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4 Takeaways From the 2017 Dance Teacher Summit—From a First-timer

Joe Tremaine teaching at this year's DT Summit. Photo courtesy of Break the Floor Productions

The last time I attended a dance convention, I was a teenager. Exhausted from the long days of classes and nights of competitions, come Sunday, I was in a blissful daze. While attending the Dance Teacher Summit this past weekend, I was pleasantly reminded of how magical these experiences can be—and how important the role of a dance teacher really is in a student's life. From the kick-off seminar on Thursday all the way through Sunday's final panel, the enthusiasm was palpable and contagious. Here are my main takeaways.


Teachers Want to Be Inspired, Too

Just like the students they train, dance teachers need a refresh. When I was young, I didn't think dance teachers, who were my idols, needed a boost in the creativity department. Au contraire, younger self. The Summit schedule was packed with information and tools to reinvigorate teachers, like: remedies for the mid-season blues offered by Gregg Russell; Denise Wall's exercises for nailing balance; and Becca Moore and Dani Rosenberg's seminar on sparking creativity. Another source of inspiration came from Mark Meismer, who led a Doug Caldwell tribute class. Needless to say, the room was flooded with emotion. Caldwell, who passed away last year, influenced many dancers and teachers, and it was truly touching to see his style come back to life.


Everything Old Is New Again

A common theme buzzing throughout the weekend was how eager teachers are to come back to the history and the basics. "We need to remind and teach students that dance started long before 'So You Think You Can Dance,'" said Joanne Chapman at the final panel. My first dance teacher was a Bob Fosse enthusiast, and thanks to my mom, I knew who Gene Kelly was before I could practically walk. So it's easy to take for granted how embedded dance history was in my bones.

Although contemporary is the style du jour, this year's Summit highlighted jazz dance. Some argue that the style is on the outs, but with Tina Caspary's class, Joe Tremaine's electric appearance, Nan Giordano and Jackie Sleight, who taught a throwback class, it's fair to say jazz is alive and well.


"Dance training is life training."

At the Capezio A.C.E. Awards show on Saturday night, the legendary Joe Tremaine was presented with DT's Award of Distinction. In his poignant and lively speech, he emphasized the impact of a dance education. "Dance training is life training," he said. You could feel the room swell with affirmation at this statement because it's so, so true. "Stick with your home studio," Tremaine went on to say. "Trust your teacher, and when they correct you, listen, because they are trying to make you better!" The packed room practically erupted.

Similar points—the importance of teaching basic skills like counting, spacial awareness and communication—were also touched upon in choreographer Mandy Moore's seminar on training a working dancer. When I was a teenager dancing in a crowded convention ballroom, who knew something as simple as being conscious of the dancers around me would come in handy in everyday life (aka spatial awareness)?!

It Takes a Village to Raise a Dancer

With an icon like Joe Tremaine present, the connective tissue he's created through the generations put into perspective the powerful influence dance teachers possess. As discussed in the final panel, many attendees expressed how much they enjoyed learning from each other. Summit ambassadors and separate studio owners in Canada, Joanne Chapman and Sean Boutilier gushed about how much they confided in one another, especially while at competitions, so their students can see. I remember as a kid seeing teachers being competitive with one another. But this weekend reemphasized how much stronger the dance community is when teachers—and students—come together. As Mandy Moore said in her seminar, "All teaching is sharing."

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