Thursday, September 5, 2019

My class definition: Beginner Ballet

As we shift into fall and a new season of dance, I wanted to give people some more information about my classes, especially since I moved things a bit over the summer. It's important for all students to realize that class levels have different names for different teachers so what is "beginner" for one is "basic" for another, etc. These are my level distinctions and apply only to my classes.

(P.S. I am not italicizing all the French terminology because it would take too long and because there are also variances in terminology among the schools. That's an entirely different - and lengthy! - post for another day.)

Today I want to describe my Beginner Ballet.

Who is it for: anyone! If you had a semester of ballet in college, great! If you had years of it as a kid, that's great too. And if you've never stepped foot in a studio, welcome.

What will you learn:
At the barre, you will get the basics -
1. Demi-plies and grand plies in First, Second, Fourth and Fifth positions. (This combination does not change.)
2. Slow tendus from first position.(This combination does not change.)
3. Moderate tendus from fifth position.(This combination does not change.)
4. Degages from fifth position in a simple pattern.
5. Faster degages from first position facing the barre, also in a simple pattern but designed to change your weight frequently.
6. Ronds de jambes, typically slow and moderate tempo; low, easy developpes in a simple pattern.
7. Grands battements in a simple pattern in all directions.
You will also work on balances en releve in first and second position, balance in sousous, holding retire, port de bras and pique.

In the center, you will get these basics -
1. A port de bras combination which will include arms in first, second, third, fourth and fifth positions, perhaps with chassee and temps lie, or even pas de bourree. Arabesques in 4 positions may also be included.
2. A simple tendu combination from fifth position that will introduce the positions of the body in the room, arm and leg coordination, weight shifts, and head movement.
3. Waltz steps, balances de cote, chassees, tombe pas de bourree, contretemps, pique arabesque, pique passe.
4. Breaking down soutenu turns, pique turns, and chainee turns. Everyone works at their own pace. Some dancers may take longer than others to perform turns.
5. Simple jumps in first, second and fifth positions.
6. Petit jetes, assembles and glissades - in combination or individually. These may also be approached at the barre. Note: all dancers have the option of working on jumps at the barre rather than in the center if they are not yet comfortable doing that.
7. A big jump across the floor which could include saute arabesque, saute battement en avant, grand jete, or saute passe.

This class is a great option if you are a more advanced dancer and want to work en pointe or if you are recovering from an injury and want a slower, more deliberate approach to technique.

Additional notes for new students:
Recognize that it's a difficult thing to start studying ballet but everyone in the class has been in your shoes at some point. As you gain more experience and move up in levels, you will be the newbie again - and again - and again. That's one of the great things about ballet: there is always something to learn!

Another wonderful thing about the discipline is that there is measurable progress: if you couldn't do a turn and then one day you can, you've progressed! But the measure may not be the same for you as it is for others. There are as many reasons for a student to start class as there are students! You might measure your progress outside of the studio, how it affects your stamina or overall health, while another student is using ballet to help them with a sport or the theater, etc.

Getting into the studio is a big deal. As an adult you have a lot of responsibilities and people you might care for or work for and it's not easy to simply say, "Gotta go to ballet!" Ballet is part of your personal self-care, however, and it's great for your physical and mental health, creative expression and community.

When you become a student in my beginner classes, you will find yourself surrounded by people who are like you in the most important way: they want to study ballet. You will discover that passion can lead to wonderful friendships.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

What is "ballet time"? And hey, some ballet times are changing!

My friend and fellow teacher, Carol Guidry, and I were talking about how very difficult it seems to be to end a class on time. It's universal and Carol and I can only ascribe it to "ballet time."

Ballet time means a class is posted to begin at 10 and actually starts at 10:10. A class purporting to end at 11:30 might not finish until 11:45. Why is this and why can't we start and end classes properly?
Wrestling every second out of a ballet class! Photo by Ronald Rugenbrink 

***Reasons for not starting on time - STUDENT issues:
 - attire must be changed from outdoors to studio clothes
 - if you drive, there might be limited parking since studios typically are tucked into available spaces
 - students usually sign in and/or pay for a class prior to it starting which can take time, particularly if multiple classes are happening at the same time or the teacher must take roll or payments
 - class is a community and people want to greet each other when they come in

***Reasons for not ending on time - INSTRUCTOR issues:
 - combinations take more time to explain than intended or students have more difficulty grasping them
 - if it's a mixed level class, there might be more beginners (or simply new students who don't know the usual routines) who need greater explanation than the teacher planned
 - combinations that worked for a teacher at home might need to be adjusted in the studio due to space considerations
 - an especially large class takes more time to cycle through floor work
 - an especially small class needs more time between passes in the center

But the number one reason classes don't end on time: A ballet class builds from one combination to the next. You can rush from exercise to exercise but you really can't skip anything so if a teacher's class has begun late for any of the reasons above, it's unlikely they can eliminate exercises completely. If they are good with time management, they can simplify things that had intended to be complex or they can put larger groups together for center floor work but it's dangerous to skip petit allegro and go right to grand allegro. Depending on the class itself, a teacher could end a class earlier, perhaps at adagio or pirouettes but it's not a good habit to get into if the students want to progress or if they take with other teachers who do a full class.

Speaking of ballet time...a few changes to my classes at Inspire Dance Studio!

Due to the children's program at Inspire, my weekday classes must be pushed by 15 minutes which means, as of August 26:

Monday & Wednesday Intermediate Ballet
WAS 6:30-8PM
WILL BE 6:45-8:10PM

Monday & Wednesday Beginner Ballet
WAS 8-9:30PM
WILL BE 8:10-9:30PM

Thursday Advanced Beginner Ballet
WAS 7-8:30PM
WILL BE 7:15-8:45PM

Apologies for any inconvenience this may cause but hopefully it allows you a little bit of extra time to get to class, park, etc. so we can start on time - and any problems ending on time will be mine!

Happy dancing, everyone~

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Pirouette technique tip: Don't settle!

We should never "settle" for anything, whether it's a bad seat at the theater, a lukewarm cup of coffee, or a partner who lets us down (oh wow, way to lift our spirits, Leigh!).

When it comes to turning, we especially shouldn't settle:
- don't sit in your demi-plie
- don't sit back on your heels
- don't sink in your hips
- don't let your arms relax

If you settle yourself into your demi-plie, you lose the springiness, a feeling that should be like a coiled Slinky or one of those snake-in-a-can practical jokes.

If you sit back on your heels, you have a tremendous amount of weight to shift from two feet to one. Instead, feel as if you have just lowered yourself down from a releve, rolling through your demi-pointe - toe-ball-barely-heel - of each foot.

If you sink in your hips, especially into the back hip, you are throwing yourself off-balance before you have even begun the turn. Try to feel your ribcage lifting out of your pelvis, and be sure the torso is more over the front foot than the back foot.


If you let your arms relax and "settle" into a third position without any energy, they become decorative parts of your body rather than active participants in the turn. Always feel the energy flowing from the back through the arms into the hands and be sure to initiate the turn from the center of your back/shoulders.

By not settling into a position and instead being active in the demi-plie, you will feel lighter and you also won't have a moment of, "OhmygodnowImgoingtoturn!"

Anxiety, as we know, is a momentum killer.

Happy dancing~

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Please help us launch Sweet Sorrow™ for 2019!

This year's production of Sweet Sorrow™ A Zombie Ballet is


More characters, more dances, more story!


Special effects - what???


1 word: Werewolves!

We need YOUR help to make this happen. 

**If you can donate to our Indiegogo campaign, we would be so grateful. 

**If you can also spread the word to others about it, we would be doubly thankful.

**If you can donate, tell others and come see the show in October, well, we would be over-the-moon happy.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Ballet Re-boots coming this week!

Monday, July 8th:

Beginner re-boot!

***For everyone who has taken my beginner class at Inspire Dance Studio, you know the level has been creeping up...and up...and up...because some long-time students wanted to gain more vocabularybut my advanced beginner classes at Dance Arts were too far to travel to. Now that Dance Arts is closed, the BEGINNER class can go back to what it was: an encouraging and supportive environment with very basic combinations and an emphasis on building technique. Whether you are brand new or want to clean things up, THIS is the class for YOU!

Days and Times: Monday & Wednesday 8-9:30PM, Saturday 9-10:10AM
Location: Inspire Dance Studio, 457 Foothill Blvd, La Canada Flintridge 91011

Tuesday, July 9th:

Advanced Beginner re-boot at Live Arts LA!

***With the move from Dance Arts, my ADVANCED BEGINNER class will slide into the slot between my Beginner and Intermediate levels. It will be great for dancers who want to challenge themselves and for those who would like to work en pointe. I am moving it to Live Arts Los Angeles, a 2000sf marley covered sprung floor studio in Glassell Park and I am looking forward to meeting new people from the area! NB: I'm trying to move this class to a later start time but have not been confirmed for that yet. Until then, it's at 7PM.

Day and Time: Tuesday, 7-8:30PM
Location: Live Arts LA, 4210 Panamint St, Los Angeles CA 90065

Thursday, July 11th:

Advanced Beginner re-boot at Inspire!

***As with my Tuesday class, this ADVANCED BEGINNER class is perfect for students who want more than a Beginner class but aren't quite ready for Intermediate. It's also in the studio where I teach my Monday/Wednesday/Saturday classes so if you're close by and used to that studio, you will love this too. NB: beginning in late August (or sooner) this class will likely move to a 7:15 or 7:30 start time due to some studio conflicts.

Day and Time: Thursday, 7-8:30PM
Location: Inspire Dance Studio, 457 Foothill Blvd, La Canada Flintridge 91011

 Got questions? Just ask!!