Mentoring Minds for Ballet Dancers

The more I teach the more grateful I am to all the mentoring minds I encountered on my journey. They helped me discover, recognize and cherish the beauty veiled in the mystery of the art. Some of them were great theoreticians, others were great personalities in arts, science, or religion. The others were curious peers and for sure, many of them were knowledge-hungry kids. I am equally grateful to all of them because of the learning process I was ceaselessly exposed to.

Learning and teaching are dynamic processes anchored in complex and complementary patterns of communication.

Filtered through my own knowledge and experience over time, I acknowledged that learning and teaching are dynamic processes. As a matter of fact, they are anchored in complementary and complex patterns of communication. In other words, student and teacher are in the same boat. Being curious to find answers to the ongoing pedagogical questions, I started research upon mentoring young ballet dancers. As a result, here are some ideas of great masters that have inspired me:

Carlo Blasis, The Code of Terpsichore, 1820

I consider Carlo Blasis a briliant mentoring mind. His vision was valid since 1820 (English version 1830) and remained valid up to our days.:

The choice of a master

“Your must therefore direct your first attention to the choice of a master, with whom you may run no hazard of being led astray. All professors have not issued from good schools, and few have distinguished themselves in the art they pretend to teach. Many there are of ordinary abilities, who, far from increasing the number of good dancers, are daily diminishing it, and whose defective mode of instruction imparts a variety of vicious habits, which the pupil afterward finds extremely difficult, nay sometimes, impossible to eradicate.”

The precepts of simple unpractised theorists

“Neither follows the precepts of simple unpractised theorists, utterly incapable of demonstrating clearly the true principles of the art: nor be guided by the imaginary schemes of innovating speculators, who, whilst they think themselves contributing to ameliorate the elementary rules of dancing, is gradually working its destruction.”

Seek to place yourself under the direction of an experienced master

“Carefully shun the baneful lessons of such preceptors; and seek to place yourself under the direction of an experienced master, whose knowledge and talent will serve as true guides to perfection, and point out the path that leads to pre-eminence.”

Enrico Cecchetti, The Manual, 1922

“It is impossible to devote too much care to the selection of a master, for your career depends to a very great extent upon the qualifications of your instructor.

“The concentration of thought and diligence, careful practice, tempered with moderation, is the foundation of success.”

Be sure that you thoroughly understand a movement before you proceed to its execution, for the limbs are the servants of the mind.”

The subtle interplay between the effort of own body shaping in the space

In order to become a professional ballet dancer, there are a couple of thresholds the students have to pass through. One of them is the process of becoming friends with space. There are a plethora of theories about the way human beings move through space. Below, one of them:

Joan Skinner, the creator of Skinner Releasing Technique as Mentoring Mind

Joan Skinner, the creator of Skinner’s Releasing Technique, used to evoke images of a haiku (Japanese short poems) to promote an effortless type of moving of own body in the space. As a matter of fact, Stephanie Skura, one of her students described her technique in 1993 as follows below:

“Letting go is crucial preparation for allowing an image to truly move you. Releasing does not have to do with moving softly; it has to do with a constant flux without grabbing onto anything. You get your orientation not by holding onto some center, but by letting the energy flow within you, through you, and around you. This is not an industrial age, mechanistic view of energy; it is not something finite that you can manufacture, store, and use up. You feel like part of greater energy.”

Basho, the poet, born in a samurai family

Here is one of my favorite haikus of Basho, the poet born in a samurai family that elevated the haikai to the level of literature in XVII century:

Fragrant orchid-

Perfuming the wings

Of a butterfly

I believe in a collaborative space between students and teachers, where sharing the same interest sparks creativity and inspiration.

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