Got this question from a reader named Anna the other day, and as it is all about courage and secret tricks and correctness, I thought to myself, ‘Self, who do I know that is brave, tricky, smart’? And then I thought, ‘well, Batman isn’t here right now, so I’ll ask Gentle Reader!’
So I’m counting on you, Gentle Reader. Be a hero, help me help a ballet beginner.
…I’ve been taking ballet class once a week since March at my university sports centre here in [a mysterious location]. Sadly classes ended at the end of June.. The class was not the traditional kind of ballet (for some reason called ‘Release Ballet’, with mixed levels in one class), our teacher was very laid-back. No rules about outfit or hairstyle or anything else. The motto was more or less: just come to class and enjoy it. I learned a lot and it was fun at the same time (even though I felt like there were too few corrections).
Now I’m going to be on study exchange in [a different location of mystery] from September to June and am planning on taking another beginner’s class at the university sports centre there. I’ve contacted a girl who’s been taking the course last year (thank you facebook!) and asked her a few things, like if they require certain outfits etc. and it seems as if everyone there took classes wayyy more seriously than here. They all wear leotards and ballet tights, she said the teacher was “tough” and there’s even a performance at the end of the term.
So I’m a little anxious about that class now. Apart from the fact that it’s going to be ballet danish style and not the kind of I’m familiar with (actually our teacher never mentioned what kind of ballet she was teaching. And I never asked or researched it..ahem), I’ve never worn a leotard in class and I’m not familiar with all the possible faux-pas there are. I’m sure I’ll put my foot in it at every opportunity…
How did you learn about all the ballet do’s and don’ts, from choosing the right outfit/leotard to unspoken rules in class? How do you cope with nervosity (well, if you are nervous at all) before attending a new class in an unfamiliar environment?
Well, first off, Anna, it’s cute how you think I know all the ballet do’s and don’ts, cute but distant from the reality wherein yes, omg, the Adult Beginner has nervousity left and right.
But, I mean, really, Batman himself would be nervous when confronted with a new teacher and a barre-full of sleek-haired leotarded primas. Right? Batman is no fool!
But I’ve got some tricks-
Trick one: Get Dressed. And I’m talking full-on ballet gear. Black leotard, black shorts or skirt, pink tights, pink shoes, bun if you can. This does two important things: First, it’ll make you feel confident, you’ll look like a dancer in the mirror. Second, it marks you as a beginner to the rest of the class. This may sound like a bad thing, but it is very good. When your classmates see your brandspankingnew gear, they also see your enthusiasm and excitement and they’ll remember back when they were the same and it’ll warm their little perfection-obsessed hearts and bring a smile to their glowing red eyes. And they may be inspired to help you out a little in class.
Trick two: Be Observant.
Ok that’s not so much a trick as just a good life skill.
For example: there are a lot of people in class. The barre is crowded. How do you keep from kicking the people behind and in front of you with your glorious extension during grand battement? After fumbling this a few times I finally stopped, looked around, and noticed that the more experienced girls were angling their bodies toward the barre, so they kicked diagonally to the barre in front, and out diagonally to the back, thereby avoiding kicking classmates in the gut. Which I’ve done. Seriously, not even kidding. Talk about putting your foot in it.
(And then immediately apologized a whole lot)
Later I was watching The Red Shoes and thought ‘aha they do it too!’ during a rehearsal scene as they all angled in and out from an incredibly crowded barre.
Trick three: Read Up. Ballet is French French frenchity French French. No matter what style ballet. Luckily, french shares a lot of cognates with it’s other romance language brethren. And those cognates can help you figure out and remember the intent behind a move. For example, developé sounds like develop. Your leg unfurls slowly, it develops.
But it can be hard to catch all the words in class as a teacher is calling them out, so the more you read about ballet the more you can catch and recognize those words.
For example, recently, I figured out that when we cambré (bend) our bodies to the back in port de corp (carriage of the body) we are not going ‘Grand Versailles’, as in the palace where Marie Antoinette lived, which is what I’ve been picturing in my head all this time, we are going ‘renversé’, which just means reverse. Duh. It’s taken me over a year and a half to catch that one.
Trick four: don’t do what they tell public speakers- don’t picture them in their underwear. Probably just make you feel creeped out.
Anna, I think it was very smart of you to contact a student in your new class.
And I wish you the very best!
Gentle Reader, what do you do?
Are you nervous before a new class?
How do you handle it?
How did you learn the in&oits and avoid faux pas, which means false step in French?
Help Anna out, and me too, the Adult Beginner could always use some more tricks.