Ballet and Writing as incantatory practices: a collaborative pedagogical project


We began our research with a shared belief in ludic and multimodal practices as essential to our teaching, in both ballet and writing pedagogies, and a desire to confront practices that rely on intimidation and policing. Both we and our students have experienced systems that rely on notions of an idealized dancer, essay, or class, and we turn, instead, to prompts and practices that honor individuality, value differences, and cultivate agency. In this paper, we analyze how our teaching of ballet and writing classes encourages collaboration and peer-to-peer feedback in order to dismantle authoritarian methods that position a teacher as the sole expert. By making space for discussions around feeling “not quite good enough,” we foreground the ubiquity of self-doubt, and the importance of developing self-knowledge through interdependent learning spaces. We use a multimodal pedagogical approach that engages both writers and dancers in writing and kinesthetic practices, emphasizing discursive analysis in ballet class and embodiment in our writing practices. Taking a cue from Dr. Jessica Zeller, we too are “[t]ired of pedagogies that disregard the humanity and autonomy of young dancers [and] glorify the teacher as the center of the universe and as beyond reproach.” Ultimately, we define both dancing and writing as incantatory–capable of shifting perceptions of self and others–and uniquely equipped to dismantle the inhumane patriarchal structures found in ballet settings, and to emphasize our investment in both ballet and writing as liberatory, activist, and joyful practices.

Presenters: Kate Mattingly and Kristin Marrs