“Precarious princess walks,  butterfly runs and shaky sautés that land in a very imperfect plié all make up the loveliness of children’s ballet"

Teaching Ballet Creatively

Book  Excerpt

Why do parents send their children to learn ballet?baby ballet syllabus

Ballet has often been considered to be a performing art with an identity crisis. Its history is steeped in the annals of upper-class privilege and at times struggles to align itself with modern day pluralist society.  Some choreographers  have yanked ballet forward kicking and screaming.  But still, internationally ballet is most revered in its traditional, perhaps Romantic form above all.

Ballet’s faithful devotion to tradition does at times suffer a contentious relationship with the twenty first century; the compulsion of choreographers to create new ballets is always tempered by the overwhelming appetite for the ballets of yesteryear. In the realm of dance education,  the allure of traditional ballet classes  for children endures.

For many, a child attending ballet classes is considered a rites de passage. Mothers all over the world usher   their little treasures to the nearest ballet class. Puffy pink tutus, satin slippers and pastel pink leotards play a significant role in the children’s ballet fantasy.

Mums register their children   with nostalgic memories of the past; their childhood ballet lessons. They want their children to experience the wonderful world of children’s ballet.  Mums sigh lovingly at every clumsy gesture performed by their little girls. Precarious princess walks, butterfly runs, shaky sautés that land in a very imperfect plié are all secretly captured for posterity on the mobile phone.

Children’s  ballet is  in  fierce competition with the plethora of dance classes available to children. But  despite  its cultural  incongruity with the twenty first century, why does ballet continue to enjoy such popularity?  It may be that ballet represents for many the innocence naturally associated with childhood.  The ballerina is idolised for her representation of what is good, uncorrupted and chaste.  We immerse ourselves  in the ethereal world of La Syphide and love the romance of sleeping Beauty. We allow ourselves to suspend reality for a while.  Ballet represents an imaginary world of make believe, virtue and simplicity.  This fantasy world is a place where children are comfortable and a place where parents  feel safe to leave their little girls.

In its most alluring form,  ballet does not offer perplexing ambiguity. It does not force us to confront the harsh realities of urban life.  We know who and what Rothbart signifies in Swan Lake. The same level of clarity of character applies to Carabosse in Sleeping Beauty.  No, the world of ballet is a place where no harm can fall upon children.

Classical music is sublime,   but rarely offensive, rarely disturbing. The adage offers pathos, the coda is exciting.  Choreography for the most part is tempered by convention and ballet iconography. Above all, in the most loved ballets, good triumphs over evil and that makes us happy.

So when the next cohort of devoted mums hasten into the dance studio, teachers know what they are hoping for. Teachers  know what mums are expecting to see. They would like to see the studio transformed into a world of loving make believe where fairies and pixies rule supreme. They would like reality to be suspended for sixty minutes or less.