Like many dancers who grow up in a small, close-knit studio, Tina Finkelman Berkett considers her favorite teacher, Michele Cuccaro Cain, a second mother. (She can remember Cain once offering her own sleeve in place of a tissue when Berkett’s nose began running backstage at a competition.) Now, as the co-artistic director of Los Angeles–based company BODYTRAFFIC, Berkett is lucky enough to have her former teacher as a frequent audience member.
“The greatest thing she taught me was how to command a stage. She felt that my natural talent would allow the technique and form to develop. But more important to her than anything was that I could go out there onstage and show people that I was worthy of being watched. I’m 31; I’ve been running my own company for seven-plus years; I’ve toured all over the world—but when she’s in the audience, there’s a comfort I have that’s unlike any other time that I perform.”
Top photo by Christopher Duggan; both courtesy of Berkett