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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Syllabus classes


doormouse

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vrsfanatic

Brilliantly said Miss Persistent! :clapping: Thank you. It is well known in the professional ballet world that often the better teachers are those who were not "famous" for their stage work. As for a syllabus, it can only be well accomplished through the melding of good teaching and a student who is willing to learn what is being taught.

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  • doormouse

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8 hours ago, Miss Persistent said:

Teaching is a skill set all of its own, regardless of ones personal ability.  Some of the best teachers I know never danced professionally. 

Here, here, Miss Persistent!  I completely agree with this thought, along with your point that the relationship between student and teacher is also an important factor in progression. 

In my opinion, the importance of the teacher/student relationship and communication is often overlooked, particularly by adults who are not as skilled in identifying the subtle art and mastery of good teaching (which included me, back in the day, when I was trying to find the "perfect" pre-pro school for my DD, and so was looking for objective metrics to measure and assess).....  I wish it were the case that everyone learned the exact same way, and just soaked up the information and applied it immediately....  wouldn't that be a lovely, easy world.  Alas, such a world does not exist, despite my sometimes desperate attempts to fit learning into a box, my own included.

I know I found it comforting to my own sense of organization and need for control to have a syllabus outlining the progression and steps in a logical and orderly way.  But I quickly learned that my DD didn't follow an easily identified sloped line with her progression, and although I often yearned for regimented exams and clear rubrics, SHE didn't.  Instead, she sought out the relationship/communication with the teacher --- those teachers she "connected with,  understood their corrections and "got" their vision, and then just trusted in the process.  No rubrics or metrics or science for her... just amorphous "feelings" (sigh... it was all very frustrating to the outside judgment-oriented observer, but quite effective for the dancer).   Those "soft skills" are more important than most of us would like to admit, since they are so very hard to quantify.

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Chasse Away
On 9/26/2020 at 8:18 PM, StormTrouper said:

Teachers who are ex-professionals with Class A companies who were principal rank or above may well have attended an academy for years, so are more technically adept than teachers who didn’t follow that pathway.  If these ex-pros well understand how adults learn neuro-motor sports, then they can be the best most efficient teachers in my experience.

StormTrooper I kind of agree with you here, this has always been the case in my experience. I understand that there can be effective teachers who didn't go this route, but personally I haven't had any. Or maybe it is more correct to say that in my experience teachers who fit the above descriptions are always better (more knowledgeable, structure better classes, pick better music, more technically correct) than teachers who do not. My only distinction would be about "Class A" companies, because I think the 'prestige' of the company a teacher formally danced for contributes insignificantly, especially when the teacher themselves had good training as a dancer and as a teacher.

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 Syllabus class taking is the only way to improve technically that is cost effective, meaning unless you want to pay for private training, I think.

This I disagree with from my own experience with syllabus training in RAD. I did not enjoy it. We studied the same exercises for 2 years. Yes, that means I did the same Port de Bras exercise for 2 years. I was incredibly bored and frustrated. Personally, I needed more stimulating classes, more variety in music, I couldn't be present or happy in class because my mind was so numb. I understand that apparently RAD isn't supposed to be like that, but that's always been my experience with RAD teachers. I am much happier studying Vaganova now, which is more of a 'Method' than a syllabus. The content of what needs to be learned at what level is pretty clearly specified and the rules of the technique are very clearly taught. However, Vaganova was also very adamant that the classes needed to be varied and interesting (even at low levels, the exercises are simple but it is encouraged to change up the music and some details each lesson) or it would lead to uninspired dancers, so there are no 'set exercises' for each level. 

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vrsfanatic

Dear Eligus and Chasse Away, neither of you are registered as Adult ballet students. while your input is very valuable and I really do not want to remove it, are you adult ballet students, as well as a parent or a dancer? Since you are in university Chasse Away, I assume you are taking classes, but are they adult classes? Hopefully Eligus you too are taking adult classes.

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Chasse Away

How do I register as an adult dancer? This hasn’t come up before, but I can register if I need to☺️.

I take both adult and teen classes, about 50/50 split, at my studio. At my studio there is a large overlap between who takes what classes, so you’ll often find teens taking the adult class because the schedule works for them/they are making up a class, and “adults” in the level 7/8 class because why not? I mean, I guess there are a lot of dancers who are in their late teens early 20s anyways, so it kind of blurs the category between teens and adults.

 

When the university was open I took a class they offered there as well. I’m technically a grad student now.

 

But also I didn’t realize I had to be taking “adult” classes to be considered an adult dancer, it’s all the same ballet anyways right? There are adults I know who only take teen classes because it’s the only class that works for them. Just curious as to what the distinction is.

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vrsfanatic

Please just change it in your profile. Now we know, but just to be safe. I usually do not follow the Adult Forum but this topic is very interesting to me. I am probably the only Moderator who did not know. Don't fret! Carry on!! 😉

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  • Administrators

Admin hat on...

Chasse Away, please let me know if you have any difficulty changing things in your profile.  I can make the change in the admin control panel if need be.

mom2

Now back to regularly scheduled conversation...

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I absolutely disagree that either syllabus classes or a teacher with a prolific performing career is required to learn ballet well as an adult. 

Yes, you need teachers who have a solid understanding of ballet technique and how it progresses. I've had numerous teachers who were excellent at this with a wide range of backgrounds, including a former principal dancer who performed to international acclaim; someone who did relatively little professional performing before pivoting to teaching; a teacher with extensive dance education training but no professional ballet career; etc. These were all in open classes, too. 

But there are other criteria (some are interrelated) I think are important for teachers of adults, and that all of the amazing teachers I've had display in their own personal way:

1. Understanding of how adults learn and applying that understanding in classes. 

2. Belief in adults' ability to progress and commitment to them whatever pace they progress at.

3. Willingness to be partners in adults' learning, not unilateral directors. 

4. Never demeaning adults' goals.

5. Ability to infuse all levels of teaching with artistry and musicality, as well as willingness to allow adults to convey their own artistry through the work. 

6. Understanding of the constraints of each individual physical body. 

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ascballerina

Gav, thank you for your post.  I teach both children and adult dancers.  When I teach children, I do follow a syllabus (or a "level"--I am a teacher with Cecchetti Canada, but I certainly do not do only the syllabus class all year).  With children, I'm dealing with growing bodies and minds, and keeping in mind not only the progression of the dance training, but the progression of their mental and physical capabilities as they grow up.  With adults, I'm still teaching progressions of dance (not putting the cart before the horse, so to speak), but I find that the order I go in is not the same, nor are my priorities.  My current adult class is doing basic pirouette preps, and very simple développé movements.  They're also still working on sautés in first and second, and the ~dreadful~ changement.  I want my adults to dance.  They're all keeners, but they have very different body types, none of which are especially "suited" to classical ballet.  If I wait until they have a perfect retiré, they will never get to move.  Ever.  So yes, I'm teaching développé.  If I wait until they have a perfect pirouette position and the highest 3/4 pointe, they will never turn.  And turning is incredible for your vestibular system.  (before COVID, I was doing chaînés, but space restrictions do not permit that anymore.)  I've had this same group for almost two years now.  I know exactly what they're capable of and how fast they each progress.  And I know that  for the most part, they partly come to have that ONE hour where they can forget about the frustrations of their workplace or their life, and just focus on how the heck to make turnout happen from the hips!! :D  I don't sacrifice my principles or lower my standards.  I simply have different goals as a teacher of adults than a teacher of children/teens.

I'd also add--sometimes I do incorporate syllabus exercises into my adult classes.  Some of them are just good exercises.  But I use different music than the "set" music, and I don't keep them for any longer than I do the rest of the exercises in the class--which tends to be every six to eight weeks, depending on how things are going.

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Miss Persistent
32 minutes ago, gav said:

But there are other criteria (some are interrelated) I think are important for teachers of adults, and that all of the amazing teachers I've had display in their own personal way:

1. Understanding of how adults learn and applying that understanding in classes. 

2. Belief in adults' ability to progress and commitment to them whatever pace they progress at.

3. Willingness to be partners in adults' learning, not unilateral directors. 

4. Never demeaning adults' goals.

5. Ability to infuse all levels of teaching with artistry and musicality, as well as willingness to allow adults to convey their own artistry through the work. 

6. Understanding of the constraints of each individual physical body. 

I agree these are fantastic things to have in a teacher of adults - however I do not feel it is an either/or situation.  I teach adults and children, and I apply the exact same teaching principles to both groups.  Both groups need technical progression and stimulation, both groups need artistry and musicality, both groups might have difficult bodies or different ways they learn best, both groups absolutely deserve to have goals, be supported and given opportunity.

To me, the student is the student, regardless of age.  Get student from A to B to C keeping them safe and entertained.

5 minutes ago, ascballerina said:

If I wait until they have a perfect retiré, they will never get to move.  Ever.  So yes, I'm teaching développé.  If I wait until they have a perfect pirouette position and the highest 3/4 pointe, they will never turn. 

I agree with this ascballerina, and I'm sure you would also agree that you have non-adult students who are exactly the same!  Not all your or my younger students will have a perfect retire (well, we all know there's no such things as perfect anyway!).

Yes, I agree there are some teachers who don't like teaching adults, don't think they are worth their time, or don't think they "can do it".  These are examples of bad teachers period.  A teacher should have a students best interests at heart regardless of their age or ability.  That doesn't mean they are a smiley, slack, non-correcting teacher who lets everyone "have fun" because that is not having a students best interests at heart as it hinders the learning process and progression.  Ballet is ballet, and a good teacher is a good teacher regardless of age or syllabus in my opinion.

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Miss Persistent, I think you underestimate how important the specific understanding and fit is with adults - probably because you have those abilities naturally! Adults usually have intellectual and interpersonal abilities that well outpace their skills (especially but not only those who started ballet as adults), and teachers have to teach from that basis. Some teachers who are good or even excellent in other contexts get this, some don't initially and learn, and some just don't. 

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Chasse Away

I’m in a similar line of thought as Miss Persistent here. I honestly don’t believe there is a big difference in the way you teach your students regardless of age. (Unless of course they are starting much later in life and have physical limitations). Like I perviously mentioned, I take both the “student level” and the adult classes as my studio, as do most of the dancers in the adult adv. classes. The classes are essentially the same in terms of difficulty and corrections and such, the only difference is that we have more friendly banter in the adult classes, where as in the teen classes no one speaks unless asked a question (or like, if they have a question). Anyways my point is that there virtually no difference between the way the adult adv. class and the level 8 student classes are taught. Because why would there need to be? Ballet is still ballet, being 16 or 23 really doesn’t change a thing about it. 
 

I think @gavyou are assuming the adult dancers do not already have a dance background. Maybe it is different for a beginner class, but for me personally, I don’t need a “different” teaching because I’m in my 20s. It doesn’t make sense to considered teaching adult classes differently to me because nothing changes much as a dancer between 16 and 23 right? I mean I’ve improved a lot, as a dancer and as a lifelong student, but I require more or less the same thing from my dance teacher: knowledge, inspiration, a well structured class, etc.

Edit: Also sorry this isn’t about age since I know that a lot of adult dancers are all sorts of ages! I think it’s more about level. I know I’m pretty young at 23 but there are other adults in my classes who are older! I think we all look for the same thing in a dance class and a dance teacher. We don’t need to be taught differently just because we aren’t teens, and we aren’t. 

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ascballerina

Chassé Away--yes, all of the adults I teach have no previous experience.  That's an important point!  And true for little ones as well.  And Miss Persistent, yes, I agree, but often when teaching YDs I'm working towards an exam, or towards an evaluation or performance of some sort.  I'm not necessarily doing that with my own adults; we don't even have a year-end show of any kind. 

I have been fortunate to have a lot of training on how to teach very young children, and I admit it is not something that comes naturally to me, so I do tend to approach it more academically, referring to my notes from my teacher training often, because I don't feel like I'm very good at it without constant review and practice.  I don't relate well to young children, and ideally wouldn't be teaching them at all, but I'm just happy to be teaching dance right now.   At the moment, I'm teaching two extremes--four-year-olds through eight-year-olds (three different classes), and then adults, all of whom are older than thirty.  There IS most definitely a difference in how I approach these young children versus my adults.  At this point in time, I haven't taught dance to teens for awhile, so I'm not really speaking to how I would interact with that level.  I'm sorry if I created confusion.

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Oh, I'm not only talking about beginner classes; some are advanced/professional level classes. They require a different approach because the commonality among a very diverse student base is that we're all adult learners.

I take open classes with adults of every age, up to to 90s (seriously), with a wide range of ballet backgrounds. Sure, some people started as children and have always danced seriously since. Some are professional dancers in a variety of genres. Some did some classes as children and either continued recreationally or stopped and returned as young adults. Some returned after having children (and all of the body changes that come with pregnancy and childbirth) or partway through professional careers. Some, like me, started as adults, whether recently or now decades ago. 

Good teaching is good teaching, but there's still such a thing as "adult education" when it comes to literacy and other academic subjects. I don't think ballet is any different. 

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StormTrouper
On 9/28/2020 at 1:13 AM, Miss Persistent said:

As a teacher, I don't agree that syllabus class taking is the only way to progress technically at all.

As an RAD Examiner, I teach both syllabus classes, and non-syllabus classes.  I have taught in Australia and America in RAD and 'Vaganova-styled' schools.  What is important is not the method or syllabus - it is that technical improvement is correctly structured, and there is appropriate and adequate progression.

It is absolutely possible for a knowledgeable teacher to work without a formalised syllabus, as long as there are clear objectives and goals to what they are teaching.  For example - If a teacher understands all of the ingredients that are required to be learnt before learning a pirouette ie. Suitable core control, ability to releve, ability to spot, sense of turning action, knowledge of retire, knowledge of en dedans and en dehors, correct co-ordination and ports de bras - if all of those have been put in place, no matter what syllabus or method is being used, the student will have a fair shot at a pirouette.  It is up to the teacher to identify the skills required at each level of training, and ensure they are secure before moving on.

The reason this "seems" easier to do in a formalised syllabus class (RAD, Cechetti, ISTD, BBO, ABT etc etc) is the someone else has gone and written down all the stages required before hand.  But that does not mean it is the ONLY way - many roads lead to ballet Rome.

As for ex-professional vs non-professional teacher, I do not agree this is always the case.  Yes a higher level of technical mastery equates to a better technical knowledge of ballet.  But, I have seen many an ex-professional dancer who cannot communicate that knowledge from their own head to a student.  Teaching is a skill set all of its own, regardless of ones personal ability.  Some of the best teachers I know never danced professionally.  Yes, they did achieve high enough levels in their own training to give them the required knowledge, but just being able to do something doesn't mean you can teach it to someone else.

Cross training has its places, but it can never replace ballet and can never substitute for an un-learnt skill.  The students who wants to pirouette before they can releve, or spot,or hold their retire, will not progress regardless of the method, syllabus, or amount of cross-training.  You might be strong as an ox, but still un-coordinated :)

The same way fashion comes around in cycles, everything old is new again ballet.  There is no new magic shortcut to getting better faster in the 21stC.  It's just the old, tried and true methods which are now being re-interpreted in modern dance science.  Dance science has come an incredibly long way in the last 20 years and is very scientifically based (IADMS is a great example).

But I do agree, if you are paying someone big bucks and not getting anywhere, find another teacher. There are many, many great teachers in this world who teach in a safe progressive and intelligent fashion in group classes for adults.  It is not the method or the syllabus who is to blame for lack of progress.  It always comes back to the teacher and the student.

AGREED, your analysis is spot on I think.  My point was about cost-effectiveness: I have been in classes where technical progress is inefficient for all the reasons you gave for effective methodology.  Syllabus doesnt have to be a particular brand, but there needs to be systematic development goals as you stated.  The (Canadian) National Ballet School in Toronto for 10+ years has offered an inhouse adult syllabus with multipe levels, and is an exception.  They don’t permit drop-in but rather regular, consistent attendance and committment are required.  Definitely having a high level of skill and being able to effectively coach others in same do not go hand in hand, whether ballet or skiiing or sailing.  

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