“I do believe that we learn by practice. Whether it means to learn to dance by practicing dancing or to learn to live by practicing living, the principles are the same. In each, it is the performance of a dedicated precise set of acts, physical or intellectual, from which comes shape of achievement, a sense of one’s being, a satisfaction of spirit…Practice means to perform, over and over again in the face of all obstacles, some act of vision, of faith, of desire.” –Martha Graham
In today’s technological world, society has grown accustomed to immediate gratification, the world’s answers being a mere "Google search" away. Meanwhile, children in school are struggling because they cannot focus, and they are not forced to focus. As a result, work ethic is slipping away, and children understand less and less the benefits of going through obstacles to achieve a goal. This is one reason why children give up quickly in school instead of facing their struggles. Education must instill in them that practicing and overcoming defeat is how true success is earned. This kind of learning does not always require sitting at a desk in a traditional classroom, but can be achieved by other, hands-on means.
Martha Graham, a pioneer of modern dance in America, strikes a chord with the issue of school dropouts and education in her statement above. It is now more difficult to teach children how to practice and learn with perseverance, and many are being deprived of lessons in art that can inspire and spark dreams. Arts education is becoming increasingly absent; children are missing out on learning how to be creative, appreciating different art forms, and seeing how “practice makes perfect” really rings true. Through dance classes, students can be given a goal to work towards. When they learn the importance of practicing a skill over and over again, they can truly understand the joy and pride that comes with succeeding as a result of hard work.
Dance is a natural means of expression and is a complete and structured art form that encompasses subjects that are learned in a traditional classroom. Language arts are represented in the steps and terminology, and foreign language is introduced since ballet terms are French. The history of dance is learned throughout dance training, and the science of physics is taught in order to achieve correct alignment and execution. Students learn how to count music and to keep their movements in sync with it, requiring the use of mathematics. Through the movement of their bodies and by learning technique and skills, students simultaneously receive a well-rounded education and are able to repeatedly practice skills that are needed to succeed in a traditional classroom, all while creatively expressing themselves.
The Indianapolis School of Ballet has created a dance outreach program, Indy Ballet Classrooms, to bring the art of dance to students that may not have a chance to experience it otherwise. It is designed to inspire students and expand their knowledge of and appreciation for the classical art while encouraging physical awareness and fostering creative self-expression. Through this free program, participants take complete and structured introductory dance classes at their respective schools that emphasize classical ballet technique, rhythmic awareness, and social dance steps to strengthen team-building and communication skills. The eight to ten-week program culminates with a final presentation to showcase the students’ hard work, giving them a goal to work towards throughout the program and providing them with a sense of accomplishment as a result of practice.
Select students that show potential and desire are awarded full scholarships to receive formal training at ISB. Now in its second year, two students from Indy Ballet Classrooms have advanced to the pre-professional track and recieved an opportunity to perform in The Nutcracker, an opportunity that has been given to them as a result of their hard work and passion. The program educates, inspires, supports and fulfills dreams with real opportunities through a professional ballet school, and shows students that dedication and drive will be rewarded and celebrated.
Without a goal in mind and an ambition to achieve it, children will continue to look for an easy way to solve problems or avoid them altogether, which is not hard in today’s society. Arts education can provide dreams for students and the tools that they need to succeed in any subject. Dance is one way to help students find a passion within themselves and a desire to practice and learn until they feel confident and accomplished. Art and dance can improve the focus and drive of students. If art programs are absent in schools, students are deprived of experiences and pleasures that will keep them well-rounded and ultimately, encourage them in striving to become better learners and high achievers.
The Indianapolis School of Ballet advances professional ballet and dance education in our community through world-class training and dynamic performances provided in a culturally diverse environment designed for the physical, intellectual, emotional and artistic growth of all dancers. Coleen Szulc currently serves as the Director of Outreach and Student Services at ISB. Find The Indianapolis School of Ballet on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/indyballet.