Dance Teacher Tips

Teaching technique to dancers is, for the most part, straightforward. Regardless of the style—"standing leg in plié," "transfer your weight" or "find a low contracting lunge"—the cues become second nature for teachers and students. But articulating emotion and passion can be a struggle for teachers and even uncomfortable for some dancers to grasp and execute.

While some kids naturally connect emotion to their movement, (i.e. the inspiring clip below), not every group of young dancers will have the zest and mature enthusiasm to move the audience or competition judges to stand up and cheer. So how do you teach a dancer to emote?

If you're having trouble pulling the passion out of your students, here are a few ideas to help them find "the feeling" in their dancing.

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Students Auryanna Ascue, left, and Anna Kelly Zielke, center, with teacher Deanna McBrearty. Photo by Hunter McRae

The soutenu is a basic step often used in choreography as a transition between turning sequences or before more virtuosic movements. In class, Deanna McBrearty concentrates on the step's coordination.

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Dance Teacher Tips
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As teachers and studio owners, your lives are full of stressors—everything from harried recital weeks to curriculum overhauls to building-maintenance issues, not to mention addressing the needs and concerns of all your students and parents. How you view and cope with a stressful situation can have a direct influence on how you experience it.

You already know it's important to eat right, exercise and get good sleep to keep yourself from feeling run into the ground. You may even use deep breathing to calm or center yourself in tense moments. (If not, check out our breathing-exercise sidebar.) But Joel Minden, a cognitive behavioral therapist who works with dancers in California, says while physical coping strategies can be helpful, they alone aren't enough. It's even more important to prepare yourself mentally and emotionally. If you begin practicing psychological stress management as part of your routine, along with relaxation techniques like yoga or meditation, you will be better prepared for the crisis moments.

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Dance Teacher Tips
Photo by Amber Permsap, courtesy of Metropolitan Ballet Academy

Lisa Collins Vidnovic, director of Metropolitan Ballet Academy in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, analyzes her students to find out why they aren't remembering and applying corrections.

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Dance Teacher Tips
Photo by Amber Permsap, courtesy of Metropolitan Ballet Academy

At Metropolitan Ballet Academy in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, young dancers will pause mid-class to say the combination out loud. Director Lisa Collins Vidnovic encourages them to sing each phrase, at the correct speed and rhythm, to help remember the steps. "They do it together as a group, even if just one person is struggling," she says. "I find they can't retain and execute choreography if they're not able to verbalize it."

Some students have trouble picking up choreography—and remembering it, too. Teachers might have to repeat the same material again and again, stuck on sequence instead of being able to move forward, coaching technique and artistic details. New challenges arise when dancers forget corrections and don't apply the notes they get every day. What are the best strategies to avoid these potentially frustrating issues and nurture this essential part of your dancers' training? DT consulted three teachers about their approach and tips to make the information stick.

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Dance Teacher Tips
2016 Best Dancer Winners at The Dance Awards (via @thedanceawards on Instagram)

Q: Our regional comp season is over, and there are still two months until our Nationals. How do we stay motivated?

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Dance Teacher Tips

It's that time of year again! A time when we all get to shamelessly prank those we love. (They seriously have a day for everything. 😂) And as we all know, there's no better group of people to prank than your charmingly gullible dance students. To help make your life easier this year, we've put together a list of April Fools' Day prank ideas for you to try on your kiddos. They are PURE. GOLD. Get ready to laugh 'til you cry, ladies and gents!

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If your pointe shoe buying routine involves going online and clicking "reorder" on the shoes you've worn for years, it might be time to get a fresh, in-person assessment. Even a slightly different shoe can solve a host of issues—and help you avoid problems in the future. Find the best fit for your feet by avoiding these mistakes.

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