Thoughts on PNB’s Beginner Adult Class

Since my current classes are on spring break, I thought I’d try some new places. I’m always adventurous and curious what new challenges I’ll face in classes with new teachers and students. I learn so much going to these different classes and broadening my comfort dancing in front of others, such a confidence builder! So if you already didn’t know, I live not far from the infamous Pacific Northwest Ballet located in downtown Seattle. I see a ballet at least once a year at the McCaw Hall which is literally right next to the PNBs studio/school and in the shadow of the SpaceNeedle. Like a lot of the ballet schools in the area you can start the year in September and grow through out the year or you can occasionally drop in. They have the standard school year September-June and then summer classes in July-August. There is Beginner, Beginner-Intermediate, Intermediate, and Intermediate-Advanced.

Tuesday was available to me, and lucky me so was Beginner’s class at 7pm. My Husband was doubtful of Beginner’s class for me but I found it just right. I was actually nervous. Beginner’s class is really great even if you find yourself more advanced. You get time to think with out thinking- does that make sense? The idea that you can do a move like a tendu combination without focusing so hard on the initial movement and focusing on the secondary. Is your leg turned out completely, are you pointing all the way through the foot, is your body aligned, are you pulling up from the hips and not sinking? The million questions you should be asking yourself subconsciously. I think though my nervousness got a little to me in my combinations but no doubt would work itself out if I continued with the classes and became more comfortable. It was also a little confusing as people were doing weird things… some knew what they were doing and others seemed to be watching others- including myself! Not what they should be doing. Hello I just joined your class I’m not used to your routine lol.

As class progressed I filtered out the sturdier dancers from the more newer dancers. It was a very mixed crew and all varying in ages! No men, though there were some men warming up in the hallway beforehand, they went off to another class(intermediate). Though no one seemed to be an ex-pro from what I could tell, there were just some very advanced students who may have had a lot of experience at one time. I found this student a little… daunting. She’s one of those who beats to her own drum, and the teacher was so kind that she was never rebuked. Let’s call her Over Zealous Dancer (OZ)We were doing some petite allegro: glissade, jete, glissade, jete, glissade, pas de chat pas de chat, assemble, repeat with other foot, then repeat entire combination. Since PNB is a Balanchine method school allegro is taught with ups and downs, unless you’re choreographed to move in distance, you’re more or less stationary and move minimally. I study Balanchine method so this was a breeze of a combination. OZ who dances to her own drum decided to literally move 15 ft. to each side!!! Her glissades were HUGE, and she was moving faster than the tempo. I accidentally got caught up in her tempo and then realized I was off the music and slowed down to the appropriate tempo. Reminded myself that I’m not supposed to move side to side, the movement is up and down. So when we finished the combination the first time over the Teacher did remind us of these wants: – movement is minimal and up! With pointed feet. – stay with the music. She has us repeat but slowed the tempo of the music – forgot to mention I HAD A PIANIST!!! She was lovely! I’ll get to more on that later- This time not wrapped up in OZ’s tempo- who was STILL too fast- I did the combination to the music and stayed on top of my jumps. Which as soon as the combination was over was complimented for staying on top of my jumps. Then we repeated it again in groups. I liked the repetition because I was able to see what I wanted to improve on and keep trying and doing it 4 times may be tedious and tiring to others but it really helped me clean up what I wanted. I could go to bed with improvements but know I tried it plenty times without trying to fall asleep twitching out combinations.

Also OZD was making excuses for not pointing her feet during sautés and changements. While she has good jumps, she’d have even better ones if she just pointed her feet. Yet she decided to just talk back at the Teacher with excuses for not and ignoring her correction. Yeesh. Okay okay, one more rag- OZD was literally dancing out the door. She was not adjusting her movements to keep in proximity of the studio floor. The door to the studio room was open- she literally leapt outside of it to get in her saut de chat. This reminds me of a story I heard from a Director of an Art school I went to see if I wanted to attend their art program… He said one of his students was a Dr. who always complained while drawing that his paper was never big enough to finish the body of the figure… so as a joke, the Director tacked up to His easel one day a whole role of butcher paper so that He had an extended length of paper. A little harsh… but seriously. Learn to work in your confinements and stop trying to make excuses or exceptions for yourself. You can’t do this on stage and you can seriously hurt yourself attempting to jump off into the orchestra pit or into the wings!

Our beautiful and big combination across the floor was develope devant, tombe, run run, grand jete, run run, grand jete, run run grand jete, step, pique arabesque, chase, tour jete, step under, sauté arabesque, precipite, saut de chat. I really liked this combination because you have to hold yourself at the arabesque after momentum is propelling your forward, then chase “backwards” from whence you came, and tour jete, then quickly recover and leap to change to the other leg and then sauté immediately. You’re really using your brain- and mine was not working! So as soon as I landed the tour jete I was like “where am I?!?” Despite doing the combination on both sides twice I still didn’t get it completely. By the last one on the left side I was kind of getting it but it was not smooth as I wanted it. It was also luxurious to have all that SPACE to make large leaps- which I was complimented on with my “levity”. Uh… AWESOME!

Going backwards…

During barre it blew my mind that people weren’t sweating by tendus! The room was super warm when we walked in that I ended up rolling up my tights to my knees. I could feel sweat rolling down my back by mid barre but still few people were sweating. This always disappoints me, but I think maybe these people are new or they’re injured and pushing themselves would be detrimental… Barre was easy enough, beginning combinations from first then moving into 5th and such. Mildly complex combinations with weight changes etc. So it was good. I think she stepped it up a little for more advanced people like me. Like I said I was nervous and got confused a little so I kept tripping up myself.

We had a live pianist! She was a small round Russian lady! She was so cute and kind and played beautifully. The music was wonderful, but I realized my mind wasn’t blown away by having a live pianist. It was nice to have and I found it easier to follow the beats and be musical, sure I’d prefer it to recorded music because you can just tell the pianist to change something real quick and they’ve got it, compared to taking time out of class skipping through tracks. But it was not mind blowing, it was more like mind affirming that live music is best to dance to. Like it always should have been this way- so that it was like a piece that fell into place that was missing in my dance life.

The Teacher was great. She focused mainly on people who needed help but didn’t neglect me because I was new or more advanced than others. No doubt if I continue to visit her as a teacher I’ll get better corrections as she continues to see me as a student. She had nothing but nice things to say and helpful corrections to my mistakes, which were mostly confusing and timing issues. I would very much recommend her as a teacher. Even though her class is “beginner”, I found it a little more advanced. They weren’t going over basics, and like I said the barre was a little more tricky with weight changes and combinations requiring inside and outside leg movements.

Overall it was a great experience and I can’t wait to try some other classes. Some random thoughts the hallway smelt of chai tea. It wasn’t unpleasant or anything it just smelt of spiced chai… Note the office to pay for classes is to the left of the top of the stairs, not the desk at the top – that’s security. No photography or video of any of the dancers in class. Get there early and you can watch the professionals rehearse. I got to watch part of MidSummer’s Night Dream played by Leta Biasucci and Lesley Rausch, the gentlemen I didn’t know very well- sorry Dude’s. There is a locker room but we were allowed to bring our articles into the room, be sure to silence or turn off your cell phones. Having a bottle of water next to you at the barre is allowed.

Hope this is useful to anyone. Thanks for reading!


5 thoughts on “Thoughts on PNB’s Beginner Adult Class

  1. Sounds like you had a good beginner’s class! It is nice sometimes to somewhat ‘downgrade’ a class to just see where you are now and get the time to focus on all the little things that sometimes get skipped by a more demanding class’ tempo.
    I would really love to try some more ballet schools here in The Netherlands but somehow when they find out that you already dance at another dance school people get really annoyed…

    • I think that’s the European Master and Mistress thing. Old world order way… Jumping around to other Teachers is looked down upon. It was common that you stuck with your one teacher and mastered their method since it has been passed from teacher to pupil for generations.
      I think you may find dancing in America a little more open and liberating if you ever get a chance. It is such a hodgepodge of styles and methods.
      You may also find that some teachers in Europe don’t want to work with people who’ve learned another teacher’s method because they feel they have to work from the ground up. Have you discussed with them that you were filling in classes that were missed? They may be more willing to take you that way than just casually dropping in.
      Good luck RO 🙂

  2. Thank you so much for sharing! Sounds like you had a great time 🙂
    Poor OZD, there’s always one… glad she didn’t take away from your experience.

    I didn’t know PNB taught Balanchine in their adult program. I’ve always trained “un-stylized American classical” and was never encouraged to do an SAB summer (lest I come home jumping up and down and doing plies all fast) so it could be fun to try… a Beginners class… when I’m out there!

    • Yea I think OZD felt a little competitive with me. Like maybe she was used to being the experienced dancer and I came along and tilted her world lol. I’m kind of dumb to people’s emotions not to be rude, it’s usually because I’m so focused on myself and I think positively of most people.

      Since I haven’t tried the other classes I cc can’t say for certain the Balanchine through and through but I would assume being that PNB is Balanchine. My Mentor teaches based off of Balanchine but things she picks up from other methods here and there she’ll use it to the dancer’s advantage. Otherwise I’ve learned both checetti and Russian pirouettes, but we do Russian style arabesques. When I go to other studios I usually get barked at about my heels being up in prep for jumps. Which is a very Balanchine thing to do. I understand both sides of the case of heels down vs heels up. Muscle memory though is mostly my deciding factor. And the fact in no professional who dances all week so I most likely will not get a shortened Achilles’ tendon any time soon.
      So, when will you be up? This summer perhaps? 😀

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