Bad Ballet Class: Knowing When To Bail

I realized that I’ve talked about my problematic search for ballet classes on other people’s blogs and forums but never talked about it here in my own place. Not to go on at length but just a quick overview… I began looking for adult beginner ballet classes a few years ago. I thought that it wouldn’t be that hard, this is a big city after all. Yeah, right. Long story short, I had a number of bad experiences that would cause me to abandon the idea altogether for a time but some itches must be scratched and at some point, I’d start the whole miserable process all over again. Turns out lots of people offer classes but not nearly so many people should be teaching… ballet or anything else!

Okay, so I finally found a great teacher who not only knows what he’s doing but knows how to teach ballet with passion, patience, and enthusiasm. I’m happy to be in his classes but ballet being what is it, addicting as meth, I thought about looking for additional classes on the days my teacher didn’t offer classes. I’m not sure what possessed me but I went back to one of the places that I had been to before; a place that had been so discouraging that after one class, I required a ballet-free period to recover from it. Why did I go back there? Because the studio was new and beautiful, the class was at a convenient time, and most importantly, because I was sure that the problem the first time around was most definitely me – my lack of coordination, my inability to balance squarely to two flat feet, my general suckiness and lack of talent for anything that requires grace while moving.

Guess what? It wasn’t me. True, I do have a lack of coordination, I trip over my own feet when walking on flat surfaces, and I’m as graceful as newborn goat BUT what I lack in talent I make up for in a deep respect for the art, an openness to correction, a willingness to try, and a love and enthusiasm for all things ballet. The class sucked. It sucked because the teacher seemed bored with fundamentals and seemed more interested in keeping himself entertained than caring if were learning anything or were even doing anything right. His version of a correction: No. Pointing at my feet: No. Pointing at my arm: No. Nodding in my general direction: No. What does that mean? No? No, don’t do that, no, do it differently? Then when I stopped in response to No: Keep moving. What? Thanks.

Center was a disaster. His version of center was to throw together a routine that included several jumps, turns, a promenade in each direction, and some moves that I’m positive were jazz (he also teaches jazz classes, hmmm… go figure). After marking it once, he danced it with us and then said, okay your turn and I quote: “use your own brains, when you just follow me your using my brain, time to use your own.” I’ve seen this combination twice and the first time wasn’t even full on because he was just marking it and he wants me to dance it without any help! What the heck, I go for it. I’m pretty sure I started in the wrong direction then got lost in the turns, somehow found my way into the promenade and might actually have caught up with the music! only to be told that promenades should look like the ballerina in the music box and mine looked like the music box ballerina was broken. Thanks.

We finished with pique turns and jetes on the diagonal. He plays the music and marks it, then changes the music to faster music without telling us and the 1st & 2nd girls both go into the mirror. Like hell if I’m going into the mirror so I take them low and slow and he gets tired of waiting for me and turns off the music before I reach the other side of the studio. Thanks.

On top of it all, he actually asks us to say what a great class it was as we leave because the studio owner is in the lobby and hasn’t been happy with the low attendance in the ballet classes. Really?!?!?!

I left ballet class miserable. I was miserable all day thinking about it. I woke up Tuesday morning thinking about it. I was still hearing the click of the iPod turning off while I’m still trying to turn and jump.

So, okay, that sucked. But let me tell you what really sucked, the misery began to carry over… I had one of my regular classes with Awesome Ballet Teacher and I was nervous going to class. I haven’t really been nervous about class since first class jitters. It was hard to focus because I was thinking, feet: No, arms: No, not sure what else but: No! I carried with me a horrible internal voice that wasn’t even mine: I can’t do this, I’m a broken ballerina, just turn the music off on me because what I’m doing isn’t worth the song. Awesome Ballet Teacher always says that we have to fire our inner critic but this wasn’t my inner critic, this was another real person dancer critic and he was harsh. But you know what, crummy ballet teacher began class looking bored and ended class the same, all three students looked non-too thrilled as well. But with Awesome Ballet Teacher, the joy of ballet was back. At the end of class today I was tired, sweaty, and happy. I was already anticipating the next class before stepping outside of the studio. The corrections from today rang in my brain as things that I can do, that I can fix, that I’m ready to work on!

Monday’s class sucked, but it wasn’t me. To sucky ballet class, I say, No! There are people out there who should not be teaching ballet, when you come across them, run! Ballet is hard but its beautiful and joyous and any teacher or any class that can drain the happiness right out of it needs to go because that is wrong in more ways than I can express. It wasn’t me; it was time to bail and so I did. But that’s okay because I still have Awesome Ballet Teacher and many, many happy ballet classes to come!

If you are in Los Angeles and you are looking for an Awesome Ballet Teacher, I will absolutely recommend Michael Cornell. Just click on his name to find his website. And if you want to know where NOT to go, email me cause I’ll be happy to give you the 411 but I’m not down with dissing people specifically, even if they deserve it because sucking the love out of ballet is positively evil!

17 thoughts on “Bad Ballet Class: Knowing When To Bail

  1. Yikes, sorry to hear about your sucky class, but happy that you have Awesome Ballet Teacher!🙂 He sounds great. Next time I’m in L.A., I’ll definitely ask you for class recs! In a couple of weeks I will be in Anaheim on vacation and am hoping to fit in a class at Anaheim Ballet. Their “Adult Beginning II” works better for my schedule than “I”; the number “II” scares/excites me a little, but with a few months already under my belt (and a sunny, open disposition) hopefully I can hack it!

    • Thanks, Jeff. Anaheim Ballet is quite an established school so I’m sure they have great teachers and you will have fab time in Beginning II! A challenge is always fun when you get good instruction and positive feedback.

  2. I hear you! There’s nothing worse than a bad class, especially if it a bad class for reasons you have no control over, bad teachers for one. I’d be mad too if that was how my teachers acted, a complete jerk. It’s good to hear you have Awesome Ballet Teacher too. Great teachers make the difference!

    • I just cannot overemphasize the importance of a great teacher! Not only do I actually learn something from Awesome Ballet Teacher but I stay motivated and inspired as well. With ABT I’m excited to go to class and work hard toward improving; after a class with sucky teacher all I want to do it lay down and cry… and I cannot dance while on the floor in tears so NO MORE sucky teacher!

  3. Wow, that teacher seems to have some serious issues!!! And I am so glad you have your ABT!

    I want to move to LA to take your classes :p

    • I know, right?! I’m glad that I found ABT too. I feel really fortunate to have this in my life right now. If you’re ever in LA, ballet class date, for sure!😀

  4. I am happy that you´ve yourself an ABT! I have had some experiences with the opposite of ABT – they can suck the life and joy out of you.. Luckily, I am currently studying with two ABTs, and even my Summer Sub belonged to this category🙂

    If any of you guys ever come to Finland, I´ll share my teachers with you!

    – Johanna

    • Thanks, Johanna! Any teacher who sucks the joy out of ballet is not going to be a teacher of mine! I’m glad you have great teachers now too!

      We are going to have an amazing ABT network around the world!!! How cool is that!!!

  5. I just had a fun experience after class today. Talking to two other classmates in the lobby, we discovered that all three of us took the same ‘basic beginner’ class from a terrible teacher at another city schoo (independently!) thought it was just us and not the teacher, gave up for a while and then tried again elsewhere. And all three of us love class like the addicts we are. Some teachers just shouldn’t be! Especially not for beginners!

    • Hi L, thanks for reading! I had a similar experience. I discovered a couple of classmates who tried beginning classes at a the same school I did, not only did we all have a miserable time but we were all really discouraged by the experience. That’s what I object to most, I think – I wonder how many people were really excited about taking a ballet class and then scared away from it by a teacher who should not be teaching beginning adults (and some who should not be teachers at all). I’m really happy that you found a great teacher now so that you too can experience the pure joy of a fantastic ballet class!!!

  6. Hi, thank you so much for posting this! I’m sixteen and I started ballet when I was 12 so am obviously well below other girls of my age as I’m only grade 3. I had a horrific experience at an audition where I was unsuccessful and when I contacted the director to ask for some future advice, she told me that for my age, the grade I was at was not acceptable. It literally shattered my confidence and it was so nice to read your blog as I’m starting to feel less discouraged🙂 My ballet teacher is really excellent and never discouraging to us at all, although we’re a little older. Thank you!

  7. (continued) Oh joy, just received another snooty email from the witch after I explained that I only started like four years ago, she replied “other girls your age have been dancing since they were four.” well thanks. Grr. Okay sorry🙂

    • Hi Kate! I’m glad that you found my post and that it helped. Dance is about joy, sure it is hard and serious business but ultimately it should provide you with pure happiness! As you continue to pursue dance you will probably encounter more negativity but whatever you do, don’t let it weigh you down! Some people started dance at 4, some people at 12, some people over 30, I even know someone who started at 60 years old! A person is never too old to begin to learn the art of dance and everyone should have good instruction, plenty of encouragement, and be able to share in the joy of dance! I’m glad that you have a great ballet teacher that’s so important.

      Keep learning and dancing!

  8. Pingback: My feet hurt.

  9. Oh, thanks for this . I used to be a Major City Gal and never had a problem finding a good class. If you didn’t like Teacher X you never had to see him or her again–there was always another studio. Now I’m stuck with an aging Dracula who loves to flirt and has decided that grand pliés are bad . . . I bought a port-a-barre and use it at home!

    • Thank you for reading!

      Esh, that is scary! It is hard to be limited in classes. I know how fortunate I am to have plenty to choose from. Best of luck working at home! It’s not the same but every little tendu helps🙂

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