When we enter a new year, we often reflect on our own pasts, accomplishments, set-backs, careers, where we were and where we are headed. As we look forward, we can certainly see where dance is headed and has been headed for quite some time. Long are the days when one labels themselves (or should label themselves) as solely a “jazz dancer,” or solely a “ballet dancer.”  This pigeon-hole’ing is now a detriment to one’s career span and the scope of what they are capable of and how useful they are to choreographers.

Broadening the base for our up and comers and training them in a way where they are marketable for the masses is crucial; particularly if this is the career they are choosing to follow. It is extremely important for dancers to know how to “do it all,” and the more “tricks” they have up their sleeve, the more apt they are going to be at being cast and being a working dancer for years to come. The old saying is true, knowledge really is power. While not every dancer will love every genre or sometimes even excel at every genre, having an arsenal of various physical tools, styles and vernacular under one’s belt is a priceless.

Now while we will always come across that young student who, “dislikes ballet,” or “doesn’t tap,” or “can’t sing,” etc., the point is to help them find a love, (or at least a respect for ballet and its benefits,) teach them to tap and show them how to sing. I can’t tell you how many students of mine come back to me now that they are in the thick or auditioning for professional work and are going back to class to just start learning something they weren’t’ receptive to or weren’t exposed to while they were pre-professionally training. While some of them started off in the audition world only auditioning for certain types of jobs because they only wanted to dance in a contemporary company or only wanted to be on Broadway, now are finding themselves in a position where that’s just not the wisest course of action. Fortunately they are getting back into class to learn new things while maintaining their technique in their usual weekly classes. Some are learning acro and aerial work, some are learning an ethnic dance form, some are brushing up those tap skills and some are simply taking classes to get out their comfort zone in the chance that a choreographer may ask someone at an audition if they know how to do a random skill. And the truth is, at some point they will and the dancer who raises their hand to say, “Sure I can do that,” is the one who will get the job. 

We need to train our dancers, starting from a young age to be chameleons. True dancers are movers, thinkers, artists, story tellers, athletes and so much more. The more they bring to the table, the more they are going to work and that’s the simple truth. There are hundreds of talented dancers that are going to walk into an audition, so how is your student going to differentiate themselves? Choreographers don’t want to hear about what they can’t do, they want to know what they can do.

This is where you come in. The only way you are going to create versatile dancers is if you are versatile teacher. The same goes for us. We should continually be learning as well so that that we can rise to the challenge when a student asks how to do something that might be a skill which might benefit them in the long run. Take the initiative and always challenge yourself so that you can introduce new language and movement to your dancers. Create an excitement and new passion for learning something new that they can take with them as they grow. Have them graduate from your studio with a laundry list of special skills that any choreographer would be inspired to work with. While amazing technique and talent are everywhere, versatility is a trait that not everyone will have. Teach your dancers to be irreplaceable and by the same token, be that versatile teacher they look up to and is the font of knowledge they can rely on to feed their dancing minds, bodies and soul.

Good luck!

See you in the dance studio,

Jess-

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