How to Empower Students
How to empower students and still maintain discipline
Learning from Simone Biles and Gymnastics
A recent article in Dance Magazine, by Bradford Chin (August 2, 2021), was titled What the dance world can learn from Simone Biles.
Chin (2021) writes, “Directors create a culture of empowerment—not scarcity—that encourages dancers to speak up, makes them feel heard and takes action on their behalf. Biles was empowered to advocate for herself because the team built a culture of trust and care. It is a "both/and" responsibility. Replicated in the dance world, the potential dividends could extend beyond self-care to other social justice issues facing our field” (second last paragraph).
Also, BBC News Washington DC published an article by Indrani Basu (Ausgust 4, 2021) titled Simone Biles 'shows how much gymnastics has changed'. In this article, she concurs with Callum Skinner, "This is athletes being honest - its not the death of sport" (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-58043512).
PROPS for Ballet advocates empowerment for ballet students - students grow their self-belief through opportunities to voice their preferences and have their concerns taken seriously, caringly, and with respect during training. Feeling empowered to behave in one’s own best interest requires a culture of trust and understanding in training where dancers learn to accurately assess their abilities and to discern the best path for themselves going forward. This can be cultivated through ballet classes that incorporate psychological skills - students need opportunities to practice, try out, compare, and contrast their thoughts and ideas, so they develop their problem solving and decision making skills that reflect their individual needs, health, and well-being. Without practice, these mental skills can remain underdeveloped - they need to be toned , challenged, and supported like any physical and artistic skills required of a dancer (or in life).
So, how does a ballet teacher create this culture of empowerment without being “too soft” or “indulging students' every whim” (these are comments I have heard from ballet teachers in response to my suggestion that we empower our students)? Dance students need to have a chance to learn Psychological Skills and apply them to ballet specific circumstances. Dance students can be offered opportunities to discover themselves, their best practices, and their best training regime, through activities offered in class. With the PROPS method of ballet training, the ballet class learning environment is geared towards students finding their voice, gaining valuable self-knowledge, and empowering dancers to become unique artists according to their potential.