Teacher Talk: What makes a good adult ballet student (and what are our “pet peeves”)?
To understand what defines a “good” adult ballet student, we approached the skilled professionals that teach adult ballet students every day. Five of the Elancé Adult Ballet School staff graciously gave us an insight into what your ballet teachers truly appreciate, and what they don’t!
A good adult ballet student is one who is prepared for the class ahead. They arrive at the studio with plenty of time to warm up effectively, ensuring their body is ready for the technical challenges to come. They have taken time to get into the right headspace; they use their warm up time to let go of the day’s stresses, to reflect internally so they are physically and mentally prepared for the enchaînements. Pet peeves? A student who rushes into class at the last possible moment. They may risk injury from their lack of physical preparation and can’t achieve the optimal mental state until the barre work is nearly over. They do themselves a disservice and risk the ire of their teacher!
A good adult ballet student is one who you have been able to infect with your passion for ballet; not just someone who does the steps correctly, but someone who feels the music and the meaning in the movement. This sort of student then inspires the teacher to give even more of himself/herself in class, because they know it will be absorbed and thought about long after the class has finished. When you have been teaching for close on 50 years, you have seen probably millions of pliés and tendus. The inspired student brings something of themselves to each movement so it is always new, fresh and original. I would rather teach an inspired student, regardless of their technical ability, than someone who is technically superior, but dances without their heart. Pet peeves? Students asking a question that they would already know the answer to if they had been listening properly!
A good adult ballet student displays a readiness to work that translates into staying focused and alert for the duration of the class. Ballet is not only about using your body with expression, it must also be about thinking, creating mind-body connections and anticipating. This occurs within the enchaînements, but should also occur during the in-between moments in the class; in preparation for the enchaînement to begin, understanding the sequence and tempo, or when your teacher is giving you (or someone else) a correction. It drives me crazy when I have started the music and students aren’t ready! I expect all of my students to be ready when the music starts and to finish every enchaînement properly, regardless of what may have happened, to mark the sequence every time so they know what they are doing, and to listen and apply any correction that is given. This will help you to get the most out of your classes and to be the best dancer you can be.
A good adult ballet student is one who makes the most of every class and every correction. Regardless of whether a correction is given to the class as a whole, or individually to another student in the class, they try it themselves and work to apply the correction. They have the attitude of “even if I think I did it well, I can still benefit from practicing it”. This is the best way to continue developing and improving technique. Pet peeves? It has to be a student yawning in class. Whilst as teachers we understand that a student yawning does not (we hope!) mean they are bored, it is incredibly off-putting to have students yawning whilst looking at you without any attempt to hide it – and worse still, mid-exercise. A simple covering of the mouth or looking down/away would be appreciated – otherwise we may be tempted to start yawning back at you!
A good adult ballet student is not the person who has the best turn-out or the highest extensions. It is the person who is continuously engaged in the class, genuinely looks interested to be there and listens to all corrections. The student who will apply a correction even if it wasn’t directed entirely for them shows dedication to growth, improvement to their technique and will get the most out of the class. It certainly doesn’t hurt to smile your way through class either, even through the hard work! Pet peeves? It would have to be students leaning on the barre before grand allegro. Students must remember that they are not in their own living room and the poor barre is not there to hold them up! It’s not visually appealing, especially before the “grand finale” of the class!