The truth about ballet etiquette 

Dude, I witnessed some super bad behavior the other day.
Here’s what happened:
Big big studio. Not my regular ballet class. One of those places where you get to class and there are like fifteen barres already set up and arranged throughout the room.
This particular day was a holiday, so instead of tons of people warming up and laying all over the floor stretching out, there were only ten of us spread out over the usual fifteen barres, and a couple here and there had paired up on the same barre for chatting purposes, leaving the rest of us with our own nice open barres plus several complete empties.
So: Lots Of Avaliable Barre-Space. Tons. Spaces close to the mirror, spaces far away from the mirror. Spaces in profile to the mirror, spaces en face. Spaces close to the teacher, spaces far away. Near the speakers, away from the speakers. Near the door, away from the door. Whatever your preference for barre spot, it was open.
So class is about to start, the teacher is over by the ipod dock, starting up some kinda ambient warm-up music, and this woman walks in and goes to the stack of extra barres piled up against the wall, disentangles one, and drags it to the center of the room.
The teacher calls out, “Oh honey, the barre can’t go there, there won’t be enough room for the people over there.”
And the barre-pulling lady stiffens up and frowns and shouts, “You! Should speak to me with more respect!”
And then storms out!
And all of us are like, “uh, whut?” and the teacher is like, “Was that my bad?” and we are all like, “No way man, that was nuts, there are all these empty barres, why’s she trying to pull out another one, plus you’re the teacher, she should be respectful to you is what, right?”
So two people clear away the offending barre while the teacher, looking a little shaken, goes out to the front desk to let them know what happened and comes back ready to get on with teaching, and we all start class.
And it got me thinking about ballet class etiquette.
Beginners worry about ballet ettiquette. I worried. I still sometimes worry five years in.
As a beginner you have the vague sense that ballet is full of old traditions, it came from the courts of France, it’s hierarchical, it’s full of manners, there are a lot of unspoken rules. Not knowing all the rules can be kinda paralyzing and fill you with fear like how can you avoid crossing a line if all of these rules are antique and mysterious and unwritten.
You can read up on ballet etiquette, and that is good, there’s a lot of good info here for one.
But at the heart of it, this is what ballet etiquette comes down to:
Try and don’t be an asshole
Just like in real life.
For example:
Don’t yell at your teacher.
I mean duh.
Just like how you wouldn’t yell at your teacher in any class.
And about where to stand:
Beginners worry about where to stand, but really, just find an empty space at the barre and get in it. It’s that simple. If you are worried, ask if the spot is taken.
Maybe they’ll say, “well, usually so and so stands there…” but most likely they’ll say, “god no, we’re not like that here, we’re all just here to have a nice time and learn, you stand wherever you like.”
After all, we are talking adult recreational ballet, we’re not joining a company, this is not the Bolshoi, there maybe a class heirarchy of sorts but it does not involve pay-scale, so everyone can just chill.
And on the flipside, try not to be super rigid about you own special barre spot. If someone is in my (“my”) spot, I try to remember that although I am super-awesome, I am not an actual primadonna.
And if I really want my special spot, I should just get my lazy butt to class earlier next time is what.
Just as in life, in ballet class: don’t be an asshole.
The craziest thing about this whole barre-dragging, shouting-at-the-teacher event, was that the shouty lady came back in during pliés and did class, using that same barre which was now pushed against the wall into the pile of extra barres. Like nothing. Nuts.

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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.

15 Responses to The truth about ballet etiquette 

  1. Anne-Marie says:

    Wow. Like really, really wow! I have never even heard of someone being that rude to a ballet instructor and then having the audacity to come back to class! Yeah, just try not to be an asshole, lol. Thanks for the post!

    Anne-Marie

  2. As crazy as that is, I have seen way worse behavior. I personally have experienced someone yelling at me (I’ve taught adult ballet for 15 years) with the intent to humiliate me. I’ve also witnessed awful behavior student-to-student (not in my classes but in many I’ve taken) and it’s NEVER among the professional dancers, the so-called divas that you would expect. I think part of the reason for that attitude is that, in real life, a person might be a powerful individual and used to certain treatment regardless of where they are. Oh I could go on….lol. But this was excellent advice and good reminders!

  3. dancer says:

    That’s is totally crazy pants! What I can ‘t stand in one of my classes is this lady that comes 5 minutes late and stands at “her” spot at the barre no matter how crowded it already is. Like she’ll stand there even if someone is half a foot in front of it and someone right behind it. So everyone has to shuffle and worry about kicking people around them during the entire barre.

  4. Teri says:

    Oblivious inhabitants of Crazy Town just show up everywheres.

  5. Janet says:

    I think that this woman is nuts, and the teacher and class are forced to deal with it. Too bad this person could not be escorted out. Restaurants can refuse service, what about adult ballet?

    • Maybe —Hopefully— there was a sincere apology later followed by a whole lot of good behavior. I would say followed by chocolates or flowers, but really, good behavior is the better show of contrition.

  6. JustScott says:

    That’s just crazy. The one place you expect good manners is a ballet class.

  7. Wow. That is really rude! But I am left wondering why she she pulled out a new barre in the first place? Were the ones in the corner different than the ones already set up? With portable barres, I find myself preferring a barre with two barres and not just one because they’re heavier and sturdier :)

  8. MilkyTea says:

    That’s really rude! :( I can’t even imagine how my teachers would react.

  9. Cbells says:

    One thing that’s not asshole-ish, but that I cannot stand, is when everyone moves to center and the first line of people are not standing in The First Line.

    I was recently in a class that had people ranging from beginners to more intermediate, and only wall barres. I went to my normal spot at the wall barre that is kind of in the “back” of the studio. So, when we all came center, I ended up standing claustrophobically-smushed up against the back of this gigantic room, even though there were only about 9 people there.

    I understand that sometimes we don’t want to be in the front, and don’t think we are good enough. But if you end up in the front, just deal with it and actually walk up to the front of the room. A half-assed front line is still a front line. If you REALLY want to run to the back, then run to the very back and/or politely ask a more advanced dancer to switch places with you.

    I only became an intermediate dancer because I sometimes stood in the front, and when I go to class I like to be able to move in space and see what my instructor is doing. I feel like a butthole if I start in the back and push my way up to stand in the very front of everyone, but sometimes it’s stupid that there is three times as much room in the front than there is in the back. And it feels especially frustrating when I am standing in said squished back area.

    Anyway, nice outlet to vent this annoyance!

    • Jen says:

      Okay I’ve only just discovered this blog and am just going to go ahead and reply to this comment 18 months after you made it because I TOTALLY get this!! This happens to me ALL THE TIME. Usually it’s in a class with a few more beginners than experienced dancers and the teacher rotates the lines so that everyone gets a chance in the front/back, but the dancers who were in the back just don’t want to move all the way forward, so the front line walks to the back and ends up against the wall. Gah! ;)

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