This Sunday I will take my third ballet class. I finally enrolled in a beginning ballet workshop at a dance studio on the Upper West Side. We're moving at a slow pace, but it is a basics course designed for those with absolutely no ballet training.
I was nervous my first class because when I got into the studio, everyone was in ballet shoes, tights, and leotards, like they actually had ballet instruction previously. I didn't look anything like they did. I was told that I didn't need ballet slippers. I wore all black and folded my socks over like I did for a drum corps dance class. As class began, it was obvious no one had any prior instruction. Everyone was attempting to play the part of a ballerina by dressing accordingly. My instructor, Dawn Hillen, specializes in teaching adults. She taught her mom, who was 31 years old, how to dance. She was extremely patient with the class and observed us throughout the first class. Last week, Dawn began adjusting each individual's movements and promised to eventually get around to all of us. As she began teaching an exercise, she mentioned that she had learned this particular exercise from her instructor who had learned it from a previous instructor, so on and so on. She said that the passing of information is the pedagogy of ballet. The same pedagogy applies to drum corps instruction. There is no written handbook that each drum corps instructor receives at the beginning of his or her teaching career. Most of what they know came from someone who taught them. They may tweak exercises or combine two previously learned exercises to make a new one. Either way, the information was passed down. I didn't realize the importance of having all the necessary information until this summer. Never in my color guard career did I learn as much about moving through space than in my last summer. My staff provided me the same information at least three different ways to make sure that we always had the required information in order to be successful. If we messed up it wasn't because we didn't have the correct information. It was because we simply were not applying the information given to us. During my second ballet class last week, we went over correct arm positioning again, working on making our movements fluid as we moved from one position to the next. Dawn quickly said, "If you are not doing this correct by now, I take it as a sign that you're not paying attention to me, which means I shouldn't pay attention to you." The best instructors give you necessary information before you even ask. There shouldn't be a need to ask 1,000 questions. My first piece of tour advice: Don't ask a question unless you've already asked yourself if it has been answered. Pay attention to the person instructing you. They may not tell you directly where your feet should be but by watching them you can answer your own question. I realized the other day that tour is quickly approaching. If this is your first summer, you probably have so many questions. Ask your horn sergeant or captain, they are your best bet for information. If this is not your first summer, try and remember what you wanted to know before leaving and what you wished you would've known and pass that information along. It's never too early to start gathering all the information you're going to need for the summer, which will eventually apply to the rest of your life. Becky Novac currently lives in Hoboken, N.J., and works for Universal McCann in New York City as an assistant media planner. She is 22 years old and a recent graduate from Penn State University where she majored in journalism and psychology. Becky marched with the Bluecoats in 2000, 2002 and 2004 as a member of the color guard. Past columns by Becky Novac: Unforgettable The Biggest group project My Aria interview Life outside the bubble A day filled with intangible rewards Traditions make drum corps complete The Art in what we do Hockey, alumni and Valentine's Day Dates Everyone needs goals Adapting Turning pro Wondering about the "kids" Resolutions It's the little things A Rock star Remembering the passion Banquet weekend Missing out Unknown suitcase adventures The Even years