I think there’s a pretty common misconception plaguing the dance world- If you can dance, you can teach. And while maybe on the surface that makes sense I think we are totally missing the idea that these are two skills so different that they have almost no relationship with one another. The ability to not only do but to also TRULY instruct others on how to do what you do is a gift and it should not be assumed that because you can do one you can or cannot do the other.
There are plenty of A M A Z I N G dancers- I see them around me, I see them on the internet and I’ve also taken classes from them and walked out thinking “what in the actual fuck?” just because you can demo a gorgeous combo does not mean you can teach it. The ability to teach has many layers - including classroom management, informational lesson planning, clear and effective communication and also a deep and multi-faceted understanding of what you are physically doing. In a medium like dance- so physical, expressive, and intricate understanding the why’s and the how’s of your movement is incredibly difficult and verbalizing it? A whole separate thing. This is not to say “If you can’t explain effectively what you are doing your movement is no longer special, or beautiful or creative or art” It is however to say that, if you can’t explain it to multiple human beings from different walks of life in many different ways, you probably shouldn’t be teaching it.
I’ve had the privilege to learn from many incredible teachers throughout my career. When I was a teenager I had an amazing professor, I was also an egotistical 16 year old who believed I was headed to Broadway and had it all figured out. I frequently remember thinking (and I’m not proud of it) Why is she teaching me? She can’t even do what I can do. With my older wiser eyes I look back on this time and see this person for the incredible and risk taking choreographer she was, for her ability to understand and explain movement even the ones she could not do. Her rich knowledge was rooted in anatomy and even though she perhaps couldn’t nail the complicated turn patterns I was able to - she coached me, she observed me, she guided me through adjustment after adjustment until I was nailing quadruple pirrouettes and fouettes every single time. These are lessons that I pass onto my own students and still utilize today… even if those quads are looking a lot more like doubles these days. This person was a true teacher- she had shed her ego, harnessed her creativity and her knowledge and uplifted student after student.
They say those who can’t do, teach. But I also disagree with that- I believe and have encountered those who can both dance and teach- they are rare and gifted movers, lovers of people and frequently people who have committed entire lifetimes understanding movement and should be respected and hired and booked and treasured. My hope here is to spark some thought and conversation between other dance instructors but also to encourage students, to look long and hard at their instructors- the true merit of a teacher is not how many likes their demo video gets but in how many of their students walk away understanding the concepts and the information at the end of the hour.