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BLOG (Written by Robyn Carter)

Ballet – Making the Connection

Posted on: September 11, 2014

In our dance studio I have found that there are two different types of ballet dancers. The ‘I LOOOOVE ballet’ dancer who adores the costumes, the music, and the dramatic performance that many ballet pieces require. And the ‘Ugh . . . do I have to take ballet?’ student.

Premiere has a large competitive dance team, and as part of that team, many dancers are required to take ballet class a minimum of once a week. Many a time I have been asked, usually by students, ‘why do I have to take ballet?’ And often parents get frustrated because they are paying for a class that their child seems to, dare I say, dread!

Well, here’s a little background on my passion (as I LOVE all things technique). Ballet truly is a global language when it comes to dance – it is everywhere! It is highly technical and its terminology is all in French, so you know it is fancy. But most importantly, ballet is the foundation of ALL other forms of dance (jazz, tap, lyrical, contemporary, and even hip hop – although that can be debated).

I like to explain it his way: before you play a game of hockey, you must learn to not only skate, but how to tie up those dreaded skates (parents do you feel me?). Before you can run a race, you must learn how to walk. And finally – what I use jokingly in class, ‘kids you have to eat your vegetables before you get dessert!’ At which point the children usually start talking about how they actually like certain vegetables, especially if they are covered in some kind of a cheese sauce. But I digress.

As I teacher of sometimes unwilling ballet students, my goal is to always ‘woo them’ with fun. Keep things moving, change up the music, add the occasional action or word that everyone gets to SHOUT while performing a serious dance step. Suddenly the child who was reluctant to enter the room, is smiling. They were supposed to hate this class, and yet they are moving and dancing with joy!

For me, it is about transforming something perceived to be ‘boring’ into fun! With experience that is what I have learned, and have taught my teachers to do as well. Personally, when I was a young dancer, a teacher took the time to show me the connection between a grande battement (a fancy kick) at the barre, and one that I would do in a jazz dance. Light bulb moment! So you mean if I work hard here, right now, my jazz dancing will get better?

So that is what I do now. Make the class fun! And explain the connection to other forms of dance that the kids are doing so that they are driven to improve. Even the reluctant dancers show up week to week – occasionally showing me a move they had practiced proudly. I may not make every student into one who ‘Looooves’ ballet, but I definitely have a full class.