I love summers! They offer me the opportunity to go into suburban dance schools and ply my flamenco dance trade. Most of these students are being introduced to flamenco for the very first time and have spent anywhere from 3-5-10 years studying ballet. There in lies the challenge. Do I just come in and teach them a piece of choreography, which I know they can memorize, but will have no flamenco integrity, or do I lay it all down on the line and teach them: the flamenco body, braceo (the arms), floreo (the hands), tacaneo (the feet), rhythm (compás), the heart (duende)….well of course that is the path I choose and so begins a new summer delving into concept of teaching the soul of flamenco in about 6 hours to kids ages 8-18!
Just coming hot off teaching gigs at Southshore Ballet Theatre directed by Mathavan McKeon in Hanover, MA, and Sereda DanceWorks directed by Carol Schneider-Sereda in Natick, MA, I started my 9th summer at Northeast School of Ballet directed by Denise Cecere (formerly directed by her mother Sandra McNaught) in Melrose, MA. This summer we are housed on the beautiful memorial Hall in Melrose center and I have a gorgeous, vaulted ceiling room full of light and great student energy!
I feel the progression of myself as a teacher. Every time I approach a teaching job, I feel the tweeking and refining of myself as a teacher. I am so proud to be able to reach so many youth (my dear friend Pam Raff imbued in me the use of the word “youth” rather than children or kids when speaking about working with the young and it has stuck with me 20 years later). 20 years of teaching youth and every day I feel like it is a new beginning. It makes me feel young and creative and flexible. I love it!
I am starting each class with the students lying on the floor, just feeling their breath. One hand on the chest, one hand on the belly. I talk about chest breathing and then gently guide them into focusing their breath into their bellies, calming them, opening the up to their intelligence and energizing them. I then lead them through a simple circular breathing exercise where I have them imagine their inhale entering through the sole of their left foot, up the left side of the body, to the left side of the head and then on the exhale, down the right side of the head, the right side of the body and out the sole of the right foot. The I lead the the opposite way starting with the right foot, back and forth a few time and end coming out the left sole. Curling up on their right sides for a moment, allowing freedom of breath in the right nostril (The left nostril connects to right side of the brain, which induces relaxation while the right nostril is connected to the left side of the brain; the more energizing side), I have them sit up for a right brain/left brain game called The Nose Knows (slap legs two times, clap two times, grab nose with right hand reach across with left and hold right ear; slap legs two times, clap two times, grab the nose with the left hand and reach across with the right hold the left ear. Repeat trying to get faster and faster-a great brain balancing game). At the end of the game I explain about the two sides of the brain, how the left side is the mathematical, analytical side and the right side is rhythmic and creative and how as a dancer, one needs a balance of the two to learn choreography, learn technique and also understand the depth of the movement within the rhythmic landscape.