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With every ballet class, there are standards to follow. The method of teaching such as Vaganova or Cecchetti also varies with each school. But, whatever method the school chooses, there are general guidelines to follow in every ballet class. These include ballet attire, ballet etiquette, how a ballet class is organized, general rules of safety for the students and methods of teaching.

Click below to learn about class standards and teaching methods.

Ballet Attire

This section is also repeated in the 'Ballet Tutorial'. Ballet attire standards across the United States almost always remains the same. Some schools may vary according to color of the uniform, but overall, the basic rule of ballet is to always put your hair up in a bun so that the hair is away from the face and the lines of the neck are seen.


Dancer: Brittany Allen • Dance Studio: Encore Dance Centre

This helps the teacher make sure the dancer is placing their neck and head in the proper position. If the hair is too short to be put in a bun, it must be placed up in a short ponytail or away from the face.


Dancer: Brittany Allen • Dance Studio: Encore Dance Centre
 

The uniform for ballet class includes wearing a leotard, pink or black tights and ballet slippers, either black or pink for girls. There is also the option of wearing a black or pink ballet skirt that usually falls towards the mid-upper thigh. Some schools or dance studios allow the ballet skirt to be an option, while others may make it a requirement. Wearing a black leotard with pink tights and pink or black ballet slippers will be the standard for most dance studios. For boys or men, wearing black male dance pants, a white shirt that is not too loose and black ballet slippers are the standard.

The difference with some schools may rely on how strict their policy is with clothing or their rules according to level or age. For example, some schools may only allow a black leotard with pink tights, while others may be more loose with their requirements and allow students to wear various color leotards and tights.

One other item to consider is that the school may have rules of color according to age or level of skill. For example, one school may require all students in pre-ballet to wear a pink colored leotard. Or, a school may organize leotard colors according to skill level such as all beginning level ballet students have to wear pink leotards, intermediate levels wear blue or green and advanced may wear any color other then blue, green or pink. Having rules like this may help the teacher recognize the skill levels of the students by looking at what color leotard they are wearing.

The most important to know when selecting a leotard color is to ask the school or dance studio what their rules are, if they have any. This will help ensure you and the dance studio that you are following their guidelines.

Ballet Etiquette

In ballet class, rehearsals and performances, both the ballet dancer and teacher are graceful, understanding, patient and respectful of others. The dancer is professional in that she shows respect to her fellow dancers, teachers, ballet master or mistress as well as choreographer and artistic director (Clarke & Crisp, 1976; Kassing & Jay, 1998; Minden, 2005). The ballet instructor is professional by showing that same courtesy to her students as well as recognizing the individual student’s abilities and showing general for the student's safety.

Ballet dancers and students are courteous and professional by coming to class, rehearsals and performances on time, possibly even early to do personal warm-ups and stretching on the body (Minden, 2005). The dancer is also patient and respectful of those around them (Paskevska, 1990), particularly If other dancers require more time and attention from the teacher or being directed. Finally, dancers shows professionalism by paying attention to instructions given. It is the dancer’s responsibility to remember their part.

 

A dancer also needs to stay until class, rehearsals or performances are over. Leaving class early causes disruption to other dancers and faculty. As a side note, if the dancer must leave early, the faculty or teacher needs to be told beforehand so that they are aware and more understanding. If the dancer has no choice but to leave early, they need to leave with the least amount of disruption possible (Kassing & Jay, 1998; Minden, 2005).

Ballet instructors show professionalism in how the classes are being taught, showing respect towards those around her and through professional experience. A ballet teacher who displays high qualifications will teach ballet in classical form, using French terms. The ballet teacher should also have a solid foundation of dance experience either through past experience as a dancer or teaching in addition to training to be a ballet instructor. A professional instructor should hold either a teaching certification or college degree. A teacher who has professional experience will ensure the students their teacher will hold the same rules of etiquette that they hold. Ballet in the teaching form is presented with a teacher who shows grace and understanding to a student’s abilities, concerns, health, general well being and passion (Kassing and Jay, 1998; McDonagh, 1978; Oliver (Ed.), 1992).

Ballet Class Organization

Ballet classes are very repetitive and focus on execution of movements as well as proper placement (Paskevska, 1990). The teacher purposefully repeats and illustrates movements so that students can perfect the movements and combinations on their own or repeat them with competence (Kassing & Jay, 1998). The teacher also sets the sequence of class time in the same pattern no matter the age group, excluding pre-ballet (Minden, 2005; Neale, 1980; Oliver (Ed.), 1992).

 

Before class begins, there is a warm-up, allowing for the student’s warming of the muscles. This is usually done individually on the student's own time. The class starts by moving to the barre and practicing sequences or short combinations, while being able to use the barre as a support for balance. The next step includes center work in which the barres are put away and the students focus on sequences without the assistance of a barre (Minden, 2005; Paskevska, 1990). These exercises or sequences involve jumps or other simple combinations.

The class then ends with a cool down in which students can engage in stretching and abdominal work, which is still on the center floor (this may vary with each school or dance studio) and révérence, meaning taking a bow or curtsy at the end of the class. The purpose of révérence is showing respect to the teacher for passing the knowledge of instruction onto the students and is shown by clapping of the hands (Kassing & Jay, 1998; Minden, 2005; Neale, 1980).

The length of class time varies by age group (Minden, 2005). The ballet teacher schedules the length of class time according to levels of training as well as age group, with the adults or older teens class being 1-1 1/2 hours long and the professional or higher levels being longer in length, some ranging in between 2-2 ½ hours. Younger ages, particularly pre-ballet levels, can be as short as a half an hour. How often the classes are taken also varies with age or level, with the higher levels taking class as much as six times per week (Neale, 1980). The ballet teacher knows that for younger students, younger than about the age of 12, it is not needed for classes to be taken more than a few times per week (Kassing & Jay, 1998; Paskevska, 1990).

The sequence of class explained above is typical of most ballet classes. However, some dance studios may vary slightly. For example, after warm-up at the barre and doing barre combinations, they may go to the floor to do further stretching and abdominal work before moving onto center floor routines and then end with révérence. And some classes, particularly for the younger ages, may not even do abdominal work. Whatever the sequence of class, the overall goals of teaching the students ballet remain the same.

Rules of Safety

Safety is always a high priority for a dance school or studio. Ensuring the safety of students is necessary for helping prevent injuries and ensuring the teachers that their students are progressing in their training properly.

Many of the same rules apply for safety as preventing injury. For example, you want to make sure you are keeping hydrated, drinking plenty of water in between routines and getting plenty of rest. You also want to make sure you are doing a proper warm up and stretching of the muscles. This is because a proper warm up and stretch routine assists in making the body less vulnerable to injuries (Berardi, 2007). When the body feels strained, you should not overwork it. Rather, modify the training to allow the body to be under less stress to help promote injury prevention (DiNubile, n.d.; Robson & Chertoff, 2008).

 

Another rule of safety is dancing with the proper shoe size and on a proper floor. It is especially important for dancers who wear pointe shoes, to have a proper fit. An improperly fitting shoe makes the dancer more susceptible to injury. The dance floor is also important for safety. Never practice on a completely solid or concrete floor. If the surface is too hard, this also contributes to dancers becoming injured. A sprung, dance floor is always preferred. But if this is not available, a wood floor is also suitable. (Berardi, 2007; Minden, 2005). This is because a sprung floor or wood floor has a buoyancy that allows the dancer's landing to be safer.

 

The last and one of the most important rules of safety includes the student or dancer's ability to practice wearing pointe shoes. A student who is any younger than the age of 12 and is performing on pointe, should be done with caution. And it is advised that any student should not be performing on pointe under the age of 10. It is a rare case in which students are ready to perform on pointe earlier than age 11 or 12. Parents should not enroll their child into a school or studio where they observe younger students wearing pointe shoes.

Students who are younger than the age of 12 usually are not strong enough and are not fully developed yet. Girls have an important growth spurt, usually around this age that is important for their development. If girls are practicing on pointe before this growth spurt, this could endanger their development or make them susceptible to injury.

The most important thing to remember when considering performing on pointe is to be cautious. Having a teacher who is able to recognize whether a student is ready is a very important benefit to a ballet school. A teacher should be more cautious and place more practice and strength on the student rather than rushing them into their pointe shoes. It is important to note that each student is different in their development. One student may be strong enough to be on pointe at age 12 or 13 while another may not be ready until 15. With this rule in mind, parents and students need to understand that they will practice on pointe shoes when they are ready. If it is observed that the teacher is placing nearly every student on pointe once they reach a certain age, this is not a good sign. So, parents and students need to understand the teacher's position. They need to be especially thankful if they have found a teacher that is cautious and only allows students to be on pointe when she thinks they are strong enough. Safety is the number one priority for the student, particularly for students who perform on pointe (Paskevska, 1990).

 

A special thank you to Brittany Allen, Brianne 'Tory' Freeth, Instructor Holly Copeland, Bonnie Copeland &
Encore Dance Centre in San Dimas, CA. www.encoredancecentre.com

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