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Ballet Talk for Dancers



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It's been a real struggle for me to get the combinations; when teachers show combinations it's been just some white noise and I've not been able to see anything there to copy.

Six months ago I was, for the first time, able to visualize a simple turn. But only to the right :) No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn't see the turn to the left (albeit I could execute it IRL). It took three more months to be able to visualize the turn both ways.

Last week I realized that now I can more clearly see what combinations are made of, even if there are new parts in them. I kind of know what to try instead of standing still and scratching my head.

This is most interesting. Something must have happened in my brain. What a relief.

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Often we are so confused about our arms and feet, that we forget about our most important body part for ballet (or anything else).. Our brain!

Visualisation is a VERY good tool for learning movements, so it's a great thing you are getting better at it!


Keep up the good work! :)

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This is not as unusual as you might think. All those months of practicing has allowed your brain to carve out its neural pathways. With those now carved, you will find it easier to pick up the combinations. It is not unlike learning a new language: you may have the grammar and vocabulary, but you still have to train the ear to listen for the pauses between the words.

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I also liken it to vocabulary. A simple combination has hundreds of parts. If they're new to you, it will seem like white noise. You won't even know the proper phonemes (sound bits). After time, you learn feet go here, knees go there, arms work with or against legs here. Then individual moves will be solid. A piqué turn, a balancé, these will be your words. Next you'll have phrases. A tendu that starts forward then goes to the side and back is likely croix, where it's forward, side, back, side on one leg then reversed on the other. And phrases specific to the teacher. Mine pretty much always gives us balancé (side, side, front, back), 2 pique turns, 2-4 chenes, then some sort of setup into a turn.


I took ballet as a child and teen but never really knew the names for things or the classical way of doing them. When I restarted as an adult, 4.5 years ago, I had a lot of the muscle memory and form in my brain but it took a while to get the moves. Combos were hard. All of a sudden, a couple years ago, it became seamless. I still have a ways to go on form, and my strength and flexibility will never be what it was like 30 years ago. But suddenly, it all made sense to me and I had no trouble doing 95% of the combinations. It was like when you're learning a new language and one day you start dreaming in it.


The next stage is where I'm at, learning dialects. My regular teacher will change it up now and then. Not just by giving us harder things and adding arm movements where previously she told us to just stay in second. But also by changing the way things "always" are. Like reversing the position of the arms during a move. In the last class she gave us two front balancés to follow the side ones, instead of one front, then a turn to kick to the back. I had no trouble but I had to really think about it instead of dialing it in. It was amazing though to see how much it messed most everyone up. People were doing the piques on the wrong leg and more.


What's even harder for me, is different teachers. I've only done that once and want to do more (unfortunately, my current class is pretty much the only decent adult class (for adults not en pointe and otherwise advanced) within 45 minutes, according to the folks who drive that far to come). I was able to do the individual moves in that class but combos were a mess. Every move was just a bit different in arms or legs, and they were in a different order, and a different pace.


In addition to just sticking with the classes and doing them, things that helped me were reading books and articles about ballet moves to wrap my head around technique and form that made little sense, listening into classes with the pre-pro students, taking the occasional "intermediate" class (what my studio calls the advanced not-on-pointe class), and watching carefully how the advanced students (who sometimes take our class for extra practice) do things. Varying teachers would help too I'm sure. I also did a big jump when our weekly adult class turned into twice a week. And then last year when some of us pressed the teacher to add a 3rd class and make it more advanced. It was very cool to realize I could do all the moves in the regular class and then suddenly to be moved somewhere where I struggled; struggle is where you learn.

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This is part of why I started ballet! It's a new challenge and as AncientDancer said it creates new neural connections. I'm also hoping it will help me cultivate better focus and recall.

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