Friday, April 10, 2015

Levels

Class levels in New York City are strange.  They vary wildly from school to school, teacher to teacher, even class to class.

My musings as to why:

-There are a billion choices of levels.  The studio I go to most regularly has four level of beginner (intro, basic beginner, beginner, advanced).  They recommend a minimum of 4-6 years of training to take advanced beginner.  What does beginner even mean in this case?!

-We have a lot of expro/pro/prepro dancers in this city.  And they all take class.  Lots of students follow teachers, rather than paying attention to level, so you wind up with a wide range of abilities in one room.

-The above would not be so confusing if teachers taught to the average student in the room or advertised level of the class, rather than to the best.

So, below is an updated summary of the classes I've taken for my Dance Intensive Month since my last entry.  Note that every single one of the open classes I took is billed as an Intro class.  People sometimes are surprised I take intro level classes, but perhaps you can see why I do from this list.

Day 4 was yoga and then all day at Other Movement.  I really needed the yoga, my hamstrings are getting kind of tight, which I have never experienced before.

Day 5 was off for Easter.

Day 6 was my regular Monday class.  My favorite class, and one that prompted me to think about levels.  Our teacher talked about how she has been pushing us to progress, and that she didn't want us to get stuck at this level.  It's rare to get a teacher that actually cares about this in open classes, and probably why I like the class so much.  And so she continues to throw things at us.  For example, using the inside leg at the bar more and other weight transfers.  Adding piqués (the tap kind not the step kind) to our double frappé.  Adding épaulement, using directions in centre.  We also worked on glissade, because apparently they are one of the keys to clean petit allegro.  Bah, I hate petit allegro.

I think of this class as my level.  There was one newbie there who may have had a harder time, but to be fair if there are a lot of newbies, the teacher does take it down a notch.

Day 7 was class at Big Name Dance Center that is more known for modern.  I felt like taking ballet though and this was a good time slot for me.  This class was super basic and I didn't like it, but not because of that.  I never think it is a bad thing to take a very basic class and brush up on fundamentals; it is ridiculous to ever think you are "too good" for a class.  That's the whole ballet thing right?  Even the most basic thing can always be better.  Also, with my training more frequently this month, it's not bad to have a more basic class as a break to prevent injury.

I didn't like this class because it had too much non-ballet stuff in it.  There was this whole yoga/Pilates like warmup on the floor.  There were core conditioning exercises.  There was stretching.  The barre and centre were basic, but I enjoyed the things that were actually ballet.  She also gave room to just improv whatever in centre, because dancing is supposed to be fun.

The thing is, I get the teacher's point.  How can you teach ballet without the students having some degree of body awareness?  How can you get them to strengthen and stretch the things they need to in order to do ballet?  While still having fun.  I guess for me, I do a lot of dedicated conditioning and flexibility for Other Movement because it is absolutely necessary at the level I train.  So when I go to ballet, I WANT TO DO BALLET.

Day 8 was split private with FBT (Friend Ballet Teacher).  I sometimes wish I could have more individual privates with FBT, because my friend I split with is more advanced than me, and sometimes the private gets taught at that level when we are on flat.  Pointe is the great equalizer here though, and obviously I get a lot of individual attention.

I had a hard time getting forward enough this day, and balancing was hard.  On pointe we did our usual relevé exercises, échappé and piqué at the barre.  In centre we did bourrées with a retiré to passé balance en pointe, reverse.  At first I could not get the balance, but then I got forward enough and it worked.  I have a video of it which is pretty cool!  Then sous-sus balance at the end.  Am I the only one who thinks sous-sus balances are the easiest of all the balances?  Apparently this is weird, but for me, there is only one place to go.  I automatically pull up.   Balancing in second is the hardest for me.  We also did boat pas-de-bourrées en pointe, which I got the hang of this time!  I think boat is a French school term.  It's where you brush the free foot out to extend the leg on the third step of the pas-de-bourrée.

Day 9.  Here is a prime example of levels being meaningless.  Remember how on Day 2 I took a fairly basic class and felt very good about it?  Well I took the class yesterday and it was not the same at all!  This class was very much at my level, not impossibly hard but hard enough to be challenging.  I loved it.

She did a lot of stuff from plié and then extending one leg into tendu (keeping the other straight).  For example, we did plié, tendu one leg, bring the leg in while straightening the standing leg going to sous-sus.  Hardcore glutes and inner thighs.  I think she did this because we wound up working on our assemblé at the barre, which requires a lot of single leg strength.  The thing that stood out in centre was working on soutenu turns.  I feel like I did pretty well on these, despite not being a very good turner.  It went, plié, tendu one leg, step to sous-sus, soutenu turn, three dégagés closing back.

I got complimented on my back holding my arms properly, and corrected on not holding my turnout sometimes to the back and in my changement.

OKAY ALL CAUGHT UP.  SORRY FOR THE SUPER LONG POST.

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