Classes are open for ages three and up. The descriptions below give a general idea of the progression of technique, and age or other requirements. Company members will perform in major productions in December and March. Other students will be invited as needed. All students will participate in the Annual Spring Student Concert at the end of the season. Seasons run August through May, with separate classes/camps or intensives for summer study. Company members do not purchase costumes; however, a production fee and costume rental fee may be charged to participants in the major productions. Students not in the company must purchase the selected costumes for the Annual Student Concert, and will pay a nominal production fee.
Bristol Ballet's Creative Movement, Pre- Ballet, Pre-Primary, and Primary classes are preparatory classes that provide a structured and creative approach to dance education. Class activities aim at developing an awareness of a dancer's own body and its capabilities as well as providing a foundation for the basic technique of any school of movement. The classes combine skill development and self expression through exploration of the elements or concepts of dance which will give dancers a way to eventually create their own way of dancing, Skills are developed in relation to the concept. As Bristol Ballet is primarily a ballet school and company, ballet terminology is modestly introduced as appropriate for each age level, however specific technique is not aggressively stressed for these preschool and lower elementary levels. In all techniques, proper body posture and proper execution of exercises or steps is always emphasized and should be mastered before progressing to the next level. Quality and proper development, as well as injury prevention, are the goals of every instructor at Bristol Ballet.
Creative Movement and Introduction to Ballet are taught in 8-week sessions that are designed for the flexibility of completing one session alone or multiple sessions with some progression. These students do not perform in the end of year Student Concert, but have a parent observation at the end of each eight weeks. The other levels are season-long classes that run from August through May. These levels will participate in the end of year Student Concert. Some levels may also be invited to perform in The Nutcracker if deemed appropriate for their level – Usually Ballet One and higher.
Age 3 (30 minutes, once weekly)
This first class is designed to give children a creative approach to learning about movement. The children will learn basic movement through exercises that help them identify different body parts, how to move them, and to learn coordination through fine and gross motor skills. Exposure to music and creative stories is a vital part of this class, enabling the young children to experience learning through fun, structured play. Children should be potty trained prior to registering for this class.
Age 4 (45 minutes, once weekly)
Children are taught basic movements, rhythm, and motor skills through creative approaches, with slightly more structure than the Creative Movement class. Now a little steadier on their feet, Pre-Ballet students will begin to learn rudimentary elements to movements and positions geared toward ballet, such as first position of the feet and basic arm movements and positions. Focus is on gross motor skills- such as running, walking while stretching feet, gallops, and marches — along with fine motor skills such as moving hands and fingers, pointing feet, and moving the head in different directions.
Age 5 (45 minutes, once weekly)
This class continues to work on basic skills and positions along with rhythm and musical quality recognition. Dancers in this class learn to combine traveling movements with stationary movements, refine basic jumps (saute) , establish and stand in lines, and to match their creative movements to the quality of the music (fast, slow). Basic exercises such as plie, demi pointe, pointing one foot forward (tendu), walking with stretched feet, stopping in a pre-determined position, marching with stretched feet, and skipping are approached.
Age 6 (45 minutes, once weekly)
Primary students learn beginning barre exercises in the centre, adding plies in 2nd and 3rd position, balances on demi-pointe, beginning tendu a la seconde, lateral movements, poses on one leg, and the beginning of more formal port de bras. Locomotor movements are combined in simple forms to help the dancers learn to move from one step to the next. Gallops, polkas, skips, and spring points are used. Dancers begin learning to move the head in the proper method for turning, so as not to get dizzy (spotting), and learn to travel in different patterns, such as en diagonal, clockwise and counter clockwise, forward and backward in lines, and side to side.
Age 7 (One hour, once weekly)
A slight step up from Primary level, Ballet One takes basic exercises at the barre: Plies in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd position, first facing the barre and later sideways to the barre. A more developed tendu a la seconde is learned, and the basic saute is expanded into other jumps such as echappe. Combinations of locomotor steps may be with quicker changes from one step to another, and may also change direction (en diagonal to circular, for example).
Age 8, 9 (Twice weekly, one hour each class)
Students at this level begin attending two classes weekly, which greatly enhances their learning opportunities at this very important level. More barre exercises are introduced, and their jump vocabulary is increased. In the centre, more positions of the arms and different port de bras are learned, as well as croise alignment. Beginning petit allegro steps are introduced, such as temps leve and emboite. Basic movements are refined which will later become ballet steps (step and hop becomes temps leve in arabesque, for example).
Age 8-12 (Twice weekly, 1 ¼ – 1 ½ hours each class)
A more extensive barre is developed, including ronds de jambs, grands battements derriere, and developpe. Full port de bras of the body are introduced. Use of the arm in different positions, head movement, and change of arm and head while using the legs are studied. In the centre, more port de bras, the first two of eleven basic positions of the body, and more petit allegro steps are learned. Students begin learning rudimentary grand allegro for travelling en diagonal across the floor. This level usually takes two years to complete.
Ages 11 and up (1 ½ — 2 hours each class, three times weekly)
Ballet Four meets three times weekly initially, and in the second year moves to four times weekly. Barre work becomes complete at this level. More coordination of arms, head, and legs is developed, as well as muscular strength for adage, petit and grand allegro, and turns. Pirouettes and more complex allegro combinations are studied, along with more grand allegro steps done en diagonal. This is the level at which preparatory pointe work and beginning pointe work may be introduced, if the students are technically ready. Students at these levels may qualify for membership in the Apprentice Company.
By recommendation of instructor (1 ½ — 2 hours each class, five times weekly)
These students continue to build strength, flexibility, and coordination through more difficult barre work. Batterie, more complex turns, and quicker allegro, along with more complex grand allegro steps are studied. Additionally, artistry, musicality, nuance, interpretation, performance quality, and dynamics are stressed in order to make the dancer a more complete artist. Variations, choreography, more complex pointe work, and other styles of dance are also included in these levels. Dancers at this level may qualify for membership in the Bristol Ballet Company's Junior or Senior Company.
By recommendation of instructor
The study of pointe work can begin at Ballet Four level and continues through the most advanced levels. These classes are included in the levels Ballet Four/Five and Intermediate/Advanced, and not necessarily listed separately, since pointe students must also take regular technique classes in order to qualify for pointe study.
Bristol Ballet Performing Company
By audition or invitation
Dancers at levels Four and higher may audition or be asked to join the performing company, which produces three major shows each season, in addition to appearing at smaller venues several times each year. Additional rehearsals are required outside class time for company members.