At this point, I can’t even recall how many times I’ve been asked what my ‘real’ aspirations in dance are… as if being an Educator is not an allowable goal until you have reached a certain age bracket, been in 12 Broadway shows, and/or found social media fame (and fortune?). For shame, that someone doesn’t aspire to perform, but that their actual long term goal is to be a Master Teacher (we will touch upon the use of the word ‘master’ in another blog, but for our purposes now, it is the verbiage used to describe this role in dance). It’s time to step away from the notion that ‘those who can’t do, teach’. I promise you, those who teach more often than not, can absolutely do, and those of us who have had longstanding teaching aspirations have actively chosen to pursue being Educators over all-else. It is a valid pathway, and one that is required for our industry to thrive, and thrive well.
With permission from my dear Mentor, Tracie Stanfield, I share this anecdote… as a very bright-eyed/recently moved to NYC and star-struck 19yr old regular in her class at Broadway Dance Center, a kind fellow dancer asked me after one day if my goal was to be one of her ‘front line’ girls, aka one of her company dancers (SynthesisDANCE.org – please check them out, they’re awesome), to which I replied…”No, I want to be like THE front line girl”, aka Tracie. I knew at 19 that my goal was to be an Educator, and while it doesn’t always seem like there are many of us… there actually are. It is about time, that when a dancer says that they aspire to teach, we take them just as seriously as any other job offering available in dance, and train them appropriately to do so.
Teaching is an art in and of itself, and when you are in the studio with someone who is truly there to educate, you feel the difference in the offering. Their ‘what’, their ‘how’, their ‘why’, and their ability to convey all of it is a skillset that has been developed, honed in on, and practiced. A young teacher is not (and cannot be) a Master Teacher by default because these ideologies have not been ingrained for long enough, but a young teacher who aspires to be a Master Teacher will take their offering and craft, and re-craft, over and over until they hopefully get there. This topic gets argued about repeatedly, but my peace on it is that no young teacher is a master, not me, and not you… but someday, hopefully… with time, and hard work, and dedication to our craft, to our dancers, and to our communities.
It is also of note that when I personally speak of teaching, and wanting to be a teacher, I think it is important to address one of the elephants in the room. A true Educator can teach all ages/levels. That’s not to say that they might no longer want to teach the babies (or other age group they prefer not to), but they can. No one should step into teaching being given a room of advanced dancers - that is the equivalent of adding a pinch of salt to a dish that maybe is slightly under-seasoned, but is basically ready to eat and calling that person a Chef. As an Educator, we should be able to metaphorically ‘cook the meal’ from scratch, and it is important to do the same with the young dancers who know they want to teach. They need to be taken seriously in their aspirations, and then they need to be given the tools to effectively to do, with all ages, and with all levels.
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