Live Music in the Studio

As many of you know, I was an adult beginner. I took my first ballet class at the age of 26, after completing one year of Jazz training with the legendary Luigi. My very first ballet class was a beginner class at the Joffrey Ballet School, my second class was a beginner class at Ballet Academy East. Having had no knowledge of, or experience with ballet training, I didn’t really know what to expect. I assumed there would be a barre, I assumed there would be a teacher, I assumed there would be a lot of confusing French terminology. But it never occurred to me that there would be live music. As I excitedly took my place at the barre, a musician took his place at the piano. The class started, the teacher explained the first exercise and the pianist played the first introduction. I was simply not prepared for the sensation of dancing to live music. Luigi’s Jazz classes used recorded music; legendary jazz recordings as well as music composed to specifically accompany his famous technique exercises. He had an excellent sound system, the quality was first rate and the music provided the necessary support and inspiration. But the experience of live music in these ballet classes was something altogether different.

I grew up in a musical home. My father had been a professional reed player, my mother a well trained amateur pianist and I was given many years of training, studying both clarinet and piano. It isn’t as though live music was a new experience for me. But dancing to live acoustic music was a completely new sensation. There is something about the way the sound of a piano fills the room that is strikingly different than music coming from a speaker. I’m sure a physicist could explain it but in this instance the science doesn’t interest me. It was as if the music penetrated my body. It was as if the music went right to the core of my being. It was as if the music was helping me dance from the inside.

The story of my unusual path to a performing career and now teaching career is known to most of my readers; but for those who are not familiar with my work, I now make my home at the Joffrey Ballet School and Ballet Academy East where I am passing on the great dance traditions that I was taught. And as a teacher I have really come to appreciate the value of our excellent musicians.

Live music gives me freedom. Our musicians easily adapt and adjust to any changes in tempo and meter that I need, allowing me to tailor my lesson to the specific needs of the students in front of me without having to stop and search through playlists. Live music allows me to more effectively teach my students without the stagnant dead space that occurs while I search for a track when I need to deviate from my prepared lesson.

Live music provides me with teaching moments. I have never been a teacher who teaches from a purely technical standpoint. The art of dance is so much more than technique. Each of our musicians brings a different and endlessly varied repertoire of music; often providing a jumping off point for a short commentary about the score of a great ballet, or a jazz standard, or a tune from the musical theater cannon, enriching the students’ education and experience in the room.

Live music allows me to inspire my students in a way that recorded music never will. Every time the sound of a piano fills the studio I relive the sensations that I experienced in my first classes. I implore my students to experience that sound; to allow the music to enter their bodies, their minds and their hearts and to feel the music coax the dance from the inside out. I ask them not to dance TO the music but to dance INSIDE the music. And as my teachers nurtured me, I am much better able to nurture the artist that lies deep inside each dancer.

More on Technique and Artistry

In a discussion on Baryshnikov I made a comment that lead to further discussions on technique and artistry. This blog post has been crafted from my comments in these discussions.

Martha Graham summed it up when she said “Great dancers aren’t great because of their technique, they are great because of their passion”. Near perfect technique will impress an audience, but the real magic that MOVES an audience comes from a very deep place within. Bringing THAT to the audience is what will move them, and what will stay with them; always. I am so fortunate that many of my teachers taught from this point of view (especially my beloved Luigi), and I strive to cultivate this quality in my students. Sadly, I feel like a dinosaur, as no one really seems to be teaching this way any more, and fewer and fewer people are valuing anything past a high leg, exciting jump or technically strong pirouettes.

One of my colleagues commented that artistry and technique were one and the same thing. I do not agree that technique and artistry the same thing; although I believe that for the final result to be what we all would recognize as a truly beautiful and artistic performance, technique and artistry must be taught simultaneously. A wonderful Vaganova trained pedagogue once explained to me how artistry is taught in the Vaganova method by gradually adding layers of nuance in epaulment, head positions, eye positions, etc. as the student progresses through the levels. This teacher is extremely gifted and knowledgeable, and the result that comes out of the Vaganova Academy is certainly impressive, but on this point I disagree.

Head positions, eye positions and epaulment are just more technique. I believe artistry is more about quality of movement, musicality and an inexplicable energy, emotion and life that comes from the deepest part of the dancer; and this must be cultivated right from the beginning. Luigi said: “To dance, put your hand in your heart and listen to the sound of your soul.”. Doris Humphrey so famously said “Dance from the inside.” and her teaching and philosophy resonate throughout Luigi’s work, and consequently throughout my teaching. I implore my students to feel everything BEFORE they do it. I encourage them to dance from a very deep place; to let the music inside their body and have it inform the movement. I encourage them to feel the space around them and resist against that space. I teach them to search for connections in the body. Every moment must be alive and the body must move on the inside, even when it is still on the outside, and even when executing something as simple as a tendu or a demi plié. Very few students will fully embrace this way of working, very few students will fully understand the need for this depth of work and consequently the truly great artists are slowly disappearing as more and more dancers and choreographers are searching for more impressive things to bring to the stage. Audiences may be impressed by these technical feats; but audiences don’t remember what you do, they remember how you make them feel.

Why I Tell the Story

On a stormy day in 1946 a 21 year old aspiring dancer, Eugene Louis Faccuito, was on his way to buy ballet slippers. A devastating car accident left him with a crushed skull, a paralyzed body and a broken dream. But after waking up from a coma and being told by his doctors that he would never walk again, he realized that conventional physical therapy was not going to work. He could feel that the movement had to come from the inside. He discovered that he could press down on the space, using the space for support like an imaginary barre, and slowly begin to regain the use of his paralyzed limbs and find his alignment and placement. He also realized that he could use epaulment to give his body balance and direction to move through space and gradually and methodically he built a masterful technique and a stunning personal style. He was hired by the legendary Gene Kelly to dance in his film On the Town and it was on the set of this film that Faccuito began teaching the other dancers in the ensemble. Gene Kelly renamed Eugene Louis Faccuito LUIGI, and so was born the technique that forever changed the way dance was taught.

Every time I teach Luigi’s technique to a new group of students I tell this story. And as the years roll by, fewer and fewer students know the name Luigi or have knowledge of the origins of this technique. And with each passing decade, fewer and fewer teachers and program directors are familiar with this story and the technique’s relevance and place in history. The retelling of the story has taken on, for me, ever more importance.

Now, as I relate this story to a new group of students (except at the highest level conservatory level) I am most often met with blank stares. I am met with impatience as the dancers want to learn new choreography and I am met with disengaged students who are practicing pirouettes and splits. But still, I tell the story.

Recently I faced a very large group of rather beginner level 12-14 year olds in a summer intensive. I asked, as I always do: “Has anyone ever heard of Luigi?” And a tentative hand went up. “Where did you hear about him?” I asked. “I read his name somewhere on the internet and so I decided to Google him” replied the student. I asked the student to share what she had learned and she began to tell the story of this tragic accident that gave rise to a legendary teacher. I filled in the missing details and this group of students was spellbound. They had so many questions and were so moved and touched by the discussion that I was almost unable to start class. Perhaps it was because one of their peers began the discussion, perhaps it was because they were in a particularly receptive mood or perhaps this was simply a group with interested open minds, but this story had a profound impact.

Luigi technique is not simple and it is not easy. Doing it well takes years of study. Teaching it well takes a lifetime of study. And it is a slow and painstaking way of working that few seem to have the patience for today. But these beginners, who were probably expecting their Jazz class to be fun and “sassy”, fully committed to the work at hand. For the remainder of this class these beginners studied like professionals; with full commitment to the work, probing and thoughtful questions and a spirit of exploration that made my heart sing. If only my beloved Luigi was alive to see them. He adored beginners. He was my first teacher and his commitment to the training of beginners gave me my life.

I have said so often that this technique has been responsible for some of the most beautiful, interesting and unique dancers the stage has ever seen. Luigi once told me “I don’t train chorus dancers, I make stars”. And so I will continue to tell this story, and teach this technique, because it is too important not to survive.

Luigi is famous for having said many things:

“Learn to feel your technique and your technique will become your feelings.”
“To dance, put your hand on your heart and listen to the sound of your soul.”

And of course:

“Never stop moving.”

But there is another phrase that all Jazz teachers seem to use, that Luigi used first. A phrase that is inextricable from Jazz. A phrase that forever impacted Jazz and dance as a whole:

“a 5, 6, 7, 8!”

Joy Womack: The White Swan, a film review

On July 19, 2021, Joy Womack: The White Swan was released digitally in the UK. This searing documentary pulls back the curtain and gives us a glimpse of a rarely seen slice of the ballet world; the inner workings of the legendary Bolshoi Ballet and the lesser known Kremlin Ballet through the eyes of the American born Ballerina, Joy Womack.

Womack left her home in Texas at the age of 15 to train at the revered Moscow State Academy of Choreography (Bolshoi Ballet Academy). After graduating with the highest possible grades she was invited to join the Bolshoi Ballet Company with the promise of soloist roles. Coming up against prejudice and corruption, the film chronicles Ms. Womack’s journey through her training, grueling regimen, fierce dedication, relationships, marriage, injuries, disappointments and triumphs. 

Visually stunning and dramatically engrossing, this film doesn’t just tell Ms. Womack’s story. It brings the viewer along for an unforgettable ride from the optimistic beginnings through corruption and despair to the eventual triumph of one ballerina’s unique and fascinating story. 

Joy Womack: The White Swan is out now in the UK on digital platforms

view the trailer here:

Teaching Jazz Technique

I recently re-posted an old blog article on social media; the topic was “Teaching the Luigi Jazz Technique” The post spurred a number of comments by readers; but this comment by Annemarie Drake caught my attention:

“Bravo! I am so frustrated by the lack of technical training in modern and jazz in today’s studios. In the comp studio where I currently teach  they only have a ‘technique’ class which amounts to conditioning and tricks.  Fortunately they have a strong ballet program (compulsory),  but only learn dances, not technique in jazz and contemporary.”

Dance education, like everything, grows, evolves and changes and I am fully aware that in some respects, I am trapped in a past that no longer exists. Many of the younger teachers and administrators working today (including some that I have worked under) do not realize or understand that the Jazz in which I was trained has a technique unto itself. 

A strong ballet technique (which is extremely important for most (not all) western/European concert dance traditions) will not fully prepare dancers for Jazz. I have taught Luigi Jazz technique to many ballet conservatory programs and some ballet companies. These dancers do NOT look like Jazz dancers when they begin, because they simply do not understand Jazz technique. Jazz is much more than steps and choreography. It’s style and technique must be STUDIED if the dancers are truly going to inhabit this idiom.

When I refer to Jazz Technique, I am not really referring to isolations, progressions, or a particular set of port de bras, pirouette preparations or parallel tendus (although these are certainly part of Jazz). These are typically taught in a cursory fashion, never digging down to the depth of what Jazz truly is. The Jazz technique to which I am referring is much more about the “How” than the “What”. I am teaching how the shoulders work, how epaulment is used,  how the arms are connected to the back, how the rib cage is held, how the spine is lengthened while the top of the chest and shoulders and back pull down, how the oblique muscles are activated, how the hips are pulled up, how the thighs are pulled up, how the turn out continues up into the hips and helps them “pin back” while the glutes are activated, how plié is used, and how the entire body is worked as a unit. I am teaching about feelings of opposition with respect the the epaulment, plié, and how the body reacts to gravity. I am teaching about the resistance against the space. I am teaching about creating a palate of movement qualities. I am teaching about phrasing and musicality. I am teaching about line, energy and finding the movement within the shape. I am teaching about style. I am teaching Jazz. 

And so, trapped in the past, a past where Cyd Charrise stabbed the air with her endless legs, a past where Bob Fosse hunched over, cocked his hat over one eye and turned in his feet, a past where Gwen Verdon and Chita Rivera exploded across the stage, I continue to search. I am searching for just the right word or phrase to explain how this work is done, taught, and passed on to the next generation. And I am searching for just the right word or phrase to explain why. Because this work is disappearing. And because the loss of this piece of our artistic heritage would be a tragedy beyond measure.

“Never stop moving” – Luigi

Trash the Trophies, How to Win Without Losing Your Soul – book review

In Chasta Hamilton’s book, Trash the Trophies, How to Win Without Losing Your Soul, Ms. Hamilton explores the world of competitive dance, the reasons why she decided to leave the competitive arena, and how she created for her students an even more successful, totally new, non-competitive dance experience.

In the first sections of her book, Ms. Hamilton explores the competition arena; painting a vivid picture of this world as she saw it; clearly laying out how, in her opinion, the industry seduces competitors into signing on for more and more competitions, and what they do to keep their customers happy. She describes her experiences, her students’ experiences, their families’ experiences and discusses what was for her, a turning point:

“My motivator moment happened when competitions started giving ‘kindness’ awards.”

She decided to leave the competition arena and reformat her studio to focus on the art of teaching dance while affording her students first rate training and as many performance opportunities as possible. What follows is nothing less than brilliant; her plan to transition out of competition dance, maintain the success of her studio, and grow her business, without participating in competitions. 

Ms. Hamilton’s writing style vibrates with energy; the reader can feel her excitement as she brings the reader along on her journey. This book is a joy to read.

Trash the Trophies is an impassioned look at the dance studio industry and a triumphal ode to the art of teaching in dance; not as a means to garner accolades and trophies but but as a means to teach art for art’s sake. It is a beautifully written must read for studio owners, teachers and dancers alike who yearn for something outside the competitive realm and serves as a model for any business owner on the precipice of a major change.

I Took Class, ON ZOOM!

Last week I took class, for the very first time, on zoom. When the pandemic started and the world shut down, I had free access to Hamilton Dance; a beautiful studio in north Brooklyn. I had been teaching at Hamilton since the very beginning of my career, and Rita Hamilton (who tragically passed so young this year) gave me free use of her studio. I taught all of my zoom classes for five different schools from this studio, and in this studio, I gave myself a daily class. I had been in the dance industry for more than three decades. I had taught scores of dancers at every level. If I wasn’t going to be taking class live in a studio, why would I take class on zoom? If I was going to be by myself anyway, why not just give myself class? And that’s just what I did. Day after day I spent a full hour at the barre, I did all 42 minutes of Luigi’s beautiful technique exercises, I did a short centre practice and worked on a jazz combination. Every day, of every week; month, after month, after month.

But some months after Rita’s passing the studio closed its doors for good, and I lost my home. It is impossible to dance in my tiny New York apartment and my daily class started to dwindle down to a couple of times a week, when I could find some empty studio time at one of the schools at which I was teaching.

When I was first made aware of social media I was very reluctant to join. It actually seemed pointless to me. But at my sister’s insistence, I joined Facebook and Facebook became a great way to find and reconnect with old friends. But as the years rolled on, I became aware of Facebook groups, and started networking with colleagues all over the world. And I made friends. Actual friends. Some of whom I have met in person, others I know only through the virtual reality of the internet.

One of these friends is Pallas Śridevi, a ballet teacher with an impressive education linking directly back to Balanchine and an even more impressive and eclectic performing career. We have spent quite a bit of time messaging on line, talking of the phone and visiting on zoom. And although we have never actually met face to face, I am truly honored to count her among my colleagues and friends. Although our training was quite different, our philosophies of teaching are quite similar and I discovered through our conversations that she has an incredible depth of knowledge in, and passion for, the art of ballet.

Pallas had suggested several times that I take her ballet class on zoom. Now, to be perfectly honest, I was quite resistant. Why would I take someone’s class on zoom when I could just give myself class on my own? And why bother trying to find an affordable studio space at the precise time that she was teaching when I could just do class alone, right before or right after one of my regular classes that I teach?

Why? Because I might actually learn something. And so I signed on to one of Pallas’s classes. Firstly, the class is brilliant; a full barre and a “short centre” that gets everything done with incredible economy. Her class made me really examine what I was doing when teaching on zoom. I was feeling the need to “pack in” as much as possible into the time allotted; always feeling like I was racing the clock. Pallas’s class brilliantly gets everything done in a clear, concise and economical format that never feels rushed. She is breezy and relaxed, making everyone feel welcome, all the while imparting first rate teaching. Her exercises are inventive, musical, artistic and challenging and her keen eye saw even the smallest details that required correcting. When I give myself class I will often make tiny discoveries, but when I study with another teacher (the right teacher) I often realize how much I still have to learn. I learned so much from her in those 75 minutes.

After dancing alone in a studio for more than a year, I had forgotten something that is so fundamental about dance training; it is something that we do for ourselves, in a very profoundly intimate way; yet we do it together, as a community. And what I didn’t realize, was that I was missing that community. For centuries, ballet students have come together, placed their left hand on the barre, and lived through the daily ritual of class. Together. Tomorrow, as some studios are now open in New York, I will be taking my first live class since the beginning of the pandemic. But I have Pallas Śridevi, and her exquisite teaching to thank for reminding me of the importance of our community. I have Pallas to thank for opening her heart and reaching out across an ocean, to teach me this important lesson. I am honored and touched to have been so warmly welcomed into her ballet community. Her class is a treasure.

Unfairness in Competition Judging

I came upon an online discussion focusing on unfair and biased judging in the dance competition industry; it’s participants enumerating the best strategies for handling this practice of unfair judging. There were many suggestions, including emailing one’s feelings directly to the competition, explaining to parents that the reason their child didn’t win was due to judges’ biased decisions, and explaining to the children that they did indeed perform better than the judges’ evaluations suggested. As most of my readers know, I’m not really part of the competition segment of our industry, but as I read this discussion I thought: “What part of the dance industry at large (or any aspect of the arts) is actually fair?” I think that the appearance of biased judging can actually be good teaching moment for the dancers; not necessarily a teaching moment about dance, but about life. By making complaints to competitions, discussing the “unfairness” with the parents and telling the dancers that they were better than the judging suggested, and that they should have won, is not preparing them for the professional dance industry or adult life in general.

Early in my career I applied to choreograph a national tour of the Rodgers and Hammerstein Review “Some Enchanted Evening”. I submitted a video (a VHS tape, this was a long time ago). I was called in for an interview. I traveled in a snow storm to go to the interview (which went very well) and I was offered the job. I was told to expect a contract shortly. Did I get a contract? No. I got a message on my answering machine explaining that although they felt my work was superior, they would be hiring the producer’s brother in law, and they were sorry. (At least they were honest). Was that fair? That is this industry.

I didn’t lose a trophy that day. I lost a JOB; a job that once on my resume could have changed the course of my entire career. And so I moved on.

My experience teaching college and conservatory students today is that they are unable to accept any unfairness or disappointment. I think we need to use these moments to teach them how the world actually works and how to accept things that are unfair and out of our control.

Too harsh?

“I Was Taught That…“, The WHY Behind the WHAT

As teachers, we often discuss what and how we teach. We have these discussions in faculty rooms, we have these discussions on the telephone and now, more than ever, we have these discussions on the internet. A question might be posed, or a topic is brought up, and we will very often begin our thoughts with “I was taught that…”.

I have always believed that there is something very special about the way our art form is passed down from teacher to student. The real truth of the work is not kept In a book or on a video, it is kept in our bodies and in our hearts. And we pass this work, from teacher to student, for generations. I believe that all dance teachers are part of a distinguished line of teaching and I have always felt extremely fortunate and honored that I was trained by Luigi and can trace my ballet lineage directly to Cecchetti and Vaganova.

Recently I found myself embroiled in a discussion on grand plié in fourth position. Each of the participants explained what they had been taught about grand plié in fourth. Many explained when, and under what circumstances they used grand plié in fourth. Many expressed concerns about injury risks related to grand plié in fourth. But almost nobody explained or discussed WHY they taught it. Few seemed to have a reason that went deeper than “I was taught that…”.
I have already written an article on the different paths to becoming a dance teacher ( Regardless of the path that we take to this career, I believe that it is incumbent on all of us to examine the “why”. Even with extensive pedagogical training, the exploration of the “why” will enrich what we bring to the classroom.

As I look back on the teaching I received from the great teachers under whom I studied, I realize that none of these teachers, even those with extensive pedagogical knowledge, relied solely on what they had been taught. Each of them deeply examined what they taught and why they taught it. And often what they taught was fluid, and changed over time, as that examination of the work grew deeper year by year. Even Gabriella Darvash told me recently that what she taught and how she taught drastically changed since the time when I was her student. And along with this ever changing approach comes a realization that what is “correct” also has some fluidity. I am constantly surprised by the number of teachers who are very quick to exclaim “that is wrong!” when faced with something they have never seen before; simply because it is not how they were taught. I think, in this respect, we have a responsibility to keep an open mind. I have had so many thrilling  “ah ha!” moments since my days with Madame Darvash, when teachers presented different ideas to which I was at first resistant. Deeper exploration of these ideas changed me as a teacher, helped me grow my knowledge and understanding and greatly benefitted my students. I realized that to have a deep understanding, and a real understanding of HOW technique works, one must explore and analyze the work of many great teachers. It is nearly impossible to learn it all from one source.

Recently, a colleague remarked to me that she felt that I was irresponsible. She believes that teaching ballet experientially was doing my students a great disservice. She believes that the only way to effectively train a dancer is to undergo some sort of codified teacher training and then, essentially, regurgitate this teaching method to the students. Codified methods work. They produce results. The Luigi technique is a codified Jazz method in which I was trained and I now teach. But if I simply parroted to my students, exactly what Luigi said, without examining how and why it worked, THAT would be, in my opinion, irresponsible. No great teacher has ever worked in that manner.

Every day I go into the studio. Every day I bring with me the work of the great teachers with whom I was fortunate to study: Gabriella Darvash, David Howard, Elena Kunikova, Lisa Lockwood, Zvi Gotheiner, Diane Bryan (the finest adult beginner ballet teacher I’ve ever encountered), David Storey, Richard Pierlon and of course the legendary Luigi. And every day I look at the work, I examine how it feels and I analyze what each step, exercise and component brings to the training. I try to see what enriches the work and above all, how I can bring both technique and artistry to to the student. I will never have the knowledge, insight or instincts of a Luigi or a Madame Darvash because that level of genius is very rare. But what I did learn from them is the importance of examining the work and the exploration of the “why”.

THAT is what I was taught.

Teaching the Resistant Student

As most of my readers know, I started my dance training at Luigi’s Jazz Centre, studying this revolutionary technique under the master himself. And although my focus switched to ballet after my first two years of training, I continued taking regular Luigi technique classes throughout my entire career. Luigi, himself, certified me to teach his work and this certification has opened many doors. 

When I started my training with Luigi I had a deep love and admiration for the great movie musicals of the 1940’s and 1950’s. Studying with Luigi was, for me, a direct connection to the brilliant dancing of Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, and Cyd Charisse  with whom he had worked. This also was the training method that was responsible for so many of the great Broadway legends such as Donna McKechnie, Ben Vereen and Liza Minnelli. This was the dancing that I loved and this was what I wanted to study. What I didn’t fully realize at the time was that this technique was unlike  the other Jazz classes in New York. This technique has an approach to style, musicality, line, epaulment and quality of movement that is unique and, consequently, it produces a result that is unique. My training under Luigi was responsible for my career, both as a performer and a teacher and the importance of this work in my life is immeasurable. 

Now, more than three decades later, I am charged with passing on this work to the next generation of dancers and often I am met with resistance. These classes are not like the Jazz classes to which today’s dancers  are accustomed. There is a detailed and painstaking breakdown of the technique exercises. There is a demand for a precise use of epaulment and nuanced quality of movement. There is a complex approach to musicality, rhythm and timing. And there is not a lot of flash. The work is hard, the music is complex and unfamiliar and the choreographic style is foreign. And this year I had one particularly challenging group. They found the work exceedingly difficult. And they did not like it. There was eye rolling, thinly veiled looks of disdain and a lot of frustration. I implored them to be patient, to work slowly (as I had done) and to search for the results. I tried to explain that this is not just a technique designed to produce good alignment, clean lines, high legs and dependable turns. This is a technique that builds style. This is a technique the nurtures artistry. This is a technique that brings LIFE to the steps and MAGIC to the stage. As Luigi often said to me “I don’t train chorus dancers, I make STARS. But class after class I was met with blank stares.

This week, as I soldiered on through this class, using every trick I could think of to engage these students, I referenced Fred Astaire. And their eyes were vacant. So I asked: “Who has never seen Fred Astaire dance?”. Every single hand went up. No one in this class had ever seen Fred Astaire dance. And at that moment I realized that I had completely forgotten something extremely important: their experience was nothing like mine. They had no reference for this work.  Not only had they never seen Fred Astaire, they never had even heard of a Gene Kelly, Cyd Charisse, Donna McKechnie or Ben Vereen.

So, we spent the rest of that class watching videos. We watched Astaire partner a hat rack and bring it to life in Royal Wedding, we watched Gene Kelly partner the stunning Cyd Charrise in Singing in the Rain, and we watched Luigi tear up the floor in the ensemble of White Christmas. And much to my surprise they were mesmerized. These films are more than 60 years old and quite frankly I expected to receive the same dismissive attitude that I had been receiving all year. But it was as if the light was finally turned on. And much to my relief, they saw the greatness in this work. They saw the artistry In this  work and they saw the magic; a kind of magic that is all but gone from our industry.  

When I walked into the studio for our next class it was as if I was facing a completely different group of students. And after months of explaining, begging and cajoling, they finally started to work; the way I had worked and all of the great dancers that came before me.

I am not so naive as to think that the next time I’m facing challenging students, an old MGM video will solve all my problems. But I did learn a lesson here. This group’s problem stemmed from a lack of reference; and I failed to realize that. I learned that part of being an effective educator is searching for the solutions to just these kinds of problems. Sometimes I will find the answers (as I did this time) and sometimes I won’t. But I will never stop trying. 

Luigi once said to me: “You are not the best dancer I’ve ever taught, but you have a deeper understanding of this work than anyone that I’ve ever taught.”. That understanding and this work are gifts that have given me my life’s work. And bringing these gifts to the next generation of dancers is what I do. Now, in addition to teaching the “what” and the “how” of this work, I am having to teach the “why”. Making this work relevant to today’s artists is essential to its survival. And as far as I’m concerned it must survive for generations to come.