Ultimately, it means moving efficiently with the least amount of effort possible, making dance look easy, sometimes effortless. Studying technique, Ballet specifically, is where students develop a habit of mindful execution and an understanding of the theoretical principles of their art. Ballet study provides a student the foundation of vocabulary, stage directions, recurring movement patterns, and an appreciation for
consistent intentional practice. Ballet classes are always composed of a series of exercises that begin at the barre and progress to the center exercises, performed without the barre. The exercises progress in the same order as each exercise prepares students for the elements that follow. For example, class always begins with a plie’combination. Plie literally means, “to bend” and this is performed as a bend in the knee both small and big or in French, demi and grande. Correct execution of a plie is essential to a dancer, every movement begins and ends with a bent knee position. This is our take off and landing; which is the same in any athletic activity. In fact, it is helpful to any athlete, not just dancers, to learn correct knee over toe alignment. This awareness can prevent both acute and chronic injury and also becomes a source of power and follow through. Performing these exercises regularly and consistently continues to condition muscles and muscle memory and students learn that there is always room for improvement. Ballet training is a system based on repetition that develops in students a keen body awareness. So often we have been asked, “Why are there so many stretches at the barre?
To make a comparison, is there any doubt why Tiger Woods practices his golf swing so many times or why a major league baseball player goes to the batting cage? No one would ask that because the answer is clear. It is the same with dance class, basic skills need to be analyzed, practiced, and executed repeatedly.
It is our philosophy as a school that our students learn good technique devoid of affectation and over stylized movement. It is our job to prepare them to be able to learn from and work successfully with many different teachers and choreographers, and have the confidence in themselves to do that. All of our CGPAC staff put much time and consideration into being conscientious teachers. We devote even more thought and consideration into preparing class work than we do into creating choreography. We know that each student is constructed differently both physically and temperamentally and therefore needs our careful attention and even analysis.
Personally, I have always enjoyed the process of creating dancers, just as I thoroughly enjoyed the process of becoming one. I had a professor in college who told us that if we are going to dance, we have to enjoy the process because we spend a great deal more time working in the process than performing the finished product. I knew she was right, and I knew at that moment that I could be a dancer and was probably even better suited to teach. In class is where I feel most alive and most comfortable. I get great enjoyment, and I know my colleagues do as well, analyzing, assessing and solving the riddle of completely different body mechanics achieving the same result. Not every student will love it or even like it, but perhaps knowing what there is to be gained can provide and appreciation and understanding of how vital it is to their success as dancers, artists, athletes, and people.