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'What they are doing wrong' article


chaperone
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I agree with the article - thanks for posting it.

 

Especially interesting was the item about the positioning of the arm on the barre. That is crucial to the placement of the rest of the body - as the article says. In all my years of taking ballet class I only had one teacher who corrected that on a regular basis. It needs to be checked constantly because the hand on the bare is not stagnant -it is dynamic and changes throughout the work at the barre. For instance if the leg rises into arabesque the hand/arm must move forward on the barre.

 

As to why teachers don't change with new information ....I think it is because they see themselves as also teaching a tradition and sometimes it becomes too hallowed.

 

Grand plies for instance. It has been known for a long time that grand plies (except in second position) are damaging to the knees. And, yet, when I discussed this with other teachers and they agreed - they still continued to give them at the barre. And, even though dancers (even at the professional level) agreed with me - they still continued to do them afraid to go against what the teacher was doing.

 

As for me, I stopped doing grand plies in the early 1980's and never found it to adversely affect my dancing and I am absolutely sure it saved my knees. Instead, I substituted two demi plies (to fit the music) which accomplishes everything a grand plie does - with no excess strain or damage to the knees. Second position grand plie being the exception.

 

(For some reason I am unable to put in the diacritical marks any longer above such words as plie at this board. I don't know why!)

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This issue about advances in fitness training/sports and it not translating to ballet is something that constantly baffles me. I did a lot of research that proves that fitter dancers have better performance (elements like placing, line, accuracy, virtuosity). Yet dancers don't see that fitness training (this includes flexibility) is as important as technique. They might 'throw in' a little bit of fitness or pilates once a week but would never consider an equal balance between artistry, technique, and fitness. At MIDAS I call this the 'golden triangle'. So many times people neglect one aspect of it. Without artistry, we get gymnasts and tricks. Without fitness, dancers don't perform to their best ability, and are more prone to injury, and without technique dancers don't get very far!

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This issue about advances in fitness training/sports and it not translating to ballet is something that constantly baffles me. I did a lot of research that proves that fitter dancers have better performance (elements like placing, line, accuracy, virtuosity). Yet dancers don't see that fitness training (this includes flexibility) is as important as technique. They might 'throw in' a little bit of fitness or pilates once a week but would never consider an equal balance between artistry, technique, and fitness. At MIDAS I call this the 'golden triangle'. So many times people neglect one aspect of it. Without artistry, we get gymnasts and tricks. Without fitness, dancers don't perform to their best ability, and are more prone to injury, and without technique dancers don't get very far!

 

Well, one of the problems is time. Dancers usually arrive in class in the morning, rehearse all afternoon and perform at night. It's difficult to fit in all the activities of living (laundry, food shopping, eating, sleeping, some down time, some social time, dr. visits, dentist, etc., etc.) and also more things like fitness training et al.

 

And some time just to sit. Maybe read. Check to see if anyone new has been born into the family. Or if the marriage is still going on. Or forgot the kid at the babysitter (done that!)

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Exactly. Dancers' schedules need to change. There's no time to add something in, most places already work their dancers harder than perhaps they ought. The question is.... is anyone brave enough to drop a class once or even twice a week? This then brings in the idea of balancing training to avoid overtraining syndromes. Most other elite physical performers will do something different each day to allow specific areas of the body to be worked hard one day then recovering the next day whilst working on something else. There's no real need (in terms of practicing skills or technique) for professional dancers to do a full technique class every day especially as they will use the same skills during rehearsals. It would be more beneficial to replace one or two of these classes a week with fitness training. But of course no-one has been brave enough to try it, so no-one has proof that it won't be detrimental, or that perhaps it might even be beneficial! The science and practice in sports all indicate that that it would be beneficial but until it actually happens I can't see teachers/artistic directors/dancers trusting it.

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Exactly. Dancers' schedules need to change. There's no time to add something in, most places already work their dancers harder than perhaps they ought. The question is.... is anyone brave enough to drop a class once or even twice a week? This then brings in the idea of balancing training to avoid overtraining syndromes. Most other elite physical performers will do something different each day to allow specific areas of the body to be worked hard one day then recovering the next day whilst working on something else. There's no real need (in terms of practicing skills or technique) for professional dancers to do a full technique class every day especially as they will use the same skills during rehearsals. It would be more beneficial to replace one or two of these classes a week with fitness training. But of course no-one has been brave enough to try it, so no-one has proof that it won't be detrimental, or that perhaps it might even be beneficial! The science and practice in sports all indicate that that it would be beneficial but until it actually happens I can't see teachers/artistic directors/dancers trusting it.

 

We've named two problems to changing the schedule - time and bravery. But there is a third. Not showing up for class is not a good idea when the artistic director is thinking about who should get what role. This is often done by watching who is doing what in class. The dancer needs to be in class to be seen in order to be chosen.

 

However, I don't think that I would agree that rehearsal in any way takes the place of class. Class is a necessary preparation for rehearsal. It's where the dancer warms up - checks things out (how are pirouettes today?) both mentally as well as physically.

 

And, yes, some things like balance and pirouettes do change from day to day.

 

Class is also a confidence builder (things are still working.)

 

Without the precise warmup of class, I would NEVER attempt rehearsal.

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And what about doing Pilates/conditioning exercise as a part of everyday class? As you say no one will miss a class so everyone will exercise at least a little bit. But a teacher/ company brave enough to change "traditional regime" is needed.

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It would be good if some professional dancers could come and share their thoughts- because obviously companies vary in their approach to dancers fitness and well being anyway. I've quite often seen footage in ballet interviews/documentries of RBS dancers using gym equipment for example. It would be so interesting to know how much this is used by dancers daily.

 

Certainly at WL a big proportion of daily classes were given over to pilates exercise with pupils given individual exercises to do to address any issues - my ds had to work particularly on his uneven sides! Later on the boys were given upper body training. And classes also began with a thorough cardio vascular warmup, never full plies.

 

Interestingly my ds found that his Tring training in sixth form vastly improved his general fitness, flexibilty and body awareness because of the excellent jazz, contemporary and pilates classes. Although ds would have preferred to do ballet all day, once he joined a classical ballet company he actually complained that his body was missing the all round physical activity it had got used to.

 

Finally I never do a full plie if I can help it- I do noticed a vast difference in my knees and hips when I made a conscious decision not to do them.

Edited by hfbrew
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Interestingly my ds found that his Tring training in sixth form vastly improved his general fitness, flexibilty and body awareness because of the excellent jazz, contemporary and pilates classes. Although ds would have preferred to do ballet all day, once he joined a classical ballet company he actually complained that his body was missing the all round physical activity it had got used to.

 

 

This is exactly my point.... Was he doing a daily ballet class during that time? He obviously had good ballet technique to get a contract in a company, and it is likely that the strength, flexibility and fitness he gained helped him get that contract.

 

As for the 'ritual' of the daily class. I agree a warm up is vital, and it is during that warm up that the mental preparation for the day happens. Perhaps 15 minutes of this time can be spent on balance, pirouettes etc to 'check out how they are today' but I still maintain that not all of the daily class needs to be done daily.

 

I'm brave enough to do it... I know it works. I just need to win the lottery so that I can run a company/school to prove it!

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I have to agree - I've stopped teaching syllabus work unless kids want to do the exams (and then they come to extra lessons to learn the exam settings) and I teach free work classes that build strength and fitness as well as technique. Although I do have to say that the new RAD grades seem to have a better element of fitness work eg building jump height in parallel, lots more moving around to develop aerobic fitness.

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