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Teacher in the Spotlight | Carolyn Dutra

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Studio owner/artistic director, Carolyn Dutra Dance Studio, Warwick, Cranston, and Greenville, Rhode Island

NOMINATED BY: Juliette de Roxas, teacher/studio manager, Carolyn Dutra Dance Studio: “I started dancing at Carolyn Dutra Dance Studio 27 years ago. Miss Carolyn has been my mentor; she is like a second mother and has helped shape the teacher and person I am today. She truly loves what she does, and does what she loves like no other. She acts as a role model for all her dancers, instilling the characteristics of what a true young dancer should strive to be. Her dancers are well educated, well behaved, and well rounded. Her teaching style keeps dancers interested, attentive, and excited.”

Carolyn Dutra was a Rockette before launching her teaching career. (Photo courtesy Carolyn Dutra Dance Studio)

YEARS TEACHING: I was a teacher’s assistant from the ages of 12 to 18 and started teaching when I was 24, so almost 40 years. I am now 62 and proud of it!

AGES TAUGHT: 3 to adult.

GENRES TAUGHT: Ballet, tap, jazz, creative movement, pointe, lyrical, and theater.

WHY SHE CHOSE TEACHING AS A CAREER: I danced professionally as a Rockette in New York City. I went home to help my family through a difficult time and started to teach. I loved assisting my dance teacher as a teen and knew I would love to do it on my own. I knew it was a challenging field because it is more than just teaching movement—it’s a combination of psychology, good instincts, mothering, mentoring, and of course, teaching the true tradition of dance.

GREATEST INSPIRATION: The Radio City Rockettes! My dance teacher, Judy Mello, took my dance class to Radio City Music Hall during our annual dance convention—National Association of Dance and Affiliated Arts at the Commodore Hotel above Grand Central Station. As soon as I saw the Rockettes come out, I knew that’s what I aspired to be!

TEACHING PHILOSOPHY: If you learned one new thing, or had one great feeling, it was time well spent. This is true in dance and in life.

WHAT MAKES HER A GOOD TEACHER: I have good instincts. I want to share with children. I know that when they come into my class they have a teacher who is kind and compassionate, and they can sense my genuine love for teaching and dance. Dance has always been there for me and I want it to be there for them.

FONDEST TEACHING MEMORY: I once had a 5-year-old dancer who had only one leg. She had a steel prosthesis, and I asked her mother if we could sit in a circle and talk about her leg so that everyone could see and touch it. I knew if we could share that experience it would be better than not addressing it. It was a moving experience to see that young dancer sauté in the center of the studio.

ADVICE TO DANCE TEACHERS: Continuing to learn to dance is a very, very important part of being a dance teacher. You can never stop learning. Keep your mind open to all movement. These days, that is what dance is all about. Through dance and movement, we are continuing and perpetuating the true culture of history. Dance has evolved so much into telling stories—I love it.

IF SHE WEREN’T A DANCE TEACHER: I would be a psychotherapist. I love touching lives and helping others.

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS: Dance is not just about physicality. I am teaching life lessons needed to guide our young people through life. Dance is a release. Greet your students with a welcoming, enthusiastic, upbeat, and positive aura. They will respond in the same way.

DO YOU KNOW A DANCE TEACHER WHO DESERVES TO BE IN THE SPOTLIGHT? Email your nominations to Arisa@rheegold.com or mail them to Arisa White, Dance Studio Life, 10 South Washington St., Norton, MA 02766. Please include why you think this teacher should be featured, along with his or her contact information.

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January 2011
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