BACK TO THE BARRE – Part 1
Sooo…. in all of my free time, I’ve decided it’s time to get back into class for myself. I adore teaching, and nothing makes me happier. But having time to work on my craft as a dancer, to move to music, and to have someone give me insights into what can help me improve is something I’ve missed a lot more than I realised.
With this in mind, I have taken up Advanced Foundation RAD class to work on my technique and artistry. Anyone that knows me will know that ballet and I have had a checkered past. I couldn’t understand its purpose and it was never really explained to me clearly when I was young. I just wanted to dance! Standing around in lines… nope. Not for me.
I picked it up again as a teen, but that was even worse. In an environment that is as cumulatively structured as ballet, late entrance often spells disaster… and I was no exception. I soon lost interest, was disheartened I’d never be able to do it, felt inferior to the other students in the class, and without the support I needed from my teacher I quickly dropped out, opting for other styles instead.
I took up ballet again when I was in my very early 20’s to help me with my Dance Ed course at uni. I took an Intermediate Foundation class with a bunch of 12 year olds… and I loved it! At this later stage in life I could clearly see the benefits. I could also focus and sit still for longer than 12 seconds, so this probably also helped…. Although the photos below from ballet rehearsals at uni a just a few years back tell a different story!
As I write this, I’m reminded of one of my driving goals as a teacher and director – to make dance accessible for everyone. I sometimes see my students getting impatient at the barre or drifting away when they can’t see the purpose of the exercise, and instead feel like they’re just ‘standing around’. While some ballet purists would argue with me to the grave, I believe that ballet doesn’t need to be this way. At Dance Domain, we’re not in the business of training elite dancers, so a lot of the rigidity and tradition can be done away with, and, in its place, we can seek new ways of making things more engaging, more explicit, and more exciting. Why be boring and bland when things can be exciting and an explosion of awesome!? Contrary to what some may think, I firmly believe that you don’t need to sacrifice educational content for spirit and freedom of expression. It’s a matter of give and take.
But, I’ve gotten sidetracked!…. back to my ballet class!
I thought I’d write a little series to keep you all informed about what it is like to be a student again and any neat little tips that spring to mind on this journey. Learning is a lifelong process, and for me this is not only about learning a new ballet grade and polishing my technique, but it’s also about re-learning what it feels like to be a student again
My biggest takeaways from lesson 1?
- It’s always scarier than you think! I was actually freaking out the night before. “It’s too advanced”, “I’m too old”, “I won’t be able to pick it up”, “Everyone will know it and I won’t”. It is amazing how after all these years, these thoughts still creep to mind. Did they come to be fulfilled?… Absolutely not! I loved it. The pace of the class was perfect – it was suitably challenging and not totally out of reach. Get in there and give it a go. You’ll never know until you try. And as I tell my students in preparation for performance, a little bit of nerves is a good thing!
- If you want to improve, take notes. It was so great to be back into the habit of making notes about exercises to refer to over the week. I loved the personal practice time at home, going over the steps and combinations. Having a little notebook where you jot down notes from your teacher for each exercise is so valuable. It’s kind of like carrying a little paper version of your teacher around with you. And, as you get older, life gets busier. Who can remember everything!? No one. So write it down and review it a few days later. You’ll be surprised how much faster you’ll improve!
- Look the part. Braid your hair or put it in a bun, wear something that makes you feel awesome…whatever floats your boat and makes you feel like a dancer. Don’t just reach in an grab any pair of tights (there’s nothing like rocking up to class and putting on your tights only to realise they look like a caterpillar had chewed their way through them! .. Yep, that was me :/ ) Looking presentable makes me feel like I’m ready to perform, and I’ll always dance better on stage than in class, so make every class as close to a performance as possible.
I’ll be continuing this little series to keep you all updated on my Back to the Barre journey in 2017. Next up… the perfect pair of ballet flats for my creaky dancer’s feet!
Off to go practice my Battements Fondus exercise now!…
I’ve included a little pic of my teacher’s syllabus book. I kept messing up the order of the steps for this one, so took a snapshot of the exercise so I can practice at home and get it right next week!
xx Elena xx