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Ballet Talk for Dancers

In Physio with dreams

Rich Beatt

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Hi, I’m 46, taking 3 ballet classes a week (3hrs total): contemporary ballet, gr6 RAD and a stretch/strength, since October 2018. I danced for about 4 years in my youth.

I want to advance with the goal to get on pointe. I am in Physio to fix some long standing alignment and muscle imbalance issues (getting IMS and retraining core on reformer equipment). I get pain in my right hip doing leg elevation and extension and pain in my left shoulder. My physios think this stems from the long standing and unaddressed tension in my back due to overcompensation from an old injury. 

I’m at the very beginning of my treatment so I remain hopeful. Does anyone have any advice as to how I may advance quicker, providing my Physio works, so that I don’t have to wait to get my gr 6 (exam this coming fall), then 7 then 8 to finally get to intermediate?

Perhaps the slow boat is the best route. Starting intermediate classes st 50 is just fine, right? (I would be with young girls as our studio has adult classes only up to gr 8). 

Edited by Rich Beatt
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Hey, that is great that you have a goal and are working towards it. :) When did you start with Ballet? 

It is usually good to have at LEAST two classes of Ballet each week for quite some time before starting poitne; and there are other things which probalby the teacher will be looking out for, bI would think. :) 

There are lots of exercises specifically designed to help get a body ready for pointe - look into "The Perfect Pointe System" by Lisa Howell. I have had quite good results with many of her exercises over the years. 


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Hi Diane, i did about 4 years dancing as a young girl. I started dancing again this October. I just discovered Lisa Howell! I am going to start her approach to core program and a few others once I get the ok from Physio. I will look at her pointe program next! 

I had a look at the gr 7 syllabus on YouTube. It looks challenging enough! I also peeked at intermediate. I am certainly not ready for that, let alone pointe!! I will just keep plugging away:) thanks for your words!

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I have often put adult students on pointe and in my school there is no difference in the preparation and readiness to go on pointe if you are 11 or 111!  I agree with Diane that Lisa Howell's system is very good - I use an adapted version to put all my students through.  The main thing you will need to work on is building solid technique and adequate strength to progress onto pointe.  For some people this takes 6 months, for others 6 years - it just depends.  Keep working with your teacher and your physio - plugging away is the best option! Slowly but surely :)

Ps - The RAD Higher Grades and Vocational grades do not need to be taken "in order" of 6-8 then Intermediate. They are actually two separate streams of training but it is fine to cross over between them.  If you want to do them 'consecutively' then I would consider Intermediate Foundation after Grade 8 as it is the first of the Vocational grades and is where pointe work is first introduced.  There is no upper age limit on any RAD grades.  Best of luck!

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Thanks Miss Persistent! I was wondering if it would be logical to think that after I do my gr 6 exam, I could start studying gr7, intending to do exam and take, consecutively, intermediate to just get started (no exam). And repeat for grade 8, if required. At that point I could decide to take two exams in that season, gr 8 as well as intermediate. If I am confident.  Does that make sense?

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22 hours ago, Rich Beatt said:

Does anyone have any advice as to how I may advance quicker, providing my Physio works, so that I don’t have to wait to get my gr 6 (exam this coming fall), then 7 then 8 to finally get to intermediate?

I'd say, go slow! You have your whole life to dance, and you want to keep your body healthy and fit to dance for your whole life. I'm still in class 3-4 times a week at 60. You have to look after your body as a long-term thing.

And adding pointe work to the mix of your body issues needs to be done with great care.

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It also doesn't have to be all or nothing.  Meaning that, as an adult dancer, it's okay to start pointe small, even if you're not sure you can do the more advanced stuff.  If you and your medical pros feel it is safe to do simple up and down on pointe at the barre, and your teacher has approved your starting, then you can go do that.  

If it goes well and you progress to the next level of pointe, you can then assess if you your body is ready for, say, one handed barre work, more stuff on one foot, simple stuff across the floor, etc.  And so on.

I'm 54 and started pointe (for the first time ever) a few months ago.  My teacher had cleared me a couple years before but I had a really bad shoulder injury that prevented me from holding on to the barre on that side, so I waited for that to heal.  After a great many weekly classes, I still can't let go of the barre for more than a second (combo of foot issues and really awful shoes, which took me two different stores to find).  In theory I take 3 regular ballet classes a week (4 hours), in practice it's often 2, due to the studio changing classes and my schedule.

My future goal is the same as my starting goal: be able to do some basic stuff in pointe in center.  The part I thought would be a quick study is now my current goal: strength my feet and improve ankle flexibility so I can do basic point positions (first, fifth, sous sous) fully on my box with appropriate turnout, etc.  I have a great teacher and the class is slow with lots of corrections (the other student has outpaced me but, since there's just the two of us, it's easy for the teacher to adapt what we each do).

I have found that:

- Doing pointework is improving my footwork in my technique classes.

- Doing pointework is making me stronger and helps me understand alignment/technique I didn't before.

- Some medical/injury stuff I thought would be issues are not (because the foot/leg is in a different position from technique work on soft shoes so the forces that work on the body are different).

Good luck with your pointe adventure!

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Thanks Balletfamily, that is exactly my philosophy! I don’t need to be doing 32 fouettés en point in this lifetime or next! Doing barre work would be amazing and progressing as my body and instructors see fit would be a bonus. Thanks for your words and experience. Love to hear these kinds of experiences. Love love love it! 

And I agree Redbookish...slow en point is very wise. I do not want to cut the dancing short before I even really get started due to a fall or injury. I want to dance as long as I can! 

I am so glad you guys are all here. Thank you for your wisdom 😊

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On 2/20/2019 at 10:49 AM, Rich Beatt said:

 I was wondering if it would be logical to think that after I do my gr 6 exam, I could start studying gr7, intending to do exam and take, consecutively, intermediate to just get started (no exam). And repeat for grade 8, if required. At that point I could decide to take two exams in that season, gr 8 as well as intermediate.

Is there a particular reason you want to do Intermediate? I only ask because the pointework in Intermediate is a big step to begin with. As I don’t know you I cannot advise as such, but I would make sure you at least cover and are secure in performing the Intermediate Foundation pointe work (even without doing the exam) before attempting any of the Intermediate work.  It is fine to do two exams in one session if you want to.

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I would want to do it just to start learning the syllabus (I have a terrible memory!). I wouldn’t have to do the exam or pointe work until I was ready. Just get the excises menorized. But I guess that would depend on the dance studio policy. The more I read the more I’m inclined to be patient. Like Redbookish said, I want to dance as long as I can! I have lots of work to keep me busy with honing my gr6 for exam next fall and with  gr 7/8 for now. Then it can be determined if I take the next step!

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11 hours ago, Rich Beatt said:

I would want to do it just to start learning the syllabus (I have a terrible memory!). I wouldn’t have to do the exam or pointe work until I was ready. Just get the excises menorized.

Rich Beat, this is one of the most common misconceptions about RAD training.  You should never be working just to memorize exercises - You should be training in classical ballet.  There is no point in knowing the setting of an exercise unless you actually know how to perform the steps contained in that exercise. For example, there's no point in knowing the the Echappes and Releves exercise is two echappes 4th, followed by one to second etc etc etc if you cannot perform those steps in isolation.  And once you know how to perform them in isolation it's much, much easier to put them into the settings at a later point in time (and to perform them better!).  A much better method is to do classes that train your technique and your vocabulary.  Everything is interrelated in ballet - your plie exercise is not just for plies, it's training for fondus, for adagio steps, for allegro, for pointe work etc etc etc.  I know not all teachers present class work in this way, and yes, at some point you do need to learn the exam setting - but that's all it is - an Exam setting.  As Examiners we don't mark if you know the exercise or not - we mark how you perform it.  I would encourage you to try and get out of the headspace of knowing the exercise and into the headspace of developing your technique - I promise you it will have a better long term benefit. 

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Oh yes! I like this philosophy. This is actually how I remembered training in my youth. I kind of thought the training I’m receiving now seems to lack in the isolating and the vocabulary departments of the exercises. They’re really never spoken to that much. I think with the adult classes technique is less a focus. Hmm. Well, there isn’t much option of instructors/studios where I live so I will have to make do. I have the RAD dictionary, which I use a lot along side my set exercise book for gr 6.  Your words of wisdom do make me want to take it slower now for sure.  

Edited by Rich Beatt
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Wonderful approach, Miss Persistent. This is why I tend to question focus on exams as exams, and obsessions over which Grade etc. They are simply a way of marking progress through learning the vocabulary of ballet. 


I think adults in particular, once they have learned the basic repertoire of steps, should be challenging their learning by doing open classes every now and again. I know we learn by repetition, but our bodies also get "lazy" - that is, our muscle memory (proprioception) gets comfortable with an habitual set of movements. The full training effect only happens when we keep changing the demands on our body/mind.

That's the only way to learn how to learn choreography.

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I approached my instructor and asked her about terms and execution and her words were

“I try to use as much proper ballet terminology as much as possible when I’m teaching. In the RAD classes I have taken in the past it’s not something that has been hugely implemented, but mostly just as the teacher says the words you start to learn their meaning. Also, there aren’t any terms that are specific to the grade 6 syllabus, other than the character dance titles. If learning more ballet terminology is something you’d like to do I can definitely make an effort to be more conscious of the terms I’m using in class and focus a little bit more on that aspect of ballet. 

I agree with her that she does use terms but maybe I feel it’s a bit fast paced the first 3 months into starting classes again after 25 years. I do learn them, perhaps not the same what when I took lessons when I was a young girl in beginner levels, and I certainly can ask for clarification if required. I will start to now that I have a bit more of a comfort level in my class. 

Unfortunately, there is only one adult RAD class where I live and it just happens to be gr 6. Next fall we go into gr 7 whether or not we all do exams (we have the choice). That will be what they offer for adult RAD the next season. Just the one class. I wish I had opportunity to go into other adult classes. That is why I am asking all these questions so I can see if feasible to plan which might be best to enter alongside young girls, to gain more rounded training because I feel that though there is limited option for adult, if I request permission I could do more to work on technique. 

What are “open” classes? Like drop in? I do an adult drop in strength and stretch but it is very basic as to be accessible to all levels of those who have never done any dancing at all. 

Edited by Rich Beatt
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Ok, for whatever reason, I have been a bit guarded. My true reasoning for wanting to obtain intermediate certification is because I would like to do teacher training. I would like to know if it is possible or if it’s a foolish dream. I want to teach adults. 

I know that first and foremost my abilities must be agreeable to this, but if I work hard and focus, once I obtain intermediate I know it is a 2 year teaching program. With how my current training is delivered in my location the option of taking gr6, then gr7, last gr 8, in yearly succession, is what is available to me. However!  If I gain permission to train with young girls and I prove in the next few years that my strength and skill allows me to advance faster than I initially think, I am that closer to my goal of being a ballet instructor. 

If it’s a foolish dream, I can take it. Better to know now and just enjoy dancing into my golden years with whatever studio is available to me in my location. 

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