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How to Make Your Ballet Curriculum Work for You This Summer

the Geeky Ballerina logo, a line drawing of a ballerina in arabesque wearing a tutu

Summer ballet is very different from regular-season dance classes. It tends to either be more intense (more hours per day, more days per week because students are more available than during the school year) or less formal (more vacations, a wider range of skills in a class). Both have value and each teacher will have a preference. Some teachers love summer intensives and others thrive on the variability and creative challenges that come with drop-in style summers. Whatever your class makeup looks like, a great curriculum can be a workhorse for you over the summer, which gives you more time to play!

Use the summer to review the concepts that didn't "click" during the school year. No matter how great the year went, there is something from the level your kids are finishing up that got slightly lost in translation. Maybe it's vocabulary from unit 2 that went great at the time but when you reviewed it in unit 7 it was . . . creatively remembered. Maybe it's vocabulary from a lower level that has lost polish as it combines with new movement challenges. (Glissade and glissé seem particularly prone to this.) There's always something that needs a little extra love and summer is a GREAT time to focus on those little things. And your curriculum gives you a quick list of all you did this year so you don't have to wrack your brain worrying that you've forgotten something. One glance and you're ready to go!

Mix up your summer class routine by offering quiz-style mastery checks for each level. I love to do this in situations where kids choose to attend session A or session B. I start each session with a quiz day. I have the vocabulary from the year on notecards and then I create simple combinations that we can "fill in the blanks" with cards the kids choose. An example from Level 3 in the Elementary Division would be:

changements on counts 1, 2, 3, 4,

fill in the blank on counts 5, 6,

balance sous-sus counts 7, 8.

So counts 5 and 6 could be 2 royales, 2 sissones en arrière, or even a Mazurka step (which phrases a little oddly but the kids don't seem to mind). Starting the summer session with a game day sets a really fun tone and also lets me see where the students' recall and technique is at so that I can tailor the session for them specifically.

If you have a class that has multiple levels combined, create lesson plans with grand allegro steps from each level. Teaching mixed-level classes is a whole different skill set and if it only comes up for a few weeks in the summer you probably don't get many chances to develop those skills. It can get really easy to become bogged down in technical worries but that isn't going to create joyful summer memories for your students (and joyful summers lead to continuing students in the fall). Your classes will be better served if you are more focused on concepts that apply to all levels than on vocabulary. But you also need to make sure that all the kids feel like they are making progress (not just the kids from the lowest level in the group). Grand allegro is your go-to for this. Grand allegro is fun, it's easy to feel dance-y instead of like drills, and you can give several grand allegro combinations in one class. If you give three center tendu combinations in an hour you will start to lose commitment from some kids but I have yet to see enthusiasm drop because we did too many big jumps and leaps. Everyone will leave feeling like they worked hard and got to do something cool.

Summer ballet classes are super fun but I'll happily admit that I don't want to spend hours lesson planning when I could be outside playing. So I let my curriculum prove its value and I use it as a tool to simplify and reduce my prep time. My students make great progress and I get more time to enjoy lemonade in the shade.

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