January 8, 2011

Pointe this Way, Please!

No pointe class yet! And I was so looking forward to it.. But Madame was still out of the country, and we had a substitute. I know the teacher, have taken classes with her for the past three years, but never pointe. She is very professional, classes are musical, always carefully planned and the exercises have a nice logic and flow about them. It´s just that I rarely get the feedback or amount of corrections I would like, which is totally fine on occasion. Gives you time to think and take responsibility for your own actions (i.e. steps and jumps and stuff ;). 

However, in pointe class I´m still a beginner and require lots of attention and instruction! Sometimes, I even need that teacher who will quite literally hold my hands. LOL. So I skipped pointe class for the first time ever. Apparently it was a wise decision too, since class was of advanced beginner - intermediate level, which is at least three years away from where I´m now. Well, at least I have one more week to get back in shape. Bye then! I´m off to do some more relev├ęs! :)

Finis Jhung teaching pointework (level 1)


  1. This teacher is actually worth approaching - sometimes I feel that she's maybe too sensitive to interpret someone's serious (=concentrating) face wrong.

    I'm under the impression that she has got earlier criticism from some students for e.g. correcting too much (not everyone likes that) or being too demanding, and she's become a bit "cautious" I'd say, especially if she doesn't know the student well/if she's not a regular.

    But I'm sure that if you told her that you welcome and appreciate all the corrections, she'll give them. :)

    And thanks for the blog, very interesting!

  2. Thanks Janina, and good point. I know that my serious expression can look angry at times (genetics.. thanks, Mom!), and I´m actually working on that. You know, try to smile when doing the exercises, especially in the center.

    Then again, my other teachers are pretty demanding and give a lot of personal corrections (hands-on), and students really seem to like it. Actually, they are quite used to it by now. I don´t know why this teacher would presume otherwise. Though I´m under the impression that she isn´t all that interested in teaching adult amateurs, which I can understand, given her background, training and experience. And I get the caution too, you never know what people think in class. Ballet not really being a vocal art ;)

    Maybe I will still talk to her. She does give good class and I would appreciate any and all feedback. I mean, I love ballet and I love the hard work. That has to count for something, right?

  3. Yes, I think you should at least give it a try (talking to her, I mean).

    And I think you are partly correct in your point regarding motivation and adult amateurs, but I'd say that it's not necessarily the adult or amateur being the "problem" but she may not be that interested in teaching students who are not committed, who don't follow her corrections (I've been to a class when she adviced a student to do something but she stubbornly continued to do the movement in her own style and complained afterwards that she felt that the correction was stupid and that she's used to doing things the other way with other teachers, and she's not going to change it even if this teacher asked her to do it otherwise in her class) or of whom she sees that they don't have any capacity to improve. I don't say that it's right (we are adults and we have our limitations, or at least many of us do;)), but on the other hand I also understand why she may feel that way.

    Anyway, you are committed, you are talented and eager to learn and improve yourself, so no probs there. :) I agree, she's a good teacher and I like her classes very much, they warm you up well and she really knows what she's doing ballet-wise.

    Ps. the reason why I mentioned the facial expression thing was, that I don't know how you look when doing exercises, but I know that I do look like I'd like to kill someone when I'm concentrating... so I speak from my own experience - my face could be easily interpreted wrong and I definitely don't blame the teacher :D

    I've noticed that talking is a very good way of communication and also, it often helps to clarify possible misunderstandings. :)

  4. By not knowing how you look I meant that I didn't see/watch you the other night, but I did read your earlier entry, so we may be on the same page there. :)

  5. You had me laughing out loud there, with the "I´m going to kill you -facial expression"!

    I have sometimes caught my concentrated face in the mirror, and it´s not a pretty sight! Must learn to relax those facial muscles too.. And then there is this stupid thing: I´m nearsighted but don´t wear glasses or contacts in class. Which means that either I´m squinting, or I can´t see if the teacher is looking at me (if she doesn´t say my name out loud) when giving a correction from further away. That alone might be reason enough for misinterpretations.

    I think it would be a good idea to sometimes treat class as a final dress rehearsal, you know, with everyone smiling and dancing full out.

    Also, I think it´s really disrespectful and mis-informed to call a correction stupid. Yes, there are different styles to do things, but you can always try out something new!

  6. I agree, and in this case I could tell why the teacher decided to give this correction/suggestion to do the thing in a new way. It would have helped this student to improve a thing that she was concerned about/complaining that she can't do. But as it was none of my business I didn't say anything, because I don't see that my place is to teach others - I'm keeping myself busy with looking just at my own faults. :)

    But in those situations I really feel for the teacher if they are not that excited about teaching students with this kind of attitude.

    Of course we all have better and not-that-good days, but I try to keep the basic attitude positive anyway. Or at least I hope that even if I'm having a bad day, it wouldn't show to others or ruin anyone else's day. :)

  7. Just curious: what was the thing that the teacher corrected/suggested?

  8. Well, I wouldn't want to say, as I don't want anyone to recognize themself (although it was a very general thing), and the issue itself doesn't actually matter.

    My point was more or less, that sometimes I'm quite demanding towards my teachers, but I try to keep in mind that also we, students, differ a lot. So we may not always be teachers' pets or sometimes our attitude or reactions may be misunderstood, no matter why we are for instance having a bad day. Or that we are just concentrating veeeeeery hard. :D

    In this case, I don't know that student well, but I got the feeling that she was maybe frustrated with the thing she tried to accomplish, and she didn't see the link between the correction and her "problem", and maybe she was tired or felt insecure if she could execute the correction right. Or something, I don't know, it doesn't actually matter. :)

    I just don't think that she MEANT to be rude but that's maybe how the teacher felt (or I would have felt, if I wanted to help someone and they ignore my advice).

  9. It is always a challenge, when your new teacher corrects something your previous teacher chose to ignore. You may wonder what the hey is going on, and surely you have not been doing it wrong all this time?

    Sometimes it´s an issue of style. I have trained in the Vaganova method, in the style of R.A.D, in the Ceccetti method and in the French School (most recently). I have also had brushes with the Bournonville School and the Balanchine style, and I have had many teachers who use a mix of all the above. The basics are pretty much the same, the terminology differs a bit, but some positions and steps are unique to each style.

    Sometimes it´s an issue of timing. No one teacher can give you all the corrections and fine-tuning you will need at once. There just isn´t time enough. Also, your brain would simply overload and fry. Most teachers will focus on one or two things a a time, and then give you more when you are ready. And sometimes you even forget the specifics, especially if it´s something that is taught on the basic level. Like they say: plie and tendu are the first things you are taught, and the last things you will learn..

  10. Actually I was asking in case you were referring to me :) I have been to the mentioned teacher's class and I couldn't do the thing in the way she wanted, because I have always been doing it in another way, even though I wanted to do it her way, it just is/was in my muscles/mind to do it the other way and such a thing is so hard to change all of a sudden.

    But probably I'm not the one you mean, because I didn't say to the teacher that I don't agree with her or anything like that. In my case it wasn't about ignoring the advice, but just inability to follow it at once.

    But I think that a good teacher doesn't just give up on a student, if she/he fails to improve her technique, despite of a correction, on one class. I believe a student should be given a second chance at least.

    And it sounds for me quite harsh to say that some people "don't have any capacity to improve". Doesn't everyone have capacity to improve, at least to some extent? (Ok, maybe you meant that some people don't even try to improve, but that's very very rare, I believe).

    I think a good teacher sees the student's improvement compared to the student's own level and gives credit for that, instead of focusing on the best students, especially in recreational level, when no one is going to be a professional. This is just a general comment, I'm not referring to any particular teacher, but sometimes I get the feeling that some teachers value more their more advanced students, which feels unfair, as adult students can have very different starting levels.

  11. Oops, anonymous, your comment appeared while I was writing my own reply.

    It´s not easy to follow up on a correction immediately! If you are ready, it will come.. And if you´re muscle memory is still attached to the old way, it will happen eventually! Some things take a lot of repetition before they become part of your unconscious dancing. Teachers should do well to remember that not all adults learn in the same way!

    About the "capacity to improve": I think JV included the willingness to learn. If an adult recreational dancer attends classes on a regular basis, and is willing to learn and wants to work hard - then of course there is lots of capacity for improvement!

    Yes, adult dancer come in all shapes and sizes and backgrounds! In my classes we have 17-45 year olds, some have danced for 40 years and others for 6.. Some have a background in gymnastics, ice-skating, even cheer-leading, while others never set foot in a dance studio before turning 20 (myself included). Moreover, there are adults who can manage 3 classes a month, while others can dance as often as 5 times a week. Adult classes are never as homogeneous as children´s classes. And a real challenge for any teacher!

  12. @Johanna: I totally agree with everything that you've written in both entries! :)

    @Anonymous: well, this case I was referring to happened years ago and was more of a general thing that we all were supposed to do, so I don't think it was you. :)

    Anyway, what I tried to say was that my point was not to judge or criticise anyone, I definitely couldn't! - I just wanted to comment that sometimes there may be misunderstandings or -interpretations when words are not used.

    And I know I can sometimes look really angry or if I'm tired and frustrated and I just don't get a correction, I may say to the teacher, that "just please go on with the class, please", because I don't want to waste time and make the other students annoyed and on the other hand I know myself and sometimes I need time to analyze and try things out without any extra pressure (like everyone staring...)

    So in those situations I definitely don't want to be inpolite, but to someone it may look like it.

    And Johanna clarified totally right what I meant by "not able to improve". I also agree with what you wrote about needing to focus on the student's own level and abilities.

    In general, I don't know if improvement is actually a goal to all recreational dancers, and it's totally fine, I think.

    I know people who are taking ballet REALLY serious, rehearsing exercises at home, having even barre etc, and then I know people who go to the class like they would go to aerobics class or spinning - they are just enjoying exercise in general, but they are not that interested in ballet technique or details. Their motive and goal for the class is just enjoy this 60-90mins and go home afterwards.

    So this latter group may be the one that some teachers are not that interested in teaching, especially if they themselves are interested in ballet as an art form.

    I've always felt that ballet is a great hobby, it can offer so many different things for so many different students. Not everyone wants to consider themselves as a dancer, but you can, if you like. Also, I think that especially in bigger cities we are very lucky to be able to choose between different teachers and personalities, whatever suits your style and you feel comfortable with. :)

  13. I'd still like to add one "group": I know some students who take ballet because they do like the art and the exercise, but they don't actually do that much about the corrections. I mean, that if they have been e.g. asked to point their feet more carefully, it may be that the teacher has to say the same thing over and over again in every class because nothing changes.

    But in these cases I'm thinking about it's not about "ignorance", wrong attitude or not taking the corrections seriously, it may just be that this group of students is not -that- into technical stuff that they would think about this issue after they leave the class, because they know the teacher will remind them again next time. :)

    And all these students are really positive and nice "classmates" and we have had such a great time when learning ballet, people are just coming to the class with variety of approaches. And I personally prefer having kind of different "angles" and different personalities in class. :)

    Nevertheless, this group as well may be frustrating to some teachers and they stop commenting.

    This could be actually a really interesting research topic to someone, what different kinds of adult recreational ballet students there are!

  14. I took your advice to read this, from This is Luceroblanco. I have some different feelings about this kind of situation. Even though I am not that serious about ballet, it bothers the heck out of me when my teacher does not correct all the crab hands, sickled feet and butts sticking out, yet will teach some difficult combination or move on to the next exercise. I take beginner classes and if you are not going to correct that stuff in beginners then it becomes a bad habit. It is definitely important to note that not adults want to be corrected but that could easily be determined by asking the student and/or having some kind of form that requests the student to indicate whether they want correction and what are their goals for the class. I would appreciate the teacher saying, "and just in case you are wondering, I noticed the problems but I'm not correcting them all because certain people don't want to be corrected." No need to mention names but it would make me feel a lot better rather than wondering if my teacher is an idiot because he/she does not correct these very obvious problems.

  15. @Anonymous: I agree with you and your suggestion in the end of the entry might very well work.

    I've tried to solve these situations by saying to the teacher directly that I appreciate feedback and I want to improve the way I can (which is probably very little...) or if I've been sick and I'm not fully back in business, I may say that as well.

    Of course it's often difficult when classes run late and there's 2 minutes between, and teacher hasn't got time to listen everyones issues, but I guess that at least regarding giving corrections teachers might (?) appreciate a direct approach.

    One thing that also may complicate this whole thing is that some people take regularly certain classes and some people take classes whenever they have time, so there won't necessarily be "connection" between a student and a teacher.

    But especially if had some wishes for my regular teacher, I'd talk to them directly and see what happens! :)

  16. And about I don't know if your comment was for me or Johanna, but I don't read that website so I didn't quite understand where you were referring to. But maybe it was for Johanna. :)

  17. Thanks Luceroblanco for your insight! That would definitely be an unfortunate situation.. I have been to classes myself where the teacher gives too difficult exercises, just because the level is marked a certain way, and thats how she is been doing it forever. But if the majority of the class just doesn´t have the skills (yet), and the teacher can´t be bothered to correct them, nor inform these students of better-suited levels.. Well, then problems will ensue. Regardless of the motivation of students.

    The classes we have been referring to are intermediate/advanced, but I do take beginner(adv) levels on occasion. Beginners do need and deserve a strict and encouraging class, and a teacher who is willing to put herself out there, be on your side, so to say.

    JV: I asked for additional contributions on´s adult dancer´s thread, which I´ve been reading for some time. You (and anyone else) can check it out here:

  18. OK, no wonder I didn't understand. :)

  19. Hi, I found your blog throuhg Finnish Blogilista service and I have been reading it for a short while. I love reading about both your focused attitude towards dancing and your understanding words about those adult recreational dancer who take dancing more as a hobby among others.

    I used to dance some 5-6 years as an adult, but stopped at the end of last summer partly because I felt my attitude wasn't goal-oriented enough and felt the pressure to advance all the time too demanding. I would have liked to advance in my dancing, but within a lot of time. Now, after reading this I've been thinking about starting again and feeling more accepted as a not so talented hobbyist.

    I've been to some same classes with you, and I really used to admire your talent. It's been a real surprise to me to read that you don't have a dance background since childhood.


  20. Just wanted to stop by and let you know that I love your blog (what I've read so far, anyway). I just had my first absolutely beginner adult class last night and so far, I can see it being something I become passionnate about. I can't wait to read up on all your posts!

  21. Katja, thank you! That is so sweet of you to say :) But I think my "talent" lies mainly in my obsession of ballet! I just love to practice.. Also, in my earlier years (20+) I had the time to take up to 12 classes a week (incl. modern and jazz). That sure helped.

    But it´s like you said, we are all different. Our motivations to dance, our backgrounds, our ways/styles of learning and our personalities. Thank god there is room for everyone!

    Also, I know from talking to teachers that if some students get less attention than others, it´s not always because of lack of talent/drive/ambition. Most teachers will understand that adult students have different motivations, and that not everyone likes to be pushed in the same way. That doesn´t mean they are not glad to see you in class, or not be pleased when you do learn or understand a correction. Even if it sometimes takes a little longer than you yourself think it should take!

    I´m happy for you that you are thinking of returning to ballet. Ballet is not always easy (heck, it never is), so you should be really proud of what you have learned so far!

  22. Thank you Kim! I´m glad you like my blog, and I´m really excited for you! First ballet class! Congrats to you :)

    I checked out your blog post, and it was very interesting and refreshing to read about ballet class from a new student´s perspective. I will be watching your space! :)


To That Special Ballet Teacher

To that special ballet teacher, who not only teaches you about technique, but helps build your confidence, nurtures your inner artist, ...