Being late is sometimes unavoidable – bad traffic, getting lost… sometimes things just happen! In most aspects of life a quick apology and slinking into your seat is enough, but… not so for ballet! Read on so you know what to do if the clock has raced away on you!
Ballet class is not like a meeting, or a social game where you can just join in and be brought up to speed. The careful structure of the ballet class is designed to use each part of your body in a sequential order, building in a proper warm up with strength and articulation, until you are leaping across the studio in your grand allegro. Even arriving five minutes late puts you at a disadvantage and risk of injury. Without your pliés how can you jump effectively?
More than five minutes late requires a rethink. It’s likely that your teacher will not allow you to join the class. You can still turn up, but be prepared (and not offended) if you are refused, though consider staying to watch the class. Your time has been allocated anyway and there are many benefits of watching – you will see what the teacher sees, and you can observe how a correction improves technique. You will also have the wonderful opportunity to notice the beauty in other people’s dancing.
Before stepping onto the tarkett or studio floor you must touch base with your teacher. An apology is always necessary as it is disruptive to the train of thought of both your teacher and fellow students. If your teacher has given you the go ahead to join class, you must organise yourself quickly. This is not the time to dilly-dally with putting on those shoes! If your teacher hasn’t told you when to join the class, don’t assume that you can just enter the studio straight away and take any barre spot that looks good. You must wait for a suitable break between enchaînements for the teacher to place you on the barre. Whilst you are waiting you should be moving your body – a quick jog on the spot to increase your blood flow, followed by some pliés and rises is a good way to start.
Your placement on the barre is not open for discussion! You must stand where placed, and remember to turn up on time for your next class if you don’t like where you are standing! If you were a student at the Paris Opera Ballet School you would be expected to curtsey not only to your teacher for your tardiness, but also to your fellow students next to you on the barre for your disruption and for displacing them!
If you are late more often than not it might be time to reassess the starting time of your ballet class. Would a different timeslot be better (and less stressful)? Coming straight from work can have its challenges if the timing is too close. Traffic or public transport can be an issue and if you are changing at the studio, time must be factored for that as well. I
f you’re not coming from another commitment, consider leaving at an earlier time. Most professional dancers arrive for class with at least half an hour up their sleeve – anything less would be considered late. For the adult ballet student, arriving at the studio with fifteen or twenty minutes to spare is perfect. This gives you time to warm up and place yourself in a good headspace to get the most out of your class. If this sounds unattainable think about changing your schedule. Your ballet class is fantastic ‘you’ time, but it’s incredibly difficult to settle if you haven’t been able to shake off the stress of being late.
Ballet often seems draconian in its expectations and discipline, however its endurance through the centuries is testament to these rules and structures. Common sense for the health of your body, and courtesy for those you are working with should prevail when running late. And, if all else fails? Set your watch five minutes earlier!