Asking Intelligently (For Red Belts and Up)
It’s important that dancers feel encouraged and motivated to ask questions and participate in their learning throughout class, but at the same time we have to keep the pulse of the class moving forward. This is especially important in a physically demanding discipline such as ballet, where the pace of the class directly affects the dancer’s ability to build stamina and strength. We have to ask questions intelligently and in this case, more is not merrier.
Curiosity and enthusiasm are awesome attributes and keep classes fun and lively – lack of discretion however is not so hot. Here are some guidelines to consider when asking questions in classes:
Limit the number of questions you ask when learning new material. More questions do not necessarily equal more learning, in fact just the opposite. Distracted minds flitter from question to question, while focused minds anchor down on the information being given. Our minds can only retain so much new information at any given time so only ask questions once you are prepared to absorb and retain the answer. During classes where you are learning new material, like terminology, sequences, combinations or choreography, keep your brain power available. Trust and respect your teacher enough to know that she will provide all of the information you need at the time you actually need it.
Also keep in mind, a full ballet class is about an hour and half of combos. Add to that time for questions and answers and we’ve far exceeded the amount of time you actually have with your teacher. Multiply that by everyone else’s questions and, OK, you see where I’m going with this. Be choosy – questions about safety/alignment/technique are always welcome - but be choosy. Time for dialogue is not built in to class time.
Limit the kind of questions you ask. When you ask a question, you alter the pulse of class for everyone. Questions directed to your teacher during class time should benefit everyone and not be individualized to only your own personal progress or to satisfy your own curiosity. A lively discussion once in a while is fine – but ongoing interruptions and/or irrelevant questions are problematic. For example, if you are working around an injury and you need information on how to modify an exercise, ask before class, not during. (And by all means, I’d love to know that a combination reminds you of spongebob squarepants, but we’ve got to keep it together people.)
Teachers should be giving between three and five notes to every student throughout a class -that is more than enough information to work with to make big improvements. Process what you’re being given. If you feel like you aren’t getting enough feedback from your teacher, speak to them before class and ask for more. It’s very likely your teacher is noticing that you are improving on your own or with notes given to the class as a whole.
Limit when you ask questions to when you have been invited to (if you have an absolute burning need to ask, jot it down in your notebook or on the mirror). Your teacher has a plan in place to introduce information as it becomes necessary and in a way that is most efficient for the entire class to learn. If you wait, your question will very likely be answered before you have to ask it. Also keep in mind that the more your mind is focused on your specific question, the more likely you are to miss other information that your teacher is relaying.
Eliminate side-talking completely. There is no time in class when side-talking is OK. Obviously not while you’re dancing, definitely not while your peers are dancing, and don’t even think about it while your teacher is speaking. Even if you think you’re quiet enough – you’re not. It is amazingly disruptive and hugely disrespectful to your teacher and fellow students. You will miss needed information and will need to ask redundant questions. Chat before or after class with your buddies – do not side-talk. (To put it plainly- my voice is one of my most precious assets and if I refuse to waste it on repetition and talking over you if you’re busy talking on the side. It makes no difference to me whether you’re talking about the brisé combination or spongebob.)
And so, dancers, we set off an another fabulous school year together! We are very much looking forward to our lively lessons, brisé combinations and overall fierceness.