One of ways that we gradually master something new is through repetition. When teaching if we simply expect our student dancers to repeat the same movement or step over and over we run the risk of them losing interest or focus. Once this happens then it is more difficult to regain the focus and engage their interest. There are ways that we can build some repetition into our teaching without it becoming boring for the learners.
Once you have a taught the movement or step that you are focusing on aim to include it in a variety of simple sequences or dances that your dancers can practise and explore. By practising various sequences or dances that incorporate the new movement or step your dancers are doing the repetition but in an engaging way. This also lets your student dancers see that learning and mastering a new step can open the door for them to dance a whole variety of sequences and/or dances that all include the same step. Each sequence giving them an opportunity to practise through repetition the key step or movement learned. This is encouraging for beginners of all ages and helps to build confidence in our new learners as they recognise that they are progressing.
Different dance genres
You can apply this principle to teaching different dance genres. If you are teaching, say, tap dancing then you might introduce your students to tap steps. If you repeat tap steps over and over it is likely that your dancers or at least some of them, will get bored but if you teach a couple of simple but interesting sequences that have tap steps as the main content then you are encouraging repetition and helping them to master tap steps through the repetition. In such sequences you might explore dancing tap steps on the spot, travelling forward and travelling in a large circle. The important point is that your students have the opportunity to practise their tap steps. This can develop to combining their tap steps with other very simple basic tap movements or steps so that they are developing their ability to combine some simple basics with their tap steps.
In say, Line dancing you might want to introduce your beginners to grapevines. After teaching basic a basic grapevine how are you going to encourage enough repetition of them so that your student dancers master them? Simply repeating lots and lots of grapevines could be monotonous but teaching them with a variety of endings will help beginners to master the grapevine and explore different endings.. Try putting a scuff, touch, hitch or stomp after the grapevine. Then you can teach beginner dances that include grapevines with any of these endings. As your dancers already know the basic grapevine step and can dance them with various endings this will build their confidence and help to improve their dance skills as they are learning basic dances. A key principle is to look for dances that offer the opportunity for repetition and not dances that have fundamentally different dance content.
In Jazz dance an example of repetition made interesting is to introduce basic Jazz walks and have fun with them. Teaching several basic sequences that use these Jazz walks over time helps your dancers to master this important step as they practise their Jazz walks in combination with various other simple movements. You should find that they will repeat their Jazz walks many times and gain confidence in dancing them as well as in combining them with other Jazz basics. Repetition made interesting in this way can really help student dancers to develop strong basic dance skills.
Your can use the principle of making repetition interesting when your student dancers progress to the next level and beyond. Focusing on one particular step or type of step and practising it in lots of different ways is a good method of repetition made interesting. As before it helps dancers to master the dance skills required for the step and by repeating these motor skills sufficiently they become more confident in performing them. An example of this might be when teaching time steps in tap. Exploring whole time step routines where your dancers can use repetition to improve their time step skills and rhythms can be great fun. Using pattern and direction as their skills develop helps to make what might be seen by some as boring repetition much more interesting and engaging.
As mentioned at the beginning, making repetition interesting is just one aspect of learning dance movement and steps. In future articles I will visit some of the other ways that we can make dance learning engaging for our student dancers.