Dekatra Lapaeva – “I am a mirror to my students.” | The Teacher’s Corner
The Teacher’s Corner is a series that is addressed to… Yes, you guessed it right: teachers. Today’s world-known teachers are letting you in on their secret weapons and presenting the roadmap of their inspiring life journeys.
Dekatra Lapaeva was the 4-year-old kid reading poetry at different events around her hometown, Orenburg in Russia. At the age of 9 years old, dance found its way into her life. She started taking classes in classical ballet and the 10 dance format. At 15 Dekatra ‘jumped on a train’ to Moscow to pursue her dance career. She had studied both contemporary dance and Latin but that was the moment her Latin career took off internationally. Seven years later she moved to London and turned Pro. She had amazing results from that point on. The psychology and philosophy study, as well as painting and writing, have always been in parallel with her dance activities.
“I am a mirror to my students.”
The world as we know it is going on a more artificial path. Real connections are missed. In this fast-paced environment, we lose ourselves easily and hold onto answers that are handed to us without thinking if they are relevant to who we really are. Above all, students need to be their own person and find their own answers. Each of them is different, not a copy of someone else.
One of my greatest desires is to see people and to be seen. A teacher has to take the courage to be himself/herself and that’s the only way to give students permission to also be themselves. One first step into building a connection with my students is to dive right in into their reality. At the studio, I try to understand what my student’s world is built on. What are their weaknesses? Are they lost? Where are they at the moment? It’s not an effort for me, I enjoy it. Teaching is just an artist helping other artists, it’s not work.
The students should also reflect in the teacher, observe their missing pieces, and be conscious of the holes they need to fill. I teach them what needs to be revealed. At times, it’s not even about dance, I just help them find themselves. The teacher clears the space for growing.
The artist is something that stands in between
Art comes from the universe, from something that is beyond us. The artist is the mediator, the medium between the unconscious and the conscious, between the individual and society, between men and gods, between this invisible world and the world we perceive. That’s why the artist must have a fine and extended spiritual palette.
I see what an artist is doing as a vibrant expression of what he is capable of feeling. It is a matter of spirituality, of the inner sense of the work, of the spirit in which it is created. It all depends on the nature of the artist, his relationship to the world, the choices he makes and the way he exposes himself. To move people the artist must enter vibration, that it is crossed by an inspiration and of course then it has to exteriorize what he/she receives.
The dance within us
Movement and dance are something beautiful that crept in my being. They have a privileged place. Dancing unlike other forms of art is a living sculpture. Dancing has a special adrenaline and vibe that painting and writing cannot give. You are doing it live, in front of people and it’s on video for the rest of your life. Of course, thankfully, you have your second chances. You are art and the creator at the same time. If I don’t dance, I suffer, it’s like I’m being punished.
I believe every individual has his own way of being, there are no recipes for success, no prefabricated answers. These are just a few directions I want to share with you that you can follow to discover yourself as a teacher and at the same time discover others easier:
1. Talk less, listen more.
People aspire to the company of someone who will listen to them without interrupting them. If you can develop this trait to speak less and listen more, you will quickly realize the benefit you can bring to your students. Give all your attention to them. Listen without over-analyzing. Enjoy the information. In this way, your answers will be much more relevant and effective.
2. Be present
The artist must be present, contribute to something greater than himself/herself. That is part of the intrinsic commitment to art. As a teacher, you have to be there. Practice being fully present in the moment; physically, emotionally and mentally. Yesterday already happened and tomorrow is still to come, all we have is the now. Although it may seem difficult, try to keep in mind that those who are difficult are probably struggling and can’t find their way out. More importantly, be there for you, appreciate what you do, even on days when no one else seems to care about your work.
3. Be grateful
The law of gratefulness consists in seeing the glass half full. It is a law of common sense that tells us to focus on what is good in our lives and to be grateful for it. By this law, the more one says ‘thanks’ to life, the more one is conscious of his happiness and of what one already has. It is a loop that leads inescapably to well-being, happiness, and joy.
I stay grateful for every moment, for the fact that my time is not yet up. I stay grateful for the people that surround me, for the presents I am given, for anything that comes my way. When gratefulness is expressed, complaints and laments are left aside. Don’t limit yourself to what you want to have, instead pay attention to what you have.
The books that hold a special place in my heart
I flow in stages, sometimes I write more, sometimes I read more. In the last 3 months, I haven’t been reading as much. I only read one book because I wanted to finalize my own poetry book. My favorite books change constantly These are some that I recommend everyone to read:
Dance: The creative art experience by Margaret H’Doubler
This book is a true gem, both visionary and practical and it will offer you a great reading experience.
Looking at Dances by Valerie Preston
It’s a very poetic book, that has a lot of hidden truths between the lines. Each chapter looks at the importance of different elements in choreography in contemporary dance theater.
Offering from the Conscious Body: Discipline Of Authentic Movement by Janet Adler
I am deeply inspired by her vision of this practice and by her inexhaustible research around the development and deepening of consciousness.
Free Play: Improvisation in life and art by Stephen Nachmanovitch
The volume talks about where the sense of art comes from and how we can contact our creative powers, and how to approach improvisation.
Latin – Thinking Sensing and Doing in Latin American Dancing by Ruud Vermeij
The book from my friend Ruud Vermeij who is very dear to me and incredible at what he does. It immerses you in the dance world with grace.
I want to leave this article by letting you know that dance hasn’t changed me, it made me. It was the force that helped me understand myself. Along with painting, writing, teaching and my studies, it brought me to myself. Made me realize that I should never look or offer ready-made solutions and that it all comes together in the end.
You can hear more about what Dekatra Lapaeva has to say on the Dancesport Life Show podcast.
At the age of 9 years old, dance found its way into her life. She started taking classes in classical ballet and the 10 dance format. At 15 Dekatra chose Moscow to pursue her dance career. That was the moment her Latin career took off internationally. At 22 she moved to London and turned Pro. She had amazing results from that point on. At the present, she lives an authentic life, a life full of spirit and art in London. She is a complete artist all around and goes from dancing, doing choreography to teaching, writing poetry and painting. Find her at https://www.instagram.com/dekatra_lapaeva/