During my professional training and performance career, I was lucky enough to have an eclectic and vast range of the genres I was exposed to. I started off with strict ballet training in my youth and throughout my teenage years, fell in love with modern in college, focused on jazz and musical theatre in my early twenties, etc. Because of this, I was a desirable hire at auditions; well-rounded and I could do almost anything because I was well versed (except tap, I was never a tapper!)
This is what we as teachers want our students to understand. The more you know, the more you’re good at, the better your chances are to jump in and say to a choreographer or director, “Sure! I can do that.” With that, we explain to them that we are not “just dancers.” We are athletes, actors, gymnasts, singers, etc. and have more special skills under our belts than most.
When I transitioned to teaching however, often times there seemed to be a shift in the mentality of being “well rounded.” The initial question would be, “What genre (singular) do you teach.” Well, the truth is I teach multiple genres and I teach them well. What I have found at times is this stigma attached in some highly regarded schools, that if you are not a genre “purist,” where you are brilliant at your isolated idiom, then you must then be mediocre in all of them. Well….I beg to disagree. Not to say that isn’t the case at times, but I believe I am an exception to the rule and I’m sure there are many of you out there as well.
Regardless of the fact that I have done Broadway National and International Tours and have danced with modern and jazz companies, more importantly, I have studied these idioms extensively and have the goods to back it up. That’s what you as studio directors need to decipher in your interviews. Now, I’m not disputing the fact that there are many teachers out there who do teach multiple classes and don’t have the education or professional skills they should have to be doing so…. and that’s a crime. What I am saying is as a studio director, when hiring, take the time to really do your own homework, look at the experience and resume and ask the hard questions of your applicant to find out their knowledge-base when they are telling you what they can teach.
Conversely, many teachers do like to be associated with a specific genre, “I’m a tap teacher,” or “I’m a ballet teacher” and that is perfectly valid. Those that do teach one genre are usually coming out of that specific performing world and have made their life’s work about their dedication to that specific idiom; again, wonderful and an equal necessity in the teaching world. Some of the world’s most famous dance teachers are synonymous by their name and what they teach and should not be discredited. They have built a following of dancers from generation to generation and are to be respected.
What I’m bringing to your attention today is, simply to be mindful of not immediately dismissing a teacher who has an eclectic voice. Take time to watch them teach and give them the opportunity to show you what they can do. If they are legit, you are getting a multi-faceted teacher and a choreographer who will most likely have a sophisticated palette of movement ready to offer your children. And if so, then their teachers must have done something right by training them to be the most knowledgeable, well rounded dancers and artists they could be. Ultimately, isn’t that what we want for own students?!