I’ve felt rather stagnant in my ballet education for the past 6-8 months, shortly after my Advanced exams and my studio’s year end performance.
There were many reasons.
The teachers just comes in and does whatever they want. They now want to win ballet competitions and incorporate more concert rehearsals into classes – things that us working adults most likely are unable to take part in. Nevertheless, I still try my best to learn.
Dancing ballet as an adult has many challenges and it is not as straight-forward as a child. However, we have a greater ability to do something about it and take charge of our life.
This is life as an adult. It is not as straight forward as dancing ballet as a child. There will be interruptions in life. What shouldn’t change is your approach to learning ballet, or anything in life that you want to work towards, really.
Despite all that, I don’t believe in allowing myself to go with the flow and accept a back seat. I don’t want to give up. I feel I’m responsible for my growth. There are always things that have room for improvement. Things that I could work on my own. So thus, I made a list of what I want to improve
Make a list of Improvement Goals
Here is an example of my list:
1) More flexibility in my turnout and legs (front side back!)
2) Mastering some petit allegro steps
3) Not move my upper body in allegro and especially in beats
4) Get comfortable in beats
5) Less tension
6) Improve in coordination
7) Use of epaulment
8) Get a lifted look during dancing
9) Learning to dance variations (to learn about quality of expression)
10) Better spotting
11) Character steps
12) A feeling of lengthening as I am dancing.
and a host of other things!!!
Action Steps – Making Plans on How To Achieve Them
Then I decided to come up with my own individual plans on how to achieve them. It may not be all in the right direction – there was a lot of trial and error but eventually I found my groove. I feel excited and motivated again.
I tried learning 1-2 really simple variations with the help of my pre-professional friend. One is a contemporary ballet piece which I hope to dance en pointe, and the other one is a spirited variation from Paquita (which uses a lot of epaulment, attitude and style).
Learning variations is something what most adult ballet dancers don’t get a chance to do that much. In some studios and in some countries, you have what is called a repertoire class. You will learn snippets of Swan Lake, Giselle etc. First of all, learning variations is really learning to dance. You will find that all the hundreds of ballet classes of barrework and center work come to of use, even though you might not see your efforts so clearly.
It is true and I’ve seen the difference between the two. There were two adult groups learning to dance the same variation in the Nutcracker for a year end concert performance. Though both groups did not have much or any dance experience, one of the groups have been attending beginner ballet classes for at least twice a week for a year. It was a big difference in dance quality even though technically, both weren’t very good yet. The group of adult dancers that committed to take ballet classes had a better quality in their dancing than those who just wanted to take part to ‘learn the dance’.
That was when I was convinced that ballet barre and center work INDEED prepares you for dancing in more ways that you know!
When you learn variations, you also learn how to link steps better. You will also learn that dancing is a whole body movement (not just the legs) and we also dance with our upper body, head and eyes. Eyes have specific positions too! We also learn how to present ourselves better in dancing, and learn how to make a movement “more beautiful”.
We learn to listen to the music and communicate by varying the impetus of the movement. Otherwise, it is just a bland motion, like washing the dishes.
Being on stage and performing for an audience (even if it is of one) brings out a certain quality in the way you dance. It will help you grow as a dancer. This is one area that unfortunately, adults don’t have that much opportunities in. I greatly admire the young dancers in my class. Some of them have been performing since they were 3 and become seasoned professionals on stage!
I don’t have any plans of performing, nor have any opportunities though I understand performing really helps me grow. In the end, I might just perform for my iphone 6 video camera function. Right now, I still feel the values in learning to dance different variations, even if it just RAD Grade 4’s variation… 🙂
I also ask more advanced friends to teach me the coordination of some advanced allegro steps such as tombe, coupe, jete, the grand jete and I’ve been practicing. This is not an ideal situation because I feel I suffer in technique, but oh well, for now.
I tried taking a few private lessons (as much as I can afford) from some of my old teachers, whom I give lots of credit to in helping me advance – but it is just not working out this time. 🙁 They may be too distracted by other things to really help me. They are still really good teachers though, maybe just not for an adult like me at this moment.
It doesn’t matter, as long as I keep looking for a ‘new’ teacher for a fresh perspective (and I think I’ve found one!). Sometimes the best teachers aren’t the most ‘qualified’.
New Flexibility Goals
I’ve been stretching on my own and maybe due to sitting out a lot in class thus stretching, my flexibility has improved. I look forward to improving it further. I also found that deep tissue massages really help with that. I’ve also found my favorite therapist. We are all different, so it is best you look for it on your own.
Gain a Fresh Perspective
Sometimes taking classes from a new teacher can bring a new perspective. I’ve been hearing the same feedback from my current teacher for years, but maybe I just didn’t understand it in the way she intended, thus I was unable to apply it. Recently I found this Italian-trained teacher and even though the classes are simple, I felt I have improved a lot in the basics.
Going back to the Basics
Funnily, I am taking more basic and beginner classes now. I feel I can work better and get all the good habits established. I feel I don’t have enough good habits to carry me through to more advanced steps. Though there are many people who can seemingly do advanced steps, somehow the quality is not there because the basics are not fully established. It is somewhat like taking a step back in order to move 2 steps forward.
After all that hunt, I found a certain groove that I’m happy to work in till the end of the year.
Up to now, I’m focusing on a strong torso and upright hip (hipbones into the armpits), nicely placed arms, lengthening everything as I tendu out and in and the correct weight placement. Such basic things but it has made all the difference!