by Valeria Gladstone
“The connection between teacher and student creates a bond,” says Jason Samuels Smith, who like most choreographers teaches locally at studios and colleges as well as on tour, “strengthening the dance tradition and building upon it with each generation’s input and style.”
There may be no better way for choreographers to perpetuate their legacies than to teach their disciplines. While performance offers the possibility of converting audience members into fans, the classroom gives them the opportunity to explain what’s behind their work and to pass on hard won knowledge of their craft. They also can use the classroom to try out new choreography. Many thrive there – and no doubt, so do their students.
“Teaching crystallizes what I feel about dance,” says Stephen Petronio “I can speak out loud what I believe in. I go back to concepts that are the basis of my choreography and reexamine my principles and often begin to see other possibilities.”
Heidi Latsky also likes to break down material and clarify concepts and ideas. “The process of sharing these ideas helps me understand them more clearly for myself,” she says, “and then incorporate them more distinctly into my choreography. I also love coaching dancers to interpret movement in their unique way, to impart skills that will train their focus, their choices, their phrasing and their emotional connections to the dance.”
Another enthusiastic choreographer/teacher, Ben Munisteri recently joined the faculty at the University of South Florida as a guest teacher. “It is thrilling to experience how college dance students learn to love dance through practice and discovery,” he says. “Guiding them and encouraging them usually brings up for me some measure of projective identification: I see my young self in them. I also think teaching has made me more articulate and patient with my dancers.”
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