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!