Collective Wisdom | Classroom Connection: Themes and Variations

To keep your students engaged in ballet class, try varying how you present the material. I use theme months and theme days with my intermediate and advanced levels to focus and add fun to class lessons.


Theme months

No-Barre November: Have students do their regular ballet barre in center. Ask them to notice how much they rely on the barre, and what adjustments they need to make to assure correct alignment. This exercise is good for core strengthening.

Jumping January: Increase the length—or number—of your regular petit and grand allegro exercises to help students develop cardio strength and stronger jumps.

Floor-Barre February: Replace your usual standing barre with floor barre exercises that focus on areas such as flexibility, coordination, turnout, and alignment.

March Music Madness: Swap out your usual music with other genres, such as jazz, R&B, or New Age. Select songs with tempos, time signatures, and musical structures that are different from the songs you normally use. Challenge your students to illustrate qualities of this new music in their movements.

May Mix-Up: It’s almost recital: reinvigorate teachers and students by changing things up. Instructors who teach during the same time slots can swap classes. Students will benefit by hearing feedback and corrections from a different teacher’s perspective.


Theme days

Toning Tuesdays: For ballet students you teach multiple times each week, set aside part of each Tuesday’s lesson to work on conditioning. Mix things up by using yoga, Pilates, cardio, and basic strength-training exercises.

Word-Day Wednesdays: Reinforce dance terminology by writing the steps you are teaching on a whiteboard. Include the phonetic spelling, definition, and an example. For instance: “Battu. (ba-TEW.) Beaten. Any step with a beat. Jeté battu.” Incorporate quiz sheets or word games, with small prizes as incentives.—Debra Danese


Debra Danese is a full-time teaching artist who holds multiple certifications and degrees in dance.