Impact Statement of “Toward a Feminist Ballet Pedagogy: Teaching Strategies for
Ballet Technique Classes in the Twenty-First Century" by Gretchen Alterowitz.
Ballet is one of my favorite dance styles to teach. A ballet class can help teach students many important life lessons—learning how to stand up straight and move confidently in a room—which could be useful for future meetings, job interviews and challenging situations. The discipline and determination needed to complete a complicated petite allegro is the same discipline and determination students need in their future jobs. Ballet is challenging and can be intimidating. But, with a nonauthoritarian and encouraging teacher, ballet can bring about so many benefits.
I have studied in dance classes where I felt that the teacher is so dominant in their corrections, thoughts and persona, that the benefits of technique and artistry that I could have gained from the class is outweighed by the instructor’s authoritarian and intense manner. This type of teaching is what Gretchen Alterowitz asks to question and change in ballet technique classes in her article, “Toward a Feminist Ballet Pedagogy: Teaching Strategies for Ballet Technique Classes in the Twenty-First Century.”
This article holds a wealth of information regarding the way ballet has been and still is being taught in an unhealthy and unhelpful authoritarian manner. She writes, “ballet continues to enforce established ideologies about bodies, relationships, and beauty” (Alterowitz 2014, 8). The authoritarian method of teaching dancers to be quiet, submissive and obedient has been passed through generations of ballet instructors (Alterowitz 2014, 10). Alterowitz asks if by questioning this often harmful teaching method, is the essence of ballet changed (Alterowitz 2014, 9)? I believe ballet is a different and wonderful learning experience when the instructor teaches in a nonauthoritarian manner. Though the pedagogical practice is different, the principles of rigor precision, and self-determination is not. We can help our ballet students engage in critical thinking in class, which in turn can allow deeper thoughts to form in our students. I believe that along with the enjoyment and lifted-weight of a nonauthoritarian teaching style, students can still achieve greatness within ballet technique. It will take conversations among students and teachers, but the progress that can be made in these studios will begin to allow ballet instruction to catch up with twenty-first century pedagogical practices.