Luigi was my first teacher, and for my first blog post, I would like to explain why I am teaching his technique; why I am finding such enormous value in a technique that was developed in the 1950’s; a technique that many dance educators feel is no longer relevant.
As I’ve been traveling the country to guest teach and meet more and more people, I’ve received some inquiries from some studio owners/teaching colleagues as to why I’m teaching the Luigi Jazz Technique. It seems as if there is a perception that this kind of traditional jazz is in some way not relevant/helpful in the training of today’s young dancers. So…I thought I’d take a moment and post some my thoughts on training dancers in traditional Jazz and why/how I teach what I teach.
I teach both Classical Ballet and The Luigi Jazz Technique and I am based at the Joffrey Ballet School, Ballet Academy East, New York Film Academy and The New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts in NYC. I have made it my personal mission to keep the work of my mentor Luigi alive. There are two aspects to this work. Firstly, there is the “Style”. Luigi created an unmistakable and beautifully exquisite style of Jazz that seems to have all but disappeared. And here’s the thing: I AGREE that there isn’t a lot of usefulness to teaching the Style for its own sake. There has been very little work choreographed in this style, and there certainly are not many jobs waiting for dancers familiar with the style. BUT THERE IS MORE TO THIS WORK THAN THE STYLE.
The Luigi Technique is also a codified training method. And this METHOD has been responsible for the creation of some of the most beautiful, exciting and unique dancers that the stage has ever seen. The technique teaches a beautiful QUALITY OF MOVEMENT; something that I see disappearing from today’s dancers. It teaches how to develop a deeply personal style, how the body works, how to use epaulment, how the torso is carried, how the rib cage is held, how the arms connect to the back, how to create a beautiful port de bras, or a long line that goes on forever, how to feel the music, how to phrase, how to “dance from the inside”, how to “Feel first, then do”, and how to “Never Stop Moving”.
There are a few of us (former students of Luigi) left teaching this work. I, however, refuse to turn the technique into a museum piece. Although I do teach the technique and style exactly as he did, I teach it in a way that allows dancers to apply the training to ANY STYLE. I want the technique to be a living growing evolving and exciting way to train dancers. I want my students to pulse with the excitement that this technique brings, and to come away a more beautiful, more nuanced, more artistic, more unique, more exciting dancer in any and every style they approach be it contemporary, hip hop, lyrical, jazz, ballet….the list goes on…
Every time I visit a new school or studio as a guest teacher I am always thrilled as I watch dancers explore this way of working. It’s like opening a door for them; a door they never knew existed. And that is why I am teaching this work.