(photo by Jayme Thornton)

Dear Katie: My Dance Classes Aren't Challenging Me!

Dear Katie,

I think I'm ready to move up a level—my dance classes aren't challenging me. But how can I talk to my teacher about that? I'm nervous.

Claire


Dear Claire,

Good for you for taking your training into your own hands! But I understand your anxiety—these situations can be delicate. I'd suggest approaching your teacher in a way that puts this all squarely on you. You could say, “My dancing isn't improving the way I want it to, and I feel as though I need to challenge myself more. Would it be possible for me to take a class or two in a higher level?" That'll carry more weight with your teacher than anything that implies blame—“You're not challenging me" or “The classes aren't hard enough." If you show your teacher that you're ambitious and self-motivated, odds are good that she'll be willing to give you a shot at a higher level.

Dear Katie,

Sauts de chat are so much fun, but I can't get the same height in my grands jetés. What's the secret?

Ashlynn

Dear Ashlynn,

Grand jeté and saut de chat may look similar in the air, but the grand jeté takeoff is completely different than the saut de chat takeoff. First, make sure you're really using your plié. Push hard off the back leg, which will help launch your body into the air. Then, think about getting the front leg to 90 degrees as quickly as you can. A lot of dancers are slow getting that leg up, which keeps them from achieving good height at the apex of the jump. You should essentially initiate your jeté with a high grand battement.

The other grand jeté secret is to think “out," not “up." Sauts de chat go “up" thanks to the rapid développé of the front leg, which gives them their distinctive pop. But because you brush rather than développé your front leg in grand jeté, you have to think about moving “out" over that leg to be able to achieve a full split in the air. Yes, you want height, but you also want to travel!

Dear Katie,

I have a bad stress fracture in one of my metatarsals, and the doctor says the only way to heal it is to stop dancing for at least a month. I can't imagine doing that! Do I need to give up dance cold turkey? What can I do to keep up my technique?

Madison

Dear Madison,

Injuries are the most frustrating things in the world—especially ones you can't do anything about. But if your doctor says you need to rest, you must rest. It's the only way you'll heal. Difficult as it is, put your time away from dance in context by thinking of your career long-term. If you don't stop now, you could be setting yourself up for a much more serious injury in the future.

You may not be able to dance, but there are still physical activities that don't put any pressure on that injured foot, and they'll help you stay in tune with your body. Swimming, Pilates mat work and arm exercises could be great options for you. (I swore by Pilates every time I was injured.) If you keep your muscles and joints strong and stretched, you'll find that once you're allowed to return to the studio, you'll be able regain your technique relatively quickly.

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