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. 


  1. Hi Lorry!

    Thanks for another great Rules -post :) Really, everyone should know this by the time they advance from beginner class to the next. Sadly, you still come across "bunches and gaggles of ballerini" in upper levels. People, listen to Lorry - in class you are corps de ballet, not soloists ;)

    One more Very Important Rule:

    When you finish your combination mid-floor or aywhere that is not the front or corner of the room: get out of the way and fast!

    BUT: NEVER, EVER RETREAT BACKWARDS! You will mess with the next group's line-up, or even worse, crash into someone.

    If you finish in the middle of the room, run to the front and only then to the side. If your combination in diagonale comes up short, continue by running away in the same direction.

    The running: obviously, not your regular jog through the park. Ballet runs are supposed to look elegant, arms and all. But if you are not there yet, don't worry. Your teacher will show you how to. Ballet-running is just another fab skill to be learned. In the meantime, run as nicely as you can. :)

    Oh, and while Lorry wrote that not getting kicked is YOUR responsiblity - it is not your responsiblity to look out for the dancer behind you in travelling center exercises. Presuming of course you know what you're doing in the first place. If you are the last girl/guy in a group, it is your responsibility to slow down or d-tour if the dancer in front of you is faster or off course. No one has eyes in the back. Obviously, everyone should remember the steps and dance on the music, but accidents do happen. Even to pros on stage. If you fellow ballerini veers off or stumbles, you have to adapt quickly. So, stay sharp!

    I love what Lorry said about dancing in unison.. The combined concentration, energy and joy - it's bliss multiplied!

    1. Thanks, Johanna!

      Yes! First and foremost, it is YOUR responsibility not to GET kicked! Period. Be responsible and try not to kick anyone, but the reality is that if you don't want to get kicked, make sure that you don't by paying attention!

      Thanks for adding to the discussion, your points are right on!

  2. As a ballet teacher I really appreciate what you both wrote. I'd like to print this post out and make all of my students read it before coming to class! It still puzzles my mind how inconsiderate and just plain rude people can be. Not just towards their fellow dancers but towards me also! Sometimes it feels like I'm teaching 3 year olds... ;)

    1. Ballet class is very different from other types of exercise classes that adults attend and many feel that ballet class treats adults in a juvenile manner. Well, there is some truth to that because beginning classes were created for children and ballet classes are much steeped in tradition and very little in that respect has changed. So for adults who haven't taken the time to familiarize themselves with how ballet class works, I do believe that there can be a real shock in expectations and how to behave in class. Being in love with ballet before ever attending a class, I read everything that I could about it and had some knowledge of how it works and the history. But I think that's probably rare.

      I, like Johanna, hope that most people are not deliberately rude but are applying Zumba rules to ballet class and that will NEVER EVER work! I think that most adults are no longer accustomed to the kind of structure and discipline that ballet class demands.

      I applaud any ballet teacher who ventures into teaching adult beginners! You are truly brave! Please feel free to share!

  3. I think many adult dancers who are new to ballet just don't know about the spacing and lining-up. Not every ballet teacher teaches this to adult learners, even though it should be part of class, just like learning about steps and positions. It also takes some time and persistent guidance to become second nature.

    Teachers may assume that adults should figure it out by themselves, but in class we're first and foremeost students. Otherwise confident adults are suddenly clueless and insecure when faced with the many (unspoken) rules of ballet.. Also, any meandering and mis-placing might just be a sign that the student is nervous and uncertain about the combination or the first step leading into it.

    I would like to think that deliberately inconsiderate or rude dancers are extremely rare cases!

    1. Let me also add that if your teacher has not address these issues perhaps you should ask him or her! Bring up the discussion, it will assist everyone in the class, including the teacher who might not realize that the class is unaware, has forgotten, didn't get it or whatever, and is just as frustrated about it as you!

      My Awesome Ballet Teacher explains the rules to every new beginner class and then reiterates the rules frequently when its clear that we need a reminder! It's just another correction. We don't ignore the teacher when they correct our form or a movement! Listen, take note, and learn when the teacher corrects about classroom balletiquette!

  4. Hi all, my name is Sarah. What a great site! I love the (true) belief that ballet can be for EVERYONE. Personally I have danced all of my life, but I truly believe that it is not about how good you are, or how high your extensions or how perfect your lines, but rather how you feel. Ballet is such an emotional journey and one that can be incredibly healing and soothing for the soul. I have been out of ballet for about 6 years now (with the exception of a random class here and there) so I consider myself to be a "re-learner." Believe me, putting on a pair of pointe shoes last week for the first time in so long was quite the experience! But it is a love of mine that I am so happy to revisit.

    Thanks to you all for sharing!

    1. Hi Sarah! Welcome back to ballet! And we are glad that you enjoy this site! We firmly believe that ballet is for EVERYONE. Here at GUB, people are at different places, levels, and experiences in their ballet journey but our common ground is our love for dance and for sharing that love with others. You will find other re-learners here and we are excited that you are back in pink satin shoes!!!

      Thank you!

      ~Lorry for GUB

  5. Great post! All of these great tips are helpful for anyone new to's really it's own tradition/ritual/culture and should be treated as such. Newbies or visitors should observe and be mindful of the customs and adhere to the accepted way that things are done. It's quite wonderful to feel like part of such a history and tradition...every dancer goes through the practice of barre, beginning with plies and ending with reverence; it ties us all together.

    I do like a school/teacher/class with good discipline...quiet focus during class and socializing before/after class. I also like when we formally bow to the accompanist and the teacher. It seems so elegant and formal, yet charming. :)

    1. Speaking rudeness and things you should NEVER EVER DO, last week during one of my classes that is held in a larger recreation facility, a person came into the studio right in the middle of class and started doing her own barre to her headphones. I couldn't believe it. That would be like someone coming into a church during a service and going through their own separate worship simple isn't done. Afterwards, I found out that the intruder was a former professional with our national ballet company but I thought that made it even worse...a professional of all people should just know better! As my father use to tell us as kids, "There is no excuse for bad manners."

      If you're a few minutes late for your own class, you can scoot in as unobtrusively as possible, take a spot at the end of a barre, and give your teacher a look or word of apology, but you don't come in in the middle and you don't do your own thing.

      We may be adults/beginners/returners/students, but we can at least be gracious and observe the ettiquette...that is always stylish and classy :)

    2. Thank you and here, here! I wholeheartedly agree! I really love being part of the tradition of ballet, it's being part of a lineage! And that's special. I hope that people become more aware of that and learn to respect this tradition so that we can all be an integral part of the glorious history of ballet and be able to hand this down ourselves to the people who come after us. I have great respect for the fact that my teacher makes a point of not only imparting his knowledge of ballet as a skill set but also taking the time to share his knowledge of the tradition and culture that is ballet and ballet class. It's beautiful and I am both proud and humbled to be a part of it, even in my own tiny way!

  6. Seriously! Amen to everything you said. The first things I teach my students is how to gage how much space you need. It's a skill that needs to be learned! Love your list.

  7. Awesome tips! (And sorry it took me forever to chime in!) So true especially about across-the-floor etiquette. If you are not ready to go (or choose not to go at all), then get out of the way! Last night we were going in groups of four, and one lady was seriously standing in one of the ready-to-go spots, but was talking to someone or looking off in another direction. The person next to me (behind her) and I looked at each other like, what is she doing?!

    The "rules" can probably be intimidating to some newbies, but it really is possible to have fun AND have a civilized class. :)

  8. Great post. #13 especially resonated for me. I dance with teens, and I swear the teacher has to break up the "gaggle of ballerinas" at least once per class.

  9. I wish I had gotten dance lessons sooner. My friend said she has been dancing since she was about five years old. Anything you pick up that early becomes a natural part of you. Ballet classes for adults are the other option.

    Paul |

  10. As a ballet teacher I really appreciate what you both wrote. I'd like to print this post out and make all of my students read it before coming to class! It still puzzles my mind how inconsiderate and just plain rude people can be. Not just towards their fellow dancers but towards me also................

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