Master Teachers and Master Classes

I recently read a post where a very young teacher proclaimed “I am a Master Teacher in ALL DISCIPLINES.” I’m sorry, but this teacher wasn’t really old enough to have mastered a grand plié in second position. I have always had a bit of difficulty with the terms “Master Teacher” and “Master Class”. It seems that today the terms “Master Class” and “Master Teacher” are synonymous with “Special Class” and “Guest Teacher”. It seems that any young and talented dancer who can choreograph an exciting combination that students will find appealing is called a Master Teacher. I believe that the term Master Teacher should not only be reserved for those teachers with many years of experience but for those teachers who have also been INNOVATORS in their field and have a PROVEN TRACK RECORD of producing SUPERIOR results. I was lucky to have trained almost exclusively with this kind of teacher; with teachers that were considered “Master Teachers” by the dance community at large: Luigi, Madame Gabriella Darvash, David Howard, Frank Hatchett, Lynn Simonson, Christopher Chadman…the list goes on. None of these brilliant teachers ever, in my memory, referred to themselves as “Master Teachers”. That was a term that their colleagues bestowed upon them…not something that was self proclaimed. Now in my 50’s, after spending many many years in the studio and on the stage, I look at my teaching very differently. I still take class, three to five times a week. I see what works and what doesn’t work. I am always looking for methods of passing on these teachings in a way that is relevant to a young dancer working and dancing now; today. Have I experienced age discrimination? Absolutely. Do I complain about it? No. What would be the point? The best way to change someone’s opinion is to SHOW THEM. The Joffrey Ballet School, New York Film Academy and CAP21 have embraced what I do. Studio owners, program directors and conventions are interested in what I bring to the classroom; my personal viewpoint; my methods of teaching. I feel a little humility can go a long way and I am frequently invited to teach guest classes and workshops. Every time I walk into a studio and face a new group of students I get to pull back the curtain and show them new ways to work; new approaches. And as I strive to get better, find new and more effective ways to teach, making the beautiful traditions of our glorious artistic past relevant to today’s dancers, perhaps one day I may earn the respect of my colleagues in a way that they will consider me a Master Teacher. But regardless of titles and accolades, I have devoted my professional life to educating dancers; every moment in the studio is a gift.

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