A few years ago, Mary Ann Lamb got a phone call from Ann Reinking, who was choreographing a production of The Visit starring Chita Rivera. Lamb was thrilled when Reinking offered her the role of Young Claire without even asking for an audition. "And then she said, 'In the first act, you're going to play Chita Rivera when she's a 17-year-old virgin,'" Lamb says, "and I'm like, 'What am I gonna do? I'm like 50 years old!' I started panicking. My dream was to be in the room with Ann Reinking and Chita Rivera, but I was scared to death I was going to make a fool of myself."


Then she remembered an improv exercise she'd learned from an acting teacher back when she herself was a teenager. He'd asked his students to practice moving like the four elements—earth, fire, air, water. Back then, she thought the idea was silly, but now, years later, she found herself using the element of air as a starting point to get into the mind-set of a young girl, making her movement light and floaty. "It was one of the best performances I felt like I ever had," she says. "I pulled that out of my back pocket. Some messages or corrections that you are given don't sink in right away. They sink into your being when you are ready to hear them."

It's wisdom like this, along with a boundless energy and a constant willingness to learn, that have given Lamb a long career in musical theater. (Her Broadway credits include Fosse, Chicago, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and more). At 59, she continues to be sought out for her expertise, work ethic and a reputation for giving it her all, no matter what. During her 50s, Lamb also embraced a role she never expected to love. Teaching at conventions like Showstopper, at summer theater camps and with public school kids at Jacques d'Amboise's National Dance Institute (NDI) gave her the chance to share her many stories and experiences with young dancers.

Turn Challenges Into Gifts

Growing up, Lamb was considered hyperactive and struggled with severe dyslexia, which made reading a struggle. Dance was an outlet for her bursting energy and a place where things made sense. "There was something about dance class that I could walk into, and I could just feel the music," she says. She came to embrace the things that made her different, and to see her challenges as gifts that came with big advantages—not as disabilities. Because dyslexia made it difficult to tell right from left, "I ended up becoming very even as a dancer," she says. As for hyperactivity, it gave her the energy she needed to persist and succeed in the professional world. "We look at all of what's wrong with us all the time," she says. "Don't listen to those voices. Listen to the voices that encourage and love you and inspire you. And do the work."

When in Doubt, Go Back to Class

At 18, Lamb visited New York for the first time. She lasted only six months before moving back to Las Vegas. "I was too scared," she says. "I had voices in my head that did not help me. I had a producer who told me, 'You'll never make it to New York,' and I believed it for a while. But then I got inspired again. I went back to class." After building her confidence back up, she made it back to New York, this time to stay.

Lean Into Fear

Lamb was in her early 50s when Debbie Roberts of Showstopper suggested that she try teaching. Lamb remembers walking into her first convention class, a ballroom packed with 500 students, and feeling terrified. "I had to learn how to teach. I couldn't even remember how to do a double pirouette—I just did them," she says. A workshop in Lynn Simonson technique helped her learn how to develop a warm-up, and she began observing other teachers' classes and figuring out her own personal approach to thinking about movement, much of which came from her theater background. "To me, dance is just acting with your body," she says. "Your choreography is your script, just like an actor." At NDI, Lamb learned to put less emphasis on the technique of teaching, instead thinking about how to get the kids to feel free and connected to their bodies.

Find Inspiration Everywhere

Lamb met Natalie Leonard while judging at a Showstopper competition. After seeing Leonard perform and learning of her dream to dance on Broadway, Lamb encouraged her to enroll in Charlotte d'Amboise's Triple Arts summer intensive. Leonard took the advice and moved to New York City not long after, where she's now pursuing a musical theater career.

Lamb says that it's people along the way who give a dancer their career, and she still remembers the voices of the ones who gave her hers, especially her teachers: "I never thought I could be brave enough to, at 16, go through correspondence school and dance in Vegas, and then have my dream and move to New York and become a Broadway dancer," she says, "if it wasn't for my dance teacher saying, 'The possibility is there. You just have to grab it.'"


April Technique - Mary Ann Lamb www.youtube.com


For the full article, pick up a copy of DT's April issue here.

Dance Teachers Trending
Photo by Jerome Capasso, courtesy of Man in Motion

Finding a male dance instructor who isn't booked solid can be a challenge, which is why a New York City dance educator was inspired to start a network of male dance professionals in 2012. Since then, he's tripled his roster of teachers and is actively hiring.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
Photo by Todd Rosenberg, courtesy of HSDC

This fall Hubbard Street Dance Chicago initiates an innovative choreographic-study project to pair local Chicago teens with company member Rena Butler, who in 2018 was named the Hubbard Street Choreographic Fellow. The Dance Lab Choreographic Fellowship is the vision of Kathryn Humphreys, director of HSDC's education, youth and community programs. "I am really excited to see young people realize possibilities, and realize what they are capable of," she says. "I think that high school is such an interesting, transformative time. They are right on the edge of figuring themselves out."

Keep reading... Show less
Getty Images

Q: What policies do you put in place to encourage parents of competition dancers to pay their bills in a timely manner?

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Photo courtesy of Kim Black

For some children, the first day of dance is a magic time filled with make-believe, music, smiles and movement. For others, all the excitement can be a bit intimidating, resulting in tears and hesitation. This is perfectly natural, and after 32 years of experience, I've got a pretty good system for getting those timid tiny dancers to open up. It usually takes a few classes before some students are completely comfortable. But before you know it, those hesitant students will begin enjoying the magic of creative movement and dance.

Keep reading... Show less
Just for fun
Photo via @igor.pastor on Instagram

Listen up, dance teachers! October 7 is National Frappe Day (the drink), but as dance enthusiasts, we obviously like to celebrate a little differently. We've compiled four fun frappé combinations on Instagram for your perusal!

You're welcome! Now, you can thank us by sharing some of your own frappé favs on social media with the hashtag #nationalfrappeday.

We can't wait to see what you come up with!

Keep reading... Show less
Site Network
Original photos: Getty Images

We've been dying to hear more about "On Pointe," a docuseries following students at the School of American Ballet, since we first got wind of the project this spring. Now—finally!—we know where this can't-miss show is going to live: It was just announced that Disney+, the new streaming service set to launch November 12, has ordered the series.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Photo by Tony Nguyen, courtesy of Jill Randall

Recently I got to reflect on my 22-year-old self and the first modern technique classes I subbed for at Shawl-Anderson Dance Center in Berkeley, California. (Thank you to Dana Lawton for giving me the chance and opportunity to dive in.)

Today I wanted to share 10 ideas to consider as you embark upon subbing and teaching modern technique classes for the first time. These ideas can be helpful with adult classes and youth classes alike.

As I like to say, "Teaching takes teaching." I mean, teaching takes practice, trial and error and more practice. I myself am in my 23rd year of teaching now and am still learning and growing each and every class.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Misti Ridge teaches class at Center Stage Performing Arts Studio. Photo by Arlyn Lawrence , courtesy of Ridge

The dance teachers who work with kids ages 5–7 have earned themselves a special place in dance heaven. They give artists the foundation for their future with impossibly high energy and even higher voices. Enthusiasm is their game, and talent is their aim! Well, that, self-esteem, a love for dance, discipline and so much more!

These days, teachers often go a step beyond giving tiny dancers technical and performative bases and make them strong enough to actually compete at a national level—we're talking double-pirouettes-by-the-time-they're-5-years-old type of competitive.

We caught up with one such teacher, Misti Ridge from Center Stage Performing Arts Studio, The Dance Awards 2019 and 2012 Studio of The Year, to get the inside scoop on how she does it. The main takeaway? Don't underestimate your baby competition dancers—those 5- to 7-year-olds can work magic.

Keep reading... Show less
Site Network
Patrick Randak, Courtesy In The Lights PR

The ability to communicate clearly is something I've been consumed with for as long as I can remember. I was born in the Bronx and always loved city living. But when I was 9, a family crisis forced my mom to send me to Puerto Rico to live with my grandparents. I only knew one Spanish word: "hola." I remember the frustration and loneliness of having so many thoughts and feelings and not being able to express them.

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Success with Just for Kix
Courtesy Just for Kix

As a teacher or studio owner, customer service is a major part of the job. It's easy to dread the difficult sides of it, like being questioned or criticized by an unhappy parent. "In the early years, parent issues could have been the one thing that got me to give up teaching," says Cindy Clough, executive director of Just For Kix and a teacher and studio owner with over 43 years of experience. "Hang in there—it does get easier."

We asked Clough her top tips for dealing with difficult parents:

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer Health
Getty Images

It's the middle of the semester and two dancers are sitting out of class, you're worried about one student's mental health and another has developed an eating disorder. Sound familiar? College can be a tumultuous time. To help address the additional demands of being a dance major, some schools have found strategies for enhancing wellness and integrating health services into their departments.

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox