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Viv

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  1. While ballet terms can sometimes be confusing, or even contradict the every day meaning of words, in the case of alignment, it means exactly the same thing. The definition of alignment is "the proper positioning or state of adjustment of parts in relation to each other". In this case we mean body parts. Alignment also means "the line thus formed" and this is what speaks to me more in a ballet sense. We spend a lot of time in ballet talking about 'lines' and alignment is a huge part of that. What makes alignment so confusing for me is that it's not just up and down, if that makes sense. It's not just ribs and pelvis and knees and toes all being in line straight up and down, but also is reflected in the alignment of the arms and legs in certain ballet positions. I know a big struggle girls in my class have is when the leg is pointed to the back. It is easier to keep your turnout if the leg is slightly more open and it can even feel like the leg is fully behind you, but when seen from the front it is actually pointing almost out to the side. The leg is not 'aligned' with the spine, so even if your spine is perfectly straight up and down, your alignment is still off. Unfortunately, just getting your leg behind you doesn't fully tick the alignment box either. If, in order to get the leg fully behind you, you drop one hip lower than the others, now your hips are out of alignment. If you tilt your booty back to get your leg back, now your pelvis is out of alignment. This is why I think of alignment as sort of gyroscopic, everything must be in the right place up and down, side to side and in and out. Alignment isn't just about hips and legs though! I struggle with the alignment of my arms in arabesque because my shoulders, elbows and wrists all hyperextend and point in different directions. I have to make sure my shoulders are facing the right direction, that one shoulder is not higher than the other, that the elbows are softened and not hyperextended, and that the wrist is not fished to the side. All of this, unfortunately, is also alignment, and is what contributes to making balletic and beautiful lines. Alignment is huge and complicated! In a 'simple' first arabesque, you must make sure that your leg is fully stretched and feet pointed, the leg is aligned with the spine, the hips are sitting square and straight and both are pointing in the same direction, that your sit bones are under your spine, that the spine is stacked evenly with each vertebra lined up with the one above and below, that the ribs are soft and not jutting out to one side, that the shoulders are facing the same direction as the hips and neither shoulder is higher than the other, that the front arm is slightly curved and the fingertips are in line with your nose and your side arm is not too far back or forward and is curving downwards, that your fingers are relaxed but not curled, that your head is floating on top of your spine and is not thrust forward or back, and that the eyeline extends above beyond the fingertips... And all of that, is alignment. All I can say is, good luck to your DD! I would say first step is making sure shoulders and hips facing the same way, then start working on the rest of it haha.
  2. Viv

    Help with hair please!

    @MrsMoo2 I thought you were going to bring up the dad who did his daughter ponytail by sucking it all into the right shape using the vacuum cleaner! Some of these techniques are actually quite genius (and hilarious)
  3. Viv

    RAD Ballet - exam results for graded exams

    @youngatheart I like the way my teacher approaches the issue of whether to enter students or not. A couple of weeks before it is time to enter students for the exam, she pulls aside the students (or the parents for the littlies) and lets them know that she does not believe they are ready to sit the exam, or likely to pass the exam as they are now. It is then up to the students whether they want to go ahead with it anyway, or do a class award for grade exams. If the student still wants to do the exam, knowing they may not pass, they are entered and treated like any other candidate. I think it's a nice cross between honesty and managing expectations, without preventing anyone from doing anything. With regards to Girl C, she has all the facility in the world but not the strength to use it! She is physically immature, at almost 14 she looks closer to an 8 or 9 year old in physicality. Due to her hypermobility she struggles to gain and retain strength, despite being given a specific strengthening regime at home. She is a gorgeous performer but falls down on technique, because the examiner can see at the barre all the facility she has and isn't able to use. Girl B on the other hand works to the full range of her limited facility and works with my teacher to try and mask her shortcomings (e.g. in exercises that are designed to move sideways, she tends to travel slightly forward due to her limited turnout and our teacher works with her to discover ways she can limit that forward movement without sacrificing alignment). She has gorgeous ballon and effortless turns. She also has that quality that means you can't take your eyes off her... While she may not be built for a classical career (which luckily she is aware of and is turning more towards contemporary) she is still a stunning ballet dancer in the context of the exam. With regards to Girl C not quite being ready, I would say that still gaining distinctions means that she's still technically very proficient, just not working to her full potential. It will take years for her to gain the control over her body that others her age have, simply because of the way she is built. Another difficulty is that, in my part of the country, exams only occur once a year (we need to fly an examiner over here and they do a whirlwind tour). If the student isn't quite ready, it's not possible to say 'let's just wait till summer', they need to wait an entire year before another exam date! There are distinct social and mental health disadvantages to falling behind their peer group by such a degree, which I don't think advisable if the goal is simply to push them from the 70s to the 80s.
  4. Viv

    New pointe shoe woes

    Unfortunately these felt right in the shop, and it went exactly as you described, toenails trimmed, not uncomfortable standing at the barre, flat or en pointe or even doing courus. I don't fault the fitter so much as thinking that the the slight widening caused by rises was enough for my foot to start sinking I had never seen the size changers though, they look great! If I can't find them in Aus, I may need to order from Just Ballet and hope it helps in this instance. I wish I was in the UK so I could visit you or some of the fabulous fitters described on this site! I did see that Gaynor do a 'fitting kit' with box liners which was tempting to me but not sold locally. There is also an Australian company called En Pointe Orthotics which I'm wary of, but would be interested in trialling, if they weren't once again on the wrong side of the country! If it does end up being the shape rather than the width, I think I may end up in a bit of a 'fool me twice, shame on me' situation as I really do think I want to try them in X width haha. Though as I couldn't even wear flat shoes today because of pressure on the toenail, I have almost certainly bruised them and perhaps should give up now.
  5. Viv

    RAD Ballet - exam results for graded exams

    Yikes, sorry for the essay! I have the flu so please forgive rambling, nonsensical tirades...
  6. Viv

    RAD Ballet - exam results for graded exams

    I don't necessarily disagree with your position entirely Youngatheart. I believe that there are times when ranking can be beneficial to children and I do not agree with a world where everyone gets a trophy just for showing up, or football goals aren't counted because 'everyone is a winner'. However, I disagree that ballet exam results are one of those things that should be shared publicly, because so much comes down to initial ability or facility and because exam results, as we've often seen, have very little to do with which students will make it as professional dancers (if this is even what the students want!). By sharing their marks, what exactly are we preparing them for? I also think it's somewhat unrealistic to think that students will be happy with coming last on a list because they were less able to start with. All they can see is a big pile of people who are better than them. If you choose to share your marks, because you are happy or disappointed or neutral, that should be entirely your choice, and no one else should be expected to share theirs. There are a whole host of reasons why someone might be happy or sad with their results, regardless of whether they are objectively good or bad. For example, I used to have a friend at my studio, the only other crazy old lady dancing with children, who had far from the perfect ballet body, could not get a straight line across the top of the ankle and had relatively no external rotation. While she worked very hard and achieved merits all the way up to Intermediate, she was told by my teacher it would be very unlikely that she would pass advanced foundation. This student decided to attempt it anyway and started taking intermediate classes again to work on the basics, scheduled extra private lessons, did conditioning outside of class to be more prepared. When results came out, this student called me in tears because she had 'only' achieved 49 marks in the exam. I was thrilled for her, because to go from not being considered able to pass, to passing by a good 9 marks, is in my opinion quite an achievement. However, objectively it is not a good mark. No matter how prepared this student was for the marks she received, she was devastated that after pouring so much work into something, she didn't even get 50%. This was a mature woman of 23 who cried for days after getting her marks. I don't believe that a 13 year old would be any better equipped to deal with such a blow. As another example, there are three girls in my class, two with a perfect ballet body and one with a different physique. All three have shared their results with me and not with each other. Girl A has natural facility and achieves great marks without trying. She puts in enough work to stay at the top, but otherwise has a tendency to be lazy because it comes easily to her. Girl B has little turnout, short muscular legs and only okay feet. She works incredibly hard and consistently scores in the 90s for ballet exams. Girl C has the best facility of all of them, is an associate with the Australian Ballet, yet 'only' achieves in the 70s and low 80s for ballet exams. She is very small for her age, physically immature and things haven't quite clicked yet. She was very pleased with her marks last year, until someone told her that Girls A and B both got in the 90s. Girl C now wants to quit ballet next year, despite loving it, because she thinks she is no good. She already compares herself to Girls A & B and their seemingly effortless achievement and now believes that only bad dancers get in the 70s. I have tried to cure her of this by telling her that only 30% or something get a distinction in ballet exams, so in this way comparisons can be beneficial. But ranking these girls, to my mind, serves no purpose. Girl A doesn't care about her marks for her own sake, only that she beats other people, and to demonstrate to her that she can continue to do this without working hard is not to her benefit. Girl B may think that, because she achieves highly, she has a higher chance of a classical ballet career, which is most likely not possible because of her physique. Girl C thinks that she has no shot of a career, which she desperately wants, because she's a 'bad dancer' who should give up now. Luckily, our teacher gets to spend 364 days a year future proofing these students, telling Girl A that she needs to work harder, Girl B that she needs to work smarter to use what facility she does have, and building up Girl C's confidence because when it does all click, she'll be amazing. But to these students, exam day is the only one that matters. Having their exam results, a snapshot of how they looked to one person on one day, shared with everyone and therefore, in my opinion, given more importance than they're rightly due, greatly undermines the work of the teacher to pull out of each student the best that they can achieve. In my opinion, exam results are a poor indicator of success or of hard work, but these kids place so much importance on them, even with a teacher who is trying to put everything in perspective. To have the whole studio, who doesn't get to see how hard you work or how much you've improved, know where you fall on a list is demoralising and, to my mind, serves no purpose that could not be better served in another manner. Lastly, it is also true that sharing marks within a studio only tells you how you compare to other students at that studio, not to other students that you will eventually be competing with for places at vocational school or for classical careers. Being a big fish in a small pond isn't going to prepare any student for when they're suddenly thrown into the ocean, in fact it may falsely inflate their expectations. Even if every ballet school around the world publicly announced their students results, I'm sure there would still be some rude awakenings when it came time for auditions.
  7. Viv

    New pointe shoe woes

    I had a very odd situation last night. I stuffed my feet with chux kitchen cloths to make the shoes fit, managed to make it all the way through a 45 minute pointe class without too much pain until the end, and managed to do things en pointe I've never been able to do before. I could feel muscles engaging that normally don't work because the foot can't get fully pointed in my other, harder shoes. Then I took off the shoes and I have cracked the top corner of my nail off 😶 It's not actually that painful and I think it's because, when I'm sinking into the shoe, the top joint of my big toe gets pushed out of alignment and I end up dancing on the corner of my nail. I'm going to try toe spacers to try and correct this alignment issue, even if I don't need them in my grishkos, and persist with these shoes for one more class. I want to try and decide if it's worthwhile getting this shoe again in the next width down. Even with a cracked toenail, this was my most successful pointe class ever and my teacher called it a 'breakthrough'. Very mixed emotions here! Which brings me to my next question - how do you tell if the problem is width, and can be fixed by going down a size, or an issue with the actual shape of the box (too square) which obviously can't be fixed? My feet look quite square when I'm standing normally, but en pointe they compress and become quite tapered. I'm worried that these otherwise good shoes will end up being too square for me no matter what I do
  8. Viv

    New pointe shoe woes

    It doesn't feel like I'm sinking, but I must be to be having these issues. I tried the next width down but the shank was twisting which made it seem like that shoe was too narrow. It's very frustrating because I went through all this with my first pair of shoes and don't want to have to do it all again. In my first pair I was wearing three toespacers and shoving cotton wool into the shoe to take up space, just so I could wear them for 3 pointe exercises in intermediate foundation. It was a nightmare but one I thought was behind me If I remove the cushion at the end I will definitely have to supplement with something else to try and build up that space, I'm just not sure what yet...a previous fitter has also advised me that if a shoe is slightly too wide but you want to get some use out of it, line the bottom of the shoe with a pantyliner! It'll take up a little bit more space and hopefully stop you sliding, and it can be taken out and replaced relatively often. I don't have a gap between my toes but my toes are hypermobile and quite easy to bend in funny directions... I think the cushion is pushing the top joint of my big toe sideways so the corner of the nail is trapped between the curved cushion and the actual platform.
  9. Viv

    New pointe shoe woes

    Normally I wear grishko nova pointe shoes, and while they're very supportive they look rubbish on my feet. In the search for a prettier, softer shoe, I bought a brand new pair of Mirella Whisper pointe shoes. In the shop they looked gorgeous on, I had no trouble getting over them (which is rare for my flat feet) and I was super excited to dance in them. Fast forward to today, where 5 minutes into class I am in agony and about ready to throw these shoes against the wall! Rises were alright to start with but once we got to releves I felt like I was putting all my weight straight on my big toe and toenail (on both feet), it was excruciating and I couldn't attempt anything in the centre. These shoes have a gel 'cushion' thing that I'm thinking, far from cushioning things, is actually causing more problems. It's a curved pillow and I think it is digging into the toe under the nail and the curve is pushing my toe out of alignment. I'm thinking of removing the gel cushion entirely, though this will make the shoe bigger. I was thinking maybe padding with lambswool might help? My teacher says the shoes don't look too wide, though this happened last time with bloch european balance shoes and both my toenails cracked and fell off. I just dropped £75 on these shoes and while I don't want to see this go to waste, I also want to keep my toenails...has anyone else had this problem before with shoes like the mirella or euro balance? Are there any DIY fixes I can try before packing it in? Obviously I've sewed ribbons on and danced in them so there's no chance of taking them back.
  10. How many hours do students at classical upper schools generally do? Does this include pilates style classes and 'injury prevention' and anatomy classes, are just pure dance training? I am wondering because I have a young friend, nearly 15, who has recently joined a 'full time' program at a local studio and is studying online through distance education (the norm in my small corner of the world). The full time program is around 5 hours a day, 4 days a week and includes some academics (e.g. injury prevention, anatomy, dance history) so I estimate approximately 15 hours a week pure dance training. However, this particular girl plans to continue, or even increase, the number of after school hours she's doing as well! I've just tallied them up and, if she continues with the timetable she has planned for herself, she'll be doing 13-14 hours of after school training per week, plus privates for competition solos, plus additional reformer pilates classes outside the studio, plus the full time program... Her mother and I are concerned for her safety and wellbeing but she is insistent that this is what she wants. Even when she tells her mum she's not going to be going to certain classes and will do her schoolwork in the dressing room, I know she is actually going to those classes. She has only just started full time and I'm mostly hoping that she comes to her senses after a couple weeks of this insanity, but what can we do if she doesn't? She was a bit of a late starter who still feels behind other girls her age and thinks that this is what she needs to be doing to catch up. Our main ballet teacher is away at the moment as well so she may be able to talk some sense into the fool girl when she comes back...
  11. Viv

    Rad discovering repertoire classes

    Oh that's interesting! I must have misunderstood my teacher. As I don't have a spare £75 to drop on videos for a syllabus I'm not learning, I really appreciate these youtube videos that show the variations I might hopefully get to work towards in the next few years. Discovering Repertoire is not being examined in my part of Aus until at least July next year so no one is teaching it. Apart from half an hour once a fortnight, these videos are the closest I can get to 'discovering' anything If the examined variation ends up being anything like that video, I no longer want to attempt it en pointe...
  12. Viv

    Rad discovering repertoire classes

    We seem to be amassing quite a good collection of videos in this thread to show basically what the variations look like at the various levels. One of the girls in my class has just learned the Level 2 Giselle variation for a competition (she was entered a week before and had to learn this variation in half an hour!) and from watching her run it at the end of one of our classes (and attempting to join in myself without breaking an ankle or being taught any of the steps), it looks like this one: Apart from the devilish turn sequence at the end, it actually wasn't that hard to execute it en pointe. Far easier than the Advanced Foundation variation 1! I would expect most Intermediate students to be able to learn this en pointe if they chose and it may actually help bridge the gap between Intermediate pointe work (basic echappe releves) and Advanced Foundation (pirouette enchainment and variation!) For those not en pointe I would say a grade 5, intermediate foundation student would find it challenging but rewarding and not so incredibly difficult it would be impossible to achieve. I actually found the Coppelia one not en pointe harder than this one en pointe! May depend on where your strengths lie though...
  13. Viv

    Are there some people who just can’t do ballet pirouettes?

    Claudia Dean also has multiple youtube videos on pirouettes which might have some new tips. While some youtube clips may provide a bit of help, it sounds like what your DD needs is someone watching her, analysing the mechanics of her turns and figuring out why they fall apart. Does her weight fall backwards? Does she not use her spot? Does she spot too hard which throws her off? Is her hip sitting in the wrong spot in a turned out retire? Is her foot or knee collapsing during the second turn? Are her arms drifting to the side and down, rather than staying lifted, long and supported from the back? There's a lot of things that can go wrong in pirouettes (and these all seem to go wrong in mine at the same time!) but I generally believe that, with the right corrections, anyone can get consistent doubles and fairly regular triples if they are strong in their ballet otherwise. More than a triple may have to stay a freak occurrence, but when will someone need more than a triple anyway?
  14. Viv

    How to increase "Performance" in exam syllabus?

    There were a couple posts discussing this in the 'intermediate foundation as an adult' thread which you may find useful. I find that performance goes beyond just facial expression, although that is a very important component. The best performers I watch dance right to the end of the fingertips and fill the entire space they're in. Even something simple like lifting the sternum a little bit (without displacing the ribs) can give a better sense of projection and confidence. If she's looking to a corner, make sure she turns her whole head and not just her eyes, it's quite common for young dancers to have their eyes looking one way and their head still facing the front. Not only does it look weird, it shows a lack of coordination and it's harder for the audience to connect with the dancer if their eyes don't feel focused. Listen to the music for each exercise and try to come up with a story for it - is she at a picnic with her family? At a disco with her friends? Lying on her back in the sun? Ask her to remember that feeling when she dances and try to convey that story to the examiner. Last point, I said it in the other thread and I'll say it here, practice performance as much as technique! Do you think you can have floppy feet in class and then remember to point them in the exam? No! Performance is the same. Practice now! It'll also give her teacher the chance to give feedback on her interpretation of the music and communication of the story.
  15. Viv

    Swayback legs

    Vastus medialis obliquus - it's the tear-shaped muscle just above the inside of your knee. Very clear in this image.
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