Teaching dance is one aspect of life that has been a part of me for as long as I can remember. As a child in dance school, I was teaching my friends to dance in a little studio my dad built for me in our basement. Equipped with barres on the wall, a record player, (yes, I said record player) and a dance floor. By age 16, I was charging the neighbor’s children to take dance classes from me. I suppose my parents felt, that even at a young age, that this would be my destiny, and my passion. I believed that they felt that after all their time of taking me to class from age three and paying for all those lessons, finally their investment would pay off, and I thank them since it still is after all those years. What my parents did for me was equal to a college education, it began a profession.
Even with dance as a life long passion, teaching it can be very challenging. There are many aspects of this art form to instill into each and every dancer. Whether it be ballet, tap, jazz, musical theater, acro and what ever other type of dance that happens to be before me.
One very important aspect of teaching dance is using correct dance technique and terminology. Without these most important elements more harm than good can come out of the dancer’s training. First off wasted time. These two aspects of teaching are fundamental to a dancer’s future. Where can a dancer go in the dance world if they are not using correct terminology? How could they continue their training in college or another professional studio with out proper technique formed at the start? They would be lost in a class of professionals if they were to peruse dance as a future, whether it be on the stage, choreographing for a company, teaching in a college or in a private studio. A dancer can go no where unless these two elements are taught and taught properly.
One way I instill these two important factors is though a Dance Journal. Our Dance Journals are created on a monthly basis. The first class of each month, the ballet classes receive worksheets of terminology, dance history and theory to work on. They are created according to the level of training. The dancers take home these sheets and work up the answers in their very own personal Dance Journal. A journal which they have made their own by adding pictures and drawings, depending upon their age. Their work is reviewed together, the last class of each month.
Proper terminology must be used in the classroom continuously from an early age. Our Pre-dance classes, which are ages 3 and 4, are taught proper terminology, even at this age. Terms such as plie, releve, chase are used continuously in class. The tiny dancers are also taught what a turn out is by using 1st position standing and also from a seated position. Teaching 1st position from a seated position instills that their little legs turn out from the hips and not from the knees. Thus the beginning of proper ballet technique.
At the next level of ballet training, the Primary level, ballet terminology and technique really start to be more pronounced in their class time. Proper barre work technique is stressed and terminology begins to be built. Reciting ballet terms is done in every class, so as the dancer is assured of saying their terms correctly.
Our monthly Dance Journal homework begins at the Novice ballet level. This journal method is excepted as normal procedure by the dancers up to the High school age. Each month, the dancers are so excited to show me what they have done this month, and how their drawings came and what pictures they printed out and pasted in their journals.
Once in high school and academics create massive homework, the dancers struggle with this Dance Journal method. Here is where some resistance comes in from the dancers who are not so driven. Unfortunately this is the age, where other activities sometimes cloud their interest and dance can become just that, another activity. It is the teacher’s responsibility to try to keep dance first and foremost in their minds. It is the teacher’s responsibility to keep their class interesting, educating and most of all fun. There are many high school dancers who have danced their whole lives and dropped dance or eliminated classes due to their other personal activities, who have come back to me and regretted their choice at the time. They came to realize that their choice of putting dance “on a back burner” and other activities forward, did not get them where they thought they would be. This issue I believe is to be another post…….
Those who are still fully dedicated through the high school years, will become better dance educated by keeping their terms, enchainment and dance combinations of other dance subjects like tap, (which has so much terminology in itself), written in their Dance Journals. By doing so, it makes class run so much more smoothly. I have found that with their previous class work written down and referred to before the next class begins, I can progress more quickly in each and every class. I, as their teacher, with so many classes, of so many dance genres, at so many levels, need to do this myself.
The goal of a dance student, needs to be to learn and remember proper terminology, in all dance genres, and to keep track of it. To remember to use proper technique continuously. These two ingredients make for a happy dancer and teacher!