Curriculum at NBS has been evolving since the School’s beginnings. Under Betty Oliphant, the Cecchetti tradition formed the basis for training. However, she recognized the value of other major schools of thought and early on began to incorporate elements of the French, Russian and Bournonville traditions. This exposure resulted in versatile dancers who easily adapted to the challenges of a variety of choreographic styles.
When Mavis Staines took the helm, re-visiting the curriculum was her priority in order to meet the changing demands of the profession and take advantage of the latest science on conditioning and anatomy. With the variety of viewpoints represented at NBS, perhaps her most significant contribution was the involvement of all ballet faculty members in the creation of the new pedagogic approach. The NBS system of training that resulted represents the best practices of the profession today, but it is not static. It is a living curriculum that continues to evolve.
Betty Oliphant and Cecchetti
As a teenager, Betty Oliphant was introduced to the Cecchetti method of ballet training, a codified system developed by master teacher, Enrico Cecchetti, primarily for the training of professional dancers. The system appealed to her because it was logical and its technical demands revealed clearly whether or not its exercises were being properly executed. Oliphant was a highly respected teacher of the system and an examiner for the Cecchetti Branch of the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing (ISTD) when she co-founded NBS, and so the School’s original curriculum was deeply rooted in the Cecchetti method.
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