Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Ballet Breakthroughs

Whether you're a beginning dancer or an advanced one, the elusive "breakthrough" moment, the aha! moment, is one that you strive to reach every class. For some people, it's nailing the triple turn; for others, it's the timing of a fouette; and for still others, it's merely a head snap.

For me, it's always been about pirouettes. Every teacher I have known has tried to give me guidance on making my turns smoother and faster. One teacher gave me directions on my arms, another on the placement of my fourth position. Recently, one gave me a spotting note - and it worked! Now, the test of whether advice works is if you can recreate it on your own. Can you go into a different class and do the same thing? Can you come back to your usual class and do it again? Can you make it happen without the teacher reminding you?

When I teach, I remember my own reactions to corrections and I try to reflect that in the guidance I give my students. Sometimes a student will respond to counting. Another might need to hear the words of the steps spoken out loud. And a third might need to see me do it in order to do it herself. Obviously I can't give these three people the same correction. So when a student is having a tough time breaking through, I use whatever I can to get them to the right place. It may take a while for them to get it but when they do, it's a real cause for celebration.

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