The ballet class
: educating creative dance artists?

  • Susie Crow

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    The ballet class is the primary means of learning about ballet, shaping not just the dancing but the attitudes and perceptions of dancers throughout their careers. In recent years it has been critiqued for lack of creativity, abusive and authoritarian teaching, and as inadequate physical training for today’s dancers. This research examines the ballet class as a complex pedagogical phenomenon, an embodied tradition transmitted in practice from one generation to the next. It questions whether and in what ways the class has the potential to be an artistic education for ballet’s dancers, teachers and choreographers.

    This thesis constructs a picture of the class as a locus for situated practical learning, combining the unconscious absorption of a ballet habitus with more conscious and reflective learning and the acquisition of expertise; considering the contested relationship of technique and artistry in the slow absorption of balletic understanding and skills. This theoretical framework underpins a series of short case studies of classes in the UK for learners over 18 years from beginner to professional, revealing the variety of class content and practice as shaped by such current pressures as irregular employment, the increasing systematisation of ballet training institutions, and the growing influence of sports science and social media. Major themes of aims and purposes, the class as a physical fitness regime, and the importance of its relation to the performance and creation of repertoire, are considered in the wider context of the historical development of ballet’s evolving technical knowledge and body of work. A final discussion of pace in teaching and the experience of dancing leads to suggestions and conclusions as to how the class may positively contribute to the development of artistry and creativity in ballet dancers.
    Date of Award14 May 2020
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Roehampton
    SupervisorEmilyn Claid (Director of Studies) & Geraldine Morris (Co-Supervisor)


    • Ballet Class
    • Ballet dancers
    • ballet technique
    • ballet pedagogy
    • danse d’école
    • embodied learning
    • oral transmission
    • training
    • artistry
    • practice

    Cite this