The Notorious Tours a la Seconde and Competiton Dance

One of the benefits of the Internet is that it affords us the opportunity to discuss our profession with a multitude colleagues all over the world. In addition to my blog, I am a regular contributor to a number of websites and teachers’ groups. And a topic that has surfaced a lot lately is the use and execution in Competition Dance of the notorious “Grand Pirouette a la Seconde”. This step has also been called “Tour a la Seconde”, “Turns in Second”, “A la Seconde’s”, and I once met a dancer who thought the step was named for its creator “Alex Seccond”. The following post started a discuss on this topic. The post was made by a very fine and accomplished ballet teacher who I have had the great good fortune to “meet” over the Internet, and subsequently meet in person. I want to say that I agree with what she stated, in theory…but art is never simply “black and white”. Here is what she wrote:

“May we please discuss tours a la seconde for a moment? As a ballet teacher, I tend not to spend a lot of time at competitions as I only have one girl competing in ballet right now, but I have done a LOT of observing this season. Tours a la seconde are traditionally a male virtuoso skill performed in a variation. The correct execution includes a turned out preparation, a fully engaged leg turned out from the hip at 90 degrees and arms that remain in the second position during the execution of the turns which are usually performed consecutively, with the leg turned out in retire on the pirouette that follows. What I am seeing is a gross abomination of said skill.”

The post spurred a long list of comments focusing on the following topics:

1) The origin of the step.
2) The correct execution of the step.
3) the correct preparation for the step.
4) The appropriateness of the step in Jazz combinations.
5) The appropriateness of the step for the female dancer.
6) The execution of the step while wearing only one shoe.

I think, that as dance professionals, we all can agree that the step is part of the standard classical ballet vocabulary, and there is a “correct” preparation and execution as far as the ballet vocabulary is concerned. However, there is a long tradition of dance steps originally created as part of a particular genre of Dance being absorbed into another genre of Dance (very often Jazz), and going through some changes during that process. Jack Cole borrowed quite a lot from East Indian Dance; and certainly did not keep it purely East Indian, Having spent many years under the tutelage of Luigi, I am most familiar with his work. His technique is filled with ballet terminology, and although the steps only barely resemble their “ballet cousins”, no one ever said that what he was doing was in anyway “wrong”. The terms glissade, dégagé, renverse, faille and many others were heard in his classes daily, but a ballet teacher would find very little in a “Luigi Glissade” or a “Luigi Dégagé” that resembles anything that is part of the ballet vocabulary.

When it comes to the “correct preparation” of the step, the typical ballet preparation for Grand Pirouette a la Seconde would be a tendu (usually to the side) closing back into a well turned out fourth position, both heels on the floor, demi plié, with (depending on the style/technique) the weight evenly distributed between the two feet OR all the weight on the front foot OR with the back knee straight. And this is how the step is taught. But it is not the ONLY way to prepare the turn, especially when the turn is part of a complex piece of choreography. That standard preparation is how the turns are usually executed in class; giving students a supportive preparation from which to accomplish the turn. But that is class and that is training. That is not choreography. Madame Darvash used to say “A dancer should be able to turn IN any position FROM any position. Luigi reported that his teacher Madame Nijinska said of her brother (the legendary Nijinsky) “He could do 10 pirouettes and you would never see the preparation”. The pirouettes that are part of Luigi’s technique are certainly pirouettes, but they bear little resemblance to a ballet pirouette. The “preparation” is usually a lunge to the side, the passé is parallel and the standing leg has a slightly bent knee/forced arch. Is it “wrong”? Not to me. Is it how the pirouette is done in ballet class? No. Is it a pirouette? Most definitely. So if Competition choreography employs a “different” preparation, why do we need to label it as wrong.

As far as the appropriateness of the step in Jazz choreography. My feeling is…if it works, then it works. I hate it when turns are used as a vulgar display of technical prowess. When these turns are part of a 19th century Men’s Variation, that’s pretty much what they are…a display. But in more modern choreography, if you are going to use them, in my opinion, they need to have an artistic purpose. An if you can find a way to make them work within the context of Jazz- Great! Jack Cole made East Indian Dance work within the context of Jazz. This is how art grows. And with respect to ladies performing the step…why not? We no longer tell girls they can’t play football, should we be telling them they can’t/shouldn’t execute a ballet step?

With respect to performing/competing with one shoe… It is not an artistic choice that I would ever make. But I recently was made aware of a piece that was choreographed for dancers wearing one pointe shoe and one stiletto heal. Another choice I would have never made.

Part of the disagreement seems to stem from the fact that teachers working in the pre-professional world, especially pre-professional ballet, want competition dance to work the way they work and do what they do. But much (not all) of competition dance is simply DIFFERENT. Not worse, not better…different. I see very little choreography in competition dance that would be “at home” on the Broadway Stage or in a Concert Dance Company. And similarly, a piece like Bob Fosse’s “Rich Man’s Frug”, brilliant as it is, would not do well at a competition due to its lack of technical difficulty despite its incredibly challenging artistic demands. And let me state, that when competition dancers come to Joffrey and join the pre-professional programs, they typically do very well. VERY WELL. There is an adjustment, for sure, but their discipline and training serve them well.

I am not part of the competition dance world, per se. I am, however, often invited to guest teach at completion studios with greater and greater frequency. Perhaps they feel they want to expose their dancers to something different, perhaps they feel it will give them a competitive edge, perhaps they are looking to help competition dance grow and evolve. After a full day at a beautiful school in Michigan, the teacher who engaged me wrote to me and told me that she started implementing some of what I taught the very next day. It’s not my place to tell the competition schools what and how to do what they do. It is my job to bring what I do to them. And perhaps it will influence what they do and perhaps it won’t. And perhaps one day there will be a new “Grand Pirouette a la Seconde” that is part of the vocabulary of competitive dance. It won’t be a ballet step. It won’t be worse, and it won’t be better. It will be something exciting and astonishing and unique to competitive dance.

Our Students And The Connections We Make

I am very fortunate, in that I get to teach in just about every aspect of dance education. And one of the things that I truly love is guest teaching. I always welcome the opportunity to travel to a different part of the country, work at a New school, meet new colleagues and teach new students. I would like to share with you an experience that I had during a recent guest teaching engagement.

I was engaged by a ballet based studio as a guest artist, teaching ballet for a week-long intensive. I taught many classes (4-5 classes per day) at various levels to various groups of students. For the most part they were beautifully trained, attentive and hard-working. And for the most part, looked the way “preprofessional ballet students” are expected to “look”. The classes were leveled pretty much by age; but there were a few “more advanced” younger dancers dancing with older students. There was also one “less advanced” older dancer dancing with the younger students. And it was this dancer (we will call her “Susan”) that caught my eye. Susan was not blessed with what one might consider “ideal equipment” for ballet. She was stocky, long in the torso-short in the leg, neither particularly flexible nor turned out. I commend this beautiful little school for encouraging students with less than ideal bodies to train. Like my beloved Joffrey Ballet School, they believe that every “body” has the right to train, and if you can pass the audition you will be accepted, encouraged and nurtured, regardless of physique. But it wasn’t Susan’s body that caught my attention; it was her attitude and her demeanor.

To start with, Susan lacked the teenage exuberance that her classmates exhibited. And although all of the dancers at the school were serious and hard-working, Susan exhibited a ferocious drive. But even more than that, there was something troubling about her. I noticed, right from the beginning of class, her relationship with the mirror. I find that many serious teenage dance students love the mirror; they love watching themselves dance. But it almost appeared as if Susan was going to battle with the mirror. I watched her judge, evaluate, scrutinize and criticize every line that wasn’t perfect, every extension that wasn’t soaringly high, every body part that was too short, or too curvy, or too inflexible. I could see the exasperation in her face as we progressed through the barre and into the centre. I also saw a darkness; a sadness; almost a sense of despair in her carriage and in her work.

When we progressed to the adagio, however, I saw something very different. I taught the combination, we all marked the choreography and we divided into groups. When Susan’s group took their spots on the floor, she hid in the back of this large classroom, taking a spot toward the side of the last row. The music started and as the melancholy chords of “Scheherazade” filled the room, I saw Susan transform into an artist. Now I don’t mean to say that this “less advanced” dancer miraculously transformed her technique into that of a world-class professional. Her technical limitations were obviously still there. But what was also there was a stunning quality of movement, a very professional sense of phrasing and what seemed to be a deep connection to the music. And there was that sadness, and that sense of despair that brought something to the work that was both troubling and beautiful and transcended her obvious technical limitations.

As the class continued, through centre combinations, turns, jumps, petite allegro, grand allegro, I saw a dancer, struggling with the mirror, judging every moment. But I also saw flashes of great beauty and artistry. Buried at the core of this flawed body and judgmental eye was a mature artist of enormous depth and an aching sense of melancholy.

At the end of class, all of the dancers lined up to shake my hand, curtesy, and offer their thanks. Susan was one of the last. I offered her the following suggestion: “Try to use the mirror for INFORMATION rather than JUDGEMENT”. I also suggested that, sometimes, she try working in the front of the room. She smiled, thanked me, and left the studio.

At the end of the first, grueling teaching day, I asked the studio owner about Susan. She told me that Susan has a very difficult home-life and is dealing with some very trying situations (I can’t divulge the details, but trust me…its heart-breaking). She told me that the school is doing everything they can to keep her in class.

Over the next couple of days I had a few chats with Susan after class. I certainly didn’t tell her that the studio owner explained her situation…but she did confide to me that she was dealing with some personal problems. I asked her, although we didn’t know each other all that well, to make me two promises. I asked her: 1. To promise to try to find some happiness in the process of training (as I ask of all my students). And 2. If she TRULY wanted to dance, to the best of her ability not to let anything get in the way of her training. I explained that I was a dancer who had a family and a situation and a life that prevented me from dancing until I was an adult…and I just “let it be”. I allowed all of it to get in the way of my training. And when, as an adult, I discussed this with my mother, her response was: “Well, you should have been stronger”. So I implored her to be diligent, relentless and strong. I implored her to take advantage of every opportunity and to try to find her joy in the studio, in class, in the process. She burst into tears, she thanked me, she composed herself, she went home.

Now, I wish that I could say that by the end of the week Susan was front in center with a big smile and an even bigger sense of confidence. But that would be a lie. By the end of the week Susan was still dancing in the back row, off to the side…and battling that mirror. And of course there was that stocky and poorly proportioned body. But there were still those flashes of great depth of feeling, nuance, musicality and beauty. And she seemed to be a bit happier and a bit kinder to herself. And maybe that will last…and maybe it won’t. And maybe she’ll dance for the rest of her life…and maybe she won’t. But what ever her path will be, and whether the school will invite me back or not, it is this kind of student, this kind of connection that makes what I get to do every day a great privilege. Why do I teach? I teach for many reasons. And one of the most important reasons for me is a student like Susan.

When the Pressure is Off…can the pressures of ballet training interfere with a dancer’s growth?

Pre-professional ballet training is brutal. And for those dancers who have their sights set on a contract with a major ballet company, the pressure can be enormous and the competition fierce. Most dancers who are lucky enough to secure such a contract have, for the most part, followed a similar route: starting to train at a high quality school at a very young age (usually before the age of 9), followed by full time training in a prestigious pre-professional training program, perhaps doing well in international competitions, and beginning the audition process by the late teens or very early twenties. There are certainly dancers who have not followed this path and have had very successful careers, and for them the pressures can be even greater. These dancers have additional obstacles to overcome: a late start, poor early training, or any other of a multitude of factors, all of which make their road to a professional career even more difficult.
I would like to share the story of a former student of mine. She was a dancer who set out to become a professional ballet dancer without having the benefits of following the “traditional” path to a career. Watching her study, train, navigate the ballet world and make life-changing decisions shed some light on this process of pre-professional ballet training; a process that has consumed much of my professional life as I try to guide, help, nurture and support my students.
“Maria” (I would like to protect my student’s privacy) began dancing as a child at an excellent neighborhood ballet studio. This was a “one studio” school. The studio owner had danced with a world class company and she worked together with a handful of excellent teachers, providing quality training in a “recreational” setting. It is the kind of school where a young dancer can take three to five classes a week and learn to dance. It is not, however, the type of school where there is the time or the resources to provide the kind of training that will guide a dancer into a career. Maria danced, quite happily, at this studio for a number of years, but at the age of 17 she made a life changing decision: She was going to be a professional ballet dancer. It was clear that this school, as beautiful as it was, was not going to be enough. So she started adding open classes with some of the excellent teachers available in New York City and her growth was apparent. I would see her in these classes and her focus, her work ethic, her ferocious drive were inspiring. And I thought to myself: “If anyone can do this…”.
But high school was coming to an end and her parents were not supportive of this dream…REALLY NOT SUPPORTIVE. She was expected to go to college and on this point, at this time, there would be no compromising. She enrolled in an excellent liberal arts college, majored in Ballet, and continued supplementing her classes at school with the open classes in New York. And she realized that this was not going to enough. Here comes the next life changing decision: She was going to leave college. After much family discussion this is the compromise that was agreed upon: She would leave college at the end of the first semester, audition for pre-professional ballet programs, and if she could get accepted to one (not so easy at the age of 19) she would train in this program full-time, for one year. At the end of the year she would start auditioning, and if she could secure a job dancing she would sign the contract and not return to college. But, if after a while, if she could not secure a performing contract, she would return to college. And so Maria started auditioning for programs.
She was accepted to a prestigious program for the following school year. She continued her drop-in classes until the following September when the program started, and then she threw herself into this full-time training. And she was pressured…really pressured to succeed. Her career path, her entire life (as far as she could see) was going to be determined by the progress that she could make in one year in this program. She continued to take occasional open classes and I would see her there. I would see her work, study, correct, examine and worry. The work ethic was there, the ferocity was there, but the joy seemed to be fading and was being replaced by desperation. I went to see her in Nutcracker that Christmas. She was lovely, and the improvement was remarkable…but the joy was gone. She was feeling the pressure; the pressure of the clock. She had one school year to train full time, reach a professional level and secure a contract. Clearly, a near impossible challenge…but if anyone can do this…
Well she couldn’t do it. And so when the next September rolled around she re-enrolled in college; this time in an academic program. She resumed her open classes when ever she had time, and I ran into her before class one day. I hadn’t seen her for several months. She told me that she realized something while in the full time program. She realized that as much as she liked performing, what she loved was the study of ballet. And coming to that realization allowed her to return to college with excitement and anticipation, knowing that her passion for the ballet studio (rather than the stage) would always be there for her. And so we went into the studio to take class together. We took our spots at the barre. The pianist started to play and what I saw shocked me: She was absolutely stunning. In just a few months, training daily in open classes, she became a beautiful, polished, nuanced ARTIST. The pressure was off, the clock was no longer chasing her, the parental disapproval was gone. What I saw across the room was a dancer who now had the time and the space to train and to blossom. The teacher (a dear friend and colleague) saw me looking at her, caught my eye, and smiled knowingly. When the class was over I remarked to her how beautifully she was dancing. She said, with no false modesty: “I just love taking class”. I later commented to the teacher that I was stunned by Maria’s progress in such a short time. The teacher’s response: “Maria is going to be a ballet dancer in a company, she is just on an unusual path..and she just doesn’t know it yet.”
When the student finds the joy in the process, a dancer is born.

Does Encouraging Our Students Give Them False Hope?

A discussion was started on a website for dance teachers on the following topic:

“Should we be discouraging pre-professional students who obviously do not have a chance for success?  Does encouraging them to study seriously give them false hope for an impossible career?”

This is a topic that I have been thinking a lot about from the moment that I stepped into the studio to teach aspiring professionals. The first time I actually discussed the topic, I was speaking with Richard Pierlon, one of the most respected Jazz teachers in New York City, faculty member at Steps on Broadway, and the person who set me on the path to my teaching career. His response was simple, clear and concise: “It is not my job to crush their dreams; it is my job to TEACH them”. I have always held this philosophy close to my heart, because I was the aspiring professional who “obviously did not have a chance for a career”. I was nearly 27 when I took my first dance class, 5’5″, way too broad through the shoulders for my height (although rail-thin), and not particularly flexible.

Since My teaching career has placed me with one foot in the ballet world (teaching at The Joffrey Ballet School in the “ballet trainee program”) and one foot in the jazz/musical theater world (teaching at Broadway Dance Center and in musical theater conservatories such as New York Film Academy and CAP21), I work with aspiring professionals in different dance genres every day. And each genre, each corner of the dance world, has it’s own criteria or list of requirements that an aspiring professional SHOULD have; ballet, obviously, being the most stringent. The ballet community at large will talk endlessly about body proportions, height, weight, flexibility, turn-out, feet…the list goes on. And there is a ubiquitous idea of what a ballet dancer SHOULD have. Everyone knows what a ballet dancer looks like. EVERYONE. So, in my opinion, if a serious student without the “necessary equipment” decides to go down the path of pre-professional ballet training, I firmly believe that they are doing it with their eyes open. One of the things that I LOVE about the Joffrey Ballet School, is that body-type is NOT considered in the audition/acceptance process. If you can pass the audition, you will be accepted, regardless of your “equipment”. And they have been criticized for “giving false hope to those who don’t have a chance”. I disagree whole-heartedly. No school promises a career. And many many many beautifully trained dancers with beautiful “equipment” are unable to find jobs. I hear about the statistics of the graduates of the School of American Ballet. Large percentages of these students with “perfect equipment” coming out of a world-famous school are unable to find employment. But what a school like Joffrey does promise is TRAINING. And on that promise they deliver. So if a student with a less than ideal body wants to train, why should we discourage it? The training will only benefit them, wherever they ultimately land, be it in a ballet company, another genre of dance, in some sort of auxiliary dance career (administration, criticism, academia, etc.), or in an unrelated field. The rigors and discipline involved in pre-professional dance training translate to every endeavor. And careers DO happen, even for those with less than ideal bodies. Not everyone has to end up in New York City Ballet. I have a former student who just got a full-time contract with a “second tier” ballet company, providing her with full-time employment, a benefits package and a wage upon which she can support herself. And she has less than the ideal ballet body. In the arts, their are no absolutes.

From the moment I stepped into a dance studio at the age of 26 I was encouraged by my teachers. I was encouraged by Madame Gabriella Darvash, I was encouraged by numerous teachers at the Joffrey Ballet School and I was encouraged by the legendary Luigi. After my retirement from performing (my career was certainly short and certainly limited due to my late start…but I did have a career) I didn’t dance for nine years. And when I returned to class, in my forties, fat and out of shape, it was Richard Pierlon who encouraged me once again. I would like to share with you the note I sent to him upon securing a teaching job at Broadway Dance Center:

Dearest Richard,

I Want to take a moment and thank you. Twelve years ago I wandered into your class. I hadn’t danced for nearly ten years. I was out of shape, nearly 200 pounds and barely able to do anything. I was moving through my life and I was not happy. But your beautiful and inspiring class breathed new life into my existence. I had forgotten what it felt like to move and I had forgotten the joy that dance brought me. But your class turned on the light for me and showed me what I should be doing. About three years later, you asked me to sub for you…and although that didn’t come to pass, it made me think about teaching. And that opened a door…a door that I never considered. And so I started teaching at a little school in Brooklyn. Then came a modern company in Red Hook. Next was the Manhattan Ballet School, Hunter College, Marymount Manhattan College, CAP21, Molloy College, New York Film Academy and The Joffrey Ballet school. Tomorrow I start at Broadway Dance Center! where I will be passing on the work of my mentor Luigi…but it is you that I will be bringing into the studio with me. Your spirit, your generosity and your love. And I hope that one day I can reach and touch my students in the very special and profound way that you do. I am eternally grateful for everything you have given me.

Every serious student who walks into my classroom gets my full attention, support and encouragement. If teachers like Luigi and Madame Darvash can encourage a 26 year old absolute beginner and lead me into a dance career, perhaps I can do the same for some one else. And if Richard Pierlon can encourage and support a middle aged out of shape retired dancer and cultivate a second career in dance education then I know what I must do. And so I pass on MY philosophies of dance; as I teach my students about the love of the process, and the relentless pursuit of that unachievable perfection. And I hope that one day I can lead another hopeless case (like myself) into an impossible career like mine.

Teaching At Broadway Dance Center in NYC- my journey continues

I have been invited to join the faculty of Broadway Dance Center as a guest teacher. I will be passing on the work, the legacy and the spirit of my mentor, Luigi. The classes are scheduled for April 13, 15, 16.

Im thrilled for the opportunity and just wanted to share the information.

Here’s the link to my Faculty Page with all the info:

The Adult Beginner-a few quick thoughts

I spend a lot of my professional life teaching adult beginners. During my years of serious training, I had two main teachers and most of my readers know who they were: Luigi and Gabriella Taub Darvash. I am very fortunate in that I never had a teacher who did anything to hinder my training; I never had a bad teacher. But these two “main teachers” had very different teaching styles: one corrected relentlessly, one never corrected. One lavished compliments, the other almost never complimemted-only criticized. But the one thing that they had in common, and that I am so very grateful for, is that neither ever dismissed me as “just an adult beginner”. These two very famous teachers took me on as an adult beginner, and guided me into a career in dance (something that I, myself, didn’t think was possible). I will forever be in their debt, and I will NEVER dismiss a student as not being worth my time and attention, for any reason. This past week was Luigi’s birthday; the brilliant Luigi, who recovered from a devastating and paralyzing car accident and used that recovery to forever change the way dancers are trained. Every day I bring him into the studio with me. Every day I hear his words in my head: “Dance from the inside, feel first-then do, dance the sound…and of course NEVER STOP MOVING”. I will never forget the day he whispered in my ear during class “It isn’t too late for you”. That day changed my life forever. And as each new adult beginner walks into my classroom I remind myself that there are two kinds of dancers: those who ARE, and those who ARE NOT. It has nothing to do with age, or body type or ability, or disability for that matter. We as teachers can not MAKE a dancer- dancers are BORN. We can only show them the way. I am so fortunate that these two teachers opened that door for me and showed me the way. I only hope that I can guide my adult beginners into their dancing futures, what ever that future may hold.

Training in Open Classes

I was never a student in a “preprofessional program”. I cobbled together my training program from the multitutpde of open classes available in New York City. And as I continue to teach and take open classes, I would just share my observations and thoughts on the way students today are training in open classes.

I teach in several pre-professional schools/training programs. Students enroll in these programs because of the reputation of the program. For each particular year and level in the program, the students are assigned teachers.

I also teach adults in “open classes” and it is in this situation that students are selecting a particular TEACHER; and many factors come in to play when a young adult/aspiring professional dancer selects a teacher. I try to take as many open classes as time allows at a number of different schools in New York City. It gives me insight into what schools are hiring, what teachers are teaching, what students are responding to, what is getting results, and what is not.

So how do aspiring professionals select a teacher? Here are my completely unscientific findings based on my observations during my time spent in the big drop-in studios in New York City.

1. The busiest classes seem to be those with teachers who are currently choreographing. There seems to be this idea that the teacher will “discover” a dancer in their class and give them a job. I have NEVER heard of this happening. Jobs, for the most part, are gotten through auditions. It might help to take a choreographer’s class to become familiar with their style; giving a dancer a slight edge at an audition. But selecting a teacher based on the hope that they might give them a job is not really contributing to the dancer’s training.

2. The next busiest classes seem to be those with teachers who have the best performing resumes. Teachers who danced with great companies and worked on important projects definitely bring a richness to the classroom; a connection to an important chapter in the history and continuum of our art. But in general, being a performer and being a teacher are two separate skill sets. I have taken class with remarkable teachers who have had remarkable performing careers, and I have taken class with remarkable teachers who have had very mediocre performing careers. I also have taken class from dancers who worked with MAJOR companies who were dreadful teachers. I can think of several teachers off the top of my head, who danced for NYCB, Paris Opera Ballet, etc. who, in my opinion, just had no teaching ability at all. Teaching and performing are separate skills and talents.

3. Another busy classroom is the class taught by the “young”, “cool”, “hot” teacher. I don’t think that one should select a teacher based on their age. I have taken some open classes with some very fine younger teachers…very fine. I have also, recently taken with some that were, ahem, not so “fine”. But the same thing goes for the older teaching professional. I think some people are natural teachers…some are not. I have seen ballet teachers recently at major studios that were so young that they didn’t know what they didn’t know. I think that young teachers can certainly be excellent and talented educators, but a certain amount of experience and seasoning will bring depth and richness to the studio.

4. And then there are the educators who have been diligently teaching year after year, getting excellent results without a big resume or a lot of fanfare. They definitely have their following…usually a deeply devoted following, perhaps smaller than the other teachers discussed, but beloved by their students and effective in their methods.

So…once the student gets into the classroom what do they seem to want?

(Again, these are my unscientific observations):
1. They want to be told how brilliant they are.
2. They do not want to be corrected.
3. They want a class that makes them feel good.
4. They want to take the “hard” class.
5. They want to take the class that the professionals take.
6. They want to do things the way they have been doing them and somehow get better.

None of these will help the dancer progress and grow.

Another trend that I have noticed is that dancers are taking classes with multiple teachers at any one particular time. Rather than studying with one or two teachers, they’re going every day to a different teacher. When I was training there were much fewer teachers teaching open classes. Most of the more respected teachers taught multiple classes a day at various levels, enabling a student to really study with particular teacher. Today it is rare to find a teacher who teaches more than one or two open classes a day. Studying with many different teachers will certainly make a dancer more versatile, but it also makes a dancer less nuanced, rich, interesting and artistic, because the training never really goes deep.

What are my recommendations?
1. Find a teacher that works for you. Try to make your selection based on the teacher’s ability to educate rather than on their performing choreographic or performing resumes. Be open to corrections.

2. Try not to go to a different teacher each day. Study with a teacher, don’t “take class”.

3. Take a class of an appropriate level. If you are in too far over your head you won’t get anything out of the class.

4. Be open to trying new things, explore new approaches. Take a risk. Nothing is more thrilling.