Educating the Body
For me education is about using all of your abilities to their utmost capacity for the benefit of your self and everyone around you. In order to enhance what might be natural abilities you need to acquire knowledge and skills in order to communicate and share that knowledge with others.
Movement is one of the original methods of communication and was in use long before speech. When you watch people you often form an opinion of what they are like as a result of `their body language’. How people use their body to move is often indicative of what their state of mind is as well as their perspective of how they see themselves. A positive presentation of self and an awareness of what impression you are creating in the work place is important and good posture is immediately noticeable.
Ballet is a disciplined training of mind and body for the creation of elegant and controlled movement to music. It can be used to tell a story, express an emotion and is a universal method of communication that crosses all verbal barriers. It is a natural way of moving as the movements dancers achieve are only able to be executed because of the range of joints that muscles can move bones. Ballet dancers simply extend the range of movement of their bodies to the utmost degree through stretching, strengthening and repetitive practising.
The positive results of good ballet training are many and varied for all those who attend classes and not necessarily only for those who achieve professional dancer status. By good training I mean a teacher who is applying sound and anatomically correct principles with artistic integrity for the benefit of the dancers.
The posture of a ballet dancer is important with the limbs placed in positions that aid movement. Muscles are strengthened and tendons stretched in order to be able to move the body into the necessary positions required of it when dancing. Lung capacity is increased as the inter-costal muscles (muscles between the ribs) have to extend as do muscles in the abdominal and spinal areas. The head has to be carefully and correctly balanced on the top of the spinal cord. All these requirements for aligning the spine are essential for healthy living.
Co-ordination and focus are two of the immediate benefits that spring to mind. (No pun intended) The usage of the eyes not only to watch and learn but also to give direction when travelling and turning is incredibly important when dancing. As it is when driving a car, using machinery or tools of all kinds and reading information whether it is in printed form, computers, television. Young children often struggle to learn at school through inattentive eyes and not knowing where to look or why they should be looking.
The second level of co-ordination is when dancers work in groups or with partners and have to not only co-ordinate their bodies in time to the so important musical aspect but also to co-ordinate their body in time to other bodies.
Spacial awareness is another vital attribute for a dancer and developing a good understanding of space around them in the different dimensions is a critical area of learning. Again as it is when driving vehicles especially heavy duty ones where you need to be very aware of not only the road on either side of you but what is above you – if your vehicle is higher than a standard car height. Think of accidents that are caused when vehicles are driven into overhead bridges through lack of spacial judgement. Parking accidents due to misjudgement of where the car is in relationship to other cars or objects or worse still to people are often cause by this lack of special awareness.
Educating the Mind
The whole of the educational process is further enhanced by the use of music. Choreographing to different music further educates dancers as to varying styles and the cultures that influenced that life style. Our history and our lives can be traced through the music and dance, and the literature and art of any specific time. Ballet is a composite art embracing all of the art forms to create something new and to enhance how we see life around us.
Amy Gould is a Fellow of the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing. She is the principal and owner of her full time ballet school, director and choreographer of dance company Dance Crew, owner/manager of Tokai On-Main a 100-seater intimate theatre and editor in chief of ImagineMag! a South African Arts and Culture online magazine.www.imaginemag.co.za