Dance is an art form. A way of self-expression through a series of different movements in a wide array of styles to music. Simply put, a dance instructor is someone who teaches you how to do this.
Liverpool dance instructor Jeff Walker says he hopes to teach his students not only a little more about dance steps and rhythm, but a whole way of using and understanding their body in a healthy way. A way they can take along with them for the rest of their lives.
“I hope that I am offering lessons that are good comportment, healthy living, and a happy outlook on life,” he says.
Jeff came into dancing by chance at age 10, when a neighbourhood girl dared him to take dancing further than his backyard where she saw him.
“Already then she thought I would be quite the dancer, and she got me hooked. I started by going to jazz classes, tap classes, then I started taking on ballet classes,” says Jeff. “With that I became more serious. I left the town school where I was, and auditioned for the National Ballet School and was accepted.”
Jeff lived the life of a fulltime professional dancer for 20 years, mostly in Europe. After he stopped dancing professionally in 2000, he began teaching dance part time.
Moving to Liverpool was a “very conscious choice” for Jeff, knowing he was done with big city living.
“I'm very new to the area, although I know it since my childhood because part of my family comes from this part of Canada,” he says. “Liverpool is lovely. It's got lovely people, it's a beautiful spot in the world and I think it's just perfect for myself.”
Although he has had almost a lifetime of dance experience, Jeff only began teaching as a fulltime career in 2010. Jeff teaches four classes in Liverpool; two classical ballet classes and two contemporary dance classes.
The contemporary style is a little mix of jazzy and modern steps. Jeff says it is very easy to learn and do the style, so it is particularly good for people who may not have had a lot of technically dance training in their younger years.
“As we get older I find that out bodies tend to want to learn less, and they're more difficult in learning certain techniques,” he says. “It's a very good place to start with teenagers for example, or even younger adults.”
His classes, which are held at both the Astor Theatre and the Royal Canadian Legion Branch #38, have a wide age range. The first ballet class being pre-ballet for ages four to five, the next is a beginner ballet class ages six to nine, a teen contemporary group from ages nine to 12, then an adult group which is a mix between older teens and adults.
Jeff says he teaches the combined class styles of the Royal Academy of Dancing and the Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet, using music from one school and technique from the other.
“I don't teach just one style of classical ballet. Through my experience I found that some things work better than others,” says Jeff. “When you're teaching kids, definitely the musicality of the Royal Academy is wonderful. But some of the stylized mannerisms and techniques ideas of the Vaganova School are a little bit easier to introduce, so I put those together.”
Jeff says he finds the most challenging part of his job to be maintaining the balance between fun and “good old fashioned work.”
“I don't want to kid anyone, when you get into a dance class it is about working your body and working your mind,” he says. “But I try to budget that to the extent that it is not just work, it is also still a fun environment.”
With teaching, Jeff says he hopes it will give him the chance to pass on all the wonderful things he says he has learned over the years. From “taking young bodies and young minds and giving them the basics they need to start off,” to helping others tap into the beat they may have lost.
For more information contact Jeff Walker at 350-2549