I’ve been struggling with this question for some time now. I see posts about “Master Classes” from studio Alumni who are coming home after a year and a half of college. I come across websites from companies offering “Master Classes” being taught by 12 year olds from Dance Moms or 17 year olds from SYTYCD. Webster’s defines a master as “a person eminently skilled in something, an occupation, art, or science.” Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe mastery involves the mind as much as the body. It’s not just being able to perform the art, but being able to effectively teach the proper technique to execute movement in a way that is healthy and safe; to be able to help a student achieve the next level of mastery themselves; to inspire and motivate a dancer to challenge themselves and overcome obstacles. Now, not everyone is as great a teacher as they are a dancer. And not every amazing teacher is a phenomenal dancer. But being a master of the physical art does not a master teacher make.
I’m almost 40 years old. I’ve been tap dancing for 35 years and studying and training in everything else for 28. I’ve got a college degree, have had a decent professional career both as a performer and choreographer and I’ve been teaching on and off for over 20 years; full time now for 11 years. I still, to this day, have a hard time calling myself a “master teacher.” I call my classes workshops or have myself called a guest teacher. To be honest, I suppose it’s not really up to me to decide if I’m a master or not, but I can guarantee you that the folks I spoke of above are definitely not.
So here’s the question. How do we define a master teacher? What criteria do you feel delineates a MASTER TEACHER from a guest artist? At what point in one’s career can the transition be made? What event or time frame of experience qualifies us to make that shift? We must find a way to separate the people who have given their entire lives to their art from those who are just beginning. Those who have experienced all aspects of what it means to be a dancer from those who are still figuring out how to get started. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter and I hope that going forward, we can use the phrase Master Class sparingly. It should be reserved for those teachers who really are masters of their craft.
Jason Marquette is the Owner and Managing Director of MPower Dance Workshops; an in-studio convention designed to show young dancers how their training is preparing them for success in life. Our NYC Summer Intensive is a 5 day event from August 15th – 19th. It’s focused on helping dancers accept and love where they are in their personal journey through life and the art of dance so that they can overcome the obstacles directly in front of them and reach their full potential. For more information, visit our webpage at:
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