by Marketing Intern Rachael Appold
Real talk: ballet class can be very intimidating!
We’ve all see videos of Misty Copeland on our Facebook feeds, nailing 32 fouettes like it’s a walk in the park. Don’t let the seemingly effortless long lines and flawless technique of professional ballerinas fool you, though; ballet is a tough mental and physical workout.
By nature, ballet is a lot to think about. A ballet dancer is asked to do so many things at one time; pull up, flatten out the lower back, pull the knees into the thighs, don’t lean too far back, but don’t lean too far forward, hold the core, be aware of the arms, legs, head, and neck, and listen to the instructor. Did I mention all of the ballet terminology is in French? You’re going to want to learn those terms. Great. Keep all of those corrections in mind while you execute a grande jete.
It’s one thing to learn the French terminology, remember the steps, and execute the technique, but to exemplify the composure and effortless execution that the professionals work so hard to achieve? It can feel like an unachievable feat at times, even to the most practiced dancers. Because of the balletic standards of mastering the impossible and defying gravity, we often leave class feeling exhausted and slightly insecure.
I recently took a ballet class taught by JOMDC’s Miya Hisaka, the founder of El Teatro de Danza Contemporanea de El Salvador. Miya’s class was not only engaging and challenging, but it also provided me with a list of ballet tips to keep in your dance bag:
1. Keep Water At The Barre. Having a water bottle with you in any dance class may seem like a no-brainer. After all, a dehydrated dancer is a tired dancer. But running to the side of the room to grab water can sometimes cause you to miss information from class, especially if your teacher moves through class quickly. It’s enough to make dancers skip over water breaks in order to get the most out of the ballet lesson.
But traditional ballet classes put you at an advantage; class begins at the ballet barre and you can keep water at a close, but safe distance away from your feet. This will help you stay hydrated without missing a beat! Great teachers like Miya will announce a water break before the second half of class.
2. Technique Comes Before Speed. When a ballet teacher gives you a lightning fast combination, it can be easy to throw your practiced form out of the window. However, most ballet teachers would prefer to see you demonstrate proper technique and end the combination slightly late rather than ending the combination on time with improper form.
Not only is the habit of choosing speed over form unnecessary, but improper technique over time can lead to injury. Executing a series of fast jumps without completely bringing your heels down repeatedly can lead to tendonitis. Proper technique is vital to executing gorgeous quick jumps and intricate beats.
During class, Miya loves to give students quick tendu and dégagé combinations; but she always reiterates how important it is to remember the technique by maintaining a pointed foot and still torso.
3. Keep Corrections In Mind. One of the corrections I ALWAYS receive in class is to pull my ribcage inward. Doing so can help you to maintain balance and posture by aligning with your center of gravity. However, I personally have the bad habit of taking this correction immediately, and then completely dropping it when the teacher changes combinations. This can be annoying to anyone looking to improve their dance skills.
It’s important to keep the corrections your teacher gives you in mind throughout class. I find it helpful to think about the corrections I received during the previous combination right before I begin the next sequence. Do you have trouble keeping your ribcage pulled in throughout class? Try coughing lightly before you begin a movement sequence; your ribcage will automatically pull inward and you can focus on keeping that form throughout the combo. Not to mention, one technique tip can be applicable to multiple combinations throughout the class. So remember to cough before each movement combination.
4. Focus On Having Fun! As I said earlier, ballet classes present dancers with much to think about at one time: corrections, form, performance quality, etc. But remember that dance classes should be fun! Miya constantly reminded us that, while our movements were technically correct, we could have a little more fun when we executed any movement. It always feels great to nail that pirouette, but having fun while dancing can boost your morale and ultimately improve your performance!