' "Your technique liberates you. It does not impede your process...For a long time I thought I had to be perfect. And sure, we [teachers] so want your technique to be in the proper place because it does fuel absolutely everything. But if you don't put your heart, humanity, soul and passion in it, then we're just looking at steps. And it's not interesting." - Desmond Richards, Internationally renowned choreographer.
I try and try to communicate this to students and dancers who I direct/teach/lead. It is not something that can be taught, but rather felt. Just before the Christmas holidays I lectured one of my Youth Bollywood classes on several things, but the main message was what Desmond is talking about.
I said "Don't come to class to try to impress me with your steps. I'm not easily impressed. Do come to class ready to dance...dancing isn't just doing moves mechanically looking like a robot. Yes, there is a sequence of steps, an order, and a proper technique on how to execute them, but if you're just standing there doing steps, if you're not putting yourself into the moves, then it's boring."
One of my famous lines I say to my students " 'Anybody can get on a stage, shake their hips and call it Bollywood dance.' But it takes a special type of person to engage in dance training...and Classical dancers are even more special because it's much more challenging and codified. You [Classical dance students] are special."
But anybody who comes with an open heart, mind and makes themselves vulnerable on the dance floor is special. If you come to class just to learn and do moves, then performance art-dance may not be your thing. I say to my students "I'm a tough teacher because I want you to succeed! I'm not one of those Indian Aunty's who say "It's okay beta, do vhatever you vant." That's not me. In my culture there is a term of reference called "Chumma Chati" which is basically like "kissing up [to someone]." That has never been me. I give praise and critique where it's due.... I'm very passionate though about dance and I could talk about dance all night. And I tell my students "If I'm tough on you it's because I probably it want more than you, for you to grow and develop as a dancer."
I guess the moral of this post: I'm a tough-love teacher, with the success and development of my students as my end goal. I'm also tough on myself and I know I have a lot to grow and improve in the area of dance (and life for that matter); that's why I call myself a #DanceStudentForLife. So long as my body allows me, I will dance! And I hope my students will feel inspired to do the same.