I attended The Juilliard School's annual "Juilliard Dances Repertory" spring concert on Wednesday evening; this year's performance featured repertory from choreographers "José Limón," Nacho Duato and Ohad Naharin.** When watching the dancers, it's entirely possible to forget they're still students. Their technique, maturity of movement, performance qualities—rival those of professional companies.
My first thought was, "Wow, these dancers are really great." And next, "Well, they do get really amazing training at Juilliard." But then it hit me: Students have to audition for Juilliard. Yes, Juilliard faculty members help students attain unparalelled levels of training and artistry; but there are a score of teachers back home.
So I'd also like to applaud the educators who laid the groundwork for the Juilliard dancers: The teachers who took the rolley-polley 3- and 4-year olds and molded them into pre-professional artists; the teachers who instilled the students' indefatigable work ethic; and the teachers who taught the kids to stay in line, hop with two feet and clap on the beat.
If you've read my Ballet Class Blogging series, you know I teach students ages 6–8. It's incredibly rewarding, their giggles and hugs at the end of class always negate the challenges and hair-tearing-out moments in the classroom. But the work is also nerve-wracking: Are they getting it? Am I inspiring a lifelong passion for dance? And my biggest anxiety: will my lessons transcend this class?
We all have memories of our first teachers, our second teachers and so on; but what's amazing is that many of their sayings and technical corrections stay with us forever. In Dance Teacher's e-newsletter, editor Kristin Schwab speaks with today's stars in ballet, modern, tap, hip-hop—you name it—and asks what they remember about their first teachers. Each issue, dancers pay tribute to those most influential, and we learn the lessons that have stayed with them throughout their careers.
If you don't already receive our e-newsletter, sign up here. (You also get a sneak peak of what's coming up next in the magazine and a leg up on the giveaways on our site—especially the DVD and ticket giveaways—don't miss out!)
Photo of Genevieve Custer Weeks of the Tutu School in San Francisco, CA, by Andrew Weeks
** (I put Limón's name in quotations because he never completed the work, The Waldstein Sonata, before he died in 1972, and Daniel Lewis "finished" the choreography and staged it for Juilliard in '76.)