An interview with Béa Rashid
Owner of Dance Center Evanston in Evanston, IL
|Just for fun quick facts on Béa Rashid|
|Years of dance training?||Started dancing at age 4 and continue to train through teaching, so 50 years.|
|Years teaching dance?||DCE has been open for 17 years, been teaching for 20 years total.|
|Styles of dance studied?
||Modern, ballet, jazz. I’ve always seen myself as a modern choreographer but I embrace ballet as much as I embrace modern; I appreciate all techniques. Studied at Northwestern University.|
|What styles do you teach now?||Modern and ballet.|
|What stretch feels great on your body?||X-rolls, circular port de bras.|
|A few words or phrases to describe your teaching method/philosophy?||Raise your cardio level, strengthen your core, lengthen your limbs, balance, express.|
|Cheesiest or most sentimental dance-related item that you own?||A t-shirt that says “Number 1 ballet teacher.”|
|Do you have an affinity for fast or slow movement?||I like moving quickly, actively, incorporating allegro tempos and jumping.|
|Dance/teaching bag essentials?||Hair ties, iPhone or iPad for videoing and music, no matter where I go.|
Allegro Dance Boutique: If a student walks away having learned just one thing from you, what would you want that one thing to be?
Béa Rashid: I used to think that if the students left with alignment and technique that they were all set, but now that’s not enough. There’s 3 elements to the arts: you need solid technique, dedication, and the realization that dance as an art form is a language and an expression of yourself. It goes beyond just the technique.
ADB: Who was your most motivating teacher and why?
BR: I had a mentor in college, Melissa Nunn, that exposed me to modern. A world beyond ballet. As a theater major at Northwestern I wanted to be an actor/director but I had always danced. When I met Melissa I realized I wanted to dance and choreograph. I graduated with a theater degree because there was no dance major at the time, but spent my last two years dancing and choreographing. I then moved to NYC to pursue a performing career in theater and/or dance. At ADF in 1977 I worked with Mel Wong, contemporary choreographer, and fell in love with his way of approaching choreography. David Howard influenced me in ballet, made me love ballet through passion. Lynn Simonson was my jazz mentor through my 20‘s.
ADB: What is the biggest “no-no” for a student to do in your class?
BR: Lack of focus and effort. We’re in this room for an hour and fifteen minutes, so they need to meet me halfway. Every class is a dance together, and I can’t dance unless I have a partner. Effort is all I’m looking for. And showing up!
ADB: What would your students say your best quality is?
BR: I’m positive.
ADB: How do you challenge your students mentally? Physically?
BR: Mentally, I encourage them to focus all of the time. Physically, I always teach to the high end of the class. In particular, forming the Evanston Dance Ensemble [DCE’S resident company] has challenged our students artistically. Every choreographer [for the company] has different demands so we require them to take all styles, even hip hop.
ADB: What are some words you would use to illustrate your personality?
BR: Outgoing, community-building, supportive, multitasking, demanding, creative.
ADB: Do you have a favorite age group to teach?
BR: I like them all. My favorite used to be the babies, I built the studio on that age group. I used creative games and music that my husband was writing at the time, and that kind of movement was a great way to blow off steam and get my body moving, As I get older it gets harder to roll on the floor [with the younger ones] like I used to. I now tend to teach more 9 -10 years and up. I love teaching adults too. I adore adult ballet class.
ADB: What are your thoughts on improvisation?
BR: Critical. Important. Technique is learning the scales, improv is learning your body, your “voice.”
ADB: If you weren’t teaching dance, what other field could you see yourself involved in?
BR: Kinesiology and physical therapy. I would love to have a deeper understanding of body functions, physically and from a mind/body connection. What we think affects what we can and can’t do, and vice versa.
ADB: Fill in the blank, mad libs-style: When I dance I feel __________. BR: Breath. ADB: Teaching is ____________. BR: Very fulfilling. ADB: A good class is when ________________. BR: Everyone leaves the room with a smile on their faces and pink cheeks. ADB: My love for ___________ is almost as strong as my love for dance. BR: Swedish pancakes.
ADB: What is the best thing about being the director of Dance Center Evanston?
BR: Watching so many young people learning to love dance, love what it means to move the body and to appreciate the art form as a form of language. Giving them the gift of ballet, of dance, and then they know what to do forever. It’s like learning an instrument and that instrument is the body.