One of the weakest areas I have seen in students who audition for my summer school is the pirouette. If students cannot balance, they cannot pirouette. Therefore, have them start by balancing on two feet from age 8 or 9, feeling the body centered, then progress to balancing on one foot with the working leg in passé position. Once they have felt their balance, turning will become easier. Of course, the head, turnout, and arms must be synchronized, but the balance is the basis.
Batterie is often overlooked in classes when time is a consideration. So make sure the first allegro combination is suitable to be performed with batterie. For example, if the warm-up is four sautés in first and four changements, the changement can be changed to royale (changement battu). Or try four changement and two échappé sautés. Beat the changement and the closing movement of the échappé.
Regular readers of Dance Studio Life have come to look for Mignon Furman’s “2 Tips for Teachers” department in every issue. Teachers who want more of Furman’s hard-won wisdom on ballet education have an option this summer: the Teachers Intensive 2010 at Purchase College SUNY.Read More
Repetition, repetition, repetition—the only way to perfect a ballet movement is to do it over and over. Think of concert pianists who practice for hours to perfect only their fingering. Then think of dancers who have to perfect feet, legs, head, upper body, arms. How can you make this constant repetition enjoyable and meaningful for young dancers?
A child who disrupts a class obviously wants attention. If the child is young, explain that you need to have someone hold your hand; then firmly and kindly hold that child’s hand. Or give the child a special place in the front of the class, along with the responsibility of being the class model. It usually works well.Read More
Stiff and strained-looking hands and fingers, along with thumbs that stick out, show tension in dancers. To help them relax, have them circle their wrists in both directions and feel their fingers move.Read More
Often parents live their lives through their children. I have frequently heard a mom say, “We have started pointe work,” as if the mother were also in pointe shoes. Children will progress more in their studies when parents are not so involved.Read More
Pirouette en dedans should be the easiest way to turn; it is the most natural. However, problems arise when turning is made so technical that the dancers become tense, restricting the movement.Read More
In teaching pirouettes it is important to emphasize using turnout. On relevé the supporting leg must retain turnout with the working leg placed so that the toe is just below the knee of the supporting leg. The turned-out working knee acts like a rudder of a ship, steering the way around.Read More
From my balcony at the Tel Aviv Hilton, I watched swimmers, surfers, and the waves of the Mediterranean Sea lapping on the beach below. In Israel for the Performance Awards, my program to encourage and evaluate ballet students, I looked out on this city of contrasts. Its skyscrapers towered over older apartment buildings built on concrete stilts, with bomb shelters in their basements and solar panels on their roofs. I could see the nearby marina, and the biblical Jaffa in the distance.Read More
In traveling to many cities on my audition tour, I have become more aware than ever of many young dancers’ inability to turn well. Look for more tips on improving this aspect of technique next month.Read More
What age to start pointe work? This is a question frequently asked by teachers, and my advice is not before 10 or 11 years of age.Read More
Hyperextended (or swayback) legs create a beautiful line but present problems with strength and stability in some areas, including pointe work.Read More
How do you get students to keep straight lines when dancing in a group or ensemble for a competition or recital? It’s simple: Teach them to look directly at the back of the head of the dancer in front of them (right at the bun, if it’s a girl).Read More
Tip 1 To teach développés devant, have the students lie on the floor on their backs with their legs crossed as though the feet are in fifth position and with both feet fully stretched. Instruct them to draw the working foot through cou-de-pied to the passé (retiré) position. Then, leading with the heel, they should extend to an attitude devant, returning the leg to fifth position by reversing the movement. Have them practice développé to second from this position as well; it is easier to feel the correct placement of the hips.Read More
Tip 1: Do not demonstrate too much. When teachers demonstrate excessively, young students depend on copying them instead of absorbing and remembering the movements.Read More
Tip 1 When teaching batterie (such as a royale or changement battu or an entrechat quatre), have the students start from an open rather than a closed position. For example:Read More
In ballet, an ending is as important as a beginning and middle, if not even more so. From early training the children should be taught to remain motionless for a count of 3 at the end of each exercise. You can make this into a game of statues in which everyone turns to marble when they finish an exercise. Then wave your magic wand to free them, and move on to the next step.
To explain the concept of turnout to a young dancer, have the child stand with legs parallel. Draw a straight line along the thigh through the knee and down the shin to the center of the foot. (Use chalk so that it can be removed easily.) Explain that the line must always remain straight even when turning out, and that only by practice and gaining strength and flexibility will each leg turn out to 90 degrees with the line remaining straight. Explain that if the leg turns out from the knee instead of the thigh, the line will not be straight.Read More
A demi-plié provides both spring and momentum in allegro work, making fast steps easier, jumps higher, and landings softer. Demi-plié must be used at the beginning and end of all springing and allegro steps, including glissades. A well-executed glissade must be completed in one count, making certain to put the same energy in stretching the closing foot as in the leading foot.Read More
In a class of 3- to 5-year-olds, it is a good idea to vary the format of the class. One way to do that is to place hula hoops on the floor and tell the children that each one’s place is in a particular hoop. (They become very territorial!) It makes for a fun class and teaches discipline as well.Read More
TIP #1: Corrections
Do not give instructions through the music. If a dancer is not performing the steps correctly, stop the music and correct the steps. Do not give more than two corrections at a time. If more than two are necessary, let the dancers get the first two correct before proceeding with further corrections.
Three golden rules for arms (except where choreographed otherwise):
1. The arms should never move to or be held in a position behind the ears.
2. The hands should never cross the centerline of the body.
3. In any arabesque, the shoulder of the front arm is never lower than the shoulder of the side arm.
For children ages 5 to 8, start the class with moving steps, before they stand still for demi-plié or tendu. Suitable steps would be gallops, runs on a high demi-pointe, and what I call “picked-up runs,” which are running movements in which the raised knee bends and the foot is lifted behind the body.
It is important for young children to practice the head movement, and to spot, before starting to learn pirouettes. Here is a useful way to achieve this:Read More