Sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name, and then there’s other times.

Went to ballet at Millennium Dance Complex the other day. It was my first class after about a month off, and I went to Millennium because I needed a ballet class that is the exact opposite of Cheers.
Know what I mean?
Sometimes I want to go where Nobody knows my name, and they couldn’t give less of a damn if I came. So far the only place I’ve found that’s crowded enough to give me that level of anonymity is Millennium.
Still got a couple corrections though, because that Kana is totally looking out for everybody in the room, not just the good ones or the regular ones. I pretty much heart her.
Anyway, when I’m in a new class and especially when it’s above my level AB review of Millennium here, I pick someone to follow.
My criteria for choosing someone to follow is 1) they appear to know what the hell they are doing.
Most ballet classes in LA are small, which means it’s obvious who I’m going to follow because it’ll be the one person who knows what the hell she or he is doing.
Like I said though, Millennium classes are crowded, and mostly everyone knows what the hell they are doing, but this time I noticed something interesting:
Knowing the barre exercises, the correct order and all that, and doing things correctly, doesn’t necessarily make you easy to follow.
I noticed this because on the first side of each barre exercise I had a choice of several girls to follow. There was Beautiful Feet, Serious Face, and Socks. All three of them were impossible to follow. Very beautiful movements, extension, precision, doing things correctly and on the music, but somehow, I don’t know, they were just no help.
I know I know, they’re not there to help. I should be listening and remembering and marking and not relying on others. I know. And I was listening and marking! But, you know, I just wanted a little guidance ok?
But on the other side of each exercise, there was this guy with one pant leg rolled up, let’s just call him LLCoolJ, and he was an excellent leader. Everything he did was broadcast in a way that made it clear what we were doing next.
I don’t know what it was. I don’t think he was making larger gestures, I don’t think he was going slower or lower or higher or really anything different, he was just a better broadcaster is all I can think to describe it.
Have you encountered this? It blew my mind a little, like whoa, it’s not just a matter of not screwing up.
I took a tribal belly dance class a couple times a while back, and in tribal they do a lot of unspoken leading and following, but they teach the leaders to give certain signals, like clear preparations and sometimes even eye contact and a wink or something to say, “Hey Ladies! Shimmy left, now!”
This dude was definitely not winking or anything though. Hmm.
Anyway. I only stayed for barre. Good ease back into ballet, and next class was back to Cheers.

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About adultbeginner

Had my first ballet class Ever at the advanced age of thirty-two. Yikes.
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23 Responses to Sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name, and then there’s other times.

  1. Christina says:

    This might sound a little silly, but as a primarily tribal bellydancer, I appreciate this post even more than usual. …which is a lot. :-) Hurrah for clear leading and non-verbal cues!

  2. wedoballet says:

    I try to dance more clearly if I know someone is following me (Usually LadyM tells new people who to follow near them). Kind of like when you’re driving… maintain the speed limit, use turn signals, all that… But I’ve always found it really difficult to follow anyone else while I’m dancing (I’m not a great visual processor, so that’s probably a big part of it).

    • Ballet is surprisingly good for figuring out what kind of learner you are, huh. It’s interesting to see how some people need to say a combination out loud, some people need to watch and follow, some people are helped by marking, some people are helped by writing things down after class, all to get to the same end result of moving the body in a certain way.

      • Old Faun says:

        Hi there
        I see a problem with a not visual learner when going to contemporary – there is no real description of steps anymore.
        Or a move I would describe like “Make a kind of sutu turn, but hold it back a little first, and then make it look you are kicking yourself and a little bit stumbling and catching yourself again” – and followed by the next strange move. I think the only chance to get it is visual, but I’m not good at it, since there are only 3(on some days only 2) brain cells reserved on storing choreographic information.
        But I don’t want to miss contemporary, in addition to ballet.

        • What a great description though! I bet the real name for that move is not nearly as entertaining.

          • Old Faun says:

            Hi,

            This turn has no real name – it was a modern choreography (2 months old at the time of the workshop) and full of something like this, invented and modified to fit in the piece. Some parts where discribed like this, when looking wasn’t enough. It’s a great workshop here, they take parts of the real choreography that are danceable by “normal people”, and lots of impros on the motives. The real piece looks like this (a teaser):

            The moves are often somewhat from ballet (so all these hours help a lot), but not one move is exactly ballet, some slacking here, strange arms there, or diving on the floor.

            Sometimes the teacher cries: “I don’t want to see any pointed feet now! No smooth moving! We have a fighting scene, no one fights with pointed feet!”.

            Oh, and we have lots of fun at this workshop :).

      • Kiralia says:

        Yes. I need numbers. 4 this followed By 3 of those and then 1 big thingy. And the same starting from the back. I can addapt somewhat to visual, but with numbers I remember better.

  3. Trippmadam says:

    Sometimes, I want to stand in the back row, just learning and trying new things. Being a cipher in a big class. But that’s not how things work with El Maestro. There is no such thing as hiding out in his classes. So, even if I am tired or sick, he wants me to “perform”. And he wants me in the front row.

    Also, I am not good at leading others. In class, I am shy and I hate being the center of attention. When I feel watched, I tend to dance smaller. (O.k. improvisation exercises are different, but then improvisation is one of the few things I am good at.)

  4. Carla Escoda says:

    Often what makes a good leader in ballet class, especially at the barre, is their timing – usually a hair ahead of the beat. Which means others can follow them and still be on the beat. Seasoned dancers can play around with tempi and phrasing, within a musically acceptable range of course. Sometimes in class you stretch a movement out a bit because you’re working on something in particular (turnout / elevation / controlling your demi-plié / whatever). That will make you a poor leader, at least for that combination.

  5. asher says:

    Really interesting observations going on here … Man, I would love to study this (in an academic sense)!

    Even outside of ballet, I notice that some people “telegraph” their upcoming movements more than others. Boxes (and other martial artists) and ball players spend time learning not to do this. The funny part is, I catch it, too, but can’t explain what’s happening either.

    I think Carla Escoda is on to something. When we were doing a mirroring-based freeform movement warm-up at the introductory Intensive I took part in at the American Dance Therapy Association conference, I found some people much easier to follow than others. I couldn’t quite figure out why at the time, but maybe their movements were more clearly connected to the pulse of the music. Clarity of movement probably helps, too, but it sounds like that’s not the whole equation.

    I’m going to have to watch for this next time I’m in the Beginner/Intermediate class (which will be Monday, probably). I think that figuring out what makes one’s movement easy to follow and then learning how to apply it to my own dancing will make this summer’s choreography project much better.

    • asher says:

      Argh. *Boxers and ball players, lol

    • Oh that’s interesting about boxers etc having to train themselves out of telegraphing. Makes sense.
      It is pretty magical when you see a dancer whip out a pirouette, like Whoa! Where did that come from! instead of that sometimes overlong pirouette prep of fourth-position-feet-get-arms-ready-serious-face that tells everyone in a three county radius that A PIROUETTE IS COMING.
      Reminds me of that one Discount Dance advertisement from a few years ago with Ashley Bouder and TWitch Boss, and how I was fascinated watching it, because I couldn’t read any of his preparations, because I haven’t studied that dance style at all. I mean other than watching on the teevee. Everything she does in that ad is lovely and saucy and fun, but everything he does is like Whoa Dude, What???

      • asher says:

        Love your description of the pirouette prep Telegraph! That’s spot on, and likewise the magic of the unexpected turn.
        I am going to have to see if I can find that DD ad on the Tubes! I wonder if that’s part of what makes watching different dance styles such an oddly compelling thing?

  6. Rebecca says:

    Glad I’m not the only one who finds this. I am an inveterate follower, especially for new enchainements in the centre. Barre is usually ok as the beat of the music is so defined it’s easy to make up the little songs (and FRONT close and BACK close and FIRST FIRST FIRST hold…) that, thanks to Madame and many years of music training, are my go-to method for remembering choreography.
    In the centre you’re right – some people do telegraph their intentions better. Tall Girl always does a big lead-in – breathing in, preparing arm – a fraction before the beat, so she is a good bet to follow. She also has a certain footwork emphasis that says ‘look at this little coupe before the chassee hop chassee’, whereas Blonde Girl’s version of the same movement focuses on the direction and intention: ‘I am gazing toward the left corner; now I am moving toward it’.

    Actually between them they cover most bases and I am jolly lucky to be in the row behind them. I only hope I am as much use to the girls behind me – probably not…

  7. Pingback: Braving the storm… | we.do.ballet

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