System In Teaching
( Originally Published 1898 )
Parents whose children have acquired certain proficiency in dancing object to sending them to the school at the beginning of the season, under the impression that for the first month or two they will not advance as rapidly as they would do later, after the novices had made certain progress in rudiments. So far as positions, steps, and figures are concerned, the objection is not without reason ; but the dancing-teacher who devotes his talent and energy only to the development of the physical abilities of his pupils is himself but a tyro in his profession ; and the pupil whose only object in attending the school is to learn to keep time with the feet to music, neither understands nor appreciates the beauties, proprieties, and utilities of the art, or the value of the money expended in its pursuits ; nor does he regard the teacher with that deference, which, if he is a capable one, is his due, and which it is his object and ambition to inspire. Even admitting that it is to a certain extent detrimental to the pedal progress of advanced pupils to class them with beginners, what shall be said of the beginners themselve?
In a general school where the terms of tuition are the same for all, and the hours and facilities for teaching (owing to exorbitant rents, and the demands of other branches of education on the time and means of pupils) are confined and arbitrary, I have always observed that the timid, sensitive, and less talented pupils acquire confidence, courage, and case of manner, much more readily and less painfully when associated with those who are naturally quick and apt in receiving and retaining impressions, and who have had the advantage of more extended experience, than when isolated, and made to feel by direct observation their own dulness and inaptitude. In this association of timidity with courage, constraint with confidence, bashfulness with ease, the one acts as a counterpoise to the other. There is an instinctive appeal from the weak to the strong ; and, among children whose dispositions have not been badly managed, the appeal is rarely made in vain. Magnanimity is natural with children, as perfume is with flowers ; and it is one of the instincts of nature that keeps its purity longest undefiled in the human heart. It is not until experience with natural misfortune, contact with pain, care, selfishness, and ingratitude, deaden the sensibilities, and warp the sympathies, that generosity gives place to calculation, and the heart grows callous to the sufferings of others. It is among children, when their minds and hearts are fresh and pure, that these natural forces and, feelings find the readiest and most beneficial expression. here the -virtues of gratitude, patience, self-sacrifice, and disinterested courtesy, are prompted and exercised ; and, although the apt and capable pupil may be somewhat retarded in the acquirement of physical dexterity, more than an equivalent will be gained in the higher accomplishments, the mental and moral graces. When dancing-schools were first instituted in Europe, and after they had become established in this country, there was a much more rigid order of discipline and regulation observed than is the case at the present day ; and for obvious reasons. Young people, in those days, were children until emancipated from the schoolroom, and had taken their places regularly in society. Deference to age and authority was inculcated and taught as 'a cardinal virtue, a foundation for the superstructure of character. There were boys and girls, and youths and maidens. Now we have misses and masters, and sirs and young ladies, at ages varying from three to thirteen. Nurses are called " bonnes," and nurseries "boudoirs."
It is not meant to make these assertions sweeping ones : it may be admitted even, that such conditions are exceptional, and that the great reduction in the average of longevity in the nineteenth century, and the consequent necessity for the 'precocious development of mankind, leave no time for the probationary period of childhood between infancy and old age. Be the causes what they may, the effects arc gravely to be regretted ; for it cannot but be plain to the observant, that, as a people, Americans are gradually eliminating from their thoughts and social policy the three most beautiful words in our language and legend, spring, home, and youth.
On the principle that example is better than precept, I have adopted the plan of illustration by movement, in giving a lesson, rather than the more elaborate and (to the pupils) tiresome system of oral explanation, accompanied, as such ex-planation must be generally, by technicalities and platitudes.
It is a difficult and delicate task to excite and control within proper limits the emulation of a child, and at the same time to engage its intelligent attention.
Children are more apt to remember what they see than what they hear ; for the reason perhaps that sight is natural and independent reflector, while hearing requires the aid of voluntary memory in order to utilize its experiences.
With grown people the same rules hold good, but from rather different premises. The object with which ladies and gentlemen generally attend the dancing-school is to learn steps and figures briefly and practically ; and they will usually make more rapid progress by imitation than by deduction.
Owing to the fact that dancing is generally considered only an amusement, or, at best, a recreation for children, and therefore not to be compared in importance with other branches of education, the dancing-teacher is compelled. to accommodate himself to the convenience of ins patrons and the leisure of his pupils, and usually to confine himself to one or two hours in the late afternoon, when other schools have been dismissed.
Many families dine at a late hour ; others live at inconvenient distances from the academy ; and by the time the children have refreshed themselves after the tiresome confinement of the grammar-schools, and gone through the ordeal of dressing and fretting, they are either too late for the dancing-lesson, or have become so excited and flushed with haste and impatience, that it is a punishment rather than a pleasure to them to submit to the necessary exercises. These are among the many reasons why the dancing-school should he, at a certain and stated season, open at all hours during the day, so that pupils might attend at any time, when not engaged with other duties.
Under the present condition of rents, and the great demand for halls during " the season," it would be impossible for one with ordinary means to carry out this plan to a successful issue. Therefore, should it be my good fortune in the future to meet with sufficient encouragement to justify the investment, I shall endeavor to provide a hall, to be under my exclusive management, to be , used distinctively as a dancing-academy, and for no other purpose. Until that much-desired object shall be feasible, I shall continue to strive with the obstacles that present themselves, and trust to the liberality of the community to sustain me.
Dancing At Home And Abroad:
The Dancing Academy
Music And Musicians
System In Teaching
Special Classes And Specialists
Balls And Soirees
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