So You Don't Think You Can Dance? I Beg to Differ

“Anybody can and should dance….It’s good for the body and the spirit.”
 – Isadora Duncan


            It is impossible for dance educators to imagine a life devoid of dance.  Our group is passionate about what we teach and we have to be.  Funding is scarce, and we are still working hard to convince the general population of the value and power of dance.  The easy part of our job is to teach the students who register for dance classes and are there because they want to learn about the art form.  Our challenge, as dance educators, lies in reaching those who do not really have a desire to dance but are placed in situations that require they learn about it.

        Each year, students involved in school musicals audition for and win roles in productions.  Most have been exposed to acting and singing, but only a select few have studied dance.  Many directors cast these dancers in the roles that require movement and allow the others to simply act and sing.  However, some directors believe that everyone should dance a little and require every cast member to spend some time with the choreographer.  It is in these situations that I have been challenged, that I have learned and grown, and that I have been given the opportunity to make a difference.
Photo by Nick Bencivengo

            At the first rehearsal I am often met with wide-eyed stares and exclamations of, “Umm, just warning you that I can’t dance.”  My response, honed by time and hard-earned experience, is now, ”You can absolutely dance.  You just don’t know it yet.” 

            It is the choreographer’s job to create dances that look good to the paying audience while making certain that ALL of the cast members feel comfortable on the stage.  Rehearsals become tedious at times, and more often than not, choreography needs to be re-worked because what I envisioned cannot be accomplished. 

            Some shows are more successful choreographically than others, but as a dance educator, I have been given a gift.  I have been allowed to share my love of dance with people who would never have entered a dance studio.  I have had the opportunity to help them feel a bit more comfortable with their bodies.  I have had the chance to help them see that we can accomplish new things that we often think are impossible, and in doing so I have, hopefully, helped raise self-confidence and self-esteem levels.  These cast members may be a bit more comfortable during the next audition, or they may choose to never dance again.  Yet, the next time they see someone dance, they will have a better understanding of and appreciation for the process it took to produce the final project. 

Photo by Nick Bencivengo
            My greatest hope is that the next time they are faced with a new challenge they think they cannot conquer, that they will remember the time they thought they couldn’t dance.  Touching everyone with dance in healthy ways is the reason I chose to be a dance educator.  Kudos to the directors and others in the world that allow us, and sometimes even force us to do it.