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Ballet Talk for Dancers

"Emotional intelligence" as a training tool in ballet

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No it's in English though a German translation is planned (depends on funding).


I publish mainly in English :-)

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OK, it's ordered! As I said before, this could be really important to the whole field of teaching methodology!

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  • 1 year later...

IMHO: The use of "emotional intelligence" is, of course, natural to the training of students, or progression of professional performing artists and even visual artists of all genre. In acting, one might refer to the variety of "method" techniques starting with Stanislavsky and continuing with Michael Chekov as being an early form of "E.I.". In Salovey and Mayer's psychological models, the use of Ericsoninan as well as other object-replacement cognitive methods have few direct practitioners developing curriculums for use within most performing arts - particularly dance.


Leaving all the scholarly research mind-grinding alone for a minute, I personally think that in-the-trenches education, (Ballet class in particular), the training of the mind with body in straight forward technique is far more important. Yes, as "Billy Elliot" said, "its electricity" (waaay far away from scholarly talk now!) But, electricity powers t he dancer. The foundation of every dancer's expression is technique. From the opening bow, to pure raw plie' et tendue through the allegros and finishing with reverence, it is the athletic and musical training of the dancers which prepares, make that allows the dancer to create expression and use their emotion.


I believe it is coaching where the progress of a dancer should be inclusive of cognitive techniques such as the varieties of "emotional intelligence" methods are used. Indeed, like all art forms, dance is first and formost a form of organized communication. I think it important to use the technical methods of classical ballet to teach dance as a linguistic and referential platform.. I think that it is the training of technique as a language that primarily helps them to communicate with their audience.


In truth, I think it important to ask of a relatively mature dancer, "what are you feeling when you...?" But, as a Vaganova instructor, stopping to take time to have a brief seminar, doesn't really help a dancers progress during class. (As most of you know, the instruction of Vaganova, happens while they are class.) If a dancer makes a mistake, they step aside, until it is time to do it again, or if not, to discuss with the instructor after class. There is no time to talk about how what they are trying to feel within the context of training most levels of technique and musicality.


Therefore, I think we need to follow Darwin's bow to "EI" as the second adaptation of expression, in that we train the body and mind as instinctively reactive through repetitive education. i think educators should leave focused expression modeling and cognizant mirroring as part of coaching for actual roles and performance training. Goleman's work, for example, is great, but using such inventories and appraisals are best saved for post-performance reviews. Further, I think EI is too new and has too many theorists interpreting it to define a curricular methodology to codify it for hard-core ballet training.


Lastly, this is an area of dance training where the post-modernists are several steps ahead of most ballet educators. It is all the theoretic training that some college educated modern dancers cerebral approach to education has simply left the very somatic oriented training of ballet dancers behind. But, as I said, without the somatic training, the ability to train the dancer to use expression and emotion is limited to what the dancer is able to do with their body: if the dancer hs had limited somatic training, ethe display of expression is limited to the limited skills of the dancer. A great mind cannot communicate unless that mind has a mouth to speak the words. I do not include the trainings of Taylor, Horton, graham and others in this. But, the "release" approach that many under trained educators are using, simply doesn't allow 1) the dancer to get work in a greater variety and cross-genre companies and performance opportunities. and 2) doesn't allow them to use all that aesthetics training they've had.


Forgive my verbose post, but I'm on a Christmas break and actually have time to write....OH JOY!



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  • 9 months later...

Sorry for the second post but some thoughts...


Unfortunately the book is out of a price range for most young dancers. It is priced like a text book and is written for a college or masters level reader. If you are of a level of education it has some merits. I have read some of his articles and find it is rather English in its view. I think this important because IMHO, emotional intellect differs culture to culture. Emotional reactivity both in everyday studio life and focused emotion used on-stage sources not only from our similarities as humans, but also from the causations, habitual patterns, and acculturalizations individually have grown with. I haven't read the books, but I'm sure he addresses this in it.


I have worked with and trained American, English, Russian and French dancers in the same class. How each reacts is not only an individual response, but also reflects their cultural upbringing. Russians rarely expose emotion in class. Japanese withhold it to an extreme.


Case in point, a friend of mine told me the story about a situation that occurred while he was staging Swan Lake in Tokyo during the 80s. (Very little Soviet influence at that point.) One day he got vocally angry with a male soloist who constantly arrived late for rehearsal. As soon as he raised his voice, he was -surrounded- by every person in the room - dancers, stakeholders and visitors alike! They asked in Japanese "What did -we- do wrong? Why are you so upset." Meanwhile, the young late dance prostrated himself on the floor! Of course my friend apologized and was extremely humbled by the reaction. He responded in a very personal, but also very American expression of frustration - a response Japanese would -never- expose.


Is this only a trained culture conscious response? Or an acculturated emotional reaction? So, I pray more is written about anthropological or sociological emotional intelligence in dance.


An interesting subject, needless to say.

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Sorry for the second post but some thoughts...


Unfortunately the book is out of a price range for most young dancers. It is priced like a text book and is written for a college or masters level reader.


Philip, I second your opinion. Unfortunately, most (academic) authors have no influence on how the publishing house will price a publication. And indeed, I had mainly the college-educated dance teacher in mind, who will apply EIBT (and hopefully conduct further research in this field).



I have read some of his articles and find it is rather English in its view. I think this important because IMHO, emotional intellect differs culture to culture.


This is correct. The interviews (primary sources) were conducted in British conservatories. I am sure that some of the language has been colored more British than American. :) However, I don't think that emotional intelligence differs significantly in the Western World. But yes, if you work with dancers from Russia or Far East, the outcome of the study would have been different. It is important to understand that the EIBT (or any other EI program) needs to be adapted to a specific audience. It should be seen as a guideline rather than a rule.



An interesting subject, needless to say.


I am certain there is more research coming within the next decade. Dance psychology is particularly slow in picking up within the field of dance medicine and science. This doesn't mean it is not useful or needed; rather it is just not on the top of the funding list. Given the increasing emphasis on somatics in dance/dance education, I see a lot of potential for change in the future.


Thanks again, for bringing up this topic.

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