Part II: Taking Care of Yourself Whether you’re used to teaching three classes per day or three per week, getting through a summer study course with your body and health intact is not easy.
SUZI TAYLOR New York City Dance Alliance
"The summer intensive adds more classes on top of my other classes. Plus, it can be a lot more work physically for me to get what I want out of new students—my normal classes have regular students who know me.
"What I find happens most often during the summer is that I get incredibly sore from dancing on different floors or early in the morning. If my schedule allows it, I try to give myself a barre before I teach. It’s hard to take care of yourself though while you’re teaching. You work a lot on one side, or you start something and don’t finish it because you’re walking around correcting. That’s why aftercare—when you’ve finished teaching—is really important. I cool down by stretching, and hot baths have saved my life over the years. I take them in the morning before I go, or at night when I get back, because my muscles need it!"
CATHY YOUNG Bates Dance Festival
"I’m the kind of teacher who likes to dance fully with my students, so that means that I need to be warmed up before I teach. Typically I spend about two hours getting ready.
"It sounds obvious, but I try to sleep well while I’m at Bates. If you talk to a serious college- or pro-level athlete, they’ll tell you that their coaches are talking to them constantly about getting enough sleep.
"One of the challenges of our field is that it’s so youth-driven. The irony is that the longer you’ve been dancing, the more you have to offer as a teacher, but our bodies are getting older. For a lot of teachers, I think there’s a challenge of wanting to appear in the same place physically as when you were 20. Our students are looking to our bodies and our physicality for information."
VICTORIA SCHNEIDER The Harid Conservatory
"One summer a few years back, I tore my hamstring teaching. It was a freak accident that occurred while I was showing how to run correctly across the floor. For five months I was in physical therapy. I never missed a day of class, but I had to adjust my teaching style. I had to learn to teach using only descriptions of what I wanted the students to do. Showing them what to do is easiest, but sometimes it’s good for them to hear what you’re saying.
"But there is a link between my ability to teach and my connection to the physicality of the music. If I can’t physically feel the music, it’s harder for me to get the kids to move musically. If I couldn’t show a step effectively, I wouldn’t show it."
PASCALE LEROY San Francisco Ballet School
"The best thing I can do in the few weeks between the school year and the summer session is rest—take time to stretch without having to do any technical movements. I try to take all the difficulties of the end of the year off my mind—the spring performance, who to promote and not to promote. I think back to just technique, the real thing.
"Sometimes when teaching, you have to remind yourself to demonstrate on both sides, because you are usually more comfortable on one side. And allow the students to demonstrate, too. Sometimes they can relate more to watching another child, a young body, doing the steps. When they see someone close to them do it, they can also see that it can be done. You can combine you showing them and other students demonstrating, depending on how much you are hurting."
ROBERT BIANCA American Theater Dance Summer Workshop
"I’ve always been someone who tries to eat healthy and stay in shape. I’m not as diligent in making sure I’m at perfect weight as I was when I was dancing, and I maintain myself a little differently than when I was dancing—I go to the gym more and take yoga more than taking dance classes. But the key to maintaining your health is just to be in a good space as a human being. I’ve learned over the years it’s about relaxing and allowing myself to be healthy in a more consistent way, rather than setting all these intensified goals."
Photo: Pacific Northwest Ballet School principal Abbie Siegel (courtesy of PNB School)