Julian has been studying ballet since he was 3 years old. That means this boy has been in ballet tights for 11 years. For the last three years he was enrolled in an intensive program at Ballet San Jose School that required him to take three hours of ballet at a minimum six days a week. (Gotta give the boy some credit given that he didn’t want to be a professional ballet dancer but knew he needed the technique to be a good all around dancer…)
Now we have always felt that he received good training there, and we have recently had that confirmed by some other teachers. He took a master class with Augusta Moore from San Francisco’s ODC and she commented on his ballet technique (and general talent). Additionally, when he began dancing in the Nutcracker, the choreographer and director Marcie Ryken of Los Gatos Ballet also mentioned that he had good technique (and was talented…sorry…couldn’t resist).
So, why am I telling you all of this? I’m not just bragging. Every day when Julian goes to ballet class at Teen Dance Company, Mark Foehringer corrects his technique. It seems he doesn’t like some of the technique Julian learned at Ballet San Jose School, which is based on the Bournonville Technique, which comes out of Denmark. Indeed, the ballet mistress and school director, Lise LaCour, as well as the male teacher they hired last year, Peter Brandenhoff , both come out of the Bournonville school of ballet. So, for three years he has primarily learned this style. Well, one year he had a lousy ballet teacher a few days a week (hired by the school), who taught a different style, and occasionally they have Ballet San Jose company members who teach class (always a thrill), but, in general, the Bournonville style was what he learned.
Now I noticed that Julian’s technique – how he held his head when he moved his arm a certain way, for example – was corrected by a Russian ballet teacher brought in for a master class as well. So, what does this mean? Julian said, “The Russian ballet dancers don’t do it that way. They hold their head another way.” Does this mean each country has its own ballet technique? Is one correct and one incorrect?
And Mark seems to want Julian to move his hands in a less flowing manner and in a way that Julian feels is stiffer. Does each ballet instructor have his or her own preference? There’s a difference between preference, which may come down to style, as opposed to technique. And if it actually is an issue of technique, is one technique simply right and another simply wrong?
As far as Julian is concerned, his technique is fine. (Well, not in ever situation, but the things that Mark constantly corrects – and gets angry at him for not fixing – he feels he is doing correctly.) In fact, he says he knows he is doing them correctly, because he’s doing them the way he was taught by Ms. LaCour and Mr. Brandenhoff, and they no longer corrected him on these particular issues. So there.
This presents a quandary. I know it’s important to be able to adapt your dance style to that of any teacher of choreographer, but should a dancer also adapt his or her technique? I might have to seek out a professional for the answer to this question…In the meantime, however, my son is left at the barre feeling very frustrated – and angry – that his teacher continues to correct him for something he is sure he is doing correctly, and his teacher continues to get angry and frustrated at him for not making the correction. As you can imagine, this does not make him eager to go to ballet class three times a week for an hour and a half each time. And I bet Julian’s lack of compliance doesn’t make him Mark’s favorite ballet student.