Why Every College Student Should Take a Ballet Class

Well, let’s be honest maybe not EVERY student… There are several people that come to mind from my college days that I’m not sure I’d enjoy sharing a barre with. But if you are a student of the arts ergo film, fashion, photography, theater (especially theater after all every actor should dance and every dancer should act) or even graphic design, an appreciation for the performing arts is extremely beneficial. When you have an artistic quality, it’s best to explore one’s creativity in all mediums and that way it truly prepares you for your chosen career.

The physicality of ballet is something that most people miss out on.

I think the lecture classes that satisfy the arts credit at most colleges and universities don’t necessarily capture the essence of dance. It’s hard enough for dance majors to stay awake in those classes let alone general studies students. Now don’t get me wrong the classes are academically challenging and historically important to any college undergrad but most students are not fully engaged. (Trust me I know I’ve taught them and woke up the sleepers and failed the no shows.) Would you rather read about a play or be in one? Do you want to research a science experiment or perform one yourself? Same concept. Dance is a kinetic discipline therefore should be explored as such. Maybe the solution is a mixed bag. Partly study and research and partly physical exploration.

In past experience, I liked to give my studio class students research papers for extra credit so they could study and have an appreciation for dancers who danced before them. Or perhaps just one day out of the semester, the lecture class could join an already existing studio ballet class and gain a new perspective… I digress. Either way, the completely open minded student will indulge in an enriching experience should he/she choose a beginner college level ballet class or dance appreciation.

The physicality of ballet is something that most people miss out on. The body soul connection is really only something you can fully understand in a studio, standing in front of the mirror, with a veteran dancer as your teacher. Grasping the full artistic expression will take longer than a semester but at least the perception of ballet could change. For example, most college students unexposed to the arts, ballet is simply pink tutus, nutcrackers, twinkling music, spinning around, and men in tights. Aspects they were exposed to as a child but, have no interest to most young adults. If a semester of ballet can tip the scale in the other direction just slightly… That’s a win!

… the completely open minded student will indulge in an enriching experience should he/she choose a beginner college level ballet class or dance appreciation.

Stripped down to the nitty gritty, ballet is literally blood sweat and tears. I think when students experience how hard the basic technique is, they realize how difficult ballet is. From the very first port de bras and plié at the beginning of the semester they begin to realize how much they DON’T know. As the professor slowly introduces each and every building block of vocabulary, by mid-semester it starts to sink in that the student has only seen the tip of a very large iceberg. (An iceberg that consists of over 500 hundred years of history and evolution.) Then at the end of the semester, as the student demonstrates a newly learned, 32-count grand allegro with very little verbal assistance, students can understand how much further they would have to go to mastery. The students begin to understand that it took those professionals and instructors who have mastered it a long time to get to where they are. To that place with a company, on a stage, in front of an audience, loving every moment!

I always used to tell my non-dancer college students this, “You don’t have to love it, you don’t even have to like it, just have respect for it, for everything ballet is,” and by the end of the semester they usually do.

About the Author: Beth Bennett

Beth Bennett
Beth has been teaching ballet for 15 years with many different facilities including Trinity Valley School of Ballet, Clayton Youth Enrichment Services, Denton Parks and Recreation, St. Mary’s Catholic School and Professor of Dance at Tyler Junior College. For the past 10 years, she has participated in as well as directed many ballets and liturgical dance performances in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Beth currently lives in Edmond, Oklahoma with her husband Kyle and children Alex, Avery and Audrey Bennett. She is currently on faculty at the Dance Center at Oklahoma City Ballet.