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Posts Tagged ‘Sheila Sumpter’

Humor & Heartstrings

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Real-life stories from the lives of dance teachers

A lifesaving move
Tay Camille Lynne had two thoughts just before the car hit her. One, if her legs broke, she could not dance; two, a move from modern class she’d just learned the week before. Instinctively, she used the simple floor roll to move up the hood of the car and off the side. “It saved me from serious injury and quite possibly saved my life,” Tay says.

The hit-and-run happened as Tay was walking back to her college dorm from dance class at the Royal Academy of Ballet in Buffalo, New York. In a split second, one dance class changed her life. “I want to thank the Academy for teaching me,” Tay says. She was back in dance class within a few days.
Lauren Green
Royal Academy of Ballet
Buffalo, NY 

Never too big to tutu
We were trying on sample costumes for sizing in my class of 3-year-olds. I called on a little ballerina to try on her tutu. She tearfully declined, stating that she was a big girl now. I told her that big girl ballerinas love to wear tutus. She informed me that she did want a costume, but it could not be a tutu—it would have to be a four-four! Too precious!
Tiffany Edwards
Dance Techniques by Tiffany
Garland, TX

By your pupils you’ll be taught
In a ballet class of 10-year-olds, I have a needy pupil I’ll call Christalena. One day I was extra tired and sore, about to get a migraine. In a previous lesson I had mentioned that I was suffering from Achilles tendonitis and could only demonstrate once.

This day I reiterated my tendon woes. Christalena was her usual needy self. She practically sat on top of me during floor stretches and closely followed me around the room (ironically, like an Achilles heel). After I almost tripped over her, my exasperated brain was silently shouting, “Could you please just go over there? Anywhere but right here?”

 I will remember what happened next for the rest of my life. Christalena knelt down by my feet and asked, “Which one of your tendons hurts?” She began to massage it with her little hands, her big brown eyes gazing up at me with empathy and devotion, as if I were her hero. My frustration disappeared. I looked down at that caring little human being with awe, and with new eyes. Her kind, concerned gesture taught me so much that day.
Theresa Corbley Siller
Cuppett Performing Arts Center
Vienna, VA

Not that kind of dance teacher
One day I was shopping at a local mall when one of my 5-year-old students spotted me. She was with her mother, who was pushing a baby in a stroller. She yanked on her mother’s coat, saying, “Mom! Mom!” but her mother was in a hurry and didn’t respond. When the child pulled again on her coat, the mother stopped abruptly and said, “What?” The child responded, “There is Miss Jo-Anne with her clothes on!” I immediately ran into the nearest store.
Jo-Anne Galavotti
Jo-Anne’s School of Dance
Palmer, MA

Dancing with the fairies
Author Angela Dove took her family on a Sunday afternoon hike. The best moment of the hike, I am told, is when Nina, Angela’s 7-year-old budding ballerina, saw a small clearing off the path. She exclaimed with wonder that it looked like a secret dance floor—so, of course, they all took time from their hike to dance. A beautiful memory was made.
Shelia Sumpter
MusicWorks Studio of Performing Arts
Waynesville, NC

Imagination run amok
In my quest to make ballet technique interesting to young children, I play a fun game with rond de jambe. First, I have the students pretend to dip their feet, like paintbrushes, onto an imaginary paint palette on the floor. Then I let each child pick her colors for her painting and tell the class what picture they will paint. Of course the “paintbrush” legs have to stay straight, with feet pointed, because no one wants to work with a broken paintbrush.
 
When we finish the rond de jambe exercise, we pretend to pick up our large canvases and nail them up on the wall. Then we step back and admire our beautiful works.

One day at the Chris Collins Dance Studio in Alexandria, Virginia, when we were choosing spots on the wall to hang our “paintings,” two students stayed in their line. “Don’t you want to hang up your gorgeous artwork so everyone can admire it?” I said. With knowing smiles, they answered, “Oh, we have robots to nail up our paintings for us!”
Theresa Corbley Siller
Cuppett Performing Arts Center
Vienna, VA

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August 2014
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