Teaching The Ballet Student

 Comunicating the world of dance to the young dancer is similar to placing a grain of sand inside the shell of an oyster. Only when one knows the trick of opening this creature, can one then hope for a cultured pearl. Young dancers differ, just as an unattended oyster will layer by layer cover the seed with mother of pearl, young dancers must be helped to refine the under lying talent. 

There have been many books and DVDs written on the subject of ballet technique, believe me, I own many. But like all performing arts, it cannot be learned from books or even DVDs. Teachers can be helped on points about which the are unsure of, and all should have a knowledge of the different methods of ballet training. Some of the more proment methods are  the  Cecchetti method, which is based on technique developed and taught by the Italian dancer Enrico Cecchetti, or  the Vaganova method after Agrippina Vaganova which is the Russian method. However, only a relationship between the dancer and her instructor, can produce results that are to excellance. This important work takes place in the dance studio.

There are many systems for teaching ballet. I believe that having a graded syllabus gives the teacher and dancer a yearly building block on which to see the progression of their hard work in class. A certain set of barre excerises are taught for each year of training. The dancer needs to perfect those excerises before moving up to the next level. Along with the graded set of barre work, comes the degree of difficulty with the center floor and across the floor work. The later will eventually be placed as choreography in the year end revue. Along with the syllabus is consistant correct terminology.

I feel that it is necessary for a ballet teacher to have a good understanding of the personalities of her class, and a good sense of humor to share with them. But, discipline must always be present and humor must not get carried away. The work required in order to gain the essential technique can be trying and must somehow be squeezed out of the dancer at every class. (Whether the dancers or the teacher is more fatiqued at the end of the day is debatable) The endless energy of some younger dancers sometimes has to be curbed when focus tends to get lost, and the dancers need to get back on track to where they need to be for that day. It is always necessary to have fun, and fun can be achieved with a good relationship between dancer and teacher. The dancers need know where sillyness ends and learning takes over.

Some dancers respond to encouragement and others need a challenge or competition. One dancer can best be reached through explaination while another reacts better to the music or demonstration. All this a teacher  must know and understand if she is going to get the most out of her dancers. A young dancer is a pearl waiting to be cultivated and it is worth all the care she can be given.

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