As two ballet dancers and university educators, we began this collaborative research with a shared belief in ballet and writing as liberatory practices and a desire to confront pedagogies that rely on intimidation. Both we and our students have experienced ballet and writing classes that rely on audit-and-surveillance, and we sought to foster individuality, value differences, and cultivate agency through multimodal approaches in our ballet technique, history, and dance studies courses. During the spring semester of 2021, the history and dance studies courses were online and asynchronous; the ballet classes met in a ‘hybrid’ model: classes were held in person, with students given the option to take class via Zoom either synchronously or asynchronously. Through interviews and analysis, we found praxes that ignite curiosity and motivation by drawing from definitions of writing and dancing as incantatory practices. Notably, this is the first research that takes a capacious view of ‘ballet pedagogy’ to include history, writing, technique, and dance studies courses. Ultimately, we hope these findings support exploratory and multimodal teaching, reinforce connections among language, empowerment, and pedagogy, encourage students and educators to collaboratively challenge current practices, and motivate administrators to rethink university structures that replicate the audit-and-surveillance practices of certain ballet and writing pedagogies.

Practitioner Notes

  1. Collaboration among students, students and instructors, and faculty members is generative, and encourages creativity and investment in ballet education in universities.
  2. Pedagogies that amplify ‘play’ are ‘incantatory’, and an antidote to authoritarian approaches.
  3. Activities and approaches that foster growth mindsets are beneficial at all levels of the university: among students, faculty, and university administration.
  4. By paying greater attention to relationships among theory, history, and movement practices, ballet pedagogy is redefined, and allows students to process/ create knowledge through both writing and kinaesthetic experience.
  5. By honouring self-knowledge and self-sovereignty, teachers and students enrich learning experiences.