HOW TO CHOOSE A BALLET CLASS

By Greta Wright – Danceworks Staffer

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Greta Wright when not at her desk

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Photo by Ronnie Boehm

 

Photo by Andrew Eccles

 

A beginners class at Danceworks

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Beginners class with Christina Mittelmaier

Why take ballet class?

Ballet has become increasingly popular in the last couple of years, with classes appearing all over the UK, so there is no better time to get back into class, or to start from scratch as an adult beginner. The wonder of ballet is that not only is it great exercise, but the benefits extend to improvement in posture, flexibility, and self-awareness.

I am lucky enough to work in the offices at Danceworks Studios in central London, where we offer over 120 drop-in classes a week, with around six ballet classes every day of the week at all levels.  I am also a former ballet girl myself, having trained professionally since childhood, so when I came back into dance after a break, I found there were a lot of classes to choose from. For someone who has danced previously, or a ballet beginner it can be a little overwhelming when choosing a class, so here’s my guide to choosing a ballet class to suit you, whatever you level.

Level

The first thing to consider when choosing a ballet class is the level at which to study. Most dance studios offer a variety of different classes and levels. Our levels start at Absolute Beginner (an 8-week introductory course) and our drop-in classes go from beginner through elementary and intermediate, up to advanced and professional.

For a complete beginner (or returner), open (drop-in) class is a great introduction. It is always daunting trying something new, and there may be those in the class who are more advanced, but the pace will be slow so you can pick up the steps. A full explanation of new steps and positions will be given, and there is no prior expectation that you are the next Margot or Darcy!

Elementary and intermediate classes are more challenging and are suitable for those with previous dance knowledge, but they also give professionals a chance to focus and work with more time to think. Doing things slowly is sometimes just as challenging!

Professional class is a great opportunity for those with more extensive dance experience, professional or not, to do a more challenging class. You will be expected to pick up the steps quickly, with more complicated exercises. You do not have to be a professional dancer to take a professional class, but be mindful that those in class who are more experienced will want to have space to practice and generally have a more serious attitude to getting things right.

Taking ballet classes is about enjoyment, so you need to decide whether you want to be in a class that feels a comfortable level, or whether you wish to be challenged.

Teacher

It’s always useful to research before deciding, so with the power of Google and Youtube at your fingertips you can find information about most teachers, including reviews and videos. Having some background information about a teacher is great and reading biographies can help to ascertain their training and style as well as their experience. Teachers focus on different aspects of technique and performance, and can be more or less strict with corrections and exercises.

In my opinion personal recommendations are always very helpful, so ask around your fellow ballet buddies to see if anyone has taken a class before and see what they think of the teacher. It is always worth giving the studio a call to ask any questions about what to expect to help you make an informed decision about which teacher would suit you best. The staff at a good studio like Danceworks will often take classes themselves, and they will be very well-informed from their own and other people’s feedback and experience.

At Danceworks you are welcome to watch some classes through the viewing windows in the studio. It can be a good way to gauge if a class is suitable for you and if you like the teaching style. Never be afraid to ask questions.

Check this link for details about our ballet teachers and classes:

http://danceworks.net/teachers/ballet/

Type of class

At Danceworks we specialise in drop-in classes, meaning there is no need to book in advance and you can join classes as and when you like. Drop-in classes are a great way to try something new with no commitment upfront. At open studios the environment is inclusive and fun, with dancers from various different backgrounds and different reasons for attending classes. Depending on the teacher, there will be different enchaiment (exercises) each week, and whilst individual corrections are given, they tend to be generally given to the entire class as well. The most popular classes can have up to 40 people, so it is not always possible for a teacher to correct everyone individually.

Courses and private tuition:

For a dancer who is wishing to see a progression in the classes they take, a course of lessons can be helpful.  Courses tend to be termly, for around 8-10 weeks and are designed so that each class follows on from the previous. This is a great way to learn more about ballet technique and new steps, and they tend to be limited to fewer people, with generally no more than 15 attending, making the atmosphere more personal. Danceworks offers absolute beginners and improvers ballet courses as well as private tuition with our teachers. Private tuition can be expensive, but it is really beneficial and you can do this along side open classes. Teachers will closely focus on some areas of technique that you are struggling with, and private tuition gives you time to discuss these, so you have a better understanding of how you can improve.

Try!

There is no better way to find the class that’s right for you than to get out there and try some. Don’t be put off if the first one that you try isn’t quite for you. And if you are a beginner, give yourself time to learn – don’t give up even if at first you think it’s impossible! Every teacher and class is different, so take what you can from the class to inform your choice next time.

What our members say

“Lets face it if you can teach a bald dodgy looking 48 year old lorry driver like me to do ballet, you can teach anyone. Three cheers for Hannah, oh and to the friendly welcoming staff of Danceworks as well.” Ian M Prater

“Felt stupid, out of place, ridiculous at first ‘What the hell am I doing at my age’ Now really enjoying ballet, great way to relax and tone up your body.“ Yvonne – Nurse

“Ballet is a great way to exercise, its fun and hard work which is rewarding at the same time. My body shape has changed enormously since I’ve been coming to classes regularly, my legs appear longer and it’s much easier to wear heels all night long out in town.”
 Agi – Violinist

More:

http://vimeo.com/91868207

http://danceworks.net/hannah_frost/

http://danceworks.net/franziska-rosenzweig-balle/