Wendy Whelan Talks Teaching

Wendy Whelan, NYCB principal, on teaching a recent master class at Manhattan Movement & Arts:

I don’t teach often, so I’m learning about myself as a teacher. You have to articulate both with your body and with your words. A certain word might make all the difference to someone in the class. As I teach, I think a lot about Willy Burmann—I’ve been taking his class for more than 20 years. I love the ideas he brings to his students. He does a lot with opposition—being down in the ground and up into the air.

 

In the master class, I tried to keep the combinations simple. In my experience as a dancer, shorter combinations with lots of repetition work better than a long choreographic sequence you do once. I also wanted to open the students up to how they use their heads, their eyes. When I was a student at SAB, Suki Schorer used to focus on that. If your eyes are dead, your body is dead—you’re not reaching the audience, you’re not drawing them in.

I’ve been thinking about the class every day since I taught it. I’d like to try teaching more often—not shy away from it. I have such esteem for my teachers, which is why I’ve been a little intimidated to teach. They’ve all been so good and so unique, and I need to find that in myself.