Thinking The Ballet Way

baby ballerinas


This past week, in a ballet class of dancers 6 to 8 years old, which we call our Novice Ballet class, a wonderful discussion came up out of a simple question. …..”Miss Teri, there are so many names that you say to the steps that we do. How can we remember all these names?”
Adorable! I just loved the question and saw a need for a very simple discussion…….So I proceeded to explain why I teach them all these strange words…..and we had a wonderful discussion!

Taking ballet class is beneficial at an early age. Ballet is a progression of many, many levels. The amount of levels and how the dancers progress is depending on the teacher and the school. Dancers should be taught simple and gradual in the beginning, to prepare the building blocks that they need to become the advanced dancer.

One of the most important things in ballet training is basic terminology, and the technique of those steps taught at the dancer’s particular level. One way I like to do that is have the dancers keep a journal, which we work on monthly. Very simple at the Novice level that I was speaking of in the beginning of this post, but more informative at the upper levels.

I prepare work sheets with vocabulary words (ballet steps and terminology) and also a diagram to paste in their journals, for the Novice level and the next level up the Mini level. (Older groups go on to dance history and more facts about ballets along with their level of terminology and syllabus.)

Along with our journals, that most of the dancers take pride in, I continually talk in ballet terms during our class times together. In breaking down their steps, I always speak in correct terms. Using the numbered walls and corners (Cecchetti method) and the terms upstage and downstage, stage right and stage left, is part of learning our steps. In learning choreography, traveling in the correct direction is just as important!

Just as learning a foreign language, which as we all know that ballet terms are in French, immersion of the correct terminology is essential in order to keep these terms and steps deep in their little brains and close to their hearts. Just as a child learns English, or any native language, the conversation in kept in that language or in ballet class, the terms are constantly used. Conversation, or terms, may be simple at first, but always used as communication.

Along with correct terminology, always Thinking the Ballet Way, we must use correct musical phrasing. Learning to keep rhythm and proper timing to music is essential to any piece of choreography. Most often, tap class is suggested as a method to learn simple timing. I agree with this method of teaching. Nothing better than some metal on the bottoms of those little feet to get the dancers to learn timing. Even as the dancers grow in age and ability, tap dance is one of the basics to feeling musicality, and a joyful way to just dance. I myself love tap, always have and I enjoy teaching it!

Another way to teach rhythm at an early age is through clapping or using rhythm sticks. Where the dancer learn patterns of timing using wooden dowels. Almost as a drummer would learn their skill. I like this method at the Pre dance level. They seem to enjoy it, but I prefer teaching tap instead since the rhythm is directly in the feet.

Terminology and Musicality…essential for Ballet class…..

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