Sunday, January 19, 2014

Your first ballet class~ever!

At this time of year (right after New Year), lots of people resolve to get back into shape or to return to ballet or to try something they've never done before and they go to a ballet class. But if they are brand new, they don't usually know where to go or which class to take.

Newbies, you have 2 choices, generally speaking:
 - Take a course with a finite number of classes/time, perhaps one offered at a college or rec center or at a studio or school that offers them in a workshop setting or short intensive; or
 - Take a drop-in class at a studio or school that has classes for adults.

I have taught both. Workshops or courses have a starting point and an ending point. They are meant as introductory or elementary classes that give you the basics to take a more advanced class or a drop-in. They can be terrific for super new people who want to be with other super new people.

Mostly, though, I teach drop-in classes at the Basic, Advanced Beginner and Beginner/Intermediate levels. (The non-dancer often refers to these classes as Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced but because of the locations in which I teach, the class names must be consistent with other teachers' classes.) A drop-in class is ongoing with no need to sign up in advance or commit to a certain number of classes or time.And for the newbie who wants to take class with me, the Basic level is the one I always recommend.

When you attend, what can you expect? First of all, you will be overwhelmed, no question about it. I will place you next to people who can be role models, introduce you to them and them to you. I will often direct my comments at the barre to you, as in, "Joanna (if your name is Joanna), tendu means stretch so we always want to stretch our foot completely."  This is not an invitation for you to engage in conversation with me; it is simply to make sure you are paying attention to what I want you to pay attention to. If the class is big, the newbie is easily distracted by other people, by the studio and mirrors, by the fact that they are trying something new so I need to keep them focused to get the most out of the class.

I will watch you and jump in as necessary to guide you at the barre but mostly I want you to follow along. Much of ballet requires people to follow along. You are expected to watch the more advanced dancers when they perform - no matter what level you are at. (When I take class, I often watch the pros for the way they do something - you can always learn!)

In the center, I will modify combinations for the newbie and often stand directly in front of them. Keep in mind, the class is for my current students so I can't allow you to absorb all of my attention. I will only give you corrections for the most basic of things (e.g. when you're stepping with the wrong foot) but I will make sure you do not get lost. Don't worry - I won't abandon you! This is also because a lot of corrections in the first few classes are like water flowing over a bridge. Everything is so new to you that to try to make adjustments when you don't even know what the class structure is can be so frustrating. And I don't want you frustrated.

However, this class is not about you. You're an awesome person, I'm sure, and you'll make a fine addition to the class but I will begin to care about you more when you return consistently and prove you want to be there and are willing to work or try things. I want you to have fun, to enjoy yourself and the camaraderie of the other students (all of whom have been exactly where you are and will be incredibly supportive of you as you progress). I want you to want to make ballet a part of your life, not be frustrated and disappointed, so if I leave you alone, it's not because I don't like you, but because I want you to be a part of the group. I need to step back and watch you and see if we are a good fit for each other - and you should too. You might not like my style or my students or the music I play. If not, we part on pleasant terms and that's that. No one is disappointed in the other.

When you do return, it will get easier. I will suggest you watch my YouTube videos and read my blog for more info. I will start giving you corrections and feedback. I will continue to encourage you, as I do all of my students. But it will take time! Just give yourself permission to not know things. It's the best way to learn! And in a short time, you will be the one welcoming the next newbie.

Happy dancing~

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