Our gymnastics instructors are the best of the best! Learn a little bit more about instructor Liz's incredible training as a dancer and she brings her dance education to our WiO Gymnasts.
How did you get involved in dance?
I began taking dance classes when I was three years old. My mom would tell me I would pirouette and leap around the house as a child. She said I would beg her to sign me up for dance…and she did! I started taking creative movement classes until I was old enough to begin ballet lessons. I trained at several different dance studios growing up, such as Eleanor Connell School of Dance, Joffrey Ballet School, Roxey Ballet, American Ballet Theatre and Princeton Ballet School. When I first began ballet class, I started off taking one class a week. When that wasn’t enough for me, I signed up for more. And more. And more; until I was dancing every day.
What is your favorite childhood memory?
Although it is hard to choose just one, I would have to say my favorite childhood memory would be receiving my first tutu. It was white and red with white polka dots on it. I absolutely loved it! The only thing I did not like about it was how itchy the tulle was. But I must’ve gotten used to the itchiness, because I would dress up in it and dance around the house. I even wore it as a Halloween costume! I bet I would have worn that tutu everyday if my mom and dad allowed me to.
What is the most rewarding skill you ever learned?
I believe my most rewarding skill I ever learned was performing 32 consecutive turns on pointe. A prima ballerina typically will perform these turns, called fouette turns, during a classical ballet. It is considered to be one of the toughest moves to do; it requires an incredibly amount of strength, stamina, technique and focus. I remember working all summer during high school on these turns. When I finally was able to successfully complete 32 fouettes, I couldn’t wait to show my ballet teacher. It was such a rewarding feeling to know my hard work paid off.
What are the challenges you find as a dancer and an instructor?
For Myself: One of my biggest challenges I faced as an aspiring ballet dancer was learning to dance and perform bigger than my body. Unfortunately, I was not blessed with a “ballerina’s body.” I am petite, and as a child, it took me a while to comprehend that I wasn’t going to be 5’6” and be a part of New York City Ballet. I had some of the most outstanding ballet teachers during my intensive ballet training that were able to assist me with getting my leaps and jumps as high as the taller girls. It took years for me to embrace my petite frame, but as I progressed and received positive feedback from my instructors, my confidence grew.
As an Instructor: I have found that in order to manage, engage and interact with young children in a dance class setting is quite a challenge! Learning technical terms and stationary movements can get boring and tedious for children. In order to keep students interested about learning dance skills, I like to layer my instruction with imagery. For example, when I am teaching students how to hold their arms in fifth position, I ask students to imagine they are holding a giant beach ball. Or if we are practicing our leaps, I have students imagine they are trying to reach a yummy treat hanging from the ceiling. Young children grasp this idea extremely well, especially because they will typically play “pretend” outside of dance class.
What is your teaching philosophy?
My goal is to help students find their passion in dance. I like to incorporate teaching the foundation of dance while providing a fun and interactive environment for students. I believe providing a positive learning environment is essential so that all students build self-confidence and make friends. I see potential in each student to overcome their obstacles and become the best dancers they can possibly be…and having fun while doing so. Whether the student likes to take dance class “just for fun,” or is looking to dance at Lincoln Center in the future, I am there to provide them with the guidance they need to reach their goals.