Blog from Brazil #1: Can ballet improve children's lives?
In the first of a series about The Royal Ballet and Royal Opera’s visit to Rio, our Director of Education on the power of dance.
How can approaches to ballet teaching and learning develop children as people as well as dancers?
This is the central theme of a symposium that begins today at the Theatro Municipal in Rio de Janeiro. The education event has been programmed to happen as members of The Royal Ballet and The Royal Opera perform in the city.
Dancers from The Royal Ballet started their training at a young age alongside many thousands of others, and are part of a tiny minority who go on to have a professional career in ballet.
So if the vast majority of children taking part in weekly ballet classes – often for many years – are not going to become professional dancers, shouldn’t there be a great responsibility for those who teach ballet and run dance schools to ensure that the skills children acquire go beyond just classical dance technique? Can ballet contribute in a positive and dynamic way to children’s personal and educational development? And if so, what are the implications for the way we teach it?
These are issues that we’ve been grappling with at the Royal Opera House for several years, not least in relation to our Chance to Dance programme, which has been offering dance training to children in inner London boroughs for many years (and more recently in Thurrock). It has been exciting to hear about extraordinary work happening in Rio, where dance (and indeed other arts) projects in favelas – the city’s most disadvantaged communities – are having a profoundly positive impact on children’s development and aspirations.
There’s a great deal to talk about, and a lot we can learn from each other’s practice, ideas and opinions. The Royal Opera House team are really looking forward to discussions and debate with colleagues from Rio, and looking forward equally to having the opportunity to work directly with some children and young people from those favela-based projects. It’s going to quite an experience.
We are grateful to the Oak Foundation and the British Council for their support of this trip. Find out more about the Royal Opera House’s trip to Brazil and read a Q&A with Brazilian Royal Ballet Dancer Roberta Marquez.