November 2016 | 2 Tips for Ballet Teachers | Spokes on a Wheel and Ready, Set, Reverse

Photo by Becky Montalvo

Photo by Becky Montalvo

Spokes on a Wheel and Ready, Set, Reverse

by David Arce

Tip 1
Learning to complete a manège is important for advanced students. A manège involves many skills, including the ability to change your spot while traveling, plus sufficient stamina to do the steps correctly throughout.

When dancers go singly, however, a manège can eat up a lot of time. To go four times as fast, have four students start simultaneously, one from each corner. Students also tend to veer inward, making the circle smaller. To avoid this, have them await their turns in lines inside the circle, like spokes on a wheel; this forces those dancing to keep the manège big. When students finish, have them exit the circle to the room’s corners to catch their breath. When it’s safe, they reenter the circle to rejoin their starting spoke. This continuous, structured traffic pattern makes the most of class time.

Tip 2
Ingrain in your dancers the ability to reverse any simple center combination. Toward the week’s end, I often give a simple center tendu/dégagé combination after barre to make sure students are on balance and transferring weight correctly. I usually split them into two groups, as my combinations tend to travel. After the second group of dancers finishes, I have them immediately reverse the exercise. When they finish, I restart the music so the first group can reverse the exercise. I then allow all dancers a little time, usually 30 seconds, to correct their own mistakes before having each group repeat the reversed combination. This exercise trains students to reverse sequences by themselves, and quickly—valuable skills for any performer.


David Arce is artistic director of Juline Regional Youth Ballet and a teacher at Juline School of Dance in Modesto, California. He trained at Ballet Yuma and San Francisco Ballet School and danced 12 seasons with SF Ballet.