Monday, January 9, 2017

Nobody's Perfect! How to Take Corrections

Got a goal for the new year? I do! It's to perform consistent triple pirouettes. Maybe yours is to get on stage or to dance en pointe or to take an extra class each week. Whatever it is, you probably want to improve something about your dancing or technique. In order to do that, you'll probably need guidance.

No matter how experienced you are, there is always room to improve. Even professionals who have danced their entire lives have coaches, especially for specific roles they've been cast in. There is nuance and shading to a character, a little more oomph to eke out of an arabesque, or new ways of connecting with a partner.

George Balanchine giving a correction to a student.

But for many beginning dancers, corrections are often the kind of attention they think they don't want. They may not realize it's a good thing to be noticed when they're doing something wrong. So here are a few suggestions on how to take corrections when they are offered by a teacher:

1. Understand that a correction is a sign you have potential to improve. 
Talk to any teacher, whether it's dance or an academic subject, and they will tell you they spend more time with students they believe have the ability to improve. No one wants to give time and attention to a student who will ignore it.

2. Try to stay "in the moment" when you are receiving the correction.
If it's at the barre or center and the teacher has stopped the combination to address a correction on you, focus on the words she's saying rather than the message in your head ("Oh my god, everyone's looking at me!"). No one is judging you. In fact, they want to be in your place, getting the correction. And if you have an instructor who delivers corrections in a harsh tone, understand that your fellow dancers are all looking on with empathy.

3. If you are asked to repeat a step with the given correction, it's okay if you can't replicate it perfectly. 
Teachers want to see the correction on you to see if it works for you. If it doesn't work for you, then they will want to adjust the correction for you. If it will work but you haven't quite grasped it, they will keep an eye on that for future reference.

4. If you are being given a correction during class, that is not the time to argue or to question.
A correction is not an invitation to a dialogue. I give corrections three ways: 1) during a combination at the barre, I will make a personal adjustment on your body and then move on; 2) between combinations at the barre, I may use a student as an example to show a correction to everyone; and 3) during center, I may pull someone aside when they are between groups. In every one of those instances, my goal is to get the class moving again. I don't want to stop and have a discussion that will disrupt the flow. If you are given a correction during class that you just don't understand, it's okay to ask the teacher after class if she has time for clarification. If she doesn't, respect her time and ask if she could address the correction to the group next time in class.

5. After class, make a mental note of the correction you were given so you'll remember for next time.
Young children are encouraged to keep journals of corrections so they can see if they are given the same ones over and over again. The act of writing them down also helps to imprint them on their brains. You don't need to write them down, but it will definitely help you for next time if you take a moment to stop and recall what the teacher said to you.

6. Understand that a correction may take months or years to work for you.
There are corrections I can remember from a dozen years ago, from various teachers who saw something in me and offered guidance, but I wasn't in a place to take it in and apply it properly. You may hear a correction from a teacher today that you can't make work but in a month or three, you will suddenly have an "a-ha!" moment and realize what she meant.

7. Finally, no matter what your level, you can learn from every single correction that is given to another student.

And to those students who do not wish to receive corrections, it's okay to tell your teacher that in advance of class. For whatever reason, you may not wish to participate in class in that manner. Be polite and explain why and your teacher will understand. The worst thing for a teacher is to have her corrections ignored. That's when I stop giving them to a student. 

Happy dancing~

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Nutcracker + Holiday classes + New class time!

Welcome to the holidays, beautiful dancers! 

It's that time of year when days and hours and weeks slip by and you wonder if you got anything accomplished at all. Currently my living room is in such a state of disarray that I can barely walk through it (and neither can the dog!) but I know it will eventually pull together and look like a Christmas tree.

So I know how it is when you have the best of intentions of getting to ballet class but then there's a work event or a friend is having cocktails or you need to get to the store to get those gifts for the in-laws. A week or two go by and you suddenly say, "Hey, I didn't get to ballet class!"

Don't feel bad! It happens to all of us. Remember that ballet class is something you do for yourself. It makes you feel better. It reminds you of what is beautiful. It gives you an hour and a half of peace, if nothing else. So if you can squeeze in a class, it might make the hustle and bustle of the season a little more tolerable.

And what better way to feel good than to take a special holiday-themed class? That's right! This year, you'll have 2 chances to take a fun ballet class with me:

Saturday, December 24, Christmas Eve morning:
9AM - Beginner Ballet
10AM- Intermediate Ballet
11:30AM - Pointe

Saturday, December 31, New Year's Eve morning:
9AM - Beginner Ballet
10AM- Intermediate Ballet
11:30AM - Pointe

All classes with special holiday music! All are at the Inspire Dance Studio in La Canada. If you don't know where that is, see the sidebar for address and directions. I hope you can make it!

New Class Time - starting in January!!

Next month, my Tuesday Advanced Beginner ballet class at Dance Arts Academy will begin at a new time:


Mark your calendars! I have heard from lots of students that the 6:30 start time was a real challenge to get to. LA traffic can be a nightmare and unpredictable. I hope this extra 30 minute buffer means you don't need to stress out about getting to class on time and you won't have to leave work early to get there.

Nutcracker Pics!!

This year my dancers performed with Classical Ballet Theater at the Norris Theater in Palos Verdes. It is a beautiful theater with a huge stage and great seating. We loved performing there and CBT's owner, Kotomi, was so kind and generous to invite us as their guest artists. We hope to be dancing with them again in the spring (mark your calendars for May 21!).

Here are a few photos from the show. Maybe you'll dance with us next time!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

PSA: Never run backwards!

Very few things in ballet are absolute. There are a million ways to approach pirouettes en dehors. Different schools teach arabesques with conflicting arms. One dancer's pas de chat is another's saut de chat.


Never EVER EVER run backwards in a class.

Unless you are performing choreography, you should always move in the direction of the combination. Typically this means exiting downstage and to the right or left.

But why, I hear you asking...

Because the group coming behind you isn't expecting you to run at them. You might get in their way or worse, injured if they can't avoid you. You will probably also get cursed at.

But what if the combination doesn't travel much, I hear you add...

Because the group coming behind you isn't expecting you to run at them. You might get in their way or worse, injured if they can't avoid you. You will probably also get cursed at.

But I messed up the first few steps and I'm soooo close to the back, I hear you insist...

Because the group coming behind you isn't expecting you to run at them. You might get in their way or worse, injured if they can't avoid you. You will probably also get cursed at.


No. Just don't. It's very poor classroom etiquette. People won't like you. They'll complain about you to their friends. They might actually kick you if you're in their way. So don't do it.

I wish I could say this is something I see only in beginner classes but it's in advanced classes too. When I am teaching, you better believe I stop the class and say, "No! Don't do that!" In a nice way, of course. 

When I am not teaching, however, all I can do is telepathically send a message to the dancer who is running back through the group coming up next. No!!!! 

Happy dancing~

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Upcoming holiday class schedule & The Nutcracker

Local students -  
I'll be teaching ALL of my classes as usual at Dance Arts Academy and Inspire from now until the end of the year with the exception of Thanksgiving night. 
This *includes* the Saturday after Thanksgiving, 11/26, as well as my classes on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve mornings. If you have any questions, just ask or check the calendar on my blog and website.
Also, if you're interested in seeing some of your fellow dancers perform in the Nutcracker, we'll be doing 2 shows with Classical Ballet Theater on Sunday Dec 4th at the Norris Theater in Palos Verdes. More info is below.
Happy holidays and happy dancing~

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Technique Tip: Stack your pirouette with boxes of kittens!

When we talk about alignment for pirouettes, we often use the visual image of a long pole representing the spine. We don't want the spine to bend in the middle - that's our strong core that we need to maintain the proper shape that allows us to turn smoothly and quickly.

(A food analogy: don't be the cooked linguine noodle; be the dried one fresh out of the box. Hmm, am I hungry this morning?)

Don't be mushy!

Do be firm!

But there is another way to visualize our bodies for pirouettes: stacked boxes.

Imagine your body as 3 boxes on top of each other (head, torso and hips). You want to keep the boxes balanced evenly. If one is off the edge (e.g. your chin is pulled back or jutted far forward, your rib cage is sticking out, your pelvis is behind your heels, and so on), it will threaten to collapse when you take it en releve.

Remember: releve is a precarious place for your body to be. To be stable and steady, everything needs to be aligned properly.

Next time you work on pirouette, try to visualize your body as 3 boxes filled with kittens (why kittens? because they love boxes and because they move around a lot which makes them hard to control, much like your body!).

Kittens! In a box!

If you can keep the boxes steady - and the kittens inside them quiet and still - you will have an easier time balancing them. This visual image will help remind you to push UP to releve rather than forward because you sure don't want to toss those kittens from side to side!

During the turn, hold your arms steady (maybe you even think about wrapping your arms around your kittens!), and maintain the shape of the 3 boxes.

On the finish, roll down smoothly and evenly, and don't disrupt the kittens in the boxes. You don't want to finish abruptly and throw one of the boxes off the center. Kittens everywhere!

Happy dancing~