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In order to put on a production or performance, there is more than one person involved that a dancer must take instructions from (Minden, 2005). There are the ballet teacher, ballet master or mistress, choreographer and artistic director. With each of these roles, there is an expectation of both learned knowledge and experience (McDonagh, 1978). The primary focus of expectations for the dancer should come from those of whom they are involved with the most. This is more than likely the ballet teacher who teaches your classes (Paskevska, 1990). The remaining persons are of more concern when the dancer is involved in a performance. The ballet teacher should remain as the primary source of higher expectations because of possible conflicts of interest such as uncertainty of qualifications, which could endanger the dancer or student (Kassing & Jay, 1998; Neale, 1980).

Public school systems may vary and require a license to teach in the United States, depending on the field being taught. Surprisingly, and unfortunately, there are no educational requirements to become a ballet teacher in the United States. Although most ballet teachers were once dancers themselves, there still remains uncertainty for the dancer and student if the teacher is qualified to not only teach ballet, but know how to keep the dancer safe (McDonagh, 1978; Minden, 2005). Because there is no required licensing or certification to become a ballet teacher, it is important that the dancer know the qualifications of the teacher and if the school is associated with a ballet company. The more likely that the school is associated with a company, the more likely the teachers are well qualified to teach ballet. This is because the ballet company hires students or dancers in the school they are associated with and do not want a dancer that has been trained improperly (Neale, 1980).

 

Other than being associated with a ballet company, a qualified ballet teacher will not encourage ballet training until a student is eight or nine years of age. Any ballet classes that are offered before this age need to be referred to as pre-ballet, in which students learn only the basic moves of ballet and learn other aspects of body movements as well as music. Other considerations of qualified ballet teachers include experience, education and private certifications. With experience, a dance teacher will have personal experience as a dancer. With education, colleges and universities commonly offer postsecondary education including certification, bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees (Kraus & Chapman, 1981; Neale, 1980). With a college education, a ballet teacher has been taught by teachers who are well qualified to teach ballet in proper form.

So, a ballet teacher with a college education in turn is able to pass on this same level of teaching to her students. If a teacher does not have a college education, some ballet schools or companies require private certification. If a company or school requires teachers to be certified, this also ensures the student that the ballet teacher is qualified (Minden, 2005; Oliver (Ed.), 1992).

A well-qualified teacher teaches students with patience and professionalism as well as concern for the student’s well being. She presents the student with challenges, but also recognizes the individual student’s abilities and knows when a move is too dangerous or could cause injury (Kassing & Jay, 1998; Minden, 2005; Neale, 1980). A teacher will also display poise and grace when in class and will know both proper technique and choreography (Paskevska, 1990).

Ballet classes are very repetitive and focus on execution of movements as well as proper placement (Paskevska, 1990). The teacher purposefully repeats and illustrates movements so that students can perfect the movements and combinations on their own or repeat them with competence (Kassing & Jay, 1998). The teacher also sets the sequence of class time in the same pattern no matter the age group, excluding pre-ballet (Minden, 2005; Neale, 1980; Oliver (Ed.), 1992).

The class time begins with a warm-up, allowing for the student’s warming of the muscles. The class then moves to the barre and practices sequences or short combinations, while being able to use the barre as a support for balance. The next step includes center work in which the barres are put away and the students focus on sequences without the assistance of a barre (Minden, 2005; Paskevska, 1990). These exercises or sequences involve jumps or other simple combinations. The class then ends with a cool down in which students engage in stretching and abdominal work, which is still on the center floor and révérence, meaning taking a bow or curtsy at the end of the class. The purpose of révérence is showing respect to the teacher for passing the knowledge of instruction onto the students and is shown by clapping of the hands (Kassing & Jay, 1998; Minden, 2005; Neale, 1980).

 

The length of class time varies by age group (Minden, 2005). The ballet teacher schedules the length of class time according to levels of training as well as age group, with the professional or higher levels being longer in length, some ranging in between 2-2 ½ hours. Younger ages, particularly pre-ballet levels, can be as short as a half an hour. How often the classes are taken also varies with age or level, with the higher levels taking class as much as six times per week (Neale, 1980). The ballet teacher knows that for younger students, younger than about the age of 12, it is not needed for classes to be taken more than a few times per week (Kassing & Jay, 1998; Paskevska, 1990).

Overall, a ballet teacher who displays high qualifications will teach ballet in classical form, using French terms, but not teach class rigidly so that students can be more open to experimenting with freer-flowing movements (Paskevska, 1990; Paskevska, 1992). A good teacher is well qualified with experience and certification or a college education and will show students the enjoyment of learning ballet (McDonagh, 1978; Minden, 2005; Neale, 1980). Ballet in the teaching form is presented with a teacher who shows grace and understanding to a student’s abilities, concerns, health, general well being and passion (Kassing and Jay, 1998; McDonagh, 1978; Oliver (Ed.), 1992).