Over the summer as I had time to spare I decided to help my ballet teacher teach her younger students. I wanted to experience her work myself, and see how she had to manage her daily schedule since in the future I have a dream of teaching ballet.
It was definitely harder than I thought. The younger the students were, the harder they were to control and to top it all, they were shy. They were also very obstinate and stubborn, which I suppose comes with their young age. However, while I was learning how to teach, I realized that children at such young ages are unable to grasp certain concepts. Especially when it comes to physically controlling your body, like the way your feet are supposed to be pointed or how your torso and waist should be placed, it is difficult for them to keep their muscles in place.
So in order to do this, Teacher Jaena came up with stories or at least used common children’s stories to almost deceive the kids into doing what they’re supposed to do. She incorporates the stories, for example, an exercise meant to teach them how to sit straight and be elegant in their movements can be shown in the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, when Goldilocks reaches down to drink the porridge. There are also instances when Disney music is played rather than classical ballet music in order to gain the attention of the young students. Giving them books to fill up with the stickers they receive every lesson is yet another trick to manipulate them into participating in class and listening to the teacher.
Personally, this made me realize that for a large amount of time that I had been defending ballet against its stereotype of being girly or princess-like as I felt that it was a form of theatrical art which demanded physical and mental focus. However, it turns out that in order to make the girls understand what is happening in class or at least to keep them interested, the idea of being cute, girly and being a princess is always brought up, almost in every class. Of course, such ploys are used to show the importance of grace, poise, nice manners but it also hints and implies that women are only supposed to be graceful and pretty at all times. When extended, this thought could lead to the understanding that men in contrast, are entitled to demand their own way and are entitled to do exactly what they want. But surprisingly, this isn’t what society is trying to promote at the moment, instead, it is trying to promote the opposite.
I do feel that rather than introducing the power of a female dancer in the higher grades, the children should be socialized into it right from the very beginning.