Q & A with Stuart Coleman
April 5, 2016
Why do you dance?
Before I was dancing, I was dancing. Years before my first dance class, I was choreographing dances to songs on the radio and spontaneously breaking out in dance in front of my classmates in school. Taking dance lessons just gave me structure to a passion that was always inside me.
If you hadn't been a dancer, what would you be doing?
I would be an actor. Anything that could keep my performing on the stage.
What other exercise/physical training do you spend time with besides dance classes? How does that help?
I have recently started going to the gym and cross-training and I’m really loving it. I like taking spinning classes and strength/conditioning classes.
What types of costumes are easiest to dance in? Describe your favorite costume you've ever danced in. Describe the most challenging/why.
I love wearing costumes (especially tops) that are loose-fitting, baggy, or over-sized. There really is a wonderful feeling when I can feel the air between my clothing and my skin—it makes my movement feel very expansive. The most challenging costumes to dance in are ones that restrict movement, such as formalwear costumes like in Ray & Ella.
What inspires you when you're creating choreography? What is the biggest challenge for you in that process?
Inspiration for my choreography comes from a variety of places, but most often the inspiration comes in the form of music. I get so many ideas to create dances just by listening to music. I’ll be listening to random music in my car or as I’m working out and I’m already imagining how it would look as a dance. While sometimes I create my concepts for dances before finding music, the pieces where I find music first are the ones I usually end up liking more.
What is your favorite part of teaching dance? What's the biggest challenge? Where do you teach?
Teaching has always been a joy of mine because I love getting to help young dancers connect the dots. So often, we have this mental image of a dance teacher walking around the dance studio with a wooden cane and pushing students towards a breaking point at the expense of achieving “perfection.” My students know—that’s not why I teach. I teach students to know what they are always striving for, so that even if something isn’t perfect or if something doesn’t work on stage, they know how to fix it and how to make it work. My biggest challenge as a teacher is picking my battles. I will watch a class do a combination across the floor and see upwards of ten things I want to talk about and address with them, but with only an hour and a half class every week, there’s only so much delving you can do with one combination. You just teach them what you can in the time constraints that you’re given and hope that it sticks in their heads so that next time, you don’t have to address the same things and can move on to making them even better. I teach at Academy of Dance Arts in Fishers, Phoenix Rising Dance Studios in Indianapolis, and Dancers Studio Inc in Columbus, IN.
What is your favorite guilty pleasure?
Dr. Pepper. I just love it.
What one piece of advice would you give a student who wants to dance professionally?
Don’t miss class. There’s no simpler way to put it. First of all, if you really love dancing, then going to dance class shouldn’t be a chore—it should be something to look forward to. Believe me, I know that some days it’s really difficult to make yourself go take ANOTHER ballet class, but it is so much more than going and taking class. Not only is it important to instill that discipline of always going to class, but every class you take has the potential to dramatically affect your dancing. You never know when a teacher is going to say that one thing in class that is a lightbulb moment for you and you will never do a tendu the same way again. Even when you’re a professional, you will never stop taking class—you will take class every day the rest of your professional career, so if dancing is something you’re serious about, get in the studio and take class to the best of your ability to become your best possible dancer.