Teaching: the supreme art

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Kym Stokes

is a teacher at the Queensland Ballet Academy.

How long have you been teaching?

I have been a freelance teacher for over seven years, and this is my second year of working with Queensland Ballet Academy in the role of Foundation Program Coordinator.

What has changed since you were a student?

Today we take a more holistic approach in the classroom and value the dancer’s wellbeing throughout their training. It is very important to me that students feel part of the journey and are invested emotionally as well as physically, that every day is enjoyable and is a positive step forward in achieving outcomes.

We are the teacher as well as a mentor; we are there to inspire them as young students and to guide them into the profession.

Technique has developed over the years, and it is still just as important to explain to students why we do certain steps or exercises, so they understand the link between the studio and the stage.

How do you balance the importance of technique with the importance of artistry?

We must be the technician and the artist. The dancer must develop a good foundation of ballet sequences while also communicating a story line. With my Foundation Program students, we have developed a framework to assist the young dancers to develop a strong technique whilst promoting artistic style and interpretation of the work.

Has the coronavirus lockdown left you with lasting changes to the way you teach?

Lockdown was challenging; however, to maintain connection with the students online was valuable. Keeping dancers engaged was particularly important, so that when we returned to the studio they were focused and ready to continue developing further. It also makes you appreciate how important the studio is. We cherish movement, connection to each other and our art form.

What is the most rewarding part of teaching dance?

By teaching dance, I am doing what I love, I am part of an industry where you are constantly developing, learning and being creative. Being a mentor and guiding dancers to become part of this creative process, encouraging their growth and the discovery of ballet is a valuable part of teaching.

What advice would you give your students if they decide on a teaching career?

My advice for dancers or students wanting to become a teacher is to take opportunities to teach. Look for senior teachers willing to mentor you and educate yourself by participating in workshops, seminars, and some formal dance education. Having a deep pool of recourses and advice assists you with knowledge and direction to becoming a valued teacher in the industry.

This article is included in our special Teacher Focus feature in the current Oct/Nov/Dec issue. Print is for keeps! Buy your copy from your favourite dance retailer or online here or here.


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