One of the topics we have been discussing is the importance of planning the combinations in advance before you walk into the studio. Raymond Lukens, artistic associate of the American Ballet Theatre/New York University ballet pedagogy master's program, offered our class the following tips:
- Prepare your class backward by first designing your grand allegro. Then, figure out the progression of steps you will teach keeping those movements in mind. That will help prepare your students for what is coming at the end of class, and as the instructor, you will have a clear goal in mind of what you are trying to accomplish.
- Each class should have a minimum of five allegros, which should include jumps that go from: two feet to two feet (think changement), two feet to one foot (think sissonne ouverte), one foot to two feet (think assemblé coupé devant), one foot to the same foot (think temps levé en arabesque), and one foot to the other foot (think emboité). This ensures all of the leg muscles are being utilized, in addition to building stamina. Vaganova, in fact, stressed the importance of allegro in ballet as "the foundation of the science of the dance, its intricacy and the bond of future perfection. The dance as a whole is built on allegro." (From Agrippina Vaganova's "Basic Principles of Classical Ballet")
- Make sure each class focuses on different muscle groups to prevent overbulking and injury potential. There's a reason why Cecchetti had set barres for each day of the week, each of which focused on different movements so the same muscle groupings weren't overtaxed.
- Always tailor combinations/lessons for the highest level of dancer in the class. This will help them get stronger, and it will inspire the medium level dancer to try harder. The other students in the class may not want to be there, may have different interests, or just not have the facility, Lukens said, which is why you shouldn't hold the class back as a whole for them.
Hannah Guruianu is a master's degree candidate in dance education at New York University. She is a freelance writer and editor, flamenco student, and someday hopes to own her own studio. Before returning to school, she was the features editor at the newspaper in Binghamton, New York, and taught ballet classes at a local studio and community college.