In the world of Instagram, Snapchat filters, and PhotoShop, authenticity can be hard to come by. Students have access to billions of videos, images, and articles 24/7. Self-esteem can really be impacted from this wealth of resources. Studies are constantly showing how the media can damage our youngsters. For parents, knowing their child is at an inspiring, challenging, empowering and positive studio makes all the difference in the world.
I talked to Simon Ball, who is the Men’s Program Coordinator and faculty member at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet to hear how they handle this issue.
In a matter of minutes, I knew CPYB was not your ordinary studio. Instead, CPYB is 180 degrees different than Dance Moms, and just chatting with Simon made me want to take a class. To really understand how CPYB teaches their dancers to be the best they can be, you have to know a little about their history. Marcia Dale Weary bought a house with a barn attached, and in 1955, she started CPYB in the barn. Classes were held in this barn, and there was no glamour to be found. The techniques taught in that school are still being taught today, and the school is known for hard work.
Marcia has passed down her work ethic to her teachers and thousands of students throughout the years. CPYB gives dancers the techniques and skills which they need to succeed. They maintain a purity in this process and mentor dancers as they go on to exploring the artistic side of dance. Dance is such an art form that Simon and his co-workers encourage their students to look at dance videos, but to do it in a different way: to look at the dancer for their technique and how impactful they are in their performance. To not compare a body type to their own, but to focus on the talent and grace that the dancer has on stage.
Simon encourages his students to look beyond technique. How are they connecting with the audience? Can you feel their emotion? This helps keep the dancers focused on important things and steering clear of unhealthy obsessions and comparisons.
“Pictures are worth a thousand words, and videos can be worth a million. When students are able to see a dancer who has trained to perfect their craft, that visual goes a long way. It becomes effective by giving them an idea of how they want to continue their training in order to accomplish their own goals. It’s a way for our dancers to tap into some good habits. Then, teachers are there to warn students not to take on the bad habits.” -Simon Ball
The CPYB programs start at 3 years old and progress until the dancer is ready to stop. Having students from age 3 to those in their twenties, Simon sees a wide range of dancers and the challenges they all face.
“As long as you teach them a good work ethic, they will be able to take those skills and apply them to anything that they do. We are proud of everyone that comes through CPYB.” –Simon Ball
For some, being a professional dancer isn’t the end goal. They have seen their students go into various industries (lawyers, bankers, teachers, etc.) and excel because of the lessons ballet taught them. Of course, there are CPYB alumni who are members of both the nation’s and the world’s most prestigious ballet companies. But at the end of the day, CPYB remains constant, authentic, and impactful for teaching students the techniques and skills to become great dancers and great people.