Back dans le jour when I was 3 I started ballet classes and for the next 15 years I went to classes faithfully with my friends and honestly had the most fabulous time. I laughed, stretched,sat exams, got mortified as my derrière developed to more of a Latina than a ballerina, had numerous injuries and cried when I realised I would never be able to do point shoes due to dodgy bones( still like my heels as you know but only now and again)
I knew I would never be a ballerina but I loved everything about it, the discipline, the French, and of course the tutu. I still recall watching Swan Lake in Prague with my best friends barely able to breathe as I cried at the sheer beauty of the dancing. ( like my efforts with the wee lady in the living room most days)
It was with much delight that I watched a great programme with the beautiful Darcey Bussell during the break. She was looking at how ballet had changed over the years and how the role of the male ballet dancer had changed from that of the lead to a supporting role, to now having all male ballet troupes. She also looked at how when ballet was becoming almost like musical theatre
In the early 1900s, the Russians still held it up as an elite activity. She looked at how the perceptions had changed, how barriers were broken with the appointment of the first black male lead in the 60s to until Billy Elliot, a male Swan Lake! And of course, the collaboration,the partnerships, the age difference in partnerships that created magic -experience and innovation-the glamour and the sheer hard graft.
Believe it or not, it did make me think about where we are with teaching and learning and for me, particularly for languages.
How has the role of the teacher changed?( absolutely a challenge when it comes to gender role models – male language teachers are becoming rarer than hens teeth!) who are the people still holding languages up out of reach for the masses? Just for the elite. Who are breaking down the barriers? Who are creating the magical partnerships of experience, enthusiasm and energy? What about the glamour?( Glamour?? Am I having a laugh) There will most definitely not be an argument when we talk of sheer hard graft. Although the I don’t think us teachers will need the hip replacements as early as the ballet dancers, but no doubt many of us would like to retire at 45 due to being knackered.
I was discussing the programme with a very lovely friend who clearly did not believe I still had a tutu….oh yes I do. We then went on to talk about the changes in our subject and how we still have the people who are preventing our young people accessing languages. We still have teachers who don’t want to collaborate, or even contemplate a different way of doing things. We talked round curriculum models that are not fit for purpose because we are desperate to teach to a test so the weans can pass a test but the we are really only pumping the weans full of chunks of language rather than experience. My dance teacher used to tell us about the background to steps ( and the French) about different genres of dance and styles ( and the outfits) She also progressed as a teacher by doing different things with us every year as we moved through our graded exams but she also let us choreograph as well. Hmmmmm, a pattern? Communication, intercultural understanding, high aspirations, relationships ,trust and an ability to inspire creativity.
Oh aye, and at 66 this woman still rocks a mini and I have yet to see her without her make up!
So, as soon as I get dysentery ( again) it will be time to dust off the tutu……