Q: My school dance classes don’t have regular performances, which limits parents’ and the administration’s understanding of what students are doing in class, as well as the value they see in my program. How can I show what dancers are learning without an end-of-the-year recital?
A: Unlike educators in non-arts areas, it’s often not enough for us to just teach—we must also be advocates for our field and ourselves. To share my work and students’ progress, I’ve created a blog, which is a journal on a web page. Unlike the simple, single-page online journals of the past, blogs today can be full websites with multiple pages. They are free to set up, and easy to maintain. And if privacy of your students is a concern, you can make the posts password-protected.
I use WordPress, one of the most popular sites for blogs. WordPress supplies many templates that you can customize (for free or a nominal fee), making your site look professional and personal. Different templates organize the material differently: Some templates emphasize photographs, while others are better for text-heavy posts. It’s up to you.
My site has a separate blog page for each class I teach. I post videos of the students in class every other week, along with an explanation of what they’re demonstrating, what they learned, and how to watch it. That last piece is key: Many parents expect to see “So You Think You Can Dance” with their little ones, so you must tell them what is developmentally and pedagogically appropriate. Be specific about what parents should be looking for when they watch the videos. If you teach older students, get them involved with blogging and let them post their thoughts or feelings about the class activities.
Barry Blumenfeld teaches at the Friends Seminary School in New York City. He is an adjunct professor at New York University and on the faculty of the Dance Education Laboratory of the 92nd Street Y.
Photo courtesy of Barry Blumenfeld
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This Sunday, master ballet teacher Finis Jhung turns 80. After a career as a soloist for both San Francisco Ballet and the Joffrey and a principal for Harkness Ballet, Jhung carved out a unique place for himself as a ballet teacher in New York City. He's coached the boys of Billy Elliot: The Musical, developed a popular video and DVD how-to series and STILL teaches seven classes a week at the Ailey Extension. He's graced the pages of this magazine to offer his time-honored wisdom again and again, and he's currently working on a memoir. (We can't wait to read it.) Happy birthday, Finis!
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