Date of Award

2017

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (Performing Arts)

School

Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA)

First Advisor

Dr Luke Hopper

Second Advisor

Dr Lyndall Adams

Field of Research Code

1904

Abstract

In the history of dance, that of ballet is but a fragment. The art of ballet is affiliated with the arts of music, literature, and those of the visual arts: its international history covering some 500 years. This thesis spotlights Perth, the capital of Western Australia (WA) and one of the world’s most geographically isolated capital cities. Throughout its balletic history of less than a century, Perth has seen rapid growth in this art form. As in all the arts, pedagogic rules act as guidelines for the teaching of traditional ballet vocabulary; consequently, in order to understand this development and its impact on the dance scene, a search has ensued of Perth’s balletic history. The present study adopted a qualitative methodology with an autoethnographical approach to add to the richness of knowledge and experience in the profession of ballet teaching in Perth. This information is a result of the first-hand experiences of 10 ballet teachers from the dance community of this city. The metaphor of a tree was used to organise the chronology of events framed through the efforts of three generations of teachers. The metaphor of water was used to represent the transference of the balletic pedagogy, with art now having the support of science, complemented by a knowledge of anatomy and the physical laws of balance and biomechanics. Reminiscences were elicited through face-to-face interviews that disclosed the views of differing ethnic groups, revealing differing balletic styles experienced by participants who have contributed in many ways to this thesis. The findings reveal that a predominantly English upbringing is shared by several of the first and second generations of teachers who continued the traditions of the English methods of ballet teaching. The arrival of the European contingent, who shared their traditions and expertise with Australians altered the status quo. After the later visits of a new wave of master teachers, mostly of European extraction, a hybrid system of teaching emerged, resulting in a freedom of movement and feeling for space that was not always visible in earlier days. The second generation of teachers were instrumental in seeing the growth of the profession into the modern era of ballet teaching. Observations document the somewhat organic growth of ballet teaching in Perth, enriching the theoretical knowledge of this discipline. The growth of the dance profession is echoed in WA’s cultural and social history. The study highlights the fact that a mature and well-respected profession has been established, signifying a strong future for lovers of classical ballet.

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