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My professional background

 

By Dina Shmueli Hinkis, founder and runner of the Noladnu lirkod Ballet School in Modiin

Translated from Hebrew by Yaeli Graanbaum 

 

Personal and professional experience

In this article I will introduce myself and bring forth my professional evolution in a reflective point of view. Later I will elaborate on my method of work as a ballet teacher to students from kinder-garden to age eighteen and beyond.

 

Amongst my students, there is a wide selection of people, each with different backgrounds, different motivation, and different wishes and personal dreams. Through them I will introduce the rational behind my approach towards ballet teaching. All this while using of literacy sources, that have been written about topics that overlap this rational, and support it.

 

In my years of working as a ballet teacher, I have learned a great deal about the professional aspects of ballet and about human nature. Through this window, a whole full world of many big and small details, has opened before me, all of them are important, and assemble the puzzle of man-kind and dance.

 

I had started to study ballet at the age of seven, along with all of my fellow girl classmates at my home village in the north of Israel. Our idealist Russian teacher had taught us with love and dedication. I had fallen in love with her and with ballet. As a result of natural talent, it was very clear to me that I wanted to dance, although in the village an exceptional literature, mathematics, bible or history student was much more appreciated. To be a ballet dancer was considered an amateur side-hobby, a sort of default. Falk-dancing was more thought-of, as result of national pride at the time.

 

Thanks to my supportive and understanding parents, I got to be studying with many good teachers along the way. When I say "good teachers" I refer to their ability to love their students, no less then they loved the subject they taught. Nina, the Russian teacher, had brought with her the dream, formed in rich performances and lavish costumes, as associated with the Russian ballet teachers that dedicate themselves endlessly. Erella Hayam, an Israeli teacher whom had returned from London to Haifa, had brought with her a clear, analyzed and précised style of movement, clean from mannerism and unnecessary gestures. Later I have danced in a semi- professional ballet company, before my army service, and as soon as I was released from service, I left Israel to study ballet in London.      

 

London (1967-1970)

Audrey de Vos was my teacher for three years in her own private studio in London. She enriched me in a new kind of experience. Daily study with her, through her unique approach, helped me understand ballet through the understanding of the body that engages in it.

 

The complete person was the center, and the ballet was the skill that would improve him as an artist. I've noticed the type of attention she would give to each student, according to their anatomic structure, according to their limitations in movement. Students and dancers had come to take her classes from various and faraway places. Each one of them had a different body structure, different personality and mentality.

 

 Audrey De Vos' approach was that anyone can dance, if they would only be curios enough. Her studio attracted students and dancers with major talents, which have been out-casted from conventional dance-schools, for not having the body standards that was required by Ballet Companies. Many of her "un-qualified" students became leading dancers in companies, international choreographers, and teachers of the first degree.

 

Thanks to the very personal guidance that Audrey De Vos gave me, as she gave each of her students, I have received the necessary tools to go on my independent way in my professional life.

 

Consolidating my ballet teaching method

My professional performing experience as a dancer in Bat-dor Company, in Jean Heel Sagan's Company, and in The Israel Ballet Company, had contributed greatly to my understanding of the skill – classical ballet, in witch I use as a means to the personal development of all of my many students.

 

After I left the Bat-Dor Company I've started to teach ballet. I enjoyed the fact that I have being able to explain movement in an analyzed way. As a student, from a young age, I had teachers that taught me the right way. My knowledge of the ballet as a technique was correct from the start.

 

My deeper understanding and insight had developed from observing other students in De Vos's studio, and paying attention to her corrections and personal guidance. As a teacher, for the first time, I had become available for fully observing my students, both young and adult. At first I tried to crack the riddle of the ballet movements and poses as it reflects in the working body. I had discovered that the knowledge I had accumulated within my body, was rich and reliable, and I had no trouble translating it into words.

 

Gradually I've gained the ability to view things from the opposite point of view: I try to crack the riddle of the working body as it reflects in the ballet. Throughout my years of teaching, I've worked with children (mostly girls), from age 7 and above. Only few of them are naturally talented for ballet and most of them lack the natural talent for ballet.  Though all of them are highly intelligent, develop deep love for ballet the will to achieve results and progress.

 

I found out that every girl had a different perception, movement wise and musically wise. I had realized that there are no shortcuts. I can not expect that all of them would understand the same thing simultaneously. The expectation that all of them would perform the exercise according to one model could be a dangerous mistake!

 

Demonstrating the exercise and a general explanation is just the first stage of the work that needs to be made. The teaching approach that I've experienced with Audrey De Vos suited me. In my work with a wide variety of pupils, all with very different "motor abilities" and "motor capacities" (Lidor 1994), I have developed a way to observe each and every student, and a way to attend to their different needs. As a result of observing how their body operates, I could teach them understand their own body and act correctly. (Byrne, 1995).

 

As part of my work in Seminar Hakibutzim College (http://www.smkb.ac.il/heb/?catid=52), at the school for dance and movement teachers, I encounter in a whole new set of questions. The students that attend the course, all have some kind of background and experience in dance. A large part of them had studied ballet a number of years, under different teachers, that have molded their perception of their bodies, and its way of working. A substantial part of them have an above average dancing potential, which has not been fulfilled. In most cases the reason for this is unsuitable work patterns with their bodies.

 

All cases of mistaken work patterns, are caused by the teacher! Chiccheti (1972) said that with the decision of taking-on ballet, one must work hard in   order to find a good teacher, and must not settle for the one that is the closest and easy to get to, neither the one that is a famous dancer. (Beaumont, 1977).

 

At the collage I learned that trying to change adults' work habits, is an extremely difficult process, and is possible only if there is recognition of the situation, a genuine will for a change, and curiosity. I was forced to seek for various new ways, in order to bring the students to abandon their old work habits and patterns, and to experience a different method. From the moment there is recognition of the situation, curiosity and a will to try the new approach, a new path opens to a process of full developments and surprises.

 

In every student, at every age and talent, lays a personal path that allows maximum developed. The shared work for the student and teacher, teaches them both, is greatly fascinating, and is never completed.  

 

Byrne, John (1995) Body Basics, The Principles and Practice of classical Technique, Some Notes for Teachers, the R.A.D. London.       

        

Lidor, R. (1994). Motor Development at a Young Age.  second addition, Wingate Institut.    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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