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Skyla

UK Surrey Schools: Adult Ballet Syllabus/Exam

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Skyla

Hi Everyone

Are there ballet schools in Surrey that offer beginner adult ballet classes with syllabus and exams?

Previous posts on this topic do not specifically cover the Surrey area or are quite old. I have phoned a few schools I found on google searches, it seems nearly impossible to find a school that offers adult classes - never mind according to a syllabus with examinations! I am aware of the longstanding school in Brighton but it's not accessible to me. 

If there have been any developments in the Surrey ballet scene, please reply. If not - can anyone tell me where to start looking?

S.

Edited by Skyla

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Doubleturn

Try asking on the UK discussion board Balletcoforum.  

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Redbookish

I've never lived in Surrey, but it's a crowded county - you might start to look at the main cities in Surrey. If Brighton's not accessible, then maybe there are schools in and around Guildford? (not trying to get you to say where you live on this forum, though!)

Is London at all accessible? The RAD at Battersea does adult syllabus classes (in RAD, of course). You could also contact them to ask if they know of ay schools in your area. It's also worth contacting the Cecchetti organisation via the ISTD - again, headquarters in London, but they may know of associate schools. 

The other thing to think about is why  the exams & the syllabus are important? If syllabus & exams are all you've experienced before as a child, it may be that you might appreciate the freedom of the adult ballet student, and what can be gained from experiencing different teachers & techniques.

Most adults don't bother too much about doing exams, but develop & progress via consistent attendance working with one or two teachers. This is how it works in my home studio, and I see this in the drop in open adult ballet classes I attend semi-regularly in London - regular participants develop good teaching & development relationships with their teachers - it's clear from comments in class that good teachers of drop-in/open classes are attentive to the progress of people who attend regularly at the London studios I go to (Danceworks and Central Nights at Central School of Ballet).

You could contact your local dance agency (not an agent who gets work for dancers!): these are partially state funded, and exist to promote dance across their communities:

https://southeastdance.org.uk/

https://www.communitydance.org.uk/useful-contacts-and-links/dance-agencies

If you can say more about what it is you;'re seeking in terms of a learning experience, we might be able to help a bit more. And the UK site Doubleturn suggests is also very useful.

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munchkin16

I live in Surrey area, happy to try and give some recommendations but what towns/cities that are nearby to you as a start? What are your goals for the classes? Most studios run syllabus classes only for children, however I know of some that do allow adults to join these. A good studio with a good adult ballet class might be more enjoyable though, as you would be with like minded adults. At the end of the day, the most important thing is finding a good teacher, that will make all the difference whether you end up in a syllabus class or more open adult class.

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Redbookish

Excellent advice, Munchkin! Especially finding a good teacher & dancing with like-minded adults.

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Skyla

Redbookish, Doubleturn, munchkin16, thank you for the feedback and support. 

Maybe I should start with how I ended up here in the first place. My ballet incident at the age of five can be owed due to my poor sense of direction and orientation. When my exam started I was facing a different direction than I normally did in class. I forgot my whole routine. I still struggle to follow and remember sequences others pick up quickly to this day. I cannot drive without a GPS unless I am driving on a familiar road I have taken many times, I have no sense of direction. I despise taking fast-paced gym classes such as aerobics and kickboxing and zumba because I do not catch on to the routine as quick as the other people, and I often use the wrong foot or leg when the instructor is facing the class.

Needless to say, my mother had me taking horse riding lessons soon after my short-lived ballet career ended and I went on to do competitive show jumping for the following 14 years. I stopped riding when I went to Uni and took up fencing which I absolute adore to this day. I moved to the UK and even though I would very much like to return to fencing, clubs are few and far apart and it's a very expensive sport not currently within my reach. 

In search of a more affordable activity in my area I discovered Les Mills Body Balance classes at a local sport centre, which is a combination of yoga, pilates and tai chi sequences. I soon discovered I have very good balance, I can perform slow movements with calculated precision and my muscles have a great deal of endurance. This escalated to joining the Les Mills On Demand programme online, where I discovered Barre. I became obsessed with turning the excruciating muscle burn into grace. In the midst of my temporary ballet inspired insanity I jumped down the rabbit hole three months ago and *BAM* here I am, looking for adult ballet programmes.

Why I want to follow a syllabus: I do better in a structured learning environment. Mastering predetermined short term goals provides me with more control as opposed to learning something at my own pace which leaves me feeling lost. I understand that in the instance of ballet that might not be suitable for me, but trust that your guidance and some homework on the topic will lead me down the most feasible route. 

What I want to achieve short-term: The fulfilment of mastering single components with calculated precision and turning it into one graceful, expressive and fluid movement. 

What I want to achieve long-term: self confidence, self acceptance, empowerment, fulfilment and freedom. 

I experienced some harsh knocks over the past few years. Inspired by rejection, I lost . . . lbs in body weight over the past year. I also suffer from severe depression. Mastering a ''ballet-inspired'' (aka fake ballet) movement in a fitness class does not make a dancer. What remains important is the fact that that one movement served to awaken my soul and brought back a sense of control to an otherwise disorderly life. It made something beautiful from the chaos I so often feel. 

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munchkin16

I completely relate to a lot of how you said you feel in class. I also feel lost in a new studio environment and take a little longer to pick up combinations. However, after moving to a more open format of class, I’ve become more confident because I’ve had some very supportive teachers. Some classes they will keep combinations similar or the same for a few weeks so you have time to pick the steps up, whilst still teaching you the important skill of using your brain and not becoming a zombie!

 It’s difficult but I do believe with the right teacher and a little patience you should be able to find everything you are looking for in a normal class. Syllabus is great for learning the basics but I’m not sure dancing with younger children (unless you do find an adult syllabus class) will help you find that confidence and fluidity you are looking for.

I would maybe start with finding a school with the right ethos and go from there? Explain your goals, where you are now, where you’d like to go. Tell them how you learn best and that you’d like to be pushed to improve. Some adult classes they assume you are just there to dance but not learn, most good teachers will work with you in more detail once they know you take a correction as a compliment not an insult... find a well trained teacher who enjoys working with adults and will be able to give you the tools and techniques to master the simple moves (if we can ever say we have mastered anything in ballet ever!) whilst still keeping the freedom of a non-syllabus class. I’ve been very lucky to have some truly wonderful teachers, each have taught me something slightly different.

I started off in syllabus class when I first started ballet at 16. I was so focused on learning everything and improving my technique, which my first few teachers gave me a wonderful grounding in but I became very stiff and tense. I also never learnt to adapt to different surroundings or pick up combinations quickly. I still struggle with this and linking steps together.

When I joined my first adult ballet class I finally realised what it was like to feel free at the barre. This teacher taught me to let go and that everything can’t always be perfect! I gained a lot of confidence, my technique actually improved because I wasn’t tense all the time and her musical combinations taught me a lot more about feeling the music and enjoying myself. 

I joined another adult class with another teacher who also pushed me to learn steps I didn’t think I could do. I pick things up much faster now, she’s challenged me to link combinations more smoothly and overall just not to overthink everything...

I’ve also been lucky enough to take class for various master classes and drop ins in London, syllabus class never prepared me for these and I would have missed out on so much if I hadn’t pushed myself to go. Every teacher gives a different class and makes you focus on something new which is amazing.

Sorry for the very long post, basically in summary you aren’t alone, I think everyone feels a little lost in class at first. Take a bit of a risk and try a few different classes until you find the right one for you. Ballet is amazing, excellent teachers make it even better.

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Redbookish

Skyla, I think Munchkin is giving a great view point from her own experience, and pretty much what I would advise - as would the professional teachers on this messageboard. The syllabus and exams are not really relevant for what your life goals are - they are a means to an end.

BUT ... there may be better means to  the end you wish to achieve - learning the art and grace of ballet as well as the steps. You don't need a syllabus class, what you need is a class with a nurturing teacher who enjoys teaching adults and has the skills to teach adult beginners. There are a lot of such teachers around - and if you can supplement regular classes with master classes, one or two day ballet workshops for adults, or the excellent teaching available in the big London studios, you'll get there.

Ballet syllabi (RAD, Cecchetti, BBO, ISTD etc) are designed to take children from the age of 18 to around 18 in either recreational or pre-professional vocational training. The lower grades - where you'd need to start - are not really designed for adult beginners. You need a class designed specifically for adult beginners.

A course where you pay a termly fee - a regular enrolment class - would be ideal for you. Here's a starting point to see if any of these locations work for you:

https://www6.surreycc.gov.uk/Coursefinder/(S(i5dchool333qep2n5qedjdv3))/SearchResults.aspx

If you can get to south London, the RAD runs regular enrolment classes in the RAD syllabus. https://www.royalacademyofdance.org/learn-to-dance/adult-classes-at-the-rad

However, these are for Intermediate Foundation and above which are too advanced for a beginner, even with your physical skills.

Morley College runs dance classes: https://www.morleycollege.ac.uk/study-areas/dance

The City Lit also runs termly beginners ballet courses: https://www.citylit.ac.uk/courses/performing-arts/dance

Then here is a set of suggestions and recommendations for teachers in London who teach 'open' or drop in classes at professional studios, and whom I have observed, taken class from, and would recommend for adult beginners:

Danceworks (very easily accessible London studio - Bond Street Tube, on the Jubilee line direct from Waterloo mainline station which serves Surrey).

http://danceworks.net/beginner-classes/

Of the teachers there, I would recommend Hannah Frost. As a more advanced dancer, I still do her class whenever I'm in London (I live 3 hours away) and I see complete beginners join her class. She gives extra help, explains posture & stance, and we spend about the first 10-15 minutes of class going through these things, including a ballet warm up. It's a tough class, and she is demanding, but funny and really kind (underneath her tough exterior). She's very helpful to beginners, and tells them they need to do about 3 or 4 weeks of class before it stops feeling weird. If you could get to her class regularly, you'd learn the basics with excellent advice on alignment & technique. And she's brilliant at remembering people - I go about once every 6 weeks or 2 months, and she remembers my name every time.

Central Nights at Central School of Ballet (5 min walk from Farringdon tube & mainline station, or bus to Waterloo):   https://www.centralschoolofballet.co.uk/aectimetable.php

Of the teachers there, again Hannah Frost, or David Kierce. I love Renato Paroni's teaching, and Nina Thilas-Mohs, but they are not beginner's classes in the way you need them.

I just tried out David Kierce's Beginner Improver class earlier this week for the first time (at my age I'm "collecting" different teachers & teaching approaches). It's a good clear class, well-structured and his focus is on precision & clarity of technique. I found the precision a challenge because I get sloppy sometimes! I'd go again if I'm in London on a Monday night, but it was very crowded - far too crowded actually, to really dance out. So the centre exercises are rather static. However, Mr Kierce organises everyone extremely well, so beginners learn ballet etiquette about keeping in specified groups and lines. But I wanted to move a bit more - that's me though, as I enjoy a class with lots of travelling pirouette combinations and big jumps. Not for a beginner!

You could go to his Beginner Intensive sessions, to get the basics into your body - I think you'd find them fun and challenging (Mr Kierce is very funny & charismatic - he has a huge fan base as a teacher of late adult starters!) and you'd get an excellent technical foundation. Details of his teaching schedule here: https://www.beginneradultballet.com/

Good luck in finding a good class - it's about finding the right kind of teacher who will help you start to find the technique in your body. Let us know how you get on, and maybe we can give you some more tips and advice.

 

 

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Skyla

Redbookish, munchkin16, 

Thank you very much for all the effort you put into responding to my post, it's much appreciated.

I looked at all the links you sent, as well as the instructors and schools. I would very much like to try Hannah Frost and David Kierce's classes. At this point in time it will cost me between £45 and £55 per class if taking transport fees into consideration. I wish I could afford this on a regular basis, this will not be possible at the moment. It's something to work towards though, all the links to their class schedules have been saved!

Regarding to syllabus or not to syllabus,  I looked at the RAD information and the adult foundation requires minimum 2-3 years taught experience in itself before enrolling. Whether the latter is by affiliated schools and teachers or not is unclear. Enrolment does not guarantee entry to the examination either. It would therefore make no sense pursuing a syllabus, it is not possible at this time. I attach more value to the advice you gave me on looking for the right teacher instead, and realise that it will take some shopping around. Granted, there's not much choice in my immediate location, but I've started. 

I injured myself since last posting and did a pretty good job at it, so I haven't been able to jump straight in. I found Reigate School of Ballet, which offers beginners classes and intermediate classes by an A.I.S.T.D teacher. The first time round I couldn't take part, so I met the teacher and watched the class. Last week I attended and took part as best as I could. I don't know what to think about it. 

The classes run according to the school terms, which means there are 5-6 classes per term and no classes in summer. This concerns me, it couldn't be enough to make progress, could it? The teacher is truly a wonderful woman, her energy is infectious, she has an excellent sense of humour and above all I, who know nothing about ballet teachers, can see that she loves teaching. The aim is definitely to create a fun and enjoyable class, nothing serious here.

Provision is made for a 30 minute beginners introduction to the basics before the 60 minute class starts. I learnt about posture, positions, muscle use and turn-out. The barre work in the main class was very well explained. I couldn't do the double time plisse-plisse-pique, maybe when my legs have halved in size, doubled in length and the fast twitch muscles have awakened from their 33 year long slumber somewhere in the not-so-near future! Everyone followed instructions to the best of their capability but nobody knew if they were doing it right. From what I could see in the mirrors, nobody's posture looked the same. 

The centre work was a nightmare. I missed the first two classes of the term but find it hard to believe what I saw was taught in 2 lessons. From what I understand it was part of an upcoming show that some of the class members will be participating in.  It was monkey see monkey do - and this monkey could definitely NOT do. I really need to understand and learn the movements properly before I can put them together in a sequence, and it feels like I was the only one. I marvel at dancers and how they watch someone once and repeat the exact sequence flawlessly, unfortunately I can't. Pirouettes and assemble's and some ninja-like Giselle arms crossing the floor at a flawless pace my brain cannot compute. Some students looked like the definition of grace and others like elephants, I was a tree firmly planted on the floor. I need a structured breakdown, or I am going to have a breakdown.

I left the studio with a heavy heart, feeling much like I did when I was little. Lost. I suddenly don't know if I have what it takes. Is this how all ballet classes are?

 

 

Edited by Skyla

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Chasse Away

Hey Skyla,

To answer your question: 

Quote

 Is this how all ballet classes are?

The answer is likely for a while, yes.

I've heard other adult starters asking for a better breakdown of the steps. But here's the thing, you've got to dance to learn to dance. You could spend 9 hours breaking down the simplest of moves, like a pile, and still not perfect it. But 9 hours on one plie is hardly a dance class. Ballet is different from the way a lot of things are taught. for example Math, where the first lesson is 'adding' and you practice adding all lesson, and then the next lesson is 'subtracting' and you spend the whole lesson on that. The ballet equivalent of this is like spending one whole class on plies, one whole class on tendus, etc. Ballet classes could not run like this, first of all it's not really dancing, and it would be so bad for your muscles and your body. Plus it would be boring. 

To elaborate, dance classes are designed with difference exercises to engage different muscle groups, each one targeting a different element. Barre exercise are designed to help centre work, and centre work is designed to make a well rounded dancer who can handle all sorts of different choreography. There is a certain amount of stuff that needs to get done each class, and because of this, sometimes (especially beginners, but also more seasoned dancers in a new class) may just have do 'dance' even though they have no idea what is going on. It's a part of becoming a dancer. Everyone starts having NO IDEA what is going on. It is not always, learn first then dance, sometimes it's learn a little dance as best you can and then learn more next week and dance a little better and so on.

I danced for 14 years as a child, and then I moved to a new studio at the age of 18, and the classes were SO CONFUSING and I couldn't understand the teacher through his accent at all. I was very much a 'monkey' copying then dancers in front of me. It took almost a whole year to figure out what was going on. But now, it is familiar to me, and so it comes much easier. So I had like 14 years (I mean for some of that I was a young child so it doesn't count really) of decent-ish training, and I still found myself in a class where I literally had no clue what was going on. It happens to almost everyone. C'est la vie. 

So I guess my point is, there's nothing wrong with being a 'monkey' and copying people around you if it means you are dancing. Obviously, you should strive to remember the steps and the combinations as much as you can on your own, but that comes slowly with time. 

Anyways it sounds like you have found a really amazing class, like very high quality. So just keep sticking it out, and it will start to become more natural. No one ever said ballet was easy 😉

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Skyla

Chasse Away, Thank you very much for your response, I feel a lot better now! :) I thought I was the only monkey, but if there are others that felt like a monkey once upon a time too - maybe everything will turn out alright! I am intimidated, there's no doubt about that. As the week is passing the doubt is wearing off and I'm starting to get excited about the next class. I don't know if I may keep updating my progress in this post, but if I can I will! 

Thank you to everyone on here that has taken the time to help me!

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munchkin16

Sadly most schools that aren’t in London don’t run classes outside of school term times, so that does seem pretty normal. Mine does run the occasional few classes over summer for adults but I’d say that’s pretty rare.

Everything takes time, it will take a while for your body and for others in the class to get used to the movements so it will feel very odd and unnatural for a bit. However, if there is a specific step you’d like broken down again, approaching the teacher after class I’ve found is almost never a problem for a quick clarification. I’m glad you’ve found a class though and hopefully everything starts to click soon!

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Skyla
On 5/4/2019 at 7:43 PM, Chasse Away said:

you've got to dance to learn to dance.

 

Chasse Away

As I left my second class I remembered your words. I followed your advice and thought I should let you know I had a BRILLIANT time!

I stopped thinking and started doing. As soon as I stopped trying to figure out every step in my head, things weren't that complicated anymore. I managed to learn a few moves and it felt great. I can't wait for next week.

Thank you for your advice!

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Chasse Away

Omg I’m so glad I could help! I love that you are finding more confidence in yourself through dance! You are in for a great journey I can tell. It’s going to get harder but you will get stronger and better. Don’t thank me, knowing that you have a “Brilliant” (what a classic British slang term I love it) time is thanks enough 😊

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Redbookish
On 5/11/2019 at 5:53 PM, Skyla said:

As I left my second class I remembered your words. I followed your advice and thought I should let you know I had a BRILLIANT time!

I stopped thinking and started doing. As soon as I stopped trying to figure out every step in my head, things weren't that complicated anymore. I managed to learn a few moves and it felt great. I can't wait for next week.

That's wonderful. I'm glad you were able to stop overthinking things.

Learning new stuff is difficult, and as adults we have this subconscious assumption that we've learnt everything we need to learn for living our lives by the time we're about 25. 

With ballet, it sometimes helps to get the big overall "feel" of a move first. Try to get its outline shape (say for positions of the arms). For allegro - jumps - try to get the rhythm of the steps. 

I still remember technique discussions in this forum from about a  decade ago (look for posts by Lampwick and Ami1436) about getting the shape of a step first and then refining the details. They are both advanced dancers but the advice works for beginners too.

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