Dance Teacher Tips
Photo by Bruce Zinger

In fond memory of a legendary teacher, we wanted to revive some timeless wisdom David Howard shared with us back in 2001.

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Actress Mary Tyler Moore passed away yesterday in Greenwich, Connecticut, at age 80. Known for her starring roles on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" in the '70s and "The Dick Van Dyke Show" in the '60s, Moore helped create a positive image of the 20th-century career woman.

But did you know that she was a dancer, too?

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As a principal dancer with the Harkness Ballet in the 1960s, master teacher Finis Jhung refined his technique under the tutelage of legendary ballet teacher David Howard.

“When we performed, he would take notes. After the show he'd give little tips like, 'When you do your double tour, pull back a little to the left.' I felt so good about going onstage because he made sure I was using my body correctly. When I finally retired in '69, I didn't have any regrets. With all that information and feedback from him, I was dancing at a high level."

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Photo by Kyle Froman, courtesy of The Ailey School

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David Howard on the January 2001 cover

David Howard's passing has dealt an emotional blow to the dance world, particularly to his many students and fellow staff members at New York City's Steps on Broadway. "We are bereft," says Steps' co-artistic managing director Diane Grumet. "A tremendous loss to the dance world, a tremendous gift to the world while he was with us."

Howard's Facebook fan page, where he signed a 2012 Christmas post from "Uncle David," is overflowing with dancers' comments and photos of the teacher who shaped countless lives during his career. Among his most well-known students are Natalia Makarova, Mikhail Baryshnikov and, of course, Gelsey Kirkland. In January 2001 DT, Howard shared how he worked closely with the feisty Kirkland to "completely retrain" her. “She was fabulous because she would say, ‘I want to do it my way, not their way,’" he said. "She was a rebel, but because of her talent she could get away with it.”

Do you have a story or a memory of David Howard you'd like to share? Comment below, or e-mail editor Kristin Schwab, kschwab@dancemedia.com.

Cover photo by Paul B. Goode

Natalia Markarova, center, in Howard's class. Photo by Victor Deliso, courtesy of Dance Magazine archives.

“I've always liked to question things," says renowned ballet teacher and coach David Howard. His success in training dancers, from adult beginners to seasoned ballerinas, is proof that Howard is asking the right questions. Never one to rest on his laurels, the master educator is also a tireless student of dance pedagogy. His teaching philosophy focuses on a scientific approach to movement, incorporating anatomy and kinesiology as well as movement dynamics and musicality.

He doesn't hesitate to challenge the sanctity of the centuries-old traditions of ballet training: “I have to prove every day that I can do what I do, and then I have to reevaluate—is it working or isn't it? Do the students look better?"

In the five years since he has closed his school, the David Howard Dance Center, Howard has not skipped a beat. He has taught in England, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Japan and Mexico, in addition to maintaining a busy teaching schedule in New York City at Broadway Dance Center, Steps on Broadway and at the Joffrey/New School University BFA program.

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