When Post-Secondary Program student Mariana spoke at a recent student assembly, she gave her peers a coveted glance into the experience of NBS’ annual student evaluation presentations.
As a graduate of NBS’ Professional Ballet Program, she had plenty of experience to draw on. Each year in March, NBS’ Professional Ballet Program students like Mariana participate in annual evaluations. In small class groups, the students take the stage in the Betty Oliphant Theatre to present a prepared ballet class to the entire artistic faculty. Lasting one hour and forty-five minutes, the class mirrors the work students undertake daily: barre, centre practice, allegro and, for young women, pointe work.
The evaluation classes allow faculty members to assess students’ current capacities and identify areas where students flourish and areas where they may require additional support. They are also opportunities to note areas where NBS’ unique curriculum can be further evolved to ensure it stays apace with ballet’s ever-increasing demands.
But the classes are also important exercises for students to develop the fortitude that contributes to their success in the long term.
A challenge today with long-term benefits
The evaluation experience is, understandably, a challenging one for many students. It was for Mariana – she recalled how she used to let her “head get in the way” during these presentations. For example, if one step didn’t go quite how she hoped, she would struggle to let it go. She found herself distracted for the rest of the presentation, and often dissatisfied with her performance.
But over the course of many evaluations, Mariana realized that she had the ability to change her mindset. Instead of seeing her evaluation classes as a series of strict exercises, she started to see them as small performances with room for self-expression. Each enchaînement
(a sequence of steps) became a fresh opportunity to be present and let go of distractions.
What Mariana didn’t know was that her evolution in evaluation classes would one day make a critical difference during a tough audition.
Landing in Zurich just hours before a professional audition, Mariana discovered her luggage was lost. She knew that this stressful scenario was not ideal for her mental preparation. But instead of getting distracted, she decided to enjoy the audition as another fresh start. She would not let her head get in the way.
She left with her first professional contract with the Zurich Ballet’s junior company.
Now, as she prepares for her first professional season, Mariana feels that her many NBS evaluations set her up for success. They helped her develop the skills and strength necessary for a demanding audition, even under challenging circumstances.
A rare opportunity for teachers and students
The artistic faculty recognizes that evaluations can be intimidating. But they also know that they are rare and pivotal experiences for students and faculty alike.
As noted by Laurel Toto, Head of NBS’ Junior School, the fact that the evaluations take place onstage is distinctive for NBS. Students can’t help but want to present the work theatrically. It lets the focus be on presenting artistically, dynamically and musically while being present. It reinforces the idea that they’re performers even though they’re doing class work.
As a teacher, Toto also feels the benefit of evaluations personally. It’s especially fulfilling to witness the artistic growth that occurs in each student immediately after evaluations, and often year after year.
“It really is a wonderful chance to get feedback from colleagues who have been through this and who want the best for the students. It is a richly rewarding process to be celebrated.”