Body Language Speaks Louder Than Words!

ballet class barre
Have you ever heard the expression ….“The eyes are the window to the soul”? People can practically read your complete thoughts just by the expression on your face. While in ballet class, your teacher can read you more than you know, by just a glimpse of your facial expression. Your teacher can tell whether you are interested in what you are learning, you are tired and just don’t feel like doing what ever you are being taught or whether you are interested at all. Your facial expression can show respect or just plain rudeness.
Your teacher can read your body language and will wonder if you are really in class because you love to dance or just going through the motions because this is where your friends are at the time. Your body language will prompt a teacher to either ignore you or push you to great lengths, depending upon what your body is tell them. Which is your preference?

Beginning with the eyes. The eyes can tell so much of what is on your mind. Be careful the way you look at your teacher or other dancers. The look in your eye can be either encouraging or it can be deadly to someone else’s attitude. Another dancer or your teacher can catch your feelings through your eyes and it will change their whole day. Many times we send signals to other dancers with our eyes and facial expressions that we don’t even realize we are sending. Plan on being in control of your own feelings of the day and not let them show in class. Take class time out as an “oasis” for yourself. Try to put your feelings on a “shelf” for the hour or so you are in class and absorb what you are there for.

Sometimes your body language in class is a reflection of your physical being and not your emotional being. Did you have a hectic day before class? Did you not get enough sleep the night before? Has it been an extremely busy week, physically, with extra rehearsals? Each of us have personal lives outside the studio. Even if you are tired from the day keep your yawns in hiding! I have been in a position where I was demonstrating barre work to dancers and have a dancer yawn while they were in execution of the barre choreography I just taught! Is it me as a teacher? Am I boring? I hope not! These are the things that will go through a teacher’s head when a dancer yawns. A simple yawn can make your teacher or even the dancers around you think that you are bored or not interested in a combination or even a correction.

Being tired is normal. The body can only take so much physical activity without rest. But….keep up your image while you are in class. Remember you are a dancer! Look the part! Don’t sit during class, keep your body moving. Sitting on the floor can be portrayed as a form of laziness. It can also be disrespectful while your teacher is working to give you what she has planned for you.

Sometimes dancers come into ballet class exhausted from the day. They go directly to the barres and hang or slump over them. This is not a great way to begin class. You are carrying your physical feelings into class with you, which will prompt you later on during class to sit. Instead, come into class proudly and ready to work, even if you are tired. Stand erectly and pulled up!

Body language will often display envy or jealousy. Do you look up to someone in your class? Do you display a look of envy or honor? As a dancer, you should look upon a classmate’s achievements as one of honor. Their practice, focus and ability should be help to motivate you to work even harder. Look at those dancers and admire their work and perseverance to get where they are. Strive for that excellence and do not slump your body over thinking that you will not achieve such lengths. Do not ignore their achievements, show encouragement.

All dancers will show body language when they are feeling frustration in an area that they need improvement with. Possibly you are feeling you are not learning as quickly as you anticipated. Your stance, or how you hold yourself….tha is, your body language will show your negativity or your state of mind. Make improvements in small steps and expect progress. Look proud of your improvements. Take in encouragement to embrace your passion to dance. In other words, work hard and dance it out! Your body is your tool, the language it displays is you, use your body wisely and not for displaying emotions…….

Why Dance?

teacher and ballet student

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Dancer develops in more ways than one can imagine.  A dancer develops  physically, artisticallyintellectually and emotionally.

 

And also Dancers develop socially, as they build relationships with in their studio. They join an artistic family. Within that family they will develop friendships and nurture a passion for the arts.

 

While having fun, dancers gain many benefits.

 

Dance is…

 

Physical Which involves….

  •     Balance
  •     Coordination
  •     Athleticism
  •     Correct posture
  •     Alignment
  •     Strength
  •     Flexibility
  •     Kinesthetic awareness

Artistic The dancer achieves…..

  •      Creativity
  •      Self expression
  •      Communication
  •      Aesthetic awareness
  •      Musicality

Intellectual Dancers develop…..

  •      Critical thinking skills
  •      Problem solving
  •      Time management
  •      Concentration
  •      Focus
  •      Self-discipline

Emotional A dancer gains…..

  •      Confidence
  •      Commitment
  •      Determination
  •      Self-respect
  •      Joy
  •      Excitement

In future posts I wish to elaborate on each of these topics, beginning with Posture and the necessary component – balance… And this is why we dance……

Can Male Dancers Dance en Pointe?

men on pointe

 

 

 

I have been asked this question so many times by dance students, “Can male dancers dance on Pointe?”  There are several reasons that we don’t see this very often other than the famous Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo. I will try to sum up a few and include a link to a great video.

The dancer extra  must take great time and effoet  in developing strength in the arch and ankles, and for many male ballet dancers it simply is not worth the trouble. At the same time, some male ballet dancers, have argued for the value of male dancers learning to dance en pointe, if only as a strength and balance exercise.

 The frame of thought is that you don’t see male ballet dancers on their toes because choreographers don’t tend to come up with choreography for them. There are a few exceptions to this,  one is Sir Frederick Ashton’s adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in which Bottom the donkey dances en pointe to represent hooves.

One other  exception is the all-male ballet corps of Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, in which a number of the male dancers wear ballerina attire and dance female parts. As the corps focuses primarily on classical and romantic ballet, this means that most of their shows feature many male ballet dancers dancing en pointe. Although the corps is in many ways presented as parody, the tecnique of the dancers is pretty amazing, and shows the ability of male ballet dancers to dance en pointe with amazing strength and grace as you can see in the video link below. Watch this video of  Vladimir Makahlov and you decide…..

http://www.networkdance.com/album/view_wallmedia.php?pid=264&media_type=3&media_id=79393

 

After The Show Is Over……

 

on stage

 

As a Dance Educator, what do you think of after the final show of the season is over? When the curtain closes and your work, ideas and creativity have come to the finish? How do you feel about the production, your work and the effort that the dancers and yourself have put into it.? What did you think of the overall final performance?

 

For me, I always have mixed feelings…

I know that my dancers ALWAYS do their best. They are trained that way throughout the year. I never doubt their ability, their confidence or their joy of being on that stage. I have full confidence that they know their choreography, their placement and their cues. I am in love while watching them fulfill what I have created for them to perform on that stage…their special day.

For me, as a Dance Educator, I sometimes question myself when I see error in our productions. I know that the audience doesn’t see what I see from the wings or back stage or dressing rooms. I know that they don’t know that there was a problem or the mistake that I see. I know that the audience is enjoys seeing their loved ones on that stage and are happy their dancer is up there doing their best.

But sometimes, I question myself. I wonder if I gave my all to make the performance wonderful. Should I have chosen a different costume? Was the music just perfect for that age group. Was the blocking just right? Was the choreography too hard.? Was the scenery constructed properly? (yes in small studios the teacher/choreographer is in charge of set construction) Were the stage hands given proper cues? Was there too much delay between numbers. There are so many questions that go through your mind as the show is going on and as the Dance Educator.

But one feeling is a sadness that it is all over. Yes…I am sad….

I have to reel my thoughts in and sit back and think about what had transpired during that performance. I have to come to the realization of the “crash” of the excitement of the final few weeks leading up to the performance and come to realize….. what is this dance life all about? I have been involved in recital for as long as I have memory….I need to think, what am I here for if I find flaw in what I see happening during our performances.

I know…..

I am here to teach children how to dance…(most especially ballet…the most important dance form). I am here to teach them the discipline of dance, the health benefits of dance and keeping fit. I am here to teach them to work as a group. I am here to create a love of dance in their hearts and to hold on to for the rest of their lives, as I have been instilled in me.  But I think that most of all I am here to put happy memories in their lives that I hope they will cherish for ever.

For me…. I am feeling saddness that it is all over…as I think any dance educator will also agree…

BUT ……..we get to do it ALL over again next season……

Thank you to my dancers for being a part of my life …you keep dance alive in me always….and that is what being a Dancer Educator is all about. And that is what I feel …..

After The Show Is Over

after the show

Thinking Like A Dancer ….Happy New Year thoughts for a great 2014 dancing year!

ballet class barre

 

 I am wondering what dance students think about when they are not at dance class ……

Do they think about preparation for dance class? Do they review choreography and technique? I am on the positive side and hope that they do. Sometimes I am overly excited about what I see in class, but there are times that I am gravely disappointed in dancers that I expect more from. Am I expecting too much?

I have been finding lately that many dancers come to class unprepared. Hair not done, pieces of dancewear missing, a missing shoe, dangling earrings on in class (which they are requested to remove). Many are late for barre work because of “dilly dally” or chit chatting or fixing their hair in the dressing/waiting room. I am not understanding why? Do these dancers go this unprepared to school? Are there consequences at school that are not at dance school? Do the dancers consider the dance studio a school?……

Many dancers arrive at their studios directly from school. Which does take some planning on the part of the dancer for them to come completely prepared. I do remember going to dance school directly from school, as a young dancer, myself. My dad would pick me up at the ring of the school bell and my dance clothes where in my dance bag in the car and ready for me to dress at the studio. In some instances, where rehearsals were immediate upon my arrival, I dressed in school before the bell and I was totally ready at the studio or rehearsal hall. My long hair was done properly for dance, prior to attending school those rushed days. I was ready to go.

What makes this decade different? Is it the loose hair that is seen on dancers on TV and video? Is it the many different colors and styles of leotards that the dancewear industry has today? Is it the new bare legged trend we see on dancers? Or is it fashion that the Hip Hop dancers are instilling in the dance profession that dance students think that this attire is acceptable for all dance genres.

On another note ….. some dancers, even whole classes, are not remembering steps, choreography, and even terminology. Where as other classes are right on top of these essential things. I would begin the class week after week repeating and repeating steps, dance combinations (enchainment) and writing them out on the mirror only to start all over again the following class. Where as other classes remember these essentials at the “bat of an eye“! Is distraction a cause? Are some dancers involved in to many activities to be faithful and determined to excel at dance class? Is their thought process that attending a dance studio a social activity and not viewed as a school?

A dance student who wishes to excel in the dance world needs to Think Like A Dancer. They need to be focused and determined to be the best they can be in class.

A good resolution for the New Year is to begin a habit that would be enriching for the dancer while in class. Here are some tips for dancers to think on…..

1) Prepare for class by attire, hair, shoes, dance bag, before hand. The night before if you attend class directly from school. Be sure you have a leotard, tights, proper dance shoes for that next day, hair ties and a brush. Proper warm ups (color and correct fitting) for when it is a bit cold all ready in your dance bag. If you have your class assignments ready for school each day than this should be a breeze for you.

2) Prepare mentally and physically for steps. Practice. Keep a dancer’s notebook for steps and combinations. This practice is beneficial for you and for the entire class so as to keep the class moving forward and not staying stagnant repeating and repeating essentials that were taught weeks before.

3)While in class, listen carefully to the teachers instructions. Dance class is not a time for socialization. The waiting and dressing rooms are a good place for that after class. Dancers need to be attentive while the teacher is instructing. Keep your eye on the teacher to learn the steps.

4) Be alert and attentive in class. One thing every ballet teacher wishes, is that the dancers be in position before the teacher asks and before the music starts. What a pleasure for the teacher to turn around after setting the music and seeing a class of dancers spaced properly and in the correct foot position to begin.

5) Prepare mentally for steps. Think at home on what you have learned in class. Be prepared for your next class. While in class, be thinking the steps so that your brain is ready to implement them. During the preparation music, focus on the step ahead.

6) When the teacher steps back and wants you do dance the enchainment on your own you need to “own” your steps and then wait for corrections, instructions and the famous, “Ok, One more time.…”

In 2014 put your “best foot forward” and make going to dance class worth it for you …you will be happier and grow as a dancer…if you are Thinking Like A Dancer……

Have a great dance year!

 

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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Teaching with a Set Barre

ballet black and pink 2

 

 

With the beginning of each dance season, in September, I teach a set of barre work that we will do each class for the entire season. The set of barre work is choreographed according to the level of ballet that we are beginning and is advanced as each season begins. A barre syllabus to be more explicit. Dancers often ask me why, we do the same barre work for an entire year. I will begin here, why and the necessity of a Set Barre.

To begin, in many small local studios, ballet class is a once per week maybe twice per week class. I am not an advocate of this method, but many families are on a set budget, and to allow their dancer to experience several styles of dance, only one or two ballet classes per week is their only financial option. For this primary reason, is why I like a Set Barre. The dancer who only takes a minimum of ballet classes per week will get to memorize the sequence in the beginning of the season and will eventually be able to correct themselves, and bring their work to excellence without having to concentrate on barre choreography.

Using a Set Barre allows the teacher to rotate some combinations. For example, some barrework will be done every class, such as plies tendus, ron de jambe and grand battements. Others every other class and some just here and there to review as the season progresses and gets more complicated with center and across the floor work. This enables the teacher to save time during the period of the year when the dancers are cramming to learn choreography for a performance. By repeating the same concepts the dancers have time to actually master the skills and their body has time to memorize positions the feet need to be in.

Another reason for a Set Barre is that when using a graded syllabus, the barre exercises correspond to the grade. In other words as the dancer moves up level by level each year so does the set of barre work. The barre combinations, needless to say, become more difficult and complicated with each level of ballet training. This is a proven method, that shows results in training, of how a dancer progresses at a slow continuous rate, as ballet training should be.

Learn your barre combinations each year so you may do them without thought of choreography, but just a thought of a good warm up. A warm up to excellence…..