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What do you look for in an adult ballet class?


miss.pointe
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Hello lovely BalletcoForumers!

 

There's been a bit of discussion here of late from people looking for adult ballet classes. As some of you have helped advise me on, I am currently taking my dance teacher training and as I will be thinking about my teaching ethos and aims and types of classes, I would love to get some feedback from you as to what you look for in an adult ballet class.

 

Is getting fit and recreation or technique more important? What kind of experience/qualifications would you look for? Even down to would you want a disciplined class with everyone in black leotards or somewhere more casual? Etc, etc.

 

Thank you so very much for any suggestions and thoughts - nothing is too "silly" to note, please. Please pm me if you'd rather.

 

Thanking you!! xx

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Why don't you come down to dance xchange in Birmingham. There are a few mature students there amongst the younger ones and they are all really good. These more mature student must dance elsewhere as dance x is an open class. If you were to ask me personally what I would be looking for in an adult ballet class, I would say the door he he (can't dance for toffee). These ladies are really lovely and very approachable, there is one older man and he is equally lovely aswell.

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Hi Miss Pointe, I've been taking adult ballet for over 30 years (yikes am I really that old?). I would say definitely treat people like adults, ie don't make them wear black leotards and DEFINITELY not pink tights. The mere thought of pink tights would probably deter most adults from signing up for your class. You have to recognize that we are never going to be hired by a ballet company (and don't we know it) so we want the fun factor to be very high, while the technique should be challenging but within our physical limiitations. For instance I always find it intimidating when a teacher demonstrates a developpe and her leg's up near her ear. My current ballet teacher, whom I adore, gives very dancey floor exercises so we get to feel like a ballerina even if we don't look like one. Also I would say a good pianist is really important if possible. Just a few thoughts.

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Why don't you come down to dance xchange in Birmingham. There are a few mature students there amongst the younger ones and they are all really good. These more mature student must dance elsewhere as dance x is an open class. If you were to ask me personally what I would be looking for in an adult ballet class, I would say the door he he (can't dance for toffee). These ladies are really lovely and very approachable, there is one older man and he is equally lovely aswell.

 

Your door comment made me laugh! I'd love to, hearing good things about the place, but I live in London so not sure when I could make it. Definitely sounds like an op for market research, thanks!

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My old teacher has done an adult ballet class for years, and has some ladies there who've been doing it for 15 years at least! She does a free class and tends to stick to about grade 5 level, but occasionally does some more complicated steps as a bit of a challenge.

 

I second the request not to make them wear leotards or tights! Tracksuits, t-shirts, some people wear leggings - its worth also suggesting to new attendees to NOT spend money on ballet shoes etc until they think they like it. This is sensible advice, but also shows them that you're sensible and thoughtful!

 

As a new teacher - teaching adults is quite different to teaching children. Adult beginners find it very hard to use both arms and legs, so with total beginners its advisable to tell them not to worry about doing the arms unless they want to have a go. You have to fight the urge to correct everything in terms of technique, unless it's dangerous. Reminders of 'standing tall' and stretching knees, and turning out legs to 'ten to two on a clock' when standing, and turning out lifted legs will be as far as you need to go with beginners, although if you have more advanced students in the class you can give them individual feedback - it's about knowing your students (as it always is!) Adult ballet dancers tend not to want to be ballerinas, but they want to keep/get fit and dance!

FYI - in my experience, Adult dancers who are beginners or who've not done ballet since they were a child also find transfering weight from two feet to one, and from one to one quite difficult, so bear that in mind!

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Also on the practical front, and this has nothing to do with how you actually teach the steps, you have to acknowledge that adults have very complicated schedules, with work, travel and family commitments. One school I used to go to made students sign up for 13-week terms and you had to pay for the whole term whether you missed classes or not and they wouldn't allow makeup classes. This meant that the classes you actually got to ended up being very expensive. I am no longer there! The school I now go to operates on a drop-in class system, or you can get a reduced price on classes if you buy a 10-class or 20-class card good for 3 months. My current school doesn't seem to suffer from its more flexible signup system, indeed it has acquired some students who have left the other one out of disgruntlement.

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I also just want to elaborate, when I said "fun", I meant the emphasis should be on the joy of dancing. Also the atmosphere should be relaxed. My teacher cracks jokes a fair bit. But he's a really good ballet teacher, and my technique has improved a lot with him. Also I think adults like praise (well, who doesn't?). Ballet is such an intimidating thing for most people that they need reassurance that they are (sort of ) getting it. And if you are advertising your classes, make sure that everyone knows that all shapes and sizes are welcome, that it's not just for the very skinny and the very flexible.

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And another thing on the music front. I would think that a lot of adults taking up ballet are people who are ballet fans and so know it from the audience viewpoint. As a result,I always find it particularly inspiring when the music is something I recognize from a ballet: plies to the Shades entrance, grands battements to the Dance of the Knights from R&J etc etc. In my head I see those beautiful images or pretend I'm Juliet or whatever and I find that I work harder without it feeling like work.

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I think the most important thing is to teach adults with respect for the time, expense and energy they invest in coming to class. I always tried to let them know that it isn't the actual result - it is the journey. I also let them know that they are not on the periphery of the dance world - butanimportant part of its beating heart.

 

I always tried to let them know that I appreciated their effort - after a busy day of work and other activities - and that they were every bit as important to me as the professionals that I taught. Not a bit less in any way.

 

When appropriate, I also gave them opportunities to perform, to go on pointe, to choreograph, to design their costumes, to learn how to apply stage makeup. I remember one particular class of about 17 women who had been in my class for almost 20 yrs. and their joy when they looked back and saw how far they had come.

 

When an opportunity arose to perform I knew they would hesitate. So, I taught them the dance as an exercise and then when I presented to them the option to perform, in answer to their hesitations about being able to learn the dance - I told them they already knew it. I also told them that this kind of opportunity would not soon come their way again. It was a chance to become part of the long line of dancers. They would know how it feels to prepare - put on makeup - get into a costume and stand backstage waiting for their music to being.

 

They trusted me enough to take the chance - and when they came off stage to the sound of applause they were ecstatic!. To this day they still talk about it.

 

I used to video tape class and show it to them over lunch at my home. What struck them the most while viewing the tapes was the amount of laughter in the class - how hard we worked - but how much we laughed with pleasure.

 

It turned out to be an important event in their lives and it certainly was in mine. We still keep in touch.

 

Besides teaching technique, and affording them the respect their efforts deserve - it is important to make the class center on them - not the teacher. That doesn't mean compromising on technique - ask for the best they can do -- it won't be perfect - who is? - but ask for their best. If you don't ask for their personal best - that is not respecting them.

 

If you respect them - they will respond with their best and everyone will profit.

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Anjuli I wish I could have you as a teacher! Or even that you lived somewhere reachable :D You always have such words of wisdom and such a deep understanding of everything that is a part of dance and a dancer. Your adult class (and all your students!) are extremely lucky to have such a wise teacher and mentor - your words are invaluable!

 

When I was reading back about Anjuli's post to work out why it resonated so much, I think it is because of the time she gave and the relationship with students. That doesn't just go for adult classes of course, and neither just for dancing, but give your students time and take an interest in them as people and that will be what has the most, and the most lasting, value.

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I second pretty much all that has been said so far!

 

As a guy, here are some specific points if there are any guys in the class.

 

First off, try to make sure they're integrated in the class - I've seen a few adult classes where the men (or man!) are warming up separatey to the women. I know as a teacher this might be hard to do but it's just something to be wary of.

 

Don't be afraid to treat them slightly differently: I've had teachers who only let the men get the portable barres out, makes sure the guys stand a the back during centre, and make all the guys go together in exercises across the floor. I actually quite like this!

 

If at all possible try to (every once in a while) include some "guy steps" - I had to wait until I started RAD classes before I tried a tour en l'air. And if you have a live accompanist you can get them to play slightly slower when the guys are jumping.

 

Also, try not to heavily include lots of feminine moves (eg 3rd arabesque arms, bouréeing across the floor) or include alternatives for the guys - as I've grown more comfortable with ballet I'm now managing to make these kind of moves a bit more masculine so it doesn't bother me anymore, but they can be off putting for newcomers.

 

Hope that makes sense - in short I guess it's just to realize that guys are a little different to girls ;) It's often a bit harder for a guy to join adult ballet classes so it's just to be aware of that :)

 

Good luck with you qualifications!

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I second what DavidW has said.

 

The music for men should be different - usuallyslower to allow them the time it takes for a deeper preparatory

plié and the longer time they spend in the air in jumps.

 

When going across the floor (en diagonale especially) the men should have a separate space and time. Many times when moving across the floor with women the men feel inhibited not only by the difference in timing but also they don't want to accidently collide or otherwise hurt a woman.

 

This is sometimes true of women, too. In one class I had there were three pregnant women and the other women became afraid that they would accidentally kick or knock into one of the mothers to be. So, I gave them a separate barre and when in the centre they had their own group. Everyone felt better - freer - and safer.

 

One other thing.....

 

All too often in our daily lives we have been taught that when we move awkwardly we may become an object of laughter or even derision. How much comedy rests on laughing at someone falling down? Thus, when I demonstrated various parts of the ballet vocabulary for my students (both adults and children) I wasn't afaid of making an error - falling off balance - a wrongfully executed pirouette, etc., I felt that if they could see that we - including me - all make mistakes - no matter how long we've been studying - that mistakes aren't really mistakes - they are attempts at progress - it is always OK to try - to attempt. Then one day those attempts become progress. That no one will laugh - no one will be derided - no one will be judged. The only judgement is your own - that it was your best for that day.

 

You might not see a good outcome for quite some time.....but if it is your best - it is worthy.

 

I bring this up because many times people have said to me -"I would love to take a ballet class but I am not graceful and/or people will laugh." And if they don't say it - it is often an unspoken fear. My reply is: "No one will laugh - everyone is too busy with their own "attempts at progress" - and "no one comes into ballet class fully formed and graceful." And the greatest dancers in the world are still working on their "attempts at progress" - every time they walk into class.

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Anjuli_Bai, David W and everyone - I am really inspired and interested by your comments - very, very helpful! Thank you so much all.

P.S. First day of dance teacher training intensive course today - both inspired and slightly overwhelmed, in a way that I know this will stretch me and help me do my best!

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I taught fitness classes for years to adults and as mentioned above not only do adults like fun and keeping fit and healthy one of the main things that stood out for me was the social aspect as Anjuli also mentioned. It was the one evening or morning that some people who may not have a wide social network of friends were able to come and actually make new friends and acquaintances. It was lovely to see regulars welcome newcomers as some adults like children can be apprehensive about stepping foot into a class of any sorts. We also used to sometimes have evenings out and visited the theatre to see a ballet or musical depending on what was touring at the time and with group bookings there is always a discount!

Good luck with your market research!

Ax

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I am, sadly, one of those mature ladies at the Dance Xchange in Birmingham. I have taken ballet classes pretty much all my life, only ever at local schools though. When I was approaching 40 my previous teacher retired and I thought it was probably time I did as well, but I really missed the ballet. I did other dance, but it just wasn't the same.

I love doing barre work and I am still working on my technique (and boy does it need some work!!), but then when you get into the centre and you are presented with a sequence that you just "get" and you can use the whole studio, there is nothing quite like the sense of freedom and enjoyment :D

 

Fortunately, being very short-sighted I can't see what I look like in the mirrors.

 

I only dance for fun, am not very good at it, would welcome anyone to the class. No, we don't look at anyone new and criticise, we're all too busy trying to remember the steps, not collide with anyone or fall on the floor.

The latter, unfortunately, I did quite recently. The exercise ended with us kneeling on one knee (getting down is usually OK with the help of gravity, but getting up is a slow and very inelegant process), but I was slightly off balance, and I'm sure the floor moved as well as I slowly and gracefully toppled over. :lol:

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Webfoot....

 

It is not "if" we fall......we are all going to do that......it is how we fall.

 

As Edward Villella said in his autobiography - we dance without a net.

 

And, when we dance for the joy of it - the only image which counts is not the one in the mirror - but the one in our head.

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I might be going en pointe in the new year! I have waited my whole life for this! Someone please tell me how therabands work to strengthen the feet. I cannot feel the least resistance or any pull in the band :huh:

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Primrose, we are definitely not brave, stupid more like it. :)

I'm still trying to decide whether it's enjoyable or torture. I wouldn't mind if I felt I could do it elegantly and gracefully instead of feeling like a fairy elephant.

 

Good luck Fiz, I'm sure you will enjoy the challenge of it. The important thing is to listen to your teacher and don't try and get ahead of yourself. It's all about the muscles under the bottom and not about the feet at all - at least that's what we've been told.

 

That's how I learned to jump again. I had problems with my knee, 3 physios all had different opinions as to what was the problem, and I found I was having to sit out the last part of the class (the most enjoyable bit). So I went to a wonderful teacher who I trusted. There I learned it was all about using those muscles under the bottom to support yourself as you land in a jump and now it's very rare that I don't complete the whole class and I don't even think about my knee. It's not actually any better I just know how to work round it.

 

Anjuli, thanks for your wise words, it is all about the joy of dancing in your head.

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Webfoot....

 

It is not "if" we fall......we are all going to do that......it is how we fall.

 

As Edward Villella said in his autobiography - we dance without a net.

 

And, when we dance for the joy of it - the only image which counts is not the one in the mirror - but the one in our head.

 

This is beautiful. I teach my first adult beginner's class tomorrow everyone (as a student teacher, of course). Wish me luck and thank you for all the input!

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hope you have a fab time, miss.pointe! i help teach an Inter-foundation class, and it's so fun, and really satisfying to see the students progress!! As they are quite young (only about 9-10) they look so cute and tiny! Fiz, I use a purple Bunheads theraband (i think different colours are different strengths), and I just spend around 1/2 hour a day pointing and flexing my feet, circling my ankles en dedans & en dehors, then 'writing' the letters of the alphabet, in lower then upper case. I'm not sure wether those excercises are specifically good for strengthening feet, but my ankles and calves feel like they've had a good workout! You mentioned that the theraband didn't seem to offer much resistance- perhaps you could try (when sitting with your legs stretched out in front of you, the band looped around your foot, holding one end of it in either hand) bringing your elbows in closer to your body, thus pulling harder on the band and shortening it slightly? Sorry, I know that's about as clear as mud!! ;) Before I started pointe, i found that lots of slow rises to demi pointe, on both feet and on alternate feet were very effective at strengthening my calves and ankles. Oh, and the idea of Therabands is to provide more resistance, as a demi pointe shoe would :) Good luck with your Pointe lessons, have fun choosing your shoes! x

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The latter, unfortunately, I did quite recently. The exercise ended with us kneeling on one knee (getting down is usually OK with the help of gravity, but getting up is a slow and very inelegant process), but I was slightly off balance, and I'm sure the floor moved as well as I slowly and gracefully toppled over. :lol:

 

Aww, Webfoot, I had a similar humiliating experience a few months ago (that is actually quite funny now I think about it!) It was my first session at a fairly prestigious Youth Ballet Company, and we had the pleasure of being taught by a BRB dancer. We learnt a piece of repertoire, in which I was given a small section as a duet. Part of this involved a simple couru en diagnale. And, as luck would have it, when the other teachers and the other group came into the studio to watch my group's work, I managed to trip over my own feet, going with a marvellous *Thud* onto my derierre. Whoopsie... ;)

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Thank you, Swan Princess. I have a red one - there were only 3 sorts offered on the site I went on - and my ex DD told me what to do and watched me wrap it properly. She said they never did her any good either. Maybe we both need a stronger type.

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