top of page

“The Value of Studying Ballet Pedagogy”

Updated: Jan 6

Definition of Pedagogy: “The act, process and art of imparting knowledge. The art and science of instructional methodology.”

Many coaches and movement instructors in America teach what and how they remember their teachers teaching them. Even professional dancers usually teach what they remember having been taught. Often, movement trainers do workshops to learn “tips & tricks” on how to improve skills and technique and many others take college courses and even get degrees in dance –but very few have actually taken courses in Pedagogy. This promulgates misconceptions of what a teaching “method” might be but is not an actual Teaching Method itself.

You can ask coaches and ballet instructors alike: “what method do you teach” and there will usually be a dissembling of comments about their teacher or that they teach “a bit of this and that” garnered from their experiences but, you will rarely hear the name of an actual Method being taught.

Likewise, having a Syllabus is not the same as having a Curriculum – and having a Curriculum is not the same as having the Pedagogical understanding of when to teach, how to teach and in what manner to reach:

  • Every person who comes into your classroom

  • At the correct mental and physical developmental stage,

  • At the appropriate pace

  • No matter what the body type

  • With understanding of biomechanical markers to look for

  • No matter what their learning style may be

Without pedagogy, we tend to teach close to what we ended learning, but slower – possibly broken down randomly as the individual teacher improvises to get “good results”. This approach merely teaches the outward appearance of a movement but disregards the building block process (Methodology) of forming an intelligent, aware and self-motivated learner. In the dance and sports world, this is also why few but the very gifted actually become “world-class” because the understanding and impartation of the full pedagogical process is missing.

Ballet pedagogy provides the understanding of a truly methodological process for professional training “from the inside out” – not merely the choreography (appearance) of the movement but the science (biomechanics, and kinesiology) behind the movements. It takes into account the entire development of the dancer/artist/sports person through every point of their progress – mentally, physically and emotionally – in a comprehensively and methodical manner.

Pedagogy courses demonstrate that teaching movement is not just about teaching choreographic “end form” exercises slowed down, but that there is an entire progression of actual “forms” – backward engineered from all final form movements, and that these forms are broken down in a logical and biomechanically sound progression from A, leading to B, leading to C. It is also not based on the “feel good” personality/popularity of the instructor but, on the artistic authenticity and scientific veracity of the materials being imparted. This is why so many American ballet companies in particular get their principal dancers from other countries and not their own company schools, because “hit or miss” teaching by former dancers or even dance majors who have never studied true methodology cannot consistently create professional dancers.

Studying Ballet Pedagogy:

  • Provides a blue print of each form of each step in the entire repertoire and when it is physically and mentally appropriate to teach each one.

  • Provides a clear understanding of each individual part of a step so that in its final form it will always be “clean” (not trying to clean things up after the fact)

  • Is “age appropriate” meaning that at every level the students find the lessons to be an approachable challenge while still providing elements of creativity and self-expression.

  • Gives the teacher and the student confidence in both the process and the outcome.

  • Is not randomly based on current local/insular teaching standards, but on a global scale of valuation, where every student can be confident of “fitting in” perfectly anywhere in the world in the same class level to which they have attained locally.

© 2020 By Annette T. Thomas, Prime Radiant Press LLC and American Ice Theatre all rights reserved Photo credit Dr. Peggy Willis-Aarnio

90 views0 comments


bottom of page