Here we continue our guide to adult Ballet Classes with valuable notes and information on dancing in the center of the studio. But first a few notes about Ballet class music.
Once your Ballet teacher has carefully explained a move to you and got you to practise it a few times, the movements will then be done to music.
Now music is very much a matter of personal taste. And there is no doubt that some of the most beautiful music ever written is meant to be danced to. But that's Ballet performances. Some of the music that Ballet classes are set to can be awful. Plodding, heavy piano marches that wouldn't be out of place at a funeral. Oh dear.
Just allow yourself a little smile and carry on regardless. You might be lucky – there are many Ballet teachers out there who manage to choose beautiful music for their lessons. But you deserve a warning just in case the first thing you hear in your lesson is something that the Munster's might like.
Your barre exercises will increase in difficulty and energy until you've had a go at the grande battement - a really fun and energetic 'kick' action that you practise on the barre.
You'll then clear away the barres (if you are using portable ones and they are in the middle of the room) and will all come to stand nearer the center of the room, away from the walls.
You'll usually hear the teacher say "come into the center" or "everybody into the center". They don't actually mean that you stand dead center in the room, in a huddle. They just mean step away from the walls and barres so that you have free space around you.
Here, again, make sure you position yourself where you can clearly see the teacher.
This is the point when the newbies generally stampede for the back of the class. But the chances of getting the moves wrong from the back are way higher than if you stand closer to the teacher, so take a risk and go for a spot in the front.
A good teacher should move around the room and feel like they are instructing everyone not just the ones at the front, but this doesn't always happen. Different teachers have different styles, as you'll see in the teacher section, and some always simply teach from the front.
Please be brave. You will learn so much faster and become a much more proficient dancer if you take a place near to the front of the class. That way, you can clearly see the teacher and the teacher can clearly see you.
As said before, different teachers have different styles. You'll probably all be facing the mirror, and your teacher may teach you by also facing the mirror, so you simply copy exactly what they are demonstrating. However, most Ballet teachers instruct their classes by facing you – this is the more traditional way to teach Ballet. In this case, they will instruct you by getting you to mirror the moves they make. It's actually quite an easy thing to do once you get used to it - it may not sound it but mirroring someone seems quite instinctive for most people - and probably you too.
Unlike being on the barre, you won't be turning around to face the back of the class during this section - you do the whole of the center bit of Ballet classes facing the front.
Your teacher will then take you through a series of exercises. Some of these may be rather like what you did on the barre, only now you don't have its support so you will need to be thinking more about your posture and balance.
It's also in the center section of the class that you may encounter the dreaded traveling step. We say dreaded; there's nothing wrong with dancing traveling steps as such. But as a complete newbie, there is something wrong with having to dance a step one-by-one across the whole length of the studio with the rest of the class watching. Yikes. Scary.
Yes, sadly it's when you do the center portion of your Ballet class that some teachers split the class up to get them to perform some steps individually or in very small groups.
This is terrible. It is the single biggest cause of class drop-out rates we've ever seen.
Take a class of complete beginners. Teach them a few steps and then get them to dance them one at a time whilst the rest of the class watches. This is an absolutely brilliant strategy for the teacher to use if they never want to see any of the pupils again. Because very, very few will ever return for that kind of humiliation.
A clever, gifted teacher (such as ours) is experienced and capable enough to choreograph the steps so that even the ones that are supposed to travel or take up a lot of room (the prime reason for teachers to split up a class "there's not enough space for everyone to do this together") are easily adapted to be danced in a small space so that the whole class can practise them together.
If the idea of dancing the steps you've learnt in front of the whole class makes you shudder, please remember to ask the question of the dance teacher before you sign up to their class; "Do you split the class so that we dance in front of each other at all?". It's worth finding out what you are letting yourself in for before you go. And yes, there are a lot of excuses that teachers give for spliting a class like this. But that's all they are - excuses. They are not valid reasons. And if good teachers can organize a class so that all the pupils always dance together (certainly whilst they are still new and not yet confident), then all teachers ought to be able to do this.
There's more on the subject in our dance tips section.
The only way that spliting Ballet classes is ever acceptable is to do
women's and men's steps separately. But even then, this should be done sympathetically
by the teacher, with everyone standing facing the front and the women
and men taking turns at doing a step in their place (rather than being
made to do it with everyone else standing around watching). The clip above shows it is possible to split the class gently without causing any
embarrassment to anyone. See that teachers? It is possible - no so
Lecture over! Hopefully, you'll be in a wonderful class with a supportive and caring teacher who would never dream of making you 'perform' for the rest of the class. So you'll greatly enjoy your dancing in the center of the room and learn beautiful movments and a little routine all whilst getting a fabulous workout.
Once your session has nearly ended, some teachers may take you through a Cool Down others won't – it varies. But all should take you through a 'Reverence', which is the Ballet class equivalent of the Ballet performance's curtsey.
The reverence is to be reverent to your teacher - to thank them - and involves a very simple stretching bow. A quick round of applause with your fellow Ballet class-mates and you're done.
You made it!
Now it's time to pick up a few etiquette tips so you can feel like a real dancer...