Tips for Ballet Teachers

November 2014 |2 Tips for Ballet Teachers | Souped-Up Sauts de Basque

One of the biggest problems when learning a saut de basque is that students tend to do a rond de jambe with the working leg instead of brushing it through à la seconde and maintaining it on the same axis as the torso throughout the jump. It is difficult to hold the passé position in the air while spotting and turning; the extra torque from the rond de jambe makes it even harder.

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October 2014 | 2 Tips for Ballet Teachers | Flexed Feet

A flexed foot is rarely used in ballet technique (one exception is frappé, depending on which style you teach), but is extremely important for any student to be aware of, for many reasons. One of the most important is to allow the dancer to isolate and fully utilize the hamstring muscles. When doing a slow, controlled, flexed-foot lift of the fully extended leg to a tendu height, students can feel maximum turnout without having to think about pointing the foot.

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September 2014 | 2 Tips for Ballet Teachers | Cambré Devant and Dèrriere

Cambré devant, done between barre exercises, stretches fatigued muscles. The muscles most in need of a break are the gluteus maximus. Cambré derrière is a stretch of the back, not a compression of the spine. In addition, the dancers should pull up in the leg and gluteus maximus muscles and find more turnout through the entire motion.

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May-June 2014 | 2 Tips for Ballet Teachers | Polished Pirouettes

When broken down to its simplest form, a pirouette is a quick passé with a relevé and a spot—period. It doesn’t matter how many spots are done. Doing fewer pirouettes with a proper classical ballet finish is always preferable to multiple pirouettes with a sloppy finish.

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March-April 2014 | 2 Tips for Ballet Teachers | Prepping for Partnering

In partnering, the male student’s primary responsibility is to make sure his partner looks her best at all times. Often the boys/men are too concerned about how they look as they pose behind the girl, and her position becomes compromised. They must make sure the girl is on her leg and in a comfortable position before posing behind her.

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January 2014 | 2 Tips for Ballet Teachers | Airborne

The most basic rule in ballet is that whenever the foot leaves the floor it must point immediately and completely. The dancer peels the foot off the floor starting from the heel, then the ball, and finally the toes. Although this applies to everything from tendu to grand battement, this rule is extremely important when jumping. Students tend to lose the foot’s connection to the floor in even simple jumps like sauté and changement. Instead, they move this much-needed energy into the upper parts of the body, where it creates tension in the neck, shoulders, and arms. Emphasize the action of the feet pointing hard in the first warm-up jump combination to set them up for petit and grand allegro exercises later.

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December 2013 | 2 Tips for Ballet Teachers | Better Balance

When on relevé using one or two feet, the weight should be equally balanced between all toes and the ball of the foot. Remind your students to think of spreading out their toes in their shoes, because this gives a more stable platform on which to perform sustained balances.

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November 2013 | 2 Tips for Ballet Teachers | Super Stretches

To passively stretch the hamstrings, I give a parallel fourth-position hamstring stretch at the beginning of class. While holding onto the barre with one hand, and with the other arm in fifth, students bend forward from the hip. While pliéing on the back leg, they pull the front foot’s toes back with their hand. Then they return to upright and cambré back. Repeat on the other side.

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October 2013 | 2 Tips for Ballet Teachers | Upper Body Awareness

I tell my students that the most important “real estate” for dancers is the area of the body that encompasses the neck line, the head, and the arms. It is what the audience looks at first and what the spotlight emphasizes. Remind your students to let all port de bras and épaulement emanate from a relaxed and tension-free sternum.

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September 2013 | 2 Tips for Ballet Teachers | Fine-Tuning Performances

During performances the audience looks at the dancers’ faces first, and then moves on to the choreography and technique. To encourage students to explore facial expressiveness without feeling embarrassed, try this between barre exercises: have them close their eyes and then call out expressions for them to try.

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August 2013 | 2 Tips for Ballet Teachers | A+ Arabesques

In arabesque, often dancers do not place their working leg behind them in a closed position, and then they try to correct it. Ample time should be given at the barre for students to feel cross-body tension before attempting higher arabesques. Balancing in dégagé on flat and then on relevé after the first tendu exercises works well.

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July 2013 | 2 Tips for Ballet Teachers | Barre Basics

A good way to make sure your students are properly aligned at the beginning of any barre exercise is to have them demi-plié in first or fifth. Make sure their shoulders are over their hips and their backs are long and not tucking or hunching. Then have them slowly straighten their legs while keeping their turnout.

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May-June 2013 | 2 Tips for Ballet Teachers | Weight and Balance

I always give a slow tendu exercise in first position, facing the barre, before starting pliés. In this exercise, encourage your students to transfer their weight from two feet to one and back again. It is just as important to engage the supporting side from the very beginning of class as it is to warm up the working leg with slow tendus. Make sure to emphasize that they should move their weight over the ball of the supporting foot and back to two feet with each close.

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March-April 2013 | 2 Tips for Ballet Teachers | At the Barre

Dancers often stand too close to the barre when doing tendus from first position after pliés. Once they move their weight from first position (weight over the balls of both feet) to tendu (all weight over the ball of the standing leg), the supporting arm at the barre bends more than it should. Have them stand far enough away that they can only touch the barre with their fingertips. When they perform a tendu correctly, they can now rest the hand on the barre at the correct distance.

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February 2013 | 2 Tips for Ballet Teachers | Rigor and Nuance

When dancers say they are not being challenged in class, what that really means is that they aren’t working hard enough. Ballet is the art of exactness. For a dancer to perform a simple glissade correctly, the demi-plié, stretched feet, and upper body must be correct. From the basic elements of ballet, complex steps can follow—but only if the basics are correct.

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January 2013 | 2 Tips for Ballet Teachers | Pas de Cheval

My training as a very young child included a step that is seldom done now. A favorite of mine, it was “the horsey step” (pas de cheval, or “step of the horse”). The foot is pointed devant and the arm is extended in front, in line with the foot, palm down, and eyes looking at the hand. The foot is then brought toward the supporting leg in a circular movement to approximately ankle height and returns to the pointed position, and at the same time the wrist and head lift.

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October 2012 | 2 Tips for Ballet Teachers | Developing Trust

Tip 1
Please trust your students. If you are clear about what you expect from them and they understand and know their dances, there is no need to stand in the wings and vigorously perform the dances. This distracts the dancers and makes it hard for them to concentrate, which prevents them from performing at their best.

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