Absolutely No Ballet Beyond This Line

Birdie is really laying down the law in ballet class. While our class is generally hard-working, very few people are willing to stand in the front. This behaviour is pretty common in beginner dance classes, university lectures and certain conferences. But Birdie decided she wasn’t going to tolerate it in her class.

Last Thursday, she used masking tape to draw a long line across the studio, about a metre off the back wall (the terrible apricot-coloured one). During center, no one may dance behind this line. Not even our one very shy girl, whom Birdie sweetly but firmly asked to come in front of the line a couple of times during class.

It’s not a bad idea actually. The back wall serves as our central bag storage area and dancing too close to it is an actual safety hazard. Plus, the corridor created thusly gives you a convenient, dancer-free space to traipse back into position when working in groups.

The pace Birdie set last week continued. She is still evaluating our skill levels and will frequently ask us whether we’ve done glissades / pas de basque / grand jeté / whatever before. To this question, I usually reply with ‘yes’ while most others simultaneously reply with ‘no’, mostly because the French names are not easy to remember if you don’t spend way too much time reading and writing about them. Most people recognize the technique once it’s shown.

My favourite thing about Birdie’s class is that we finally have time for all parts of center. With Amy, we never got to the allegro, but Birdie sets a very good pace and squeezes in a good amount of everything – in such a way that it doesn’t even feel squeezed. I particularly liked last week’s adagio, except for the fact that it started with a grand plié. In a complete lack of foresight, I had selected the day before as the day I would finally resume doing pistol squats and I really wasn’t feeling the pliés after that.

Birdie’s corrections are still on point and, most importantly, tailored to the needs of each student. For example, she corrected the line of my arms in second position during an exercise, but ignored the arms of another girl who was still figuring out the legs. This is probably the biggest advantage of a small class: the teacher can give much more time and attention to each individual student.

And she can always see when you’re dancing behind the line.

Title photo by Agustin Lautaro on Unsplash. A very accurate representation of my level of ballet skills.

8 thoughts on “Absolutely No Ballet Beyond This Line

  1. Yaaaay! Not only is Birdie introducing better traffic control, but she’s introduced a pretty standard ballet practice that will serve all of you well in other studios. I mean, it doesn’t usually involve an actual tape line (though we sometimes approximate using the Marley panels), but the last meter or so is generally left clear for the exact reasons you’ve mentioned here.

    In one of today’s turns exercises, a group of us kept taking advantage of the space to grab another pass, since JMH gave us options—basically any turns we felt like doing, as long as they were en sedans 😊 Predictably, a whole contingent of us went twice on each side so we could exercise our freedom. Traffic flowed beautifully thanks to the clear “launch zone.”

    i try not to mark exercises in the launch zone, either. The studio where BW teaches, however, is quite narrow, so I’m forever backing my behind into the barre whilst making pas marché to the back 😛

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  2. Ha! Good to know it’s a common practice! Our studio is long and narrow, so there’s plenty of space for marking off to the sides. We’ll see if she keeps it up with the tape. 😃

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  3. I *can* do a single one on a good day. 😂 All the others, I can get down in a controlled fashion, but not up. Mr. Adorable told me to pull myself up using equipment or innocent bystanders as needed. I only do three sets of four reps on each leg and I still die evrytiem.

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  4. Does your teacher make you change places several times during a class? For example, five people are standing in the front row, after a while teacher asks them to move to the back and let the next row come forward? My teacher does. Now, what happens is that everybody tries to stand in the front row at the beginning of the class, because every class starts with simple exercise. As soon as it gets difficult, the people in the front row ask for a change.

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  5. Birdie does! Funny, I never would’ve thought it could have this effect.
    In modern and jazz, our teachers have us change our positions entirely, even encouraging the more advanced students to face the other way during warm-up. Now that is fun!

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