|Teaching a contemporary class|
Some dancers teach because it seems like the most obvious and practical way to work in their field when they aren't dancing in a studio themselves. Whether they are or aren't passionate about passing on our art, it is much more lucrative to teach an hour and a half dance class than it often is to work in other fields. Luckily, for me, teaching has never been an unfortunate necessity to help supplement my income. I have always known that I wanted to teach and freelancing has only allowed me to incorporate this aspect of dance into my schedule.
The first time I tried to gain teaching experience was when Peter Boal took over PNB. Sitting in my first evaluation with my new boss and former teacher, I vocalized my interest in developing my chops as an instructor. I assumed that we would quickly bond over this since his teaching had inspired me only a few years prior. It was a bit surprising when he responded, "I think you should really focus on your dancing right now." Nearly, a decade later, I don't necessarily disagree with his opinion. But I still wish that he had given me the opportunity to develop my skills under his tutelage.
It wasn't until a summer layoff a handful of years into my career that I got my first true opportunity to conduct a classroom. I was visiting home for a few weeks between seasons when the director of my home studio called to see if I wanted to teach a few ballet classes for their week-long intensive. I jumped at the chance and nervously developed a lesson plan for the class. Secretly, I hoped that I would show up, leave the paper sitting in the corner, and prove the genius of a teacher that I was on my first try. But in reality, having a written lesson plan helped me out a great deal, as I was no prodigy. Where I think I lacked in experience, I made up for in blind passion.
I didn't have many opportunities to teach outside of, maybe, three more individual classes at home until I began working as a freelancer. The closest I got to working with students would be the three years I choreographed new works on the Professional Division students for PNB's annual Next Step Choreographer's Showcase. While I didn't get to work with this young talent in a classroom setting, I still had the gratification of helping these kids along their path.
Once I started freelancing, I realized how important it was that I find ways to supplement my income. I googled Philadelphia Ballet School, came up with a contact list of training facilities in the region, and started sending my information out in search for work. Only a few schools responded and, of those, only one ended up working out. I was extremely excited to get in the studio, but I was also a bit nervous for my classes. My nerves had gotten the best of me and when the school director asked how much teaching experience I had, I lied and told them that I had three years. The honest truth was that the number three was just a little less than the number of classes I had taught. My untruth meant that I would have to show up with undeniable confidence and avoid any errors in instruction. Luckily, things worked out well. Perhaps, I was kind of a natural.
|Adv. Ballet class w/Alaska Dance Theatre (My Students & Pianist)|
Getting to spend so much time working with my students at ADT, I was able to see the fruits of our labor in working towards perfection. In almost four months of classes, the students that I worked with had exploded technically and grew a great deal as artists. My passion for dance and their trust in my instruction created this incredible atmosphere where you could feel a tingling energy the moment that each class started.
|One of my students at Alaska Dance Theatre - When I arrived, her leg was at 90 degrees, knee was bent, & foot wasn't fully extended. This was taken two months later.|
It is very sad that I will not be returning to Alaska for the upcoming semester (though I will be returning to teach at their summer intensive in June). But lost opportunities can lead to new ones, sometimes instantly. The last few weeks I was in Alaska, I learned that the famous Millennium Dance Complex franchise was opening a new school in Philadelphia. Not only is this institution bringing commercial dance classes to my city, it opened its' doors a block away from my apartment. It seemed too good to be true. So, I sent my information to the owners, was hired on the spot, and solidified my place on the faculty at Millennium. After returning home from Alaska to a week of Nutcracker and another week to adjust to being home, this Saturday I begin teaching an Advanced/Professional Ballet class and an Advanced Contemporary class at this renowned institution. I am very excited to have the opportunity to continue having a regular place to continue teaching and look forward to gaining more teaching opportunities in the near future! Cheers!