Ballet Squid Chronicles: In Which I Inadvertently Take On An Awesome and Frightening Responsibility

So, you guys might remember a while ago — sometime last summer, I think — when I decided to take on the challenge of doing some choreography to some Philip Glass, and then decided that it would be awesome to use this choreography to create a small performance piece for Burning Man that could be built upon and performed by total ballet noobs?

So, um, apparently I failed to realize until yesterday that, in so doing, I basically said to the world, “Give me your ballet noobs, and let me teach them!”


So, in essence, this means I’ve taken on the task of teaching some very basic ballet to a random group of people without either A) injuring them, B) ruining any chance they have at developing sound technique, or C) destroying their love of dance forever by overfacing them with things they can’t do.

You know.

No pressure.

Obviously, I’m not going to take a bunch of total beginners and try to teach them double tours (or even single ones) or anything like that — and I’m pretty sure I can put together a basic barre that anyone with appendages can do (I’ll be cribbing it from Margie’s barre). I’m pretty sure I can even impart basic form and placement decently well.

Here’s the thing: I remember my very first ballet classes as a wee kid reasonably well, but by the time I took them, I’d already been doing gymnastics for at least three years (seriously, I was three when I starting taking gymnastics lessons) and pre-ballet for one year. Nothing we did seemed difficult at all, and I picked up everything really easily, so I have essentially no idea which bits and pieces people find difficult.

And that leads to my question for you, adult ballet students of the internet. Two questions, actually!

First, when you were completely new to ballet, what was hard and/or unpleasant for you?

Likewise, what was easy and/or fun?

I realize I’m going to get a range of answers, here — like, if it was up to me, basically nobody would ever do chaines until they’d already been dancing for fifteen years, because for some reason I perceive chaines as difficult (even though I’m now at least somewhat good at them). Denis, on the other hand, has no difficulty with chaines, but thinks piques (to my mind, the easiest turns in the entire universe) difficult. Likewise, soutenu turns are super easy for both our nephew and for me, but apparently nigh impossible for Denis. I’m just hoping to get some consensus on what’s doable.

Fortunately, we don’t have to try to do any leaps, because as far as I know we’ll be dancing on the equivalent of a marley remnant laid directly on the playa. I don’t want to mess up anyone’s joints, so no leaps — maybe a few sautés, but that’s it. As such, the mini-performance choreography in question will be mostly adagio and steps that might otherwise be linking steps.

Anyway, that’s it. I’m very much looking forward to this project, even though I’ve realized that it entails way more responsibility than I initially imagined. It should be a lot of fun, whether I wind up working with a bunch of eager people who’ve never danced a minute in their lives or a bunch of people who dance professionally and could mop the floor with me in a ballet-off.

That’s it for tonight. As my now-favorite ballet shirt proclaims, “Keep calm and rond de jamb!”

About asher

Me in a nutshell: Standard uptight ballet boy. Trapeze junkie. Half-baked choreographer. Budding researcher. Transit cyclist. Terrible homemaker. Neuro-atypical. Fabulous. Married to a very patient man. Bachelor of Science in Psychology (2015). Proto-foodie, but lazy about it. Cat owner ... or, should I say, cat own-ee? ... dog lover. Equestrian.

Posted on 2015/02/05, in balllet, Burning Man and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Your project sounds awesome – I wish you much success! 🙂 I actually had to look up Phillip Glass, since I hadn’t actually heard it before. I like it, and I can see why you’re looking to go with adagio.
    As a beginner, everything was hard! Getting specific, balancing: in releve, or one foot, after a quick weight shift. On flat holding a pose was fine, for example, and perhaps even lifting the leg in to (low) arabesque. But temps lie, or stepping into arabesque, not good. Releve while moving is fine, but balacing was hard. Jumping while pointing feet was hard. However, I am unusually uncoordinated – or was, pre-ballet – so I’m sure most beginners won’t have near so many problems.
    From what I saw of my also-beginner class mates, for them balancing was ok, as were sautes. And nobody seemed to have much trouble with basic tendu combinations with arms and change in direction (like croisse, en face, efface), especially if turn out is compromised.
    As for what’s fun, let’s see, I guess it’s when it feels like dancing, just moving to the music, with the music. And adagio just feels so pretty, which translates to fun in ballet. By this point in my beginner-ness, I enjoy slow extensions with arms, any steps involving moving around on releve, chaine and pique turns (but not too many of them!), and poses (like the releve sous-sus with arms in high fifth). Oh, and chasses and pas de cheval, feel very ballet-ish (therefore fun!)
    I just caught myself doing that choreographing-in-my-head thing from your last post and there were a lot of sautes and changements in there, as well as these cool beats of the foot, sort of like superquick frappes. Why must I always be choreographing stuff in my head that is way out of my current skill level? Sigh.
    Sorry, this is probably not helpful. Your project, and Burning Man (which I’ve never been but have been curious), sound great.

  2. This is actually totally helpful!

    I forgot all about balance sometimes being hard for people who are really new to dance o.O That’s probably an important thing to remember! (Likewise, for some people static balance is easier; for others [like, I would suspect, you], dynamic balance is easier.)

    Your observations about basic tendu combinations mesh with what I’ve seen in my classes here, which is good information — it’s easy to set those to music and make them pretty!

    I think also the part about anything that feels like dancing might be the most important thing, and I think it’s probably something that’s easy to lose sight of when you’re suddenly charged with not injuring teaching new dancers. That is totally what I focused on during barre today: How can I make this pretty, and dance-y, and smooth? And then my circular port-des-bras was like: ROBOT! ROBOT! ROBOT! the first time I did it, so … yeah.

    I don’t think I’m going to make people do circular port-des-bras.

    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on this! ^-^

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