Second class citizen

I have to admit I’m having fun trying to find music to go with my posts… I’d actually never heard this song before, was just googling my proposed post title to see what would come up. Kinda catchy, reminds me of college 🙂

Anyway, had the second class of intro ballet last night, but we were in the middle of two back-to-back snow storms, so only ended up with two students (well, three, but I’m saving the third as a topic for another post). I was a little disappointed just because I’m excited to get some of the basics down so that we can move on to more interesting exercises. I’ll most likely have to repeat this lesson next week so the other students can catch up (we have a few total newbies and I don’t want to veer off without them!). But that’s okay, we still seem to be working on figuring out left from right and how to count to 4, so I suppose a repeat won’t be bad! Ha.

I was a bit of a tendu queen last night. Tendus from first, tendus closing in plié, passé à terre, tendus from fifth. I felt sorta mean, because of course I’m doing these in a 4-counts to open, 4-counts to close timing right now (just to take the time to really feel how the movement is supposed to go before picking up the pace). As I was demonstrating I realized just how hard it is to do everything that slowly! But no complaints from the students. The adult in last night’s class was loving the workout and the teen, well, she tolerated it. 😉

I’m trying to figure out how best to handle different learning styles, though. For example, the adult that was with us last night is a principal dancer in the company, great dancer, just doesn’t have the classical background. She’s great at self-correction (might help that she’s a massage therapist, too, really in-tune with body alignment and such) and when I give her a correction I can tell she immediately works on it. Heck, usually she’s already working on it before I can get the words out of my mouth! The teen almost broke my heart after class, though, when she came up to me and asked if she was at all good at ballet. I realized that I probably had been giving her a ton of corrections (when you are one of two students it definitely increases the probability of getting “picked on”)! I was trying to balance it with plenty of praise, but clearly it wasn’t offsetting her frustration.

I think some of it is just her being hard on herself. I told her that it’s only the second class, to try to relax and have fun with it. I could tell from her face that she was taking it way too seriously! But I’m having a tough time trying to figure out how to get her to feel the difference between, say, poor posture and proper posture. Before we started the barre I had them take a moment to stand in a nice turned-out first and go through their alignment from their feet up and she got it perfectly! But as soon as we went into the exercises she was hunched over again at which point I repeatedly tried to verbally and manually correct her. At the end of class I had her practice her posture again in front of the mirror so she could see how it looked and once again, perfect! “But I’m not breathing!” she replied. Oh dear, yes, that certainly is a problem!

So I guess my struggle is knowing when to let something go and let a student work things out for him- or herself and when to dive into the weeds. I don’t want to overwhelm people with critiques to the point that they start to doubt their abilities, but at the same time I don’t want to be the sort of teacher who just lets her students do whatever for the sake of being “nice” and letting them falsely assume that they’re doing fine! (I say this as a former student of such a teacher; when I went to a place that taught proper ballet technique I was rather miffed to be placed in a class of kids 2-4 years younger than myself because it turned out that what I thought was good was really… not.) Somehow I suspect it’s one of those life-long teacher challenges, so I guess I might as well get used to it!

“And if you think you’ve got us cornered now
If you think you’ve got us figured out
Well it won’t be long before you hear us shout!”

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