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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Syllabus classes


doormouse

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StormTrouper
On 9/29/2020 at 4:32 AM, Chasse Away said:

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.

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. 

It’s my understanding that part of the reason for the RAD revising its program in the 000s was to make it more interesting and less drudgery 🙂

Agree that Vaganova’s approach is quite effective for the reasons you outlined.

I am glad that my intentionally provocative (thought provoking) assertions recharged the old thread and that many thoughtful reflections have arisen as a result.  The chemistry between student and teacher is such a critical factor.  Like any program (syllabus) some teachers are better and more adept than others in exploiting it as a tool; it is not the end all be all.  If one can afford private, customized lessons and training, this would be great.  Or attending a fabulous (boarding) academy.  Thanks for all the reflections!

 

13 hours ago, gav said:

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. 

Love your summary of key elements! Couldn’t agree more.

My point, again, was on efficiency (cost effectiveness over duration of training) in an adult class setting (vs. private lesson taking as a late starting adult).  Open class attendees are generally not auditioned as they are for younger trainees in conservatories or at universities.  There aren’t conservatory programs for late starting adults (LSA) 😞 So how can one as a LSA cost effectively acquire good technique and also progress towards variations and performative experiences, which some but not all LSAs aspire to?

I don’t think a prolific career is a pre-requisite for teaching, rather as a generalization I think that in order to be admitted into (and remain with) a top echelon company, the probability is higher for having top notch technical competency and artistry in a competitive field of endeavour.  (There is less likelihood of being mediocre).  My best learning experiences so far (a decade) have not just been technical but also inspirational, and in every case the teacher possessed a background as a past performer.  So this combination works best for me.  I have also received excellent teaching from gifted teachers who weren’t past performers; but it just wasn’t the same vibe.  I think I would choose as a figure skating coach a past accomplished figure skater for the same reasons, all other things being equal.

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Miss Persistent
6 hours ago, StormTrouper said:

It’s my understanding that part of the reason for the RAD revising its program in the 000s was to make it more interesting and less drudgery 🙂

The RAD is continually reviewing and renewing its programs and training.  There have been significant revisions in the 1960’s, the late 1980’s, the mid 90's, the early 2000's and the 2010's - it is a continual program of revision looking to keep dance and dance teaching contemporary to the times.  As an RAD member and teacher having lived through already 4 syllabus revisions, I would not say and are more or less drudgery than the rest. Though I am quite fond of the Fonteyn syllabus.

If, as I know has been some peoples experience a teacher were to teach the same exercises for an entire year (or more) to the same music, not changing any steps or timing  - well of course that would be drudgery regardless of if it was syllabus or not, and regardless of what method.  However, that has never been the intention of the RAD syllabi and comes back to the thought that syllabi are only frameworks.  Yes, some are examined or assessed so have more "fixed" content to give a fair playing ground for all involved, but a syllabi of any kind or just a framework of steps, progressions and outcomes for a learner.

As part of this discussion, it is also worth noting that the words ‘syllabus class’ and ‘open class’ have different meanings in different parts of the world. In some places, a ‘syllabus class’ means set exercises from a set syllabi and ‘open class’ is a class with fresh, new exercises not designed to be studied and repeated. But in other places a ‘syllabus class’ is a vocational training class based on a progressive framework (or syllabus) Which can have changing exercises, and an open class might mean a less serious or recreational style class.  The same way the same ballet steps have differing names around the world, class types can have differing inference and meaning also. 

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For reference, I meant open class as non-registered or drop-in. Sometimes classes or exercises are kept for a little while, and sometimes it's a different class every time. The teachers still often build progressions in class-to-class and return to steps, movements or ideas to reinforce them. 

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Redbookish
10 hours ago, StormTrouper said:

So how can one as a LSA cost effectively acquire good technique and also progress towards variations and performative experiences, which some but not all LSAs aspire to?

I'm not sure that this is a particularly useful question, to be honest. Ballet is a slow process, requiring a lot of repetition and building of muscle memory (proprioception). It doesn't necessarily happen more quickly by doing private classes or coaching. And what is "cost effectiveness"? If we are adult learners, we all of us - at some point or other - have that moment when we come to terms with not being "professional" or looking like a professional dancer. Ballet is a harsh mistress in this respect. We have to come to realise we do it for the love & enjoyment of the art and the challenge of learning it. So I'm happy for that to be a lifetime process. I'm a shade over 60 and I intend to keep doing class for many years yet. I'm losing some things, but I'm also still learning.

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StormTrouper
On 9/30/2020 at 9:38 AM, Miss Persistent said:

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.

Ballet is ballet, and a good teacher is a good teacher regardless of age or syllabus in my opinion.

I think these notions support my idea that children, youths and adults learn differently, although the needs of learners in general are universal.  We know that teaching of elementary students differs from that of middle school and high school students; and that adult education is its own specialization, for instance.  So the way we conduct and structure learning needs to be tailored and adapted to the learning characteristics of the demographic.  We train boys differently from girls too in ballet.  Understanding the implications can only make teachers more effective and more efficient.

 

On 10/1/2020 at 2:15 AM, Redbookish said:

I'm not sure that this is a particularly useful question, to be honest.

Ballet is a slow process, requiring a lot of repetition and building of muscle memory (proprioception). It doesn't necessarily happen more quickly by doing private classes or coaching.

And what is "cost effectiveness"?

If we are adult learners, we all of us - at some point or other - have that moment when we come to terms with not being "professional" or looking like a professional dancer. Ballet is a harsh mistress in this respect. We have to come to realise we do it for the love & enjoyment of the art and the challenge of learning it.

So I'm happy for that to be a lifetime process. I'm a shade over 60 and I intend to keep doing class for many years yet. I'm losing some things, but I'm also still learning.

Moi aussi (a shade past 60).  Cost effectiveness is simply not paying for classes where corrections are not given (an inefficient return on invested time and money) and where there is systematic progress towards defined specific objectives, for me.  If I have to devote the hours then I want to be having a sense of progress and achievement, like objective measures to strive towards.  A syllabus is one such formulation or structured rubric.  In Paris, St. Petersburg and London academies, each year students are expected to accomplish and attain certain capabilities and reach standards.  I don’t know if these annualized requirements are actually referred to as a ‘syllabus’, but by the end of the 8 years of training and conditioning, successful students do ‘graduate’.  I think similar principles of defined achievements can be applied to adult learning.  It may take some individuals more or less time to achieve a standard (i.e. have to repeat or not) so talent does always vary.

Agreed that not all adults seek such progression, and are happy and thrilled to take part in a somewhat ritualized, rewarding process / lifestyle, like some practitioners of yoga and tai chi are less concerned with achieving and more attuned to being in the moment.  Ballet has so much to offer to so many for a variety of satisfactions and fulfillments 🙂

 

On 9/30/2020 at 9:59 PM, Miss Persistent said:

The RAD > There have been significant revisions in the 1960’s, the late 1980’s, the mid 90's, the early 2000's and the 2010's - it is a continual program of revision looking to keep dance and dance teaching contemporary to the times. 

 > syllabi are only frameworks... some are examined or assessed so have more "fixed" content to give a fair playing ground for all involved, but a syllabi of any kind or just a framework of steps, progressions and outcomes for a learner.

As part of this discussion, it is also worth noting that the words ‘syllabus class’ and ‘open class’ have different meanings in different parts of the world....

These are valuable insights for me to learn about, many thanks!
I bought as a gift for my teacher the RAD’s 100th Anniversary commemorative book (which I read, and inserted additional pages of color pictures of our class in training as if the pages were part of the publication, so an extra special and extremely limited personalized edition it was!). It has a section describing the evolution of the syllabi over the decades.  It is an enjoyable read and the photographs are terrific.  We have just started into Discovering Repertoire work, which I think is a fabulous innovation. My sentiment is that I can be standing at the barre (training) til the cows come home, but until one learns variations, one isn’t ‘doing ballet’, but rather simply working on one’s techniques.  I learned So Much by doing the solo work following the graded syllabus compared with taking ‘open classes’ over the years.  The two approaches are complementary, not either or.  Open classes are common for adults whereas syllabus work is offered rarely in most necks of the wood.  In London, the RAD offers vocational adult classes at their HQ; wish it was more commonly available.

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