Prep School

Nestled in a historic building that was once a Catholic school (now featuring eight dance studios and a full-service production studio), near the idyllic Finger Lakes in Auburn, New York, the New York Institute of Dance and Education is molding dance teachers into “triple-threat” educators. A unique, two-year certification program—focusing on business administration, dance education and performance—trains teachers in all aspects of the industry, from running a studio or company to landing teaching jobs.

NYIDE’s teacher-training program came into being nearly 20 years ago, after President and Director Sean McLeod, then a recent graduate of the Conservatory of Dance at Purchase College, experienced career-changing inspiration while studying with Broadway Dance Center founder Richard Ellner in New York City. “Richard gave in a way that was extraordinary, never with the slightest hint that he wanted something back,” says choreographer and lecturer McLeod, who has taught at Purchase and Howard University, among many others. “We don’t refer to people as students, but as clients, as a reminder that we work for them, and they don’t work for us. That’s a premise we promote, and we have watched it create opportunities for accomplishment in dancers and educators.”

A day-in-the-life of a certification-program client begins with business training. Taking class lessons into the field, teachers shadow NYIDE staff to learn how to write proposals, do cold-call marketing, set up training sessions, book events, seek out corporate funding, trademark creative ideas and understand logistics, among others. “Teachers have to understand a corporate vocabulary to get past ‘hello’ when it comes to true funding,” says McLeod.

The daily schedule continues with technique and training classes, followed by rehearsals for the NYIDE modern dance company, Kaleidoscope Dance Theatre. Clients also have the opportunity to perform with KDT. For those who wish to teach, the course of study teaches how to make corrections and adjustments, use McLeod’s trademark kinesthetic methodology (Reinforced Motor Function), work with parents and understand basic principles of child development.

“If you pay attention and truly absorb everything there is to offer, you will leave this program knowing all you need to start and operate a business of your own,” says former graduate Jerami Kipp, a SUNY Purchase dance major and NYIDE American Master Class Tour instructor.

Those unable to relocate to upstate New York may opt for a customized distance-learning program. This can include a mix of master classes, telephone sessions, online classes and/or DVD lessons. Another option is to attend the two-week teacher-training intensive during the annual New York Dance Festival, held every July in the Finger Lakes region. Teachers can also receive training at NYIDE’s two affiliate schools: the Landing Dance Center in Vancouver, British Columbia, and Dance4Life Training Institute in Wilmington, Delaware.

Dance teacher Carol Bryan, a former American Ballet Theatre dancer, booked private career consultations with McLeod instead of going to the school to broaden her teaching and business skills. She credits the sessions for expanding her teaching ability and public presence, which led to speaking opportunities with NYIDE. Bryan now freelances at schools throughout Connecticut and Westchester, NY, and she produces an annual dance festival called DanceFest. “McLeod opened my mind and my eyes to a broader spectrum of teaching and of education in dance,” says Bryan.

“It’s not enough just to be a teacher,” says McLeod. “Your job is to work so hard at constantly expanding your information base that students will always want to come back to you. That is what the future dance teacher must evolve into if our profession is going to survive this tumultuous economic time.” For more information, visit www.nyide.com.

Want to know more?

Here, Director Sean McLeod shares a few examples of advice you’ll hear as a client of The New York Institute of Dance and Education:

  • Be willing to make mistakes. When the teacher is the person most accepting of failure, then students will follow.

  • Realize that your responsibility is to help students achieve their wants. If you put them on their desired track to be a professional dancer and they stop trying, don’t get angry. Simply recalibrate what they require of you.

  • Collaborate; don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Find someone who has what you need, then offer them something you have and work together.

  • Go beyond your comfort zone. Is there a teacher or studio you dislike? Make it a goal to figure out how to work with them—you just might learn something.

  • A great teacher’s job is to relieve students of the sense that they would be “less than” if they leave your studio. It’s their duty to grow beyond your walls.

  • Practice “industry elevation.” Success is defined by how many people you carry along the way. When you share knowledge with others, or help them on your road to success, the dance industry will elevate as a whole.

  • The best way to tell if someone knows something is to watch them teach it. If you cannot first explain it, you cannot teach it.

Lee Erica Elder is a freelance writer based in New York City.

Photo by Brian Morey, courtesy of New York Institute of Dance and Education

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