CriticalDance Forum

Material and help for Adult classes please
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Author:  Marama [ Thu Apr 03, 2008 12:10 am ]
Post subject:  Material and help for Adult classes please

Hi everybody :)

I haven't been teaching all that long, am a registered teacher with the BBO. I teach from 4yrs up. Recently I have been asked to teach adults. I was a bit stuck here. In fact terrified! I was very unsure what to come up with. I had great advice, and started off with grade 3, and a bit of a mixture as well. I found though with the adults although the exercises are at a good level, and I am always acutely aware of stiffens etc, they just are not long enough. They have wanted to go over the basic arms and feet. Because I have instantly had 100% dedication :wink: we can spend longer in each area. I want to create my own class work. As I don't need to follow a syllabus I can add in lovely port de bras etc, to really get them feeling like they are dancing. I would love advice about good open music, and what others have for material for an adult class. Just to give you an idea, the fitness of my students range a lot. Some have never even danced before. Are there some really good exercise routines I could use to supplement?

Advice will be hugely appreciated, I feel my classes could be much better
Thank you

Author:  Gina Ness [ Thu Apr 03, 2008 4:14 pm ]
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Hi Marama...My background is international mix, meaning I've studied under varied teachers with different backgrounds. So, I can't help with any particular syllabus, but I have taught adults in the past. First of all, they generally really like correction. It sounds like you are on the right path with having them feel like they are truly dancing! Adults also like to learn and know the basics, so keep barre work simple and explain what the combinations are preparing them for in the center. I usually began the center with some floor stretches to music. Something else that worked for me with them is to repeat a series of combinations (a dance) several classes in a row so they come to feel comfortable with memorizing sequence of steps. Sometimes, I would use my piano class CDs, and sometimes I would vary it with popular music, Irish whistle music, classical music from ballets, Baroque music, whatever you fancy! They seemed to enjoy the variety, too! Good luck!

Author:  Marama [ Thu Apr 03, 2008 5:52 pm ]
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Thanks Gina :D

I guess I felt worried so clung to what I knew, if you know what I mean. It took me a long time to lose those huge pre teaching nerves. I can loosen up a lot more and things run so much better. All though the syllabus work is good to come back to as well. Do you tend to work creating a decent amount of work for a term and then change it the next? It's great to hear what you use for music. I have started to incorporate a variety of other music now too. I think I will have to do a bit of a stock up and more planning to get what I'm aiming to achieve! (we all know our dancers standards of perfection are limitless :wink: ) I am really grateful to all those ballets we were able to take part in.

Author:  djb [ Thu Apr 03, 2008 11:15 pm ]
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Using atypical music is a good idea. I remember the first class I took in 1968 with a certain teacher (Penelope Lagios -- did you know her, Gina?) had music by Beethoven, the Rolling Stones and Edith Piaf, as well as something she called "the Norwegian steak-eating song"! I loved it.

Author:  Marama [ Thu Apr 03, 2008 11:54 pm ]
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Hey I really like that! It must sure lighten the class atmosphere. My Adults are so lovely to teach, I bet they would really take to that idea.
Have you any particular stretches you would advise that work well for adults easing in to dance, or first timers?

Author:  Gina Ness [ Fri Apr 04, 2008 9:39 pm ]
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Penelope Lagios-Coberly was my very first teacher, djb :) ...As for floor stretches, straddle stretch with leans reaching towards the legs, pancake, foot rotations and flex points are always beneficial. I like exercises laying on the back such as pulling gently one's knee to the chest with the other leg lengthened and stretched on the floor. Developes, passes turning in and out, then develope devant. There are really a lot of possibilities. If you know any gentle floor Pilates stretches that you have been shown, you can incorporate these into your floor sequence. Although I haven't viewed it yet, does the New York City Ballet Workout video incorporate any floor stretches into their workout? Maybe someone else who sees this post can enlighten us! It's one of those videos I should have seen a long time ago and just haven't gotten around to it yet! :wink:

Just did a quick search for ballet floor work and I thought this looked pretty interesting...

Author:  David [ Sat Apr 05, 2008 5:44 am ]
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Hi Marama

First, can I say it's great that you have an adult class. Here in the UK there is still very much a view among local dance schools especially that ballet is for children. When a friend enquired about classes at one very well known RAD-system school not so long ago she was told that "adults don't do ballet." She was even willing to do syllabus classes with the kids, but "No, that definitely was not possible." Having done both ballet and gymnastics with teenagers myself, she would probably have found that the kids actually anjoyed having an older person there.

I've taught adults (although not at the moment) and agree wholeheartedly with Gina about corrections. If my experience is anything to go by adults very much want to get things 'right'. In fact if adults have a 'problem' it's in over-analysing faults and wanting too much explanation.

That leads on to a genral point, and I know it sounds really obvious, but adults are not children or teenagers and do need to be taught differently. I'm sure you've worked that one out!! That is especially true when it comes to explaining how to do something or why something isn't working.

I would suggest not even thinking about using syllabus work. Adults almost always find it intensely boring (beacuse it is). And of course making exercises up is more fun for you too. I know you have to work on the basics, and they will understand that, but most adults I have taught want to dance, they are not there to do ballet solely as a form of exercise or to do tendu after tendu after tendu. I have also never done stretches as stretches. It's better to incorporate them into adages and ports de bras if you can. But again, it depends exactly what your students want.

I almost never repeat exercises exactly from week to week. What I do is vary them slightly - especially at the barre. Add a short coda or introduce a small variation. Dance is about thinking as well as doing and it keeps the brain in trim!

And yes, find music that's a bit different. Again, syllabus CDs tend to be very boring. There are plenty of great class CDs around that have tracks based on songs from musicals (for some reason that always goes down well), popular music or whatever. Find something they like and can connect with.

You'll probably also find they want to be pushed and will always want and be willing to try things that you might feel are beyond them. Go for it and let them discover their level.

I know I have always found teaching adults so incredibly fulfilling. The classes are also always so much fun, and you always get so much more feedback than you ever do with children. Adults also tend so progress faster than children and that in itslef is really rewarding. If my experience is anything to go by, I'll guarantee you will be surprised by their ability and commitment.

Author:  Marama [ Sun Apr 06, 2008 2:40 am ]
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Hey cheers David :D

I like the idea about incorporating stretches in with exercises! I can kid them that they are not stretching.
Do you know the BBO system?
I find I now choose a few of the most dancyest exercises throughout the primary grades and construct a bar, integrating my own music + exersizes. They like this. But as you suggest I want to move completely away from the syllabus work.

I think I'm really lucky with the place I teach.
We are a very small town, really friendly and supportive.
There is no other dance, my students are all so grateful to have any ballet at all, they are all such a pleasure to teach. All my children/teens have never danced before, but all ready I'm seeing loads of natural ability and improvement in the short time I have been running my dance school.

I totally agree about the ability and commitment of my adults! From one week to the next the change is fantastic! I thought I would not enjoy it at all but things have settled down.....and the only thing that slows us down is the odd time when all they want to do is talk. :wink:

Author:  Joanne [ Sat May 31, 2008 12:40 pm ]
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Hi Marama,

Sorry to have come to this discussion so late - with a 21 month old son I don't get that much chance to post as I would like.

I too love teaching adults. When I ran my own adult ballet my core of regulars couldn't get enough of it - taking exams performing in shows and they always wanted to better themselves.

I agree that a variety of music is good. I found some of Lisa Harris's CD's to be good also Margot Kazimirska whose Cd's are available from We also danced to classical ballet music - Sleeping Beauty, Dance of the Knights from Romeo and Juliet but also more contemporary stuff - we did a dance in a show to Bryan Adams Everything I Do.

One of the biggest challenges when teaching adults I find is that quite often they come to dance feeling that they will be no good and are often quite self deprecating. Therefore plenty of encouragement and also humour I find is great in adult classes.

Hope your class is going well - do let us know how you are getting on.

Author:  Marama [ Fri Jun 06, 2008 11:54 pm ]
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Hi ....Sorry I was rather slow
Thanks for your advice :D Lovely to hear you are enjoying yours :wink: At the moment I'm working on a piece in class for my first production....gulp. I still actually get rather nervous and prep really hard for my adults. How do you structure your classes? I have just gone by trial and error so far...It ......seems to be working, I'm growing in confidence and they are really enjoying it...I think I may need to decide on a set series and stick to it..

Author:  Joanne [ Mon Jun 09, 2008 3:21 pm ]
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Hi Marama,

I always used to structure the adult classes in pretty much the same way as the kids ones but the emphasis wuld be slightly different, quite often working more on the artistry and flow of the steps. We would have quite a long barre to really warm up and stretch out the muscles. We would then do some port de bras, adage and some tendus, grand battement etc in the centre. We would then work on pirouettes.

I would then do some stuff from the corner pique turns, contretemps, pose, coupe, pose arabesque and then some petit allegro.

Finally we would probably work on a dance of some sort before our reverance.

Author:  Marama [ Wed Jun 11, 2008 1:32 am ]
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Thats really cool to hear :D , it's great to compere , I feel I am airy fairy and should enclude more work. I work in a dance aimed for my production, which I am teaching them a little each class.
How did you get into teaching dance? I'm very conscious of my standards, how I teach, etc. I'm only a begining teacher really, and all my 50 students are new to ballet too. I feel we are moving to slowly over the work sometimes, but hey, their attitude is fantastic! keen as musted. So I'm happy. Did you dance pro?

Author:  Joanne [ Fri Jun 27, 2008 3:49 pm ]
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Hi Marama,

I got into teaching by assisting in classes in my teens, then taking my teaching qualifications and then I got the opportunity to run my own dance school on leaving university. I did this for 9 years and then sold it when I had my son 2 years ago. I now teach on a purely freelance basis.

I think with beginning adult students they probably appreciate you moving moderately through the work. I think beginner adults can feel quite intimidated if you try and include too much where as children quite often thrive on variety and get bored if you move too slowly. Adults like to perfect things and feel they are doing them right before moving on. I think they also appreciate working on artistry.

Try not to bombard them with too much information - a good sign that they are ready to take on more is when they ask questions about technique or a certain step, or recognise mistakes or improvements in themselves.

We all make mistakes as teachers and I think good teachers are always reassessing their methods - no class is the same. It sounds like you a doing a good, conscientious job.

Author:  Marama [ Sun Jun 29, 2008 1:54 am ]
Post subject: 

Hey Joanne

That's great advice :D Lovely that you had your own dance school. You are so right about the technical query....We have just about thoroughly learned my set work, now they are more confident and love to question the technical side. I really like to focus a lot on the artistry. A whole new approach for the adults, but now coming to the end of term 2, I think the switch between my younger students and Adults is a lot easier and more successful now!

How do you like teaching now, with a son? I bet it was a hard transition to make particularly going from your own school.

Author:  Joanne [ Sun Jun 29, 2008 10:02 am ]
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Hi Marama,

I actually enjoy teaching now more than I ever did. I loved running my own school and the experience it gave me is what allows me to do what I am doing today. However running your own dance school is a lot more than just teaching, there seemed to be so much admin all the time and quite often aggravation to deal with that often I didn't feel I could put all my efforts into making my own teaching as good as it could be. I think if I had that time over again I would probably get help with the admin side so that I could concentrate on what is important to me - to be the best teacher I can.

Now any free time I have I can devote to planning lessons, researching new ideas and coming up with new material which is great. I also love the variety now - one day I may be teaching Freestyle to 9 year olds the next movement and music to pre-schoolers and the next ballroom dancing to over 50's - so it is never boring.

What I have found is that I have to be super organised with a child now, but I do think it makes you more compassionate to your students and also as I take my son to music classes I appreciate the impact a teacher can have on student's lives.

What are your future plans Marama?

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