Eric Coudron understands firsthand the hurdles competition dancers face when falling in love with ballet. Now the director of ballet at Prodigy Dance and Performing Arts Centre in Frisco, Texas, Coudron trained as a competition dancer when he was growing up. "It's such a structured form of dance that when they come back to it after all of the other styles they are training in, they don't feel at home at the barre," he says.
After studying musical theater and dance in college, he performed with Bruce Wood Dance Project, a contemporary and modern dance company based in Dallas, Texas. After three years as a dancer and one as a company ballet teacher, he transitioned into the role of rehearsal director, a title he still holds. He uses his love for the stability of ballet—which he discovered over the course of his dance lifetime—to inspire his competition students. "Even just last week I had a conversation with my dancers about loving ballet," he says. "Whether they want to be a professional ballet dancer or not, it doesn't matter. It's the discipline and repetition that should feel comforting."
One way he develops passion in his students is by keeping class fun and inclusive. "I want to enjoy class with them," he says. "I probably wouldn't have liked ballet if I had had crazy-strict teachers, so I try to keep things happy and lighthearted. Ballet is for everyone. There are facilities and bodies that it works better for than others, but that shouldn't get in the way of everyone participating. It doesn't have to be perfect."
His advice for other ballet teachers in a competition studio setting? Go all in. "Push for YAGP; push for that extra ballet number; push for longer classes; push for the kind of shoes you want," he says. "You might not get everything, and it's important that you are kind and respectful as you do it, but you do need to assert yourself. What you are doing is important and valid. It never goes away."
WAKE-UP CALL "Black coffee. No sugar and no milk added, just a little bitterness in the morning to get me going."
FAVORITE FOOTWEAR "I always teach in Nikes. I especially like the Nike Flex RN. They have an extension in the shoe that allows the sole to bend so I can do relevés or tendus in them. I also like to wear Nike slides. People make fun of me for them, but I love that I can quickly take my shoe off to demonstrate, and then easily put it back on after."
MUST-WATCH INSPIRATION "I encourage my dancers to watch variations from previous generations on YouTube. When they're at home and bored, I want them to look up footage from the 1990s or the 1970s or whenever. I want them to observe how dance has changed. I want them to see the details, and what the piece should look like. Kids are such visual learners these days. It's great to see them have epiphanies when they watch old footage."
GO-TO DE-STRESSER "I like to lie on the couch and cuddle with my dog after a long day of teaching. I also like to take her to the dog park to play fetch. She is the best!"