Favorite TeachersAmong the most interesting discussions I've listened to in training classes are those in which participants talk about managers and mentors who have really helped them learn technical skills and life skills and opened their eyes to career possibilities.
In the August 2006 issue of Dance Magazine, several dancers talk about their favorite teachers. Since the qualities that made these teachers memorable apply with minor modifications in any field, I'd like to quote some of the accolades.
Derick Grant (tap dancer, choreographer, director) on Dianne Walker
"With Dianne [one of my own very favorite active performers -KN], I've learned as much off the ice, as we say, as in the studio riding around in the car, talking. She's a social worker at heart. She makes a bridge for you to connect who you are as a person with who you are as an artist.
"Our generation wouldn't be here without her. We were learning from the tap greats, but it was rudimentary steps. They weren't teaching their stuff, because that was their stuff. For some reason they let Dianne into their circle. She learned their stuff. Who knows what the tap world would be like without her? She's the mother of our generation."
Kishaya Dudley (entertainment choreographer) on Keith Lewis
"Keith Lewis was the first person to teach me hip hop. He was a hard teacher and he expected us to pick up the steps fast. At first I was slow at getting the combinations and I wasn't naturally flexible, so he gave me some stretching exercises to do at home. He taught me about presence and confidence during performances always reminding me to check in with what my face was doing. I grew up in a rough neighborhood in the Bronx and it was easy for me to get sidetracked. Keith taught me to focus on dance and let it take me up and out of there."
Noelani Pantastico (principal dancer) on Darla Hoover
"When I was 12 or 13, Darla came down to Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet to teach and set Balanchine ballets. She taught me how to phrase music, to make the dancing more brisk and exciting. She sometimes gave us brainteaser combinations. You had to be quick on your feet; it trains your brain to work in a certain way. She would take me to New York City to watch New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre. She brought me into that world. I didn't even know I wanted to be a dancer, but she opened my eyes to it."