Ballet Teacher vs Ballet West

So we’re all at the barre, we’ve just finished pliés, and Smirnoff stops the music to correct us all on our arms.
He’s all, “My Dears! You must keep the arms soft! Look to the hand when you bring it out to second position, do not let it go alone! Then look away when you bring it to first position, and again look to the hand when you open to second! With the chin up! Very proud! Yes!”
And then he says, “There is a program on the television now, about a ballet company, oh it’s is the worst program, just terrible. So much talking! Talking all the time! But I watch for the moments when they show the barre.”
We all perk up because we know he’s ripping on Breaking Pointe.
He goes on, “It is provincial!”
(Oh snap, he just dropped the P word)
“They just stick their arms out to second! Plop! And they stare forwards! Terrible! It mustn’t be.”
Then he gets ready to hit play on the boom box but pauses and adds,
“But I watch. Because, well, it is ballet. And maybe by some miracle someone will do a double-tour without falling on his face. Yes! There was one young man trying for double-tours, he tried one, two, three times always falling down! Terrible! Why, I was doing double-tours when I was nine years old! (Shakes head) Ladies, lets get to work.”
I’ve never actually watched Breaking Pointe-
I know, I know, but to use one of my favorite British-isms, I just can’t be arsed to program the TiVo.
Arsed, hee hee.
– so I can’t confirm or defend the use of arms and double tours at Ballet West, but I have often found myself in other non-Smirnoff ballet classes wondering at the lack of arms and lack of corrections involving arms, and wondering if this is a Vaganova thing or a Smirnoff thing.
One of these days I’ll have to take a Vaganova class from another teacher, for research.


About adultbeginner

Had my first ballet class Ever at the advanced age of thirty-two. Yikes.
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18 Responses to Ballet Teacher vs Ballet West

  1. loveballet89 says:

    Oh trust me, it’s not a Vaganova thing. My regular teachers are a blend of Balanchine, Cecchetti and Vaganova. This old adult dancer gets fussed at for staring straight and not using proper arms all the time (not to mention the shape of the feet!).

  2. Stacy says:

    You can watch episodes online on CW’s website! It is a lot of talking though.. I watch it for the few minutes of dancing <3 I'm excited for the NYCB AOL series coming out in September. Hopefully, that'll have more dancing..!

  3. The Dancing Rider says:

    I’m still in the “your shoulders should not be at your ears”, and my friend is in “relax, your hands are claws” phase. Also awaiting NYCB series which I hope to see via streaming eps on computer. BP is fun for any practice and dance scenes. I could do without the rest, save the artistic director they brought in this season from I think Royal Ballet – she is awesome. Down to how to hold the fingers even in certain moves.

  4. Carla Escoda says:

    I think you may want to blame Mr. Balanchine for this, which is more of a wiping out of épaulement than actual arms (the arms are still moving, it seems to be the lack of accompanying head and shoulders action that Smirnoff is mourning). Here is a scholarly, and hilarious, diatribe on the subject that I reread every time I am depressed. About anything.

    • Paulina says:

      Thanks for the link, Carla. That was interesting.

    • This is great, thanks for the link!
      And yeah, I think that’s it exactly, it’s not the Arms so much as the gaze, the inclination of the head, peeking under the arm, peering over a precipice, looking down to your hands and then out to the audience, all that stuff I tend to bundle into “arms” in my head but would be more accurate to call épaulement.

  5. daarla says:

    Watch it on Hulu or on the CW website. I don’t mind all the talking–for every “omg they are so talented and I’m not” thought, there’s an “omg they’re so young and stupid and I’m so not” realization. Kind of a nice counterbalance.

  6. I’m an easy arse-r. Anything ballet I will TRY to watch.
    Arms… *shudder*. It makes me mad to think about them. I have feety things to do, I CAN’T DO ARMS TOO! ><

  7. J says:

    I am not a ballet dancer. I do watch BP, and am annoyed at all of the talking and wish for more dancing. I am particularly annoyed with one flamboyant person who is messing with other people’s private lives. He needs a good lecture about his behavior and then get fired from BW2.

  8. Zebra says:

    LOTS of schools of ballet have Rules about Using Your Head With Your Hands. All my teachers are really hot on it – though all have different ideas about exactly WHAT you should be doing with your head with various things. Fluidity of the arms is also considered superimportant – you might be asked for a swift &/or staccato port de bras, but it has to be part of what your whole body’s doing…

    Love the idea of Smirnoff watching Breaking Pointe though. Am imagining him writing Angry Letters to the TV company – and maybe the ballet company too, for that matter – to tell them how they are Doing It Wrong…

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