Classroom Wisdom

Improv Freeze Dance

Improv Freeze Dance

by Holly Derville-Teer One day I had 15 minutes to spare at the end of a beginner jazz class for 7- to 11-year-olds. “What am I going to do for 15 minutes?” I thought. Then I remembered my days teaching 5- to 6-year-olds and it hit me: freeze dance! I needed to create an older version of this kindergarten hit, on the spot. I recalled the improvisation class I’d taken from Derrick Yanford at the 2011 DanceLife Teacher Conference, and it came to me: improvisation freeze dance. “OK,” I said, “I am going to play the music and you can…

Making Peace with the Mirror

Making Peace With the Mirror

by Sandi Duncan It’s a new day of classes and you’re ready to share what you know and love. You’ve chosen your music, created your combos, and put on your workout attire. You enter the empty dance space, set up your music, and glance in the mirror. “Whoa! Wait, is that me?” you wonder. “Have I really aged so much overnight? Where did those extra pounds come from?” Dejectedly you push aside the memory of feeling pretty good when you left the house at 8 a.m. No matter how you shift your bangs to cover new wrinkles or tug on…

Dealing with Doubt

Dealing With Doubt

by Suzanne Martin, PT, DPT Make a positive impression by nurturing a strong self-image Successful teaching demands that the instructor take command of her material and her classroom with authority. This can be tough, especially when you’re just launching a teaching career. Think about when you first started teaching. Did you come roaring out of the gate, full of confidence, or do you still sometimes struggle with doubts about your qualifications, teaching abilities, or leadership qualities? My first experience teaching ballet was as a dance major, in the children’s division. Was I prepared? No. It was trial by fire, with…

Games for Preschool Classes IG

Games for Preschool Classes

by Karen White When it comes to teaching preschoolers, you can never have too many tricks up your sleeve. Here are three games to help refocus little ones’ attention. 1. The Fairies and the Sleeping Dolls Split the class in two. Give half the students “magic” wands (you can use substitutes like pencils)—these are the fairies. Place the other half randomly around the room, standing in first position with arms in first, head tilted and eyes closed. These are the sleeping dolls. To the sounds of a lullaby or gentle ballet music, have the fairies tiptoe randomly from one doll…

Mental Rehearsals IG

Mental Rehearsals

by Debra Danese After teaching my students new choreography, I end the class or rehearsal by saying, “Don’t forget to review before we meet again.” However, in the next class I often need to reteach the movement rather than reviewing and adding on. To the students’ explanation that they don’t have time to practice because of school and other activities, I respond, “Practice in your mind,” because we all have time for that. To help them learn to do this effectively, I incorporate creative visualization into class time, a process that is often referred to by sports psychologists as “mental…

It Started with Breath

It Started with Breath

by Bill Evans Our modern-dance ancestors started with breath. For Martha Graham, it was called “contraction and release”; for Doris Humphrey, “fall and recovery”; for Rudolf Laban, “growing and shrinking.” As you enter the studio, notice your own breath to help you become centered. Draw your students’ attention to their breath to help them become present in body, mind, and spirit. Remind them that movement rides on breath and that breathing is not just about the lungs. It takes place on a cellular level as oxygen travels through the cardiovascular system. Liquid breath throughout the body brings resilience and adaptability.

Leaps and Bounds Above

Leaps and Bounds Above the Other 4-Year-Olds

by Rhee Gold Hi Rhee, I am a dance teacher/studio owner, and I have come across the most persistent parents I have ever met in all my years of teaching dance (20-plus)—or school, for that matter. (I taught kindergarten for 12 years.) These parents have a daughter who turned 4 last spring. They are angry with me and some of my teachers because I will not allow them to enroll their daughter in the beginning ballet class for 6- to 8-year-olds. My teachers and I have tried to explain that although the child is coordinated for a 4-year-old, she is…

Classroom Wisdom Ballet Challenge

Classroom Wisdom: Ballet Challenge

by April Mosher Once a year my 6- to 10-year-old ballet students play a game I call “Ballet Challenge.” For a week or two before the challenge, we review proper terminology and correct execution of steps. During warm-ups we go over terms like chassé, bourrée, etc. On game day, I come prepared with flash cards. The students take turns picking a card. I read the ballet term written on the card each dancer chooses, and she attempts to show the step. If she does it correctly, she earns a point. If she is not successful, the students lined up behind her…

Teacher Talk Parent Teacher Conferences

Teacher Talk: Parent-Teacher Conferences

Parent-Teacher Conferences Q: I’ve always been very open and available to discuss a student’s progress when parents have concerns, and during optional end-of-year conversations. But I have some mothers who request parent conferences every couple of months. I have to spend time not only holding these conferences, but collecting pertinent info from multiple teachers. Should I set some sort of yearly maximum for parent conferences? —Dee Buchanan A: Our policy is that parents must email or phone in their concerns and questions. The director will then decide if a meeting is necessary. Parents cannot request meetings. Before this policy, I…

Barre Boredom

Barre Boredom

by Casey Davenport Are your ballet babes bored with barre? One typical Friday afternoon I watched as the 6-, 7-, and 8-year-old petit rats in my Ballet 1 class spent their precious barre time focusing on all the fundamentals that will serve their future dance goals—fidgeting, lip-synching the latest pop tune, and posing for imaginary selfies. All sarcasm aside, I love teaching this age and level of dancers. The information I impart in these classes will be some of the most important material these dancers will ever learn. I’m always thinking up new ways to get their attention. Feeling flustered…

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