Teaching Tip: Sticky Tendus

I got this visual teaching tip from watching my ballet teacher’s preschool and Ballet 1 classes.

Her class was practicing tendu and the students had very slow and articulate feet during their parallel (preschool) and turned out (Ballet 1) tendus!  After class, I asked what her secret was and this is how she teaches tendu:

1.  Take out your imaginary piece of gum and chew it up so its really sticky (in the preschool class, everyone gets to say what flavor/color gum they are having)

2.  Take out some of your sticky gum and put it under your toes!  (An explanation of why we only do this with imaginary gum and never at home is also given at this point)

3.  With straight legs, try to slide the foot out… but the toes are very hard to move!  Finally we get all the way out and the gum pulls us back to the starting position.  Repeat while teacher says “sticky sticky (foot slides out) tendu (close)!”

4.  Repeat with the other foot.

As they progress during the year, the teacher only needs to say “sticky sticky tendu” and the students recall the sticky sensation and slow down while pushing through their toes.  I think this imagery would also benefit older students – after all, who doesn’t love a little silliness in their class every now and again?

Hope it helps you or your classes!  What teaching tips do you have for tendus?

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Teaching Tip: Spaghetti, Meatballs and Pancakes, Oh My!

This creative movement idea was inspired by this Fruit Tree post at Maria’s Movers and the comments from Zan (of Hullabaloo Danceshop).  Zan describes her “turnip dance” in the comments and I loved the idea so I’ve been trying it out with my Modern I / Creative Movement class (ages 8-10).  We have changed it to fit our needs and the kids have come up with different food names (since most of them have never eaten a turnip).  We tried to keep it to somewhat healthy foods.

Our food stretch goes like this (movements in parentheses):

Spaghetti, toast and… pizza?
Ok there’s no pizza stretch.. yet!

Flat as a pancake (lie on back)
Round like a meatball (contract and roll into ball on side)
Stretch like spaghetti (stretch long on side, keeping balance)
Flat as toast (lie on belly)
Up like a banana/mermaid (cobra or mermaid pose*)
Flat as toast
Stretch like spaghetti
Round like a meatball
Flat as a pancake (repeat other side)

The only trouble is they always say they’re hungry after we do this stretch!

*Some days we do cobra pose (leaving feet on the ground and using hands to push up to stretch back) and some days we do mermaid (lifting feet and kicking arms off ground balancing on belly) – also known as superman pose.

Happy dancing!

Tips for Balancing

This is a great video on balancing created by The Anaheim Ballet (via BalletScoop):

I like the way they illustrate pushing down while pulling up – the one thing I always tell my students. This can be hard to visualize, so I am going to share this video with my students and see if it helps!

The other thing they didn’t really touch on is focus – I find that when I tell my students to focus on something that is eye-level instead of looking around, they are able to balance longer.  Then as you get better at balancing, you can challenge them to move their head while balancing.

What are you favorite balancing tips?