Ballet can be a quite intimidating dance style to take on because of the demanding technique form, but also because improvement comes at a slow pace. Oftentimes, it feels like we spend hours and hours training but make very little progress. However, there are a few key aspects to focus on to help you improve faster in ballet. Progressing in ballet is about working smart, not working hard!
The Importance of Attending Ballet Class
A very easy way to improve faster is by just attending ballet class on a consistent basis. This means attending class every week with no absences. By attending class on a frequent and consistent basis, you are already setting yourself up for success because you are practicing often and on a regular schedule. Remember, practice makes perfect! If you don’t come to class, then you are not practicing!
Warm Up Before Class
Although the first part of ballet class warms you up and prepares you for more challenging exercises later on, do not go into ballet class completely cold. You will progress faster if you prepare your body beforehand. Remember, your body is your instrument in ballet. Like running a marathon, you wouldn’t want to just wake up and run without preparing first! By doing a warm up, you let your muscles know you are about to exercise them and thus can perform better in class and reduce the risk of injury.
Go Back to the Basics – Focus on Your Barre Work
Remember, ballet class is progressive. Although barre may seem tedious and repetitive, it is extremely important to prepare your body for centrework. Every step at barre directly translates to more advanced steps in centre. You cannot do a pirouette without being able to do a passe or retire on demi-pointe. Petit allegro jumps such as assemble and glissade come from fast tendus and glisses at the barre. As a result, pay attention to your posture and alignment from the very beginning of class to set yourself up to do your best later on. The basics are everything!
Learn Ballet Terminology in Order to Learn Exercises Faster
Make sure you pay attention to the names of each step/movement/position – it is not enough just to visually recognize the step. By learning the ballet terms, you will be able to learn the exercises faster in class. This in turn will help you do them to the best of your ability rather than spending the whole exercise trying to remember the sequence of steps. Especially for open-style class, being familiar with ballet terms is essential.
Remember Your Corrections – Write Them Down If You Need To!
Ballet dancers live off their corrections and notes. Without corrections, dancers cannot improve. It is important to remember your corrections so that you can work on the specific aspects of your dancing that need improvement. For example, keeping the retire turned out in pirouettes. Focus on keeping the hips flat when you balance in retire at the barre, as well as turning out the working leg immediately when getting into the retire position during every ballet class. You can also add conditioning into your routine to help strengthen and focus on the specific muscles needed to improve your retire. If you are getting the same corrections week in and week out of ballet class, that is not a sign that you are improving.
Ballet Conditioning Works!
Many ballet dancers cross-train with pilates, yoga or other forms of body conditioning to keep themselves in tip-top shape. Conditioning helps you target specific muscles to strengthen or improve flexibility, as well as build body awareness so that you can activate those muscles whilst in ballet class. Ballet is a full-body workout. Every muscle in the body must be engaged and exercised in order to execute choreography to the best of your ability.
It is easy to just go through the motions in class and not work towards a greater goal to accomplish, especially if you are not preparing for a performance or an examination. Therefore, to keep pushing forward, set goals for yourself with a specific timeline and landmarks to track your progress. For example, completing a double pirouette. First, you must have a solid single pirouette. You must also have good spotting technique and strong port de bras as well as a well-established retire position on demi-pointe. Keep pushing for a double pirouette in every exercise with a pirouette. Without setting goals, it can become easy to plateau in your progress.