Figure 1.--Classical ballet training requires enormous physical strength and deterity matched with extended, rigorous training. This boy is being trained at a European or Russian school. Click on the image for another view.
Ballet requires enormous physical dexterity and strength and years of mental and physical training. Some countries select children, both boys and girls, at an early age and train them in pretigious state boarding schools with a special emphasis on music and dance. This was the system in the Soviet Union and Eastern European countries. The early selection and state-supported training in schools provides a level of training that can not be duplicated. In America, children are trained at private dance accademies at their own expense without state support. They live at home and attend dancing school several times a week. Some European countries provide state support, but the system varies from country to country.
Well-schooled dancers require repertoire training. Highly motivated pre-professional students at Nutmeg receive detailed coaching on each role to be performed. This is perhaps the hallmark of Nutmeg's educational process. Several additional hours each week are devoted to the study of classical variations and pas de deux.
Master classes in modern and character dance, stage combat, stage make-up, nutrition and music theory are often given dancers. Students are also given the opportunity to work "hands on" in technical theater. Private instruction is also encouraged, with instruction in piano, ballet accompaniment, voice, woodwind and string instruments available, under separate fee.
Always of paramount importance to a ballet school should be to ensure that students learn the correct and safe way to execute their ballet moves. Some schools use a "hands-on" teaching method, with close attention to detail. One of a teacher's deep concerns should be the frequency with which students have been put on to pointe (toe), before they have sufficient strength throughout the body. This can, and does lead to injuries, sometimes very serious ones. Students who have danced incorrectly on pointe may come to a new teacher. They should be taken off pointe and retrained until they are truly ready and their technique is strong, enabling them to perform beautiful and safe pointework, with much greater confidence.
Age is of course an important factor for children and has to be taken in account in the training program. Children's feet don't solidify (the cartilege) until they are around 13 years old. And if they go on before that, or don't go to a foot specialist to make sure it is ok to go on pointe, they can injure their feet very easily and possibly permenant damage an result. It is advisable for parents to discuss their children's ballet training with the family doctor.
Figure 2.--The dexterity necessary for ballet is the result of riogorous conditioning and training.
Classes for younger children have to focus not only on basic skills, but on making the whole process fun and interesting. Thus teachers have developed games and interesting activities to include in their classes. Individual teachers report a wide range of ignenious devices to keep younger children interested and develop useful skills at the same time. HBC will archive some of the games that various teachers have described. Some are games whiles others are really clever exercises ingeniously disguised as games for the children. If approached correctly, the children will often look forward to these games.
Modern ballet teachers have substantial differences on the proper direction of the modern dance. One instructor informs HBC that she seeks to bring back "quality" to classical ballet. She feels that the wonderful lyrical quality and musicality that was so admired in our major ballet companies, seems to be vanishing. Strong acrobatic feats seem to be more important to some schools than interpreting the character and the music of the piece. Today, we often see the over arched back, thrust forward rib cage, and all-over tension, particularly in the wrists. This school teaches the Cecchetti style which can produce an almost air born quality above the waist that allows the dancer to take his or her weight right over the feet, no matter in which direction or with what speed the dancer moves.
Many schools pursue an examination system. Students of these schools are given the opportunity of studying for the International
Cecchetti ballet examinations. Working for an exam gives excellent motivation to a student whether it is a young child's first test or a professional examination. If you pass an International
exam you know you will be accepted at that level worldwide! This is rather more satisfying that just being told that you are in "Ballet 2" for example.
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