Unexpected Faults in Dancers
Unexpected faults in dancers are those faults which teachers get tired of correcting but students seem to value less. These common faults are not given the just value for the reward that they can bring.
As a teacher, we ask “What is the most important fault to correct?” There are plenty of common concerns regarding technique that take time because they require the specialized strength and stretch of classical dance. Let me share what I consider high priority “faults” that easier to fix with and a higher rate of obvious improvement.
Firstly– know thy body, know thy technique.
For example, If you do not know which leg is weaker, which foot you tend to sickle, that your left side is less coordinated etc., then you have no road map to improvement. I am always surprised when I ask a student “Which leg is stronger? Which side is more turned out?” and I get the answer “I don’t know”.
Any journey needs a map.
Coordination of the body, eyes, head, arms
Hand and eye coordination is important in sports training. I believe that athletes take this skill seriously and practice it. Granted some sports are all about the ball, the racquet and the pitch and coordination of the upper body is greatly valued.
However, dancers tend to be all about the legs. We think of our legs first over whole body coordination. Not only is this inefficient, it is more difficult. Sure beginners have a lot to remember. However, I believe that students should be taught the hand, eye, arm, core and leg movement as integrated movement. Keep the movement simple enough so that integration can occur. Once you do it enough, there are many patterns of arms, heads and legs that are set and integral to your training. These patterns makes dancing easier as they become habits.
How many times have you seen a class where the students leave their arms out of the combination? Even worse, not used their heads or eyes to follow their port de bras?
Sous-sus without the head following the front leg is what I call the “zombie stare”.
Who wants to look at that? Uninteresting, tense and boring…. Adding a head or épaulement to a pose is easy and the reward great! Instantly, you look more polished and professional with minimal muscular effort.
How about turning? Look at the dancer below in my Intermediate Pointe and Pirouette Ballet Class video. Her head is already in place over her leading arm, ready to spot.
Call me old-fashioned but there is a new trend to perform a four count grand plié in three counts. Even worse is that the arm finishes in seconde before the legs straighten. How did that come to be? It looks uncoordinated and impassive. Basically useless for your center technique. If you know why this has developed, please let know!
If you want to “look graceful”, have an ease in your dance and enjoy it– work on this. I have observed that port de bras and the eye/hand coordination is less emphasized than it used to be.
Learn the combination
Figure out the combination before it is your turn. If you are unsure, ask a question. Still unsure and do not want to hold up the class? Practice in the back with every group. However, most dancers don’t know the combination in their proper level because they did not mark it adequately.
Do not just watch– do! Your body has muscle memory, mark the steps and you will integrate brain and body so much quicker.
Keeping your head up is essential for a few reasons:
- The head is the heaviest part of your body. Looking down can throw off your center of balance.
- Looking down indicates insecurity in your dancing.
- In particular, ballet dancers do not look at the floor as the elegant carriage was developed in Italian and French courts. Trust yourself to “feel” the movement and look outward past the mirror. Looking at your feet or the floor will not be helpful for your artistic expression or communication with the audience. Every center step in classical dance is geared to the audience.
Where am I facing?
Gosh, I almost feel this should be #1! I have seen many Adult Ballet classes where no one explains the basic diagram of the stage and ballet class room. If you do not know where your body is in space, your line will not be correct.
Additionally, you also run the risk of running into other dancers in center if you do not understand basic concepts such as croisé, effacé, ecarté.
The best part of it is that you will look more turned out and have a beautiful line if you face the correct angles for your positions.
The other benefit is that you will learn choreograph much faster. Often students will ask me which leg is it? I will say , “I don’t know. It is effacé”. Learning right and left leg instead of the positions slows down your ability to catch on to combinations in center.
Lack of musicality
I started ballet late and had trouble with this. When you start dancing in your teens or as an adult, it is more difficult for many reasons. It is definitely a language where we must integrate motor control, space, steps in patterns and …. be on the music? What music? I remember that I did not even hear the music because I was focused in my own brain and body so deeply.
However, I did learn eventually that the music is helpful to the movement. Dancing to the music makes dancing easier. In fact, I would wager that 90% of world dance including native dance – move in sync with their music! My desire to dance was actually prompted from listening to my father play the piano.'Unexpected faults in dancers are faults which teachers value & students seem to value less. 'Click To Tweet
Usual common faults
These are the usual common faults that we all strive to improve.
- Inability to manage turnout (rotation). How to get it, how to maintain it, how to stretch it , how to use it, how to improve it etc.
- Sickled feet– pronation or supination.
- Weak core– like turnout, how to get a strong core and how to use it.
- Sinking or snapping back into hyperextension.
- Released pelvis. Strive for neutral.
- Incorrect pointe work.
These do not include goals like higher extensions, improved flexibility, multiple turns, better jumps, etc. These goals will come as we accomplish strength and control in the basics. Sorry, no shortcuts!