A Master Class Teacher: On the Road

What does it mean to travel the world as a Master Class Teacher in Tap? It means sometimes you don’t sleep.

Over this past summer, within a period of 10 days, I traveled from NYC to Houston to teach a day-long workshop, flew back to New York, then without leaving the airport, boarded a plane to Finland for a week. Shuttling between my Helsinki hotel and the studio where I was teaching Tap classes took on a surreal dimension when I realized the sun literally never sets during the summer in Finland. But it was the contrast between the students in Houston and their Helsinki counterparts that would really keep me up nights.

Back in Houston, I’d arrived at the studio after a smooth plane ride and was greeted by huge smiles and an exuberant crowd. The kids were engaged, responsive and enthusiastic during class, which made my job a breeze.

The reality is, my teaching method relies as much on personality as it does on technique. Note to teachers: As long as you keep things exciting, your students will be engaged and open to learning. In fact, I’ll take energetic, responsive beginners over a reserved class of advanced perfectionists any day. In Texas, my method worked. I left for the airport feeling great. I touched down 8 bumpy hours later in Finland, which I’ve since decided was a sign of what was to come.

My first class in Helsinki was painful. The students were quiet, seemingly uninterested and refused to make eye contact. Speaking, either to me or to each other, was apparently out of the question. I saw only the faintest nods and it seemed the entire sun-drenched society was intent on poking holes through my teaching method. But I was determined to get through to these hole-pokers!

The question was how. How was I going to teach three classes a day, for six days? That’s 27 hours of classes (believe me, you’d be counting the hours too). Oh, and I failed to mention that my watch had broken on the trip over, so time had literally ceased to exist. Like Al Pacino in Insomnia--but with subtitles--I started to feel like I was hallucinating.

After the first day of teaching, I joined the studio owner for dinner, and she proceeded to tell me how excited the students were to have me there and how much they enjoyed my energy. Excited!?! Enjoyed!?! I couldn’t believe it. I was confused. She then explained that it’s simply Finnish custom for people to be reserved and polite in most situations.

Still, it didn’t add up. I was blasting The Rolling Stones and the students would not bring any energy to the dance floor. They were able to execute the steps though, which felt like a consolation prize at best. Dance in an expressive art—an idea for which I was determined to fight.  

After 6 days of screaming my brains out and jumping around tap class like an animal, straining to produce any response, I was exhausted. Finally, after one student performed a particularly hard pull-back step correctly, I saw something out of the corner of my eye: a swift, soundless high five. I almost fell over. When I told the owner about it, she was floored. Apparently, that had never happened before. I considered it a personal victory. And I wish I could say I slept that night.

Flying back home cross-eyed, I thought about how hard I’d had to work in Helsinki to get what came automatically in Houston. Then I wondered, isn’t it better to work hard for what you want? Wasn’t success earned sweeter than success given? In my sleep deprived state, I decided it wasn’t. But I plan to go back to that studio next year—with a back-up watch—and get myself a smile.

Latest Posts

Because there's never been a better time to binge-watch "Bunheads" (via Freeform)

5 of the Danciest TV Shows Streaming Right Now (and Where to Stream Them)

We're about two months into #SocialDisDancing, and let's be real—while we all wish we were spending every spare minute stretching, cross-training, or taking online classes, sometimes we just need to Netflix and chill.

We figure, if you're going to be watching TV anyways, why not make it dancy TV? After all, watching pros dance on-screen is basically dance class homework...or at least we'll say it is. Here are five of the danciest TV shows for you to watch—and where to find them.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Larry Saperstein on "High School Musical: The Musical: The Series" (Disney+/Fred Hayes)

Celebrate National Tap Dance Day with "HSM" Star Larry Saperstein

Happy National Tap Dance Day, friends! We're marking the occasion by catching up with one of our favorite talented young tappers: Larry Saperstein. The "High School Musical: The Musical: The Series" star began taking tap classes at 12 years old, studying at the American Tap Dance Foundation, where he quickly discovered his love for the art. These days, he's putting his skills to good use as Big Red on "HSMTMTS." (Who could forget that iconic moment at the end of season one where he broke out into a tap routine that shook us all!)

We chatted with Larry about why he loves tap so much, and why the art form needs more and better representation in the dance world (and the world world).

Keep Reading SHOW LESS

2020 Dance Grads: We Want to Put You on Our Cover!

Hello, all you members of the great Dance Class of 2020. With the world on lockdown, this hasn't been the graduation season you expected. You likely weren't able to go to prom; your commencement ceremonies have probably been delayed or canceled; and you might not have been able to take your planned-for final bow onstage.

Since you're missing out on so much, we'd like to give you a virtual ovation, to recognize all you've accomplished. And what's the highest honor we can bestow? The cover of Dance Spirit!

Here's the plan:

  • If you're a high school or college senior dancer, use this form to submit your information and dance portrait.
  • Each day during the month of May, we'll create a digital Dance Spirit cover starring one of you, chosen at random—31 covers in total.
  • At the end of the month, we'll create a "commencement video" featuring even more of your submitted dance photos.
  • 100 of you, selected by lottery, will also receive free one-year subscriptions to the print magazine.

Merde, 2020 graduates, as you dance your way into the future!

High School and College Senior Dancers: Submit Your Photo Here

Editors' Picks

Enter the Cover Model Search