Dancers Trending

"Teaching Itself Is One Of The Greatest Teachers"

Photo by Matthew Murphy for Dance Teacher

I have always felt a need to communicate and, even more importantly, to be understood. But as a child, I always hit an emotional wall when trying to speak.



Although my great-aunt Rose had no connection to dance, she intuitively saw that I needed an outlet, and recommended that I take a movement class. It was literally life-changing. I realized I could make myself understood without my needing to be verbal.


Hyper-vigilance kept me curious and always looking for the best way to answer questions like the ones that dance presents. How do you do a movement and what makes it communicate? How do you make dancing less complicated? What is technique and what is its purpose?

These personal pursuits increased when I was studying dance at The Juilliard School and was given the opportunity to teach my peers. I was immediately aware of how my need to answer those questions made a significant impact on those I was teaching.

I wanted to figure out the puzzle for them as well as myself. This produced a remarkable giving and receiving of information. That was when my love for teaching was born. The satisfaction of seeing that "wow" moment in someone's eyes when the impossible becomes the possible is so rewarding.

I've had the fortune to have exceptional teachers, and, even with that, I've found that teaching itself is one of the greatest teachers: If you can figure out how to teach it, you probably can figure out how to do it.

My challenge has always been to try to embody the standards I set for those I teach. Presently, while performing in Sleep No More, I am deeply invested in what it is to communicate such a complex story. The physical demands, and the intensity of the audience in this immersive theater, create a vibrant stage.

That always-moving energy poses questions, such as how to stay true to the work when you are spontaneously having new and unexpected interactions. When someone who has studied with me sees a performance and says, "I saw what you taught me," I implode with joy.

My career as a performer and teacher includes mentoring and coaching dancers and choreographers, who are either creating and performing in the field, or preparing to. I am continually challenged to find the questions that offer more clarity to each of them. Being able to help illuminate what someone wants to say and how they say it is such a gift.

Dancers Trending
Chantelle Pianetta competing at a West Coast swing event. Courtesy Pianetta.

Just hearing the word "improvisation" is enough to make some ballet dancers shake in their pointe shoes. But for Chantelle Pianetta, it's a practice she relishes. Depending on the weekend, you might find her gracing Bay Area stages as a principal with Menlowe Ballet or sweeping in awards at West Coast swing competitions.

She specializes in Jack and Jill events, which involve improvised swing dancing with an unexpected partner in front of a panel of judges. (Check her out in action below.) While sustaining her ballet career, over the past four years Pianetta has quickly risen from novice to champion level on the WCS international competition circuit.

Keep reading... Show less
Cover Story
Jayme Thornton

Sean Dorsey was always going to be an activist. Growing up in a politically engaged, progressive family in Vancouver, British Columbia, "it was my heart's desire to create change in the world," he says. Far less certain was his future as a dancer.

Like many dancers, Dorsey fell in love with movement as a toddler. However, he didn't identify strongly with any particular gender growing up. Dorsey, who now identifies as trans, says, "I didn't see a single person like me anywhere in the modern dance world." The lack of trans role models and teachers, let alone all-gender studio facilities where he could feel safe and welcome, "meant that even in my wildest dreams, there was no room for that possibility."

Keep reading... Show less
Health & Body
Getty Images

It's hour three of an intense rehearsal, you're feeling mentally foggy and exhausted, and your stomach hurts. Did you know the culprit could be something as simple as dehydration?

Proper hydration helps maintain physical and mental function while you're dancing, and keeps your energy levels high. But with so many products on the market promising to help you rehydrate more effectively, how do you know when it's time to reach for more than water?

Keep reading... Show less
Breaking Stereotypes
James Beaudreau, Courtesy Roberto Lara

Inside a bustling television studio in Los Angeles, Lindsay Arnold Cusick hears the words "Five minutes to showtime." While dancers and celebrities covered head to toe in sequins whirl around preparing for their live performances on "Dancing with the Stars," Cusick pauses to say a prayer to God and express her gratitude.

"I know that it's not a given, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to do what I love for a living," says Cusick, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For her, prayer is a ritualized expression of her faith that she has maintained since she was a girl in Provo, Utah. Even with her seven-plus years of industry experience, she always takes a moment to steady herself and close her prayer in Christ's name before rushing onto the stage.

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get Dance Magazine in your inbox