Greg Zane has had a career in the performing arts as a dancer, actor, director, choreographer, and teacher. Learn a little about his approach to teaching and his work as a director.
What drew you to dance?
As a child I watched musical films and always wanted to dance, but I was never given the opportunity to take classes. I took my first dance class in college at the University of San Francisco and immediately fell in love. As a result of my experience in college I chose to go to the Atlanta Ballet for a year and a half and was privileged to attend David Howard’s Studio on scholarship where I studied with some of my future mentors Peter Schabel, Diana Cartier, and Alaine Haubert.
Training with them I gained a greater insight to my own body making me a smarter dancer and preparing me to work through technical problems myself once I began performing professionally. I was able to breakdown the steps and discover where I need to alter my approach to the technique to attain the quality I wanted.
What brought you to New York?
I moved to New York, in 1996 after being cast in a revival of The King & I, a show that has brought me many opportunities since then.
How did you begin teaching?
Peter Schabel asked me to substitute teach some of his classes and at a later point Diana Cartier need a sub for her open classes. After testing teaching out as a sub I realized that it was a more fulfilling job than waiting tables. Gradually I took on my own teaching jobs and developed a real love it.
What would you say has been the highlight of your performance career?
Dancing a character onstage and having a rare moment when, the choreography, your technique, and the character all come together and you feel absolutely in the moment, as if you have become what you are portraying. I found this 3 or 4 times during my career while performing Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Albrecht in Giselle.
What was your most embarrassing on-stage moment?
That would have to be falling center-stage during a performance of The King & I while on tour in London. I was doing a cartwheel and my leg got kicked out by another dancer and suddenly there I was sitting in the middle of the stage for what felt like a full 5 minutes. In reality it was a few seconds before the shock wore off and I moved, but it was a horrible feeling. Now of course it’s a moment to laugh about.
How would you describe your teaching philosophy?
Dance is about moving through space and expression. Technique is important to have and continuously hone, but dance ultimately is a form of expression. The dancer should use his or her technique to express emotion, a character, or a story. The technique serves as a vessel that allows the dancer to impart the story or point of view of the choreography to the audience.
What have you learned from your students over time?
I have learned to have a greater sense of humor, to be humble, to express myself concisely and clearly, and to give constructive criticism. Teaching has helped me with my own technique and performance. Once I became a teacher I was constantly analyzing technique and breaking steps down to see how they worked for others which gave me the tools to do this for myself as well.
What do you outside of Peridance?
I direct and choreograph for musical theater productions.
While you teach ballet your directing work is in musical theater what’s the reason behind that?
I enjoy directing and choreographing musical theater because I am drawn to the storytelling and character development involved in the genre. The current trend in Ballet and Contemporary dance is to create much more abstract pieces. I do 3-4 productions a year. Directing provides a release from teaching so that when I return to my classes I am fresher and excited to share new information with my students.
Greg teaches Advanced Beginner Ballet Tuesdays & Thursdays 7:30-8:00pm.
Click here for more info.