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  1. #21
    V.I.P. Aziyade's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yame View Post
    I also don't teach shimmies early on. They are the last thing I teach baby beginners, because they require the person to already have some isolation ability.
    Can you elaborate on this? I'm quite curious about why shimmies are taught so late. I was taught them on the first day of class, and pretty much every beginning class I have attended or observed taught them right away, so I'm just curious about the rationale.

    I'm also curious about what you describe as isolation ability.

    I do believe there are a lot of ballet teachers out there who do not teach safe technique and/or favor certain aesthetics that aren't "good" for the dancer, for example hyperextension of the legs.
    Hyperextension of the knee throws the line of the leg off. I don't know of any time in recent ballet history that this look was desired -- unlike other unsafe but visually appealing trends like overarching en pointe and the "winged" foot. But I have been out of the scene since 99, so...

    There is also often a culture of dancing through pain and dancing on injuries. So, naturally, they do end their careers earlier and sometimes that does happen due to injuries.
    THIS. Even on the regional level, the competition is crazy, but it's infinitely worse for major companies. You dance on minor injuries because if you don't, someone else will. Those minor injuries never heal and grow into major injuries.

    Proper ballet technique is not unhealthy for the body at all. Proper ballet classes are not unhealthy for the body. But what IS unhealthy is a tired dancer, a hungry or sugar-starved dancer, dicking with your shoes to get one more performance out of them, etc.

    It IS the performance culture that causes injury. What I saw the most was that fear of losing a role, and also a sleep- or rest-deprived dancer whose exhaustion led to a slip in vigilance and tired, sloppy technique that didn't correct a misaligned ankle or an improper balance.

    Still, there are many ballet dancers who simply retire because they are far beyond their prime, but live long, healthy lives far from the stage. My ballet teacher is about 60 and has no knee problems whatsoever.
    I'm healthy. The director of the studio where I teach is healthy. Neither of us has knee or hip or back issues. I quit not because of injury but because I got tired of the internal politics and bs, and I wanted to go back to school.

    We get to perform into our sixties and seventies because we don't necessarily have to do anything that is super-athletic and/or risky,
    And -- because the vast majority of us perform for free, or at events for other dancers, where there isn't the competition for jobs that there is in other dance forms.

  2. #22
    V.I.P. Yame's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aziyade View Post
    Can you elaborate on this? I'm quite curious about why shimmies are taught so late. I was taught them on the first day of class, and pretty much every beginning class I have attended or observed taught them right away, so I'm just curious about the rationale.

    I'm also curious about what you describe as isolation ability.
    I don't teach them late, I teach them at the end of beginner level 1a which is my shortest level. After that the student still has to go through 1b and 1c before they are intermediate by my standards (level 2), so I can still say I teach shimmies fairly early on in beginner level.

    1a could take from a few weeks to a few months. But yes, that is much later than someone who teaches them on the first lesson, and the rationale has a lot to do with the specific technique that I use in my style.

    I have a variety of different shimmies in my repertoire, but a good portion of them are derived from the same basic technique, the technique for what I like to call my "basic" or "default" shimmy. In this technique, the shimmy is being driven by the bending and straightening of the legs. However unlike what many refer to as the "Egyptian shimmy," or "modern Egyptian shimmy," etc, there should be an up-and-down motion of the hips as the legs bend and straighten.

    Most people with little or no belly dance background can not achieve an up-and-down motion with their hips by bending and straightening their legs. In fact, most people with little/no belly dance background can not achieve an up-and-down motion with their hips at all... especially not while keeping their heels on the ground, which is a must. It's not a motion that is exactly natural. It comes naturally with practice, but we are generally not born with it. So, if you tell a baby beginner to lift the right side of their hip (or drop it, or do piston hips, you name it), they will generally do a sort of hip hit to the side. Until they acquire this isolation ability through practice, their hips will generally move in a side-to-side fashion when they try to move their hips up and down.

    So how can I expect a student to "speed up" a move they can't even do correctly yet? It's too much to throw at them.

    None of the teachers I have studied with (that I was with from beginner level) taught shimmies in the very beginning. I agree with that approach. But in fact, none of my regular teachers at that time ever broke down shimmy technique at all, I had to figure it out on my own and then "confirm" my discoveries later on with teachers who did have a clear grasp on the technique, knew how to verbalize it, and chose to verbalize it.

    I think different approaches are valid, and if someone is a good teacher and knows what they are doing I'm sure they might be able to teach shimmies earlier on, but for what I am personally trying to achieve with my students, this is what works.


    Quote Originally Posted by Aziyade View Post
    Hyperextension of the knee throws the line of the leg off. I don't know of any time in recent ballet history that this look was desired -- unlike other unsafe but visually appealing trends like overarching en pointe and the "winged" foot. But I have been out of the scene since 99, so...
    It throws the line off, throws the balance off, and is just plain dangerous. Dancers with naturally hyperexdended knees need to be much more careful, and other dancers should be careful not to develop it. But in some circles it is or is becoming a preferred aesthetic, and it's a look that is considered a more beautiful line. It appears that there is a tendency to go for more and more exaggerated lines in general today than in the past, as you mentioned overarching en pointe, winged feet, etc.

    More and more, the ideal line is looking more like this: or this

    and less like this: or this
    Last edited by Yame; 08-18-2011 at 02:25 AM.

  3. #23
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    this looks painful to me... ouch...


    i prefer this.. it seems so beautiful & more natural.. to someone like me who have no idea about ballet.

  4. #24
    Moderator Darshiva's Avatar
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    The hyperextended line looks awful. I know ballet is all about pushing the boundaries of what is possible with the human body, but still, there is such a thing as going too far in the pursuit of beauty. I might arrange to have a sit in at one of the classes or practice session at the studio I teach at just to see how they teach.

    I'm definitely of a mind that the 'single direction' is very difficult for beginners to wrap their heads around, so I usually spend a lot of the drill time on manual correction & once everyone has gotten it right at least once we move on. Being in a small country town means that beginners to advanced are all in the same class so I have to be creative with how I teach my classes. There's a lot of repetition by necessity, of course, so my method of making sure everyone's got it at least once works with the way I need to teach due to location.

  5. #25
    V.I.P. Kashmir's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aziyade View Post
    Can you elaborate on this? I'm quite curious about why shimmies are taught so late. I was taught them on the first day of class, and pretty much every beginning class I have attended or observed taught them right away, so I'm just curious about the rationale.
    Personally I cannot see how a student can do a shimmy if they cannot do the underlying movement correctly. For a hip up/down shimmy (the first hip shimmy I teach) they must be able to move the pelvis straight up the body - without sliding to the side, twisting, or lifting their heels. Only then can it become a shimmy - in time to the music, relaxed, and smooth. Most students I get have trouble isolating their hip at all. Any attempt at a shimmy by such tends to be tense, shaking the whole body in a jerky unco-ordinated way and not linked to the music.

    I teach the underlying movement - which they practice and slowly bring to double time over weeks or months - depending on their ability.

    Similarly I teach shoulder isolations from day one to build into an articulated shoulder shimmy (easy to get them to step back into a bust shimmy but once they spend some time with a bust shimmy they'll revert to that if asked for a shoulder shimmy)

  6. #26
    Moderator Shanazel's Avatar
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    I start with shimmies from the first, because if nothing else early attempts give everyone a good communal laugh and start the processes of breaking down inhibitions and making a bunch of strangers into a cohesive class. Happy dancers have more relaxed bodies and the shimmy ability comes remarkably fast for many, if not most.
    "Well, now that we have seen each other," said the unicorn " if you'll believe in me, I'll believe in you."

  7. #27
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    btw, it seems having a dominant side is common... i'm a right-handed but i think my left leg is more dominant... we can practice more on e less dominant side to build the muscles & strength right, i read from other threads.

    also, i heard pilates are good to build up core muscles while improving flexibility???

  8. #28
    Moderator Darshiva's Avatar
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    I can vouch for the pilates. When I was going to a class with a certified instructor, my core strength was impressive and my posture & moves improved greatly.

    Given the change I'm tempted to ask her if she will teach a private class for me because the difference in my dancing was so profound.

  9. #29
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    wow... will give it a shot when i'm not so pocket-tight... the school i'm attending has pilates class as well... ^_^

  10. #30
    Member gypsy's Avatar
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    This is interesting to read WHEN people are teaching shimmies. I have been taking classes for about 2 and a half years, and have yet to be taught a shimmy!
    Sometimes the instructors will throw a shimmy into some moves in class, but we all just wiggle along and there is no "teaching" of the move.
    I thought it was because they are an advanced move, but it sounds like many people learn them in level 1. Hmmmmm...

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