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Supporting young dancers


Thecatsmother
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I am in the middle of preparing a workshop to introduce some key concepts earlier in the training of a group of young dancers. I plan to teach exercises to improve turn out and flexibility but also to educate them about what they can do to set goals for themselves and then use a range of technical and mobility/strengthening exercises to work towards those goals. I am going to be working with young dancers about 9-11. I would be really interested to hear from parents or dancers what they feel they struggle with at this age or looking back what would have been useful at that age. There is so much out there in terms of new research/programmes being developed that I want to try introducing some workshops at an earlier age to monitor whether this makes a difference over time. It is helpful to integrate the thoughts of others to assist me in planning. Many thanks to anyone who is willing to give me additional insight into the needs or challenges of this age group.

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I haven't got anything particularly insightful to say, but st that she we did find it RBS JA classes invaluable partly for the exercises they were given - foot, turnout, core. We get nothing like that at our local classes. I know most are at ballet classes for a bit of fun and exercise (helps posture etc) but I think they're missing out on not being taught how to get the most out if it.

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Health and well being and understanding own body is very important to promote balanced approach and help prevent injury. It can be overlooked when children doing a lot of classes at local dance schools and could be integrated into training at an early age.

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 what they can do to set goals for themselves and then use a range of technical and mobility/strengthening exercises to work towards those goals.

 

 

I think this is key. From my experience there was lots of telling DS that he needed to exercise but no time spent explaining what he actually needed to do or what to work on either in general terms or specifically for him. It would have extremely useful to have had specific goals to work towards

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My DS found the detailed explanations at JA's of how the spinal alignment affects ballence and posture explanations of how to engage the right muscles for core stabity and turnout very useful .

A basic anatomy lesson and isolating muscles and learning to engage the brain until the correct movement and position became more automatic ...

Photos or video clips to show them how they look before and after or good and bad posture/position are also helpful to track improvement ..

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Sounds like a very good idea I wish our teacher had more time to do a class like this but my DDs school is either doing exams or show work! Sometimes it is good to educate the parents as well as we are their backstop! Good luck with the classes it sounds very proactive.

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As a non ballet dancing mum something I lack is the knowledge about how to find the best enrichment programmes for DD. She is serious about her dance but with so much choice sometimes it does feel like my head will explode!

A pathway for her 11-16 years would also be valuable together with some key milestones, whilst I appreciate it's more about the journey than the destination sometimes I have worried that we are lagging behind with grade achievement etc.

 

I hope this helps.

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For me, again a non-dancing parent, understanding the terminology would have help. The infomation about vocational schoolsn associate schemes, workshops etc were all learnt piecemeal over time a glossary of definitions would have helped along with some ideas about time scales and career/study paths would have really helped.

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I think it is useful while teaching the different barre/center exercises to also teach the why of the excersize.  Why do tendu?  Seems senseless to keep sticking out that foot and then bringing it back.  What does one hope to accomplish with it - for the body - for the leg - for the foot? 

 

Why plié? What part does that play in warmup?  in between steps? in between jumps?

 

This may not answer the vocational goal question - but it does give meaning to the "stuff" on which a dancer spends so much time.

 

I think it is also enriching to place the different steps, poses, movements - in an historical context.  A reverence at the end of class has an historical (even an economic/status)  story to it - the difference between how men and women bowed - the time it represented (the full classical reverence once done by men but now done mostly by women) arose in the time of the Louis XIIIl court - (imagine the Three Musketeers). 

 

This helps it come to life for the student - fills with meaning what otherwise seems empty and taken for granted.  And, they begin to see themselves as part of a bigger picture.

 

Or did I miscontrue your question - sorry if I did.

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Many thanks. All feedback is valuable in itself and provokes room for reflection. The ability to really listen and hear what is being communicated provides the potential for great learning. Sometime there is room for talking with students about how they perceive feedback. Some can perceive this as criticism, others relish it and some appear to not engage as there seems to be a sense that this does not apply to them. I think this is an additional issue which I might address as personality differences, past experiences and low self esteem seem to be key factors in terms of how feedback is received. My sense is that this is key to enhancing the lives of future young dancers.

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Many thanks. All feedback is valuable in itself and provokes room for reflection. The ability to really listen and hear what is being communicated provides the potential for great learning. Sometime there is room for talking with students about how they perceive feedback. Some can perceive this as criticism, others relish it and some appear to not engage as there seems to be a sense that this does not apply to them. I think this is an additional issue which I might address as personality differences, past experiences and low self esteem seem to be key factors in terms of how feedback is received. My sense is that this is key to enhancing the lives of future young dancers.

 

 

The "ability to really listen and hear" is at best sporadic.  It is estimated that the amount of information absorbed in any one ballet class is approximately 5%.

 

The issue you raise about how the student perceives feedback is central to the entire issue of teaching.  I think how feedback is perceived is as diverse as the number of students - each screens/filters the communication not only how it is offered but based also on the student's entire psychological history.  The home, the school, the people who inhabit the student's world have shaped that filter long before you (or any) teacher enters the picture.

 

Assuming the communication betwixt teacher and student is positive - it will still be interpreted in as many ways as there are ears to hear it.  And it changes with the day, monthly hormone level, and maybe even the weather.

 

It ran the gamut from students who relished feedback, to those who felt ignored if it was not forthcoming at an expected pace - all the way to one who everytime I said something to her - even if it was positive - said I was picking on her.  It took quite some time for her to realize that the other students did not feel this way and so eventually she began to feel "safe."

 

I tried an experiment one day with a class of intermediate eleven yr olds.  I  had the students do chainé turns down the diagonal one by one during which I said nothing.  As each finished, some looked back at me expectantly, some were disappointed when I said nothing, some happily assumed silence meant they had done well, and some assumed it meant they had done poorly.  It was an interesting window into how silence was perceived.  It was also an interesting window into how they perceived themselves.  We then talked about how they thought they had done the turns.  I found their estimation quite accurate.   The lesson was that their valuation of how they did - while not as informed as a teacher's would be - was also part of the mix.

 

It gave them the task of including themselves in their education.

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Something which my dd has always commented on is the total absence of ballet mime in any of the syllabus work she has ever done, (and at a previous school the active discouragement of any individual expressiveness and interpretation).

 

This has left her with the feeling that she has never really been able to develop an understanding of artistry and performance, qualities which are now becoming a much more important requirement as she moves to advanced level; and with which she now struggles.

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That's very interesting Anjuli. I have no doubt that the silence provoked a process where the students projected their feelings about self upon you as the teacher. This is something I shall reflect upon and attempt to integrate by teaching students about the psychological concept of extrinsic and intrinsic motivation.

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Something which my dd has always commented on is the total absence of ballet mime in any of the syllabus work she has ever done, (and at a previous school the active discouragement of any individual expressiveness and interpretation).

 

This has left her with the feeling that she has never really been able to develop an understanding of artistry and performance, qualities which are now becoming a much more important requirement as she moves to advanced level; and with which she now struggles.

Yes, my dd has never done any mime and her local teacher simply doesn't have the time to include mime or repertoire. This is why it's so wonderful for non-vocational pupils when associates and/or summer schools have repertoire classes - dd always loves them.

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My Dd really finds the creative and improvisation classes at her contemporary CAT scheme challenging, as do a lot of the students who have come from ballet backgrounds.

 

Ballet is such an exact science where she is used to being told where every foot, leg, arm, hand and head should be placed, that to take risks feels very alien to her and really pushes her out of her comfort zone.

 

Whilst some grades do include improvisation, free movement and choreography is often overlooked in syllabus work yet these are skills that are becoming more and more relevant.

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Many moons ago when I was learning ballet myself we had mime classes, and we were encouraged to express ourselves a lot (my teacher had been trained by Karsavina), and if I remember it correctly when we took exams there were mime elements in some of them, the IDTA had separate graded exams and "performance" medals. I have no idea if this is still the case. DD does acting classes and has done the grades and medals with distinction in all (just about to finish off gold). She has found acting classes to have been very helpful for both expression and confidence.

 

Personally my eye is nearly always drawn to the expressive dancers - even if they have been "hidden" at the back of the stage. :)

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Elliepops I agree I always have my favorites and they are usually never the girls on the front.  I always find them stiff as a board!  

 

The age range 9 - 11 can be a very wobbly age where many girls go off and do different things due to the discipline of ballet.  Anything that can make them feel special and interested is a winner for me.

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  • 2 weeks later...

When I was about nine I almost gave up ballet! I was finding it so boring and i wasnt really progressing! It would have helped a lot if someone had explained clearly what was expected of me as I progressed further and given me some inspiration to carry on. Maybe showed me some steps from higher grades to give me an idea of what all the hours would result in. Just to have someone explain where I was heading and what ballet would mean to me later on. So many of my friends left at this age - you need to be given some encouragement and incentive to want to progress x

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Balletteacher - please feel free to PM me and I can discuss with you more the type of work we do with MIDAS, as your approach sounds like it comes from a similar place. In a nutshell, what we do is take ideas from the training of youngsters, largely in aesthetic sports (eg rhythmic gymnastics, ice skating etc) including psychological elements such as goal setting, motivation etc. We also do a lot with the younger children in terms of music (having a live pianist can help!). With this age group it is so hard to find a balance between making the training demanding enough to have a physiological effect, but also to make it engaging enough that they want to work hard and love to participate.

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