Ballet Pedagogy as Kinesthetic Collaboration: Exploring Kinesthetic Dialogue in an Embodied Student-Teacher Relationship
Berg, Tanya Christa
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The twenty-first century ballet class often retains traditional organization, beginning with the barre work, continuing with the centre practice, adage, pirouettes, and allegro. However, the pedagogical demands on teachers have evolved within that framework due to critical questioning of how factors such as patriarchal underpinnings of class structure, the students lived experience, and the efficacy of newly added pedagogical strategies influence dance education. Employing ethnographic methods, in the form of two separate studies, this research addresses how embodied student-teacher relationships based on multisensory perception can create kinesthetic dialogue, which facilitates the transmission of embodied knowledge. The purpose of this dissertation is to explore how an embodied student-teacher relationship manifests itself in the ballet studio, highlighting whether kinesthetic dialogue facilitates the transfer of bodily knowledge. The questions driving the research were: What combination of verbal and non-verbal communication is observed between the teacher and the students in each environment? Do instances within this communication illustrate the pedagogical tool of kinesthetic dialogue? Do moments within this pedagogical dialogue appear to trigger previously developed body memory in the students, based on their reactions to instructions, as well as in their performance of the material? Ethnographic data collection techniques included: participant observation, teacher interviews, student email interviews, student focus groups as well as student surveys. Results are reported using both a priori themes as well as themes that emerged from the data. The data interpretation across both studies is reported using two overarching pedagogical themes: the application of traditional pedagogical strategies with their accompanying ideologies, and the incorporation of innovative techniques that facilitated a progressive approach to learning. Literature demonstrates that the student-teacher relationship is saturated with a patriarchal history, hierarchical constraints and external aesthetic expectations. However, critical analysis by scholars and educators regarding institutionalization, the body, and pedagogy are shifting the foundations of traditional ballet for future generations. This research indicates that bringing ballets well-established pedagogical tools to consciousness has the potential to create more effective learning situations. An understanding of kinesthetic dialogue can facilitate the conscious application of a reciprocal mode of kinesthetic communication that ballet teachers have intuitively employed for centuries.