First position, arm in second. Core engaged, neutral pelvis. Long neck, shoulders down. Elbow below shoulder, inside of elbow faces front. Wrist below elbow, inside of hand faces front. Fingers slightly curved, thumb tucked in. Chest open, rib cage closed. Rotate the legs from the hip socket. No rolling in. Energy through your limbs, but don’t grip. Now breathe, smile, look effortless and … grand plié!
Does it feel sometimes like there are too many things to think about in ballet at one time, even in the simplest of steps? That’s because there are! The corrections I just listed would be impossible for a beginner to keep in mind all at the same time. So how can you master a step when there are so many corrections to deal with?
The answer is: Don’t think about them! More specifically, your mission is to get corrections so ingrained in your muscle memory that you can “forget” about them and focus on other, new corrections. What’s the secret to that? Like the tortoise and the hare – slow and steady wins the race.
Your teacher is responsible for providing only as many corrections at a time as you can properly process and apply. Then, like a careful gardener, she must patiently remind you and even reteach the info in different ways. You must keep focused and stay dedicated. Finally, it “clicks” and muscle memory has made it a habit. Tada!
You are certainly capable of handling a multiple new corrections at one time, but there is also a limit. Your teacher might focus particularly on one part of the body for a few weeks or on a certain movement quality. As you become familiar with a correction, she may only need to say one or two words before you instantly know what adjustment to make. This means the brain is learning! She might then introduce you to a brand new correction or two, though it could take some months before the prior step or correction is really solidly learned. Even after a correction is solidly learned, occasional reminders may be necessary. Be patient with yourself if you notice this, particularly if you are having to “retrain” aspects of your technique.
Your teacher is responsible for providing you with corrections that are challenging but also achievable – A good teacher won’t ask you to do anything you are not capable of but won’t push you beyond your limit either. Keep focused, don’t be afraid of new information, and be patient if you are hearing the same corrections for a while.
You’ll be surprised what you can achieve with diligence and patience. Don’t forget that a dancer’s education is never truly complete – we are all always striving for improvement.