Teaching Tips

10 Things to Consider When Subbing for a Modern Technique Class

Photo by Tony Nguyen, courtesy of Jill Randall

Recently I got to reflect on my 22-year-old self and the first modern technique classes I subbed for at Shawl-Anderson Dance Center in Berkeley, California. (Thank you to Dana Lawton for giving me the chance and opportunity to dive in.)

Today I wanted to share 10 ideas to consider as you embark upon subbing and teaching modern technique classes for the first time. These ideas can be helpful with adult classes and youth classes alike.

As I like to say, "Teaching takes teaching." I mean, teaching takes practice, trial and error and more practice. I myself am in my 23rd year of teaching now and am still learning and growing each and every class.


  1. As you sub for the class, what is the hope of the teacher? Is it to repeat/continue/pull forward some of the material (the combination, the current theme of class, etc.)? Can you get access to some of their music? Can you meet up in the studio to review (and possibly video) some of the phrases?
  2. Do you get free studio time to prep for the class?
  3. Music details. Is there wifi so you can use something like Spotify? What is the stereo setup?
  4. Which studio will you be teaching in? Studios vary greatly in size and shape. Knowing this key detail will help you build the class plan.

Now, into the actual lesson planning:

5. Sketch out the potential timing and chunks of the class. Are you trying to emulate the format of the current teacher? Here is an example, using Mo Miner's Advanced Adult Modern class at Shawl-Anderson as an example. (Mo is a master teacher and meticulous with her timing and format.)

-Floor warm-up (10 min)

-Center warm-ups (20 min)

-Across-the-floor phrase (15 min)

-Floorwork and inversions phrase (15 min)

-Jumping phrase across the floor (10 min)

-Final combination (20 min)

6. Backplan. Create the final combination first.

7. Do you want to teach any parts of the final combination earlier in class—in a warm-up or as part of the traveling work across the room?

8. Warm-ups. Are there any favorites of yours from some of your favorite teachers? Can you respectfully borrow (AND CREDIT) from these teachers? (If you can, even ask their permission.) Insert these combinations into your class plan now.

9. Introducing yourself and the class plan for the day. I suggest even practicing how you want to introduce yourself and your lesson to the group. The students want to know who you are and how your class will be similar or different than the regular teacher. This might be the moment in class when you ask each student their name as well. (This all should take 3 minutes or less.)

10. Once you have sketched out your whole plan, go back and put a rough time estimate next to each bit (ex. 10 minutes; 5 minutes). Make sure that your notes are complete enough so that you can understand them in a few days. Take the time to video any warm-ups or combinations that might be loose on the brain, so that your hard work is not lost.

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