Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Do's and Don'ts for the Ballet Newbie

This time of year, people attend Nutcracker performances and start to think about taking classes themselves. I love that! I too find myself wanting to dance when I see it - or even hear the music.  With that in mind, I'd like to welcome new students to my classes (or anyone's classes!), whether you give yourself the gift of dance at Christmas or Hanukkah or make a New Year's resolution for 2015.

If you're new to ballet or you have been away for a while, here are a few things to keep in mind when you take a class:

DO come with an open mind. You likely won't get every single thing right your first (or second) time in class so give yourself permission to flail a bit. It's okay: everyone else in your class has been there too.

DO wear comfortable clothing. If a leotard and tights are too formal or expose too much, then choose leggings and a long t-shirt or shorts and a tank top. As long as the teacher can see your hips and alignment, the point is to be comfortable with yourself, mentally and physically.

DON'T talk or ask questions during the barre. If I give you a personal correction during a barre exercise, that is not the time to engage in conversation or respond verbally. Also, it's important to be able to follow along so watch someone else at the barre if you don't get it immediately. Questions slow everything down; a barre needs to flow to get people warmed up.

However, DO ask questions in the center when given an opportunity to do so. Often, someone else is wondering the same thing.

DO watch other students, particularly students the teacher has called upon to demonstrate or has praised. Even if a student is not perfect, I may use him or her as an example to show you something specific I like that he or she is doing. Pay attention and ask yourself if you are doing the same thing.

DON'T stand and do nothing. If we are marking a combination (i.e. going through it step by step with or without music) that is your opportunity to walk through it and "test the waters." Following along as we mark will get the combination into your body. Even if you are confused, try to make your body do what I am doing.

DO stand behind someone who seems to know what he or she is doing, whether that means at the barre or in the center or across the floor. DON'T stand in front of them and try to look behind yourself. That is needlessly difficult.

DO have fun and DON'T take yourself too seriously! No matter what class you try, whether it's with me or someone else, a basic class or something more challenging, remember that you are there to enjoy yourself. Class should not be an additional stressor in your already-stressed life. Let dance help lighten the load on your shoulders. The hour or hour-and-half you spend in class is YOUR time. Turn your phone off. Turn your problems off. Relax and let ballet flow over you and through you. Too philosophical for you? Then remember this: ballet is great for your brain. The challenge of learning choreography, of learning new ways of moving and expressing yourself, is not merely physical but also mental. It allows you to be creative as well as physical. There is more to take from dance than simply exercising your body. Enjoy it for friendship and support too.

Happy dancing and happy holidays~

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