The way we teach dance has changed enormously since I gained my first dance teaching qualifications. We understand a lot more these days about involving the student dancer in the learning process (and no doubt there is a lot more to learn in the future). So instead of it being all about the teacher striding around the studio intimidating the students, we now know that we can encourage the best from our dancers through creating a task-involving atmosphere in the dance class. We can give dancers choices by asking them for their input on combinations or amalgamations. We can emphasise collaboration in class so that dancers work with a variety of other class members and learn to cooperate with each other.
Making mistakes is ok
We can help dancers to realise that making mistakes is all part of the learning process. We want our dancers to try new things and when they do we want them to know that making mistakes is all part of it. We want them to understand that it is ok not to be perfect. I can remember never being satisfied with what I was doing when I was training because I was always trying to be perfect. We can encourage our dancers by letting them know that they are on the right track. It is amazing how helpful and motivating it is for a dancer to hear that something is going well.
This post draws on content of a handout produced by The International Association for Dance Medicine & Science (IADMS). You can find the handout in the latest issue of The IADMS Bulletin for Teachers. It really is a very useful handout from the IADMS Education Committee. You can download it and keep it somewhere as a reminder about what we can do to help our dancers thrive and feel motivated.
You can also use the handout as a reflective practice tool. Go through each point one by one and reflect on the last class or session that you taught. Can you find one instance where you achieved the teaching method or approach outlined? For example, if we use the ‘Give dancers choices’ point, can you identify a choice that you gave your dancers in the class? By reflecting on the teaching methods and approaches you used in class you can find any examples of giving your dancers a choice. If you cannot find one example from the session then you can use the reflection as a way of flagging up something that you can try to include next time. You may want to keep notes of your reflective practice so that you can refer back to them. It is also fine to use reflective practice as something you do by mentally reflecting on a particular aspect of a teaching session. You might find, like me, you keep notes sometimes and not others. There is fine, you can find the way that works best for you and your students.