Well, I’m back…and I can’t wait to tell you (and show you) all about the second part of my amazing summer!

After a little time to relax and reboot, I was fortunate enough to be invited to teach at a few summer intensives this summer, where I met some pretty amazing dancers from all over South Florida, as well as others who were visiting and dancing while on vacation (because what is a break from dance? lol). In addition to all the teaching, I had a little fun of my own trying to gather my bearings and get back in the classroom for myself.

My first classes were at TAME Dance Academy, a studio in Pembroke Pines owned by my very dear friends Teddy Talbot and Luke Stockton. I took over their summer intensive for THREE. WHOLE. DAYS. Yes, you read that correctly, including the bad grammar and overuse of all caps. Teddy gave me one job during those three days: to give the dancers as much as I could, as different as I could. Being one who doesn’t like to disappoint, I happily obliged and got to work on as much as possible. We started every morning with conditioning, followed by a ballet class (a.k.a. dancer’s daily bread) and then two more classes after lunch. On day one, we had contemporary class followed by a composition class and a little improv session. We learned a little bit of choreography that focused on accents and isolations, and then got into all the feels of the lyrics just for fun. During our composition/improv class, we focused on levels and body part initiated movement. On Friday, I knew I had to switch it up in order to make sure the dancers were really working on their versatility, so after our conditioning and ballet, we focused on a ballroom-influenced jazz class where the dancers worked on a fun combination that really pushed them to explore a different movement style than what they were used to. Boy did it work! After asking questions and really trying to understand the movement, they took the movements and really owned them, making for a great performance experience in class. After that, we settled down into a nice lecture and had a crash course in dance history, focusing mostly on the history of ballet (thank you, 5-minute TED-Ed video for helping me condense so much material into easily accessible learning fun: The Origins of Ballet). I had the weekend to relax and plan out my final day at TAME. Following the usual conditioning and ballet that Monday, we honed in on modern technique, and how the technique can be so useful and even necessary in contemporary dance. After that, we had jazz class again, but this time the style of the choreography was more upbeat, set to current pop music. I’d like to thank Teddy and Luke for trusting me for three days with their dancers, and the dancers for pushing so hard and working so well, even when the movement became a little more challenging or different. In only three days I witnessed so much growth from them that I couldn’t wait for Teddy and Luke to return and see their amazing dancers again.

The second set of classes I taught were at the summer intensive at Dance Attack, a studio in Miami owned by John Culbertson and Cookie Ramos. I went in for two Mondays and taught modern technique to some pretty amazing competition dancers. Although many of the concepts were foreign to them, they worked very hard to understand and learn as much as possible in the short time I was able to work with them. We worked mostly on modern technique, but I also taught them a combination set to popular music using only steps from the modern technique class they had just executed so they could understand how all of these steps can be incorporated into contemporary choreography and still be relevant. Once we set it all to music, they soared! I can only hope that I was able to instill a little bit of the foundations that are so important in modern dance, and that they continue to train in all styles to become even stronger performers than they already are.

The third and final intensive was at Performance Edge Dance Studio, owned by Jennifer Delgado in Weston. I taught contemporary one day and modern dance the other. Usually I teach dancers modern technique first, expose them to some of the movement styles I’m familiar with, and afterwards we delve into more contemporary work, allowing them to improvise and create together. This time however, my plan was flipped: I was to teach them contemporary the first day, and modern the second time I saw them. At first I was a little disappointed, but it became a blessing in disguise! During the contemporary class, we warmed up, worked on a little bit of improvisation, and then, for the sake of time, worked on a little bit of choreography. The beauty in this was that it was up to the dancers to try to figure out how to use their bodies to make the movement their own but still stay true to the shapes and concepts I was asking for without ever having known my movement style or the technique from which I draw inspiration. Then the next day I worked with them I was able to focus on concepts they had performed in the choreography, but this time we were able to dissect those concepts and steps, understanding the why and the how of each movement. There were many ah-ha! moments, and those made me happiest. From the youngest to the oldest, I really felt I was able to connect with the dancers and they were able to take away a little bit of wisdom with each class they took.

I’d like to thank the studio directors that invited me to teach this summer, I had a great time meeting everyone and working with all of you. You all do so much for your studio families; you are amazing! I hope we can work together again soon.

In addition to meeting and working with all of these wonderful dancers from these three amazing studios, I made it a point to get back into the studio myself and work on getting back to the basics. After all, the more you train, the more you learn…and the more you learn, the more you can teach. In life, you never stop learning. This is especially true when it comes to the performing arts. Dancers are always learning from each other: exploring, moving, pushing, and challenging one another to become the truest version of themselves. So I turned up the dial on my courage level and did it. I asked Teddy if it was okay for me to drop in and take ballet classes at his studio every morning, and after receiving his approval I got to work. I only forgot one thing: to get my old, achy body’s approval! Holy moly, was I sore! Enjoy it now kids, because as you get older, it definitely gets harder. I would like to offer my utmost respect to all of those dancers over thirty out there who are still making it happen and looking fabulous while they do it. I won’t lie, it did feel amazing to dance again as a student…listening to corrections, applying them, thinking of different ways to move and exploring the possibilities of every step. It reminded me why I fell in love with dance to begin with, and in turn it helped me focus this summer on what is really important: doing what you love and loving what you do. I know I always say it, but sometimes I don’t live by it. Let’s be honest: we all have bad days, we’re all stressed and tired, and sometimes crawling into bed seems like the best viable option. But to have the ability to step into a place where you can let go of all your problems and really be free is a true gift. That is dance. Let’s make sure all of us: dancers, teachers, choreographers, coaches, directors, even parents, remember that and never take it for granted. Dance is a gift; let’s treat it as such, love and respect it.

I’ve attached a video gallery of the past few weeks so you can see all the amazing work I witnessed this summer…enjoy!

I hope everyone has had an amazing summer, and that you are all ready for the new school year! I can’t wait to share all the excitement with you soon!

xoxo,

-DF