This summer, after receiving feedback from Module 2, has been quite an eventful one for me. A change in my work situation has given me that little extra “push” to reflect on my holistic practice to date, instead of reflecting on it from module to module.
When I was writing my AOL essays in Module One, I remember feeling quite pleased with myself at the teacher I had become. Yes, there were elements of my early practice that made me squirm with embarrassment, and I did worry how many children I had emotionally hurt, confused (why was I nicer out of class than in?), or had turned away from dance because of their experience with me? Writing those essays though gave me an overall sense of achievement. I wonder where I was mentally though when I was writing them? I now look back and see that I was writing them with the identity that I feel I have today, a ballet teacher. Even though I began my teaching practice like many of us do, teaching different genres, I wrote those essays as a ballet teacher. I reflected mainly on my practice in one genre, even though I taught four.
Module Two commenced and for the first time, I came across the theory of Dualism and Embodiment. Oh dear, now I’m lost! I have over the years heard about embodiment, but that doesn’t belong in classical ballet does it, … or does it? I never learnt about them in my education so maybe they are something that I don’t need to know? How naive and narrow-minded I’ve been.
For someone who has been trying not to be a reflection of her own education and gain more knowledge throughout my career, why has the understanding of Dualism and embodiment scared me?
My conclusion after some time debating is that I didn’t think they were relevant to my practice. When I think about the endless courses I have participated in, the majority have been to either teach or improve technical skills. How to teach technique has been the focus. Quite simply, I still have a similar outlook to my teachers from the 80’s.
Teaching a class last term with my university students, I remember thinking how “dreary” they were. They gave me nothing, and so I asked them to forget their technique for a particular exercise and just “let go”. The transformation was astounding, I really “felt” their movements, I almost wanted to get up and dance with them! When talking to them afterwards, they stated that the technique inhibited them. I could relate to that from a teacher perspective. Teaching jazz (which I did up to a year ago), made me feel “alive”. I thought it was because it gave me a workout, the group were adults and fun to teach, and I didn’t have to worry so much about my technique as I did when teaching ballet.
Watching a guest teacher and my university students in a contemporary class at the end of the last term, has me contemplating what do I need to do to embrace embodiment in my practice? I would love all my pupils in the future to experience this and to feel “whole". Is it possible for me to change my practice and more importantly engage in embodiment? Maybe I do already but yet have to recognise it.
This is one of my personal goals moving forward and a challenging one.