. What seems a bit difficult for me to get used to in this particular class is that we do adagio combinations at what I would consider "break-neck speed".


Is it mainstream and accepted nowadays that what years ago (when i briefly studied ballet as a teen) was a lilting, paced, slow, controlled expression has become a sort of "race to the finish" feeling?


What used to be paced 1.................2.................3..................4................... is now 1..2..3..4.. and what I consider at a "fair clip"....... not "lento" or "adagio" (if i am using the musical terms correctly.)


Not only do i miss the more measured, studied pace that draws out a move -- a developee stretches out over the count 1....................... What we now have is 1.. it doesn't feel "right" to me for an adagio. By that, i mean it doesn't literally feel right - on both a muscular level as well as a musical level!!


The feeling of order and harmony I had found customary at the end of a class for instance, going through it as a sort of epic journey........... seems missing now. Different teachers are different -- I can fully accept, and welcome that!! It is why studying with various teachers is so interesting and rewarding!


I will not mention this to this teacher at all! I do not want to change her or anything about the way she teaches! I am simply commenting and wonder what others here at BT think -- I'd especially wonder what teachers - and Miss Leigh, if you might possibly have interest in this topic, I wonder what you would say..........? :nixweiss::ermm:


When the pace of an adagio combination is what seems to be too fast (to really "qualify" as an adagio at least in my opinion) -- and i say that as a somewhat beginning student, not as any authority, then i notice that this teacher's other combinations all seem to have a similar brisk pace so that by the end of class i feel as though I've run a sort of marathon of a more homogenous, singular-paced collection of similar combinations -- somewhat of a "workout", more than the muscular feeling i had been used to at the end of a ballet class of having been on a beautiful journey encountering valleys, mountains, dales, lilting brooks, little hills, open, expansive meadows, mysterious caves and then brilliant sunlight ................nuances in other words..............


That is, without a distinct (slow) adagio, then a pirouette combination, after that a distinct unique, perhaps 'perky' petit allegro.....then grand allegro ...... each combination a separate and unique tempo, expression, character, personality and category, the feeling i have at the end of the class is quite different. This method may be more modern or more 'upper level' or something than what may be a more "old fashioned" (or "traditional"/"classical") class structure? But again one of the beautiful aspects of ballet is it traditions........ This teacher has the credentials there is no disputing that. She has a Ballanchine connection and is very justifiably proud of that and deserving of much respect including due to her background.


I may not fully grasp or fully appreciate, a more "Ballanchine-oriented" way of structuring a class....? But I do miss a more distinct variety in tempi that combinations have seemed to have "traditionally" in class (with other teachers) - from adagio on the slow end of the spectrum to a fast petit allegro at the other...........


Thoughts?? :nixweiss: --- Thank you!! :)

Link to comment
  • Administrators

I would have to question this as well, Ludmilla. Are all of her classes like this? All I can think of is that she might be a dancer from a major company, but that does not automatically make one a teacher. Maybe she was a dancer who had great speed, loved doing everything fast, and now just makes her combinations all speedy! :nixweiss:

Link to comment

Miss Leigh,


Yes, all of her adult classes are like this. (She teaches children, too -- i don't know how those classes are.) I'm glad to hear your view! I agree that being with a major company doesn't make one a good teacher - I'll consider that it's her personal taste as to tempo and just accept that. (I'm not saying that i will like it, however.)


(The rest of her choreography (for class combinations) I find highly stylized as well.) I had not encountered such a different approach before. Thank you for your comments.

Link to comment

Ludmilla, I felt the same when my dd went from a school with a certain more classical style to a school with a Balanchine style. Actually, the first time I noticed it was when I went to watch class at an SI at a school that uses the Balanchine style. I asked my dd afterwards what happened to adagio! That's when she explained to me some differences in style and that it was a bit of a faster adagio than either of us were used to.


On the rare occasions when I watch one of dd's classes (once or twice each year), I often do the combinations in my head, or at least try to remember them. I have noticed that, with at least one particular teacher, you often get your leg up on the one, and then hold it. There is no slow "get your leg up there" in 2 or more counts. Musically, it feels like they use different accents. And I do also feel as if the tempo is generally faster.

Still, I also notice that everything seems faster. So while the adagio is a bit faster than I had grown accustomed to, the petite allegro moves at a break neck speed! Definitely perky and definitely a stretch. Dd has begged me to come take one of her former teacher's open classes. If I finally agree, it will be quite a challenge though dd insists the open classes are not quite as fast and as complex as her upper level classes were at that school.

Link to comment

MelissaGA - Thank you for this insight! What you've observed at your dd's SI class is it, yes - and so it does relate to the Ballanchine style as i imagined.


The speed is a challenge and I suppose it is good to push oneself to try to become more accustomed to it if possible. Have fun with the class your dd will get you to take....... :)

Link to comment

Since restarting ballet as an older adult, I have only had one teacher, who varies her speeds in ways that Ludmilla would probably appreciate. She was Italian and Russian trained and calls her style just plain classical. When i was out of town, I took a class with a different teacher and found it very interesting to see how much was the same but how (very) much was different. That teacher was RAD trained, though she said her style was more than just RAD. The center and corner combos were all super fast (there was some slow stuff too). I have no trouble doing fast combos in my regular teacher's class, because I'm used to them. But new ways of doing the moves (remembering different arms, direction to face, direction to turn, etc), combined with the breakneck speed is just not something I can do on the first (or second) try.


I like to feel like I've had a work out at the end of a class, but I want to feel like I danced it. Not like I did aerobics :-) So yeah, a teacher who is all about the fast wouldn't appeal to me either.

Link to comment

Thank you, BalletFamily - I'm glad to hear your perspective and i really like your comment .......that you (and I, too) want to feel as though you have danced (a 'work out') - not just done aerobics..... (there are other venues for that if that is what one is seeking!!)

Link to comment

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...