I’ve always wondered if teaching was an intentional career transition for dancers after careers and degrees, or if many of them began teaching to make a little money and just never stopped. I’ve been fortunate to have worked with some incredible teachers as a student and as a professional, truly passionate teachers who really helped to shape me into the dancer I am today. I’ve also encountered the apathetic teacher, the one who I assumed thought one day, I need some cash flow and how hard could this really be. Personally, I’ve always been on the fence about teaching. In part I think it’s due to that dancer mentality that many of us have, that we will be always be students. Also, I don’t have a particularly loud voice and find children frightening. I’m tortured by the idea that I won’t get through to them, or that I won’t find ways to make them want to learn. I worry that they’ll be bored, of the consequences of being too critical on impressionable minds or too nice in moments when it’s better to be stern. I worry that I won’t find inspiring words to make them feel confident, because I know how disheartening dancing can be. For some reason, at least a few of the kids always seem to want to tickle me (what would happen if I accidentally smack someone’s child in a fit of laughter?) This summer my boyfriend, George, and I were presented with an amazing opportunity to run our own one week intensive. 9-5, kids between ages 8 and 18 for 5 days… my worst fears becoming reality. At the risk of being nauseatingly cheesy, the program was a magical experience for me. We were fortunate enough to have a great group of 15 hard working kids. Granted there were days when they all had sugar for lunch, and focus was an issue, but overall the students were well behaved and hungry to learn. Watching them progress, seeing them break out of their shells and have a little more confidence than when they walked in the door, brought tears to my eyes. They learned some pretty intricate choreography for just four days of work, and performed for supportive parents and friends the last day. You could see how they internalized the notes and corrections we had given, and their performance was beautiful. I was so shocked by how much we, the teachers and students, were capable of sharing and learning in such a short amount of time.
George and I were offered another teaching opportunity the day after our program was over. The dance world is small and some friend is always overbooked or looking to share a gig. The prospect of a one week vacation was tempting, but the lure of money and more teaching experience won in the end. Again, the students were incredible. Their brains were like sponges, they were respectful and eager for information. During our talks at lunch they asked serious questions about college and auditions, what it takes to be a professional and when were my boyfriend and I going to get married. They were so thankful to get honest answers from two dancers who really started at the bottom and made it. A few of them reminded me of myself when I was still a student, serious, self conscious and concerned that the dance world would just chew them up and spit them out. Our conversations and classes made me realize that each individual dancer is really on their own journey, and by telling my story I might inspire one or two of them to keep going. The lessons I learned teaching were truly invaluable, they reminded me that we will always be students at heart but we still have a lot to share……my pointe exactly.