Simona Noja, Symposium Speech (Part 2):
“Talent, Creativity and Efficiency in Ballet Schools” at The European Festival of Ballet Schools “Grand Assemblé” Cluj-Napoca, Romania, 2015
Following the ideas exposed in Ms. J.L Hanna’s book ” Dancing to learn” we could define dance as a simultaneity of knowledge processing. On one hand, it is connecting the inner space with the outside space; then, synchronizing the inner rhythm with the rhythm of the music and in extenso, with the rhythm of the world. Reaching deep emotions and expressing them, teaching your body, mind and soul to co-exist harmoniously.
“Dance has a privileged versatility.”
In comparison with other forms of learning, continues Ms. Hanna, “dance has a privileged versatility.” She also says that practice of dance requires mental coordination of a movement that engages in the same time: body, limbs, attitude, posture, balance and gestures; placing them in time and space, they create and suggest a certain expression of a meaning.
“Dance sparks new neuron growth”
With other words, in the human brain, initiating and coordinating such a task, dance sparks new neuron growth; …due to the extraordinary skill set of different coordination (dance) contributes to the changing and updating of neuronal connections.
Significant contribution to the renewal and updating of the brain.
As exposed above, I believe and share the ideas of Ms. Hanna. Having devoted a good part of the brain, the movement in all its forms, has a significant contribution to the renewal and updating of the brain, increasing the power of knowledge and the developing of the human personality.
From all the variety of the movement, I will concentrate on the dance-movement, more exactly on the individualized form of it, called ballet, with its own, unmistakable language, getting more and more important position in the temple of Terpsichore.
Talent in ballet
To have talent in ballet, definition acknowledged by all those in charge to discover, educate and promote the youth in this art, means the native (or through study achieved) skill for natural movement, within specific rules capable to express specific aesthetic values.
A natural gifted body is necessary prerequisite for the expression of choreographic talent
The physicality of a ballet dancer by itself does not mean talent, but a natural gifted body is a necessary prerequisite for the expression of the choreographic talent in its fullness.
Refined and educated physical endowment, sensitivity, discipline, willpower
The vast experience enshrined in the history of ballet recommends for top performance, as it is well known, good proportioned bodies. Above all, an optimal balance between muscle strength and weight, with specific personality features and a good sense of rhythm; then, flexibility, a body long-legged, with big foot-arches, long neck and gracious arms. The refined and educated physical endowment, with keener sensitivity coupled with discipline and willpower, will help the ballet dancer reach his goals. They will also support the unity of his technical and artistic skills in the creation of a character.
Criteria for selecting talent for the ballet schools
Today, thanks to the omnipresence of information, we have in the world the same criteria for selecting talent for the ballet schools; due to the modern means of information, not only ideas and principles can be promoted, but also the experiences of teaching and learning in high schools. Among ballet schools remain though, significant differences regarding the results. These differences can be explained partly by the shortages of material assets, or the operating mode of the schools, the discipline of the education and the teacher training.
The lack of an unifying fundamental concept
But beyond the possible deficiencies in the areas mentioned before, I believe that the main cause lies in the lack of an unifying fundamental concept that involves all the educational activities, which might be eventually consistently followed on the medium and long term.
Ballet education relates to general culture
Educating future ballet dancers to become professional and competitive in their field is a complex and difficult process, extremely strong influenced by the general culture education. Without the last one, the chances of success are diminished, but in coexistence with it, the results are absolutely worth. The ballet education should strongly be related to general culture, also because the dancer will have to create characters who have lived in different historical epochs, had belonged to certain cultures and social classes.
Sensitivity and virtue
His interpretation will depend on his sensitivity. This virtue he can approach only through successfully synergy with other arts, with care for his own body and convincing expression of his feelings. To paraphrase a well-known dictum, we could say: Ballet dancer misses nothing to bring miracle on stage.
Aspects of the profession
A concept for training professional ballet dancers must take into consideration its specifics but also the distinctions in the family of the artistic professions. To become professional dancer takes eight years of study and then practicing the profession, about twenty years. There are exceptions of course, but the statistical average leads us unequivocally to this duration. So, at full maturity age for other professions, the ballet dancer practically ends his stage career.
Lifestyle based on sensitivity, discretion and refinement
From this moment now, he must update his motivation that led him embrace this profession, and this can only come from within himself, and his artistic inner world. In conclusion, by cultivating models and promoting earnings that dance has given beyond the stage and social behavior. An unmistakable lifestyle based on sensitivity, discretion and refinement.
Profession strong assimilated in those who have mastered it
Not incidentally, a woman or a man who has been professional ballet dancer, will be recognized even at old age as a ballet dancer. In other words, by the way he/she walks on the street, after the gestures and movements full of grace, as a script of high fidelity. A profession, strongly assimilated in the physic, psyche and behavior of one who has mastered it.
Selection needs special consideration
Close related to the motivations of the children towards practicing ballet, the question of selection needs special consideration. Today we witness and share an unprecedented diversification of sports disciplines and techniques of motion related to improvement and maintenance of the human body.
Ballet can lead body, mind and soul beyond borders, inaccessible to other forms of movement.
This impulse has consequences for all types of dance. Selecting children for ballet has to be seen as a long lasting procedure. The fact is that ballet can lead body, mind and soul beyond borders, inaccessible to other forms of movement. Widespread and demonstrated, this idea keeps alive the interest for the ballet schools.
Meeting the appropriate aesthetic rules of the classical dance
On the other hand, the diversification of offers, made the selection more complicated. Children that go to the ballet, are selected from secondary schools or they had practiced initially sport or another form of dance. However, we cannot expect to find only children with perfect bodies for ballet. Therefore, for us, selection means scouting children with premises for ballet, to whom we can apply the basic principles of classical dance. As a result, they could become dynamic entities, structured harmoniously, capable of meeting the appropriate aesthetic rules of the classical dance.
Paying attention to…
We pay attention to the placement of the body and the aligning the limbs in a healthy posture of each body; the dynamic exchange of weight from one foot to the other and the aesthetics of arms and their coordination in balance with the body, head and legs; the ability of dynamics in space and time, etc. We had the big chance, in all our actions to have on our side exceptional teachers, well- known in the dance world for their brilliant experience validated in time.
Big challenge for the ballet education
The big challenge for the ballet education has always been the enhancement of pupils´ physical, mental and emotional skills. On this basis, the development of their artistic personality may occur.
Body learns the secret
Professional dancer reaches fulfillment when his body learns the secret of the “writing on stage” a story, making himself believed, understood and admired for his sincerity. To rise a young artist towards this target requires a combined effort student-teacher, pedagogical expertise and adequate program.
Keeping alive the passion and interest
Our teaching gift is often put to test by the ability to keep alive the passion and interest of students. While teaching them the classical dance dance canon, it is not an easy thing to do. So, consequentaly, the basics of the classical dance are relatively boring at the beginning. Especially for children and young people who have not practiced before ballet, or a sport discipline or who were accustomed to another purpose of the movement. The solution from the impasse is, I think, to apply an appropriate creativity for actual conditions.One has to leave the students the freedom to manifest their artistic needs.
Own time to process information
At this stage of study, the submission of information which will lead to correcting mistakes and joy of dance are essential. And then each child has his own time to process the information. Therefore, the patience of the teacher is often a prerequisite for success. In fact, to fulfill its mission, the ballet teacher must find a natural opening towards the universe of the pupil. Teacher must realize pupils´strengths that rely in his development, but also the weaknesses, searching for ways to improve them and maybe, even transforming them into virtues!
The process of effective teaching means maximum of result in the shortest time. Ballet teacher must be open-minded and have the courage, responsibility and innovative belief in the assessing evaluation of work and results.
Body Awareness and African Dance
In this spirit, we have implemented in addition to the traditional disciplines new ones, such as: Body Awareness – awareness of the body, techniques of connection between body and movement, African dance, very useful for the first class, to encourage the contact of the students with the floor and Modern dance technique, as support for the future knowledge of contemporary dance; we put emphasis on creativity for children and improvisation technique for young dancers; we also created an interdisciplinary platform between teachers of different subjects, so that our teachers have the chance to develop further!
Inspired teachers – inspired students!
We urged teachers to have in all circumstances a responsible attitude towards the curriculum. This means respect for their profession and assuming the role of being model for the pupils. And a teacher model will not forget the fact that between helping children to learn and how to learn is a difference. It is a professional attitude, a qualitative step attainable only through constant effort and teaching vocation.
Seeing my mission
I see my mission in leading the Ballet Academy of the Vienna State Opera as a chance to highlight the experience gained in my carrer. The fascinating adventure of scouting talents combined with their education are for me an inexhaustible source of meaning and joy.