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Geeky Ballerina curriculum FAQ 3

Geeky Ballerina logo--a female dancer in arabesque and wearing a tutu

Q: My classes are shorter than the ideal class time listed in the curriculum How do I create lesson plans that work for my studio?

A: Oh boy, even when you do have the "ideal" amount of class time it can still feel like it all slipped away so fast! But having shorter classes than we would like is very common so let's talk about some approaches you can take to both work with the situation you're in and offer excellent ballet training.

The first thing to remember is that ballet training is a process and we rarely fit it all into one class. I once had a friend compare planning classes to feeding a toddler: if you stress about getting all the food groups (exercises and vocabulary) into that little body in one day you will drive yourself crazy. If you look at what that adorable cherub is getting over the course of a week (or, more realistically for ballet classes, a month) you will have enough time to get all the "nutrition" they need.

Let's stick with that "feeding a toddler" analogy for a bit. The very most important thing for any person to get enough of on an absolutely daily basis is water. So what parts of class do you consider the water? Be very selective here. What are the combinations/vocabulary that you will do no matter what--no matter how much class time is needed for costume fittings, or was lost to the teacher before you who didn't bother to end anywhere near on time, etc. For me, that's pliés and rond de jambe because plié is the foundational movement in ballet and rond de jambe has so much potential to train turnout. I have a friend who considers tendu absolutely un-skip-able because of the way it trains and strengthens feet. Frankly, we're both right but when you don't have time for everything you need to know what you value most (and why).

Once you know what is most important to you, you can decide what to offer each day. Some teachers like to do a day of turns (fruits) followed by a day of jumps (veggies), while others like to do less but still both. So if you're having a turns day you might have time to work on pirouettes from 5th, soutenu, and chaîné but need to save the small, medium, and grand allegros for the following class. If you're a "less but still both" type you might do pirouettes from 5th, soutenu, and medium allegro one class but cover chaîné, small jumps, and grand allegro the next.

Barre combinations should also be intentionally reduced so that your students are always getting a chance to dance in the center. Aim to have barre take up between 30%-50% of your class. I like to select which barre combinations support the center work we will be doing for each day. I know other teachers who choose to keep their barre combinations much shorter than I do so that they can fit more exercises in. My own teachers set the barre combinations for the entire semester (the whole year for the beginners). In the beginning, barre took between 50%-75% of our class time but once we knew what we were doing we got through everything in about 30% of our class time. All three approaches can have excellent results. Any one day might look a little off to an observer who doesn't have the "whole month" perspective that we're using but they are welcome to ask clarifying questions after class. There's nothing wrong with explaining that you worked on frappé (broccoli) yesterday so today you focused on fondu (oranges).

There is also no pressure to complete each level of the curriculum in a year if that doesn't work for your students. If you're teaching at a studio where ballet is very much in a supporting role and your intermediate students have 60-minute classes instead of the recommended 90 minutes it is going to take you more classes to get through the vocabulary for the year. At Geeky Ballerina we're all about excellent training paced in the best way for the dancers in your room. If--at the start of next season--your students have only made it halfway through level 4, finish the level in the upcoming year. It's all about success throughout the process.

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