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 Post subject: Question about beginners ballet class & flexibility exer
PostPosted: Wed Dec 05, 2007 4:02 pm 

Joined: Tue Apr 04, 2006 3:30 pm
Posts: 3
Location: Lisbon Portugal

I'm a dance teacher, yet without much experience (I've just finished my BA in dance teaching, and I have been teaching ballet only since last year and to the same class).

I'm teaching children in the age group of 5<8 years old, and I have noticed that they have little flexibility and I would like to develop that capacity in them. I would like to ask you any kind of exercises to emphasize that kind of work, preferably with some creative feel, because they love all the "metaphors" I've been using.

Also I would like to know how to develop the classes, although they are so young, is already the second year that I'm teaching to the same class and the students from last year are needing to learn more material. Most of the syllabus I've been teaching is floor barre (flex/stretch feet, scissors, en dehors/parallel, hands waving), elementary steps (gallops, skips, running in 1/2 pointe, ballet walks, coupés), pliés and rises in 1st and 2nd position and port de bras. All is done in rows in the center, diagonal, or in circle. I don't have a barre or mirror (yes, it's awfull, because they hardly understand the mistakes they're making), this is a private college with low resources for extracurricular activities.

Well, hope you can give me any answer concerning my dilemmas 8) Ah, and sorry for any misspelling, as I'm writing you from Portugal, my English might not be the best.

Thanks for the attention

Lucila Pereira

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 06, 2007 1:45 pm 

Joined: Wed Apr 11, 2001 11:01 pm
Posts: 6883
Location: El Granada, CA, USA
Hi Lucila, thanks for posting.

When I thaught that age group, I would always sit us all down in a circle after barre and do stretches with them. I made it a contest. Who can touch their toes the longest?! I also stretches and strength exercises with partners (holding each others feet or pulling against each other) so they could interat with each other. That seemed to be fun for them.

Hopefully some of our more experienced teachers will give you some suggestions as well.

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 06, 2007 5:34 pm 

Joined: Wed Apr 12, 2000 11:01 pm
Posts: 688
Location: Seattle, WA. USA
From a book I wrote for beginning teachers, here are a few suggestions -- simple yet effective. These are for ages 4-6:

8. Butterfly Wings. With the bottom of the feet together (in “frog” position), move the knees up and down. Start slowly and build in speed and number. Can count out loud.
Uses: technique, stretch, imagination
Teaches: rhythmically structured exercise
Add: a stretch over, so that the nose touches the big toes; twist over to the side so that the chin touches the knee; repeat from side to side.

9. Hide Like a Turtle. (Dévelopée and extension). The legs and knees are together with the feet pointed (good toes!), the arms being wrapped around the legs and the head down and “hiding.” Then, have them “look up out of their shells” and have the hands go to the floor beside them. Each leg is then extended all the way, straight, one at a time, repeating the same leg. Then try BOTH legs together twice, and on the third time, have the hold the legs the try to balance with their arms off of the floor à la seconde. This is a very fun game and children seem to like doing it every time.
Uses: technique, rhythm
Teaches: balance, dévelopée, trying to achieve a goal by doing their best
Hint: fall over backward yourself on occasion, so they know it is “okay” to do so themselves and that it all right not to be able to achieve the end goal immediately.

10. “Frog” Position Sit-Ups. In the “frog” or “butterfly” position, have them reach their arms forward and then roll down and up, 4-8 times.

Stretching and reaching for their toes and feet with their legs extended out in front of them is always effective.

I might suggest you made up a floor stretch routine that they do regularly as a part of their class. When they learn to limber and warm themselves up as part of their regular training, then as they get older and more advanced, they'll often just do warm ups on their own without hardly even having to think about it or being asked.

Also, ballet exercises, in and of themselves, will limber and align them. I wouldn't be too overly worried if they are not little rubber bands right away. Flexibility and strength and control to go with it are built over time.

Best wishes for happy teaching! :D

Dean Speer

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 07, 2007 11:10 pm 

Joined: Fri Oct 25, 2002 11:01 pm
Posts: 682
Location: Petaluma, California
What excellent suggestions, Dean...I like to have the students "straddle" and stretch to either side as well as forward into their "pancake". These are gymnastic terms and stretches and work well for little ones. I like foot flex and pointe and ankle rotations with legs parallel sitting on the floor. While having legs parallel like this, have them "turn out" and then "turn in" back to parallel. When their feet are flexed doing this exercise, I tell them they are opening and shutting the gates. This exercise helps them feel their turnout coming from the hips and top (and back) of the legs. I also have them do "kitty kats". On their hands and knees, they round their backs and tuck their chins and, then, arch their backs and lift their chins. Sometimes, we would "meow" during this exercise and all my students loved this!

For center practice, students need to use all the movement qualities like run, leap, jump, skip, hop, slide, turn, march, etc. They should be working on simple port de bras and head movements. My children love doing simple polka and tarantella dances. Spring points, chasses, balances, sautes (in 1st and 2nd), waltz (simple or walking), pirouette preparation, reverance, and dancing to different rhythms are all incorporated into their class. We practice simple spotting, finger tips on shoulders and spinning in one place. I think it is good, also, to have them face different directions sometimes. For example, four sautes in first facing front, side, back, side, etc. These are some of the things I do with young children. I hope this gives some ideas. I love reading other teachers' ideas, too! I've used many that I have read about! Good luck, DancePortugal, and welcome to CD!

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