Everyone knows that you should arrive early to class to have plenty of time to get dressed, fix your hair and warm up, but what about during class itself? Here are some tips on ballet class etiquette compiled from many years in the studio to get you started!
1. Know where to stand at the barre
While it is suggested that the ‘head’ of the barre is reserved for the best or most advanced dancers in the class, this is not applicable if the teacher does not move to the other end of the room when the exercise is done on the second side. If this sounds like your class, be in the middle instead and let more experienced classmates stand at the end to ‘lead’ the exercise on the second side.
2. Do not hog the fixed barres
While some dancers may have a “fixed spot” where they stand each week, I feel that if your class has a mix of fixed barres at the mirror and portable barres, do not take the fixed barres at every class so that others will have a chance to check their barre positions in the mirror. By the same token, always help to put away the portable barres even if you have not used them in that class.
3. Spread out well for centre work
Make full use of the studio’s floor space when in the centre, instead of squashing into the middle. On more than one occasion, I’ve had to walk right across the studio to occupy an empty spot as everyone was, for some reason, on the same side of the room. Don’t do that! It’s nice to have space to dance in.
4. If you want to be in front, then stand at the front
Not somewhere in the middle of the studio, as this will mean less space for everyone behind you! There are those who feel that the first row is reserved for more advanced dancers, but if there’s space at the front just take it anyway – see #4.
5. Do not block others in the mirror
Everyone should have a chance to see themselves in the mirror in centre, so please position yourself such that you’re not blocking someone else’s reflection. That said, if you can’t see yourself in the mirror, please reposition yourself too – the person in front may not be able to move as doing so will encroach onto another dancer’s space.
6. Don’t talk during class
You may want to catch up with a friend you haven’t seen in months, but please! Don’t talk while others are having their turn at centre work. Your chatter can be heard over the music and it is VERY DISTRACTING. Not to mention disrespectful.
7. Wait for your turn
When the class is taking turns to dance an exercise, wait till everyone else has had a go before taking seconds. Even if the teacher stops the music after your turn to explain the steps, the ‘reset’ button has not been hit – move to the back of the room/line, and give others a chance to dance before having a second go. Don’t be rude!
8. Make full use of floor space
When going diagonally across the floor in an exercise, dance until you run out of space for a full set, even if it means doing the set more times than your teacher directed. And why not, since you get more practice this way. If you do stop, please finish nicely and then run quickly out of the way of others – don’t stand there admiring your pose in the mirror!
9. Know when to ask questions
There’s a great, detailed article here on when to ask questions, but my experience is that it’s very likely there are others bursting to ask that question too. So if you’re unclear, please ask – there’s little point trying to fumble through an exercise when clarifying your queries would allow you to execute it better and get a proper practice.
10. Providing unsolicited advice
The general rule is that unsolicited advice should be kept to yourself – especially if you’re not the most advanced or experienced dancer in the class. Even if you are amazing, your views may not be welcome or may cause offense. In the same vein, if you’d like corrections or help from classmates, do reach out to them – most are more than willing to assist.
And the final word is – always give your best performance for the reverence. It’s equivalent to thanking your teacher, and a poorly executed reverence is very disrespectful. Verbally thank your teacher before leaving too, because, you know, it’s polite to do so.
Hope these tips are useful, and keep on dancing!