“Take chances; make mistakes; get messy,” says Jesus Acosta to his intermediate adult modern class at Houston Metropolitan Dance Center. It’s a quote by Ms. Frizzle from “The Magic School Bus,” the children’s educational book and television series, and it sums up Acosta’s approach to teaching. “I lead with a lot of laughter,” he says. “I don’t take myself too seriously, and I don’t want them to take my class too seriously.”
Acosta’s late introduction to dance while a freshman at Sam Houston State University makes him sensitive to the needs of adult learners. “Since I started dancing later in life, I had to be quicker at picking things up,” he says. “Now, I’m compassionate about people’s different learning styles, and I try to cater to them.” Full-out demonstrations appeal to the visual learners in his class, while detailed explanations help serve others.
After a floor and standing warm-up, luscious across-the-floor combinations get his students to change levels fluidly. “I feel like floor work isn’t explored enough,” says Acosta. “I like to push my students to get into the ground and find ways of smoothly transitioning back to standing.”
At the end of class, Acosta leads dancers through a longer center combination that melds technique with movements that are open for stylistic interpretation. He includes lots of gestures, arm reaches and spine undulations. “When I’m teaching, I’m very emotionally driven,” he says. “My personal experiences inspire my choreography. I feel like my students really thrive on that.”