Some people are called to teach, others are called to learn, and Elisabeth Pardy Hartling falls into both categories.
She’s been teaching ballet for two decades and recently completed her Master of Arts Education from Bath University. After finishing that degree, she was accepted into the Affiliate Training and Assessment Program of the Royal Ballet, and she traveled to London, UK, this past autumn for training.
“I’ve wanted to teach dance since I was about fourteen.” Said Pardy Hartling. “Except for maybe a brief moment in my teen years when I wanted to be a forensic pathologist, but an interview with an actual forensic pathologist squashed my romantic and glamorous ideas surrounding that job pretty quickly.”
Hartling started taking dance classes at age five and says she showed no promise, rhythm, or sense of musicality. “I don’t think there was anything special about how I danced, but I loved it and moving my body.”
The dance landscape in St. John’s looked very different during this time. There were no training academies and few opportunities to perform, so enthusiastic dancers had to seek out dance media and make compromises. “When I was in my mid-teens, I was obsessed with Lord of the Dance, but Irish dancing wasn’t available here, so I added tap classes.” She continues, “This was the era of films like Save the Last Dance and Center Stage. Oh, and Dance Spirit Magazine, that was the coolest.”
Pardy Hartling began an arts degree at Memorial University while balancing teacher training at the School of Dance on Water Street. She also worked as a summer student for the Kittiwake Company. “I didn’t know it then, but training with Marie and Pam at the School of Dance and having that summer student job, would change my life, and I started to think about teaching ballet.” Hartling auditioned for the National Ballet School Teacher Training Program and was gobsmacked when they asked her to return for a second audition. “I knew, in my heart, that I wasn’t ready. Sure enough, they asked me to strengthen my technique and audition again the following year.”
She did and was accepted into the prestigious program where she studied for three years. Here, she balanced teaching with a heavy course load. “Every day, I felt my mind expand. I took dance classes, dance history, anatomy, character classes, and the NBS teaching curriculum; every day was a gift.”
When Hartling returned, she began teaching at the Mount Pearl School of Dance. Years have passed, and she’s now the co-director and partial owner of the school. But like many called to teach, she had to learn to create balance.
“Last year, I realized that I was just teaching too much. In fact, a wonderful colleague told me, ‘Just because they are getting your time, it doesn’t mean they are getting your best. So, this year, I have a more reasonable schedule. I’m still busy, but there’s time for lunch, time to take care of myself.”
Nowadays, Hartling works five days a week at the Mount Pearl School of Dance, teaches a company class to Kittawake Dance classes, takes dance classes herself, and is continuing her education. She recently finished her Master of Arts Education in Dance Teaching from the University of Bath, a program she can’t say enough good things about. “I’ve had so many opportunities through that program. In December, I was able to present at an academic conference in Sydney. The paper I presented was about creating more democratic teaching and power structures in the classroom instead of teacher, top-down learning.”
“I just submitted my final recording for evaluation on April 10. I will find out in mid-May if I have been successful, and if so, I will become an Affiliate Teacher of The Royal Ballet School.”
If Pardy Hartling achieves this designation, she can follow the RBS curriculum and enter students for assessments moderated by RBS. She’ll also be the only teacher in Canada who can enter students for RAD, Cecchetti, and RBS ballet assessments.
Rethinking the classroom, or reimagining classroom dynamics, is a topic she’s incredibly passionate about. “It’s my job to create an optimal environment for my students. Not everyone will have a professional performing career, so their only dance experience could be at my school. It’s incredibly important to help create a safe environment and good memories.”
RAPID FIRE with Elisabeth Pardy Hartling
Q. Favorite Ballet?
‘Paquita’ has a special place in my heart.
Q. Favorite Thing in the Natural World that Inspires Her?
Water. It’s never the same; it’s always changing and flowing.
Q. Favorite Post-Workout Snack?
A protein smoothie with chocolate protein powder, berries, and oat milk
Q. What would you build if money was no object?
Oh, I joke about creating a ballet castle. But I’d love to build a beautiful, purposeful facility with dance and teacher training and an academic program attached. And, if money were no object, I’d love to do my Ph.D. in England.