Summer Study Survival Guide, Part 3

Part III: Level Placement, Etiquette and Discipline
One of the most fascinating things about being a teacher in a summer intensive is what happens inside of the studio. When dancers from all over the country and the world come together to learn, all kinds of issues pop up. 

 

THE TEACHERS:

 

SABRINA LENZI,  Houston Ballet Summer Intensive

 

JOELLE MARTINEC, EDGE Performing Arts Center

 

EMIKO TOKUNAGA, Boston Conservatory

 

CHET WALKER,  Jacob’s Pillow Jazz/Musical Theatre Dance program

 

GERRI HOULIHAN, American Dance Festival

 

THE ISSUES:

 

Etiquette and Classroom Issues

 

LENZI “We address exactly what we expect, from clean tights to cell phone rules, before the very first class in an hour-long session. It tackles problems before they happen that way.”
Houlihan “Students rolling their eyes or leaning on the barre while I’m talking in class sets me off. I ask them to demonstrate what I just said. That usually stops that behavior immediately.”
Martinec “I don’t like when students revert to the way they do things at their home studio. I prefer they pay attention to exactly what’s being asked. And I don’t let students give up in the middle of class. I tell them, ‘At least give it a try—it’s not going to be perfect and that’s OK.’”

 

WALKER “You lose your power if you yell and scream. Be clear. It can’t be a guessing game. Everyone is there to learn and get the job done.”

 

 

Organizing the Levels
 

 

LENZI “We place students during our audition tour, which really works well for us because they arrive knowing where they’ll start. We tend to level down because it is easier to move them up.”

 

TOKUNAGA “We don’t hold auditions. We assign the levels the first day of each session. I walk around for three days to make sure it’s working. It helps that we have no beginning level, just intermediate and advanced. If there’s a level change, all of the teachers need to sign off on it, whether it’s up or down.”

 

HOULIHAN “We have a preview weekend where students take classes with every single member of the faculty. It’s a tricky thing, but this seems to work well for us. Also, having a two-hour class makes a huge difference in dealing with a mixed-level class. I am able to give individual corrections.”

 

MARTINEC “I use assistants to demonstrate, so I can walk around during the warm-up. That way I can size up the levels in the class right away. I keep my eyes roaming and really take in what’s going on in class.”

 

 

Dealing With Different Training Backgrounds

 

LENZI “Our students arrive with lots of different training backgrounds and that’s part of the excitement. There’s a great energy to learn something new and very little resistance when everyone keeps an open mind for the opportunity to change.”

 

MARTINEC “Sometimes I have students who are just here for one class. I’m not going to change their dancing in an hour and a half, so I try to give them one piece of information that makes them think. If they stay longer, there’s a greater chance I can address their habits.”

 

TOKUNAGA “I find that Pilates and Alexander Technique classes are great ways to repattern and reconfigure poor training habits.”

 

 

Cultural Differences and Language Barriers

 

LENZI “I use my hands when I give corrections and it helps that I have a few languages under my belt.”

 

MARTINEC “When I have a lot of international students and I notice the room getting quiet, I know it’s time to let go a little bit and experiment with more freedom.”

 

WALKER “At least half our students are from different countries. I love that we have such an international flock. Dance is not a verbal language, so I put my thoughts into a physical form that the students can see. I also learn ‘Hello’ and ‘Good-bye’ in several languages.”

 

HOULIHAN “I love languages and can count to eight in a dozen languages. I try to have the whole class learn a word like ‘breathing’ in another student’s language. That includes the international students in conversation. I also enjoy using a sense of humor in class. Humor can open up something in dancing. It’s important to be mindful of cultural shyness. Joy can be suppressed by certain aspects of behavior. Asian students tend not to ask questions. Once one person responds, I will reinforce that with positive energy and it will help others contribute.”

 

Part 1: Structuring Your Class

Part 2: Taking Care of Yourself

 

Photo: Sabrina Lenzi (by Amitava Sarkar, courtesy of Houston Ballet)

Teachers Trending
Courtesy Lovely Leaps

After the birth of her daughter in 2018, engineer Lisa McCabe had reservations about returning to the workforce full-time. And while she wanted to stay home with the new baby, she wasn't ready to stop contributing financially to her family (after all, she'd had a successful career designing cables for government drones). So, when she got a call that September from an area preschool to lead its dance program, she saw an opportunity.

The invitation to teach wasn't completely out of the blue. McCabe had grown up dancing in Southern California and had a great reputation from serving as her church's dance teacher and team coach the previous three years (stopping only to take a break as a new mother). She agreed to teach ballet and jazz at the preschool on Fridays and from there created an age-appropriate class based on her own training in the Cecchetti and RAD methods. It was a success: In three months, class enrollment went from six to 24 students, and just one year later, McCabe's blossoming Lovely Leaps brand had contracts with eight preschools and three additional teachers.

Keep reading... Show less
News
Courtesy Shake the Ground

Dance competitions were among the first events to be shut down when the COVID-19 pandemic exploded in the U.S. in mid-March, and they've been among the last able to restart.

So much of the traditional structure of the competition—large groups of dancers and parents from dozens of different studios; a new city every week—simply won't work in our new pandemic world.

How, then, have competitions been getting by, and what does the future look like?

Keep reading... Show less
News
Getty Images

Despite worldwide theater closures, the Universal Ballet Competition is keeping The Nutcracker tradition alive in 2020 with an online international competition. The event culminates in a streamed, full-length video of The Virtual Nutcracker consisting of winning entries on December 19. The competition is calling on studios, as well as dancers of all ages and levels, to submit videos by November 29 to be considered.

"Nutcracker is a tradition that is ingrained in our hearts," says UBC co-founder Lissette Salgado-Lucas, a former dancer with Royal Winnipeg Ballet and Joffrey Ballet. "We danced it for so long as professionals, we can't wait to pass it along to dancers through this competition."

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.