Business Ballet for the body and soul!

“Dance is the hidden language of the soul.” –Martha Graham

On November 27 from 09:00-11:30 I attended my colleague’s English Dancing Teacher Pia Kiviaho-Kallio during her experimental Business Ballet course held on Thursdays on HAAGA-HELIA Porvoo Campus as part of my Teacher Practice observation. I plan to attend all her remaining contact hours until the end of the semester.

Throughout my four years teaching at the same organisation, I have observed all of my colleagues teaching in various occasions, for instance attending their courses, seeing them present during our Development Days or co-teaching courses with them.

However, for my Teaching Practice observation I wanted to shadow my colleague and friend Pia, who is true force of inspiration! Pia is one of the warmest, most empathetic and intellectual people I have encountered in Finland. Discussions with her are always full of memorable stories, anecdotes and tacit insights. I have been taking the same bus from Helsinki to Porvoo for the past 4 years and our bus rides are filled with interesting discussions.

In the second half of Autumn semester -period 5- of 2014, Pia is piloting a new course that she intends to develop into a product to be offered for business professionals externally. In this semester Pia has 11 students enrolled taking the Business Ballet course. During the day of my observation, there were 3 HAAGA-HELIA degree programme students present and a US-American entrepreneur (plus me) attending her course. Later on I expressed my concern whether students have a mental block and the ‘too cool for school’ syndrome that a 20+ student might experience due to the fuzzy name of the course –Business Ballet (Would participant numbers be higher if the course was Business Ice-hockey or ice-skating?) Pia mentioned that she does not like ‘course tourists’ that come as they please, getting a couple of ideas and then leaving, which disturbs the atmosphere. “Interestingly, 20-21 year old learners want to be taken seriously, whilce middle-age people are more playful”, acknowledged Pia.

In this blog post, I will use Gustav Freytag‘s dramatic structure analysis of Ancient Greek and Shakespearean drama to analyse Pia’s session. The course contents already included performance techniques and drama exercises, therefore I find it suitable to use Freytag’s pyramid to structure my analysis. Let’s begin!

Exposition

At the beginning, wearing woolen socks made by our former colleague Hannele, Pia is greeting everyone. Pia made some introductions explaining that I will be attending the session, and created a continuity with the previous two sessions and the learners’ prior knowledge as well as she clarified the aims and learning outcomes of today’s session.

We started the session by closing our eyes and listening to the song ‘Windmills of your mind’ 60s movie in order to awaken our memories that one participant of a conference in Slovenia described as the “perfect pop song”. Here you can listen to the song (+lyrics) including scenes from ‘The Thomas Crown Affair’ (1968) and judge for yourselves! It was a great way to start and get in the right mood to expand our imaginations.

It is funny to see the Engish teacher never leaving Pia’s body, when she noticed a mistake on the song’s lyrics and pointed out that the genetive ‘its’ was used instead of the correct form ‘it’s = it is’!

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Rising action

“The fingers are the eyes of the body.” -Stanislavski

After the introduction, a series of interesting content and exercises started building towards the point of greatest interest -the climax.

The session continued with Maya Plisetskaya’s video, in which the legendary Bolshoi ballerina demonstrating how the hands and fingers should be released when speaking, as demonstrated here:

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After a number of exercices, Pia explained that we will be involved in a physical task in the corridor outside the learning space in the third floor. In pairs, one person was walking straight ahead from point A to point B while our partner would ‘distract’ us and walking next to us without touching or obstructing our journey. After two repeatitions, we debriefed the exercise and the take-aways were many.

Pia mentions that in her courses she tries to liberate “Finnish students end their box performances delivering their own presentation without any connection to what was previously presented and not being at risk when presenting, sharing and touching the audience”.

Climax

Today’s topic was geared about ‘memories‘. source of presentation trustworthy, credible, sharing personal and the learners would work on disposition/ logical organization of a presentation. Pia had already asked them via the learning platform Moodle to bring to class any item or photo that evokes a memory in order to use the item for practicing powerful introductions.

Each of the participants got up and presented their item that evokes their memory using various techniques of effective beginnings. Pia started first showing her ballet slipper that evoked memories from her childhood. I continued showing a family portrait, me and my parents after my graduation from Sibelius Academy). Then, all the rest of the participants presented brilliantly, openly and emotionally. The session has reached its climax with emotions and even tears..

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Falling action

After the emotional presentations, the falling action begun. ass with a Port de Bras, breathing in when lifting the arms above the head and out when opening them to the side. This simple exercise prepares students for presentations, giving them a sense of being safely embedded in the surrounding space. In this old picture I’m doing Port de Bras with pre-ballet pupils in the early 90’s.

Dénouement

At the end, ‘a sense of catharsis’ spiritual, emotional and physical describes my own experience after the end of the Business Ballet.

My observations during Pia’s Business Ballet session:

Pia’s excellent communication skills, her use of effective verbal and non-verbal communication as well as her clarity of explanation in terms of audibility and pace make her an excellent presenter.

Her caring nature shines through her teaching style with is reflected by her ability to create rapport with her audience, handle their questions, and being aware of student learning processes. It is obvious that despite the few students attending this particular morning, the teaching/learning relationships were based on mutual respect.

Pia has provided great learner support as she is flexible and takes interest towards the point of view of participants; and identification of differentiation of learning needs, including
equal opportunities issues.

Pia uses a range of teaching and learning methods that promote of active learning. She uses learning technology and other teaching aids such as PowerPoint presentations, Prezi, social media, blogs, relaxation techniques, drama exercises, and movement into space.

The content and resources are up-to-date, my only observation and wish (mainly from pure interest) is to include a list of resources in the course implementation plan in Moodle. Especially academic resources from both fields of business and ballet as well as their intersection. I know that Pia is presenting papers in conferences and I would love to read a paper on this topic!

Last, Pia ended the session on time providing explanation of future work and reminding the learners of their tasks for the coming session. She was also available for them for questions to which she listened and replied carefully .

To sum up, Pia Kiviaho-Kallio fulfills all three pilars of Aristotle’s rhetoric (pathos, ethos, logos) and her Business Ballet offers a catharsis of the body, mind and soul. She truly embodies a new pedagogic approach of learning.

Pia Kiviaho-Kallio holds an M.A. degree in English. She has also studied at Theatre Academy Helsinki at Centre of Further Education and is a qualified dance teacher. During the past two years, she combines her two great passions, dancing and the English language that resulted in Dancing English Teacher, a pedagogical approach where kinesthetic awareness and language learning are combined.

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