Keynote Speech 1999

CORPS 1999 Conference Introduction by Richard Sias

Welcome to all of you present and a special “thank you” to Mavis Staines, Artistic Director of the National Ballet School and to the school’s staff and faculty. Through your kindness and generosity with a place to convene, you have extended to us the opportunity for initiating the beginnings of our international visibility and image in the dance world.

A little over a week ago as I read the many news stories and magazine articles surrounding the tragic loss of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Jr. one reviewer referred to his vision and creation of the magazine George this way:

“For now he had something that was his, not a legacy imposed on him by history”. In a moment of comparison though strange I admit, I thought of each of us. If I borrow this reviewer’s idea, it places each of us in this same window of identity for now we have something that is ours, not a legacy imposed on us by history or through the demand and confines of academia, but a challenge to move the ballet art form forwards at the university and college level

The excitement of this gathering surpasses last year’s for me, as we assemble for the first time not only as a body of professionals but also the only organization of it kind committed to the development, exploration and advancement of ballet in higher education.

From the very seed of this idea three years ago it was my dream that a body you, of ballet colleagues as you, from university and college dance programs would not only come together with such great diversity and interpretation for pedagogical thought and practice but with one common goal and bond: the training and preparation of dancers, elevating the art form in higher education. Also we have the opportunity for preserving the ballet tradition, a tradition inherited by each of us by advancing the art form in this arena. As I see it advancement and preservation cannot proceed ‘one’ without the other.

As we progress through the next few days let us keep this common bond ever present, as we focus, share, examine, and explore the many challenges and the future that our art form faces in the context of the university.

I know many of you feel, as I often do, that at times we are bound and tied to the dominion of modern dance in the academic community. As I see it we must stand together, “we” represent a tradition which I consider to be the basis and roots of all theatrical dance forms and styles.. Through working together we reflect not only the strength of our tradition but most of all the beauty of the human spirit and the art that we pass forward. In the final emphasis, the focus must be placed on the young dancers we produce. These young people are the goal and the realization our work as teachers and professionals. True I find that teaching is that form of communications and exchange with many immediate rewards and also the sorrow of delayed rewards, True it is unfortunate that with many of those we teach, the love and respect for the ballet tradition is not found until later, and True it is always when we’re not around, but none-the-less these rewards do come back to us three fold. Fine ballet training presents a world of dance, wide opened to the dancer, without this experience the dancer is immediately limited. Many times I must remind myself that it is not only our spirit but also our generosity and dedication to this tradition that threads the invaluable gift of training and knowledge to all we teach, and as I said ” the rewards are not to be realized until later; True sometimes much, much later.

I would like to quote from an article and study presented by Kathleen Bannon, Executive Director of International Arts Enterprises, Inc.:

“Ballet training is valuable regardless of the area of the dance field one enters, for it provides the dance student with transferable technical skills. The on-going value of classical ballet training stems from centuries of “trial and error” which continue to this day, with centuries of cultural influences from many places in the world. Yet, despite the significance of ballet training to the entire dance world, there exists little accumulated, accessible information about what dancers are actually studying, how they are being prepared for careers, or how the field is analyzing its training practices and future needs.”

As a significant reflection of the CORPS de Ballet International’s mission, perhaps it is “this” thought that we might take to heart as we move along into the future; our future as professionals considering, “HOW” we are maintaining and developing dancers, ‘not only is extending and preserving the ballet tradition in the arena of higher education important but there is a need to cement the relationship between ballet training and the other forms, and styles, and ultimately the finest dance education but that which is also “HEALTHY” in body. mind, and spirit..

As we progress through these next few days we will discover and share more about our needs individually and collectively as a organization through lectures and discussions of our guests and not forgetting our own meetings, ideas, and decisions as how we move forward. Referring and perhaps repeating again I quote Kathleen Bannon: “There is a deep interrelationship between dance training and other aspects of life and work in dance. Technique training alone is insufficient to prepare artists and ‘dance citizens’ for the future. There is a deep need to bring this great tradition and its strengths into the new millennium with a deepened awareness “of” and commitment “to’” the training of the whole dancer. Strategies must be developed and explored to make this ‘holistic’ training available to a broad and diverse body of students within the arena of the professional. At this juncture I deeply urge that all university and college dance departments and programs be included due to the great diversity and approach to technique, form and style in generals to dance training and education.

So, to conclude, these next two and a half days will not only be jammed packed full but also as we move along towards Sunday I hope that you will have sensed a new door opened to the importance and excitement we have begun. The specific objectives of our mission are clear but the unwritten mission as I see it is not only to “ADVANCE” the art form in higher education but more important perhaps is not only train but to enlightened the dancers we touch.