Jump to content

Struggling to keep up with sequences and arm positioning


FlowerPower
 Share

Recommended Posts

Hello,

 

Adult beginner here! I'm not an absolute beginner as I danced as a small child, but it's been so long (maybe 20 years?) I hardly think it counts.. 😂. Feel free to skip to the next bold line if you're too tired for a backstory!

 

Anyway, I'm four lessons in and still struggling to keep up with the sequence of movements - it's a bit overwhelming if I'm honest. I struggle to recall any lengthy sequences or if I'm at the end of the session (although the end of the session fog is improving). In the end, I basically look for another person in the group who looks the most put together in my eye line and copy them but this isn't that helpful as my brain isn't then absorbing the information to recall later.

 

I think I struggle in part because my brain is split between getting the correct movement with the feet and moving the arms into the right position. I can only really concentrate on doing one of these at a time and as soon as I lose my concentration, I end up having to catch up my feet as I've lost my timing, the brain gets fatigued, and I become a bit of a disaster. 🤨 At least I think I made the teacher laugh today (they did that suppressed 'I can't laugh in their face' laugh) as they turned around in time to witness the above for the umpteenth time since I joined. 🤷‍♀️

 

Now for question(s):

 

I super want to learn but I think I need to understand how the position of the hands relate to where the feet are. Is there a set pattern, i.e. when the leg moves to the side, the arm will also always go to the side etc? Are the arm movements different for moves such as plies vs tendus even if they go in the same direction? Or is it a counter-balance thing? Or does the teacher set all of this? Does anyone have any links/books/videos etc that can help explain or practice this? Ouf, my head hurts again going through that. 😅

 

Any advice/pointers will be hugely appreciated.

Edited by FlowerPower
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I’m not sure how much this will help but one thing I have always been taught is to never mark work without fully extending the arm movements. I think the line of thought there is that the arms will naturally move to their positions without much thought which then gives you the capacity to allow your brain to be thinking about the leg movements without having to think too much about the arms. At home, where space is limited and it was coming up to an exam, I would always play the music through some headphones and practise the arms movements and run through the movements of my legs in my mind and the two would come together without much thought in class. I am not sure how much help this would be for you though although it may be worth a try.

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Welcome to the forum, FlowerPower.  Firstly, I'd say that, at only 4 lessons in, you sound as though you're doing pretty well to me.  It took me WAY longer than that to get my arms and legs coordinated (at least, to the extent that I *have* got them coordinated!).  Perhaps you could leave the arm positions out for a bit, if your teacher agrees, while you get your brain round what your legs are supposed to be doing?  Also, as you familiarise yourself more with your teacher's practices you'll probably find that there are patterns which repeat from week to week, and you'll eventually start anticipating him/her.  You'll find things like en croix start to become more natural the more you do them, and there's a logic to them - you probably will eventually even work out whether you're supposed to be closing your leg to the front or the back from the side (most of the time)!  Again, there tends to be a logic to the arm positions as well - often one arm in fifth when the leg is to the front, to the side when the leg is to the side, and straight ahead to the front when the leg is to the back. It does become easier after a while, although I do sympathise about the recall problem - I haven't got that sorted yet either!

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

It doesn't sound to me like you're in an absolute beginner's class, FlowerPower. So the problem is not with you (trust me, it's absolutely normal for a beginner to struggle with all those things!), but with the level of the class being higher than you're ready for at present. In no way would I expect there to be any "lengthy sequences" with both arm and leg movements given to a true beginners class. The answer to your question in the final paragraph is that, while there are certain defined positions of the body such as ecarte, efface, arabesque, attitude etc, the teacher is free to set whatever they like in a class situation, either incorporating those positions or not. Especially at the barre, there are many different arm movements, or none, that could be set. (In a beginners class, however, normally the arm would be held in second throughout, or even kept on the hip, in exercises like tendus, glisses etc., to allow the correct technique to be developed in the feet, which is the whole purpose of those exercises.)

 

If this is the only class available to you and there are no absolute beginner classes that you could join, either instead of or in addition to this one, I would certainly think it would be fine for you to ask the teacher if it would be ok for you to forget the arm movements and just focus on the feet, especially at the barre and in allegro - EXCEPT for in the port de bras, where the reverse is the case, i.e. the focus needs to be on the arms rather than the feet because that is the purpose of that exercise.

  • Like 5
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I was just mentally composing a reply when youngatheart posted and said much of what I was thinking. You are doing very well in coping with what sounds like a class well ahead of where you are. Believe me, the confusion, the "which way should I be facing now?", "what comes next?" and state of brain fog still happens at all levels when doing unfamiliar work at the limit of our current capability or with a new teacher. There is so much to process simultaneously and it takes time and practice for your brain and body to arrive at the kind of automatic responses and muscle memory patterns that allow you to focus on one thing while the other processes carry on automatically. Does your teacher work on the same exercises over a number of classes, or is it new every week (which is a particular challenge)? You will gradually  learn the set positions, the conventional arm movements for each step and also get to know the way in which your teacher's mind works. I would say definitely talk to your teacher, who may well set you a simplified exercise. I have always been a "theoretical" dancer and like to understand what I'm doing and also practise mentally as Sugar Plum above says and have always liked to have a  ballet reference library at home (and there are also  tutorials and explanatory videos on youtube). Many of the great books from the past seem to be out of print now, but the standard (weighty tome) currently available is Classical Ballet Technique by Gretchen Ward Warren.

 

 

  • Like 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

When it comes to learning complicated sequences, I would never try to "catch up" by doing a step when it's already too late  but if you're supposed to be, say, in 5th on count 4 try to be there even if you missed out what came immediately before. If you can, try to capture the general "shape" of the whole sequence and a few highlights and try to fit those in while fudging some other bits. I think picking up sequences is also a lot easier once you have some conceptual understanding of the steps.

Edited by The_Red_Shoes
  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

'Morning, thank you for the replies and the welcome!

 

Yes, I'm not in an absolute beginner's class but they are accepted - the range of students range from absolute beginner to persons wanting a general beginner session. The absolute beginners class schedule doesn't work well due to work and other commitments and I cannot take a specific set course for the same reason.

 

I think the teacher will be okay with me keeping my arms in a set place for a bit or to simplify it - he's already specified it's okay not to follow all the arm movements while in the centre of the room away from the barre. We do work on the same sequences for most of the session and I usually opt for the simplified sequence where possible - I'll try to make it for two sessions in a week when I can to help with understanding/remembering the moves.

 

The_Red_Shoes - I'll see if I can find the 'Classical Ballet Technique by Gretchen Ward Warren' to buy!

 

 

 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Other really good books - available second hand as they are oldies but goodies:

 

First Steps in Ballet: Basic Exercises at the Barre Paperback – 23 Jul 1994

by Thalia Mara (Author), Louise Holdgren (Illustrator)

 

(The first of a series - If I remember correctly a series of four books with the last dealing with pointework, so basically covering everything.)

 

Ballet Basics Paperback – 16 Sep 2003 by Sandra Noll Hammond (Author) 

Also an excellent  second book Ballet: beyond the basics covering Intermediate level

 

I love ballet books. In the 80s I was a regular customer of Ballet Books in Cecil Court just along from Freeds. I've recently been repurchasing copies of books second hand that I owned many years ago. I recently bought a copy of Karsavina's Classical Ballet: the flow of movement that I first bought in 1965 with my 12th  birthday money!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by The_Red_Shoes
  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hello FlowerPower,  I have returned to adult ballet classes on and off through having 3 children and despite dancing throughout my childhood and working my way through exams up to advanced as a teenager I still have to work up my courage at times to focus my mind and accept the limitations of my 46 year old self at the classes I attend now.  The more I stick at it the more enjoyable it gets though, and there is nothing like the sense of achievement when 1 little thing improves! I think be kind to yourself and take delight in the parts of sequences you can get! My son has started at White Lodge this year and part if what spurs me on is being able to talk to him about his challenges as someone who still remembers how very difficult ballet is no matter what level you are working at !!!

  • Like 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Time is what is required. The more lessons you do, the more your body remembers things and the leg/arm coordination improves. There is no set pattern for arms and legs, but generally, taking grand battement as an example, for devant, the arm is in fifth, a la seconde, the arm is in second and for derriere, the arm is in arabesque, and travelling forward, an arabesque generally works. Of course, it depends on the choreography. Teachers like to challenge the class and might well do different arms. I tend to concentrate more on the steps and let the arms do what they will. Generally they work out OK.

 

I know that when I first started ballet class, it was all a bit overwhelming, and as I'm a bit of a perfectionist, I put a lot of pressure on myself. Also, being the only bloke in class (it was like that for the first 7 years), added to the pressure. After a year, I was more relaxed and it all starting to make a more sense. Twenty five years on, I'm still learning new techniques, and as I know vaguely know what to do (when my body obeys), I find ballet class very relaxing and a great way to unwind at the end of work.

 

It's only dancing, the world won't end if we make mistakes (and even the greatest dancers do).

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you guys for your reassurances and sharing of personal experience! It is super appreciated and a relief that I'm not a lost cause (well.. may yet be 😂🤷‍♀️). I think being surrounded mostly by people who know the movements or figure them out quickly has made me assume that I need to have figured them out or be able to keep up with the sequences too. Amusingly, I should know better as I take part in outdoor sports that require fairly decent levels of coordination and problem solving for even moderate difficulty and find myself reassuring beginners in the same ways that you guys kindly have with me!

Edited by FlowerPower
  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ballet is really hard: I’m in my sixth year now, and just beginning to really develop the facility to pick up exercises half efficiently, and I’ve been doing a good number of classes for the last two years of so. It’s one of the things that the people who danced lots when they were younger tend to find easier than those of is who started later in life, so some of it may come back to you.

  • Like 5
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The falling apart and post-class fog is the sign you're pushing on the limit; it will get better. Also you might be running out of steam physically - you might need to work on your fitness outside of class, or even just get a snack before you take class (it took me quite a while to work out I was basically out of sugar).

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 24/10/2019 at 11:31, TYR said:

The falling apart and post-class fog is the sign you're pushing on the limit; it will get better. Also you might be running out of steam physically - you might need to work on your fitness outside of class, or even just get a snack before you take class (it took me quite a while to work out I was basically out of sugar).

 

On 24/10/2019 at 11:42, trog said:

A banana is good before class - not too heavy and and pushes up your sugar levels.

 

Possibly a combination of a lot of work (as going to class almost straight after), decreased fitness, and my current diet/exercise. I had put on several kilos from a couple of injuries at the beginning of the year and now being able to mostly exercise properly (swimming, outdoors, jumping around being silly etc) I can maintain a healthier diet - although it is currently aimed towards shifting the unnecessary weight which probably isn't helping the energy levels! I'll try out the banana before class.

 

On 20/10/2019 at 11:12, The_Red_Shoes said:

Other really good books - available second hand as they are oldies but goodies:

- First Steps in Ballet: Basic Exercises at the Barre Paperback – 23 Jul 1994 by Thalia Mara (Author), Louise Holdgren (Illustrator) 

- Ballet Basics Paperback – 16 Sep 2003 by Sandra Noll Hammond (Author) 

 

Have bought these - probably overkill to buy two, but my second-hand book has cool notes in them!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...