Ballet Class Blogging: Day 1

Last week kicked off Groove With Me's fall semester, and I am teaching ballet twice a week. Thursday evenings I teach 15 girls, ages 6–8; and Saturday morning I have 12 girls, ages 5–6. Both classes are an hour and I have an assistant teacher in each.

 

To begin both classes we played a name game. My 6–8s had a good time with the activity, though I confess it was more for my benefit. 15 new names seemed like an impossible task. We sat in a circle and as I said, "My name is Miss Jenny," I made a circle with my arms. Then, one by one, every student introduced herself with an arm movement. We all repeated each name and movement, every time adding a new name. After saying a name 15 times, you learn it pretty quick! At the end of class I lined everyone up in a new order and quizzed the girls. 

 

My 5–6s didn't have the same affinity for the name game. They didn't understand it, and it died after a few rounds. After teaching more mature students all summer, I forgot how little 5 is! Moreso, some of the younger girls haven't been in school yet, and their English is shakey. Groove with Me is in East Harlem, a widely Spanish-speaking area, and many of my students are bilingual. Last year, one of my youngest students—whose English wasn't fluent at the start of the year—acted as translator for her family. It's truly amazing to watch them learn as the year progresses.

 

Teaching with an assistant is necessary for large classes. My Thursday class of 15's assistant is Abigail Rosin, Groove With Me's executive director and founder. It's a tad daunting to be the head teacher in her room, but I'm sure she welcomes the time to be a little more laid back in class. She's a much better disciplinarian than I am, so I hope to take some cues from her to set in place on Saturday.

 

My co-teacher on Saturday, however, asked if this year she can lead more of class. I hadn't realized I had totally taken over, forcing her in a role of silent demonstrator. After we discussed her request, she's going to lead the warm-up and ending games, and I'll do the technique in the middle. Team-teaching is tricky, and hopefully we can work out a system that works for both of us.

Do you have co-teachers or assistant teachers? How do you split up class? What are your roles? What works, what doesn't? Please leave comments below; let's start a conversation and share ideas!

 

The picture is of my students last year on stage at our Spring recital.  Photo by A.E. Fletcher Photography

Higher Ed
The author, Robyn Watson. Photo courtesy Watson

Recently, I posted a thread of tweets elucidating the lack of respect for tap dance in college dance programs, and arguing that it should be a requirement for dance majors.

According to onstageblog.com, out of the 30 top-ranked college dance programs in the U.S., tap dance is offered at 19 of them, but only one school requires majors to take more than a beginner course—Oklahoma City University. Many prestigious dance programs, like the ones at NYU Tisch School of the Arts and SUNY Purchase, don't offer a single course in tap dance.

Keep reading... Show less
Teaching Tips
Getty Images

After months of lockdowns and virtual learning, many studios across the country are opening their doors and returning to in-person classes. Teachers and students alike have likely been chomping at the bit in anticipation of the return of dance-class normalcy that doesn't require a reliable internet connection or converting your living room into a dance space.

But along with the back-to-school excitement, dancers might be feeling rusty from being away from the studio for so long. A loss of flexibility, strength and stamina is to be expected, not to mention emotional fatigue from all of the uncertainty and reacclimating to social activities.

So as much as everyone wants to get back to normal—teachers and studio owners included—erring on the side of caution with your dancers' training will be the most beneficial approach in the long run.

Keep reading... Show less
Teachers Trending
Photo courtesy TUPAC

When legendary Black ballet dancer Kabby Mitchell III died unexpectedly in 2017, two months before opening his Tacoma Urban Performing Arts Center, his friend and business partner Klair Ethridge wasn't sure she had what it took to carry his legacy. Ethridge had been working with Mitchell to co-found TUPAC and planned to serve as its executive director, but she had never envisioned being the face of the school.

Now, Ethridge is heading into her fourth year of leading TUPAC, which she has grown from a fledgling program in an unheated building to a serious ballet school in its own sprung-floor studios, reaching hundreds of students across the Tacoma, Washington, area. The nonprofit has become a case study for what it looks like to carry out the vision of a founder who never had the chance to see his school open—and to take an unapologetically mission-driven approach.

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.