Sunday, 2 October 2016


Listening to discussions at the Skype meeting today made me think of changes in learning attitudes from when I was a child  to the teenagers of today.  My first ballet lesson was over 50 years ago when the teacher was a strict disciplinarian who you obeyed without question.  The etiquette in class is, I am sure, the same wherever in the world you teach but there have been subtle changes in recent years in my teaching......what sparked the changes I really don't know....I just know the message I send out and the way it is received is different.  I deal with your average 'once a week' pupil who fits in a few classes alongside a myriad of other activities in a very active week.  When we were children, parents (well in my case anyway), couldn't afford to pay for endless went to dance OR you had riding lessons OR you went to, the children I teach have a different activity each night and the etiquette in dance class has mirrored this.

Their life doesn't revolve just around dance and consequently they have many other adults in positions of authority in their weekly lives.  Some of these activities have a much freer attitude to discipline, motivation, respect and authority.  Children are often encouraged to be on first name terms with their youth club leader, or gym teacher and they interact in a very different way, helping to shape the activity of the moment and share their opinion - in other words, active participation is encouraged through discussion and sharing of ideas.  Gone are the days when the dance teacher was put on a pedestal and admired and feared in equal measure and above all, what she said was accepted without question!

I have found that today's teenagers need to feel as relaxed in their dance class as they do in other 'out of school' activities.  They refer to me by my first name, they send me texts themselves (rather than parents contact) to let me know they are missing class or need to book private lessons etc. It's no longer a gulf of unapproachable authority that it once was.  In lessons, they can't concentrate on too  much repetitive technique work when their life outside ballet moves at a faster pace.  Lessons have to move at a faster pace....they challenge the choice of steps in choreography.....they feel able to show you if they are not happy with the work and I have to monitor the moment and tackle technique when the receptors are right!  I'm not saying dance teachers should all be 'down with the kids' but the days of structuring a class in advance is not always possible.

The teens of today live in a buzzy world of instant everything and we cannot expect them to understand that 'instant' ability to dance is not like they see on the reality TV shows.  I try to give them more buzz, more instant routines and choose the moment to filter in technique work along the way.  Gone are the days of 'let's go to the barre..' Now I always start in the centre with warm ups and games and fun and get the attention first, meeting them head on in their 'instant buzzy world' and gradually rein them back to looking at technique.  40 years ago I would never have dared to communicate with my dance teacher but today I love the challenge of motivating my teenagers and I LOVE that they can talk back and offer ideas and suggest different choreography. They challenge me and I challenge them and we get along just fine!


  1. This is an interesting observation Michelle...'too much repetitive technique work when their life outside ballet moves at a faster pace' I wonder if there is something to look further at here in terms of the value and use of repetition in dance teaching and learning and what that may offer in order to help support young people in their 'faster paced' lives as a for thought perhaps...?

  2. Hi Michelle, I didn´t realise that things have changed in the Uk. I was suprised to hear that pupils call you by your first name, things have changed! Teachers here (in the school system too) are called by their first names. I actually like it, i think it makes me more "human" and "approachable". Gone are the days when you were scared of a teacher just by the sound of her name! Interesting when we are talking about teachnique and repitition (I´ve just posted something about that on my blogg). For me, I feel that I don´t have enough time to work on technique as where I work, the management want the pupils to perfom all the time. How can they perform with no technical progression? Yes, they of course get performance skills etc but surely the motivation of learning a new step and mastering it, is a wonderful feeling! I would never be happy if my pupils didn´t have the progression I strive for. I have my values and it is getting increasingly difficult to find a happy balance between what I want to achieve and what my bosses/society require. Sam

  3. Michelle,

    I like the observation that adaptability is a daily necessity when working with youth these days. However, in the USA teachers would not accept texts or other communications from minors without fearing legal repercussions as today's society is very anti predator despite the openness of this generation's lack of structured reverence for authority. And I do like your thoughts on being able to discuss with your students their thoughts and challenges to the dance work but at what point does this change from discussion to anti authoritarianism or having the perception of being equals. Maintaining the balance of who is the teacher and who is the student still has to be made, yes? A parent can be his or her child's friend but there still has to be that separation of who is the boss. You have given me many things to think about.

    1. Michelle
      I really enjoyed reading your post and thought gosh wouldn't that be wonderful to apply, but in Pakistan where i live now after having lived in London till i was 18 it's just impossible to apply first name basis.
      The culture does not permit it and amazingly enough the language itself is that there are names for all relationships even if it is not blood we are all considered brother's, sister;s, uncle, aunts etc..
      In my dance classes there is tremendous emphasis on respect because this is also the demand of the social interaction in all area's work, home places of learning and studying like schools, colleges and universities too.
      The thing to consider also is that could this be applied in Pakistan, texting and informing us as teachers has become part of our daily living and whatsapp plays an important role in informing about attendance in class and other needs if required.
      class is still friendly and students voice their preferences even if they hesitate a little preferences eventually are expressed between student and teacher and and an understanding is formed of the mood of the class that given day...
      Adaptability is always there and i realize more and more how it is really a necessity now to keep up with changes and fast progression in society.