OK first things first, let's stop counting the number of years we’ve been dancing and start counting the number of hours we’ve been sweating at the barre. And I mean to be very specific about that. Standing at the barre during class time, and working your tutu off at the barre are two very distinct ways of ‘taking class’, which plant the seed for two very different ‘years’ of dance.
After you’re 9 years old, stop counting how many years you’ve taken dance. A more accurate measure would be the buckets of sweat, the number of correct tendus you’ve executed, the number of blisters you’ve ignored on the toes you’ve got crammed into your pointe shoes night after night.
Ballet is a wonderful beautiful supplement to athletics, to theater, to modeling, to academics even, to any pursuit. BUT one cannot compare apples to oranges - many of the dancers her age are taking class every day because they've made that commitment to ballet alone (or perhaps one or two other things, our company dancers rarely have lower than an A average in school and often have additional extracurricular activities). Often these dancers will pop into a teen/adult or recreational class just for the extra workout. Typically the teen/adult class has many beginners - at least half the class, but sometimes an advanced student is using it to fit in that extra class that week.
We don’t keep how far one can go hidden around here. There is a broad spectrum of ballet. And for those dancers that have chosen to dance recreationally, know that we applaud you. We can’t beat ourselves up for not choosing ballet as the focal point of our whole lives. Obviously there is nothing wrong with that. However, we have to have real expectations without shying away from what’s truly out there. I’m not going to lie to my students, I’m not going to falsely boost their egos and hide them from what the true potential is just because I don’t want them to feel bad. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want them to feel bad. I want them to be happy with their choice; to be happy with where THEY are on THAT day and not compare themselves to others. To know that they are taking part in something beautiful, and that they are beautifying their bodies and their minds with every little bit of dance they do. A little bit is better than none, as long as you KNOW you are only doing a little bit. As long as you are not deceiving yourself to believe you’re doing a lot and as long as you aren’t counting the years you’ve been signed up for a dance class as any measure of your success. Count the hours instead.
When it comes to ballet, there is no alternative or quick fix trick and every class you take makes a difference. Ballet doesn't come naturally to anyone. Not one single person - that's the whole beauty of it- and all dancers have to work very hard to improve (what often feels like a very little).
If you want to develop more advanced skills you absolutely need to take more classes. One hour per week of ballet is purely recreational and perhaps good for maintenance and a little work out. Though it will help a student to learn the actual mechanics of basic ballet steps, it will not necessarily increase strength or build a thorough repertoire of steps to its fullest potential.
There is a broad spectrum and how 'good' a dancer is (I hate using that term because it’s so subjective) - is entirely and directly proportionate to how frequently they take class. (A little artistry helps too!)
I took class 6 days a week when I was a teenager -but that's because I wanted to do nothing else. Most of the Integral company dancers take class four or five times per week and some of the gals in the recreational classes take two or three times a week. The youngsters increase their commitment as they get older.
Unfortunately, most quality ballet schools require dancers of a certain age to take a minimum number of classes - which leaves those that want 'real' ballet just for fun or to supplement their athletics/other pursuits totally out of luck. They end of being stuck at a fast-food school that teaches poor quality and they never become fully aware of how much more there is out there. They think they’re doing a lot of ballet because they’re doing the same or more than everyone else in their class. They start counting the number of years that they’ve danced and completely fail to acknowledge that taking class six times a week for a year and taking class once a week for a year are two very different scenarios of dancing for ‘a year’.
I'm glad that all of our students’ eyes are open to how very broad the spectrum of ballet is and just how much dedication is required for true ballet. But I also want them to know that there isn’t anything wrong choosing a little ballet.
I’ve been describing dancers by how ‘good’ since I was probably 6 years old. The longer I teach, the harder it is to define what’s ‘good’ and what’s not. When new students ask how many classes they should take per week, I have to stop and ask them how ‘good’ they want to get. Look pretty in a tutu good? Count music and make poses good? Nifty tricks and turns good? Good technique good? People notice you’re a dancer when you’re not even dancing good? Professional dancer good? Professional soloist good? Audience can’t take their eyes off you good? How good?!