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Chasse Away

When Peers Teach Class

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Chasse Away

How does everyone feel when they find themselves in a class taught by a peer? I've had two very different experiences in classes like this and I wanted to get other peoples opinions.

 

The first is (what I feel must be quite common at small and medium schools) where the usual teachers can't make it and another staff member cannot substitute, the class in my example is an advanced adult ballet and pointe. The class is usually run by the best dancer (usually someone who has trained at the school for a while) and they stick to the basic structure that the usual teacher follows, sometimes adding in a different element (fancy arms, a different song or two, things they learned in another method, steps that haven't been included in a while) but for the most part the exercises resemble something familiar. This has happened maybe 4 times in the 3 years I've been at my current studio, with 3 different peers teaching. I find that these peers never give out specific corrections, just general 'whole class' ones, so everyone is responsible for their own technique. I don't mind these classes, they can be relaxing and fun, but I do find I slack a little more when no one is correcting my technique.

 

The second is experience happened tonight. I usually take a senior/open RAD 'Discovering Repertoire' class at a studio that I found for the summer but I missed a lesson so I asked to do a make up class in what was labeled as an 'Adult Level 3/4' class, specified for 'Dancers studying at an intermediate level or above'; which was the same requirements for the DR class, even though they attract completely different students. As a side note, I am used to adult classes that are a combination of 'intermediate' students trying out the adv. level, 'returning' adults , adults who never stopped after high school training, university students like me, ex-professionals from smaller companies, and the advanced high school students looking for an extra class, so even though the classes are labeled adults it is really open for any dancer in the studio at an 'advanced' level. Anyways, the teacher at this Adult 3/4 class occasionally drops into the DR class, I know from this that she is the same age as me and is auditioning for various contemporary companies and other dance work. She looked okay in DR but I am not one for assessing other dancers technique in class, the only thing I noticed is she looked really wobbly on pointe. This adult 3/4 class was not what I would consider at an intermediate level (especially not by RAD standards), but I suppose labelling classes is hard. I don't mind intermediate classes though it gives me a chance to focus on my technique. I don't know, I guess the main problem I had with her is I didn't think she had any qualifications to be teaching me, like we presumably had reached the same grade in RAD and she hasn't done any dance or 'dance teaching' post secondary education. She would try to demonstrate things like finishing a single pirouette on releve but would fall out of it and say "Sorry guys do what I'm saying not what I'm doing", and had other minor technique things (not that I have flawless technique, but I am not a teacher and I never would be because I know I cannot demonstrate things 'perfectly' enough for people to copy). The thing is, she kept correcting MY technique, again my technique isn't perfect, but I also don't know if her corrections were correct? Some of them I heard before, but she wanted me to tuck my pelvis under and turn out my feet less, she also kept moving my arms to be shorter (i.e. more circular instead of oval-ish) in first and bras bas, but I feel like this is method specific? Anyways, there are things to learn from everybody, but I don't know how I feel about her class. I don't want to sound like a diva but I don't think it is good to take a class taught by someone who is at the 'same'-ish level as you in regards to training, experience, and technique. 

 

Sorry for this rant! I just want to know if I'm looking at this wrong, like is there still things to gain in this situation? Have you experienced this, how did you feel?

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Miss Persistent

To me, it's never a case of how well the person can dance - it's how well they can teach.  Teaching and dancing are two completely different skills.  I have seen beautiful ex-professional dancers who are horrible teachers, and dancers who never made if professionally who are amazing teachers.

You don't actually need to be able to demonstrate to teach to be honest - I had an amazing teacher who was in her 70's and hobbled around the room but had amazing insight and wisdom and helped me a lot.  That said, she was teaching experienced students - I do think there is a level of demonstration required when one is teaching children as they really need those visual cues. 

So, my issue would be - do they have adequate qualifications and skills or experience to teach that level of class? (rather than how good their own dancing is.)

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Redbookish

I agree with Miss Persistent about the difference between dancing and teaching. And it sounds as though this person has some teaching experience and if she's auditioning for companies/dance jobs then there's a level of expertise there. 

The corrections you mention are interesting - I'm always pleased when a teacher wants me to try a different way of porte de bras, so maybe see it as an experiment? She was obviously watching you & trying to help you achieve more (could be she felt your 1st position wasn't helping you balance & so wanted you to try it differently?) The pelvis tucking under is not good, but suggesting you experiment with slightly less turn out is also interesting - maybe she felt you needed to focus on functional turn out and didn't need to position your turn out so much as use it more effectively? I sometimes take class from a teacher who does this - she doesn't want us in flat turn out in our feet - she would rather we were at 75 degrees rather than 90, but she is very technical about being on our legs and getting the spiral feel from the torso through the hip socket. 

I've got to the age when the gains I can make with my body are limited, so I"m taking an interest in experimenting with different teachers and teaching styles, to learn as much as I can about body mechanics, using my own body as the test site! Maybe see the corrections as offerings to you to experiment with doing things differently (only not the tucking under ...)

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Chasse Away

Hi Miss Persistant, actually both my usual teachers are in their late 60s early 70s, while they can't always demonstrate they still have adequate technique and can finish a pirouette on releve. So I don't know, she has basically had the same 'level' of training I have, in respect to the RAD sylubus, the only difference is that she has done some work with contemporary companies and I have taken 3 years of Vaganova since we completed our training? I don't think I am qualified to teach ballet at an intermidiate level, so is she qualified? 

 

Redbookish these are contemporary dance companies (not contemporary ballet) but maybe it is still a good perspective? I am usually not afraid to switch my style I just felt weird in the positions she was moving me into. But maybe it was just me being aprihensive about her? 

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LaFilleSylphide

I would simply expect the peer to have had more experience and qualification. There have been many adult classes I have been in before where the peers are sensational veterans of dance, but amongst us they're just students, take correction, and are working on keeping their basics sharp and to stay in motion. I would never feel ashamed to take classes from those fellow students, by any means. It's simply experience and qualification. Even as a teacher, I have taken classes with the students I often teach too, both young and old, just because I was always trying to take as many classes as possible. We used to even laugh how broken and old I felt when I'd take a level 4 Vaganova class, and I couldn't do the things those young girls could, but yet I would turn around and teach them in the same week without issue from them. I just really liked my colleague's classes for that level a lot. Anyway, as long as they're qualified with the knowledge to teach, I don't think it's a problem at all. 

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Chasse Away

Thanks for your advice Fille, I am in complete agreement with you, I want to take as much class as I can afford with many different teachers and styles, I have something to learn from mostly everyone. In my current school there are quite a few peers of mine that I could undoubtedly benefit from if they taught class. In this case of the Adult 3/4 I don't think the peer had adequate qualifications to be teaching, but at the end of the day it was still beneficial to go to class and use the studio space. Plus, it was a great reminder for me to be thankful of the quaintly training I do have, and to learn 'what not to do' should I ever be asked to teach an intermediate class. 

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LaFilleSylphide

Haha, "what not to do" is also very important!

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silvergreydancer

Well, in general, I won't take the class if that is the case.  I'm as old as dirt and don't feel like I need some  inexperienced person messing with my tech, On the other hand, they don't usually give many personal corrections. So maybe it's ok for one class.

 

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Squee01

I so agree agree with this.  Not even sure about it being okay for one class.

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