Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Getting down to the Ultra Basics

This weekend I start a 4-week workshop that I call a "crash course" in ballet. It's designed for the student who has absolutely no knowledge of ballet or even dance.  I often get students like this in my Basic Ballet classes and while most can follow along and learn by watching and asking good questions, others find it more difficult.  They get frustrated and don't return.  I don't like it when anyone gets frustrated in my classes, no matter what level they are.

Unfortunately, when you have a drop-in class for adults, you can't stop everything for a super newbie and tell them what a tendu is or how to hold their arms in first position.  If the class is large, I put the newbie in a spot where she can watch and I gently correct when I can. If the class is small, I might stop and give corrections to the group at large and point them at the newbie. But otherwise, I have no choice but to keep the class going for my students who attend regularly and expect a certain level of exercise.

So I decided to offer this Elementary Ballet course.  Just 4 hours, 1 hour a week (more than that at a time and people don't retain much). But now I am trying to decide exactly what I think is crucial for a newbie to know in order to jump into my Basic class with more confidence.  That's hard!  I start with demi-plie and then I think, "Well, they should know grand as well."  And I add a retire and then I think, "Hmm, coupe is pretty important too."  At what point do I introduce releve or sousous? Aughhhh! The class needs to be 8 weeks! lol...

I've got the first week nailed down, I believe.  Working in first position mostly, and doing tendu and degage.  But no rond yet and no combinations, just steps and alignment. Although most of the hour will be spent at the barre, I will go to the center.  Those of you who know me know I put everyone in the center, regardless of the class.  Why?  Because dance is movement.  Barre work is for technique but center work is for performance and creative expression.  I don't care if people simply stand or walk or skip across the floor, we have to step away from the barre in every class.

Two of the most important things I plan to impart to the class during this workshop are class progression and class etiquette. Students, particularly adults who think about everything, need to understand there is a reason for everything in a ballet class. They need to know how a barre moves forward and how it applies to the center. As for etiquette, if nothing else, I want students to know about spacing, where to stand in the center, how to move in a group, and when to ask questions. I think fellow teachers will appreciate that lesson!

And the second week, well, I think I will have to wait and see how the first week goes!


Anonymous said...

Hello Leigh,
I just read your post. I wish I could take your workshop since it makes sense to me to re-learn all the basics that are rarely taught or forgotten. Since I have a commitment on the 16th, I will wait for the next workshop to start and actually will be even more interested in a 4 weeks workshop.
In the meantime I plan to come to a class on La Brea to have a chance to meet you.
I am a serious beginner student in ballet, meaning I love to learn, discipline and corrections. I am taking classes in two studios and familiar with the one on La Brea.
Hope to see you this week. Best
Edwige Saint-Jacques

BalletLA said...

Thank you for commenting, Edwige! I hope to meet you too. It sounds like my Tuesday evening class would be a good one for you.