This is a story with a lengthy introduction before reaching my point. It begins already in 1978 when I started frequenting international ballet competitions, first in Varna, Bulgaria and subsequently in Helsinki. In summer 2001 visits to ballet competitions came to an abrupt halt when I suddenly found myself stuck in my home with my colicky first-born, reading in the newspaper about Helsinki International Ballet Competition that was taking place only 1,5 kilometers from our Alppila home. Yet, it could have taken place on another planet as far as I was concerned. In summer 2005 the situation repeated itself with my second child. He was of the kind who refused to take formula milk from a bottle, so once again I found myself reading about Helsinki International Ballet competition in the newspaper as the infant kept me on duty 24/7. Meanwhile we had moved to a new home in the district of Töölö, so now I was only a stone’s throw away from the National Opera where the competition was taking place. I kept noticing that there were several reports about a stunning 17-year old prodigy, Daniil Simkin. Finally, after some consideration, I decided that I would not miss the gala performance even if I would rather have followed the entire competition on spot. So I left the infant with his grandmother and rushed off to the Opera House together with my husband. Exhausted from constant nursing and sleep-deprivation, the only number that I recall as sharply as if it had taken place only yesterday, was Daniil Simkin in Maurice Béjart’s Les Bourgeoise performed to the famous song by Jacques Brel. Yes, he was stunning, as could be expected of the Grand Prix winner! And he had an additional quality rarely seen in classical ballet dancers. Humor!
Now I make a nine-year jump ahead in time and land in this very moment. My colleagues, students and family know that I have recently been very much preoccupied with my new course on Haaga-Helia UAS Porvoo Campus: Business Ballet: Advanced Presentation Skills, where I get to combine my expertise as Business Communication lecturer with my background as ballet teacher from many years ago. I have a firm belief that business students can benefit from kinesthetic learning, where they learn understand the importance of physical and esthetic competence in working life, a concept presented by researcher Jaana Parviainen in a recent study for the Finnish Academy. Finally, the world premier of my Business Ballet course took place last Thursday with a very small group of students. Thursday mornings are generally the worst time for lessons as students usually have a big party on Wednesday evening. Initially, I was slightly discouraged as so many were missing from the early morning class. Yet, I soon pulled my energy together and got the lesson under way. At one point we did a set of three exercise in the Campus upstairs gallery: slouching walk with head hanging and feet dragging, Drama Queen Walk inspired by Mezzo-Soprano Joyce di Donato, and finally, the Simkin and the City Walk based on Daniil Simkin dancing in the streets of New York in his Don Quiote costume. Naturally, all walks have different qualities: the slouching walk feels endlessly long, isn’t this how many of us go about in our daily life? On the other hand, the Drama Queen Walk might make you appear too rigid and soldier-like. When we finally reach the Simkin and the City Walk, students are instructed to take poses, do a jump a turn etc. The result is a feeling of lightness, elegance and ease, pure joy – and naturally a performance in space! Finally, at the end of the Business Ballet class I took two pictures to commemorate the Grand, or should I rather say, Petit Opening of the course. In the evening I posted them on my Dancing English Facebook site, at the same time noticing that my site likes had decreased from 135 to 134.
And now comes the dramatic twist to the story. On Friday morning I woke up to a rainy day in Helsinki, and as always, I picked up my smartphone to check the schedule. A mother of three, I need to be very disciplined with my timetable. And what did I see: Daniil Simkin had posted a commentary in reference to the Simkin and the City Walk: “keep going;)” It’s still a mystery, how on earth had my obscure posting ended up to the attention of superstar Daniil Simkin? Serendipity in the social media cloud, indeed. Moreover, the timing was perfect. I come from a culture where you are taught to “stop going” rather than to “keep going”. Thus, I’m often filled with doubt and hesitation and a resilient voice keeps nagging in my head “stop going”. However, having seen this “keep going” after the premier of Business Ballet nothing will stop me from developing kinesthetic learning methods in a business school context! Thank you Daniil for posting that commentary! And me and my students hope to see more ballet in the street or some other unusual venues!