Sunday, May 10, 2015

In Appreciation of Teachers and Teaching

There is no doubt in my mind that the single biggest influence in my dance life were my teachers.  By no stretch of the imagination could I have reached the levels I did without them and their impact continues to be with me every time I step inside the studio.  Each teacher gave me exactly what I needed when I was studying under them and the gift of letting me take the next step on my own.  So, as Teacher Appreciation Week draws to an end I would like to highlight four of them in the hopes that by sharing their unique teaching traits we may all grow a little wiser.

Lori Lee Silvaggio
You showed me that dance was about joy and communicating that joy with the world.  Not only did you teach me to love dancing, you instilled in me a righteous purpose and a feeling that what the world needed was dance.  The flame you lit at the age of 7 was so strong that it has yet to fade and I still have "Lori" moments in the studio, moments where I am so blown away by my student's pleasure of movement that I again gain confidence in the future.

Richard Rein
You gave my movement language and taught me how to communicate through dance.  Your classes shaped not only my body, carefully crafting each muscle through rigorous technical training, but also my understanding of what it takes to become a professional.  You never let me weaken or give up, finding opportunities for me to grow amidst doubt and injury.

Benjamin Harkarvy
My time with you was perhaps the most transformative.  Your gift was to help me find my voice and to show me that I had something to say.  You advocated for artistry and instilled a great respect for the concept of process.  I feel so blessed to have studied during your tenure at Juilliard, the program you crafted brought together individuals, teacher and student alike, and placed authenticity above employability.

Julie Nakagawa
Through our time together I rediscovered the notion that dance is a performance art.  You showed me how to share my dancing, to perform.  You also shepherded me into the profession of dancer and taught me to respect dance, not only as a verb, but as a noun.  I will always be thankful for your wisdom, humbleness, and insistence with a shrug that I decide for myself.

These teachers were not only important for my career as a dancer, but were also incredibly important in my decision to teach.  Their actions were decidedly void of ego and while it is perhaps naivet√© to assume that their purpose was solely to make me the best dancer possible, what's important is that I felt that desire from them and that support.

I now aim to pass along their knowledge, their gifts to me and as a teacher I am humbled and appreciative of the opportunity I have.  Dancer's place not only their bodies but their hearts into the hands of their teacher, asking for guidance and instruction despite the risk of failure and humiliation.  For this I thank my students and their families for the trust and faith they have in me.

With Appreciation,

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