Maybe a traffic cop would be helpful. Like with white gloves and a whistle.

Help me out here:
I’ve been taking this ballet class lately, it’s a very small class, usually like four of us. We use a portable barre. People stand on both sides. All the people on the one side of the barre start each exercise facing the correct way, with their left hand on the barre working the right side of the body.
But then on the other side of the barre, there’s this one guy who is a regular and has apparently been with this class for a while, and he always stands facing the same direction as the people on the other side of the barre. So he starts each exercise with his right hand on the barre, working his left side.
This line-up means everyone is facing the teacher, who is standing off in that direction by the iPod dock, so it makes sense to face that way, it’s just that it is totally wrong! According to all that is holy in ballet! There is a longstanding tradition of craning your neck around backwards to see the teacher behind you while you keep you body square and start with your left hand on the barre!
However, starting on the wrong side is also a really difficult mental puzzle. My body fights it, which means the autopilot is totally off and every movement is being paid attention to way more than usual. So, it may be wrong but it’s probably beneficial. Maybe this dude is onto something.
This might be easier to understand visually, so I made some helpful diagrams:

This one showing who is actually correct (I’m at the top left looking correct but nonplussed)

And here we have who actually appears to be correct (note, not me)

And then finally we have what happens when we finish the first side and everyone turns around and suddenly I’m totally staring everyone in the face. And dégagé-ing at them.

I figure I have four options.
Option 1: Stand up for ballet tradition and insist on starting each exercise the normal way with my left hand on the barre, even though I will look like an idiot and cause chaos.
Option 2: Realize that maybe being harmonious is more important than being correct. Accept this as an interesting mental puzzle and learn from it.
Option 3: Sidestep the whole issue by standing on the other side of the barre from now on, as the other side always faces the correct direction.
Option 4: Get all passive-aggressive by stopping class to ask the teacher something lame like, “Um, maybe I’m confused but aren’t we supposed to start facing this way?” while knowing perfectly well that I am not confused but am a rule-obsessed ass.
I can tell you right now that I’m not taking Option 4.
Mainly because the wrong-way-dude has apparently never been corrected before, which means the teacher must be ok with it, and would probably just say something like we can face whichever way we feel comfortable, and then it would be official and out in the open that I’m a rule-obsessed ass.
Option 2 and 3 are what’s really going to happen.
Which option would you take, Gentle Reader? Am I crazy or is this weird?

About adultbeginner

Had my first ballet class Ever at the advanced age of thirty-two. Yikes.
This entry was posted in Technique and Class and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

55 Responses to Maybe a traffic cop would be helpful. Like with white gloves and a whistle.

  1. Option 3! If that side of the barre is taken then I’ll settle for option 1 – cause I’m stubborn, and it seems a little more passive-aggressive than option 4 (hence, totally my style!)
    For what it’s worth, for a few months I started out practicing with my right hand at the “barre” (at home), and I noticed that it totally did even out my “bad”side and now if anything my left side is stronger. Weird. But in class, I like it Traditional.

    • I like the idea of evening out the sides. I’ve heard of teachers who start across-the-floor combinations with the wrong side first, just because it really sets the combination in people’s memories.
      Lols on the “totally my style”.

  2. wedoballet says:

    Ugh. I get more than a little miffed when stuff like that isn’t at least mentioned by an instructor! Come on! Either SAY that you actually want everyone facing the same direction regardless of what side their on (whatever) or TEACH people what is expected in a ballet class. Homeboy’s gonna be embarrassed as all get out one of these days when he takes from another teacher and gets told “First side. No, other first side.” Or he won’t.

    Option 1… but maybe switch places, so you actually face him on the FIRST side, before the music begins. Maybe someone will try to correct you and you can set them straight!

    • I’m a little worried that I’ll be the one getting corrected someday by another teacher. I’m embarrassed as all get out just thinking about it.

      • It happened! Omg. I went to another class and totally stood the wrong way. So did my entire barre. Wasn’t too noticeable though? I think? It was just while the teacher was demonstrating and then she said “ok left hand on the barre” and we all got right, so it wasn’t totally awful, but I kind of can’t believe how quickly I lost the automatic-ness of left hand on the barre.

    We actually switch which side we start on every month. It is probably good for us, but no one likes “start with your right hand on the barre” months. No one.
    In your place think I would be lame and just follow the lead of the other person on my side of the barre. Or maybe I would say “does it matter which direction we are facing?” so it would sound less accusatory? I don’t know, keep us informed!

  4. Dancing Fly says:

    I happened to experience the same exact problem recently!
    I’ve taken Option 3 to make things easier for myself. Just go in earlier, shift the barres (it makes me appear very very helpful :) ), and plonk near whichever side you want to start off from to stretch!
    And I also pray fervently before each exercise that Teacher will choose the same side as me, and demonstrate the same working leg as I am using! That’s a lot of praying each class! haha

  5. Barbara says:

    Never heard of this. I was fortunate to begin ballet with a teacher who taught ballet barre etiquette. Never heard of it??? I wonder if there is such a thing any more? We were taught how to move on the barre if facing a mirror and she watched like a hawk every nuance in class not only sharing a barre but how to share a mirror etc. I would be so irate if a teacher did not even notice if someone was facing the wrong way unless special permission and even then it should be announced so everyone in the class is aware of it. Does this teacher make any corrections in class or is it like creative dance for children where everything you do is exclaimed….GOOOD!!! I hate those kind of classes.

    • Oooh, yeah, sharing a mirror is a biggie too. Not as common-sense-ical as one might think!
      This teacher does not give very many corrections, now that you mention it. In this class I’m more likely to get the occasional “nice” “lovely” “you’ve got it”, while constructive criticisms are given to the entire class, as in, “remember, we keep the upper body quiet, it doesn’t move with the legs here” leaving us (me) to know who needs to work on this (me). I love this class, but I do miss the individual corrections.
      It’s really interesting to see how, although ballet classes all work from the same material, the style of training and personality of the teacher can make each class worlds of different.

  6. Rori roars says:

    Oh man, AB, that would drive me nucking futs! I’ve seen this happen, but usually in a class with more students where wrong-way Sally (the legit wrong-way Sally, not the person who just appears to be wrong but is actually right) figures it out when we turn around to the other side and she’s suddenly face-to-face with the person behind her and gets all abashed. Or the teacher will just make some sort of statement before the exercise, “Everybody left hand on the barre, and…” In this case, I’d probably just try to get there early enough so that I know I’ll always be on the side to start with the left. Although… I don’t know how long I could keep that up while stifling the passive-aggression just dying to seep out of my mouth. Ugh… please be sure to update us on your decision! Enquiring minds and all…

    • There have been times in this particular class where there were more people, and we all went the right way…I guess when the class is so underpopulated it just doesn’t matter, as long as everybody does both sides. Maybe that’s what Wrong Way Sally and the teacher were thinking.
      Heh. Wrong Way Sally. That is totally that dude’s name forever now.

  7. Toni Jenkins says:

    Get thIs; OUR TEACHER WANTS US TO IT WRONG!!!!! It is so irritating but we always start the wrong way round. The others are apparently scared of standing by a mirror, so they stand on the other side of the studio. So we start on the Wrong Side so that we do start facing the front. It’s the dumbest thing and drives me quietly nuts. And before anyone suggests it, it’s the only adult ballet class in this one horse town, so I’m stuck.

  8. In my very casual class both sides of the barre all face the same direction – no-one cares. I have noticed that if we are pulling on the barre we will drag it down the floor as there is no-one pulling the opposite way :)

  9. Nadine says:

    Completely baffled as to why the TEACHER is not taking charge of this situation! Ridiculous! AB, you are right and the other dude is wrong. Can you possibly ask the teacher privately what you should do?

    • I’m coming around to the idea of asking, either in class or before.
      I can’t help but think the teacher is probably working under the assumption that we are all adults and as such are capable of speaking up, so, like, I should be an adult and do that. Sigh. Adulthood.

      • Nadine says:

        If the teacher is making that lazy-arse assumption then they are NOT doing their job! (Why yes, I am a teacher, however could you tell?)

  10. Katy says:

    Just embrace the Cecchetti method and pretend you’re on a right-side day!

    I did a workshop with a teacher who always started with the left leg in order to balance out all those times we rush reps and leave off the second side. (Drives me bonkers, I have to be even!)

  11. d1a2n3e4 says:

    Ah, yes; what a predicament. :(

    I thnk – if it were me – I would (as someone else suggested) ask the teacher, as non-judgementally as I can, what we should all be doing.

    In my own classes I have the students start with the right hand at the barre one week, then the left hand the other week. I also make sure that they are all starting that way; otherwise things like grands battements can end up with bloody noses. (or bruised thighs)

    It is surely good for the body and the brain to do things “the other way” now and then, if not regularly. Keeps the juices jangling, as they say, though it naturally takes some getting-used-to. :)

    • It’s amazing how much getting-used-to it takes! Makes me think of that left brain/right brain theory, (which I think has fallen out of favor? Maybe? Anyone know?) where the left hemisphere of the brain which controls the right side of the body is characterized as being logical, and the right brain which controls the left body is the creative side, so in the case of ballet you start with logic and finish with creativity.

  12. Rebecca says:

    In my youth I worked in a square studio with barres all around the walls, and we did indeed start with our left hands on the barre.
    Now I work in a very long narrow studio (I know, but it has an awesome floor) with portable barres up each side. We all start facing Madame, so half have left and half have right hands on the barre. She is FINE with this because of th elimitationand directs us using ‘barre leg’ and ‘working leg’ rather than left and right.

    Honestly, AB, I would go with option 2 and pretend you’re in a symmetrical balanced corps de ballet, but I am a scaredy chicken. Ask the teacher what she’d prefer.

  13. Rita says:

    In one class we all start facing the mirror, in the other class we start with the left hand on the barre, so looking in both directions. To be honest, I prefer starting with the right leg working, I think it’s easier…but I don’t really care to much, starting left is fine, too ;-)

  14. Was talking about this with my husband over dinner, and he was like, “Just ask the teacher. You want clarification, asking for clarification is not a confrontation. Questioning is not confrontation.”
    And I was like, “Yes but if I ask and the teacher goes with the all-face-the-same-direction method, then it’s permanent, it’s been said out loud in front of everyone by the teacher which makes it the Official Policy Set In Stone, and I don’t want that. As it is now, if more people show up for class and you’ve got a majority going the normal direction on the barre, everyone else follows along, but if it becomes the official policy then we’re stuck. Which is not bad exactly, I mean it is a good challenge, it’s just, well also I don’t want to be wrong, publicly. Like if I ask and the teacher doesn’t choose My Way, then I am publicly wrong.”
    And then we laughed at me.
    So maybe the bigger problem is that I need to Grow Up.
    Ballet, always bringing out the Bigger Issue.

  15. guyenne says:

    I’ve done #1, #3 and #4 at various points. I think it’s a terrible habit to get into and shows bad class manners to have people using different working sides without explicit exemption for injury/etc. Besides, students ought to be able to watch a demonstration on one side and be able to do it on the other without seeing it again – for advanced challenges, I’ve heard about teachers who demonstrate forward right and then make the students start by going backwards left. You’d turn around to watch the demo and mark along, and then flip back to start with the left hand on the barre if you needed to see and started out backwards to the teacher, anyway.

  16. JustScott says:

    “It’s left hand on the barre,” would be the correction from any of the teachers I take class from.
    Right-side first, then left. You face the same direction of the people on your side of the barre, or you would be corrected.
    They’re traditionalists. I am, too.
    “This is not modern, you just can’t do whatever you want,” words that were spoken by one of my teachers.

  17. Jessica says:

    This would make me insane and enraged. Because for me, the only option would be to face same direction as wrong-way dude, or be outed as the uptight rule-insister. Because if the teacher cared, then s/he would have corrected it. Teacher obvsly doesn’t care, so that means I care more, but I am the student and therefore need to get over myself. (Can you tell I’ve dealt with this in many other situations?? Not with barre yet, thank goodness.) My solution would be to get there way before wrong-way dude and make sure I am not on the same side of the barre as he is. Like, if I was first to get there and the second person to get there stood on other side of barre from me, I would switch to her side just to avoid the issue. Gah! Follow the rules, people! (Also, can’t help but notice the person facing wrong way is a man—wondering if there are power, entitlement issues at work here? Maybe?)

    • Yeah, it’s a hard dance. Care/not care. Be flexible / be right. The teacher is ok, I should be ok.
      It’s interesting about the man element of the situation. I almost left that out while I was writing this post, but I do wonder if I would’ve felt less conflicted or more conflicted or somehow differently conflicted about asking and possibly correcting a woman, and if it would’ve changed things if it was a younger woman or an older woman. I don’t know. I hope I don’t have to find out. Interesting though.

  18. asher says:

    I’d go with Option 2!

    I have a friend who does this from time to time to change things up. She is an awesome dancer, so maybe she’s on to something?

    I admit, the part of me the loves all Rules is like, “No! No! Never!” But it does keep the brain turning over, which is really important in ballet.

    When I’m on the same side of a portable barre as she is, I go along with her and it works.

  19. Olivia says:

    What if you try it wrong way first and then ask one of the dancers on the opposite side if you can trade places… like as in a planned caper of sorts. I’m thinking you could try it and do a move super awkwardly and then say “bummer, hey- would one of you switch with me? I can’t seem to get comfortable starting with the left”

  20. simple girl says:

    I do not know .. Option 3 seems easy …

  21. QMichelle says:

    In the studio where I dance, we also have movable barres and people stand either side, like you’ve drawn. In our intermediate class we all face the teacher, so some people start with their left hand and others with their right. In pointe class however, our teacher insist we all begin with the left hand on the barre, so yeah some of us have to crane our necks to see the instruction. Your teacher really ought to tell people which way she wants people to face. I think move to the side where people are doing it correctly.
    It is good to swap which sides you to start on though, as it does get the brain working. In graded class I always stand at the right side of the barre, and in intermediate and pointe class I always stand at the left side of the barre and now I’m comfortable with both.

  22. QMichelle says:

    And also, this man is causing chaos and is actually rather rude. He surely must realise he’s making it uncomfortable for the person who wishes to do it correctly but is stuck on the same side as him, ie you? Quite frankly, he’s being awkward. If it was me, I’d be on his side of the barre, doing it correctly so I tendu right into him and stare him right in the eyes while doing it!

  23. I went to an open class once at a fitness studio and the same thing happened to me. I was on the side that started with the right hand on the bar and it just felt wrong…I need rules!! I even felt weird when people turned away from the bar to change sides instead of turning toward the bar..

    Anyway, if I was you I would go with option 3 or 4. You better be quick with option 4 though! I feel like there is only a small window when you can ask “newcomer” questions and get away with it.

  24. Caitlyn says:

    I’d like to think I’d do Option #1, but I’d likely do Option #3, ha. It kind of ticks me off a bit that this guy is so stubborn that he doesn’t stop to think, hey, maybe I’m wrong. Or that maybe he should ask.

  25. Evie says:

    At my school it depends which studio you’re in which side you start on, our teacher organises class so newbies are on the longer barre that faces him for the start of each exercise and regulars are facing away on the shorter barre because there are less of us/we are expected understand the exercises (har har, I’ve been going for five years and am still doing the craning thing) so studio 1 is right hand first and studio 2 left hand first. (mirrors on every wall so no “starting facing the mirror” issues.) Personally I quite like mixing it up but then again I’m a leftie so right hand on the barre means i get to work my strong side first!

    That said when we use the portable barre we are expected to start left hand first so i would definitely clarify with the teacher what she prefers, perhaps privately before class starts since the guy might not know he’s wrong.

  26. amandakash says:

    So my class is like this. We have two portable barres and we alllll face the same direction when we start, which is watching the teacher. She straight up said, “if you are on the left side of the barre you will start using your left,” so I took that to mean we wouldn’t be using traditional ballet rules. I personally switch it up every once in a while. I’ve alwags stayed at the same barre but switched sides. Until recently with the return of Fancy Pants, who is my ballet class arch nemesis. I’ve moved to the other barre starting working on the right. Because I’m a child.

  27. Pingback: An update on the traffic cop situation | Adult Beginner

  28. Starting every exercise with left hand on the barre is not a rule, it’s a longstanding habit that deserves to be broken. Modern science dictates that technique is best served by switching it up. But teachers get to decide that. I usually like to have beginners always facing the mirror as the visual cues are helpful. That means they have to switch sides on the barre halfway through. (I wouldn’t do this with kids, however, they all have to start with the same hand on the barre – uniformity must be drilled into the young! – though some days it will be LH first, other days RH.)

    What IS a rule is “no two people facing each other at the barre.” That is just common sense for safety reasons, and also to prevent eye contact. There must never be eye contact (except in partnering class) because it is too distracting. Barre is for getting into the ballet zone, and there is only room for one person in your zone. Once you have eye contact you have non-verbal conversation, then all kinds of stuff starts happening… people start falling in love, or challenge each other to a duel, or try to one-up each other… and ballet takes a back seat.

    If the idea of making a delicate inquiry of the teacher freaks you out (though it shouldn’t), then the next time you find yourself stuck at the barre with wrong-way-dude, go stand behind him and face the same direction. Make him your comrade. Not your enemy.

  29. amandakash says:

    So I thought about this post last week when I bucked the system and decided to turn around so I could start with my left hand on the barre. Luckily I was the only one on my side, but I was also the only one facing that direction so I felt even weirder than if I had started with my right hand on the barre. But like any other stubborn adult I stuck it out.

    • Good for you! Stubborn adults 4-ever.
      The other day I accidentally faced the wrong way on the side of the barre that always faces the right way, and got corrected! Lolz and face-palms 4-ever!

Leave a Reply to QMichelle Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s