Susu Hale Prout
Owner/artistic director of Academy of Ballet & Jazz, Northport, Alabama
NOMINATED BY: Kristen Brister, teacher: “Susu has owned ABJ for 37 years and the studio currently has more than 500 students. She has trained many beautiful dancers who have gone on to colleges around the country or to professional dance careers. Susu has always advocated providing a proper dance foundation for the youngest dancers, while instilling a love of dance.”
YEARS TEACHING: Teaching since age 13; a studio owner for 37 years
AGES TAUGHT: 3 and up
GENRES TAUGHT: Creative movement, acro, and ballet
WHY SHE CHOSE DANCE AS A CAREER: I was always a natural teacher. I attended Texas Christian University as a ballet major and knew I wanted to open a studio. I enjoy instilling a love of dance in my students.
GREATEST INSPIRATIONS: The teaching and dance philosophies of [the late] Rosella Hightower and Margo Dean inspire me as a dance instructor.
THE MOST IMPORTANT THING A TEACHER EVER TAUGHT HER: Judy Rice said that what I was doing with my students was correct but that it was OK to slow down. She said to make sure each student “got it” before we moved on. It’s easy to feel rushed by what your competitors are doing, but I always remind myself that I need to provide the best possible foundation for my students. With a solid foundation, they can do anything.
WHAT MAKES HER A GOOD TEACHER: I try to see the best in each of my students and I encourage them to work hard to achieve their full potential. I’m diligent about finding ways to teach every student and to ensure they feel special and included; if you focus only on the group as a whole, some kids will get lost in the shuffle. Everyone is different and learns in a unique way.
TEACHING METHOD THAT HAS PROVEN MOST SUCCESSFUL: I use, and encourage my staff to use, the “sandwich method” of instruction: giving a compliment, a correction, and then another compliment. This helps students feel encouraged rather than discouraged and shows them that we see the things they have improved upon as well as the things that need improvement.
HER FONDEST TEACHING MOMENT: More than 10 years ago, a young student came to me and said she wanted to follow in my footsteps. She wanted to attend Texas Christian University as a ballet major and open her own studio, just like I had. She made her dream come true and is currently in her fourth year at TCU. Many of my students pursue dance in universities around the country, but she is the first to attend my alma mater. I could not be more proud!
ADVICE TO TEACHERS: Be caring and patient. Remember that though it may be your fifth hour of teaching and you are exhausted, there is always a student who is there for her only class of the day. Every class you give should be as good as the last, if not better. You should always strive to give your best no matter what. Dance is an escape from reality and a place to create and dream. If you don’t give it your all, you cannot grow as an artist or as a teacher.
A MEMORABLE PROFESSIONAL PERFORMANCE: In 2007, I saw Mikhail Baryshnikov perform a few of his solo pieces. I vividly remember his dance from a chair and the feeling I got from seeing a performer of his caliber dance with such simplicity and grace. In a dance world full of tricks, it was amazing to watch him wow an audience from a simple office chair.
DO YOU KNOW A DANCE TEACHER WHO DESERVES TO BE IN THE SPOTLIGHT? Email your nominations to email@example.com or mail them to Karen White, Dance Studio Life, P.O. Box 2150, Norton, MA 02766. Please include why you think this teacher should be featured, along with his or her contact information.