by Risa Steinberg
I have always felt a need to communicate and, even
more importantly, to be understood. But as a child,
I always hit an emotional wall when trying to speak.
Although my great-aunt Rose had no connection to
dance, she intuitively saw that I needed an outlet, and
recommended that I take a movement class. It was
literally life-changing. I realized I could make myself
understood without my needing to be verbal.
Hypervigilance kept me curious and always looking for the best way to answer questions like the ones
that dance presents. How do you do a movement
and what makes it communicate? How do you make
dancing less complicated? What is technique and what
is its purpose?
These personal pursuits increased when I was
studying dance at The Juilliard School and was given
the opportunity to teach my peers. I was immediately
aware of how my need to answer those questions
made a signi;cant impact on those I was teaching.
I wanted to ;gure out the puzzle for them as well
as myself. This produced a remarkable giving and
receiving of information. That was when my love
for teaching was born. The satisfaction of seeing that
“wow” moment in someone’s eyes when the impossible becomes the possible is so rewarding.
I’ve had the fortune to have exceptional teachers,
and, even with that, I’ve found that teaching itself is
one of the greatest teachers: If you can ;gure out how
to teach it, you probably can ;gure out how to do it.
My challenge now is to try to embody the stan-
dards I set for those I teach. Presently, while perform-
ing in Sleep No More, I am deeply invested in what it
is to communicate such a complex story. The physical
demands, and the intensity of the audience in this
immersive theater, create a vibrant stage. That always-
moving energy poses questions, such as how to stay
true to the work when you are spontaneously having
new and unexpected interactions. When someone
who has studied with me sees a performance and says,
“I saw what you taught me,” I implode with joy.
My career as a performer and teacher includes
mentoring and coaching dancers and choreographers,
who are either creating and performing in the ;eld,
or preparing to. I am continually challenged to ;nd
the questions that offer more clarity to each of them.
Being able to help illuminate what someone wants to
say and how they say it is such a gift. ■
Master Limón teacher and
dancer in Sleep No More
Steinberg got her first
opportunity to teach
while studying at The
“If you can figure out
how to teach it, you
probably can figure out
how to do it.”