For someone in the tech industry, I have a very rare moonlighting gig. After a 40 hour week, I moonlight as a dance teacher at a studio about 30 minutes outside of Seattle. I teach little munchkins how to do plies, shuffles, and cartwheels. I choreograph jazz, lyrical, and musical theater dances for the competition team. I only officially teach one evening a week, but I sub for other teachers, help at the recitals and picture-days, and cheer on our team at competitions throughout the year. Some people think I’m crazy and my friends complain that I’m never free. But after five years of teaching on the side of school or work, I can’t imagine ever giving it up. I want nothing more than to be dancing around a large room after a day of sitting at a desk. I get to laugh at my students who are five and try to tell me the most ridiculous stories. I don’t have to use my brain, my body just knows what to do. What’s even better, I get to share my love of dance with a whole new generation. Moonlighting allows you to do what you love, but not necessarily make a career out of it. Not every employer supports it, but if yours does, see if you can fit it in to your busy schedule! — J Quick shout out: Last weekend my studio competed at Rainbow Dance Competition in Seattle. One of our routines was chosen to be a part of the Video of the Year competition. Whoever gets the most likes on the video posted to their Facebook page, wins a promo video for the studio. If you would like to support us, please click here and like the video “Let’s Go Crazy!” So proud of our young dancers!
Let’s talk about gender roles in dance.
All styles of dance have traditional gender norms. Ballet showcases the women, while the men in ballet have been teasingly called the “tote and carry,” just there to lift. Social dances have the men leading the women, while once again showcasing the women and making sure they look good. Nowadays, the contemporary styles have begun to stray from the norm and have challenged the status-quo of the older styles. For example, Fosse had his male and female ensemble members dance the same choreography with the same stylistic intentions. Look at this video of dancers from Chicago doing All That Jazz and see how every person on stage was dancing exactly the same.
Seeing this change has helped me start to think about and challenge gender norms in dance. But an important lesson while teaching has made me think differently.
A few summers back I was teaching introductory ballet and tap combo classes for 4 to 7 year olds. One week it was Prince and Princess themed. The boys were given capes and crowns, the girls were given wands and tiaras. The boys were marching, the girls were skipping. The boys were bowing, the girls were curtsying. Nothing was out of the ordinary.
Before class the next day, the mother of one of the boys came up to me. She said that her son was torn up after class the day before because he wanted to wear a tiara but was too embarrassed to ask. He was experiencing confusion around what was expected of him and what felt normal. I was dumbfounded. I had never once considered this as something one of my students would be battling.
Now I teach all my young students how to march, skip, bow, and curtsy. If we dress up, I encourage mixing and matching, even dressing up myself to make others feel more comfortable with it. I want to encourage dancers to become their best selves.
However, you have to take all of these things with a grain of salt. If you want to dance in classical ballets, you will have to learn to embrace those typical roles. If you want to dance in Chicago on Broadway, you will have to learn to let go of your preconceived notions of what your gender should dance like and learn Fosse’s style.
I don’t see these norms changing anytime soon, but as teachers we should prepare students for anything. — J