4 Tips For Finding A Great Ballet Teacher
What makes a great teacher? An impressive resume? Decades of experience? It depends. Sometimes, finding the right teacher for you is a matter of trial and error. But there are a handful of qualities they should possess, and red flags to look out for. Consider these four tips when looking for a great teacher.
1. Find out their qualifications.
If you’re taking an adult ballet class at a professional school, you will most likely have the privilege of being taught either by a retired alumnus, or company member. Anywhere else, you run the gamut of college students and local school owners teaching your class. Does this mean they are not qualified? By no means! The new economy has forever changed the hiring process for schools and studios. It used to be that you needed to dance your entire life for the Royal Ballet before you could boast teaching chops, but now, dance education has been made so widely available that a new generation of talented, qualified younger teachers are filling the payroll.
A general rule of thumb: an adult ballet teacher should be at least 21 years old, and have at least 5 years of solid ballet technique under their belt. Any younger with less experience, and they’re too green to direct a group of adults maturely and properly. Personally, I always preferred an older, seasoned teacher. But again, it just depends. If you’re not sure about a teacher, ask to take a free class. I had ten years of ballet experience from pre-professional training and college productions before I started teaching at the local recreation center when I was 24. I was a seemingly young “no-name”, but I offered a quality class. Remember, times have changed, and you can’t always judge a book by its cover.
2. Check their wardrobe.
If a ballet teacher is wearing booty shorts and teaching barefoot, run, don’t walk, to the nearest exit. An outfit like this is disrespectful and sends the wrong message. While contemporary ballet teachers may have a more relaxed wardrobe, this is a slight exception to the rule, and that’s being generous. Ballet is an art form which prides itself on classicism and grace, and the teacher’s uniform should reflect that. They should try to avoid inappropriate colors, like neons, and stick to more dignified arrangements of black, white, or grey. Also, don’t expect the teacher to always mimic the students dress code. While students may wear the typical tights and leotard, it is common to see teachers wear sweatpants, and yoga pants, even t-shirts. Some teachers, especially older ones, will wear supportive footwear that look like street shoes. This shouldn’t surprise you – their body is their tool, and they must find a way over the years to extend the life of their feet and career. The goal of the teacher’s wardrobe is two-fold: to be functional and stand apart as an authority in the classroom. This is true especially when dealing with children, but is a good principle to practice nonetheless.
3. Try male and female.
Sometimes we have preconceived notions about gender roles. Should a man be teaching such a feminine art form, you may be thinking. Others may have man issues so severe that they don’t trust being taught by a man. Truth be told, some old-schoolers really are the stereotypical chauvinist. But that is a small percentage of the population, and it would be ignorant not to give both genders a chance. Male and female alike have inspired thousands of students. As long as they provide constructive criticism and show you respect, it doesn’t matter who they are.
4. Pay attention to how you feel.
In college, I had a ballet teacher who left me feeling drained, and not in a good way. With other teachers, I would leave class exhausted, but with an immense sense of accomplishment and contentment. Unfortunately, with the other teacher, her combinations and style of teaching left everyone feeling battered and depressed. Yikes! Are you bored? I once took a yoga class with an older instructor. She was pleasant lady. But she was such a drag! She came across very insecure and her flow sequences were choppy. Where I normally left yoga feeling energized and restored, I left her class more aggravated than when I went in. You need to feel better about yourself and your day when you leave class. Listen to your body, and your intuition. This doesn’t necessarily mean there is something wrong with that particular teacher’s character. It just means they are not the right teacher for you.
Try a variety of teachers and try to learn something from each one. Ultimately, make sure they are qualified, show respect for the art form, and help bring out the best in you.
image credit: KCBalletMedia
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