Last August at the DanceLife Teacher Conference, I noticed a recurring theme: school owners unhappy about not being able to run their businesses the way they’d like to. They perceive a disconnect between what they want and what’s possible, citing resistance to change from their employees or clients. Less fearful school owners encouraged the disempowered owners to have confidence and fortitude. No one likes change, they said; what’s needed is the conviction to say, “Yes, that’s how we’ve done it in the past, but now we do it this way.” End of discussion.
I’d like to see that same level of confidence applied to the art in dance education.
Teachers say they want to share their love for and knowledge of dance. That’s important, but what about personal satisfaction, the kind that comes from passing down what you—not everyone else, but you—love most in dance?
For example, I often hear school owners say they’d like to teach classic jazz, but the kids don’t want it. That’s hard to buy when I see those same people looking incandescent in Joe Tremaine’s Broadway-style jazz class, their enthusiasm off-the-charts infectious. Couldn’t they share that joy with their students, even if only in a weekend workshop twice a year? Even if only for a handful of students?
Other school owners say they’d like to hire a pianist for ballet classes but can’t afford to. Not even once a week, or twice a month? Even with such limited exposure, students will discover the symbiotic relationship between music and dance.
At the DLTC, 750 dance teachers cheered and jumped to their feet during a performance of Native American dance. How many of you share that kind of experience—discovering something new—with your students? If you love the world of dance that lies beyond the usual studio fare, give what you love to your students. Beyond the core curriculum that keeps you in business, isn’t there room for an elective or two now and then?
Life isn’t black-and-white. The distance between no and yes is a spectrum of gray. Instead of a kneejerk no, a mind-set that something can’t be done, look for those shades of gray that get you closer to yes. —Cheryl A. Ossola, Editor in Chief
Teacher of a Different Stripe
Among the hundreds of laughing, sweating, dancing teachers flooding the classes at the DanceLife Teacher Conference, I noticed one gentleman immediately. Tall, alone, and solemn, wearing a long-sleeved pastel-striped shirt and carrying a briefcase, he didn’t match the sweatpants-and-dance-bag multitude that swirled about the Phoenician.
Had he meant to attend a data-processing seminar, I wondered, but somehow clicked on “dance” instead? Then one day at breakfast, he sat next to me. “Hello,” I said to him. “Are you a dance teacher?”
He is—and so much more. Hiroyuki Nagaki arrived in Arizona after a 15-hour flight from Japan, where he and his wife have run a ballet school for 12 years, in Yokohama. A former ballet student, he has a PhD in mechanical engineering, has worked at MIT and for Japanese research laboratories, and is now a certified marketing instructor as well as “a concierge of making ballet dancers’ dreams come true.” I know all this because it says so on his “card,” which unfolds like an old-fashioned wallet photo carrier.
Most dance studios in Japan, Nagaki said, are small—80 students on average. His is booming, with 130. Owners know nothing about self-promotion; seminars like the DLTC, with its plethora of marketing sessions, are unheard of. “Teachers have a hard time getting students. I want to learn about the marketing field and teach Japanese teachers; otherwise, they will have to close their studios,” Nagaki said.
How did he end up at the DLTC? “I found the conference on Rhee Gold’s Facebook page,” Nagaki said. “His messages inspire me. I translate his words into Japanese and put them on my Facebook page.”
I stared at him, open-mouthed. Later I visited facebook.com/dancingfun to see what a post by Rhee looks like in Japanese. I couldn’t read it, but scrolling down I saw plenty of happy faces on Nagaki’s students. The message was clear—dance is happiness. No translation necessary. —Karen White, Associate Editor