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The rules of institutions and professionsOp-ed column by David Brooks


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#1 dirac

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Posted 27 January 2009 - 03:11 PM

innopac asked me to post this link to a column by David Brooks in the Times, with this quote:

"New generations don’t invent institutional practices. These practices are passed down and evolve. So the institutionalist has a deep reverence for those who came before and built up the rules that he has temporarily taken delivery of. “In taking delivery,” Heclo writes, “institutionalists see themselves as debtors who owe something, not creditors to whom something is owed.”

The rules of a profession or an institution are not like traffic regulations. They are deeply woven into the identity of the people who practice them. A teacher’s relationship to the craft of teaching, an athlete’s relationship to her sport, a farmer’s relation to her land is not an individual choice that can be easily reversed when psychic losses exceed psychic profits. Her social function defines who she is. The connection is more like a covenant. There will be many long periods when you put more into your institutions than you get out."


Could such observations relate to the world of ballet as well?

#2 innopac

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Posted 27 January 2009 - 06:47 PM

Thank you dirac.

I was also interested in the comment "In the process of absorbing the rules of the institutions we inhabit, we become who we are. " This made me wonder in what way do those of you who dance, at any level, feel ballet has changed you or made you who you are.

#3 bart

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Posted 27 January 2009 - 07:07 PM

innopac, the Link no longer seems operable. This one, however, does work:

http://www.nytimes.c.../...rook&st=cse

Here is Brooks's conclusion:

Institutions do all the things that are supposed to be bad. They impede personal exploration. They enforce conformity.

But they often save us from our weaknesses and give meaning to life.


On a spectrum of people involved in the arts, I would think that ballet dancers tend to be more institutionally minded -- less prone to insist that their work and professional life be primarily an expression of individuality -- than most.

Their willingness to submit to a long training period in highly-disciplined classes is an indicator. So is subjecting oneself to rules, to a peculiar and specialized language (words and movements), to a very detailed code of behavior, and to the requirement that they work constantly and often anonymously in close cooperation with others.

Is it possible to express a high level of creativity and individuality while conforming to the school or company? How far can you go in expressing individuality before you start getting into difficulties? Can a ballet dancer who is tempermentally a rebel still survive in the ballet profession?

Like you, I hope we hear from dancers -- as well as from teachers, relations, and fans who've had the chance to observe dancers closely.


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