I had some great insights in my classes last week that I wanted to share with you!
First, I realized that 1 hour per week is simply not enough to train a budding ballerina! I’ve been working with one of my students for about 6 weeks now, and I simply love how willing she is to work hard at improving her ballet technique. Yet, every class we had together felt so very rushed to me! In each of her classes, I’ve been including floor barre, barre, center, and traveling exercises, and though I’ve written and re-written her classes several times to try to make everything fit better, it simply wasn’t working out. So I spoke to her and her parents about it, and we all agreed that it would be best to not only extend her class time to 90 minutes per class, but also to increase the number of classes she has per week! I’m so excited to begin this new system, where we won’t feel pressured to skip exercises and shorten explanations, all for the sake of time! Now, with 3 hours of training per week, I know we’re going to make great things happen for her!
Second, I learned a new trick for getting my youngest ballerina babies to really use the brushing movement of their front leg when doing grands jetés! Many of my young Creative Movement students also take gymnastics classes, so, even at only 4 and 5 years old, they are more aware of how to use their bodies than the average young dancer. This is really helpful for me as a dance teacher. We usually do leaps over colorful noodles at the end of our 45-minute classes. Two weeks ago, I began having them jump over colorful yoga blocks, positioned so that the students have to jump higher to get over them.
This was great to have them understand the feel of really using their pliés to really get off the floor and into the air. Last week, I wanted them to really start brushing and extending their leg in the air for a greater amount of time. I stared at those foam boxes for a few moments, and it finally came to me: I needed to have them start their jumps farther away from the item they were hurdling! To do this, I needed to have them jump over more than one item. So I started putting my foot in front of the foam boxes. This forced them to do several things:
- They had to run really fast to gain enough speed to start their jumps farther back.
- They had to focus on the actual jump more to make sure they wouldn’t trip over my foot or knock over the foam box.
- They had to really throw their leg up in front of them and extend it to get over more than one item.
Still, a few students were afraid to really commit to the jump. The greater distance required to leap over 2 items was a bit intimidating to them, so they would do half-run, half-skip sort of thing up to my foot, then sort of pretend to jump over my foot and the block one at a time. I can remember having some of the same fears when I was their age. I think some of my biggest fears were the vault and running and jumping into a forward roll in gymnastics practice. Maybe in the coming weeks, I’ll move away from improving technique and place more attention on dispelling fears. :)
I’m having so much fun working as a dance educator, and I can’t wait for all the new discoveries I will make as I continue this work that I love!