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Pedagogical Questions for Ballet and Related Disciplines: 

Dance culture is changing quickly: are you ready?

As we approach the start of a new semester, how will you reflect on and improve your teaching philosophy and practice. There is no one correct way to teach: Here is  a set of pedagogical questions and suggestions to consider in your teaching practice. 


1. How can you begin to examine your unconscious biases about gender? Do you have preconceived notions about which bodies can perform specific dance movements or roles?

  • For example, do you believe that dancers who are female assigned at birth cannot partner or jump as high? 


2. How can you re-evaluate tradition to make a safe space for the particular set of people in the room? What are the moments in your class when students must sort themselves by gender? How can you make those moments inclusive of multiple gender expressions? What are the moments that people feel their gender identity inhibits their participation in a community?

  • For example, are students asked to either curtsey or bow according to gender at the end of class? 

  • How can you offer multiple options? Could you instead suggest that everyone chose a gesture of gratitude at the end of class? 


3. How can we teach the history of ballet without reinforcing the harmful gendered binaries of its origins? 

  • For example: “Historically, men would go last and do a slower tempo for grand allegro. In my class, anyone is welcome to go in the last group and jump at a slower tempo.” 


4. Consider how students could benefit from learning both traditionally male and female skills?  


5. How will you honor students' physical boundaries? 

  • Maybe address consent in your first class of the semester. Assure students that they can contact you if they prefer not to be touched. 


6. How can you facilitate open communication?  


7. How can you learn more about identities you are unfamiliar with? 

  • How can you ask students for constructive feedback?

  • Ask yourself what your investment in the power structure is. Check and re-check your privilege and power. Ask questions. Learn and listen. 

  • Take stock regularly of any assumptions you may make about students’ behavior, work ethic, and attitude. Pursue information about identities that are unfamiliar to you.


On Tradition:
How can we challenge biological essentialism and radically reimagine gendered traditions in ballet technique and pedagogy? 


Traditionally, Women have worn tutus or skirts and men have worn shirts and tights. 

Reimagined: Dress codes and costumes account for multiple gender expressions by allowing dancers to choose from a range of options based on their preference. 



Traditionally, women are lifted, men do the lifting.

Reimagined: All students learn how to both lift and be lifted. 



Traditionally, women dance on pointe, men don’t. Pointe classes teach “female” ballet technique movements such as fouettés. They also learn female role variations. 

Reimagined: Students can train in classes that align with their identity and preference. 


Men’s Class: 

Traditionally, men participate in separate classes to learn how to do specific turns and jumps such as a double tour. They also learn male role variations in these classes.

Reimagined: Students can train in classes that align with their identity and preference. 



Traditionally, many canonical ballets include dainty heroines and princely heroes. 

Reimagined: Canonical narratives are revised or retired. Anyone can perform either male or female roles, including roles on pointe. New ballets with diverse narratives are added to the canon.  

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