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Coriander9

Weird Situation??

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Coriander9

Yikes,  I wish I could post this with even more levels of anon but here it goes:

  • I'm in my late 20s, pretty fit, and just had a baby this summer.
  • I have borderline severe diastasis recti (abdominal muscles have split and can only be brought together with very focused, conscious effort) but am otherwise strong. This condition leads to random bouts of sloppiness as I am still learning how to manage life with it. 
  • I danced and moved up several levels (RAD intermediate, roughly speaking) during my pregnancy
  • I have been dancing consistently for about three years

So, this semester I moved into a intermediate class that's readying girls for pointe this winter. It's a somewhat mixed class of age 10 to high schoolers but mostly middle schoolers. I'm very honored to be allowed to take syllabus classes as an adult. The teacher of this class is the owner of the studio and 90yo. She is universally acknowledged as being very tough. Toughness is no big deal to me--she hardly compares to some of the bosses I've had but the problem is that she gets very mad if I do something incorrectly and threatens to kick me out of class. 

Example 1:
T: "Okay let's do splits; turn away from the barre, tendu and lower into them."
Me, naturally very flexible, has had both splits since I was a tot: Tendus and lowers into flat splits
T: "NO, DON'T YOU DARE DO THAT. THIS ISN'T GYMNASTICS. YOU'RE A BAD EXAMPLE FOR THESE GIRLS."
Me: ??? 

Example 2:
T: Time to jump. Let's do grande jetes across the floor and really jump high this time--like over a box! We're not babies anymore; no more marching! This is Intermediate I, girls!!
Me, has been doing squats all summer: Jumps as high as I can, trying to be graceful, making sure both legs are stretched and feet are pointed. 
T: NO!NO!NO! YOU CAN'T BE IN MY CLASS IF YOU DO THAT! YOU'RE A BAD EXAMPLE AND HAVE NO DISCIPLE! YOU'RE JUMPING LIKE A BOY!! THAT IS NOT BALLET. 
Me: ???

I'm afraid to talk or ask questions because it seems as ludicrous as asking a drill sergeant to explain their reasoning (she also seems hard of hearing and a little impaired due to age); she has unquestioned, unchallenged, total authority. She doesn't count us down and I don't know the tempo of the music she's going to play so I have to guess. She expects you to do everything right the first time. I always appreciate corrections and am very dedicated and disciplined but this feedback's lack of nuance leaves me portrayed as someone who's willfully ignorant or arrogant and I am neither. I honestly just don't know what she wants. I've tried to ask others at the school what her style/ideal is but they all say a mix.

Advice?
All of the other girls in the class are really conservative with their effort--should I just not try very hard and be lazy? They still get corrections and called lazy but I think I'd rather be lazy than be labeled an ambitious jerk. I don't know. As an adult, I don't want to deal with any of the psychological bs side of ballet--I am just coming to dance and improve on my own terms because it's important to me, nothing else. 

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Thyme

Gosh.

Yes I would not be into dealing with this when I am hoping to enjoy myself in the studio. I personally don't pay to be belittled by someone. Of course I don't approve of belittling in any situation but I sure as ____ don't want it in my leisure time.

I wouldn't hang around for that class. As a hobbyist, I am not as concerned with having a teacher who is 'the best'. I want someone I can learn from and enjoy my student role. Sadly those two qualities are not always co-existing.

From your description, she is a terrible teacher.

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Coriander9
39 minutes ago, Thyme said:

I wouldn't hang around for that class. As a hobbyist, I am not as concerned with having a teacher who is 'the best'. I want someone I can learn from and enjoy my student role. Sadly those two qualities are not always co-existing.

From your description, she is a terrible teacher.

I really haven't considered this but, now that I do, I may try to explore a different studio. 

I initially wanted to be in this class for two big reasons:

1. I want to go en pointe--a goal I will likely regret, but what can I say. I don't think I'd be allowed to go en pointe in the Adult Open or lower level syllabus class because no one else is and it would derail the focus and attention of the class (I'm assuming, I may inquire).

2. This particular class is on a weekend morning, during my very little baby's nap time, while all of the other classes are during rush hour (and also witching hour, if you are familiar with babies) which makes my ballet hobby very hard on my husband. 

I do find this teacher's lack of musical direction to be very challenging as I am 100% an aural learner. Is this something other teachers do too?  I get the feeling that she is unaware that she isn't counting down or indicating what beat/tempo we will use before an exercise.

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Chasse Away

The teachers at my school usually demonstrates the exercise with music once before they ask us to do it, but for something simple like an easy peitit allegro or frappe they might just count the exercise and then play the music and we have to pick up the tempo as we go, this is what 4 count introductions are for, you can use that time to get a feeling for the tempo and structure of the piece.

 

Overall, even though your teacher is old and supposedly "good" (or whatever the status is) I think she is not the right teacher for you. My teachers would never yell at one student for demonstrating incorrectly for other students, especially and adult in a teen class. It is not your job to teach them, it is hers. My teachers can be tough, but they are never that rude! You can have a strict and old school teacher (like mine) who still treat their students (specifically adult students) with respect, your teacher sounds like she had no patience for you. I would recommend finding a new class. As a personal preference I would recommend something that's not RAD based, the other methods give much more room for artistic expression while still maintaining good technique. RAD is too structured for artists after grade 5 or so, it's good for children to have structure, but I think adult students benefit from the freedom of other methods. 

 

 

 

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Coriander9

We always mark an exercise (unless it’s barre) but there’s no 4 count(or whatever meter)! I don’t mean to be ageist in any way but I suspect that she isn’t aware that she’s not counting—or maybe some teachers just don’t do this??

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I appreciate it. 

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Chasse Away

Wait Coriander, are you saying you don't have a 4 count introduction in your music? I feel like you probably do, especially if it's RAD syllabus work. 

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Coriander9

Yup. The music just comes on, no four count. This is really tricky since we’re expected to do it right the first time.

It’s loosely RAD based. 

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Chasse Away

So do you start dancing on the first beat that plays? When do you do your preparation? This is bizarre I've never heard a song that does this. 

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LaFilleSylphide

Wow, I tried a class with a teacher just like that in Thailand once. Never went back. Just awful. I was only visiting, I had no intention of being an example or for changing my particular style to match theirs or to influence theirs, it was just a class I dropped into. Well, never dropped back in there again. There are so many other teachers who can communicate with their students better, and who can understand your goals and motivations. Don't put up with that crap. Plus, every teacher should know that a stretch like the splits has different benefits depending on whether it's flat or turned out. Neither one is wrong.

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Miss Persistent
4 hours ago, Chasse Away said:

. As a personal preference I would recommend something that's not RAD based, the other methods give much more room for artistic expression while still maintaining good technique. RAD is too structured for artists after grade 5 or so, it's good for children to have structure, but I think adult students benefit from the freedom of other methods.

Hi Chasse Away, whilst I acknowledge you are saying that this is your personal opinion - it is a very broad comment and different teachers will use RAD different ways (some well, some perhaps not so well!).  I am curious to hear what it is about RAD that has lead you to this opinion?  In my own opinion, RAD is very open for artistic expression, in fact Grades 6-8 and the new Discovering Repertoire were designed with this specifically in mind. 

Coriander9, it sounds like you are "out of the box" for this teacher - not her usual kind of student and perhaps she is struggling to know how to relate to you.  As others have said, as adult students we don't pay someone to belittle us or ruin the precious time we get in classes!  I would certainly investigate other teachers/classes at the school or other schools if you need to.  Without trying being rude or age-ist, your older teacher is likely stuck in her ways to a degree so you may need to adapt or find something more suitable for you. 

No, it is not normal to just "begin" an exercise without any kind of introduction.  Some teachers do not "count" as such, but I would expect you to always be given at least a rhythm or sense of timing for the exercise.  One teacher might count 1&a, 2&a, 3&a, 4.... One might say 1-2-3, 2-2-3, 3-2-3, 4 and another might say yum-pa-ba, yum-pa-ba, yum-pa-bah, dah!  All three ways give you the sense of timing that teacher wants.

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Chasse Away

Hi Miss Persistant,

In my expirence, RAD method is very strict on placement and doesn't allow for much breath or epaulment. For example in plies I remember specifically getting corrections that I was using "too much arms", "making the movement to fluffy" and that "the examiners wouldn't like that". However, this amount of drama is acceptable and encouraged in Vagonava. I am just a girl who wants to dance, I don't want to hold myself back because of what the examiner thinks.

 

Also, I believe there is no benifit in repeating the same exercise size for the entire year, which is common for students taking their exam. Repetition is key for improvement, yes, but you can repeat the steps without repeating the exercises every class. It honeslty cannot be good for the brain to repeat the same dull exercises. I grew up dancing in a studio with competitive dancers required to take ballet in an RAD class, they all hated it so much (I mean, it was boring) so they all hated ballet and would go out of the way to make the class more difficult (not learn exercises, be late, not take corrections, have a bad attitude). It was so frustrating being a teen in that class. Since starting Vaganova I personally feel like my love of ballet has doubled because I feel like I can truely dance now without having to limit myself within the examiners expectation, like every exersise is a dance. 

 

Finally, I just do not find the method as aesthetically pleasing as other methods. They don't encourage developeing more turnout and have interesting arms (dome shaped demi second for example). From my experience, any student becoming a professional should not train the RAD method because it does not adequately prepare them. And don't get me started on DR, selling variations that are available on YouTube for free, making up exercises that are litterally just each step in the variation x3 and a possé temps levé, huge money grab. 

 

To each their own, RAD definitely has some benifits too, especially for children. But it's sylubus (the whole structure really) needs to be reconsidered after grade 5.  And it's just not for me. It's really a shame it's so dominant in English speaking countries because it limits the places I can move to when I graduate.

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Coriander9
11 hours ago, Chasse Away said:

So do you start dancing on the first beat that plays? When do you do your preparation? This is bizarre I've never heard a song that does this. 

YUP.

For most exercises I can quickly correct by the third beat or so but with something like grande jetes it's really tricky. Right step, left step, JUMP,  repeat 2x is the combo. 
I misinterpreted  the tempo and had to very, very quickly catch up so it turned into a: right step, left skip, *wham* J U M P 

I really like doing a very similar barre/combinations each class--it let's me focus on my technique more.  I feel like in more varied classes (like the adult open), I just spend all center flailing around. Granted, this method doesn't teach you to learn pick up combos quickly so I really struggle when I drop in a new class, like while traveling or when I move up a level, for example. 

Online, the school self defines as "the best elements of the Russian, Italian, and French schools."

I asked an advanced dancer and she said something like "she doesn't like ecletic styles."  I'm only half way through Apollo's Angel's so I'm really uncertain what that means but I'm guessing it's far from the current Russian Ballet (with which I'm obsessed).

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Miss Persistent
On 10/9/2018 at 10:27 PM, Chasse Away said:

Also, I believe there is no benifit in repeating the same exercise size for the entire year, which is common for students taking their exam. Repetition is key for improvement, yes, but you can repeat the steps without repeating the exercises every class. It honeslty cannot be good for the brain to repeat the same dull exercises.

..They don't encourage developeing more turnout and have interesting arms (dome shaped demi second for example). From my experience, any student becoming a professional should not train the RAD method because it does not adequately prepare them.

To each their own, RAD definitely has some benifits too, especially for children. But it's sylubus (the whole structure really) needs to be reconsidered after grade 5.  And it's just not for me. It's really a shame it's so dominant in English speaking countries because it limits the places I can move to when I graduate.

Chasse Away, I'm sorry to hear that's been your experience.  You are certainly entitled to your opinions on the aesthetics and feel of any and every method of ballet, I would just ask that you recognise the difference between your own personal experiences with RAD, and RAD in general.  There are good teachers and bad teachers in every method of ballet.  RAD, Vaganova, Cechetti, ISTD - one teacher or school does not represent an entire methodologies way of doing things.

No RAD teacher worth their salt should be repeating the same exercises every class for a year. Full stop. It is not encouraged at all to teach this way - in fact there is an enormous emphasis on breaking down vocabulary and training, crating exercises specifically for the students in front of you, and teachers are encouraged to go about their own method and way to arrive at the "end point" which is the examination work.

RAD does not discourage developing turnout or epaulement - that is just misinformation.

Many professional dancers including myself have trained in RAD including the Steven McRae (Royal Ballet), Xander Parish (Mariinsky), Claudia Dean (Royal Ballet), Remi Wortmeyer (Dutch National Ballet) a large portion of the Australian Ballet, dancers from the Royal New Zealand ballet, Singapore Ballet Theater as well as acceptances into RBS, POB School, and many European and South African schools, and many other companies.  RAD training does not restrict a dancers ability to progress into a company school or a company at all in my opinion.

 

Coriander9, there are so many ways and styles of ballet :) We each have out own loves and that's ok! See if you can find the grains of truth in what your teachers says/corrects (hopefully there are some!).  All ballet, no matter the methodology generally follows similar principles (it's the details that vary) so glean what you can from the class and make it your own if you wish.  If you find there's nothing you get from the class then it may be best to move on unfortunately. Apollo's Angels is a fantastic book, although I disagree with the last chapter (which I shall not spoil for you yet!).

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Coriander9

Update:

 

I asked other teachers at the studio and her style is the old Ballet Russe style which informs the situation tremendously for me! 

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