Monday, April 15, 2013

That One Time I Got Mad

image courtesy of sillygirlrunning
Really, I don't get mad often. It's just not my style. I can get disappointed and I have elevated frustration to new levels of unhealthy, but mad just isn't me.

But then there was that one time . . .

I was new in town and tried a class at a studio where a friend was teaching. They didn't have an adult open class so I tried the advanced class. The teacher was 40 minutes late. When she did arrive, she didn't even bother apologizing and no one was surprised that she was late. She looked at me and said "With a 2-hour class we run out of stuff to do if we start on time." This was not a good sign.

Then she proceeded to lead us through a jazz warm up. I have no issue with jazz classes at all, but if I'm there to take a ballet class I really want to take a ballet class. But the teacher insisted that we needed to warm up first. I can sort of see the point; a lot of new research is showing that a short cardio warm up before barre can be really beneficial. However, this was a 15-minute warm up. We now had 65 minutes left in class.

Next we skipped pliés because "we are already warm." Have you ever taken a ballet class where you skipped pliés? Because you shouldn't. Ever.

Tendus, dégagés and rond de jambes were fine. But when it came time to do adagio she didn't like the tempo of the music so we used the petit battements music. And grand battements were done to a very legato fondu song because, again, she liked the tempo better. I ask you: what good is it to do an exercise if you completely ignore the quality of the movement?! Now I'll answer my own question: none whatsoever. Quality of movement effects muscular development and no self-respecting ballerina would mess with that. This is the part where I started seething.

Center work was . . . uninspiring. But worst of all it gave me a chance to watch other dancers (since we did it all in groups) and those poor dancers were terrible! Those poor girls were coming to class four days a week and had nothing to show for it. As a teacher, I find that inexcusable.

There was one girl in class who was clearly very naturally gifted and the teacher was obviously catering to her. Every center exercise was built around her strengths and preferences. Sure, she was fun to watch, but that left everyone else stranded without attention (desperately needed) from a teacher. {Side note: I don't think the person leading this class should be called a teacher. Does anyone have a suggestion for another term?} And the talented girl was being handicapped too; she wasn't being pushed to strengthen her weaknesses. And since class wasn't balanced at all, there was no way she could be the best dancer possible.

I felt sad for all of the students. Most of them were wasting their time and the good one wasn't as good as she was being led to think she was. One audition into her career and she would learn that there were all kinds of steps she didn't know. Like petit allegro.

Oh yes, the class completely skipped all petit allegros. And medium allegros. Just a grand allegro because "we are running short on time." Perhaps because we wasted the first hour, hmmm?

When I left class I hurt, and not in the good way. Class was unbalanced, had no natural progression, was musically a nightmare and just generally felt bad. I knew there were less-skilled teachers out there, but I had no idea "bad ballet" could get so ugly. I was angry. Ballet, and her students, deserved better.

In case you're wondering, that studio went out of business less than a year later.

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