Whenever I’m back in Italy I like to visit my old dance school in Rovigo and I can never resist joining a class with the director of the school, Donatella Altieri. This makes me reflect on what makes a good teacher a ‘great’ teacher and so I thought I would share here what I feel makes Donatella such an exceptional ballet teacher.
First of all, she is passionate about teaching. In addition to ballet, she is qualified to teach high school mathematics. Her training outside of Italy started at the ESDC Rosella Hightower in France and she was then was coached by Valentina Opostulesen Massini and Maestro Pantasi at the Bucharest Opera Ballet.
Donatella’s classes are amazing for many reasons. The work is intensive, but the pace is never hurried. Exercises are repeated until they are correct so you can see immediate results. Positions are held for long periods and students are made to fully understand the physical process. In fact, Donatella has a profound understanding of both the anatomy and the psychology of her students.
If a class is working well, a two-hour lesson can stretch to four hours. Often there are mutterings from parents about this, but they can see what their son or daughter is achieving through the double glass doors of the studio and so they patiently [or not] wait outside, chatting with other parents doing the same thing. Wall clocks are a popular gift for Donatella; they feature in every room at her dance school but they invariably show the wrong time.
Perhaps the greatest thing about Donatella’s way of teaching ballet is that you always leave the studio feeling uplifted and satisfied and, most importantly, wanting to return.
She immediately sees when a student has the potential to shine as a professional dancer – not only physically, but in their approach to learning and their determination to succeed at any cost.
These students are invited back for extra classes; late in the evenings, over the weekend and during school holidays. Donatella seldom asks for extra on top of her modest monthly charges for this special coaching, she is always motivated by success and never by financial gain.
Students who she believes can ‘go further’ are advised of external workshops with inspiring teachers such as Margarita Smirnova [Bolshoi] and Frédéric Olivieri [La Scala], and they are encouraged to enter competitions.
To me personally, Donatella is an absolute ‘bun head’. She is motivating, generous, modest and has a great sense of humour. She is infamous for rescuing stray cats and injured wildlife of any kind. This ageless and warm-hearted ballet teacher produces dancers now in training or dancing at the highest level throughout Europe and I thank my lucky stars that I am one of them.
If you would like to know more about Donatella Altieri and her school please visit: Centro Studi Danza classica e moderna – beware that the website is in Italian!