Massachusetts Academy of Ballet

The Dance Student’s Responsibility

How does present-day technology play into responsibility and development? Again, it is complicated. Certainly, it would be foolish to imagine that we will go back to a day when cell phones and social media are not ubiquitous. But it is important to examine how a flat screen and electronic interaction is different from the physical experience of dancing. A photo on Instagram is a different means of communication than a live performance. The demands, atmosphere and mental concentration are heightened and amplified when you are both physically and mentally.

At the National Ballet School of Cuba. Ramona de Saá the school Director, is interviewed by Aurora Bosch, another teacher from this prestigious school. Here is an edited sample of the interview; our comments follow.

AB: What is the relationship between technique and artistry in the context of a rapidly changing culture?

RDS: So often in today’s culture things are too accelerated. You see this a lot at competitions. They have to be prepared to put it together themselves at the last minute. This is today’s world! I don’t mind taking students to competitions because they learn a lot, but  I think I may be allergic to them [laughs]. Many of the jury’s adjudicators are there for only one reason: to “go shopping” for talent to add to their school or as- sociated company.

AB: Students are living in a very different culture than the one we grew up in, when we received our training. Today’s world has a multiplicity of influences, and our students are eager to respond to them, but it is harder for them to meet the variety of demands that are made on them.

RDS: Yes, they have their mobile phones and an entire technology that absorbs them and so much of their time. We have to recognize that it is a kind of addiction, but we also have to acknowledge how it has altered their vision of the world. It means something important to them artistically, so from our foundation, we must let it become part of the œuvre.

From Rose and Charles

Two thoughts come to mind in reading this: one is the role of technology in today’s dance world, and the other is the dancer’s responsibility in their dance education.

What is the responsibility of the student? It is actually quite extensive. It requires more than just showing up. A good way to look at it is to start with the assumption that as a student you are 50% responsible for your activity in the classroom. Without substantial responsibility, how could you conceive of performing on stage, where the demands are heightened? The teacher has the responsibility to impart material, tailoring it to the individual dancer and creating a positive, but the rigorous atmosphere in the class. The teacher also should attempt to inspire an artistic integration between the dancer, music, and movement. However, it is the student’s responsibility to be open to these stimuli and to latch on to them in a serious manner.

This requires the mind to be working actively in class. If, as a student, you find that you are not able to pick up exercises, or are easily distracted in class, you are not using your mind to its fullest capacity. It is time to step up if you want to progress. No student is made by the teacher; it is always the student who gets inspired and creates their own success. The teacher’s role is as a guide in this process.

Often, photos and videos shown on social media do not have integrity due to the serious study of ballet or other dance forms. It is the user’s responsibility to recognize what is appropriate to post and know that, at its most useful, social media should support the work and efforts of the classroom and performance, not detract from its goals of providing an artistic and moving experience that can actually change the way you think and therefore act in the larger world.  Art can be a reflection of what is ideal in humanity, and to do that it must live up to a higher standard than the average social media post. Finding that standard is a challenge worth pursuing when we engage with the cyber world.