Teaching Tips

10 Surprisingly Difficult Things to Teach

Getty Images

Teaching dance is (in our relatively biased opinion) one of the most gratifying careers out there—but that doesn't mean it's easy. Oh, no—in fact, there are more than a few steps that are so difficult to teach, they can make you want to pull your hair out! Of course, we're preaching to the choir here—you guys know EXACTLY what we are talking about.

Recently, we reached out on social media to hear what kinds of things you have found surprisingly challenging to teach, and the result was fascinating. Across genres, there seem to be things that trip up everyone!

Check out 10 of the tricky things the dance-teaching community had to share below, and let us know if you agree with them in our comments!

1. Lefts and rights

"Teaching dancers the difference between their left limbs and directions vs. their right limbs and directions is one of the more exhausting, time-consuming, yet necessary things about teaching littles."

—Every dance teacher ever

2. Six steps

"Lately, I've found that my students are really struggling with six-step preps for pirouettes. The weight shifting and change of direction when a back pas de bourrée is added into the mix has been proving quite a challenge for many."

—Emily Bufferd

3. Wings

"I start off with teaching [wings] sitting down to get the ankle movement and the sounds, and then move on to one foot at the barre. I always feel like kids won't get them 'til they accidentally do it, and then they know how...but before that, it's always a struggle!"

—Brooke Allen-Phares

4. Attitude derrière

"Attitude derrière is a struggle. I try to help students figure out how much turnout is required, proper alignment of the knee, thigh and foot, how wide the angle needs to be, and where it should end. These are all details we discuss, but it seems like a long and difficult process for many."

—Hope Daniel

5. Mastering beats in petit allégro

"I find that my younger students (and even my older ones sometimes, too) struggle with mastering beats in petit allégro. They kick or swim their legs front and back instead of getting a good side-to-side beating in the inner thighs."

—Chloe Stacey

6. Kick ball-change and pony steps

"I swear kids are either born doing it or they never figure it out. There is no in between, lol."

—Chelsea-McCall Lujan

7. Contractions

"It's hard for young dancers especially to hone in to that head-tail connection that is so important in modern dance (and other styles). The dancers usually think they are contracting when they actually aren't."

—Linnae Corgan

8. Pelvic tilt for turnout and leg raises

It's so anatomy-specific to each student.

—Stacey Ann

9. Tendu devant

"A tendu devant!!! The pre-ballet and pre-primary ballet students want to put weight on the front foot, and it ends up looking like a crooked fourth position with one bent knee."

—Jenna Larkin

10. Flaps

"Proper flaps, mind you, with proper tone and relaxed technique. Not the brush...no forward motion, and no scraped sounds. It's my white whale."

—Scott Hynes

Teaching Tips
A 2019 Dancewave training. Photo by Effy Grey, courtesy Dancewave

By now, most dance educators hopefully understand that they have a responsibility to address racism in the studio. But knowing that you need to be actively cultivating racial equity isn't the same thing as knowing how to do so.

Of course, there's no easy answer, and no perfect approach. As social justice advocate David King emphasized at a recent interactive webinar, "Cultivating Racial Equity in the Classroom," this work is never-ending. The event, hosted by Dancewave (which just launched a new racial-equity curriculum) was a good starting point, though, and offered some helpful takeaways for dance educators committed to racial justice.

Keep reading... Show less
Higher Ed
The author, Robyn Watson. Photo courtesy Watson

Recently, I posted a thread of tweets elucidating the lack of respect for tap dance in college dance programs, and arguing that it should be a requirement for dance majors.

According to onstageblog.com, out of the 30 top-ranked college dance programs in the U.S., tap dance is offered at 19 of them, but only one school requires majors to take more than a beginner course—Oklahoma City University. Many prestigious dance programs, like the ones at NYU Tisch School of the Arts and SUNY Purchase, don't offer a single course in tap dance.

Keep reading... Show less
Teaching Tips
Getty Images

After months of lockdowns and virtual learning, many studios across the country are opening their doors and returning to in-person classes. Teachers and students alike have likely been chomping at the bit in anticipation of the return of dance-class normalcy that doesn't require a reliable internet connection or converting your living room into a dance space.

But along with the back-to-school excitement, dancers might be feeling rusty from being away from the studio for so long. A loss of flexibility, strength and stamina is to be expected, not to mention emotional fatigue from all of the uncertainty and reacclimating to social activities.

So as much as everyone wants to get back to normal—teachers and studio owners included—erring on the side of caution with your dancers' training will be the most beneficial approach in the long run.

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.