So, what's been happening in the world of dance?
This month, I look at:-
October 4th was World Ballet Day, and to celebrate, ballet companies around the world were live-streaming behind the scenes footage of the day-to-day life of their dancers.
If you missed them, you'll find hours of the stuff up on YouTube – just search for World Ballet Day 2106 and you’ll be spoilt for choice – San Francisco Ballet, National Ballet of Canada, The Australian Ballet, Houston Ballet, Miami City Ballet, and Scottish Ballet to name a few.
The clip I’ve picked below is from The Royal Ballet, demonstrating a short barre exercise. Fancy joining in?
Boy, that turnout is something to aim for, isn't it?
I think this look is absolutely divine - sheer perfection. It's so theatrical, and yet somehow it's not too over-the-top.
The image was taken by another Royal Ballet dancer - Andrej Uspenski - who captured lots of the dancers back stage and in rehearsal in his book 'Dancers - behind the scenes with The Royal Ballet'.
The images are gorgeous and timeless.
If you can afford to treat yourself, get the hardcover edition; this is something that deserves to be viewed the way it was intended and not just on a digital device.
In this regular feature, I'll be choosing one topic for pupils and one for teachers on how to get the most from your first adult dance classes...
And this month, both tips are all around the subject of communication.
The single most important question to ask your teacher is what, exactly?
I think it’s fair to say that if you're thinking of signing up for adult beginner dance classes, you will get the most from the experience if you’re honest about what you know and what you don’t. Let me explain...
I’ve come across a few ex-pupils (and a few teachers, too) who have had a less-than-great experience of dance classes for adults. And a lot of the time, the fall-out seems to be around expectations. The pupils expect they know what to do, what to wear, how things are going to be. And the teacher expects the pupil to simply ‘know’ things without ever having taught them. Here’s a real scenario from an adult beginner ballet class that I was told about:
PUPIL: What shoes do I need for your class?
TEACHER: Ballet slippers are ideal. You can do the first class in socks if you want, but most of the pupils have ballet slippers.
That was the end of the conversation.
The pupil thinks she knows what ballet slippers are. The teacher thinks the pupil knows what she means by 'ballet slippers'. But here's where it all goes wrong...
The pupil goes out and buys a pair of pink satin ballet slippers and yards of ribbon. She proceeds to sew the ribbons on wrong and do them up wrong. However, in the pupil’s mind, she’s showing willing, and has turned up to her first lesson in what she believes you wear to ballet class. Bless her – 'A' for effort.
But the teacher thinks - 'F' for execution. She hates pink slippers that look so shoddy so quickly and worse, satin, which has all the staying power of ice cream in the oven. What she meant by ballet slippers was a black leather pair with elastic across the foot.
Just a little more communication would have solved this problem, right? And yes, if the teacher is adamant that there’s one type of slipper that's ideal – in this case, black leather – she should have told the pupil that. But, we’re all human, and teachers get a lot of calls at the beginning of term from people asking all sorts of questions, so it’s easy to sometimes forget to be specific. So, pupils, whenever you’re asking for information when signing up to classes, the most useful question to remember to ask is… “What do you mean by that?”.
Whether you’ve asked for information on shoes, clothes, fees, class content, whatever. Don’t make any assumptions about what the teacher is telling you and always ask for specifics. It can save an awful lot of heartache. And starting your dance classes full of confidence, knowing that you’re in the right gear and your expectations are accurate, makes the process so much more enjoyable.
How can you make the first five minutes of your class magical? It isn’t what you think.
This will sound mundane, but actually, secretly, your pupils will love you for it.
When you very first meet your pupils at the very first class of the semester or course, don’t lecture them from a mile away at the front of the studio. Get them to huddle around, really see you and get into your air space. Quietly and respectfully explain the studio works...
Do you allow people to bring in water bottles? Wear outdoor shoes? People to join the class if they've arrived late? People to watch if they want to bring someone with them? Car parking, changing rooms location, toilets location, keeping windows open or shut, moving portable barres, the format of the class, what you’ll include, “when I say this, this is what I mean”. Quickly run through all the 'admin' you can think of. Everything you know and take for granted. The boring stuff. Because trust me, it works wonders.
This little huddle at the beginning of the first class goes an incredibly long way to making your pupils feel cherished, respected and relaxed. They’ll view you as kind and approachable, and you’ll get so much more from them if they are comfortable in your presence. It’s a key factor in building a relationship that’ll keep them coming back each week. And they’ll dance all the more confidently for feeling like they are valued by their thoughtful teacher.
(And I should say at this point, that even if you publish all of this on a leaflet or on your website, bother to say it in person. It's not just useful information about how to find the toilet, or how to set up the studio; it's their chance to properly meet you up close and get to know you a little.)
So few teachers bother to do this. And worse – many don’t give orientation detail or even simple rules, but bark at people for getting things ‘wrong’. Pupils simply don't know your way of doing things if you don't tell them in the first place.
It’s such a simple, charming little thing to do (it only takes a minute or two) and believe me, when done well, makes for the best, most loyal class of adult beginners you’ll ever have.
It was a bunch of special offers on our own products, our dance class for adult beginners DVDs.
The offer has now expired (it was just for the month of November 2016). But fear not, we always have great offers for our Dancer's Diary readers, so look out for one soon, in a future edition.
My next diary entry will be the November one - just in time for Christmas.
So it'll be time to turn my attention to the best gifts for the dance lover in your life (or perhaps, what you'd like from Santa...).
I'll look at dance-themed Christmas decorations and food, and will give you a little insider information on the key dance performances so you can bluff your way through Nutcracker like a pro.
There will be more top tips for pupils and teachers in my 'How not to mess up your first dance class' series.
And I'll keep my ear out for the dance world gossip and news as usual.
Until then, happy dancing
On some of my diary pages, there will be featured items that you can buy. I do a lot of research into items to recommend - I don't just fling any old crap at my readers. The things I recommend are things I genuinely use, or can see that have been well-received by their target audience via reviews and feedback. When I post links to products, I generally try to find the product on Amazon for you, so you know you're dealing with a reputable supplier and that their customer service policies will cover you in case anything goes wrong, or you're unhappy for any reason.
If you follow a link that I've posted to products and do go on to buy something, Amazon pays me a tiny percentage of the profit of that sale. It helps to keep DanceClass.com free and keep me researching and writing about dance for adult beginners in a way that I hope you find useful and insightful. I think that's fair and hope you do too.