Forum: Ballet / Ballet - Beginners

Ballet - Beginners
New to ballet
By xxdancersophiexx Comments: 3, member since Wed May 18, 2016
On Wed May 18, 2016 12:24 PM
Edited by xxdancersophiexx (276822) on 2016-05-18 12:29:00 Forgot to ask a question


My name is Sophie. I started jazz dancing last September and have since fallen back in love with dance (I quit almost 10 years ago as a preschooler). I signed up to take my first Ballet classes in the fall and am super excited! I just have a few questions about it that I'd like to get out of the way before I start.

1) What are some basic steps I should know before I start? I have done some research and have picked some stuff up from Jazz, but I know I'm still quite behind.

2) What kind of shoes should I get? I read my studio's dress code and they said that any ballet slippers are fine. We have hardwood floors at my studio. What are you thoughts?

3) I know there's no way for any of you guys to tell since you haven't met me, but how long do you think it will take to get en pointe? I've never taken a ballet class, but I have strong feet from working hard to get them ready as soon as I can. In my studio, the level I'm signed up for is the one where girls get their pointe shoes. I know I'll be stuck being basically the only one not en pointe for a while, but how long do you estimate it will take me?

4) What is the basic layout of a ballet class? As in, what order do things usually happen in? I want to know so that I'm not completely lost my first time.

5) If anyone here was a late beginner, did you have trouble fitting in? If so, do you have any tips? I can be a little on the shy side and it took me several months to make friends in my jazz class (unfortunately, my Jazz friends don't take ballet). I know that I'm new and there will be a lot of mistakes on my part, but it's a challenge I'm ready and super excited to take on.

Thank you!

10 Replies to New to ballet

re: New to ballet
By Gaudium Comments: 1366, member since Wed Apr 14, 2004
On Wed May 18, 2016 05:15 PM
Most of your questions posted should be discussed with your dance teacher. Most schools of dance issue a printed dress code or they may have a dress code posted. You can always call the dance school and ask. Good luck and enjoy!
re: New to ballet
By Alassin_Sanemember has saluted, click to view salute photos Comments: 266, member since Tue Dec 28, 2010
On Thu May 19, 2016 07:48 AM
xxdancersophiexx wrote:

1) What are some basic steps I should know before I start? I have done some research and have picked some stuff up from Jazz, but I know I'm still quite behind.

I just wanted to add that I would recommend not trying to learn new steps by yourself before your first ballet class. It's far too easy to pick up bad habits, and much harder to re-learn the correct way later! If you'd like to do something to prepare in the meantime, maybe a pilates class or similar to help with building the strength you'll need (especially if you plan to work towards pointe)?

As Gaudium said, this is probably something you should run by your teacher first for their recommendations.

Does your teacher know that you hope to work towards pointe in the future? If not, it may be worth discussing it with them so that they can help you start building the strength that you'll need when the times comes.
re: New to ballet
By xxdancersophiexx Comments: 3, member since Wed May 18, 2016
On Thu May 19, 2016 08:20 PM
Thank you guys for the advice! I know I shouldn't start learning too much at home, I'd just like to have the basic knowledge that I'll need (I'm not taking a beginner class). I talked to the director of the studio, she said that the kind of shoe I get doesn't matter, so I was just looking for advice on how to choose. I'll definitely let her know that I'd like to work up to pointe when I start my classes. Thanks again!
re: New to ballet
By hummingbird Comments: 10441, member since Mon Apr 18, 2005
On Thu May 19, 2016 09:26 PM
To find the right ballet shoe for your feet go to a store that stocks several brands so you get to see how they fit.

Have you asked your studio owner what technique you're going to be studying, if we know what the technique is we could recommend a good book that at least shows you arm positions and the names of some of the steps as they're termed in that syllabus.

You are going to find there's quite a bit of cross over from Jazz to ballet so I don't think you're going to be as lost as you think you'll be in your first class.
re: New to ballet
By xxdancersophiexx Comments: 3, member since Wed May 18, 2016
On Fri May 20, 2016 07:14 AM
Edited by xxdancersophiexx (276822) on 2016-05-20 07:16:30 Forgot to say something
Edited by xxdancersophiexx (276822) on 2016-05-20 07:17:34 Forgot a word
I'll be sure to stop by my local dance store between now and the fall. Thankfully they made it very easy for me by being very specific exactly what I should get for everything else, but the shoes are left up to personal preference. They require full soled leather shoes for the lower levels, though. My studio uses the RAD syllabus.

I was hoping that there would be some crossover between the two styles. I'm also starting Modern in the fall, so it's good to know that this year of jazz will be helpful as I try to take in all this new stuff.

Thanks, Hummingbird!
re: New to ballet
By Storm_Trouper Comments: 818, member since Mon May 21, 2012
On Sun May 22, 2016 10:38 PM
Edited by Storm_Trouper (249942) on 2016-05-22 22:47:50
Edited by Storm_Trouper (249942) on 2016-05-22 23:07:29
Edited by Storm_Trouper (249942) on 2016-05-22 23:54:44
Edited by Storm_Trouper (249942) on 2016-05-22 23:58:02
Keep in mind, if you will, that ballet fundamentals are relatively more technically specific compared to many other popular genres of dancing at the beginner level. To succeed and progress at ballet requires gradually conditioning and educating your body, from toe tips to finger tips to top of head and everywhere in between, and developing an inner awareness and physical habit for executing the correct or proper desired ideal form.

Ballet technique or vocabulary is very exacting in terms of issues like placement, line, turnout, opposition, engaging muscles, proper ankles, arm and head movements, extending limbs, etc. Different approaches, for example RAD, have you work towards certain stylized ideals under their system and employ their own version of french ballet expressions. But a properly executed plier is a proper plier no matter under which system. There is a range of variations and nuances. The RAD's blue (and red advanced) book catalogues their particular vocabulary. And they like to see leather full soles on beginners I believe. (Bloch is a great, popular brand for these soft shoes.)

Learning to combine elemental techniques into 'steps' or chains (enchainements) is lots of fun to master and perfect, on both left and right sides.

Common beginner class format (not pointe):
- 75-90 minutes in length
- barre (pliers, leg battements of various types, ronde de jambes, various feet positions, port de bras, releves, demi tours)
- centre for slow, methodical adage movements like port de bras and passe, battements; petit allegro jumps / glissades / assembles, turning, spotting, jetes, chasses
- combinations and allegro movements across the floor diagonally, like gallops, glissades, pas de bouree, balances

It can take a few sessions to get comfortable with the class routine and rhythm/ pace. The teacher will explain and demonstrate and have the class 'mark' the movement elements. You should be instructed to stand in certain starting or preparation position e.g. 3rd or 5th or 1st or 2nd position of the feet. You'll be instructed what to do with your arms and head, movement wise; how to work you leg to the front, the side and the rear (back) in a half of a cross pattern (croisee). You'll be told when to repeat and shown how to end the movement. Then you get to do everything on the other side. The movements are strictly orchestrated to musical beats in 4/4 or 6/8 time generally.

Get to know other beginners as you will share common concerns like feeling overwhelmed at times by all the new, endless information to learn, understand and memorize (the french language). It is Fun and Exciting and invigorating when you start to get the hang of things.

The teacher will call out 'corrections' to movements during exercises, do try to pay heed to them and apply and remember them as much as you can. If you work hard and concentrate and attend often, you will experience progress. Sometimes you will hit a wall when you think ypu are not making so much progress but then you experience a break through where things make sense naturally, So it is a process that you are undergoing, not simply learning new steps. Gradually you will add artistry and expression to your otherwise mechanical movement patterns, and learn to respond to the musical mood, fir example by slowing or accelerating your movements to just behind or ahead of the beat. It is lots of fun!

Going on pointe is it's own challenge and readiness to do so depends on a range of factors, thus making predictions unreliable without a thorough proper assessment by a well qualified, knowledgable, experienced teacher. For example, how much your existing muscular strength and endurance and joint flexibility, natural anatomy and placement etc all lend themselves to working pointe technique; how much pre-pointe conditioning you possess. So as others have suggested, you need to direct your curiosities to your teacher.
re: New to ballet
By Storm_Trouper Comments: 818, member since Mon May 21, 2012
On Mon May 23, 2016 01:31 AM
In a cross shape (perpendicular from the mid axis) is en croix, not croise.
re: New to ballet
By Gaudium Comments: 1366, member since Wed Apr 14, 2004
On Wed May 25, 2016 02:13 PM
Some folks have posted some very good points but remember that No one should try to dance better than anyone else, nor should you attempt to dance like anyone else. Try only to dance better than yourself for yourself. You do not need to pick up someone else’s bad habits as you will develop you own in no time.
re: New to ballet
By hummingbird Comments: 10441, member since Mon Apr 18, 2005
On Thu May 26, 2016 08:39 AM
Here's a very good book from the RAD aimed at students taking their graded exams. The exercises are from their old syllabus but the advise about stance and general technique hasn't changed and there's some very good advice in it too. You might even be able to find it at your local library. . . .
re: New to ballet
By SDAdancerLIM Comments: 37, member since Tue May 17, 2016
On Fri Jun 03, 2016 04:52 PM
1.) I do not suggest trying to do much on your own without your teacher's permission. You may injure yourself or form bad habits that are difficult to break. My biggest suggestion to try to prepare yourself would be to read about ballet online and familiarize yourself with some of the basic terminology.

2.) I haven't danced on hardwood floors for a long time but back when I did, I always wore leather ballet shoes. I read recently, that leather is best for hardwood floors because it provides more traction.

3.) This really depends on your age, strength, technique, ability to apply corrections, and the studio's rules. It's hard to try to guess when you'd be able to go on pointe. I recently switched studios, so I don't really know what the policy is at my new studio, but at my old studio the basic requirements to go on pointe were: at least 11 years old and 2 consecutive years of ballet. We also had to take pre-pointe for about 6 months before we were allowed to buy our pointe shoes. Our pointe class was also seperate from ballet so we had to be taking pointe and ballet.

4.) Typically, classical ballet classes begin at the ballet barre with plíe, tendu, degagé, etc. Then you'll usually practice steps or short combinations across the floor alone or in small groups (depending on the size of the class). After this, you'll do combinations in the center (adagio, allegro). This is when you would learn choreography for recital, if your studio has one. Classical ballet classes end with a reverence, although many studios tend not to do this.

5.) I was not a late beginner, but I switched studios when I was 16 (almost 17) after dancing with the same teacher and kids since I was 3. Luckily, a some of my friend from my old studio also switched to the new studio, so I was not completely alone with strangers. It was a difficult transition though. I went from a small studio of about 45 dancers (where I was a "favorite") to a big studio with over 250 kids. I'm on the shy side as well, but luckily the other dancers at my new studio are very nice and outgoing. The only advice I really have is to be yourself. I know it sounds corny but there really is no point in making friends who don't like you for who you really are.

Have fun and good luck!