My goal with dancing has always been to be a dancer, but while pursuing dance as a career I have discovered many new interests and skills along the way that hadn’t always been in my master plan. One of the things I discovered was my love of teaching dance and passing on what I’ve learned so far.
Last week I was invited to teach 5 days at a summer dance intensive. I have taught at this school before and it is always lovely to be invited back. The students are phenomenal and the atmosphere is very nurturing of the dancers as people, so the students are lovely inside and out. It is a privilege to teach there!
After spending the week teaching about 2.5 hours a day I have been reflecting on how important teaching has become to me.
At this point I have been teaching for about 10 years or so. I have taught many ages and skill levels. I have a fairly good sized teaching resume that includes my B.A. in Dance. Dance pedagogy classes were a requirement for dance majors at my university. It was interesting to study the art of teaching from an academic point of view, but I have really learned the most just through experience.
Teaching has also improved my own technique! Through the process of breaking down steps and trying to explain in detail how the body should move, look, or feel during a particular movement, I have gained further insight into my own technique and have become better at analyzing my own dancing.
Teaching is a wonderful compliment to a performing career. It’s no secret that dancers have a tough time paying rent on performing alone (unless you’re blessed enough to land a spot in a very large company). Teaching often generates the extra income needed for survival.
At the same time it is still very fulfilling in a way that most side jobs are not. I love the way that my students refer to me as the “nice teacher.” I strive to teach with kindness, understanding, and encouragement because I always danced my best when I had “nice teachers” guiding me. By no means am I an easy teacher though! I give hard combos and I’ll make students repeat exercises several times if I think it can be improved upon, but I do think it is so important to note that a teacher can be tough without being mean. So many teachers and directors get that wrong and ultimately diminish the potential of their dancers through beating down self esteem. Don’t EVER tell a student “I won’t believe in you until you show me you can do it” instead say “I know you can do it! Now show me.” I have had both types of teachers in my life and the ones who made it clear they were there to support me, even if I failed, that made me a stronger and more successful dancer. I fact, I failed less in front of the teachers who let me know that it was ok to fail sometimes!
As you can probably tell, this is a subject that I am passionate about and will often end up rambling about. However, this does tie back into the reflection on how important teaching has become for me. Part of it is that I enjoy being in a dance atmosphere as much as possible, part of it is the perk of improving my own technique though teaching, and a big part of it is now that I have experienced some truly terrible teachers and directors I really don’t want other young dancers to go through the same pain and self doubt inflicted through unkind teaching methods. I love the idea that I have the power to raise up a young dancer’s confidence.
Thanks again for stopping by! Sorry it’s been a little while since the last post. Life is a little topsy-turvy these days as I’m getting myself in order for my big move and new life in a new company. Still waiting to post details on that…
Come back soon for more!