The Adult Ballet Diaries (or how I fell in love with teaching adult learners), PART 2
Pictured Here: Leigh’s Beginner Adults, COCA (St. Louis, MO)
Wednesday Night, 7:30pm (September 2017):
When I walked in the studio door that first night, boy, was I nervous. I didn’t know what to expect, I wasn‘t sure of the experience levels of the dancers, so didn’t really know how to prepare more than a general class...I wasn’t even sure that on just a personal level that this situation was going to mesh out.
I said hello to the accompanist (another gulp! It had been almost a year since I’d taught with live music...if you haven’t experienced that yet, while wonderful, it can also be nerve-wracking!). I walked over to the chair in the corner and began putting my shoes on. I could feel the eyes of the dancers on me.
Here’s the deal: I look younger and act younger than my chronological age tells you. I’m also a bit *fluffy* for a classical ballet teacher in many people’s eyes. I also don’t dress the part unless I have to (black on black or leotard and tights is NOT my thing), and sometimes. this cover I have leads people to believe that I’m less than what I actually am. It’s always been a battle.
So that night, I felt a little critiqued or at least, under a microscope. Sooner rather than later, with a hint of incredulity in her voice, one of the students asked: “Wait, are YOU the teacher?” I answered with a chipper “yep” (not my first rodeo) and called all the dancers over to take attendance.
In that moment, looking at their expectant faces. I made a decision. I was going to treat these people standing in front of me like I‘ve treated every other dancer I’ve Been honored to teach. To me, they would all be gearing up for a big show, an end of the year accreditation exam, an audition, and a tour. And that would start with how I introduced myself to them.
Having them all sit down, I gave them my background and dance education experience. I asked for their backgrounds in dance and then, as I have with every new batch of kids I’ve ever taught, I asked them for their goals...what did they hope to gain from our year of dance together.
You know what I DIDN’T hear from the dancers gathered around the corner that night? That they were there for fun. That they were there for exercise. Or that they were there for community.
What I did hear though both surprised and invigorated me! Several of them had been taking ballet as adults for a few years and had specific things they wanted to achieve: better pirouettes, enhanced petit allegro skills, more balance. A few had taken ballet years ago and wanted to get back into it, but wanted to be challenged to “do it correctly this time.” A few wanted to know if learning choreography and variations might be an option!
These people sitting in front of me WERE DANCERS!!! Their answers were NO different than any of the classically-trained-for-Years dancers I’d always worked with!!! Well, I thought...I KNOW how to teach this level of hope and desire!
To Be Continued...