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 Post subject: when to introduce 5th position
PostPosted: Tue Aug 22, 2000 5:05 am 
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This is for all you teachers out there - I have heard/read a variety of opinions on this matter, and am curious to hear more. I had initially heard that this was generally introduced somehwhat later (I'm talking about young dancers here)...but recently I read a post on another board from a professional dancer/teacher indicating the opposite.<P>I would appreciate your thoughts/comments.


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 Post subject: Re: when to introduce 5th position
PostPosted: Tue Aug 22, 2000 5:29 am 
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oh, THIS'll get 'em going, mom2!<P>Tuk in particular will LOVE this one! thanks. Image<P>my answer: when they are ready!<P>seriously though, i teach 1st position first, 2nd position second, 3rd position third - and whether or not one gets 'that far' in the first YEAR would depend on the starting age.<P>as some kids start what they call 'ballet' (but it shouldn't be) as early as age 3,4,5,etc...this makes any questions like this kinda' dicey to answer. personally, i don't call that stuff 'ballet', because (IMO) it shouldn't be. it should be fun movement to music, using the imagination and creativity, responding to rhythms, learning to socialise and co-operate, all that sort of stuff - not positions and poses and posture and pointing..... hang on, let me get down off soapbox...<P>OK, 5th position: when the body is well able to handle 3rd position with legs in alignment, and with the body in place posture-wise, THEN 5th can be attempted, with only as much turnout as THAT pair of legs attached to THAT pelvis will bear...<P>never any easy answers to anything in life, when you've lived this long! Image<P>now i'll wait to get torn to shreds by TUK and the rest of the pack! Image

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 Post subject: Re: when to introduce 5th position
PostPosted: Tue Aug 22, 2000 2:17 pm 
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Oh dear. Grace and I were exchanging correspondence last week and I think I may have upset her by being a bit too vehement with my remarks. Sorry Grace. Well to the topic in hand, when to introduce 5th position?<P>The first and I believe the most important thing to say is that this is NOT a matter of age. The important factors are body development, motor skills and technical level. I would like to discus body development and motor skills first as I feel it is vital to understand how certain aspects of technical progress, of which the introduction of 5th position is an example, are linked to these factors.<P>Self evidently body development and age are linked, but it not in a simple lineal progression. There is ample empirical evidence to show that in children growth is neither a steady nor regular process and individual children develop physically at different ages and in different ways. Here there are a combination of genetic and environmental factors at work. (While the former is obvious evidence for the latter can be seen in the development of competitive female gymnasts, who show a marked tendency to be shorter than their siblings.) In practice this means that in almost any given class, even where there are children of the same age, it is common to see a variety of bodily development.<P>The same is also true of motor skills. These are in a way a precursor of technique for they are the basis of how movements of individual parts of the body are developed into more complex coordinated movements. The one all parents will remember is when their child stands and takes his or her first unsupported steps. This is where I believe that dance classes at a young age have a role to play. Not in teaching ballet, a point on which I would strongly agree Grace, but in establishing a wide variety of motor or body skills, such as jumping and skipping with a range of dynamic qualities. This should be presented in a creative and imaginative form that also helps to develop a natural responsive rhytmicality. (For this reason I was horrified to see on another board a request for ideas for a beginners jazz class for students of 5-6 years of age, but I digress.)<P>During the adolescent growth spurts rapid changes in the length of the long bones of the arms and legs can dramatically alter the student's physique and effect their motor skills. With what is practically a different body the dancer may require a level of re-education, to allow him or her to establish the important sense of connection between thought, feeling and movement (the proprioceptive response) that is the foundation of technique. It may even require a technical down grading to allow them to re-establish motor skills and rebuild a secure technique.<P>(It may be rather dogmatic of me but I do believe it is better to have a reliable basic technique that is a part of the dancer and can be built upon than an advanced technique, which has a fragile existence. The metaphor I tend to use is of two pieces of furniture, one made of solid wood and the other with a decorative layer of veneer. Solid wood is wood from the inside outward, as that is the way at tree grows, while veneer is all on the surface. However attractive the latter may be if it is scratched repair is often difficult and the piece may never look the same again. Solid wood can be rubbed down, polished and will be just as or perhaps more beautiful. This I feel is how we should train dancers, so that their technique becomes as near as possible an extension of themselves, allowing them to use it in an expressive and interpretive manner.)<P>One important consequence of body and motor skills development will be to what extent they impacts upon the technical development of a student. In part the training itself can be a shaping factor, for good solid early training actually acts to influence both the acquisition of motor skills and, within carefully controlled perameters, to mould the physique. It is vital to see this as a process that is neither totally continuous nor solely episodic. In other words there can be periods of gradual development interspersed with some events that I would term "break through", when many of the pieces that have been established over a period of time come together in what seems like a rapid advancement of the technique. The importance of this to the subject in hand (which incidentally I haven't forgotten!) I want to come back to later.<P>Empirical evidence to back up this requirement of what I would term aptitude, rather then talent, for ballet is seen in late starters to ballet classes. (I prefer to paraphrase Edison's definition of genius on the subject of talent, 1% inspiration/aptitude 99% perspiration/correct class work) Those who have developed motor skill and physical prowess in other activities, such as gymnastics and martial arts, often find that certain of the skills are transferable and that their bodies have a capacity that allows them to undertake balletic training. However the corollary of this is that they have often established patterns of body use that have to be educated out of them if they are to successfully establish a solid technique. (Incidentally I should perhaps admit at this stage that I came to ballet late in my teens having trained for many years in judo and karate!)<P>I would argue that for any pupil the level of technique required should be directly related to their levels of physical and motor development. This maximises the chance of the pupil successfully attaining the technique and minimalises the risk of injury. In terms of when to establish 5th position no hard and fast answer can be given. However I do believe that the established progression of many teaching methods do give a basis for understanding the way the process of working towards the attainment of 5th should be handled.<P>Most of them introduce the various positions of the feet in the following sequence 1st and 2nd, 3rd, 5th and finally 4th. (Cecchetti does introduce an open 4th, or 4th opposite 1st, before the crossed 4th, or 4th opposite 5th.) This order relates directly to the perceived level of technical difficulty that the establishment and maintenance of each position requires, going from the simplest to the most difficult. In any given position the requirements are correct posture, correct use of turn out and correct weight placement. These have to be developed over time as each position is introduced to the pupil. This comes back to the previous discussion of the nature of balletic training as a process. Even with 1st and 2nd position they should not be taught, in anywhere but the most selective of vocational schools (and arguably even not there), at the same level as would be required from an advanced student. As the dancers technique becomes stronger the positions develop, particularly as regards the use of turn out. This technical development can be both progressive and episodic, as mentioned earlier, but it must be recognised as inherent to the progress of each individual dancer.<P>I would tend to argue that a certain degree of sustained turnout is required before any of the crossed positions are attempted, even third. This not need be too great, perhaps as little as 45 degrees (the amount is open to debate) but the important factor is that it is sustained. Without this there is not just a danger of torsion occurring in the knee joints, which can develop into a potential site of future injury, but also a problem in performing many of the movements that make up the class. As the dancers ability to maintain the fundamental requirements of posture, turn out and weight placement improve so the position can be developed.<P>When it comes to 5th much the same reasoning can be applied. However, there is one other important feature regarding this position that needs to be understood. In 5th the dancer has the smallest, narrowest and tightest possible base on which to stand. This allows for changes of weight from one foot to the other to be made with the minimum shift of the bodies centre of gravity. Also from 5th the dancer is capable of quick changes of direction. For both these reasons it is through 5th that many steps link together. However a small, tight narrow base is inherently unstable and requires a well-developed sense of balance to maintain it and a feeling for the subtle transferences of weight involved in order to use it properly. (This last requirement is vital, as just being able to stand in a tight 5th is no real use to the dancer. Rather it is the 5th that they can maintain during movement that is the one which it is necessary to work on developing.) As these are skills which take time to develop it makes sense to introduce 5th later in the dancers training.<P>Building on this discussion I would like to suggest that the technical demands within the ballet class should not be fixed, but have be adaptive to the needs of individual pupils. The process of teaching ballet is, within the aesthetic requirements of the art form, one of adapting the technique to fit the pupil as much as the pupil to fit the technique. 5th should therefore be introduced at a later stage of a dancer's training, dependant upon them having reached a physical, motor and technical capacity for using it correctly, whatever their age.<P>(Reading back through this I would like to add as an after thought that as ballet teachers we tend to forget that we are not teaching an elaborate form of PE, but an art form. The physical development of the dancer and the acquisition of technical skills are important, because they are helping to build the instrument through which this art form is expressed, but they are (hopefully) not the sole requirements of an interpretive artist. I believe we also need to emphasise intellectual and emotional development if we are to get the kind of thinking and feeling performers we would like to see grace the stage.)<BR>


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 Post subject: Re: when to introduce 5th position
PostPosted: Tue Aug 22, 2000 4:49 pm 
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in other words, Tuk: you agree with me completely! Image<P>haha! Image<P>seriously, though - *I* agree with YOU completely. and as usual i really value your lengthy expositions. i know this particular mom will be able to appreciate it, too.<P>i especially like this statement, with more general application: <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>it is better to have a reliable basic<BR> technique that is a part of the dancer and can be built upon than an advanced<BR> technique, which has a fragile existence<HR></BLOCKQUOTE><BR>marvellous.<P>as to 'upsetting' me? - NO. i would tell you if you did! Image no; a bit overwhelmed, perhaps, by all of the detail, which i confess i haven't properly read YET. but i always approach your papers knowing that <BR>1. we are inherently in agreement,<BR>2. i am bound to see something expressed 'freshly' and learn from that.<P>i confess also that it makes me feel good that someone is more long-winded than me!<P>but every word of yours is worth having.<P>i think maggie is quite likely to have some good insights on this subject, too.<P>getting back to it - hi mom2! - it occured to me that i should add, that, if teaching to a syllabus, and in the USUAL class situation (where one simply cannot behave as Tuk and i like to, teaching each child ENTIRELY as a separate unit) it is a reality that anything may be introduced before some children in the class are ready.<P>as a teacher, one just has to make the best of this situation - as does the child.<P><I>avoiding harm is at least the bottom line.</I> Tuk's vision, as outlined above, is the ideal.<P>for example, in one of the syllabi i examine, the young students WERE required to 'show' all the positions of the feet in a basic tendu exercise. this was more like 'show and tell', to demonstrate that they 'know' what the positions are, rather than being about technique. when i taught this, i had the children say out loud what the position was, partly for 'fun' and partly to reinforce learning. their ages were about 6 to 8.<P>however, along with other teachers, i never felt 4th and 5th were appropriate inclusions here (in fact, as outlined above, i personally don't even think they 'should' be doing barre exercises like this). anyway, at last year's syllabus review, we examiners eliminated the 4th and 5th positions from that level.<P>at the next two levels up, it is up to the teacher's discretion whether the children do their barre exercises from 3rd or from 5th. i think this is a good compromise between setting some sort of external written syllabus, and enabling the teacher to do what's best for the child.<P>just bringing this up to illustrate that teachers have other pressures on them, in addition to the individual child's welfare, as important as that (obviously) is. we don't live in (Tuk's? Image ) ideal world. but <B> "no harm must be done"</B> - that's the absolute bottom line (as in medicine!).<P>for the young child attempting 5th before, perhaps, would be ideal, the essential component is 'true' leg alignment, evidenced by the knee being in line with the foot, and not using any more turnout than where this is possible. <P>

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 Post subject: Re: when to introduce 5th position
PostPosted: Thu Aug 24, 2000 4:33 am 
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Location: Ontario, Canada
Thanks Grace and TUK! As always, very articulate responses to a humble and rather inarticulate query! <P>My two daughters are good illustrations of some of the points made...the older one has grown incredibly over the past year, and is struggling to find gracefulness *s*...there are some technical spots which still need attention, which her school seems well aware of. Frustrating for her; hopefully things will come.<P>The younger one is an interesting case, and did have a little to do with my initial question - although not directly. She had a teacher once who really got across the notion of where turnout comes from and that it should NEVER be forced. So this is good and should prevent injuries. The interesting thing is that I don't think she grasps that she could still work to enhance what she has...there is a very fine line I imagine between this and "forcing" turnout. I also imagine that it would be a very special teacher indeed who could communicate this adequately to a 9 year old! Such a fascinating puzzle - fitting the physical, musical and cognitive pieces together!<P>This mom will watch the skill develop from the sidelines...not about to meddle with this one!<P>Thanks again for the responses. One does wonder about some of the other boards (!)


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 Post subject: Re: when to introduce 5th position
PostPosted: Thu Aug 24, 2000 5:58 am 
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mom2, what does this mean?: *s* - i know that other people know - it's just that *I* don't! Image (see, i have my OWN funny abbreviation, too).<P>and thanks for this question, which has been fun!<P>i agree with you that one of the hardest things to communicate to children is the difference between effort and pain, between (for example) <BR>- the warm tingly feeling of a muscle stretching vs. muscle 'pain' which might mean 'hurt', or<BR>- the discomfort of pushing ones boudaries a bit, effort-wise, stamina-wise, etc vs. pain indicating something is wrong/to be avoided.<P>there seem to be lots of kids who quite reasonably believe that doing anything that 'hurts' is wrong: fair enough! sounds wise.<P>but as they are unwilling to experience even the slightest discomfort of 'effort', how can any physical development occur? this is a challenge to a teacher - to urge them on to effort, while insisting that only THEY can know when to stop. only the individual knows what is 'pain' in their bodies/what is too much/too far, but when the individual is a child disinclined to do anything uncomfortable, how can they be helped to progress.....

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 Post subject: Re: when to introduce 5th position
PostPosted: Thu Aug 24, 2000 11:15 am 
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Hi Grace,<P>*s* is my low-tech version of your smiley face!<P>With regard to going beyond the comfort zone, I am assuming that you mean it is the teacher's role to deal with this (that is, if we are only talking about ballet positions)...?


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 Post subject: Re: when to introduce 5th position
PostPosted: Thu Aug 24, 2000 4:35 pm 
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i wasn't really talking about 5th positions any more - sorry - altho' it CAN apply there too, in the sense of the child finding the easiest, most relaxed version of 5th position, and staying there over time ...without any effort to aim for 'progress', shall we say.<P>but this principle or problem applies to everything else one teaches as well - including probably academic things, perhaps, although it wouldn't be so markedly evident there, nor so risky to deal with!<P>the child is taught - very sensibly, to listen to it's body, and to avoid pain. somewhere along the way, with many children, the distinction between 'pain' and 'effort' gets lost, so they become disinclined to even try to do anything that's outside their comfort zone.<P>for the ballet teacher, to encourage effort, while avoiding any possibility of asking too much, is a fine distinction to make with children.

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 Post subject: Re: when to introduce 5th position
PostPosted: Fri Aug 25, 2000 6:02 am 
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the way I read your reply now suggests that there is a parental role in here somewhere...am I correct? I could see that the parent should encourage effort and working beyond the minimum in all endeavors, not just dance. However when it comes to specific dance related issues parent's input could easily be seen as meddling....hmmm


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 Post subject: Re: when to introduce 5th position
PostPosted: Fri Aug 25, 2000 10:16 am 
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Sounds to me like there's probably a pretty fine line between parental involvement and "meddling".


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 Post subject: Re: when to introduce 5th position
PostPosted: Fri Aug 25, 2000 4:38 pm 
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priscilla - yes, there probably is. i haven't had a problem with 'meddling'/overinterested parents, so i'm not the one to comment (i bet bek could, though!). Image<P>mom2, i can only look at this from the other end - the teacher's end. <P>and also i wanted to say that i realised yesterday that this apparent tangent IS directly related to the 5th position question...that IS where it came from, in my thinking...but it applies to so much more.<P>from 'my' end, i have had discussions with parents about their child's personality, in the sense of expressing concern that 'no effort' is sometimes the child's idea of appropriate (!) - and this is with children who like ballet, and like being there, and want to be able to do something, but don't understand yet, that it doesn't come out of a Kellogg's box!<P>what the conversation is about - is NOT ballet - it's about life...i see my role NOT as creating some future performer (who knows? that's far too unpredictable to even be considered) but as helping a child realise how to succeed at anything, or to gain mastery in the world.<P>the simple lesson that effort produces results, and that that effort often needs to be sustained and patient, is so valuable. <P>i believe dance teaches these things just as much as teaching, say, response to music, or how to jump, and in fact that these things are ultimately more important for most students, who don't have dance careers.<P>

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 Post subject: Re: when to introduce 5th position
PostPosted: Sat Sep 02, 2000 10:18 am 
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Hi Grace,<P>I had written a very eloquent (or better said, wordy) response a few days ago, but I lost my internet connection just before I hit the send button and lost it all!<P>Anyway, I guess my thinking kept getting drawn back to a post on another board indicating that students should have "perfect" fifth positions at the age of 8. Reading some posts by others (including you) and recalling past conversations with teachers I would be surprised if 5th was even introduced to a class of 8 year olds, except in some very special circumstances.<P>I agree with you that parents need to encourage their children to develop a "work ethic", in whatever forum that may be. I do think that it takes a special mentor (teacher, parent, coach, whatever) to convey the difference between "working hard" and "working too hard" to young children. <P>Thanks for your thoughts on this topic!


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 Post subject: Re: when to introduce 5th position
PostPosted: Sat Sep 02, 2000 4:04 pm 
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<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>students should have "perfect" fifth positions at the age of 8<HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P>no way! never! how wierd. completely innappropriate statement. <P>your conclusion is correct - 8 year olds needn't do 5th position AT ALL (and in my view most certainly shouldn't). <P>even if a professional training school accepts kids this young - which many (perhaps most) DON'T (10 is considered an appropriate starting age, sometimes 9), they should not be doing 5th. they should not -IMO- even be doing 'ballet' as such.<P>treat further posts by that particular poster with much suspicion: is there any chance you were taken in by a mischievous post trying to stir up trouble/a 'troll'?<P>however, regardless of the motivation for this converstaion, i have found it great fun!

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 Post subject: Re: when to introduce 5th position
PostPosted: Tue Sep 05, 2000 12:22 pm 
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Oh oh, parental involvement. Lets leave that for a totally new thread. I could write a book on that one.!<BR>----------------------------------------------------------<BR>As for 5th.<BR>In my school, no pre-ballet child did 5t or 4th…(3-7 yrs.)<BR>And in fact in beginner ballet we teach the concept of 5th, but never use it. We did teach an open 4th toward the mid year.(8-10)<P>As a matter of fact, I do not expect my students to give me a Balanchine 5th position. Tight over-crossed 5th.Toe to heel or past the big toe……….UGH!!!<BR>Our 5th is heel to the knuckle of the supporting or back foot.<P>I ask for an equal distribution of weigh and turnout on front and back feet, so that if the front foot is at an 80 degree angle (not at 90) the back foot should be the equal (80)<BR>I have seen way too many kids think that turning out in 5th means 90 on front foot and 45 degrees at the back foot.<BR>So, I would rather see my 5th year (13-15) students not have crossed 5ths and be more at an angle that is comfortable for their own hip placement…ie: 75-80 degrees<BR>Some kids with wonderful turnout, and a good degree of strength can TRY for the 90 (180 both)<BR>But I never require it.<BR>Most of our students don’t become professionals, why tax the hips and knees?<BR>They will look just as lovely doing an equally turned out 5th at 65-75, and have good hips in the future.<P>The more advanced the students, the more I require, but again, it must depend on the student.<BR>If student A can not do the 80, I settle for 75……..if student B can do 100……I will tell them 85 is fine. LET another teacher push the closed tight fifth. They can do the 90 to 90 thing (ie: 180) full turned out and cramped closed.<BR>But, I do require that they use all the turnout that they do have, or can maintain.<P>bek<BR><P>------------------<BR>bek<BR>CCA CREATIONS<BR>Website:<BR>http://members.tripod.com/~Casalino<P>

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 Post subject: Re: when to introduce 5th position
PostPosted: Tue Sep 05, 2000 3:00 pm 
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agree with all that, bek: especially THIS bit! Image <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>I have seen way too many kids think that turning out in 5th means 90 on front foot and<BR> 45 degrees at the back foot.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

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