For me New Year signifies birth. Tangibly. Concretely. My body remembers the violent contractions accompanied by the sound and smell of fireworks illuminating the pitch-black December sky. My two younger children were born on New Years Day 2005 and 2008, thus New Year does not only carry a symbolic meaning of birth and new beginnings, it is BIRTH. Furthermore, giving birth is not a pretty event in white linen, it is a violent and messy affair. It is Life itself.
Year 2014 is soon to reach its end and I find myself thinking of the symbolic births of this past year. The first and foremost thing that crosses my mind is of course the birth of Business Ballet, a method that has been burgeoning for years in my teaching. This autumn I was privileged to teach an entire course based on dance and movement as pedagogical resource. It was thrilling to see how the method emerged out of the course framework in close cooperation with the students. The group was small yet brave and inquisitive, ready to stretch beyond what I could ever have expected from non-dancers. I believe that the heterogeneous mix of different ages and nationalities as well as the small size of the group contributed to the success of the course. Thank you Alexandra, Elli, Essi, Jenni, Kymberly, Niklas, Riikka, Sanelma and Vy for your tremendous courage and commitment. I’m eternally grateful for having once in a lifetime experienced a course where all my dreams and ambitions came true. Additionally, my dear friend and colleague Chryssa joined the class a couple of times with her invaluable insights and sparkling enthusiasm. Thank you for your collegial support and superb blog post Business Ballet for the Body and Soul!
We met on dark Thursday mornings on Porvoo Campus and usually the lesson lasted three hours without any breaks. Well, the last lesson of 18 December lasted four hours without interruption as there seemed to be no end to the discussions. I kept tentatively asking whether anybody was in a hurry, yet everybody stayed past lunch hour. I had named the course Business Ballet: Advanced Presentation Skills – with advanced I was looking for ways of teaching students how to stay within your skin while performing. How not to let the mind wander without focus. How to stay in contact with your audience, constantly being aware of the three Aristotelian pillars of rhetoric: ethos, pathos and logos.
To an outsider our exercises might have seemed odd, sometimes even bizarre. For instance, we chose the third floor corner with a view to Porvoo to practice entrées. Naturally, Nordic Business Forum with its five- thousand audience served as model for how to enter a stage. With the big windows and open sky, the feeling of standing in front of a huge audience became true. Another exercise involved covering the entire length of a corridor without being distracted by a partner who was walking alongside. Obviously, in this exercise we practiced staying within your skin. Inside the classroom we had several more exercises, one particularly memorable moment was the “transition dance” where movement was smoothly passed on from one student to the other. Initially, the purpose of this exercise was to demonstrate how there should be elegant transitions in a presentation. However, this ended up becoming a beautiful choreography with a life of its own – existing in the moment and never to be seen again. Just as fleeting as any professional stage performance.
In sum, the “Master Performances” at the end of the course showed that everybody had grown as performers. The presentations were genuine and embodied. Many chose to speak without PowerPoint. Everybody took risks, some even improvised on the spot. As teacher I have never experienced anything similar. However, it should be mentioned that as method, Business Ballet is not meant to be taught in big groups. It needs the intimacy and individual attention. I would say that the maximum size would be ten students. In the future, if the course gets established, the solution is to have two separate groups. Yet, I am painfully aware that this might have been a one-time opportunity for me to teach the course in an educational context. The school finances are getting tighter and groups are growing in size all over the country. Yet, I’m happy for all of us who were involved in the process. As one student concluded: “this is so unique and wonderful that you almost wish to keep it a secret”. Thus, in the future, Business Ballet could be developed into a product to be sold as company training: a unique combination of language learning, presentations skills and well-being at work.
Year 2014 is reaching its end and my body will always remember this as a year of dancing with students during halcyon days. As I said at the beginning, birth is not pretty but violent. It has taken me long to reach this point of authority in my pioneering work as Dancing English Teacher. For long I have been mistaken for a mere village fool or a harmless nuisance in an orderly environment. Yet, from now on I demand to be taken seriously – through years of trial and error I have come across something very valuable, a way to teach students to love being on stage. A skill they will definitely need in their future careers as business professionals. Simultaneously, I am at this very moment remembering the births of my children Valter and Silvia. The miracle of new life. Embodied. True. Present in this moment. As we all should feel when being alone on stage. Happy New Year and welcome to join my next Business Ballet course!