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open class - etiquette for the centre


mimi66
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Hi, I am a newbie for this forum, but decided to be a bit brave and post a new topic in this thread.

 

I started ballet as an adult (though I did a couple of years of ballet (not very serious) as a child), and like many adults, learned to dance in open classes.

 

Having been dancing over 10 years, it seems to me that I encounter more and more people in the class who are perhaps not aware of various practical ballet conventions which make up what may be called "class room etiquette".

 

I feel that this is because teaching those "etiquettes" is not considered something a ballet teacher has to worry about in an open class setting. It is true that for adults some of them are really just common sense. And, yes, ultimately it is up to the teacher to manage his/her class.

 

But as the number of ballet lovers who learned ballet in non- syllabus setting/open classes increases, sadly such ignorance (or forgetfulness?) are becoming positively dangerous! I have seen situations like people overtaking others in front during the grand allegro, people constantly encroaching into other peoples space (when there are plenty of room in the opposite sides for them to move). Or those who wear rings (v.chanky, too) or bangles (watches, too) to the class who inevitably dance too close behind you....

 

I have looked up about this subject, but didn't find one specifically for the centre work. I thought it would be useful to hear from people those conventional classroom etiquette, as I for one would like to know for example the most conventional way to form a small group (as in the shape) of 3, 5, 7 across the floor etc. I understand that these sometimes have to be adopted, and that one should respect the "local" rules of each class. And that the ballet teacher who is teaching that class has the last word in that class.

 

But it would be nice to know the basic rules. Any thoughts welcome,  mimi66

 

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We are expected to adhere to the same standards as the dance students. We are not allowed to wear heavy jewellery, our hair must be up or back if long and our teacher instructs us on formation and structure during open exercise. What a good idea for a thread, Mimi'smum.

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Yes this is well organised in the BBO syllabus classes I attend....and in my local Russian class.....same rules as for students really but when attending larger open classes say up in London this is not the case!!

Normally in local classes you may split into two groups for some of the Centre work especially in the allegro section and a bit depending on the shape of room....say a group of five....you may have two at the front and three behind; seven would be 2 then 3 then 2 arrangement but this of course doesn't happen at all in London. There a teacher will say just get into two(or three) groups so everyone is expected to organise themselves.......it is much better if the teacher at least says WHO is in group one/two/three BUT then there are those who insist in going in EVERY group!! I know they are keen but when space is tight this is very annoying. Discreetly marking at the back is one thing but running in and joining a group at the last minute just when you think you've manoeuvred yourself into a space is very very annoying(if looks could kill level annoying!)

If classes are a bit too chaotic in this way and over large anyway I tend not to go again to that class.

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wow! how exciting to see replys already coming in!  Thank you.

 

Fiz

 

Sounds like my dream class!  Could I ask how does your teacher form the small group? For instance group of 3, a triangle with one person in the front, and for 5, like the dice (a squar with a dot in the middle).

 

The class I regularly go to has a local rule on group of 3. We have 2 people in front with one person at the back.  This is not particularly ideal (doesn't give enough space for everyone to manoeuver) but since  a lot of people tend to hesitate going in the front alone, this has become the rule for this class. My teacher tries from time to time to put us into more conventional shape but it just doesn't work.  Also this is a general + class so I do understand that it's not really appropriate to place people at the begining of each group at this level...

 

Spannerandpony,

 

Hello and thank you :)

 

LinMM

 

It' great that you are doing the syllabus class.  I think my technique suffered from not doing the syllabus work, but I could only fit non-syllabus class when I started...  I had fun but learn-as-you-go meathod is not recomennded, in an ideal world.

 

Well all my classes are in London, and yes, it gets chaotic sometimes, even though the classes aren't that huge (as in Pineapple elementary classes, for instance).

 

>>>BUT then there are those who insist in going in EVERY group!!

 

I know exactly what you mean,  I have seen them, too.

 

Going in every group is OK so long as one is giving the priority (for the space) to those who do it for the first time, I think, but I assme the one you are reffering to always stands right in front of the group!!   In any case, in a  crowded studio it's often impossible to repeat the exercise without evading someone else's space, so best to be graceful and let everyone has their fair share.

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Fiz,  thank you for the reply. I do sometimes see people insisting on not forming the triangle, but instead foring a line across.

 

very dangerous, and this type of people tends to join in at the last minutes, so does not give time for others to move to get enough space...,

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Hello, Anjuli. I am a fan of you! Thank you for the comment.

 

Teaching the protocols - etiquette -  of the  ballet classroom is as important as teaching its structure.

 

 

I could not agree more.  In reality, though, I think there is a mismatch between the general expectation of how adult dancers should behave in open classes (exculding beginners class) and the acutual behaviour and/or knowledge of some of the adult dancers there.

 

I shall expand on this perhaps later, but for now suffice to say that more people take up dancing as hobby (which is good) , what one could reasonably expected from participants of an open class can no longer be expected (which is bad).

 

I have noticed that now big studios like Pineapple, some classes stipulates that those who does not have the knowledge of class protocoles should not attend. Also some classes now ask people who are not suitable for that class (technically) .  This was unthinkable, say, 5 years ago, but now sadly necessary for safety reasons.

 

I think the participants of open classes should be more aware of these protocoles.  I don't think it's fair to put all responsibilities to the teachers only. 

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I agree with anjuli, whether it is an open class or whatever the teacher should be managing this behaviour. Dangley earrings, big rings, encroaching on other peoples space are all pretty dangerous for all concerned!

 

Moomin, thank you for your comment.  I do agree with you, too.  Ultimately it's the teachers who should be managing the behaviour.

 

On the other hand, it gets a bit impractical in a class of 30 people upwardsk, I think.  I myself always thought whoever participates an adult open class (except for beginners) would have known these etiquettes.

 

But disheartning to say that sometimes a big breakers of those rules are those who has been to ballet school and really should have know better...(sigh).

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Sometimes this process is complicated as whilst concerns can be expressed that an adult has selected a class that is too advanced these are not always heard.

 

I do think regardless of what has been said on the forum in the past it can only help an adult learner to ask if they are in a class that will enhance their learning. Sometimes the basic technique is there enough to do certain classes which push an adult beyond their current level but on other occasions when the foundations are not there it in my opinion does more harm than good.

 

It almost seems counterproductive for an adult starting ballet to do multiple classes at an advanced level until basic technique is mastered to the best of the adult's ability. I do not mean to sound like I am taking the fun out of adult ballet just that my heart often sinks when I am faced with someone in an advanced class who I am actually thinking 'you know you would progress much faster if you actually went to more basic technique classes for a couple more terms and then tried this class'.

 

I appreciate this is difficult out of major cities where classes are limited but it is far easier to teach an adult beginner from scratch than to unpick the technical problems displayed in many who have tried to progress too fast. It can also be dangerous in terms of risk of injury. I know I am at risk of being shot down by some who may disagree with my approach but I can only say this comes from experience of teaching adult ballet for many years to a range of levels.

 

Having said that it is usually the case that adults need to be encouraged to move to the next level but all adult ballet students will benefit from a good basic technique class no matter what level as part of their training. This is often why you might see dancers attending classes which look too easy for them. They may be working harder than you think in terms of wanting simple exercises so they can concentrate upon using the right muscle groups etc.

 

Many adults are increasingly drawn to workshops teaching repertoire as I have seen discussed on this forum. It is lovely to see the enjoyment this brings but basic technique classes will enhance the experience as correct placement, use of arms, feet etc will make performing choreography far easier and more satisfying.

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Balleteacher, I could not agree more with you.  thank you! 

 

In our era of instant everything, people seem to expect instant results even in learning ballet.  I feel also that this is general lack of respect for the teachers, may be because some people think ballet is something one can learn instantly. TV programmes like "Strictly Come Dancing" doesn't help either.  They make some people to misunderstand tht dancing (and performing in front of the audience) is something one can do with only a few weeks of training, or at the most a few years of training.

 

I wish there were more acceptance for everyone that althogh we are all equals, but we are different in our abilities at a particluar moment, and that that in itself is not anything to be ashamed of. 

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I know what you mean about Strictly, Mimi66.  I have seen previous participants interviewed both on screen and in print over the years who have said that they have learnt the routine but couldn't do another "foxtrot" for example without a lot more training and practise.

 

I think the pros on Strictly are very clever at showing the celebs to the best of the celebs' ability but that does not instantly make them into fantastic ballroom and Latin dancers.

 

It must be the same with ballet and other dance forms.

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In this day of PC - there are some things that stubbornly refuse to change - to study ballet takes a certain amount of time. It may vary because of age, opportunity, physicality as well as - talent.  But it still takes time.  It may be for vocational or recreational purposes but it still takes time.   We may "all be equal" but that's before the law - not ballet.  We are not equal on the ski slopes either - otherwise it is not safe for others or us.

 

There are no short cuts. 

 

If you think about it the protocols of the ballet class are based - not on arbitrary hoary traditions - but on safety and courtesy.  Who would want to be in an environment without those two elements?  If someone comes in my classroom and ignores these basic courtesies - that is an insult to me and to those who do follow the rules.  I would never hesitate, after a recitation of these courtesies to ask someone who continues to flaunt them, to leave.  I am protecting the safely of the class (who are probably sick and tired of these bullies anyway).   People are waiting for the teacher to take charge.

 

As for giving a repetoire class of a serious classical ballet to people with very little ballet study is .....well, a moneymaker.  Sure, dancing around a bit, dressing up,  even learning the steps is far different than giving beginners the idea they really can come anywhere even close to performing creditably. 

 

Beginners should perform - and I emphasize that - but appropriately.

 

One of the most important things we learn in life is delayed gratification.  And if one thinks that because time is short and thus can be hurried up - well, I think the laws of time.....time to learn......time to grow into that learning are fairly immutable.  Even the child genius Mozart had to take lessons and build upon his foundation of geniius.

 

There is a certain joy as much in traveling the road as in reaching the destination.  If one should think that by hyper-study one can shorten that road - well, I wish you best - but most of all I wish you a discerning eye.

Edited by Anjuli_Bai
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I could not agree more. I think in ballet if you think you have reached the destination you may be on the wrong journey. Perhaps one of the elements along with those magic moments when you enter what one psychologist termed a state of 'flow', is the constant striving for the elusive something which is always just out of reach.

 

Yes, goals can be set and are helpful in a world where dancers have little control within companies but mastery of an art form such as ballet is something that even the greatest dancer is lightly to question. It takes decades for a principal to train to a level to perform solos from the great ballets and whilst these can and should be adapted and enjoyed by all, this must be kept in context. Performing as an amateur to a willing audience can bring much pleasure but perhaps gives a slightly unrealistic perception of what the real world of a professional dancer entails. Perhaps by studying simplified versions of repertoire it can be used to gain insight into just how hard professionals have to train.

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Please don’t get me wrong, I love watching “Strictly”. :P

 

 

Anyway, perhaps it might be worthwhile to list those floor etiquette with some examples, and reasons behind that particular etiquette.

 

I shall start with one of the most misunderstood one: the front row is for those who are competent enough to be dancing there.

 

I know it sounds snobbish, but really it is not. The front row people have a responsibility – they must be able to judge the spacing for the entire class. This involves being able to pick up given enchainements quickly and accurately, of course, but also being musical as well.  This is particularly the case for those who stand at the middle and both end of the front row.

 

It is not any form of elitism.  When competent people are in the front row, the whole class dances better, including the spacing.

 

It used to be that people were reluctant to dance in the front row, even in the elementary level open classes. Now it seems that more people want to place themselves at the front…particularly at either ends of the front row, even though they should let someone more suitable take that position.  Wanting to dance in the front row regardless of one’s present ability is no longer a sign of enthusiasm once one progressed to the elementary level (I guess now one would refer this as an intermediate level????).

 

And if one stand in the front at the beginning of the centre work, one should stay there throughout the class.  Before the first adagio begins, everyone has a chance to make sure they have enough space around them so that they don’t kick nor punch others in front, side, and back.  If someone moves in the middle of the centre work, everyone else has to adjust their space again and that isn’t fair!

 

One of my pet hate is those people who move up closer to the mirror (i.e. the front row), pushing everythig in her/his path to the moment of glory,  when they think they can dance that particular exercise, then move to the back to hide behind others when it’s something they think they can’t do well…

 

Sad to say that I have seen this done by someone who ought to know better...someone who were studying for certificate for teaching ballet...actually not just one, but more than three.

 

I have also seen this from someone who went (and finished) certain vocational dance school( who does a lot of ballet training as well (sigh).

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Guest chinafish

Balletteacher, I can relate to ypuur post #17. I remember taking open class at danceworks. It was an advanced beginner / elementary type level class, and we were doing some turns across the diagonale from the corner.

 

I still remember desperately trying to spot the corner. My brain screamed to me, along with the teacher, "step to the corner!"

 

But try as I might, my body just would not do what I wanted it to do and I ended up centre back, closely avoiding a full on collision with the dancer next to me...! And then running off mortified, and very very dizzy.

 

The teacher then addressed the issues of spatial awareness, in terms of one's own location in the space, and awareness of how close you are to the next person, also being aware of where they are; spotting (much more than i was!); and proprioception (feeling correctly what my body is doing vs what it is actually doing). The teacher then conceded that a few of us needed a lot of work in those turns (understandably!)

 

I suppose keeping a safe distance from each other in class could be classified as class etiquette, and on that occasion I failed miserably!

 

It must have been painful to witness too...

 

Just my 2 pennies and throwing it out there that sometimes it was literally out of my control...!

 

Fish

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Guest chinafish

Mimi: interesting! My pet hate in my classes is that nobody stands at the front so there's half the studio in front available while everyone gets squashed at the back!

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I don't teach an open class but a termly one - but my two rules to my adult beginners on the very first class (and reminded afterwards) were 1) Be responsible to let me know if anything hurts and 2) Be aware of your own space - not too close to others, or things (barres, mirrors).

 

My day job is in a company which is s**t hot on Health and Safety and I have learned the hard way what it means to be protected as a teacher. If someone hurts themselves because they wear long earrings which fly into someone's face, or by stamping accidentally on another dancer's foot, I as the teacher am the one in trouble. Frankly, I can't let that happen for the selfish reason that I don't want to be taken to court, lose dancers unnecessarily, get a reputation that my classes are dangerous or this-and-that happened in my class. If someone arrives late and doesn't warm up, they can't take the class. If someone jumps into a move or cuts in front of someone, I have to mention it, for safety reasons. There is ballet class etiquette as well, but coming from the background of teaching and coaching in the corporate world, I have brought some good habits with me. 

 

Just my thoughts that as well as etiquette being broken or more timid/inexperienced dancers being pushed out of the way, a teacher (of anything) needs to be protected and protect the health and safety of their students.

 

Oh and welcome to the forum - great topic!

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If someone comes in my classroom and ignores these basic courtesies - that is an insult to me and to those who do follow the rules.  I would never hesitate, after a recitation of these courtesies to ask someone who continues to flaunt them, to leave.  I am protecting the safely of the class (who are probably sick and tired of these bullies anyway).   People are waiting for the teacher to take charge.

 

 

 

 

Anjuli,  I am so pleased to hear this.  yes, certainly I am waiting!

 

Often I feel I just need to focus my own dancing and not worry about what others do. Of course that`s the best solution but it can be trying when that same person moving up ,from behind and nearly hitting me with her/his arms...again! 

 

Your post made me feel a lot better!  thank you.

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Interesting concept, however I am going to play devils advocate:

 

I also know Pineapple as I often do Maggie’s class there on  Tuesday’s on my way to my two classes at ENB, also Pineapple are very obliging in letting me practice in one of their spare studios if ones available. Firstly there is quite a turnover of dancers and it takes a little while to establish who the experienced ones are.

 

We are taught a completely different strategy at ENB, you should not be copying (following) the person in front, they may get it wrong, you should be looking in the mirror, you will see far more dancers, the majority should get it right, that’s what you are looking for. It stands to reason therefore that the inexperienced ones should be at the front as they need that bit of extra support.

 

At ENB the lines are often swapped over by our teacher, so everyone get to go at the front.

 

Also with Pineapple you basically need to know what you are doing as there is very little that is actually taught, so the majority is copied into short term memory. That’s OK for practice, but not particularly good for learning. Sometimes if we go through an enchainement that I particularly like, I try to commit it to long term memory by documenting it after class in the Café. If I cannot remember bits, sometimes I see Maggie in there and we go through it together.

 

The question is, why do you go to Pineapple, to play or learn?

Edited by Michelle_Richer
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Guest chinafish

Hi Michelle,

 

A few things I'd like to know more of what you think:

 

That’s OK for practice, but not particularly good for learning.

 

The question is, why do you go to Pineapple, to play or learn?

1) Can practice not be part of learning? In fact I think you have to practice a step / dance for a number of times before you can say "I learned that.", no?

 

2) In my ideal world, playing can be part of learning. Sometimes I feel I learn most when I'm having fun and almost feel like I'm playing...!

 

Your thoughts?

 

Edited so I could get the quoting right!!!

Edited by chinafish
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