What a change! Is that a surprise in light of everything I have written to this point?
Age range, once a manageable 6 19 yrs old clientele, with common interest (to perform) has expanded. When I began at age 5, my mother turned Portland Oregon upside down. No one would take me except Florence Pickett who tossed me into a class of teenagers where I might sink or swim. Now some teachers wil except age 2 students without blinking an eye. Beginning ballet as an adult was unheard of, students and teachers both wondered why an adult would want to start when a performance career was over by age 25.
The biggest change - student brains. At first the great dancers were international - a common language was rare. They learned by watching. The industrial age had not fully taken hold. Most people learned their job skills through being apprentices - learning by watching and doing. By the 1950's the conveyor belt had taken over. The fastest way to train a new employee was through reading and writing. By the year 2000, public education budget crunches began to slash the arts from curriculums. All we needed was "the 3 R's." While dance was rarely part of public school curriculums, art, music, and drama classes, assisted the dancer's ability to be artistic movement. Dance classes became verbal and students asked for books to help them understand what to do. The brain had evolved from learning to learn through observation and right hemisphere functions, to learning through the intellect (left hemisphere functions.)
Now is the age of the picture taking internet accessing phone that is always on and handy. Who needs to remember or really see what is there? A quick click on the phone will substitute for both.
A conversation with Nancy Beth Falloon, underscored my thoughts. Nancy recalled a performance where she was required to hold a gaze toward the audience in a 4,000 seat theatre."That was really something," she said, and I could feel her mind reliving the moment as she said it. Recently Nancy interacted with a young person who was snapping a profuse number of pictures with a cell phone. Nancy asked, â€œWhat will you do with the pictures you are taking?â€ The young person replied that she might look at them later. Nancy then said to me, that there are times when you can’t take a picture - you have to look, hold it in your mind. I can’t help but wonder what Nancy would be like today, if her brain was unable to access scenes such as a 4,000 audience - if all she had was stored in a computer, but who knows in what file.
Boredom, a most painful state of being, a severe punishment in prisons, need no longer be experienced. Wait in line? No problem, occupy the mind with something in the phone. Read a how to manual? Forget that, it's easier to watch it on YouTube, This brain evolution has not progressed far enough to clearly define its impact on the dance class. It is changing how students learn, remember, observe. Will it also change tolerance for participating in boring repetition? Will the motivation become to imagine dancing rather than actually putting for the effort to do it? After all, it is more fun to Photoshop my face onto Fonteyn's body than to exercise my body until it looks like Fonteyn’s.