“The mediocre teacher tells, the good teacher explains, the superior teacher demonstrates, the great teacher inspires”, by William Arthur Ward.

 

 Occasionally an exceptionally talented dancer appears and revolutionizes the art form.  They create new steps, and by pushing the boundaries of technique, they set higher standards for everyone to achieve.  Unfortunately, sometimes the talented dancer does not quite know how he is doing it, or does not have patience to share the knowledge with the others.  As teachers, we have to understand how they did it, and turn it into what we do.  It is our responsibility to explain to our aspiring students. 

 The expectation of becoming very strong and very flexible is contradictory.  Without proper guidance, it is easy to make mistakes.  In ballet, the teacher tries to simplify a movement that is so complicated by naming it, and relies on the visual learning capability of the student.  There are no details in the art of ballet; it is a fine detail as a whole.  But because the movements are very complex, the student begins to learn without capturing the details.  He is asked to show it in the future the way “his teacher said so”.  To teach the movement, one has to also help the students develop visual learning aptitude.

 A common error that a teacher can make is to assume that if the student does not get it straight away, he is not intelligent.  Even the most talented pupils need time and training:  Technique.  We start teaching with slower movements and music because we know that typical students of a young age are incapable of executing them fast and correctly.  Many teachers realizing the difficulty of their task, prefer to teach the students with similar body types to their own, hoping to get faster results by depending on their own experience.  But not only “perfect body types” become good dancers, and many bodies that look similar on the outside actually function very differently from one another.  Talent has many faces and comes in many different shapes and forms.

 Artists are made by performing.  A syllabus (and by that I mean the entire dance program for students at a school) should contain the repertoire of the affiliated company and plenty of performance opportunities for the young and talented students.  In the navy, there is a very selective and élite group of soldiers that are called “Seals”.  The idea is that nobody really becomes a navy seal, but through a vigorous and long test, the instructors (who also had to go through the test and completed it successfully) and the candidates find out the ones who were born with it.  Talent has to be discovered, and ballet students need naturally more than technique class to grasp their talent.

 Getting injured before the completion of total understanding of a method is also one of the gravest disruptions in learning in general, or in learning how to teach.  Imagine we broke an arm, and a surgeon operates on us.  If the body did not heal, we would now have to be concerned with a broken arm and the new wounds from the operation.  A correct teaching system should include the knowledge for students to prevent and overcome any injuries they may sustain. 

 We are often disappointed to realize that we have to deal with teachers who as students and professionals were so busy trying to survive the system they never learned how to teach.  Pain will create doubts in the mind, making the student figure out other ways to work it out.  The healing is the miracle that makes any method work, and is a big part of classical ballet training. 

 
 Despite that it is very hard and sometimes afflictive, watching ourselves dance is one of the best ways to learn from our mistakes.  Let us face it; we are our own worst critiques.  Seeing ourselves the way the others can, would help us comprehend how to better the movement itself.  It also can create a superior bond and trust with the teacher, since we now can easily analyze all the corrections we have received and compare the results.

 
 Teachers should possess the qualities that they expect to teach their students and inspire them.  Part of the artistry – going beyond technique – is to make it look easy and effortless.  And that is not easy to do alone.

 

Triple turns in the air.

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