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Adult open class level guidance


mimi66
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When asked, in a restaurant, " how would madam like her stake?"  I am always tempted to engage in some philosophical discussion by answering " How rare is your rare? Blue, or rose?".

 

Choosing ballet class suitable to one's level or purpose seems to pose equally philosophical questions lately. 

 

"Elementary" does not mean "beginner" but this is a difficult concept to grasp for those without ballet background, because in plain English elementary means, well, basic.

 

Then thanks to RAD changing its vocational grade names,(old  "elementary" became "intermediate" and old  "intermediate" became  "advanced") , more confusion ensues, as a lot of studios (eg Danceworks or Pineapple) stil stick to the old terms.  So we get a loads of fresh faced young things coming to "intermediate" class and wonder why they can't cope.

 

On the other hand the new trend is to do away from using that dreaded "B" words, simply using numbers as in Level 1 Level2 etc.

 

Obviously the best way to know the exact level of a particular class is to try out for a few times at least. But  I thought perhaps it may be a good idea to swap some indicaton to crack these codes, as it may be useful for choosing classes over the Christmas breaks.

 

As we know, asking the studio normally get you back to the original question.  Asked what level is the "elementary class", one studio has replyed that it was a class for those who are elementary level or upwards.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I guess this is a tricky question to answer and I do agree that it is something which it is hard to make a hard and fast judgement upon. All teachers have different styles and thoughts around the issue. I do agree that if there is limited class availability then it is usually the case that a teacher will adapt exercises to meet the needs of the class members.

 

Perhaps in the absence of more concrete descriptions, which I do agree could be improved, it is useful to ask the question- how do I know if I am doing a class that most meets my learning needs. Some things that come to mind when I think about it from a dancer and teacher perspective are:-

 

-Do I feel I have a good grounding in the basic building blocks of ballet such as arm positions, feet positions, use of turnout, awareness around the importance of use of feet.

-if so, can I begin to critique my own strengths and weaknesses?

-Am I finding I get lost with more complex combinations?

-Am I ensuring I get a balance of good basic technique and sense of movement within classes?

 

I guess different people need different things at different times as well such as when returning after a break, injury, prior to performances etc. This is perhaps where part of the problem lies as some may be in a class which to some looks too easy for them but they may be working harder than it appears if trying to focus and strengthen specific aspects of their technique.

 

Perhaps it is useful to turn the question around and reflect upon how you would know if you were in a class which was not meeting your needs. I shall only answer for myself here based upon my experience of attending open classes. I must reiterate this is only my opinion. I guess I would not have any difficulty attending a basic level class at any stage in my dance career as some can be invaluable for development of technique. I would realise a class was not for me if I felt I was feeling lost and the complexity of the exercises compromised my ability to focus on technique. This did happen a while back when I attended a class of a different style to what I was used to with v lengthy highly choreographed exercises. I felt it was not what I needed so looked into other classes. I would know it would be unwise for me to attend advanced classes when I am injured. I guess I would also find a class unsuitable for me if I or my teacher felt this was the case. For now I would only hope a teacher would turn me away from one of my regular classes if I tried to go back to one I attended pre injury. If I attend a class regularly I would expect that my teacher could give me good advice as to what I needed and guide me if I was going off course. I say this as a teacher myself but when in class as a student the dynamics are totally different as I am there to learn and be instructed.

 

Be interested to hear the thoughts of others. Perhaps the issue of more accurate class descriptors would work better if say the teacher at Danceworks, Pineapple etc wrote their own for website. Provided this did not come from the perspective of filling classes I think it may provide further illumination on the issue but I appreciate that this might be too labour intensive. Failing that maybe speak to teacher direct?

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Pineapple descriptions aren't very helpful, they say for elementary you only need to know the difference between a tendu and a fondu and a basic knowledge of ballet. That doesn't suggest that it will be aimed at intermediate level which meant when I went about a year ago I found it really hard! They should be more careful with descriptions if they want to make sure the right level people are in the class, at least so they aren't embarrassed like I was.

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Just from my experience - and it could be while back  but at least with the same teachers - Pineapple levels broadly follow now-ancient RAD vocatinal exam concept:  Elementary for those preparing for elementary (now intermediate) exam, Intermediate for those preparing for intermediate (now advance 1) . 

 

However the classes in the evening seems to reflect current RAD grading, unless the teachers in question also teach in the afternoon.

 

I haven't done RAD system but I understand it follows that Elementary class is suitable for those who has abilities equivalent to grade 5 upwards. Which means that roughly speaking one would be dancing at least x2 a week for 4 - 5 years?

 

Obviously there will be a few exceptions.  For instance if one has an excellent spatial awareness, reflex and co-ordination, coupled with musicality (eg tarined in classical music as a child)), then they may be able to cope without being a nuisanse to the rest of the class even though their techinique (strength, turn out, alignment) are not up to grade 5 level - within reason, of course.

 

As I say, this is purely based on my view ( and I am just an amature ballet lover), based on the impression what those teachers are aiming for, as opporsed to the acutual ability of dancers who attend there.

 

Any thoughts for Danceworks or ENB?

Edited by mimi66
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I guess this is a tricky question to answer and I do agree that it is something which it is hard to make a hard and fast judgement upon. All teachers have different styles and thoughts around the issue. I do agree that if there is limited class availability then it is usually the case that a teacher will adapt exercises to meet the needs of the class members.

 

Perhaps in the absence of more concrete descriptions, which I do agree could be improved, it is useful to ask the question- how do I know if I am doing a class that most meets my learning needs. Some things that come to mind when I think about it from a dancer and teacher perspective are:-

 

-Do I feel I have a good grounding in the basic building blocks of ballet such as arm positions, feet positions, use of turnout, awareness around the importance of use of feet.

-if so, can I begin to critique my own strengths and weaknesses?

-Am I finding I get lost with more complex combinations?

-Am I ensuring I get a balance of good basic technique and sense of movement within classes?

 

I guess different people need different things at different times as well such as when returning after a break, injury, prior to performances etc. This is perhaps where part of the problem lies as some may be in a class which to some looks too easy for them but they may be working harder than it appears if trying to focus and strengthen specific aspects of their technique.

 

Perhaps it is useful to turn the question around and reflect upon how you would know if you were in a class which was not meeting your needs. I shall only answer for myself here based upon my experience of attending open classes. I must reiterate this is only my opinion. I guess I would not have any difficulty attending a basic level class at any stage in my dance career as some can be invaluable for development of technique. I would realise a class was not for me if I felt I was feeling lost and the complexity of the exercises compromised my ability to focus on technique. This did happen a while back when I attended a class of a different style to what I was used to with v lengthy highly choreographed exercises. I felt it was not what I needed so looked into other classes. I would know it would be unwise for me to attend advanced classes when I am injured. I guess I would also find a class unsuitable for me if I or my teacher felt this was the case. For now I would only hope a teacher would turn me away from one of my regular classes if I tried to go back to one I attended pre injury. If I attend a class regularly I would expect that my teacher could give me good advice as to what I needed and guide me if I was going off course. I say this as a teacher myself but when in class as a student the dynamics are totally different as I am there to learn and be instructed.

 

Be interested to hear the thoughts of others. Perhaps the issue of more accurate class descriptors would work better if say the teacher at Danceworks, Pineapple etc wrote their own for website. Provided this did not come from the perspective of filling classes I think it may provide further illumination on the issue but I appreciate that this might be too labour intensive. Failing that maybe speak to teacher direct?

 

 

thank you Balleteacher !  I think those questions you have listed are so useful not only for the new class but also when re-asessing the current class to see it is helping us to learn effectively :) .

 

One more thing came to my mind is how spatially aware other dancers are in that class.  I once went to "advance" open class in London.  The teacher was very popular and it was a very crowded class.  The level of the class for me was a bit challenging at that time but doable, but I decided against taking that class.  This was simply because there were too many pre-elementary level people (more than half)  taking the class.  I felt that I could control my body enough to cope with the level of the class, but not with so many others who are equally (or even worse) out of control!  It was really a shame as he was really a good teacher, bothered to personally correct me even though he had never seen me before.  I just couldn't reasonably expect myself to be competent enough in that class not to cause harm to myself or others.

 

Shortly after that, the same teacher in other studio started to turn people who are not up to doing the class (advanced) away.  And the class I tried now is billed as "professional" level, presumably in order to encourage people to asess their ability more critically before they decided to drop in. Or may be so it will be in accordance with (namewise) the current RAD vocational grade.

Edited by mimi66
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Even for those with a ballet background "elementary" could be a confusing term.  There must be plenty of adult dancers out there who have come through RAD grades since the name change as wasn't that back around the year 2000 ?

 

Gosh it makes me feel ancient :blink:   Has it really been over 10 years already????

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Pineapple descriptions aren't very helpful, they say for elementary you only need to know the difference between a tendu and a fondu and a basic knowledge of ballet. That doesn't suggest that it will be aimed at intermediate level which meant when I went about a year ago I found it really hard! They should be more careful with descriptions if they want to make sure the right level people are in the class, at least so they aren't embarrassed like I was.

 

munchikin, yes I had a look at Pineapples website and I totally agree with you.

 

Wonder if you are trying the elementary class this year.  I really like Ian and Maggie as they both are excellent teachers.

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It's very hard to judge the levels that people are talking about for me unless I can refer it back to a main syllabus like RAD or BBO etc.

 

I recently tried the ENB level 2 level......just to be on the safe side and this class was excellent to concentrate on the basics but definitely pre intermediate level so would like to try out their level 3 next. I suspect that will be at my current level at the mo but am still not absolutely sure until I try it!

One adult male I spoke to was going straight for the level 4 that night though hadn't been doing ballet that long I didn't get a chance to ask whether he had done as a child and so on but thought he was brave to go for the top level class as a first try!!!

 

The last exam I took when I was 14 was the old RAD elementary exam and that was well.......not just ages ago but an AGE ago....another era!!

When I came back to ballet this time after a 20 year gap I was completely confused by all the new levels and the vocational grades etc etc. Have just about got sorted again now.

 

People like myself are tricky to grade really! Because we may have a step level and enchainement level of knowledge which is far above the basic technical skill level able to be achieved having not danced for so long. A lack of physical strength in general.

 

This is usually completely the other way round for adults new to ballet.......even if have been going for a few years .......because.....and especially if they are only in their 20's etc......they often have the flexibility and general strength....and even if do lack a bit of turnout can pass muster at the barre but when come into the centre it's the knowledge of steps and being able to combine them which tends to hold them up and if have put themselves into too advanced a class shows up their true level more.

I often see people in open classes in London who can get their legs round their ears when warming up or stretching and so on but can't actually dance an enchainement when it comes to it. I do think just some adults get confused about this and think because they are flexible they are further advanced than they actually are and then opt for too advanced classes.

 

However it isn't that easy without trial and error to know whether a class is suitable if the description of the class is a bit vague eg: General Ballet!!

You just have to try it to see what THAT TEACHER means by general level.......which in my experience can range from anywhere between just about Intermediate level to Professional level!!!!

 

For this reason I think it would be unfair of a teacher to ask a student unknown to them to leave a class after the barre etc (as mentioned in an above post) unless full reimbursement of money paid was offered. It may be better to say to that student that they would rather they went to an easier class as the class was too difficult for them and THEN if the student turned up again they deserve to lose their money of course.

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LinMM, just to make sure... am right in thinking that ENB level 2 is beginners+ (say, RAD grade 4 or 5)? 

 

That would follow, roughly speaking, then level 3 is the current Intermediate (old Elementary) and level 4 Advanced 1 (old Intermediate) .  I think that makes sense.

 

I know we are generalising may be a bit too much, but it's useful to have some sort of idea, I would have thought.

 

[...]
For this reason I think it would be unfair of a teacher to ask a student unknown to them to leave a class after the barre etc (as mentioned in an above post) unless full reimbursement of money paid was offered. It may be better to say to that student that they would rather they went to an easier class as the class was too difficult for them and THEN if the student turned up again they deserve to lose their money of course.

 

I forgot to add that to my knowledge those teachers who screen people out do NOT take any fees for the class.  (I also think they get the entry fee back as well). In some classes it is also explained at the beginning of the class.

 

To be honest, those people who got turned away are.. shall we say, brave may not be the entirely correct word to describe.  Ignorance is a bliss...  Yes one needs to know enough to know what one doesn't know...

Edited by mimi66
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oh, I hasten to add that here we are merely trying get a feel for the level of the open classes.  It is by no means about grading particular individuals who go to classes which are leveled whatever.

 

LinMM, I hope my post above didn't offend you...

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Certainly didn't Mimi66!! :) Most sensible people remove themselves from a class they've tried which is too hard for them but as we know there are some diehards out there!! I was just concerned that somebody would be shown the door having paid for the class and genuinely thought they might be able to cope with the class. Most reasonable people would approach the teacher after the class and (probably exchanging knowing smiles) ask for advice on a more suitable class for the future.

 

Yes you are about right with the level 2 ENB.....it is about grade 4 to 5 standard on the whole.

 

However just don't know about their level three and four!! Hopefully there are no big jumps but would imagine level 3 to be grade 6/7 so a sort of beginning Intermediate level and level 4 probably good intermediate to Advanced level......but cannot be sure till tried.

 

Perhaps others reading this who have been doing level 3 and 4 ENB classes......AND....have some knowledge of RAD or BBO type grades will be able to enlighten further!!

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In the USA where syllabus grades and levels are rare how does one make the decision as to which class one wishes to "drop" into?

 

In an ongoing situation - such as one's regular studio the teacher usually assesses the student and recommends a class placement.  But in a drop in situation this is different - it is the student who - at least initially - makes the call.  Classes are usually labeled:  beginner/intermediate, intermediate/advanced, advanced/pre-professional, etc.

 

When I was in a city on a visit and chose to drop into a local ballet class - I would pick the designation that I thought best described my level.  As time went on - I could usually tell just by watching as the other dancers assembled for the class.  More advanced dancers move differently even as they put on their slippers, and other items of dance clothing.  How they arrived prepared themselves, (and I am not talking about extreme stretching, etc) - just their general preparations.  Their body shape.  Their concentration.  Even the wear marks on their slippers.

 

You can tell when you are in a room with advanced dancers.  Same with the other levels.  If I found myself in an intermediate - even a slow intermediate class - I stayed and used that class as we discussed before to re-educate myself in the basics.   However, earlier on, when I was beginning/intermediate - and the class was way more advanced, I didn't leave but with permission stayed and watched.  

 

Even though it  is labeled as a drop in class, I still felt myself a guest.  Though it is a drop in class, some people take it regularly and thus as a visitor - I tried to respect their barre placement preferences - as well as center - I was a guest.  Similarly, when dancers dropped into my daily class, I expected similar courtesy.  And, most of the time guests were courteous.

 

I think how people act in class isn't much different than how they act in life.  

 

If you are a courteous person and have a huge soaring grand jeté and are a delight to watch - I am going to be delighted to watch you.  If you are rude, pushy, disrespectful - not only of my space but also other dancers - I don't care how "gorgeous" you are - I won't enjoy watching you.

 

As the years went by 10 - 20  - 30 - 40 years,  I also learned how to protect my space and body.  

 

Courteous, respectful - but if the situation called for it - well able to maintain myself.  Just like in the rest of life.

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mimi66: I would love to take another class there, the atmosphere and being around such amazing dancers was good but scary! last time I went I was at standard 5 level. I have now been doing ballet for 2 and a half years roughly after starting at 16 and am just about to move into intermediate from grade 6 so I am still unsure if elementary is going to be too hard...

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Slightly off topic, but LinMM's observation that some people equate flexibility with advanced ballet skills rings so true, across all age ranges! It is so common to hear that because Susie has practised very hard and can do amazingly high kicks and wrap her legs around her ears, she must therefore be an advanced and gifted dancer ;-)

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Would like to add there's nothing actually wrong with being able to get legs round ears etc......as long as its not mistaken for Dance!!

 

Some people are lucky......they've got it all.....legs round ears and fine dance skills to boot!!

Then I'm just envious of course!!

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