Jennifer Bader

All the Right Moves

An athletic art, ballet begins as an imitative practice. Students are shown an exercise in class, work to master the motion, and then move on to the next. Each progression builds on the last.

Given the importance of repetition, one might assume there’s a seminal textbook or standard set of instructional videos for novices. But according to Jennifer Bader, senior lecturer in dance at Carleton, high-quality material is sparse.

“Most of what you find either isn’t that great or features an aspiring professional who has that body, that look. It can be intimidating to anyone who is not of that ilk,” says Bader, who teaches Ballet I and II, which any student can take to earn physical education credits.

In 2016 Bader received the first of two Carleton grants to create “From the White Board” a web-based guide, accessible to any user with a Carleton login, made up of 249 video clips that beginners can access to master proper technique.

The videos feature former Carleton ballet student Hettie Stern ’17. “I don’t have a perfect ballet body—superarched feet; really high, long legs—so having me on screen helps with accessibility,” says Stern, who majored in cognitive science. “It’s more challenging to read about what something is supposed to look like and translate it into movement than to watch something. Seeing an individual step broken down helps dancers understand and appreciate whole combinations and performances.”

Although Bader isn’t currently planning to add more videos to the site (which also includes a comprehensive glossary of commonly used ballet terms), she is considering opening it up to other instructors and performers. “I didn’t set out to commercialize this, but my friends who are dancers and instructors love the idea of these videos,” she says. “So we’re having conversations about how we might make them available to people outside of Carleton.”

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