It's three weeks into the spring semester, and already my classmates and I are well entrenched into several classes that are part of the new Master of Arts in Dance Education Ballet Pedagogy program at New York University. The 1.5-year, full-time program started this past fall, and is a partnership between NYU and American Ballet Theatre (see the cover feature in January 09 Dance Teacher) with the intention of preparing dance teachers for studios, conservatories and company schools, as well as for further doctoral study in dance education and teaching in higher education.
Just like the previous semester, the 20 of us in the program spend three hours every day at ABT's studios—taking a technique class each day to truly embody the curriculum, followed by a discussion. Other classes this semester include research in dance education and non-profit arts management, with two optional courses on production and how to apply Laban movement theories in a classroom setting.
The great Danish ballerina Kirsten Simone was in New York this past Saturday to teach a master class at ABT's Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School. It was a chance for our group to observe class given by one of the world's greatest experts in the Bournonville style. (If you've ever had experience with Bournonville, you know the exercises are often syncopated, often complicated, and can be quite difficult to execute —at least to make them look effortless.)
To help prepare us for Simone's visit, Raymond Lukens, our main instructor at ABT, assigned each of us some of the set center exercises that from Vivi Flindt and Knud Arne Jergensen's "Bournonville Ballet Technique: Fifty Enchainements" and a video of the Royal Danish Ballet’s Rose Gad and Johan Kobborg performing each. We were to decipher the written instructions (with the aid of the video), and then teach our enchainements to our classmates.
I was one of the first to share my two enchainments. It took me close to four hours and countless times watching them in slow motion (while consulting the written notes) to feel confident enough to teach the nuances of phrasing, port de bras and other unique characteristics of the exercises. Perhaps one of the most useful tips I learned during the process, thanks to Lukens, is that if you are trying to learn a new piece or variation by video, turn the TV or computer screen to a mirror. The process of having to reverse the steps isn't quite as overwhelming.
Hannah Guruianu is a master's degree candidate in dance education at New York University. She is a freelance writer and editor, flamenco student, and someday hopes to own her own studio. Before returning to school, she was the features editor at the newspaper in Binghamton, New York, and taught ballet classes at a local studio and community college.