From the desk of DSD’s Ballet Director, Miss Amy Trayers:
I am very excited to start the year with all of your students, and share with you some fabulous new additions to our ballet program curriculum. Here at DSD, we are committed to providing your students excellence in their dance education, and the foundation of this starts with their ballet technique training. This past July, I attended a teacher training intensive with highly-sought after coach and Vaganova pedagogy expert Carol Roderick. With this information in mind, we are working on implementing a studio-wide ballet technique syllabus that will be used among all of our staff, to provide consistency in how we are training our dancers from their first class to their graduating performance.
“DSD often talks about the Vaganova method. What does this mean?”
Throughout classical ballet, there are many different styles of training. The Vaganova method is the Russian method of training, founded by a woman named Agrippina Vaganova in the 1940’s. There are several different methods of ballet training, with the Vaganova method (aka Russian method) being one of the most highly sought-after training methods in classical ballet. This is because the training system is designed to give attention to every part of the body within executing movements and allows dancers to focus on the fine details of their technique. This approach allows for dancers a full awareness of their body, and thus allowing them the opportunity to execute their movements with precise technique, fluidity, and expression.
“Why is my DSDPC dancer required to take ballet technique, and why is it important?”
Ballet is the basis for all forms of dance, and crosses over in every style a dancer performs. For example, dancers know that they start every class with a demi plié and a tendu. In jazz, every jump starts and lands in a plié. Every battement must be done with straight knees and pointed toes, which are taught in the fundamental tendu exercise in ballet. Not only this, but ballet technique enforces the same pelvic alignment, posture, balance, and details in the feet, legs, and arms that are needed in contemporary, lyrical, jazz, hip-hop, and every other style of dance. Through ballet technique, dancers are able to develop an awareness of their body so that they can correct themselves when they make a mistake without having to be reminded by the teacher. This allows for faster improvement in their dance training, and ultimately makes the difference between a good dancer and a great dancer.
“What if I have a child who doesn’t enjoy ballet as much as their other styles, or thinks it is boring? How can I encourage them to keep working in ballet technique?”
Ballet technique moves at a more deliberate pace than other styles, and this often can be frustrating for dancers that are eager to try more advanced movements. However, I often compare ballet to learning how to walk. You don’t go from crawling to sprinting; there is a deliberate process that you go through to learn how to stand, then walk, then run, etc. The basic mechanics of holding turnout, maintaining good posture and placement, coordinating the arms with the legs, etc., are crucial to be able to execute harder skills. Sure, you could teach a non-dancer to do a saute de chat (aka, a leap), and they could probably do it. However, can they do it with straightened knees and pointed toes? Can they do it with proper posture and arm placement? Can they jump high enough and have the flexibility to achieve a full split in the air? Probably not. These are all things that ballet technique focuses on, which is why we have to move at a methodical pace. This can be frustrating for dancers, because ballet technique is hard! There is always something more that can be improved within one’s own technique, even in a professional ballet dancer. However, with deliberate focus and work in ballet technique, dancers will start to see improvement in their other styles of dance, and in their own ballet technique. For dancers that think ballet technique is “boring,” I would encourage them to reframe their negative thoughts towards ballet as, “I don’t like this style of dance because I need more practice and am not where I want to be yet.” And with practice, this will come.
We are incredibly excited to be implementing our Vaganova-based program at DSD, and are eager to share it with your dancers!