Tania Fairbairn

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Woytek Lowski Gillian Cornish John O'Brien Malcolm Williamson Jackie Barratt Pussy (Diana Payne Myers) Christopher Hampson David Wall This is December 24th in my Dance Inpirations advent calendar
Susie Cooper Daniel Jones Ivan Nagy Wayne Sleep Betty Anderton Harald Krytinar Victor Alvarez Pat Neary
Klaus Beelitz Belinda Quirey Irena Pasaric Mark Morris Thomas Edur Ann Hogben Graham Bond Tania Fairbairn

Not Tania, but someone in Budapest dancing a czardas, which seemed kind of appropriate, although I suspect Tania might have done it much better. The picture isn't of Tania, but it is of a Hungarian woman doing the csárdás in a restaurant in Budapest. There was a lot of wine, a lot of food, a lot of dancing, and a lot of music. My kind of evening.
As it comes to the end of this advent calendar, I'm left with a very difficult decision: I still have all kinds of people I'd love to pay homage to, but advent is advent, and I've got to stop because tomorrow's christmas. So I applied a criterion - it had to be someone, or an event involving someone, which I find myself constantly referring to in conversation with friends and colleagues.

And that made it easy. Tania Fairbairn is one of the quietest, calmest, most serene teachers I've ever met. In fact, the only other person I know who can command such utter calm and zen-like concentration in a studio is Glen Tetley. When you see this kind of calmness at work, you wonder if there can't be some kind of evening class in how to do it, because it is so much less tiring than shouting and keeping order (well, I presume it is - I've never achieved it myself).

At the time I met her, she was teaching Character & National at Central School of Ballet, and the occasion was probably a 2nd year character class, or a rehearsal for an end of term performance. Whatever it was, it was character dance, a cavernous studio with a cast of thousands of energetic adolescent dancers, and Tania. As always, she never onced used a 'teacher's voice', never shouted, never talked down to students. She could talk to 30 people in the same quiet, calm, pleasant tone of voice that she would talk to one person, and something in the calmness she exuded made everyone else quiet & receptive too.

So I was a little surprised when I heard her voice rise ever so slightly and call the class to attention - I'd never seen this happen in one of her classes before, and nor had they, so the entire class stopped dead in silence. What she said, in a quiet, friendly and totally unconfrontational way, went something like this "I don't like having to raise my voice in a class, because if I raise my voice and start calling you to order, it creates an atmosphere which goes against the spirit of the dance I'm trying to teach you, and if that happens, then the point of teaching it is lost. So could you try and keep the noise down so that we can maintain the right atmosphere for the work?".

And for the rest of that class, that's exactly what they did.

It's so obvious, really, that an atmosphere of fear, recrimination, balletic despotism and shouting is totally inappropriate if you want to teach dances which are supposed to belong, if only notionally or historically, to communities; which are all about conviviality and being sociable; which take place at celebrations with too much food and wine like weddings and holidays. Through understanding the spirit of those dances, Tania recreates for dancers the sociability, ritual, joy and fun that lies at the heart of them, and it's bliss to watch and to play for. She also generates respect for these dances and the peoples they represent, which, as a former rant shows, is an issue close to my heart.

But in fact, fear, recrimination, despotism & shouting is the wrong way to approach any kind of dance or music, (even if there is still a residue of teachers - and frighteningly, parents - who believe that ballet isn't ballet unless it hurts and screws you up). If there's anything that connects all the people in this calendar, and all those who would have been in it if advent only lasted longer, it's the absence of those things in their work and in their dealings with people. If you've read other entries, you've probably noticed that certain words keep cropping up - warmth, generosity, wit, sense of humour, conviviality. These are the things which are conducive to music making & dancing, and which I admire most in others. Happy Christmas.

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4 Comments

Just came across this by chance and had to comment...My daughter Olivia absolutely loves being taught by Tania Fairbairn. she is taking class with her next week at RBS and is looking forward to it! she says Tania hasa lovely gently way of teaching. bravo Tania!!

I have been taught by miss fairbairn and she litterally is an angel and i wish i never had to have another teacher because shes the best and im missing her alot and wish i could see her again.miss you lots eleanor in your JA class.

Miss fairbairn is the most wonderful person you will ever meet and i miss her so much being one of her students she is like an angel from the gods if i could just have one last lesson with her or a few seconds i would.missing you
Eleanor g a JA student.

my daughter who is at rbs said tania is one the nicest teachers she has ever had,she has given me so much confidence ,she is so serene i give one hundred percent in my class,my daughter also ,said to me, i am so happy in my ballet class that i could cry, you realy are a very special teacher and i thankyou for your warmth and kindness making my daughter so happy you certainly know how to bring out the best in my daughter.
Thankyou
Sue

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Jonathan published on December 24, 2005 7:22 AM.

Graham Bond was the previous entry in this blog.

HAPPY CHRISTMAS 2005 is the next entry in this blog.

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