Choreography Class: Week 6 and Beyond

 

I arrived to my last class raring to go. We had an hour and a half to complete our short piece for the performance, clean it rehearse it—and I was ready to face anything! Before I entered the studio, the program director pulled me aside to tell me one of my students was injured and would not be performing. This was terrible news! How disappointed she must have felt to not perform any of the pieces she had been rehearsing all summer.

 

As it turns out, this student was partly the cause of many disruptions during my class—and in her absence, the sixth session flew by without a hitch. We completed the 2-minute piece, and the girls were ready to perform the following day.

 

Performance day: After a run through of all the routines at the studio, we prepared to travel to the outdoor venue by subway. There were roughly 80 dancers to keep track of, but this system worked really well:

 

Each teen dancer (starting from age 12 and up) was sandwiched between two of the youngest dancers, holding their hands. We walked from the studio to the subway and from the subway to the park, and everyone stayed in line the entire trip. Giving the older teens responsibility prevented them from acting out, and our littlest dancers loved walking with the “big girls.” The remaining tweens were put with buddies of their same age, but there were few enough of these pairs for their teachers to chaperone.

 

Now that the show’s done, I’m experiencing an end-of-session letdown. I know I’ll probably never see some of my students again, and that is a weird feeling. It was so easy to get caught up in perfecting their routine, but I want to know what happens after they leave that stage and move on to the next. Will their in-class performances help fuel their self-confidence? If given the opportunity, will they choose to attend a dance concert over a sporting event? Will they send their kids to dance class? In 20 years, will their time spent in the studio alter a future decision? That’s all that I can hope: That I was able to foster a smidgen of dance appreciation that will be with them for a lifetime.

 

Teaching Tips
A 2019 Dancewave training. Photo by Effy Grey, courtesy Dancewave

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Of course, there's no easy answer, and no perfect approach. As social justice advocate David King emphasized at a recent interactive webinar, "Cultivating Racial Equity in the Classroom," this work is never-ending. The event, hosted by Dancewave (which just launched a new racial-equity curriculum) was a good starting point, though, and offered some helpful takeaways for dance educators committed to racial justice.

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The author, Robyn Watson. Photo courtesy Watson

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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.

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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.

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