Archive | May 2012

The Importance of Summer Class

I can not stress the importance of  summer dance class especially ballet class. Now I am not saying to do ballet on the beach, in the sand, but that summer is not a time to slow things down in dance education. It is a time to take class without other pressures, try new classes, improve technique and just keep in shape. I strongly encourage all dancers to take class over the summer months.

 There are so many benefits to summer class:

  • Staying in shape. It is said that it can take a ballet student up to a full week to reach the level of strength gained from just one missed class. Dancers should keep their bodies in shape by dancing during summer, just like they can keep their minds fresh by reading during summer vacation.
  • Keeping your dance vocabulary current. Vocabulary is one of the most important parts of a ballet class. Foreign words are often forgotten when not heard regularly. It is important to maintain the new vocabulary that has been heard and learned over the past dance year.
  • Preparing for the next level of dance that you will be beginning in the fall. Keeping up with technique is vital. Dancers have a hard time improving technique when there is too much time taken off.
  • Summer is a great time to try out a new dance style, to see if you like it and may want to continue with it in the fall. 
  •  During the warm summer months, the body spends more time gaining strength and flexibility and less time warming up at the start of class. More can be accomplished with a body that is ready.

If your dance school does a Christmas production, the Nutcracker or variety Christmas show, by taking summer class, you will be physically ready for it. Most schools begin their Christmas productions during the end of July and most certainly the month of August. Without class for a month or two, will you be ready for it? Casting and choreography is normally completed during those months so that rehearsals may begin once the fall classes start and new dance levels need to be focused on.

 Dancers who normally are active during the fall to spring dance season, will begin to feel lazy and not motivated while not in normal dance class routine. Keep that body pumping and keep your dance skills up. Take summer class, time you spend in the dance room is never wasted.

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How Should Your New Pointe Shoes Fit

Your Pointe shoes must be very snug and yet somewhat comfortable……

Here are some common mistakes and how to avoid them when being fitted for Pointe Shoes. It is not reccomended to buy pointe shoes online, unless you have been dancing on pointe for a while and know exactly what make and style and EXACTLY what size you need.

Some dance store associates tend to fit the shoes way too loosely. Tell them your teacher insists on a snug fit.They need to fit snugly so that the foot does not slide around while dancing. If you give it some thought, this is very logical. The shoes should fit like a glove and never leave room for growth. Trying to learn proper technique on pointe with shoes that are too large introduces many difficulties. In addition to causing blistering, it forces you into bad habits as you try to compensate for your foot sliding around within the pointe shoe. Such habits, once formed are difficult to correct. When you are pointe shoe shopping, be prepared to try on perhaps 30 pairs of shoes, yet still walk out without buying if you are not completely satisified with the way that they fit. Do NOT succumb to seller pressure. T he shoe should be snug but not painfully tight. Your toes should be able to lay straight inside the box of the shoe and NOT be jammed into the end. Be sure that your toes are not overlapping.

In addition to being a snug fit, make sure the pointe shoes feel relatively good in the store. If you find pointe shoes that feel terrific and have a snug fit in relevé first, BUY THEM INSTANTLY!!! DO NOT purchase pointe shoes if they DO NOT feel good in the store. The shoes will not magically be pain free at the studio if they felt terrible in the store.

DO NOT sew on elastics and/or ribbons until your teacher has checked the shoes in person for proper fit. Many sales associates have never worn pointe shoes and can not relate to their feel. They may have to be returned.

In preparing to go for your Pointe shoe fitting make sure you have plenty of time and are not in a rush. Wear tights and be sure to cut your toe nails, but make sure that they are not too short.

The following is a portion from Freed of London’s website:

With both shoes on, stand with your weight on both feet and knees bent. In this position, your feet will be at their widest. Your shoes should feel snug but not pinch. You should also feel the block ‘cupping’ your toes. In addition, you should feel the little toe joint, the big toe joint and the center of the heel on the floor in this position.

Next, place one foot on Pointe without transferring body weight. If the outer sole of the shoe remains flat against the pad of your heel, your shoe is the right width for you. If your sole twists away from your foot, the shoe is too narrow. At this time, you should also check that the block completely covers the toe joints.

To check the length of the shoe, go on Pointe on both feet and transfer your body-weight onto your toes. If the outer sole of the shoe extends beyond the pad of your heel, the shoe is too long.

It is a good idea to learn at this time the parts of a Pointe Shoe so you can describe to the seller what part of the shoe is bothering you.

Going on Pointe is a wonderful time in your dancelife. Enjoy every minute of being able to do such an amazing form of dance!

Keeping The Audience Involved – The Dancer’s Face

With dance recitals and revues coming up, the next few posts will be about stage presence, keeping your audience interested in what you are doing up there on the stage. Today we will dicuss your facial expression.

Some dancers are natural performers. They dance with energy, and seem to move like they love being up there on the stage. Experience in performance, of course, plays a big factor in how you keep an audience interested. With revues and recitals coming up, today we will discuss how to keep your audience involved in your performance.

Make eye contact with your audience and members of your group. Don’t ignore your them. Direct your attention to one person in the audience and occasionally glance at members of your group as you pass them in the choreography of your routine. Think about this….when you dance, your purpose is not to get to a certain place on the floor. It’s to love the way that you get to it.

Your facial expression is important in dance but there is more to it than just smiling. To draw in an audience, sincere facial expression often has more to do with the eyes than with the mouth. So, rather than focusing on a “smiling” mouth, dancers need to practice an “I love what I am doing” expression with their whole face, especially the eyes.

As you perform, engage the muscles in the face by slightly lifting the eyebrows – not to a comical extreme, but in a way that is comfortable and easy to keep. It is the same expression most people use when making eye contact with or really listening to a friend, or when they are speaking excitedly in conversation. Audiences respond well to dancers who utilize this technique. Your face will keep the audience involved. Truly see, look, and take in the world through your eyes as you dance.

As for the rest of the face, be natural. While a smile can be important during certain types of dances, it will not match the mood in all your dances.

Relax the lower jaw. This will improve any type of expression and, if fitting, make possible a smile that comes easily but is not plastered to your face. Sometimes the tension of performance causes dancers to bit down on their molars. Don’t let this type of pressure get to you. Keep the facial muscles relaxed and show people that you are comfortable and have true peace in what you do.

When participating in a story ballet, different expessions are required depending on the mood of the story. Ballet dancers tell stories by using different facial expressions. Instead of using words,  use your body and movement to express yourself. The following facial expressions will help tell the audience what you are feeling. By practicing different positions of your head, eyes and mouth, you can convey your feelings to the audience.

To look scared or afraid,  open your mouth and eyes widely, and place your hands on your face.

To appear angry or mad,  purse your lips together and squint your eyes to make a grimace.

To appear sad,  expose your  bottom lip, open your eyes widely, and draw the corners of  your mouth downward.

To appear happy or excited,  smile widely as if you are laughing.

People come to see beauty, so when you dance to give it to them.

Ballet Class…You Have To Have A Plan

I have to say that this post is more for the dance teacher than the dancer. Parents of dancers may be interested to know that we dance teachers plan, just as your child’s teacher in school does. For a successful dance season, the expierenced dance teacher knows to plan ahead as to what their dancers will learn in an alotted amount of time.

Following a ballet syllabus allows dancers to improve in dance technique, learn new skills, and train on a step by step basis. By following a lesson plan, allows dance teachers to be certain that every dancer will improve in each area of ballet by following the adapted syllabus. Dance teachers who rely on a ballet syllabus will provide the full scope of training the dancers require as a group.

For the dancer, ballet, or any dance form for that matter, requires more than just technique but also a passion for dance. Passion, combined with mastering each step taught to them. makes it possible for the dancer to move to a more challenging level. To achieve passion for your dance art, you need to be challenged. Technique is the skill used to execute the step, exercise and combination accurately, combined by applying ballet principles. With all of these combined, technique, passion and mastery, the circle of dance education exists.

Creating a ballet lesson plan requires time, knowledge and focus. The ballet teacher needs to know what method they are going to follow, Cecchetti, Vaganova, RAD, are just to name a few. The teacher needs to be fluent in the method in order to create a viable lesson plan. Knowing how to get started is important in the development of a successful lesson plan, and following the chosen method would be your foundation.

Begin planning with a clear picture of what you want to teach during the dance season. Before staring the season create a scope and sequence plan. In the years I was home schooling, each year’s curriculum had a scope and sequence that came with it. So, I knew from the start what was to come in the following ten months. A scope and sequence is a description of what will be learned and in what order. It should be used as an over all guide for the year. But, be sure to allow for flexibility and above all creativity in your class planning because each group of dancers in every class are different.

Your planning may look something like this; in a level one ballet class, for approximately ages 8 and over, your focus would begin with alignment and body placement. Under age 8, these concepts may be difficult to understand. Not saying that proper body alignment is not indicated at under age 8 but not so stressed, and more creativity to describe it would be necessary. Correct body and arm alignment, is the building block for the success of a ballet dancer. Other basics to be covered on a level one ballet lesson plan would include the five basic ballet positions, battement tendus, releves and a set amount of center work should also be added to the lesson plan, such as simple sautes in first position, chasse, pas de bourree, and simple walking and running in a dance form. First arabesque and combinations of steps into an arabesque. These are just an example of a simple lesson plan.

Sometimes when planning for your dance season, using the backward approach may work better for you to create a clear picture of what is to be achieved in the dance season. When designing your dance class plan for the season, try working backwards. In other words, begin with what you want to see as the final dance piece and then decide how to get there. For example, I may teach combinations center or across the floor with the intention of putting them in their dance for the revue. The combinations may be to entirely different music than I intend to be using in the revue butthe practise in those steps will already be perfected when put to their actual piece of music. This approch in lssson planning makes finale choreography go so much faster to teach, and  it enables excellence in the final product.

You as the dance teacher may already have a system to plan for summer class or the upcoming dance season. Remember that planning is the key to a successful dance. Planning will keep the dancers interested and also you will see your dancers show improve as time goes on….always have a ballet plan.