Beyond Ballet Basics

When I first decided to take on Directed Teaching this semester, I was more nervous than I expected. In the Dance Team world, the technique that stresses me the most to teach is Kick. In the world of Dance Studios and Education, the technique that causes me the same stress is Ballet. Both stemming from a feeling of lack of knowledge, I suppose it would make sense why taking on this new responsibility seemed a bit intimidating. I feel that growing up, I did not have the most codified and effective ballet training and that the majority of my growth has happened over the past three years at Ohio State. How was I supposed to educate and enlighten others in something that I still needed educated on and enlightened in myself? Furthermore, how was I supposed to do so for my peers – some of who are likely to have more knowledge than I in this particular genre?

In the very first week, my immediate desire was to simply sit and observe. While I wanted to be engaged in the class, I was unsure of my place and did not know exactly where I should fit. However, I am thankful to have had Angelica’s support and push as she taught me jump in and become a part of the community being created in Studio 270 each week. Starting first by learning to give feedback, each week became a bit easier than the last and I started to develop relationships with the students, especially those who I did not have class with each day in the Department. From learning names to developing my own understanding of their abilities, I was able to better assess their performance and effectively offer corrections and feedback that they could apply over the course of the semester.

One of the biggest learning curves I think that I faced was matching the difficulty of the material to the ability of the students. Almost as force of habit, my initial combinations seemed to be a bit simpler than what the students were capable of. Though it is always great to go back to basics in this way, I noticed the students’ lack of interest when combinations were not as complex as they may have hoped. Upon making this initial realization, I took extra time to make sure that my combinations would vary between the simple and the complex throughout the remainder of the semester. This especially became important when it came to teaching a full class.

The first time I taught a class in its entirety, I realized some of my personal teaching habits – both good and bad. As I am normally used to teaching beginners, I have a habit of wanting to take extra time explaining things in great detail. However, such detail was not exactly needed due to the level of the students’ that I was teaching. In addition, some of this detailed discussion “ate up” the time that could have been used for more movement practice. In making these discoveries and using the feedback from Angelica, I created lesson plans for my next two classes that moved at a quicker pace but also left small amounts of time for detailed discussion, if needed. I found that I could move through combinations quicker and test the students’ memory in this way. Furthermore, the quicker pace of the material left ample time for when we began learning and reviewing our variations.

With each experience teaching (whether it be a combination or a full class), I began to feel more comfortable in both the ballet environment and my personal pedagogical habits. I found a happy combination of my own teaching strategies and working to gear my lessons towards the abilities of the students (which were much higher and advanced than I am used to). By my last time teaching a full class, I felt confident, even moving through material a bit faster than planned. I genuinely felt a difference in my own composure compared to the first few times teaching, and I felt that the students’ responded better as well. I was able to keep them engaged with both my material and energy, creating a positive learning environment.

Now, as my time in this Directed Teaching comes to a close, I am looking forward to teaching ballet in the future – as a regular instructor as well as a substitute. Though I have no set teaching gig lined up in this genre, it is a relief to know that I would feel confident in a position such as this because prior to this experience, I feel that being offered a position teaching ballet would cause me to second-guess myself. However, the improvements and discoveries that I have made are not only applicable to my work in ballet, but to other genres as well! From structuring an engaging and advanced lesson plan to developing a good sense of time management in the classroom, these skills can be translated to any of the many classes that I currently teach – and those which I will be teaching in China. I am thankful for my time spent with Angelica and for her inspiration as an artist, educator, and person, and I look forward to putting this new knowledge into action as I continue with my journey in Dance Education.

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