One of the points where ballet has taken a lot of criticism is on being too conservative. From some points of view, the critique is absolutely called for – ballet can renew itself on several fields to become more modern, up-to-date, relevant and interesting (for example how I commented on ballet companies complete lack of social media skills not long ago). However interesting a discussion, this post is not going to be about whether (or how) ballet should renew itself or not. I mention it because the old-school way of thinking might make ballet dull and outdated on some fields, but it does bring some good things with it, too;
Shaping a person
When I started ballet as a little kid, we had to line up outside the studio door before each class in first position and be quiet as mice. We were dressed according to the dress-code, and behaved according to other codes. When the ballet-mistress took us into the studio, the first thing we did was a collective greeting, to the mistress and each other. The last thing we did before leaving the studio was to bow, thanking the mistress for her class, she thanking us for our work and concentration.
This might all sound a little authoritative for a group of six-year-olds, but it did teach me some major, important lessons on behavior and etiquette, not necessarily taught to kids as much today as it was earlier. The teacher talked to us as ‘ladies’ and ‘gentlemen’ (well, gentle-man actually, I was the only boy at the studio for a looong period), and apart from the balletic terminology, we learned that the gents wait patiently while the ladies go first, we learned to hold the door for the girls, to say thank you and please – we learned to behave, basically, and thats got to be a good thing, right?
That said, I don’t think my group of six-year-old ‘colleagues’ were much different from the other kids that didn’t go to Ms. Hebbert’s ballet studio three times a week for lessons in movement and manners. When leaving the studio, we were probably as loud, rebellious and naughty as any group of kids. But these lessons shapes a person, and today, I consider myself a quite decently polite guy. I think I even would have passed the grandmother-test on politeness, and it is all thanks to ballet lessons. I believe these standards are a good remain of an old and conservative legacy, a tradition we ought to keep and take care of. It gives ballet students something to use in life outside the studio as much as inside, and quite frankly, it’s a good characteristic!
Where not to keep old ideas and perceptions of ballet is still something we ought to discuss, though, do it here in the comments if you please. I might do a follow-up post on that here on Tights and Tiaras, too!
Until next time,