There are so many things in ballet class that a dancer always needs to be thinking about.
You have to remember the combination, the port de bras (which includes the head), the correct technique of the step, the corrections the teacher gave the previous class, as well as the new corrections. To do all of those things is no easy task. Some people pick up the combinations more quickly than others, but just about everyone can improve on applying all these aspects while dancing in class. I will go through each category and give you a few tips on how to improve on each one.
The first and most important one is knowing the combination. You cannot do a combination well if you don't know what the combination is. Some people are visual learners, some are audio, and some are kinesthetic learners. Learn which one you are! Once you know how you personally pick up information best, you can then be intentional about utilizing that whenever the instructor is first demonstrating a combination.
Port de Bras
Secondly you have the port de bras. It is always best to do the arms with the instructor while he or she is giving the combination. This helps you memorize the port de bras (including the head) a little quicker, as well as helps you remember the whole combination. Arms are so helpful when learning new steps. They help you learn the coordination and connect your whole core to do the step with more strength.
Then you have to apply old corrections to your technique. If you don't have a dance notebook yet you should get one! The only way you are able to remember old corrections is if you have some way of reviewing them later. When I was younger my instructor had me write three personal corrections and three general corrections after each class. If you want to you can write more!
Lastly, you must stay alert and listen for new corrections your teacher may be giving. This takes practice and your mind needs to be alert. Almost every instructor yells out corrections during each combination. Listen to your instructor and apply the corrections! If the instructor gives you a correction during a tendu combination you should continue to apply this correction on through jetés, then ronde de jambs, as so on.
Summing It All Up
When you start getting tired in class and your focus starts to fail, it is important to not get frustrated: that will only make it more difficult to keep taking in information. Remember to keep focusing on the teacher; try to ignore the other dancers and the distractions that may occur. Now, if you come in to class after having a hard or long day it is important to let it all go before entering the studio. Whether you are tired, stressed, sad, or even hyper it is important to take a deep breath, calm and focus your mind, and enter the studio ready to learn!
There are a lot of benefits to practicing these disciplines. Even if ballet is not your career choice, these disciplines still will help you in your future career goals. Your mind will be better able to multitask as well as focus and pay attention to details in any setting. If you do want to be a professional dancer, this will help you down the road in learning new choreography, working with different choreographers, and different styles. Paying attention to details and picking things up is what most company directors and choreographers are looking for!
This post's author, Ms. Brette Benedict is a Lead Artist with the Ballet 5:8 professional company, and is the Ballet Mistress for Ballet 5:8's Trainee Program.