EditorSpeak | Learning to Love Dance

Photo by Mim Adkins

The college professor had a question: “Why don’t dance studios do more concert dance?”

In one sense, the answer is easy: “Because we’re not a concert dance company or a college dance department.” Those exist in their own spheres where they are valued for what they are. (I doubt many modern-based concert companies constantly face the question, “Why aren’t you a ballet company?”) But the perception-that-just-won’t-die is that the dance that goes on in your average neighborhood dancing school is lesser because it isn’t concert dance.

If the questioner was truly interested in the answer (and not just masking a condescending comment, which I’ve often encountered), a response might go something like this: “There are studios that do concert dance, and do it very nicely. But not all children have the interest in or aptitude for concert dance. And that’s OK.”

As a child, I craved the infectious energy of jazz, the caterwauling of tap, the romance of ballet. I would occasionally catch a glimpse of modern dance on TV, but Cunningham left me cold and Sokolow was dreary and gray. I was happiest in a costume that glowed lime green and orange under black lights, kicking myself in the head, spinning until dizzy. As I matured, my capacity to understand and appreciate more mature dance art grew as well.

The studio standards of ballet, tap, and jazz, plus hip-hop, acro, musical theater, and lyrical, provide an exciting entry point into the world of dance for many students. From there, who knows where that interest might take them—to African dance? To Broadway? Or to something yet to come?

Bottom line: as long as the instruction is technically correct, it doesn’t matter what dance your students do. Concert-styled pieces, competitive blockbusters, Nutcracker variations, recital crowd-pleasers—they are all valid. If your students come to class every week with smiles on their faces, they’re learning to love dance. Mission accomplished. —Karen White