Saturday, June 16, 2012

Lessons about Ballet Class: How to NOT get Kicked in Class

Learning ballet is not only about pirouettes and jetes.  Ballet has been around for over 300 years, that's a lot of tradition. There's so much to learn in ballet class and hopefully your teacher began your training with an understanding of balletiquette and an understanding of how ballet class works, since its pretty much the same deal all around the world. But it seems to me that a lot of people didn't get the 411 from their teachers on how to work in a ballet studio. So here is some info on where and how to stand and space yourself in ballet class.

I am not alone in ballet class, you are not alone in ballet class, we are in this together. Let's all remember this "togetherness" at the barre and in center. Seriously, ladies and gentlemen, this is really important! When you settle into your place at the barre, please take the time to space yourself out well. If the class is really full work this fact into how you take up your space. No one wants to kick someone and we, none of us, wants to get kicked! Honestly, getting kicked with a wicked grand battement could be truly dangerous! In center, things can get even more hairy! Not only could you get kicked or whacked but you could end up ballet road kill by some ballet pile up and traffic jam! Sometimes my ballet teacher will take a moment to space us out. It was his job to teach us how to do it as brand new-ballet-bies. But really, guys, it's part of our job now. Perhaps your teacher does the same, or maybe you've got a teacher who let's you figure it out the hard way, with a few bruises. But we waste precious ballet class minutes when the teacher has to take the time to arrange us into lines like, um... a real ballet class or when we wander about trying to figure it out. I'm in a real ballet class and so are you, so let's do this right. Even in those times that I am blessed by the ballet gods with five or six classes in a week, I still don't want to waste a second of it on things that we shouldn't even have to think about anymore. I'm very sure that you feel the same way.

Here are some rules and tips:

1.              It is your responsibility to make sure that you are not going to get kicked.
2.              Be responsible and make sure that you are not going to kick anyone... if the class is really full, turn into the barre in order to make any grand movement backward. If you are unaware of how to do this correctly, ask your teacher.
3.              Do not spread  your stuff out under the barre to take up more than your share of barre space. Honestly, that's just rude.
4.              Look around and adjust your use of space to the space available.
5.              I know you like your little piece of heaven (your own personal private claimed barre space) but be prepared to move if you have to... consider it a challenge to try a different place at the barre and in the studio.
6.              There should be straight lines in center - straight lines.
7.              The rows in center should then be staggered so that everyone can see themselves in the mirror.
8.              Ballet class is old school. Boys in the back, please.
9.              Do a little test motion with your arms and legs and make sure you have enough space to move them about... but...
10.           Don't be a space hog in a crowded class, place yourself in accordance with how many people are in class and the available space for everyone.
11.           The front line should be in front, make sure that the line is moved up enough to make room for the rows in the back.
12.           If a combination is traveling, the whole class should move the straight lines over to make room so that everyone can travel in the correct direction. So, for example,  if the exercise is going to travel to the right, everyone move over to the left to start, that way no one ends up going into a barre, wall, or mirror.
13.           Line up for exercises that are going to travel across the floor. Bunches and gaggles of ballerini are not lines, they create confusion from the get go. Again, ladies first. I didn't make the rules, it's just the way that it is.
14.           Get ready to go. If you aren't ready to go, get out of the way and let someone else go.
15.           If you are dancing with the music, you should not be causing a traffic jam by either going too fast or too slow, if you are creating a bottleneck or running over people, listen to the music and speed up or slow down accordingly. Just because you can go fast, doesn't mean that you should.
16.           If you don't know what you are doing, just keep going! Walk it through if you have to. You cannot stop in the middle of the floor - well, you can, but you shouldn't. Please don't. Please.
17.           You are a grown up. You don't have to do anything you don't want to. If you want out, just step to the side.
18.           If the exercise is going to be repeated, hustle and get back in line! There is no meandering in ballet class. NO MEANDERING. Wandering about is a waste of time and energy. Keep your energy up by moving.
19.           In exercises that move downstage, travel in your lines. The same rule about dancing with the music applies, the lines should be moving in unison. If you aren't, speed up or slow down, the music will tell you what to do.
20.           When dancing downstage and you arrive at the front of the room, peel off in the direction closest to you and get back in line. The no meandering rule still applies.

Let's keep ballet class safe by being conscientious ballet students. When we all feel safe and respected, we can concentrate on having fun and dancing! I think that one of the great things about learning ballet is to be found in the studio experience. I love being with my fellow ballerini! Watching us all learn and grow together is truly exciting. I love to see my ballerina friends do something awesome in class and when we dance together it's positively thrilling. The next time you are in class at the barre take a minute to listen to the brushing of the flatties against the floor - all in unison - its really beautiful. Think about how cool it is when your whole line dances across the floor together - like swans or shades - well, okay, probably not nearly as cool as that but hey, we can dream and a line in unison is still way, way cool.