7 Ways to Challenge Your Students to Think on Their Feet

1. Turn their backs to the mirror. When students face away from the mirror, they have to remember the dance without watching each other. Kasey Cosentino, Silicon Valley Dance Academy, Cupertino, California

2. Introduce improvisation exercises. Not only does it warm up their bodies, but also their ears—to hear and feel the music—and their imaginations. Cat Cogliandro, EDGE Performing Arts Center, Los Angeles

3. Change the order. Try the movements in retrograde (performed backward, like a rewind video) and in reverse order. Kim Alexander-Camandona, North Broward Preparatory School, Coconut Creek, Florida

4. Perform an expansive movement phrase in a small, taped-off space. This engages problem-solving skills, which can later be useful when performing repertory in different-sized venues. Nicole Benson, Benson Academy of Dance, Ocala, Florida

5. Ask your students to make up their own exercises, with correct terminology and counts. Melinda Pendleton, Pennsylvania Academy of Ballet, Narberth, Pennsylvania

6. Don’t answer questions—at least, not right away. Instead, demonstrate the step again and give them the chance to answer themselves. Leah Silva, McCoy Rigby Conservatory of the Arts, Yorba Linda, California

7. After having students do a combination multiple times, suddenly change to an unexpected piece of music. This requires dancers to make choices about dynamics in the moment and shows whether they really know the combination. Lizzie MacKenzie, Extensions Dance Center, Chicago

Photo: Thinkstock

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