Children aren’t shy to express their boredom with repetition, and it does take extra effort to keep them motivated. To give our younger students an understanding of what contributes to a great performance—rather than having them worry about getting every step correct—we use a reward system at our studio called “Stars of the Show.” Each week, every child earns a star in one of the categories: Fabulous Feet, Happy Face, Exciting Energy, High Kicks, Graceful Arms, Pointed Toes, Stretchy and Strong.
Before we begin rehearsing, we discuss what these categories mean and why they’re important. We hang a poster that lists the categories, so they have a personal goal to strive for each time we run the dance. To encourage a well-rounded performance, we urge them to earn another star in a different category each week. The teacher uses attendance sheets to put the stars next to the students’ names, and the kids enjoy seeing the progress each week as the recital approaches.
We also find it valuable to split the class and have the dancers perform for their peers. Having a mock audience is an exciting way to reinforce everything they’re learning.
If you have an ongoing dialogue about what it means to practice and what a performance entails, your students will understand the necessity and rewards of repetition. They’ll feel a sense of ownership and be more eager to participate.
Kathy Blake is the owner of Kathy Blake Dance Studios in Amherst, New Hampshire. She and Suzanne Blake Gerety are the co-founders of DanceStudioOwner.com.
Photo by B Hansen Photography, courtesy of Suzanne Blake Gerety