Teaching Tips

5 New Year's Resolutions for Dance Teachers in 2019


Welcome to 2019, dance teachers! We have a feeling this is going to be one heck of a year in the dance world, and really, it's all thanks to you! You are raising the future of this industry, and we couldn't be more proud to know you all.

As we embark on this new year together, we thought we would share five new year's resolutions we believe every dance teacher could use this year. They're sure to help you make a lasting and positive impact on those talented kiddos of yours.

1. Provide More Positive Feedback

Continue to give your dancers the corrections and constructive criticism they need, but this year, throw in a few more compliments. Your students work hard, and it's motivating to hear when that has paid off. Don't just assume they know—help them see it!

2. Always Come to Class Prepared

As the year moves forward and your schedule becomes tighter, it can be easy to let class preparation slip through the cracks. Don't! Organize your time in a way that allows you to give your students the attention they need.

3. Yell Less, Communicate More

When working with a roomful of rowdy teenagers who seemingly refuse to apply corrections, yelling can seem like the only option. It's not. Find other ways to communicate with your dancers. Use positive reinforcement and a clear, direct tone. Your students will listen better, and you won't have to strain your vocal cords.

4. Prioritize Technique Classes

As performance/competition season looms, it's tempting to trade technique classes for extra rehearsals. DON'T DO IT. Your dancers need the technical foundation you can provide them in order to succeed in the professional world. Don't short-change their long-term success for one short moment of praise.

5. Tune Into Your Dancers' Emotional Well-being, as Well as Their Dance Well-being

Always remember that you are not only training dancers, but educating individuals. Check up on them regularly this year. Help them reach their potential, but do it with a healthy outlook.

Nan Melville, courtesy Genn

Not so long ago, it seemed that ballet dancers were always encouraged to pull up away from the floor. Ideas evolved, and more recently it has become common to hear teachers saying "Push down to go up," and variations on that concept.

Charla Genn, a New York City–based coach and dance rehabilitation specialist who teaches company class for Dance Theatre of Harlem, American Ballet Theatre and Ballet Hispánico, says that this causes its own problems.

"Often when we tell dancers to go down, they physically push down, or think they have to plié more," she says. These are misconceptions that keep dancers from, among other things, jumping to their full potential.

To help dancers learn to efficiently use what she calls "Mother Marley," Genn has developed these clever techniques and teaching tools.

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Alwin Courcy, courtesy Ballet des Amériques

Carole Alexis has been enduring the life-altering after-effects of COVID-19 since April 2020. For months on end, the Ballet des Amériques director struggled with fevers, tingling, dizziness and fatigue. Strange bruising showed up on her skin, along with the return of her (long dormant) asthma, plus word loss and stuttering.

"For three days I would experience relief from the fever—then, boom—it would come back worse than before," Alexis says. "I would go into a room and not know why I was there." Despite the remission of some symptoms, the fatigue and other debilitating side effects have endured to this day. Alexis is part of a tens-of-thousands-member club nobody wants to be part of—she is a COVID-19 long-hauler.

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Annika Abel Photography, courtesy Griffith

When the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May catalyzed nationwide protests against systemic racism, the tap community resumed longstanding conversations about teaching a Black art form in the era of Black Lives Matter. As these dialogues unfolded on social media, veteran Dorrance Dance member Karida Griffith commented infrequently, finding it difficult to participate in a meaningful way.

"I had a hard time watching people have these conversations without historical context and knowledge," says Griffith, who now resides in her hometown of Portland, Oregon, after many years in New York City. "It was clear that there was so much information missing."

For example, she observed people discussing tap while demonstrating ignorance about Black culture. Or, posts that tried to impose upon tap the history or aesthetics of European dance forms.

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