Our Thursday ballet class is now officially in the hands of Birdie! I first met her in the summer course one and a half years ago. Back then, I’d only been doing ballet for a couple of months and I suffered in Birdies class – greatly. But I also learned a lot. Birdie is wonderfully technical, and in our small class, she gives individual corrections often. This is something you can profit greatly from, especially in ballet, where your body is doing so many confusing things at the same time, you often have no way of finding out which of them it is doing wrong.
Fortunately, one and a half years have not gone by in vain – the class is pleasantly challenging instead of devastatingly difficult. The most noticeable difference between Birdie and Amy and even our first teacher, M.: Birdie doesn’t do the combinations with us unless every single one of us forgets what we were supposed to be doing. Instead, she walks up and down the room watching us closely and offering corrections. She also has a very precise «dictation» skill up her sleeve, calling out the moves in perfect time so you can follow along.
Even though our class mostly started out together, we have very mixed levels. Not everyone remembers the French technique names, but I suppose that will change fast with Birdie’s voice-only cues. The combinations she gave us were straightforward, so the more advanced people could more or less remember, and the less advanced students could follow the more advanced ones. Birdie did explain that she prefers us to do simple combinations on our own rather than following her through long and complex ones. In adult beginner ballet, there’s no such thing as «this exercise is too easy» – ALL your technique could use more work. The current difficulty level of the class is therefore perfect.
Another pleasant change is Birdie’s insistence we close up each barre exercise perfectly. Her close-up routine is feasible from every position and goes: allongé where applicable – close into relevé in fifth, arm à la seconde – allongé – close arm into first and set heels down. Birdie does not hold with inelegant slumping out of position and I like that about her a lot.
Also, jumps are finally back on the menu! We almost never jumped with Amy, but on Thursday, Birdie chased us through a strenuously long combination of sautés, changements and échappés, and followed them up with grand jetés. We have now become good enough at those that doing them no longer results in general hilarity, as I reported in one of my first posts on this blog.
I also got a couple of personalised corrections which I intend to put into practice. One thing I love about Birdie is that she won’t let you slack off. During grand battements, she unceremoniously grabbed my leg, said «I wonder if this goes any further up» and pulled. To my great surprise, it did, and quite a lot at that, so Birdie instructed me to bring it up to that height every time. I now have an over 90° grand battement to the side! W00t!
The other two corrections I got were my personal weaknesses and I’ve been hearing about them for a good long while now. Both were particularly relevant to the piqué turns. I need to bring my upper body forward more to properly engage my core (as Bee has also said) and I keep forgetting that trailing shoulder in turns. But, Birdie being Birdie, I’m sure she’ll keep reminding me.
Here’s to better, much more difficult ballet class from now on! What kind of ballet teacher do you prefer?