You know what I’ve been wondering: Do ballet teachers take into account a student’s level when giving corrections or do they mostly give out corrections based on what they are currently seeing in front of them that just looks wrong (or at least like it needs some improvement?
I guess I started thinking about it after my last class when there were two brand-new-to-ballet students. Watching them reminded me of my first few weeks taking classes a year and a half ago when I had no idea how to do anything. I wasn’t really at a level where I would have been able to apply a subtle correction about my hands, for example, while I was having enough trouble figuring out how to stay upright.
I really wish I had kept track of all the corrections that I received my first semester taking ballet. Unfortunately, it didn’t occur to me until I had been doing ballet for a few months to write down corrections. So much wasted learning potential!
The way I see it, and this could be completely wrong, there are different types of corrections. There’s the ones where you’re doing the move wrong because you aren’t physically strong enough to do it – for example, like pointing your feet all the way when you are just starting out. These corrections are nice because they are inspiring in a way, like “You think I could actually pull that off one day?!” It kind of feels good if the teacher has more faith in my abilities than I do. At the same time, those corrections can’t really be applied that day so it’s kind of a thing to work on over time, a long term goal.
The other kind of corrections – my favorite – are the kind that you can apply right then and there and it is such an immediate change that you wonder “How could I have ever thought I was doing it right before?!” These are my favorite because I love seeing drastic improvements in my dancing (if I could call it that) and, since I can physically pull them off right then it’s not a long-term goal but instant gratification.
During my time dancing, I’ve received three of these awesome corrections (that specially stick out in my mind) that have made a huge immediate improvement:
1) During my first semester taking ballet, when we would rise up to releve sous-sus I could never find my balance, not even for a second. It wasn’t until one day the teacher came over and pushed my front foot a couple inches to the side (and closer to the back foot) that I realized what I had been doing wrong: Since we were starting from third position instead of fifth my feet had been too far away even after bringing them closer to each other, preventing me from making a stable base. After she moved my foot I was able to balance for the first time ever, at least for a couple seconds. It was such a breakthrough for me!
2) A few months ago, the teacher was going over coupe, passe and developpe, explaining the basic mechanics of it to the newer students. Since I had already technically learned those moves, been practicing them, and had become comfortable with the motions I thought that I had been doing then correctly. But then she grabbed my ankle and pulled it away from my supportive leg and I realized that my foot had been sickling. I’m really glad she was a hands-on teacher because – having already been corrected on that before – I’m pretty sure that a verbal correction on that wouldn’t have registered; it’s like I had to experience the feeling for myself to understand.
3) Just this past class, during barre exercises we were doing a lot of taking both hands off the barre and balancing. I was doing ok, a little bit of wobbling but waaaay better than how unstable my balance used to feel. She came over and said that my arms in middle fifth should be a bit higher, almost at bust level, and it will keep me from falling backwards. Well, I’m thinking “Backwards? I’m more concerned about falling forwards!” but I raised my arms a bit anyway as she said. Holy crap, the shift in my balance was insane! Now, a couple days later, I’m loving the improvement in the balance. And the weird thing about balance (and other ballet-related things) for me is that once I manage to do it the first time and I guess prove to myself that I can do it, it becomes easier like unlocking a skill.
I look forward to more future corrections and improvement!