Interview with Richard Elszy – the ideal dance parent

I was lucky enough to catch up with the incredibly inspirational Richard Elszy today and had the most energizing and motivational chat about the ideal dance parent.  Richard’s mini-interview is part of the blog series, ‘Industry Tips for Dance Parents’. These interviews are designed as a resource for dance parents to help give their children the best chance of success on their dance journey. Before we get to Richard’s hot tips, let’s find out a little bit more about him (you know, incase you have been hiding under a rock!)

Richard Elszy is a passionate dance educator,  dedicated to training the next generation of dancers through his technical expertise and inspiring them with inventive and picturesque choreography.  Elszy is a teaching protégé of dance educator icon Paula Morgan and he has traveled extensively as Paula’s teaching assistant across America, Europe, and Canada and is featured in all three of her technical DVDs. He attended the University of California Irvine, where he danced for legendary choreographer Donald McKayle as a member of his company “Donald McKayle’s Etude Ensemble” and trained with acclaimed ballet professor David Allen.  Elszy has also trained with one of America’s 10 Ballet Masters Larry Long dancing with his “Civic Ballet Of Chicago” and in Philadelphia at “Philadanco”. Richard has also worked as a technique coach and choreographer to Nia Sioux. Richard shares his knowledge generously on various Dance Educator Forums which is how we came to connect for this interview.

Richard is currently holidaying down under and is planning to return in April for some workshops, so if you would like any more info about these or to book a workshop you can contact Richard here.

The Ideal Dance Parent

During our phone interview, Richard described his ideal dance parent. So….if you want to know how to be a great dance parent and how to help your child succeed, listen up!  Richard describes the ideal dance parent as involved but also not afraid to let their child take responsibility for and ownership over their training. This means, not trying to step in and fix everything the minute there is a little hiccup or bump in the road. We discussed how dance is such an emotional art form, journey, and experience and how dance encompasses a dancer’s whole being.  He said that while he totally understands that parents want to fix things for their child and want them to be happy, he talked about how dance is a journey, a journey that is not always straightforward and not always smooth sailing. He went on to talk about the importance of parents not reacting too quickly when their dancer comes home after a ‘bad’ class or when they can’t quite master a certain skill, but instead appreciating dance as a journey and understanding that a child’s ability to work through the rough patches is such an incredibly important part of that journey. He suggests that rather than advocating for their child, it can be more beneficial to encourage their child to approach their teachers, to voice their frustration or disappointment, and encourage their child to work with their teacher to find answers and solutions themselves. That ability to push through the walls, to overcome their frustration, to keep working towards their goals is where the drive to succeed is born.  I would have to say that I wholeheartedly agree on this point and feel that a parent supporting their child to work through the rough spots, to try again, to set goals, and work towards achieving them, is an incredibly valuable part of their dance education.

Richard describes the ideal dance parent as involved but also not afraid to let their child take responsibility for and ownership over their training.

We then went onto discuss how parents can best help their dancer to practice at home. We talked about how parents will often report that their child constantly dances at home.  Richard advocates parents approaching him to ask what they should be looking for when their dancer practices. Even just a few simple tips can help make that practice more valuable.

dance is a journey, a journey that is not always straightforward and not always smooth sailing.

Finally, Richard talked about a conversation with a fellow choreographer who auditions and employs dancers. The conversation centered around one of the most important skills a dancer can possess aside from their abilities as a dancer- the skill to communicate.  Richard talked about how important it is for a dancer to be able to approach a teacher, to communicate, to be able to work through issues, and make their presence felt in the class. This skill, like any other, needs to be learned and practiced, so encouraging your child to advocate for themselves and to build a working relationship with their teacher is incredibly valuable. Dance students, parents, and teachers can most effectively operate as a team when communication is open and when a parent is able to support their child in working with their teacher to work through problems and overcome issues. Not every class has to be great, not every skill can be achieved straight away, dance is a journey, a marvelous, wonderful, never-ending journey with amazing highs and crushing lows. Enjoy the ride.

I’d like to thank Richard for taking the time out of his vacation for this interview. I know dance parents all over the world will appreciate his words of wisdom.

Industry tips for dance mom mums parents


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