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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Improvement not always on a linear timeframe


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I struggled with what to call this post but my daughter and I are discovering an odd “pattern” in her improvement. We thought improvement would be constantly linear with time, meaning gradual weekly improvement as she works. My daughter works extra hours at home on things that may seem boring and minor. She was near the back of her class at the start of the school year but was determined to be a strong student in the class and it’s showing. It was frustrating for her to put in extra effort at home to not see that instantaneous (albeit small) weekly improvement.  What we are finding is that she will experience a significant improvement across the board every 1 1/2 to 2 months, followed by a sort of plateau month. Then the cycle repeats. So improvement seems to be a stair step function for her. The pattern is normal enough now she can feel confident during the plateau time because she knows “the reward” is coming in a month or so. Has anyone else experienced this? 


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to the best of my knowledge this is a classic description of how we learn anything. We work/study/practice/visualise and then things consolidate. Our improvement is noticeable at that point. One thing to reflect on is how we define 'improvement'. If the definition is 'when others can see it' then our leaps will be less often.  If we define it as 'when I can tell' the leaps can be smaller but perhaps more often.  

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I think the Rio Anderson Youtube video (why she deferred Harvard for the Royal Ballet) explains it very well-- have a look.  It always inspires my DKs when they have it rough.

We also have a more immediate examples in our school.  The girl who was always 1-2 levels behind her age group who is now one of the best dancers in the entire school, looking like she has better prospects than those who progressed quicker.  I know that is not an oddball phenomenon, thanks to Ballet Talk :)

My DS would get so frustrated too.  My DD, who has been dancing longer, told her big brother not to compare week by week, but from show to show.  Watch the DVDs of the summer show, the spring show, and the winter show to see how far she's come.  

I think it's also important to have  a good conversation with an instructor you trust from time to time too, to make sure everyone has the correct perspective.

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I agree that this sounds very typical. And even more frustrating, my son has found that during growth spurts he often feels like his coordination decreases and he gets worse, which, fortunately, several people who are not his mom have told him to expect. 


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Ha.  I think my DD and I would have wished for clear linear progress, stair step, or otherwise.  As she was going through earlier years, progression felt much more spiral-esque, with constant and continuous re-visits to things she thought she'd already conquered, but needed to be re-addressed, and then addressed again (especially during those growth spurts!).  It is only with the perspective of years could she see any real improvement.  Watching DVD performances or video from previous years helped.  If you aren't doing so already, I would recommend video-ing her during her exercises -- not daily, but maybe monthly.  People forget where they were, and therefore progress can be hard to see.  So, I commend you for goal setting with enough specificity for her to track her improvement at all....  That's an accomplishment in and of itself. 


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