Ballet Foundations Prep - Ages 8-10
Overall Objectives of Ballet Foundations Prep (ages 8-12)
After dancers know how to listen and follow instruction, demonstrate some familiarity with and ability to maintain a balletic body posture (straight backs, long necks, bellies up), and show some control over when their knees should be straight and bent and when their feet should be pointed - concepts established in Ballet Basics - Foundations Prep is designed to establish the fundamental concepts and strength required of proper ballet technique. Instruction should:
1) include names of all the steps and positions
2) provide technically accurate demonstrations and lots of individual and hands-on corrections
3) increase EVERY dancer's technical proficiency
4) be an enjoyable and positive experience for every dancer
Dancers ready to move beyond Foundations Prep will have relative mastery of the following:
1) proper and consistent placement of their corps = pelvis, stomach up, shoulders open and down
2) demonstrate healthy rotation from the hips
3) properly transition from standing on one leg to standing on two (weight transfer)
4) completed barre work including tendus and degages to derriere, and center including pirouettes from 5th and changements
Class Outline - 1.25 hours, 2x/wk (added 15 min/class for performance piece rehearsal)
Follow the outline below but work within the context and content of a Ballet Basics class for the first class or two. (Review Ballet Basics to understand an appropriate starting pace and corrections for initial Ballet foundations classes.)
First 10 minutes: Warm up to classical music from famous ballets (please tell dancers what the music is from). At this point in their training, not only are we preparing bodies to dance, we are helping dancers know how to warm their bodies. Begin with music to move/dance/walk/skip to get blood flowing for a minute or two. Then move on to floor exercises. Before dancers are familiar with how to perform the exercises, you may have music playing in the background. When they all can execute the exercises correctly, combinations incorporating the exercises set to music (not necessarily from ballets) may be given. These exercises should include eventually include all of the following before every class (though it may take many classes to give/demonstrate/correct them all):
1. butterfly with back on the floor - begin with feet lat on the floor and slowly open and close knees making sure lower back/stomach pressed towards floor
2. grand plies while lying on back in 1st position - after dancers master not moving their pelvis, introduce instruction on keeping their heels/backs of their feet lifted off the floor as their knees bend
3. retires on back - with both legs turned out, one on top of the other (sousous), SLOWLY draw one leg turned out to the knee (if they can't get it to above the knee, just below is fine) - correcting to establish the path of the foot, engagement of stomach muscles, stillness of pelvis (not lifting/twisting hips or back), and finally pointing foot WITHOUT sickle
4. progress to tendus to the front and side on back - both legs remaining straight, both legs turning out, stillness through pelvis
6. ronde de jambes on back - both feet pointed, legs turned out, top leg lifts front to "tendu height" (very low), carries side, returns front, comes back to sousous (can also progress to beginning side, carrying front, returning side)
5. Standing on feet in parallel, slowly stack spine, one vertebrae on top of another as you role through back to upright position, followed by rolling shoulders forward, up, back and down, reversing, and repeating to finish in proper "ballet back" posture with chest lifted, shoulders open and down, and stomach up.
(Once dancers can consistently execute these warm-up exercises CORRECTLY, suggest and encourage them to do the exercises DAILY at home.)
Next 30-40 minutes: barre. This may be the dancers first instruction with the barre. ALL combinations at this level should predominantly be performed facing the barre for the fist semester. Dancers should be taught to lightly touch (rather than grasp) the barre. Teach them to keep hips (headlights) facing directly to barre at all times. If barre space allows, arrange portable barres so dancers can face barre AND face teacher. Combinations should be said and demonstrated, then performed by students AND demonstrated and spoken by teacher (and assistants). Combinations should also be repeated for AT LEAST one month and to the same music building dancers' abilities to execute the combinations without relying on demonstration, and focusing on doing the steps with correct technique and not merely doing the steps. In the first several weeks of instruction, not all combinations for the barre will fit into this time. That is fine. The focus on this level should be on building proper technique - NOT teaching steps. By second semester, dancers may progress to 1 hand on the barre. Initially the other hand should be at their shoulder or hip to continue focus on placement of the pelvis and knees.
Final 20-30 minutes of class: center work. ONE combination, taught a few measures at a time and added onto and practiced week after week, may be an incorporation of multiple steps/concepts/movement patterns to establish a "dance" which can be shared with parents at the final class and/or recital. This should NOT contain any movements not mentioned in this syllabus and worked on in class. It should also not take more than 5-7 minutes of class time with the POSSIBLE exception being one or two weeks before a demonstration, and then may only take 10-15 MAX of class time. Teach dancers proper spacing from one another, how to stand and move in straight lines, and how to count music and begin independently at various counts in the measure. (For younger dancers just transitioning from Ballet Basics classes - age 7-8 - a brief time for solos and duets may be given during center work. This should not exceed 5 minutes of class time.)
Concepts for Barre Work
1) All barre combinations should enforce and move through 1st, 2nd, and 5th positions. 4th position for second semester.
2) At this level, the teacher says and demonstrates the combination (with or without music) ONCE for the dancers to learn. Then the teacher or assistant does the combination correctly with the dancers until many class participants can do the combination correctly without following. With an assistant and/or when the dancers know combinations, the teacher should take time before, during, and after combinations to help each dancer execute correct technique with hands-on help. (After physical cues for any specific concept have been repeated multiple times and a dancer is still not applying, teachers may resort to merely reminding dancers of corrections/concepts verbally.)
3) Corrections while dancers follow along are appropriate (ie: "I need to show more straight legs." Or, "Suzie, on this next plie can you keep your back straight and not stick your bum out?")
4) Do not add complication, turn-out or more measures to simple barre work until dancers can keep backs straight, long necks, and bellies pulled up. In other words, participants good technique should be established and maintained regardless of the simplicity or difficulty of the steps. Class progression and even the tempo within combinations should not exceed the dancers' abilities to maintain their ballet posture.
Positions of the feet: 1st, 2nd, 5th (taught as one foot turned out and placed in front of the other so 3rd position is acceptable, but not verbally referenced
Positions of the arms/Port de bras: round smooth shapes = no angles; 5th low, 1st, and 5th high change levels; 2nd opens the rounded shape. These correspond to the foot positions in later classes.
Plies: Instruct in turned out positions immediately moving from 2nd, to 1st to 5th; grand plies may be introduced, as well as elevet balances; introduce the concept of a continuous plie (without stopping in the depth of the plie)
Weight Shifting: from parallel facing barre draw one foot up to retire, extend to tendu devant (in parallel), close 6th, rep left; once standing legs remain straight add turn-out (work from 1st) and extend to the tendu a le seconde, when mastered progressing to extending to the side AND front.
Tendus: assuming dancers can execute tendus with knees straight (emphasize straight STANDING leg), and with no movement through hips to the side and front, may progress to adding plies in the 1st or 5th to begin or end the tendu (working different coordination)
Degage: conceptually the same as tendus, but adding a change of levels = the releasing of the pointed foot from the floor. May add piques to ensure BOTH knees are straight and dancer is on his/her leg. Add plies in 1st and 5 to a le seconde in prep for glissades
Relevets: Facing barre in parallel, varying speed, squeezing plies bum down, back up; high demi pointe, knees pulled up in relevet, progressing to relevets in 1st and 2nd, progressing to teaching sousous in 5th. Can balance in all positions and/or add port de corps to sides.
Rond de jambe: facing barre, focus on pelvis isolation: side to front to side, close first; progress to front to side to front, close 1st; progress to side to back to side, close 1st WATCHING working knee stays straight and to the side (not facing floor in derriere); progress to back, side, back; progress to full en dehors ronde; final progression is full en dedans
Frappe: Quick relevets (above) establish this coordination, but to begin you may give plie, relevet, plie on single leg in parallel, then instruct dancers to stand on one leg as the other does a plie-relevet-plie in the air striking to the front in parallel; progress to frappes to side; progress to frappe devant only (no frappe to the back in this level)
Stretch: stretches at barre should develop dancers correct positions in battement and extension; at their barre spot, teach toe touches in parallel and in 1st standing, and a 4th position that widens and slides into a split and/ or progressive split work focusing on flexibility in the front leg, then back, then both at the same time; work center splits (pizza stretch); on stomach do tendus to the derriere lifting the back slightly to strengthen back, and thut of standing leg; stretch back mobility (Once dancers can consistently execute these stretches CORRECTLY, suggest and encourage them to do the exercises DAILY at home.) Grand Battement: begin with backs to the barre for battement devant, fast up, control down, no lifting of hips or bending of either knee; progress to battements a le seconde (can be done in as part of center). No battement derriere til AFTER dancers have worked on ronde de jambe to derriere AND tendus AND degages to derriere.
Other barre work: pas de boure (after triplets in center), retire to single leg in elevet from plie, balancé prep by stepping side to coupe and taking 2 small steps in 5the en elevet, elevets on single leg with long balances to develop ankle strength
Concepts for Center Work
Center work at this level should prepare dancers to perform simple dances on stage. General concepts in that preparation should include proper spacing from one another, how to stand and move in straight lines, and how to count music and begin independently at various counts in the measure. As such, there should be combinations done in lines, moving forward, moving from one side of the studio to the other in straight and diagonal lines with even spacing and in a circle and with a partner. Continue to instruct on dancing musically by choosing music that reflects the tempo AND dynamics of the steps and encourage dancers to count. Begin to use and expect them to know their left from their right. Combinations may finish by holding ballet poses or positions, but should not contain more than one or two steps.
Tendus and Battements: given to help dancers affirm their placement on their standing leg; begin both to a le seconde only from 1st; progress to a le seconde closing 5th; hands should be placed on shoulders
Walks: progress from creative movement concept review to walking and running to various tempos and in various patterns finding a ballet pose (dancer's choice can bring in fun of "free dance") on a specific count within a phrase (correcting so dancers can independently count music and so runs and walks look "balletic"); progress to triplets in walking (prep for balances and waltzing); progress to slow motion skipping = step, hop, land (in regular skipping form, to attitudes devant, to coupe derierre, to degage derierre (in prep for soute arabesque). Progress in 2nd semester to balances and waltzes.
Adage: with a dual focus of beautiful carriage of arms AND balance on standing leg, begin en fasse in 1st and have dancers follow arm movements through 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th positions, naming each (and eventually expecting dancers to remember; progress to feet in 5th croise; progress to teaching arms of 1st, 4th and 2nd arabesques (one foot in tendu derriere possible); progress to slowly drawing one leg up from 5th to retire, balancing on flat standing foot, arms in 1st (prep for pirouette) (Adage should primarily be given as "follow along" because it will be a longer combination.)
Pirouettes from 5th: en dehors only; in parallel, progressing to 5th position, plie on 2 feet, pulling one up quickly to the side of the knee foot pointed, standing leg straight on relevet replacing both feet to parallel in plie, and straightening both knees, hands on hips. May Progress to adding arms: 3rd position in plies, 1st position in relevets. Progress to adding 1/4 turn while keeping eyes on self in mirror and ending with 3/4 turn, turning head quickly to see self. Progress to a repeat in turned out position from 5th.
Turn Preparation - Pencil turns: these should be to work on a quick turn of the back and the spot without fussing about the technique and position of a pirouette (if dancers want to try for double pencil turns, they may)
Jumps: begin with simple jumps up and down, drawing dancers' attention to getting knees straight and feet pointed in the air, and keeping their bodies upright/straight in the landing, reminding them of continuous energy/movement of plie. Begin with feet in parallel, hands on hips. Progress to 1st position, second, in and out from 1st to second, and in and out from 5th to second, adding arms only as dancers master legs. Final progression is a changement. (Ex: when the dancers can jump in parallel with knees straight, backs upright, and feet pointed, have them try parallel jumps with arms in 1st, then in 5th, then moving. THEN move to 1st, with hands on hips, moving to the arm incorporation. THEN progressing to second, and different types of sautes.)
Prances (or jumping from one foot to another): to begin, this might just be a fancy jog to the beat with toes pointed, hands on hips. It can progress to jumping forward on to one foot and back on to the other, or from one side to the other in tic-tock fashion, adding arms and holding positions as dancers advance. These may also be done with knees bent and up, or through straight positions in the air. (These can be done moving forward, sideways, or on a diagonal.) Progressing to pas de chats and glissades.
Leaps: these are large jumps from one foot to another incorporating the battement. (These should not be given until battements have been introduced and achieved some level of mastery.) Multiple ballet positions with the arms can be added. You may also focus on the quality of runs in and out of the leap. (done across the room or on a diagonal)
Turn preparation #3: chainnes. Done from the corner, this should be practice for dancers to move across the floor while turning. Encourage them to "only see one thing" and "step towards the thing they are looking at," thus teaching and demonstrating correct spotting. These should progress within a few weeks to only being done on the demi pointe.
Reverance: If there are any boys in the class, teach a nice ballet bow and instruct the boys to do this. Otherwise, instruct on proper curtsies by helping dancers turn both legs out, move with grace, and not drop the back.
PERFORMANCE: The Foundations Prep level has "rehearsal time" added to the last 15 minutes of class of every class. Foundations I & II has 30 min each week after 1 class. Work on the piece should begin within the first 3 weeks of class. Portions of the piece should break down into class work so that the technique of the steps can be thoroughly cleaned within class time. Include instructions on walking to one's spot for the dance gracefully, havin an appropriate facial expression, bowing, and exiting gracefully. Choreography should be well within the classes average skill set. The objective of the experience is 1) to have something to perform, 2) to create the need to memorize a series of movements, 3) to create a distinct need to be independently counting music. The piece should be entirley set 5 weeks before the show.
The dance is a success if dancers are confident, happy, find their spots gracefully, dance on the music, and generally remember the order of the steps. Because the parents will be invited to observe ALL of class, the performance piece need not cover or highlight all of what the class instructs.