Dance classes are one of the most popular fitness trends right now. This article for YEG Fitness focuses on ballet- considered by many the pinnacle of the dance world- with some specific tips for newer dancers. Beginner ballet classes are full of new students hoping to develop their grace, posture, strength, and overall dancing ability. I spoke to ballet instructor Maria Valencia Alvarez, of Pique Dance Centre (www.piquedancecentre.ca), to get her insight into key things all ballet students should be aware of.
Mind over matter: learning ballet, even the basics, takes a lot of time. Maria explains that being patient and respecting the process will excel a dancer further over dancers who want quick results and desire to move to the next level before they are ready. Dancers need to become aware of and in tune with their own bodies. And through regular and consistent training, their muscle memory will eventually connect with the ballet movements. Ballet class can also be overwhelming for beginner students because of all the new vocabulary. Since ballet uses French terminology, it can be challenging to associate the vocabulary with movements. Always ask your instructor if you are not sure about a word or exercise so you can get the most out of the class. Finally, remind yourself that you cannot compare yourself to others in class. Focus on yourself, your abilities, and goals for class (both short and long term.) Everyone is in class for different reasons, at different levels, and when you focus on yourself you’ll see the results.
Arrive prepared: a prepared student is a successful student. Wearing proper clothing makes all the difference. Maria notes that the best clothing for beginners is comfortable but form fitting. Your instructor cannot give meaningful feedback if she cannot see your body. If your clothing is too loose and flowy, when you look in the mirror you can’t see yourself clearly and correct your mistakes. Your body gives you constant feedback. Secondly, proper footwear is a must. Ideally ballet shoes (canvas) are worn; socks are acceptable for newer students. Ballet requires a strong relationship between the foot and the floor, and a proper fitting and well-made shoe will help you get there.
Body Awareness: movements, such as battements and port de bras, initiate from your core (not just simply from your legs or arms). While in class imagine energy moving out from your centre, holding you up and expanding you outward. Maria noted that another significant issue for new dancers is accessing their turnout. She says all students need to remember that turnout comes from the hips (you rotate your hips), instead your knees or feet. Then squeeze everything (gluteus, inner thighs, quads), strand straight, and pull power from your core to initiate movements. You’ll feel the difference and see the difference in how you move.
Bio: Leslie is bellydance instructor and performer in Edmonton, but considers herself a lifelong student of dance. You can take classes with her at School of Raq Bellydance Studio or Foot Notes Dance Studio.