August 2, 2012

Summertime Ballet

My summer classes of late have been challenging in a different way. Our teacher keeps telling us to relax into more "natural" positions, not to push ourselves. I get the reasoning behind this: too much tension in the body (and mind) inhibits freedom of movement. That's why Silvia's barre is relatively short and not a developpé or grande ronde de jambe in sight. Fondues are not a separate exercise, put part of another. Frappés and petit battements are complex with quick directional changes, but easy on the legs. Still, I miss a doing a tougher barre. I like to work on achieving my own maximum turn-out, extension, pointed feet, long back etc. Not forcing anything, but for me barre has to feel like "real work." Not barre-lite.

Then again, it's summer. I could be taking a break from classes altogether. And although that barre has left me wanting more, center has been twice the fun! Silvia gives very dancey exercises, with emphasis on musical phrasing, eyes and épaulement, deeper pliés, rebound in jumps, and covering as much ground as possible. Less poses, more traveling steps, big faillis and contretemps, glissés, temps lies, continuous movement.. And there have been technical challenges. Ballonés with half-turns and battu, assemblés tournant with battu, cabrioles to the back, fouette jumps with beats. Double attitude turns finishing with soutenu, and straight into deboulés. Grand jetés italienne in manege. Tempos (or tempi) have been fast. It's been borderline comfort-zone, but that's the fun and challenge of summer classes. Different teachers, styles and new steps and combinations that throw you for a loop. Good for the brain and body. And I've made well on an earlier promise and resolution: to let go and enjoy myself!


  1. I love complex exercises at the barre, but with my muscle issues, I need light barre work for now. But I definitely prefer dancey center combinations above anything else, which is why I love my usual school above my summer intensive one. The barre work at my summer intensive one was challenging, but I felt the center work was too simple for the level. I kept expecting combinations at the level I do at my other school, but we just got really basic things, like assemble with change and no change, or jete, temp leve, with an assemble, or three temp leves with three cabrioles and an assemble. But nothing like at my other school where we can do something like two waltz turns, pirouette (x number of times) followed by a pique attitude, going right into a jete en tournant, then a tombe, pas de bourree, glissade, saut de chat to finish.

    1. I just danced that last combination in my head, it was fun - but did you do a pas de bourree before the pirouette? And after the jete en tournant, which direction for the rest? I would like to get it right :)

      Still, even if the challenges and levels are different it's good to have some change. Without change there's no development. Makes you see things with fresh eyes! Having said that, I'm real happy to see my other teachers return from their vacations. I will also continue to take a weekly class with Silvia. This way I get the best from every teacher!

      Thanks for your comment :)

  2. One of my teachers has a similar style as you describe: a shorter barre with more combined exercises but then lots more center practice exercises and centre combinations. At first, I really missed the long sweaty barre, but then over the last year I have grown to like the variety AND I have noticed that I am more balanced and confident in centre in my other more "traditional" classes because Ms. P's class involves so much centre work, including grande battement and multiple moving developpes and "dancey" work; like your Ms Silvia, Ms. P is also a stickler for musicality, staying in formation with your fellow dancers (as if you were in the corps!) and thinking about how to use the space on the stage :) I think this is one of the lovely things about being an adult student and being able (ok, having no choice but) to take several different classes from different instructors. :) Glad to hear that it's a shared experience...and boo to summer winding down :/

  3. And as for me, I consider myself a beginner even though I've been doing ballet for 8 years or so now. The classes I'm in are very small (sometimes only one other student and me and the teacher); this morning there were four students, two of whom are experienced dancers (one has been dancing since she was very little and her mother is a dance teacher, so she knows what she's doing, to say the least!)... and I'm feeling dispirited because we started learning a dance for the concert and I keep missing steps (the same ones every time we go through the dance) and can't get my legs very high and I forget bits and... well it goes on. I'm tempted to just say I won't be in the concert this year (which I've done a few times in previous years). It's probably a very simple dance, but I can't get my head around the order of the steps and I really want to concentrate on technique rather than "feeling" it and "dancing it out". What to do?

    1. First, do not compare yourself to other dancers. Everyone has strong suits and weak points. There is always going to be someone who has higher extensions, or bouncier jumps or excels at something that is hard for you. Look at more advanced dancers for inpsiration, not to beat yourself down. Aim to dance better than you, not better than the next dancer. Believe in your potential!!

      You say that you keep missing the same steps.. Do you know the steps in theory? Could you break them down and explain to someone else? If you have that part figured out, all you need is to practice more. And this is really important: you have to relax! If you dread the tricky step sequence every time, you're not going to make it. Your brain will be sending mixed messages to your body. Once you know what steps you have to do, let go. Breathe and find calm within you. Have confidence in your abilities.

      Don't give up on the concert! Performing is such an integral part of ballet, and for most adult recreational dancer it's also a very rare opportunity. It should be a learning experience, and it should be fun! Just remember that you don't have to be perfect :)


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, ...