Before I begin this blog, I think it's imperative that I set the scene so you can picture me at this exact moment...
It's 10pm and I've just finished my two non-Example jobs. This morning I was consulting for a London dance studio and then after that moved on to a monumentally manic shift at my Burnley job. Once I'd collected Maestro I came home and was greeted by my ballroom book sitting on my mantelpiece - I had deliberately put it there this morning so that I would make study for my exams a priority as soon as I got home.
Inwardly I groaned - it's been a long day, my head hurts and I just want to hit my sofa and rest. Yet I still picked up the book. Why? Because I want to pass my fellowship exams more than anything in the world.
This got me to thinking about why this fellowship means so much to me. Is it because it will make me a better teacher? I suppose the answer should be yes...but is it? Of course it will enhance my knowledge on paper but why do I really want to hold this coveted award and why, when I could have done it by now, have I held off?
The answer is simple. I love teaching!
To me being a good teacher is not just that I can recite every step ever written down, but that I can take that knowledge and use it to teach all my students in a way that works for them.
One of the things that fascinates me about dance is that it's interpretive. It's like handwriting, like language, once the basic tools are mastered it's up to the writer to use them. Your dance floor is your open manuscript and what and how you choose to write on it is up to you.
For me teaching is just the same - every new student is like a blank canvas and it's not necessarily what I know but how I interpret and mould what I know to suit my student that counts.
I've been luckier than most to spend a great chunk of my career this far alongside some of the greatest dancers in the world. Whilst arguably I could have spent more time studying the books, I chose to study their styles and try them all so that I could find my style - what works for me on and off the floor. Dance can be written in a book but, in my opinion, it cannot be fully learnt from a book. Books cant teach expression or feeling or even style. They are the Highway Code of dance - they do not teach you how to drive.
My motto has always been that you can have all the knowledge in the world but it's what you do with it that counts. The same motto, I hope, I pass on to my students every day. Dance is a language - it needs to be used and practised until you are fluent. It's an art, it needs to be honed and developed. I would rather my students train their bodies time and time again to make one step or a basic routine spectacular, rather than dance all their lives and still have nothing to show for it.
Cliché I know but practice does indeed make perfect (who knew?) - and if you can't do it with your feet then you can't do it.
In an age where dance is entering a digital age with online tutorials, YouTube and syllabuses becoming readily available, anyone can 'learn to dance'. I can study book after book to develop my teaching knowledge but I, just like I expect from my students, want to be able to practise what I preach.
So yes, I will continue to pick up that book when I'm tired and study for my coveted fellowship. But I, like many of my teaching friends, will be eternally grateful for the experiences that I've had on the floor and the gruelling training I've endured. They don't give you a certificate for that!
So to my students - whether it's your first ever step or you've been on the dance floor for years, enjoy every step and keep practising!
Afterall, it ain't what you do - it's ALWAYS the way that you do it!