Class Time vs. Rehearsal Time
Painting of ballet dancers by Edgar Degas, 1872. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
“I don’t feel like going to class…..but I still want to do rehearsal.”
“I don’t feel well/my injury hurts….can sit out of class so I feel better to do rehearsal?”
“I need to pull Suzie out of ballet class so that she can do rehearsal/costume fitting/pictures/insert other event for XYZ….”
“I was caught up in the office with a meeting and couldn’t get Suzie here for class. Please don’t blame her for this, don’t take her out of rehearsal.”
Parents, students, studio directors, even other teachers, all give “reasons” for the need to miss ballet class. And sometimes life does throw a curve ball that removes the option of attending or participating in class. Whatever the reason or the excuse, the reality is that daily ballet class is the foundation of all progress, and is crucial to the continued development and success of our students. It is the single most important tool we have in guiding students towards their goals of achievement and dreams of success. Progress does not wait for any of the above eventualities….time marches on, and those not attending class everyday, no matter the circumstances, will be left behind. Participation in class EVERY DAY is not optional, it is an absolute necessity to pursue dance at the highest level.
The end result of perfectly executed steps, incredible geometry of choreographic design, as well as the intimacy of emotional connection through dance is developed through hours and hours of rehearsal for performance. However the language in which a dancer and choreographer communicate are the very steps that ballet teaches. If a student’s mastery of this language is elementary, limited in any way, or unclear…the result is a fuzzy statement and unclear expression of thought. Just as proper understanding of grammar, sentence construction, a wide and colorful vocabulary, proper spelling and punctuation, as well as understanding proper organization of thought, are all essential tools for writers to express themselves clearly and concisely. And so it is with the understanding of ballet technique, and the ability to execute a wide range of steps, intricate physical coordination of movements, and the underlying understanding of how movement translates into emotional connection, regardless of the specific dance style. The more proficient this mastery, the cleaner the technique of the dancer, the more possibilities they have for clear expression, and the more enjoyment the audience has, the more profound their experience of the performance, if they are able to appreciate more readily what is trying to be expressed. The most successful performers are those who are the most accomplished in their mastery of their technique and the clearest with the detailed execution of their movements.
Do not accept excuses when it comes to substituting rehearsal time for ballet technique class. This is a recipe for long term disaster. At the very least, dancers should be required to take a 30 minute warm up class before any rehearsal/performance. The stresses placed on the body by dance, especially over an extended period of time, leave students vulnerable to all kinds of injuries, both acute (joint sprains and muscle strains are the most common) which happen most often when dancers are not properly warmed up, not to mention overuse injuries (stress fractures, shin splints, sore muscles) from dancing with improperly prepared bodies over long periods of time. All professional dance companies require their dancers to take a warm up class before performing, as well as daily technique class for this purpose.
As students, children’s bodies are still growing and maturing; a teacher’s understanding of this important fact is crucial so that students are not asked to execute steps for which their young bodies are not ready. For example, asking very young students to perform too much grand allegro, or starting pointe work either too young or to weak in their technical proficiency. These eventualities can be disastrous, both as the student struggles to do what their teacher is asking of them, often creating bad habits and wrong technical execution in the process, but also as possible longer term physical ailments may be created by this scenario. In both cases, young students’ bodies do not yet have adequate muscular strength and control or dense enough skeletal structure to withstand the stresses placed on them. Only daily class over time through a thought out system of training methodology can safely lead students to the achievement of soaring grand allegro and precise pointe work.
Dance, especially ballet, is a study in patience and perseverance. The saying goes that nothing worth having comes easy….and so it is with dance. In order to establish a solid foundation and understanding of what to do, how to do it properly, and why it is executed in that way, training must begin at an early age, and class must occur every day. If the emphasis of daily activities is placed more on performing and rehearsal, this crucial foundation is not laid, and the importance of it in the minds of the students is not established. Teachers and choreographers have the responsibility to instill this in their students, and help educate the parents of how critical it is for the well-being and continued success of their children.