"Count your blessings that you aren’t perfect! It is such an opportunity to learn the most important part: work!"
So we decided that we want to give everyone their diamond belt.…
I do love that students are comfortable asking me if they can be assessed for their next belt color. It shows me that they are engaged and dedicated to growing as a dancer and that they know that there are standards to be met in order to move up. Their inquiry also serves as very useful indication that they are NOT ready to move up.
Dancers should know that their teachers want them to advance to the next belt color even more than they do.
I, for example, envision a magical ballet school comprised entirely of black and diamond belt dancers who already know everything and I can just stand there with the rest of the teachers and a latté, watching their beautiful, perfect performances of fouettés en pointe and running shoulder sits. Trust me, I’d love for everyone to be a diamond belt!
Here’s the thing though... –
You actually have to BE a black belt to get your black belt.
You have to BE a red belt to get your red belt. And so on…
The only belt you didn’t need to earn was your white belt.
So you want your yellow belt now? Be it first. And I promise, I will be the first person to notice that you are a yellow belt!
Voila, sheet appears, assessment is done, belts are traded and not only are you now a yellow belt dancer, you are wearing one to show it too!
There are 7 belt levels in our program beginning with white in Level 1 as a dancer enters Kindergarten or 1st grade. Each child following the syllabus will typically remain a belt color for at least 2 years and most students will not make it to diamond belt.
There are several years’ worth of work built into each belt color and attempting to perfect everything at once is not only ineffective, but actually detrimental to a dancers development. In pushing too far, too fast (even, let’s say if you were perfect), the most fundamental aspect of ballet, the rigorous and frankly boring discipline, is bypassed. Repetition, and learning how to deal with, embrace, and pursue repetition, is an invaluable part of a dancer’s development that happens when and only when you start thinking to yourself, ‘gee, I’ve been doing these same tendus for an awful long time’. At that moment, you’ve just started to improve your tendus and that is NOT the time to move onto the next thing. The same applies to waltz, and pirouettes, and everything else. Count your blessings that you aren’t perfect! It is such an opportunity to learn the most important part: work!
Ballet teachers tackle each aspect of the syllabus, dancer by dancer, piece by piece, until they are perfected to the max on an individual basis, in an order that depends almost entirely on the weaknesses and strengths of each individual student.
Each belt color marks several milestones in a young dancer’s development, not just their progress in ballet class. Belt colors and levels are not just determined by technical skill and artistry. There are elements of intelligence, emotional maturity, and physical maturity that also have to be considered.
For example, a child should be 7 or 8 before strength training. (See Lilac syllabus) It takes that long for the child's balance and posture control to mature, according to the AAP. Our pink belt syllabus requires a tremendous focus on building core strength for turn out and extension and back strength for port de bras. A child has to have refined posture and alignment before engaging in any kind of resistance training and flexibility training. A female student that has not developed enough physical maturity will damage her skeletal growth with too much pointe work too early.
These physiological examples are aspects that we cannot control and yet are very real limitations on our ability to advance in belt color. Not moving up a belt color, therefore, does not mean that you are not improving nor does it imply your teachers don’t expect improvement. There is plenty to work on within each and every belt and I have yet to meet a student with a perfect score in any level.
1. Beginning Dancer: knows nothing.
2. Intermediate Dancer: knows everything; too good to dance with beginners.
3. Hotshot Dancer: too good to dance with anyone.
4. Advanced Dancer: dances everything, especially with beginners.