David Howard teaching at the American Ballet Theatre’s Summer Intensive. New York, 2000
David Howard was one of the most respected, well-known, and popular teachers of ballet in the world, with a career stretching from the 1960’s right up until his death in 2013 – 50 years, more or less. David, whom I had the privilege to know and work with for over 20 of those years, was devoted to teaching – it was his life and he gave everything to be able to do it. He taught more classes – per day, per week, per year – than any other teacher I know of. Once I began teaching myself, it was hard to understand how he could physically keep up such an intense schedule of classes. And he taught in so many different places… at his own studios in New York City; at companies around the world; at schools, universities, festivals, conferences; and later on at other people’s studios in NYC, where over the course of a day he would travel to multiple locations to give class. The traveling – locally, nationally, internationally – was an incredible strain on top of the demands of the classes themselves. How did he manage to keep up such an unrelenting and arduous schedule? In this photograph Rosalie has captured much of the essence of what drove David Howard – his energy, focus, and enthusiasm for teaching leap out of the frame! Having known David both inside and outside of the studio, I can say without doubt the studio was where he was most alive and vibrant. Once there his whole being seemed to change, regardless of how he felt on any given day. The first thing one noticed was his eyes – they literally lit up when the class began, as is evident in this photograph. Rosalie took it at a time when he was no longer able to move around the room, as he often did in his earlier days. In later years, even confined to a chair, his body came to life once the music began. For David, music provided the essential energy of the dance, and his attention to music, and his relationship to his accompanists, was well known – in his view it was a partnership critical to accomplishing the objective of the class. David was also known for the distinctive way he rhythmically clapped in accompaniment to each exercise. Some may have considered this an annoyance, or questioned its necessity, but for David it was an absolutely vital link to the business at hand. Above all else, the energy in the studio was his primary focus and concern, and he believed the energy level a dancer experienced in class was the key to both technical and artistic accomplishment. David’s clapping was the conduit between the music that filled the room, and the movement of the dancer’s bodies. For him, being a teacher really meant being a maestro – conducting the class as much as teaching it! To that end, his classes were structured around the rhythm and tempi of the exercises, each one connected to the next in such a way as to take the dancer on an energetic journey that would lead them to an incredible pinnacle of feeling. Dancers loved David’s class for the way it made them feel – for the incredible level it brought them to. David relished the opportunity to take dancers on that journey, every single time – a true maestro!
Associate Artistic Director,
American Ballet Theatre