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Floor covering for home practice


miss.pointe
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I have carpets at home which of course is not ideal for home ballet practice. I have been using a piece of MDF but it's quite shiny so it's slippery and I know there are more suitable mats or coverings out there.

 

Can anyone suggest anything portable to use as a floor when doing barre work on carpeted surfaces? Thank you :)

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A floor for ballet should be a raised surface - a resilient surface as well non-slip.

 

That being said - it is not a good idea to practice ballet at home. You can walk through choreography or a dance sequence you need to know - but otherwise barre and center work done at home without the supervision of a teacher is not recommended.

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I always used to practice at home before exams. As long as you know what you're doing, aren't attempting something you haven't been taught, you're not doing multiple jumps on a hard floor and you are disciplined with yourself and sensible I can't see a problem. I practised on carpet, not ideal but I managed though when I was doing pointe exercises I did them in the tiled kitchen.

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I can't see a problem with students working on barre exercises that they've done before with their teachers, as long as they're going to classes too. I agree that ballet, like a lot of dance/sports, should not be self-taught because you need the eye of a teacher to guard against developing faults or injury but some home practice, working on applying technical feedback to basic barre exercises is necessary, particularly over long breaks. Besides, I would like to think that the sorts of students posting on here about practicing over the holidays etc are largely going to be at vocational level or trained at higher grades so would be diligent enough to be careful, and perhaps use a mirror to self-correct too.

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Drdance, I think that that is a dangerous assumption!!

 

I agree!

 

There is a reason that very busy professional dancers take time to attend daily class - they don't work alone. A few of them might when necessary work together taking turns in "giving" a class.

 

No matter how informed and careful a student is - bad habits creep in. A knee not quite fully straightened, a back muscle not quite engaged, the four quadrants of the abdominal muscles not evenly engaged. The mind can't check all of this all the time. The eyes can't see behind the body or get a true reading en profile.

 

You can't spot even the simplest turn and at the same time check the placement of the back, shoulders, arms, head, neck, spine. Is the head slightly tipped back, or is the chin too far forward? Is the head tilted to right or left? Is the head in placement with the spine? Are the arms correctly held: rounded to the correct degree - where are the elbows - hands - are they correctly centered - are they aiding or hindering the turn?

 

Even a simple balance needs an outside eye. The problem is we don't need to balance correctly in order to balance - the body easily adapts to doing things incorrectly. The body was made to adapt. And then whatever sllpped in - whatever adaptation the body learned must then be unlearned.

 

It's not a matter of knowledge or good intentions or even great care. That's why dance students find a summer class whenever - however possible. that's why when I was dancing and teaching - I would never give myself a barre.

 

The problem is - that the problem is not obvious.

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But unless your child is able to go to a residential summer school for a week there are no summer classes.

 

Dance schools here close down mid July and reopen in September.

 

Dd needs to work on her flexibility - for example -there is little time to fi more than the very basics in her weekly classes plus a 6 week break as well. Am thinking if finding a recreational gymnastics class to help but that's another story.

 

 

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My dd's teacher said an emphatic 'Don't let her stop in the holidays'!

 

She's so far done a summer school and currently EYB, but if she wasn't lucky enough to be doing these, there would be no alternative but to practice some stuff at home.

 

Six weeks of nothing is not good for her, and she would be much more likely to injure herself when starting again in September; especially as she is hypermobile and has to work hard on her strength anyway.

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I have to say (and this makes me feel very out of touch with dance) that I've noticed a fair bit of debate on this forum about do/don't practice at home by yourself which I have to admit I have never given much thought to before. When I attended pretty much daily after school dance classes as a child/teenager, my RAD/ISTD dance teacher would always say "you need to practice, these classes aren't enough, I can tell you haven't been practicing", etc. I was quite an avid dance student and while I knew you had to be taught and corrected and guided by a professional, I don't recall being told that I shouldn't practice at home by myself.

 

I'm certainly not disagreeing with any of the advice I've been given/read about the dangers of practicing by yourself, but it does surprise me a little bit. I was mostly taught in a studio without mirrors, and it's only when I was practicing at home one day that I realised my arms were being held too high and too far back in second (the studio now has mirrors). My teacher commented on my self correction in my next class, but she'd never said anything before.(She has had student accepted into RBS so she was a decent teacher). She gave me the correction once that my weight was too far forward in pirouettes which is why I kept falling. At home practice, I then noticed my weight was too far forward in plies as well.

 

So again, while I don't disagree with the dangers of home practice, and this isn't even to debate that, I just wanted to add I'm surprised there is such adamancy against it even when you are in professional classes and training. Like I said, it makes me feel a bit outdated and out of touch more than anything!

 

Anjuli you said that even when you were teaching you didn't give yourself a barre - so you wouldn't practice by yourself even though you were a teacher? All very interesting food for thought!

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Even in a class of, say 20 students, Most errors one individual makes won't be spotted. The big ones will and some of the minor ones, hopefully all of them eventually but not in 1 class. I don't believe that a few small errors in home practice are dangerous or likely to create bad habits. If they are steps that the student has done before there's very little risk. Better to practice some basic exercises at home than do nothing for 6 or 7 weeks. There are very few schools that run classes through the summer and most people can't afford to send their children away to summer schools, even if they can it's only likely to be for - or 2 weeks.

This topic keeps rearing its head and clearly there's never going to be a consensus so I say read both sides of the argument, consider all the pros and cons and then decide what is best for you.

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Is some of this a cultural thing. Anjuli are you from the US or a country where classes continue through the summer?

 

That's not the norm in the UK. Residential summer schools are not an option for most (dd commuted 1 hour a day each way for hers) and most other summer classes available are fun choreography only or musical theatre based ones ( show in a week type thing)

 

At dd's dance school the children are expected to practice at home.

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I agree with Anjuli, especially when the students are younger as in young teens and below. Wrong muscle placement/imbalance can cause major problems in the developing dancer which can potentially ruin a career. I would say when at home to use stretches after being fully warmed up, and of course only if the student knows what they are doing. Use a theraband to stretch and strenghten the feet. When my dd was a Royal associate they were given specific excercises to do at home but they were never barre or typical ballet exercises and all were done at floor level.

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Anjuli you said that even when you were teaching you didn't give yourself a barre - so you wouldn't practice by yourself even though you were a teacher? All very interesting food for thought!

 

Exactly. It's not a matter of knowledge - I still can't see myself from behind or en profile without turning my head. When I needed to have a class but studios were closed, I teamed up with other dancers/teachers and we took turns. This, however, doesn't work for students.

 

Is some of this a cultural thing. Anjuli are you from the US or a country where classes continue through the summer?

 

That's not the norm in the UK. Residential summer schools are not an option for most (dd commuted 1 hour a day each way for hers) and most other summer classes available are fun choreography only or musical theatre based ones ( show in a week type thing)

 

At dd's dance school the children are expected to practice at home.

 

As it says under the painting of the pointe shoes - I am from the USA. However, my teachers ran the gamut of major schools and styles.........I won't bore you with the list .....though I have to admit it is tempting....since I do revere my teachers and am grateful to all of them. Included in the mix are RB dancers and an RB ballet mistress. So, I don't think the admonition against working by oneself is a matter of being a "cultural thing."

 

In the USA - depending upon where one lives there are some summer sessions. They can be quite expensive - just like anywhere else. And, parents do struggle to pay for them - just like anywhere else.

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In his 8 years of full-time vocational training my son only ever did two one-week summer schools (and in last year's he was recovering from injury so only did done of it). He never practised at home during those long sumner holidays but instead stayed active by walking, cycling and, as he got older, doing his own weights workout, and of course stretching. He said it took a week or two to get back into ballet properly when he got back but the break really did him good.

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Has anyone heard of the RAD's 'practice-a-thon'? It's where children get sponsorship to do extra daily practice over a 2 week period, anything from 20 minutes a day, raising money for a charity. The printed material has tips from Lynn Wallis (artistic director of the RAD) includes making sure you warm up before you start and suggests you ask your teacher for advice on how to do that etc. So it certainly seems that the RAD are in favour of home practice.

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Yes, they do Lil. My dd does her physio prescribed exercises twice a day, every day. Luckily, in between the RAD's activities at Birmingham in the first week of the holidays and now EYB rehearsals, she's been able to keep up her ballet really well.

 

Mind you, on her "rest days" she can get a bit tetchy because she's not dancing, so I need to keep her occupied! :-)

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My daughter has a brilliant private teacher, but she only ever asks her to do certain stretches at home and when at school she will say work on this exercise and see what your teachers says. My daughter has rested during these school holidays as it has been a really stressful year with auditions and GCSE's. I think this rest has done her the world of good. The muscles that were built up in her thighs have now alongated, she seems so happy and rested. She is going to do one week at Elmhurst summer school, but up until now all she has done is stretched. I believe that it is important to listen to experienced dance teachers or professional dancers, after all they know all about their craft along with muscles etc.

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We think of dance training as being a physical regimen but it is at least as much a shaping of a mental outlook. Along with learning to shape the body into beautiful lines we learn to shape our minds; dedication, perseverance - be there - do it - no matter what.

 

So, we find ourselves dancing through injury or literally fearing time set aside for rest. I know the feeling and the fearing very very well. When I broke my foot and spent six weeks in a cast, I was convinced it would take me forever (if ever) to get back in shape. To my surprise, once I dried my tears and the foot was healed, recapturing my form didn't take long at all. And, during the enforced rest a lot of other things healed, too.

 

One also needs to learn that sometimes what seems the long way round is often the closest way to home. Rest heals an injury. Rest refreshes the body. Rest also refreshes the mind and restores the enthusiasm.

 

In the time of the Imperial Russian Ballet of St.Petersburg dancers often took as much as six months off. Prima Ballerina Assoluta Mathilde Kschessinskaya spent six months dancing and six months socializing. Dance companies in Europe dispersed for a long summer season. While I am certainly not advocating 6 months off :) it is a different perspective isn't it?

 

Don't be afraid to rest - do something else during the summer break: swim, hike, social dance.....have fun ...

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This reassures me greatly Anjuli - thank you! My dd has always worked hard at her dancing but especially so this past 12 months in the build up to auditions, dancing every week night except one and all day Saturday on two associate programmes. She is very excited about starting vocational school in September but has switched off totally since breaking up from school and more significantly, dancing. She is enjoying a normal 11 year olds summer holidays - playing out with friends, riding her bike, going on the trampoline and just chilling out completely! It may take a couple off weeks to get her ballet brain switched back on in September but fingers crossed she has years of focussed ballet training ahead of her. This summer, where she still has local close friends and a love of being a little girl, will not happen again. September will be here all too soon! :)

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