Every ‘Body’ Has A History: Embodied Values of Ballet Teachers

Ritenburg, Heather Margaret
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Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research, University of Regina

This dissertation is an inquiry into the meaning of the teacher’s body in the pedagogy of female dance teachers. It explores how teachers experience their bodies, and considers the values which become embodied and normalized through the style of dance recognized as classical ballet and the international training institution known as the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD). Framed by hermeneutic phenomenology, the research incorporates a poststructural genealogy and related concepts to situate experience as constituted historically, culturally, and institutionally. Feminist concerns inform, and arts-based ways of knowing infuse, both methodology and method. Participants were recruited through a purpose-driven sampling process. All trained both as students and as teachers in classical ballet through the RAD. Initial data creation included participant writings and interviews. Nine themes emerged from the phenomenological analysis: As dance teachers, participants experienced their bodies as 1) involved; 2) important to my teaching; 3) observed, on display, demonstrating; 4) remembering my ballet training; 5) body parts; 6) not essential to my teaching; 7) verbal; 8) clothed; and 9) losing the ability to dance, demonstrate, or do ballet. Institutional and cultural discourses identified through the poststructural analysis included six normalizing discourses about ballet teachers and teaching: 1) the ideal female dancer’s body; 2) teaching as about dancers dancing; 3) ballet as real dance; 4) teacher as a dancer or was a dancer; 5) elitism; 6) excellence. The poststructural analysis was brought alongside the phenomenological analysis through the creation of a theatrical text incorporating data generated throughout the research and dissertation process creating a multi-media phenomenological text. The phenomenological themes describing the teachers’ experiences, when contextualized by the poststructural analysis, are understood as reflecting the body’s knowledge about the “truths” of classical ballet, that is, the values that have emerged and have become normalized. Through the theoretical framework metaphor of gathering in a round-table conversation and the creative metaphor of weaving as an analytical scripting process, this study provides a methodological understanding of how our individual histories together with social and institutional histories become embedded and embodied, and constitute our beings, as phenomenological, lived, or felt experience. In bringing together these two theoretically separated experiences, we are able to see how inseparable they are. Directions for future research are discussed.

A Thesis Submitted to the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Education, University of Regina. ix, 266 p.