Like any other subject, dancing and teaching dance are two separate things. For example, you wouldn't expect an astronaut to one day leave the Moon and pick up a textbook in a local elementary school and teach first grade science, would you? Sure, he might come in to do a fun presentation for the kids, but what does an astronaut know about classroom management?
Education is a separate subject and at many schools, a separate degree. Bridgewater State University (the school I attend) is known for its education programs. I am a double major in dance and secondary education, meaning that I am learning how to dance while learning how to teach dance. Within my dance major, there are many classes that are geared towards teaching dance, as many students that attend BSU plan to become dance educators one day. There is a difference between taking a ballet class, where I focus on perfecting my own technique, and taking a course where I learn how to teach others what I have learned in that ballet class.
The differences between studying dance and studying dance education can be seen when comparing college dance programs. For example, getting a BFA or a BA in dance (or a specific style of dance) at a conservatory style school will most likely prepare students for a career in performing dance (or sometimes other elements of dance performance, including choreography etc). Some conservatory schools do have concentrations in dance education or pedagogy that will prepare students for a career in dance education, while others are strictly for dance performance.
It is possible to have careers in both dance performance and dance education. Some professional dancers teach while performing, with others wait to teach until they are retired. Look at Ballet West's Allison DeBona, for example. I had the opportunity to take classes with Allison through her summer intensive artÉmotion. Allison created this program as a way to teach both aspiring professional dancers and recreational dancers that just want to improve their technique and have fun. During my time in Salt Lake City, it was clear to me that Allison has a passion for teaching. She was very student-centered in her methodology, gave effective and clear corrections, and was focused on helping us improve and have fun. Allison is currently a First Soloist with Ballet West, and is the perfect example of a professional dancer who has sought out teaching dance as a vocation, not as a fallback plan to make extra money or because she has nothing better to do after retiring from dancing professionally.
I have noticed a problem, however, with professional or wannabe professional dancers who deflect to teaching dance, especially in the ballet world. Some dancers study and train as hard as they can, but never make it professionally, so they decide that teaching is a good alternative. Other dancers are forced to retire from dancing professionally, whether it be because of age, injury, or settling down with a family, and feel teaching dance is the next step in their life. While there are success stories, like Allison's, teaching dance is not something that dancers should "deflect" to. Dance education is just as important as dance performance, as the dance world would not exist without dance teachers. If a professional dancer or a dancer who never made it professionally decides to teach dance, they can't just do it because they believe in the philosophy "those who can't, teach". In other words, if someone pursues a career in dance education simply because they feel they have no other options, they may be doing the dance education world an injustice.
The first problem with dancers "deflecting" to teaching is their potential lack of training. For example, if a professional ballet dancer holds a BFA in dance, they may have only studied dance performance, and have no training in teaching. They may lack skills of teaching to all learning styles, classroom management, lesson planning, advocating for dance education, injury prevention, and other elements of dance methodology. Like other subjects, dance is not usually something you can simply teach effectively without some kind of teacher preparation. There is a reason public schools (and many private/charter schools) do not hire teachers that do not have a teaching license or any kind of teacher preparation. While dance does exist in some schools, the majority of dance education occurs in private studios, where anyone is allowed to teach. Without this crucial training, even the dancer with the best of intentions may be unprepared. This does not mean, however, that all dancers should give up their dreams of teaching dance. There are many teacher preparation programs available through colleges and universities, as well as the National Dance Education Organization. My advice to aspiring dance educators in this position is to get the knowledge, skills, and experience needed to be an effective dance educator, and keep in mind that dance education is a separate vocation from dancing professionally, not just something you feel you can do or have to do after dancing professionally. Also, keep in mind that teaching dance is not your only option! There are career opportunities in choreography, dance criticism and journalism, and dance production. Pursue dance education if you wish, but please educate yourself first!
An even bigger problem with dancers "deflecting" to teaching dance is their attitudes. If a professional dancer, like Allison, truly has a passion for dance performance and dance education, then that dancer has great potential to be an effective dance educator. However, if a dancer is only pursing teaching because they feel they have no other options, they may have a negative attitude towards teaching. Although this is not a real-life example, take the character of Saskia on Dance Academy. Saskia was a star of her ballet company, but is given the chance to teach when her career is put on hold due to an injury. Saskia was a terrible dance teacher. She was cruel to her students and became jealous when they could do things that she was physically incapable of. She even injured a student when she pushed her beyond her physical limitations (something I learned about and did a research project on in my dance education program at BSU!). Professional dancers need to have the attitude that dance education is an important and valuable thing, not something to look down upon or "deflect" to. If a dancer even uses the term "deflecting" or thinks of teaching dance as a fallback, they should not be teaching dance. Dance Academy may be fiction, but this happens in the real world. I've seen it. A dance teacher should be enthusiastic about his/her/their career in dance education, not bitter because their professional is over or nonexistent and feel trapped in this job.
I can't stress enough how important dance education is. There is research as well as anecdotal information about how dance education can improve the lives of students of all ages, all ethnicities, all genders, etc. Just because someone is a good dancer does not mean he/she/they will be a good dance teacher. At the same time, just because someone is not cut out for a career in professional dance (like me!), does not mean he/she/they will be a bad dance teacher. To quote Damn Yankees, all you really need is heart, and the heart of a good dance educator believes in teacher training and putting the needs of students first. Dance education is not something to casually fall back on, but a worthy career that takes time, effort, and education to properly pursue.
Here are some ways you can support dance education...
Hello there, my name is Becca and I am a 22 year old dance teacher from Massachusetts.
News & Events
9/18 Follow my new Instagram just for my dance things!
12/23 I was one of NDEO's Guest Bloggers this year! Read "Teaching is a Vocation. Not a Fallback" on their Behind the Curtain Blog!
9/27 I will be presenting my research at the National Dance Education Organization National Conference next week! See my research project by clicking the button below!
4/15 While working on PMA's production of The Addams Family, I got to combine my two favorite styles of dance (ballet and musical theatre) for "The Moon and Me"! Watch my talented students dance by clicking the button below!
2/20 I am choreographing PMA Theatre Guild's Production of The Addams Family! Come see these amazing high school students perform at Presentation of Mary Academy in Methuen, MA April 13 & 14! Tickets available at the door.
2/20 I am stage managing BSU's Dance Kaleidoscope this year! Show dates are March 29-31 at Bridgewater State University in Bridgewater, MA. Come see this student choreography showcase!
11/5 I will once again be dancing in a BSUDC concert! Tickets to WinterDance are now available!
8/24 NDEO's National Honor Society for Dance Arts has published one of my articles in their newsletter! Read an updated version of "Audition Advice" here:
5/16 Interested in learning about movement concepts? Visit Becca's new Educational Dance website!
5/8 BSU Dance Company's Dance Kaleidoscope 2017 is now on Youtube! You can watch my performances by visiting the VIDEOS page!
4/23 I recently performed for the residents of Allerton House in Hingham, MA! You can watch part of my performance here!
Amesbury Children's Theatre presents...James and the Giant Peach Jr, featuring choreography by me! Click for tickets!
2/8 My piece "Barefoot" is now available to watch online! Click to watch!
2/5 Happy to say I have been cast in BSU Dance Company's Spring concert Dance Kaleidoscope! I will be dancing in 3 faculty choreographed pieces, including excerpts from The Sleeping Beauty in which I will be dancing the role of Lilac Fairy! Show dates are March 31-April 1 at Bridgewater State University.
Click the button for more info!
1/15 Ballet with Becca is now on Facebook! Click to visit the page, and be sure to like it while you're there!
1/14 I am happy to say I will be attending artEmotion's summer intensive in June! I will be dancing in the one week artEmotion Adult Program. If anyone would like to join or audition for any other artEmotion program, visit their website!
12/13 My photo gallery has been recreated! Click to see the new page, including photos from WinterDance 2016!