I love books. Books are some of my favorite things ever. Books can take you places you’ve never been, introduce you to people you’d never otherwise meet, and teach you any number of brilliant, beautiful things. But I guarantee you one thing… you cannot learn ballet from books. You cannot learn ballet from a video. You cannot learn ballet off of YouTube, Dancing with the Stars, or by watching every DVD that Paris Opera has ever made (I know, I’ve seen practically every DVD that Paris Opera had ever made and I still cannot properly pirouette). You need a teacher. Learning ballet is impossible without a good teacher.
And as much as I could go on and on about what constitutes a good teacher, I will limit myself to the two things I think are most important in a ballet teacher. I think this will work out because so many things are actually built upon a foundation of these two things, without them so many other necessary traits for a good ballet teacher cannot exist.
First and foremost, a good ballet teacher must love ballet. Not just dance or movement but ballet. If you have a ballet teacher that doesn’t mind ballet but loves jazz, you will know it. I knew it when I took class with just such a teacher. He spent more time talking about jazz hands than anything else in a beginning ballet class! Why? Because he really likes jazz hands not ballet hands. A good ballet teacher loves ballet – loves doing it, loves watching it, loves talking about it, loves thinking about it, loves it, loves it, loves it. When a ballet teacher loves ballet then they spend time seeing what is new, they know about different companies and dancers, they listen to a variety of music for dancing, they try out different products for training, they spend time with ballet and they bring this all back to you, the student.
Hence the second thing that makes a ballet teacher great – a love for teaching. A person can be a great dancer but not really enjoy teaching, they aren’t necessarily going to be able to teach well. Teaching is an art and a skill in itself. A great ballet teacher enjoys the art of teaching ballet, they enjoy being in the studio as a teacher, they enjoy watching their students grow, they work on their ability to teach well, they love teaching ballet. You absolutely know when a teacher wants to be there with you, teaching you, coaching you, training you, and sharing their love of ballet with you.
When a ballet teacher loves ballet and loves teaching, you have yourself a winner. Everything else – patience, creativity, kindness, energy, innovation – it’s all going to stem from a love for ballet and a love for teaching. Teaching ballet in a lot of ways is really just sharing a great and overwhelming love for ballet because ballet is not merely something to casually learn to do, it’s not something that you can learn in an offhanded way, it’s not something you fall into and have a little fun with every once in a while when you have a few hours with nothing better to do. A good ballet teacher is your direct access to a shared love of ballet because a good ballet teacher the key to the gateway into a lifetime of dancing and of loving dance as a ballet dancer.