Thursday, June 13, 2013

Who’s In Charge of Challenge

“Who’s In Charge of Challenge.”
“In dance, the teacher is your guide.
What you choose to do with that guidance is up to you.”

              The wife of a famous book author was being interviewed. An unexpected question came up: “Does your husband keep you happy?”. The wife’s answer was “No, he does not.” The husband, overhearing this, cringed quietly within himself, quickly looking for the nearest exit. She finished by stating “Keeping me happy is not his job. That responsibility is mine.”.

How often do we rely on others for our happiness, our disciplines in life, our decisions, even how far we challenge ourselves? Those choices belong to us, not someone else. For our dance experience: We alone should hold absolute power over how hard we push ourselves, how serious we are, how well we wish to do, and how far we wish to take ourselves. The teacher’s responsibility should be to teach; to guide, advise and mentor, and to point and keep us in the right direction. It is not their responsibility to choose how good of a dancer we want to be.

“I just don’t feel challenged”, and “My child doesn’t appear to be challenged by the teacher in class”. How often have I heard the lament from students and parents. And, of course, the teacher is the one to get the blame. Never mind the fact that the student has nowhere near mastered most of the curriculum within the level. They get a basic knowledge of the step, practice it a few times, then get bored. Then, naturally, they want to be taught a new series of steps, even though they have come nowhere near the mastery of steps in their own level; A mandatory requirement for progressing to the next level properly and safely.

It could be they see their class comrades as not being as serious, or not having the same desires, determinations or abilities and potentials as they do. They misunderstand that, just because others seem to be lacking, that the class environment is not optimal for them. The truth, in fact, is that the class is what they make it. If they wish to be more, then they should push to that level, and ignore the others. The teacher does not have the power to change the inherent mindset of all the students in the class (Now’s a good time to read the saying on the top of this page again).

It could be today’s “instant” society. Everything is faster, from food to computers. Everyone wants their things, and right now. Television; forget the wasted time watching commercials. TIVO it and zap right through them. I will admit, for many areas of our short & precious lives, most of these time and effort saving issues are great. However, some things simply should not and cannot be rushed. They must be savored, and enjoyed. For most steps in the dance arts, there is simply no such thing as a “crash course”. Shortcuts will only lead to disappointment at the least, grievous injury at worst.

A basic truism: There is no such thing as too easy of a class, and no such thing as too easy of a dance step. The lesson is what the student makes it, and it is completely up to the student to decide how much of a physical and emotional challenge it is. Even the most advanced student will be able to take an lower level class, and derive some benefit. Something basic might be explained in a new fashion. Some step learned long ago might be executed in a refreshing new (and possibly better) way. Some simple building block might be practiced to a higher level of mastery.
Article #216 Richard Hirschl
©Copyright Hirschl Ballet 2001


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