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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Taking notes


wijnmoer

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I have just started ballet a few weeks ago and I am enjoying it a lot. However I am struggling a lot with remembering the combinations, especially while focusing on the execution of a step. I did read about taking notes after class and I have started to bring a journal. The thing is that at the end of the class I can't remember anything from the beginning, and I ended up scribbling down just a few keywords. Last class I tried not to forget the first barre exercise to be able to write it down afterwards, but this distracted me from doing the next exercises so I gave up on that. 

Is there a strategy on how to take meaningful notes after class? Is there a convenient notation to describe combinations like the one below? 

2 tendus to the front, then 1 with double pique, then the same to the side, and to the back and to the side again. (+ something with the arm I don't remember) 

 

 

 

 

 

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How about 3 tendus, 1 double piqué en croix.   (En croix is the term for exercises done front/side/back/side.)  :D

(Port de bras, if not just held side, is usually en haut for front, side for side, arabesque for back, and side again..)

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I was very dedicated about that the first 2 years- in the beginning it was hard to remember all the combos- so I had to selectively pick the ones I really wanted to focus on- maybe 2 per class. I find that if you use your hands to mimic the movements or even remark with your feet , it helped me recall them enough to wirte them down. I filled an entire journal- I still have it to remind me how far I've come. It's been 10 years now.

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Also, I was really surprised to discover that I was much less hazy about what had happened in class when I'd had a snack before starting; I was just out of sugar.

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4 hours ago, Victoria Leigh said:

How about 3 tendus, 1 double piqué en croix.   (En croix is the term for exercises done front/side/back/side.)  :D

(Port de bras, if not just held side, is usually en haut for front, side for side, arabesque for back, and side again..)

great, the en croix helps a lot. To be honest being an engineer I was kind of hoping for some equations or other math like notations:rolleyes:

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There is a ballet notation called 'Benesh Notation' which would be the closest thing to math equations! But it does require a very good, solid, ballet and music knowledge before you could notate using it.

Personally, I would rather my adult students worry about how they are doing a combination, rather than what they are doing.  I would rather that during your tendu exercise you pick one thing to think about like holding your posture and turnout, working you feet on the floor, alignment of the legs, shape of the arms - whatever! As a beginner student, getting the actual combination right is secondary to me.  I would rather someone do 3 lovely tendus (I don't care where!) than get the combo right but not use the correct technique.  To me, writing down 3 things at the end of class would be enough - You can't do and fix everything all at once, it will take time and patience.

Picking up the combinations will start to become easier as your learn more of the step names and the conventions - things like en croix are very common, look for patterns in the exercises like reversals or repeats. Then if you can remember the first part, you can just repeat it or reverse it etc.  Look at books or videos to get the actual step names to speed up the process.  I always say learning ballet it like learning  to write.  The positions are the letters, steps are like words, and exercises are like sentences.  You need to know your A-B-C to spell a word, and you need to know words before you can put them into sentences.  Don't try and write sentences straight off the bat!  Hang in there, it will get easier :)

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9 hours ago, Miss Persistent said:

Personally, I would rather my adult students worry about how they are doing a combination, rather than what they are doing. 

I totally agree with that. That is why i figured if I would know the combinations and figure out the patterns in between classes I would be able to focus more on the movement itself. 

Using the Gretchen Warren book I have been able to identify some steps. But it is also hard to distinguish one from the other and to decide which one was the intended one. 

 

9 hours ago, Miss Persistent said:

You can't do and fix everything all at once, it will take time and patience.

Maybe I should learn to accept this, be patient and I will keep your sentence analogy in mind!

Thanks a lot for the advice.

 

 

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wijnmoer-  It will come with time, more classes and consistency-  I had 1 year of beginning ballet at age 6 and some ballet supplement in the summers for figure skating.So by no means any wonderful foundations to hang my hat on. When I started again as an adult in my late 30s, it was like learning a new language. I would say it took me a good 5-6 years to feel really comfortable with most barre combos- center work still freaks me out. My brain has it but my body doesn't. I have a very analytical mind too. It clicked more when I learned the counts rather than 4 tendus encroix- especially when the combo wasn't s straightforward encroix.  I used Gretchen Ward's book- search on Youtube as well as seeing it video form will help too.

Also, watching my kids (my son is a ballet major in college and my daughter also dances), their foundation and growing up dancing allows them to process the combos that much faster. Don't beat yourself up!

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Everyone has offered replies that totally connect with, and for, me. I began studying ballet 3 years ago at 76—the last 2 years at a school teaching the Vaganova method. I have a youthful, strong and slender body, and an appreciation for the order, discipline and beauty of the method. I have come a long way and can do a lot of things. My developpés, tendus and ron de jambes are pretty darn good. I've got good feet and legs, decent core, but memory for combos, not so much. I've tried several approaches (some of those listed in this thread), but as a life long visual artist with no dance or athletic background I really need lots of repetition to develop muscle memory. I'm getting better, but have a long way to go. It would be so helpful if there was time in class to write one or two of her beautiful combos down to practice at home. By the time I have it reasonably in mind/body, the 4 weeks given to each set of combos is over and a new set is to be learned. Short term memory begins to fray as we age, whether the body is good or not. If there was a memory pill I'd be taking it for sure.  In the meantime, good looking attire helps to cover the gaps of self-confidence. It's good to know there are others out there struggling as well.

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It's amazing: yesterday after I read the first few comments I sat down and just wrote down everything I remembered from last weeks class. Strange enough it was more that I could put together directly after class. 

Today in class I noticed that it was much easier to do the exercises even though I did miss quite a few bits and pieces when I wrote it down. 

I even managed to get the closing from the side of the working leg in front or back in the right order - something that I absolutely couldn't get my head around earlier!

And I could focus on the technique which actually earned me a few positive comments from my teacher.:)

I think all of your comments have contributed to this. Thanks a lot for listening and your advice! 

I am feeling awsome, and now I'll be going to bed with a big grin on my face! 

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