When A Dancer Smiles


Yesterday, I talked about a dancer’s face and on how it may appear while in class or in performance. The best face on a dancer is the expression of a dancer who has just been given praise for their work in class. There is so much talk these days in the dance realm, about the reality show Dance Moms. In my opinion, I feel that, that teacher’s methods are un warranted, un ethical and mostly degrading to the dancer. And to be quite frank, those moms are just dancer “wanna to bes” and are trying to live their lives through their children. They are purely ignorant people for allowing their children to endure such nonsense. Most teachers, at least the ones who have been my associates, employees, or my employers would never degrade a dancer as such. This popular show just gives the dance school profession a poor image of what a great dance teacher should actually be.

A key part of teaching ballet or any dance form, is providing dancers with effective praise. When a dancer is praised correctly, it provides them with positive reinforcement. It motivates them to bring their performance in class to a higher point of excellence. I have found that in order for praise to truly be effective, it is must be specific to what the dancer is doing at the time.

While teaching class, I know for a fact that praise does so much more for the dancer’s technical improvement than negative criticism. Dancers are in class to do their best and are always listening for the least bit of approval. One thing I have noticed about teaching ballet, is that the immediate praise you give, while the dancer is performing a combination or step in class is the most effective. When a dancer believes she is doing her best and doesn’t get any approval, the teacher has missed her mark on improvement for the future. When the dancer is doing something wrong and is given a correction with no praise, the teacher has missed her mark again and the dancer feels down hearted, like “Why should I bother, I am never going to get this”. Dancers yearn for that “ You’re doing really great!” or receiving a shout of praise while they dance across the floor. I have found that to be a favorite form of education praise, because it is spoken immediately and at the time of performance. It is always a dancer’s goal while in class, working their hardest, to have the teacher take notice and give a “Good girl!” shout. While teaching class I try made it a point to take notice when someone was pushing extra hard, or putting into practice a correction I had given them, by saying something positive to them.

Getting back to that horrible show, those plastic statues received at competitions are representations of hard work accomplished, at that time, at that moment, but should not be replacement for praise in class. I myself own crates and crates of those plastic things earned by my former dance groups, and they were of value at the time of acceptance, but nothing will replace the memory of a dance teacher, who makes you, the dancer, know you are doing well with just her words or expression of gratitude; that you the dancer are making her job as dance teacher enjoyable and impressionable .

Praise is gratifying to the dancer getting praised, of course, but it also boosts the happiness of the one giving the praise…. in this case the dance teacher…..at least I’ve found that true of myself. Because the way I feel is very much influenced by the way I act, and by acting in a way that shows appreciation, discernment, and thoughtfulness, I feel more appreciated, more discerning, and more thoughtful. And that boosts happiness…….. and makes a dancer smile.

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