The 2009 Dance Teacher Awards: Teodoro Morca
Taos Academy of Dance Arts
Teodoro Morca spent 11 years performing flamenco professionally—sharing the stage with legends like José Greco and Pilar Lopez—before ever teaching a class. Then, one life-changing day in 1958, his instructor Martin Vargas asked him to fill in as a substitute teacher. Morca quickly discovered a new passion. Now, with a teaching career spanning more than 50 years, Morca is the first flamenco instructor to receive a Dance Teacher Award.
Morca, who will celebrate his 75th birthday this fall, currently instructs about 30 teens and adults at Taos Academy of Dance Arts in Taos, New Mexico, and another 14 students at the University of New Mexico–Taos. He’s outlined his distinctive teaching methods in two books and an instructional DVD, which emphasize complete training in the cultural history of flamenco music and dance, as well as the development of technique. This allows dancers to “look, feel and understand flamenco,” Morca says, adding that he first focuses on training the upper body. “If you have that, the footwork floats,” he says.
Part of Morca’s strength as a teacher comes from his outgoing personality and his ability to have his students “become the dance,” says Tamara Saj, artistic director of Cape Fear Arte Flamenco in North Carolina. She considers Morca her mentor. “After working with him regularly for years now, it’s like having an uncle with three lifetimes’ worth of amazing stories. His energy is palpable, his love for the art infectious and his appreciation of his students inspiring.”
In addition to teaching five days a week at the dance studio and taking ballet barre three times a week, Morca is currently planning his 25th Morca All-Flamenco Workshop and Fiesta, which will run August 3–8 at his studio. He started the workshop series in 1974 at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in an effort to introduce a wider range of people to flamenco, then little-known in America. Ted Shawn, founder of Jacob’s Pillow, called Morca a “superb artist and excellent teacher.” Today, the relocated workshop features conditioning, technique and repertoire classes with live guitar and singing accompaniment, as well as lectures, discussions and movies.
“I hope my students develop a respect for the artform as well as learning the technique,” Morca says. “When my students get better and grow in their dance, I feel fulfilled—they are a part of me.”
—Hannah Maria Hayes
Photo courtesy of Teodoro Morca