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What would your dream ballet school consist of? Utopic?
Self expression, a dictionary, communication, ballet and any of the forms of art should not have a price tag associated with them; this keeps the poor down, and allows only the sublime communication of expression of emotions and feelings to the rich. When England is considering removing dance from community schools and centers, we should be thinking of it. It is akin to denying the Irish the right to learn their own language in school, it is the same as sending those exercising freedom of expression to Siberia, it is a critic burning all of the erotic notebooks of a great painter, it is denying cultural and spiritual freedom, which to an artist, or a person, it is worse than the loss of any particular religious freedom. It is taking away the art supplies of children in public schools, or musical instruments, denying some people the right to dance, or covering the beauty of a face. It is the loss of expression. It is criminal, because it is constraining and reducing the human need to express oneself effectively, experience joy, in whatever way we are gifted to do so or allowed to behold or hear. It reduces options and intellect, feeling and hope.
Irish Trinity knot in Co. Sligo, IRE (c.1980)
People should not be confined to trying to find the meaning of life via the computer; it’s not in there, anymore than it can always be found in public works. The country would be a better place if everyone were required to produce or reproduce one work of art per year. No rules, no rewards, but a plan to exhibit on certain days, plays, performances, screenings, readings, exhibitions, concerts, and otherwise share these works instead of posting opinions on Facebook. Express something! Cook. Create. Do. Read. Dance. If everyone did that when they came home from work, Facebook might be a friendlier and more interesting site. I get almost nothing really original from Facebook, but I receive something and give something through art. Art is an exchange of value, not merely a means to only promote oneself, one’s studio, or groupthink, but an opportunity to actually stir someone’s emotions and speak to people on a non-verbal basis without regurgitating news, or risking people not appreciating what you have to say, or worse, rife with all the bias, negativity, exploitation of cruelty and sensationalism that ‘news’ has become. The artist does not, or should not, care about what people think, but should make them think, or entertain, or inspire. Sharing is optional, not mandatory.
Free to say on my blog what my ideal school for ballet would be like, I can just imagine it: Mine would exist in the near future, but encompass the ideals of the past. Real ‘classical ballet’ would be taught. If today’s modern attitudes (think Terry Gilliam’s ‘Brazil’), were weighed, parent involvement would be discouraged-all parents. It would be free, of course, or only cost what one could afford to pay, and the word of the parents would be taken. There would be no long forms, embarrassment, or questions for the family or the child. Parents would be permitted to view the classes from high definition television screens by a feed in a comfortable public waiting room off-site, and my child would be welcome to have an adjustment period to see if the program suited her, and vice versa. No contact with parents would be allowed by teachers, staff, or others involved and there would be no opportunity for nepotism. No politics whatsoever. This would result in detachment. Parents would be encouraged to come to performances, and to allow their children an education free of stress and pressure. Students could go home any time they want to, for any period of time, no questions asked. Of course there would be some boundaries, and students would have to really want to be there. There would be total honesty and transparency in all things, however, with members of the collective, or public, ZERO profit motive, full benefits for all employees, full health services and dental, separate administrative offices and no principal or favoritism. Therefore, it would not be a business, an ego exalting enterprise, a proving ground, but rather a sort of collective, of the students and teachers with the purpose of improving minds and bodies altogether. There would be civility and proper ballet etiquette. It would be a place to become cultured, and exposed to not only the rudiments of ballet, taught absolutely correctly, but also the other arts, music, and academics, and employing a Platonic code, where ideas are heard and discussed politely. There would be optional extra classes in history, humanities, science and math, and any other subject a student had a desire to learn more about. Someone would be willing to listen. Innovation would be the only rule to practice. Learning would be the key, knowledge the door. Language would be taught. A salon. Each student would have many varied performance opportunities. The purpose of the education would be for the express purpose of performance on the stage. Performance is not a life for everyone, but it is a necessary field, and therefore should be an option for anyone to pursue, not for merely a select few, and money should not be a factor or art and people will suffer.
Sir James Augustus Henry Murray (in the Scriptorium at Banbury Road) (7 February 1837 – 26 July 1915) was a Scottish lexicographer and philologist. He was the primary editor of the Oxford English Dictionary from 1879 until his death.
In short, everyone would be happy and productive. There would be an emphasis on learning to love learning, and healthy competition would be encouraged. Everyone would get a chance to create, perform, and be involved in productions, theatre, music and choreography. There would be an in-house system of evaluation, levels, and only those who truly desired to leave would go. There would be something for everyone, including various companies, production experience, career guidance, and placement assistance at graduation. I think this could be guaranteed to dedicated and mature dancers who were prepared to pursue a career in ballet, and to those with this sort of education, a place could be found for them anywhere in the arts or higher education. Perhaps if such a school existed, other schools would see its benefits and follow its model. In communities where drugs and crime are a problem, this would be an ideal environment to provide a haven from the day-to-day misery of disadvantaged youth, but no one would be any different within its doors. Something to do, someplace to be creative, to learn free of obstacles, free from violence and peer pressure. Good food, great friends, good people.
This should not be denied to any children in the ballet world, but should be given to them, first. It sounds like any school, and it should be all schools, but I am thinking about ballet, performance specifically, and the creative spirit. If you treat children like they are worth something, they will be. If they cannot afford to pay for this opportunity, then the world is a place needing much improvement, for how we treat children mirrors ourselves and our future as a world, not just a country, a state, or a city. Tough luck, rejection and even poverty can be born if we believe we made the right decision and if we believe in ourselves. Children need to be the priority in investment. If we have a generation of vidiots, scared, and have instilled a sense of hopelessness in young adults, it is our own fault for putting war, oil, personal gain, desires and greed ahead of education and children. Too many children went through the cracks. We have failed them all and should work to improve their outlook. Some may never know anything better in life than this, but ballet is positively a cure for some people, and for many of humanity’s ills. It entertains, raises the spirit of man, and lofts or elevates thinking, makes dreams palpable. Unfettered, like an experiment, it is another path, and one possible choice, for a certain type of person, a type necessary to the continuation of art.
This methodology offers an injury-free, safe, inclusive environment for the teaching of art, not brain-washing, but freedom to think, to be. It is also a path to instill faith in oneself, confidence, and the self-belief to follow a path of one’s own design and choosing, based solely on one’s own initiative, respect and the free exchange of ideas conducive to the creation of all great art. Life should be lived for joy; where sadness, failure, and dissatisfaction are taught, little great art can flourish.
If a school could exist like this, it would begin to be built now, planned and designed, and it would house about 200 students. It might take a few years to facilitate, due to the course of existing funding channels, but it could be built, and it could follow all of these very simple precepts, eventually, and it would be successful in turning out correctly trained dancers, all vastly educated and accomplished. Each one would be unique in their development, and loved. Every year, each graduating class would spread this logic and the value would resonate, like a Picasso when you stand in front of it as so many of the thousands of silent viewers before you have done. It is like walking in the backyard of the childhood home of your favorite painter, on any given day, seeing the light as he saw it, shadows cast, the area and his possible perspective. There is a magic bullet for human-to-human understanding and communication and it is really evident in the proper study and process of all of the forms of art. Don’t believe a word of hype; it is very difficult to squash the human spirit.