Haruka Tamura Shares Her Tips for Teaching a Class of 18- to 60-Year-Olds
January 3, 2022

When it comes to her adult ballet class at Brookline Ballet, Haruka Tamura has one primary goal: to have fun. “Whether their joy comes from accomplishing goals, like retiré balance, or simply making friends within the community, I just want everyone to have a good time,” she says. Thankfully, this proves to be a fairly simple goal to achieve with the demographic of her Massachusetts-based class. “Nobody’s making my adult dancers come to class—they are here because they love to dance.”

As a full-time nurse and part-time teacher, Tamura understands the benefits of keeping one foot in the dance world while pursuing nondance opportunities—just like her students. She began her dance training when she was 5 years old at a dance school in Japan called Sumire Ballet Classic. At 18, she attended Boston Ballet’s summer intensive and quickly had aspirations for American company life. Though she wasn’t offered a spot at the year-round school, character teacher Alla Nikitina suggested she consider continuing her training in college. So Tamura changed plans and earned her BFA in dance performance from The University of Hartford in Connecticut.

After graduation Tamura bounced between various dance jobs before settling down at José Mateo Ballet Theatre in Boston, Massachusetts, for four years, after which she began preparing for nursing school at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. Although her primary profession has changed, one thing has stayed constant in her life: teaching. “I’ve basically had a teaching job since middle school. And I truly enjoy teaching adults. I honestly think I am better at teaching them than I am at teaching children.”

Photo courtesy Tamura

Though Tamura’s class is officially labeled as intermediate, she sees a range of levels, including former professional dancers, professional ballet dancers, and some with no professional experience who are just there to get some exercise. “I like to challenge my students no matter what their reason is for coming to class,” she says. “I even give my advanced dancers combinations that require brain work. It’s something we all need every once in a while.”

Here, Tamura shares some of her teaching tools, including her favorite teaching props, technique tips, the content she recommends her adult students watch, and her self-care regimen.

Go-to teaching attire: “I wear the black Bloch teaching sneakers that can go on pointe easily. I used to teach with flat shoes, but my heel started hurting, so sneakers work better for me. Outside of that, I wear leggings and fitted shirts from a variety of brands so that my students can easily watch my body when I demonstrate.”

Favorite educational props: “I typically just grab whatever props are closest to me. For example, if I am teaching piqué at the barre, I might put a water bottle next to the dancers to demonstrate that the movement needs to go up and around the water bottle without knocking it over. Or if I am teaching about spiraling the spine to coordinate the body, I might grab a nearby towel to demonstrate.”

Adult teaching technique tips: “I like to focus on foot articulation as well as incorporating the full body when dancing. A lot of my adult students focus on their legs, but have relaxed arms and a disengaged back. They look down a lot, too, and so I try to encourage them to use their entire body from the tops of their heads to the tips of their fingers.”

Photo courtesy Tamura

Her hydration strategy: “I am really big on hydration—especially in the winter. I don’t feel like I drink enough water, so I always start my day with a big glass. Recently, I have been trying to drink green juice. You can get a powder form of a green drink at Whole Foods and scoop it into a cup of water. It’s a great way to get more fluids and more nutrients.”

Beloved nondance activities: “I love any sort of nature-related activity, like hiking and sightseeing. I have taken up archery recently. It’s physically challenging and it really calms me down. Focusing on one spot can be such a stress reliever. It brings me Zen.”

Her exercise of choice: “Ever since COVID, I like to give myself a barre class at home. I find it relaxing to grab a chair and focus on myself. I also like to ride a unicycle. I learned how to do so when I was young and it’s so much fun.”

Recommended content: “For training, I recommend Kathryn Morgan’s YouTube channel. Whenever my students come to me with something they want to get better at, I tell them to watch her videos in which she breaks down different steps. Her explanations are excellent.”

Her self-care secret: “I always start my day off by lying down and putting my legs up for 10 to 15 minutes. Then I use a foam roller, massage gun and one of those [lacrosse] balls that you can put on the wall and roll around on your back.”

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