Entering a ballet class can be an interesting experience. You quickly learn there are so many unwritten rules!
Few sports or activities mimic the sanctity of a ballet studio. As a newbie you could be very overwhelmed as you quickly start learning the in’s and out’s of whats acceptable and unacceptable behaviour in a ballet class.
Do I enter the studio when I arrive? Should I ask before entering? Can I wear sneakers? Can I stand here on the barre? Can I ask the teacher a question? I don’t like that step, can I do a different one? Can I take a selfie during the exercises? Can I film that girl who seems to know what she’s doing so I can practise when I get home?
The list goes on… it can get confusing… you might be standing on someones toes without realising it… so let’s write some down…
- Always be prompt and on time. Especially if it’s your first class! There’s nothing worse than waltzing in (pun intended) and interrupting the flow of class. The first few exercises are crucial for warming up the body correctly.
2. Appropriate footwear must be worn at all times. Bare feet is only acceptable in a contemporary class. If you don’t have ballet shoes, socks are acceptable. Sneakers not so much. Once upon a time I had a lady (with ZERO prior ballet experience) want to wear pointe shoes for normal class… yeah, no.
3. Don’t talk whilst the teacher is demonstrating an exercise. As a teacher, there’s nothing worse than demonstrating the exercise whilst Sheryl and Beryl are having a chit chat up the back. And I can guarantee that Sheryl will ask what we’re doing not long after I’ve finished demonstrating and Beryl will tell me I’m going too fast for her… *face palm*.
4. No clothing or large jewellery that could be distracting for other students. Think you’re being trendy? Wearing a hat, scarf and ten thousand bangles that could set off the metal detector in the next city’s airport? Not only is it noisy, but if you accidentally hit someone in the face – ouch.
5. Turning on a fan or opening a window without asking is a big no no! Ballet teachers will pretend they’re cool with it when you do it, but it’s not cool. Feeling cold? You’re not working hard enough. Feeling hot? Awesome. Enjoy those muscles warming and working!
6. Leaning on the barre is a huge sign of disrespect in the ballet world. It basically says, “I don’t respect the equipment or you and I’m feeling lazy…” Laziness in a ballet class? There’s no such thing.
7. Taking photos or video of other people in class is wildly inappropriate. The studio is a safe space where people shouldn’t feel like their privacy is being invaded. A selfie before or after class is cute and totally acceptable! But setting up tripods to film yourself, leaning the phone against the barre to get a good angle or filming someone in class so you can ‘practise’ later is a bit uncouth. Sure, ask the girl who nailed the exercise (after class!) if you could film her do it again. Sure, ask the teacher (after class!) to take a cute photo of you at the barre. Yes, the teacher sometimes takes videos or photos during class. The difference is that everyone knows when the teacher is filming and he/she will NEVER upload an unflattering photo or video showing poor technique.
8. Let’s talk about taking someones ‘spot at the barre’ for a second. Everyone has a preferred spot at the barre. Some people avoid the mirror, others want to stand right in front of it. If someone has come early to stretch and reserve their place, don’t ask them to move. If you come in and someones already standing in ‘your spot’ – tough luck cookie! Even worse if you walk in late and make someone move… you’ll be lucky to walk out alive.
9. Don’t choreograph your own steps! Want to do an attitude turn instead of a pirouette? A grande pas de chat instead of an assemblé? Don’t do it. Only step outside the set choreography when the teacher says, “Choice of jump/pirouette/etc…” Your teacher will often give options and say ‘use whatever arms you like’. But completely changing a set exercise? Not okay. Most of the time, the people that change an exercise are what I like to call a ‘dominant’ student and the problem with this is that there’s most likely lots of newbies copying you. Set a good example.
10. Turn your damn phone off. Ballet is a form of meditation. Don’t disrupt the sanctity of the studio! If you then dare to take it one step further and ANSWER THE PHONE you probably shouldn’t be doing ballet – because you just don’t get it.
Let’s face it, no ones perfect… what rules have you broken in ballet class before? I’ll go first – number nine. However at first I didn’t realise I was doing it and once someone pointed it out I haven’t done it since. I realised how annoying that can be for the students around you still learning basics!