Spotlight on LCDS Teacher Ethan Kirschbaum

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April 10, 2019

We are shining a teacher spotlight on Ethan Kirschbaum, Lou Conte Dance Studio faculty member. Ethan teaches modern and contemporary classes, and is a mentor for the LCDS Scholarship program. We asked Ethan more about his career, what to expect from his classes, and his responsibility as a Scholarship mentor.

How long have you been teaching at LCDS, and how many hours per week do you teach?

I have been on faculty at LCDS for the last 8 years and I dedicate at least 7.5 hours a week to teaching at LCDS, not counting the hours spent researching, curating, and choreographing my classes in preparation.

What was your career like as a professional dancer, and how does that play into your career as a teacher?

I had the privilege of dancing with Hubbard Street 2 while completing my BFA in dance from the Ailey/Fordham program. From there I moved to Saarbrücken, Germany to dance with Donlon Dance Company(DDC). Missing the tight knit support of the Chicago dance community, I came back and danced for five seasons with River North Dance Chicago (RNDC) which is also when I first joined the faculty at LCDS. Since then I’ve performed in Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s “Welcome Yule!”, multiple productions at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and guested with Lucky Plush Productions. My career has taken me around the world but always back to Chicago, so I try to bring that perspective and movement options to each of my classes, no matter the technique. From my cerebral contemporary work with HS2 and DDC to the athletic, entertaining work with RNDC, I pluck little bits of myself to offer my students, be it my beginning Modern class or my Advanced/Professional Contemporary class.

What is your favorite part about teaching?

My favorite part about teaching is what I call the “Lightbulb” or “A-Ha!” moment. It’s the moment when I witness the concept I’ve been communicating verbally and physically take ownership in my student. The “Lightbulb” moment generated from grasping just one idea begins to shine light on other possibilities, it signifies the beginning of more work, like a Pandora’s box of pas de bourres, undercurves, and tactility.

What is something you want students to take away from your class?

The main concept I find myself stressing to all my students across all techniques is the importance of being present; dance is 10% physical and 90% cerebral. You can have the highest legs and prettiest feet but if you don’t know the combination, you can’t showcase them. How can you hope to improve on quality, musicality, and dynamics if you don’t know what’s coming next? Presence of mind and focus are paramount in my class, and whether or not a student becomes a professional dancer, being present can help you in any profession.

A class at Lou Conte Dance Studio. Photo by Todd Rosenberg. 

As a mentor for the scholarship program, can you describe the structure the program has as well as the goals set for the students?

The goal of the LCDS Scholarship program is to act as an incubator for pre-professional to early career dancers who may need just a little more time to refine their technique or broaden their knowledge of dance techniques as well as their network. The dancers are required to take at least 10 technique classes per week. When the late Claire Bataille first got sick over a year ago, she knew she couldn’t be there for her scholarship dancers in the way she wanted, so she asked Kristina Fluty, Laura Wade, and

myself to take on the responsibilities she usually shouldered on her own. Our goal is to help support the artists of today as well as nurture the artists of tomorrow.

What all does being a mentor for the scholarship students entail?

Being one of the Scholarship Mentors has been a bigger undertaking than I expected but also a bigger reward. We are in charge of their daily practice; making sure they’re in class every day, communicating with them if they are sick or injured, and helping them seek treatment for injuries. We also help them navigate their futures by helping them set up video reels of their dancing, writing letters of recommendation for summer programs or company auditions, and offering feedback at least twice a year regarding their overall development and how to accelerate their progress. We were also in charge of selecting a choreographer to set an original work on all the dancers in our program. We also are fielding questions from potential applicants as well as auditioning future students.

Any other thoughts to add about LCDS?

LCDS and all who have passed through its doors are like a second family to me. We have been there for each other through our successes and our sweat, and that is a bond I will always cherish. Whether you take one class at LCDS or one thousand, you become a part of a chosen family that is dynamic, passionate, and supportive.

Learn more about the classes Ethan teaches and sign up today on our LCDS webpage. If you or anyone you know is interested in auditioning for the LCDS scholarship program, please reach out to

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