Teaching – Dance Advantage http://www.danceadvantage.net Solutions For All Stages Of Your Dance Life Fri, 12 Jan 2018 12:02:25 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.1 The Kind of Feedback Your Dance Students Really Crave http://www.danceadvantage.net/dance-students-want-corrections/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=dance-students-want-corrections http://www.danceadvantage.net/dance-students-want-corrections/#comments Wed, 19 Oct 2016 14:00:36 +0000 http://www.danceadvantage.net/?p=44175 Dance teachers, ever wonder what your dance students really want? Our guest Ella, a young dance student, writes to tell you.]]>

great dance teacher is somebody who not only teaches the student, but inspires the student.

A student’s future and potentially his or her professional career is riding on the instruction a dance teacher gives. Therefore, a good teacher-student relationship is a necessity for quick improvement and healthy development as a dancer.

From a student’s perspective, here are 6 things we want from this relationship with you, dance teachers:

Photo by Gabriel Saldana is licensed CC BY-SA 2.0 [text added]
Photo by Gabriel Saldana is licensed CC BY-SA 2.0 [text added]

1. Plenty of feedback.


Everyone loves a teacher who gives them lots of corrections. As a student, I find it very appealing to see a teacher constantly working with us and helping to develop our technique. I love it if, at the barre, the teacher walks around the room during the combination and gives 1-2 personal corrections to everyone in the class. That’s how we learn best!


2. Useful feedback.


The best teachers are not only ones who give lots of corrections, but give corrections relevant to dance as a whole. For example, instead of saying after a dégagé combination, “In this combination, I showed the accent out.  Most did the accent in,” you could say, “Make sure you are showing the accent out. Always pay attention to where the teacher puts the accent as they show the combination.” We can then apply this to other classes.


3. Something to work on each time.


Going into a combination without a focus point or idea of what we should be working on can be difficult for a student to manage, and our minds tend to drift. If you give a correction pre-combination, such as: “Focus on initiating the dégagé with the heel,” we are more likely to be actively improving our technique by thinking specifically.


4. The how, not just the what.


If a teacher tells us how to manage a certain step rather than just what the right way is, we can learn from it and we find it easier to apply the correction. Vague or oblique corrections can be disappointing and difficult.  We appreciate it if teachers use phrases relating to imagery, anatomy, or the intention of the terminology or style of the step. This article on Dance Advantage about rephrasing corrections gives examples.


5. Versatile feedback.


If a student is not applying a correction very well, we love it if a teacher will try to say it in a different way and see if that makes sense with the student. Especially if it involves imagery – the same image might not work for everyone! It’s really important to be versatile and understanding.


6. The opportunity to ask questions.


Especially if the teacher is new or a guest, it’s important to ask us if we have questions about the combination.  Some teachers find it disrespectful or negative if we have questions, and others love it. If you specify, we won’t be scared to ask if we do have a question! If you regularly teach the same class and the students already know the policy, it’s fine if you don’t ask before every combination.


Thank you, teachers!

Even if we look disappointed, or you feel like you are letting us down, we appreciate what you do so, so much. We wouldn’t be the dancers we are today without you, and we really appreciate the hard work and dedication you put into preparing our classes for us. Thank you for doing what you do!



Ella Marie GouletElla Marie Goulet is a 13-year old dance student attending the Grand Rapids Ballet School in Michigan. She has been dancing for 11 years and en pointe for 2. She runs a blog about dance and lifestyle advice and experiences at gouletballet.com. Follow her on Instagram (@ellagoulet) and her blog’s Instagram (@gouletballet).

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Break The Status Quo When Teaching Dance http://www.danceadvantage.net/break-the-status-quo/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=break-the-status-quo http://www.danceadvantage.net/break-the-status-quo/#respond Thu, 28 Jul 2016 20:15:28 +0000 http://www.danceadvantage.net/?p=43754 Challenge the status quo by choosing to put your students first above ego and self-interest and apply your knowledge (even if it breaks the rules).]]>


I recently read the interactive transcript of a TED talk by Barry Schwartz describing wisdom as the point in which one asserts knowledge instead of following the rules.


Choosing wisdom when it comes to your dance students
Wise Owl by Rene Trevino is licensed CC BY 2.0; Text added

Choosing Wisdom

Last night, I met with a prospective student who had been referred to our studio by her current instructor. Her home studio is about 45 minutes from ours and her teacher referred her to us because this student is passionate about dance, beyond recreation. This student wants to become a dance teacher. Her teacher told her if she wanted a more technical foundation, she needed to come to us. For now, this has meant she has come to me.


Wise Moves: deviating from the standard– the usual, the status quo– to ensure impact


Wise Move #1: Know your strengths and stick to them

I don’t yet know her instructor, but I admire her efforts to honestly communicate where her strengths  (or interests) are and knowing where to send students searching for something else.

She has placed the interests of her student ahead of her ego and need to be everything to every one. In doing so, she has secured trust with this family (they aren’t planning to leave her studio, but rather to supplement the training she is able to receive there). She has also secured trust with us. We aren’t interested in stealing her student away, but we are interested in networking to provide a well-rounded experience.


Wise Move #2: Get specific

We can’t please everyone all of the time and we can sure make ourselves miserable in the process of trying. One example of choosing wisdom is being honest about with whom you do your best work and focusing on that.
For many years, I have served as a one-person department. This required I serve as a generalist. This was appealing through much of my career as I tend to see everything in connected ways- I valued leading my students to such conclusions as well through exploring concepts in multiple contexts.

Now, I am becoming more specialized in my interests and in the work to which I am drawn. I am realizing that my former strengths suffered when they were no longer my interest. This impacted my satisfaction in teaching and I am sure impacted the experience for my students. Just because I CAN doesn’t always mean I SHOULD. When I free time to do more of what I want to do, that time gets filled with precisely that.


Seize the opportunity like this osprey catching a fish
Osprey catching a fish by Jan Smith is licensed CC BY 2.0


Wise Move #3: Seize the opportunity

When I first met with this dancer, within minutes I knew I had a choice. We could spend our time on vocabulary and terminology (which had been the initial request), or I could help her understand her body. There is a lot going on there…lordosis, knock-knees, hyper-extension, rolling ankles, etc.

We spent time looking at her alignment in various positions, I moved her through some pilates-based and somatic dance experience and we revisited the positions and actions. Her eyes were bright. I explained the function of plié and how she needs to approach positions and actions based on her body. Afterwards, her expression told me she had never felt this way before. Her body was able to move in a connected way. For the first time, she was creating movement and not imitating it.


Wise Move #4: Keep them moving

For this dancer, with this body, I suspect there are instructors out there that would tell her she shouldn’t dance. No one has done that. I have opted to gain the knowledge needed to help such dancers. Her other instructor opted to know where to send her to gain that help.

It isn’t for us to decide a dancer’s fate. It is up to us to provide support and clear communication and allow them to make decisions. Natural consequences will occur. She will be accepted into programs, or she won’t. She will get the job, or she won’t. There is so much value in connecting with others, connecting with yourself, and letting the rest play out. We’re all about the process, right?


What are your wise moves?

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Two Types of Corrections I Stopped Giving My Dance Students http://www.danceadvantage.net/rephrasing-corrections-in-dance/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rephrasing-corrections-in-dance http://www.danceadvantage.net/rephrasing-corrections-in-dance/#comments Tue, 12 Jul 2016 17:49:52 +0000 http://www.danceadvantage.net/?p=43767 Dance teachers commonly use two types of corrections in class that cause confusion for their dance students. Learn how to rephrase and reframe these corrections to be more clear and accurate.]]>


One summer when I was twelve years old, world-renowned master teacher Laura Alonso gave me a correction:

You must stand as though your belly button and tailbone want to kiss. It’s platonic, they’ll never make it

I never forgot this correction because I understood it. Instructors often give dancers corrections that they do not understand. These often fit into two broad categories (1) negative corrections (i.e. don’t stick your butt out), and (2) oblique (i.e. weight over your toes).


Negative corrections

Negative Corrections


Negative corrections tell the dancer what not to do, but not necessarily what to do. This type of correction becomes problematic when the dancer doesn’t immediately know how to address it. Although I encourage my students to ask questions, many dancers – eager to please their teacher – will not ask for clarification.


Re-think Negative Corrections as Active Instructions

The most effective way I have found to turn negative corrections into active instructions is by referencing the dancer’s anatomy. For example, a common correction at the barre is “don’t roll (the foot) in.” However, the action of simply pulling the arch of the foot off of the floor may have an unintended consequence of shifting the weight too far into the outer edge of the foot.

What I am really asking the dancer to do is keep all five toes on the ground, thereby centering the weight in the foot. When I change the wording of this correction from “don’t roll in” to “(do) keep all five toes on the floor,” I notice that more students seem to understand, and are able to apply it to their dancing. Other common negative corrections that I have since re-written include:

  • Don’t slouch -> (do) elongate your spine
  • Don’t sit in your hips -> (do) distribute your pelvic girdle evenly into your femur heads
  • Don’t stick your chest out -> (do) ‘close’ your rib cage

By changing from negative corrections to active instructions, I notice a greater understanding and retention among the students. Additionally, the dancers begin to cultivate a greater awareness of their body on a skeletal and muscular level.


Oblique corrections

Oblique Corrections



Oblique corrections tell the dancer what to do, but not necessarily how to do it. Just like negative corrections, they can become problematic where the dancer doesn’t know how to fix the correction, but doesn’t want to ask for clarification.

Re-think Using Specific Anatomical References

The most effective way I have found to translate oblique corrections into instructions that are more clearly understood is by referencing the dancer’s anatomy. (Yes, the same solution as above.) This requires me to consider what I am asking the dancer to do with her body. For example, the instruction “weight over your toes” does not offer an explicit instruction. What I am really asking the dancer to do is to push her femoral head over her toes. When I change the instruction to include this anatomical reference, the dancers immediately know what to do. They look in the mirror, imagine where the femoral head is, and then align it over their toes.

In a “tilt” exercise in Graham technique, I had been telling the dancers to tuck their butts in and rotate their lifted leg. I again asked myself what I was asking the dancers to do on an anatomical level, and discovered that when the pelvic girdle tilts back (i.e., sticking the butt out), this does not allow the leg to fully rotate (turn out). Now, I have the class put one hand over their sacrum and the other in the crease of the hip of the lifted leg. With the working leg lifted at forty-five degrees, they tilt the pelvis back, and can feel that this movement forcing their hip to turn in. Again – they understand not only what the correction is, but why they have to adjust it, and what exactly they are asking their bodies to do.

Giving corrections to dance students that work
Corrections that work!

Of course, your dancers must understand the anatomical references you are making.

Bring in pictures of the human skeletal and muscular system every so often, and discuss the important parts. This gives students (even young dancers) a foundation for making corrections from the inside-out and allows you to better speak in a language that everyone understands.


IMAGE abc for dance: curriculum for dance IMAGE
Effective teaching materials and time saving tools

Find Functional Anatomy tools for your dance studio and classroom at ABC for Dance.


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Cleaning Dances 101 http://www.danceadvantage.net/cleaning-dances/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=cleaning-dances http://www.danceadvantage.net/cleaning-dances/#comments Fri, 27 May 2016 14:30:39 +0000 http://www.danceadvantage.net/?p=43577 Four useful techniques for cleaning choreography. Try them in your next dance rehearsal to get your students ready for performance or competition.]]>


Competition and performance season seems to have a way on sneaking up on us all. Inevitably, there is at least one dance that is just not ready to hit the stage. Here are some tools useful in cleaning dances. Try them during your next dance rehearsal.


Cleaning Dance Choreography
Photo by snickclunk is licensed CC BY 2.0, text added


Know the Counts

In many group pieces, the counts are the glue that holds the piece together. Solidifying the counts in the dancers’ brains should be the first step in cleaning a piece, as it creates a framework for the rest of the cleaning. In order to make sure all dancers are in unison, or on the same count, take the piece one section (say 32 counts) at a time. Have the dancers perform the choreography while counting out-loud, and listen  for dancers who are off or unsure.


Break it Down

Performing a choreographed dance requires the coordination of many different elements. To solidify each, run the piece a few times, each time focusing on a different element. For example, do one run with only arms, do a second run with only formations and focus. Breaking the piece down like this will allow you to fine-tune these elements with less distraction.


Take Notes

Always watch a piece with a pencil and paper. Don’t yell notes at your dancers: often, this just causes confusion. Instead, write down corrections. Draw a line in the middle of your page. On the left side, write down individual notes and quick fixes (i.e. an incorrect arm position on a single dancer). On the right side, write more “big picture” issues, such as a messy unison section.

Begin your critique by addressing the notes on the left side. Have dancers show you the corrected movement to ensure they understand. Then, move to the notes on the right side. Start by addressing the most problematic ones. For example, if dancers are lacking focus, go through the dance and explain where focus should be at all times. These notes are necessarily more time consuming. If you do not have time to address these in your dance rehearsal, save your notes for next time. Address them at the beginning of your next rehearsal so that they can be corrected immediately.


Talk it Out

The suggestions above deal with the technical side of a piece, but what about the artistry? I like to have at least one “sit down” conversation with my dancers about each piece. I give them a framework of why I choreographed the piece, what my inspiration was, and what I want them to portray. I then allow them to engage in a discussion with one another about what the piece means to them, and what they feel they portray. This facilitates a more personal connection between the dancers and the piece.

Remember that cleaning dance, like helping young dancers feel confident on stage, takes time and patience. Rather than getting frustrated that a part is “still not clean,” acknowledge the progress that the dancers are making. If there is a rehearsal where you are particularly hard on the dancers, remind them that you are being hard on them because you know how much potential they have to perform the piece well. Always end on a positive note.

Have a great show!


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Teaching Students to Use Breath to Enhance their Dancing http://www.danceadvantage.net/teaching-breath-coordination/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=teaching-breath-coordination http://www.danceadvantage.net/teaching-breath-coordination/#comments Tue, 15 Mar 2016 14:50:07 +0000 http://www.danceadvantage.net/?p=43283 Young dancers need help learning how to connect breath to movement. Here are 4 ways dance teachers can encourage this development in dance class.]]>

All dancers use breath. After all, breathing is a natural and necessary function that occurs whether we think about it or not. However, not all dancers understand how they can use their breath to maximize their dancing.

At the most basic level, dancers should use inhalation to emphasize growing movements, and exhalation to extend shrinking movements. This use of breath provides a greater fluidity of movement, musicality, and often creates an enduring quality that fosters enjoyment of movement.

"Cold" by However Improbable is licensed CC BY-ND 3.0
“Cold” by However Improbable is licensed CC BY-ND 3.0

Despite these benefits, young dancers are often unaware of how to connect their breath to their movement. Many tend to hold their breath, in class and on stage, because they are focusing their attention on performing the choreography above all else.

So, as dance teachers, how can we teach our students to connect their breath to their movements?

Experience has taught me that this is a quality that cannot be taught in a day, but must be fostered throughout a dancer’s development. Below are several exercises that I have found helpful in encouraging the use of breath in my students.


Begin at the Barre

Dance training often begins with ballet, and ballet begins at the barre. Therefore, it only makes sense that the incorporation of breath should start at the barre.

Every so often, use a CD of songs that are familiar to your dancers (one of my favorites is Divas for Ballet by David Plumpton). Holiday CDs also work well for this exercise. Teach your ballet class as you normally would, but invite your dancers to hum along with the music. Humming naturally incorporates breath into the exercise and the dancer becomes more closely involved with the musicality of the exercise.


Improvisational Breath Exercises

The following improvisation exercises can be done singularly at the end of a modern or contemporary class, or could be extended into a longer workshop.

Individual Exercise: Using Breath in Movement

Spread the dancers out in the space. Play soft music that the dancers can hear you speak over. Then, ask them to improvise movements while coordinating audible breathing. Encourage the dancers to experiment with the way they breathe, such as varying the speed of inhalation and exhalation, pushing air out in contrast with pulling air in, and changing the pitch of their breath sounds.

Partner Exercise: Using Breath to Communicate

Pair your dancers up and spread the pairs out in the space. Again, play soft music that the dancers can hear you speak over. Then, ask the dancers to improvise movements while incorporating audible breathing in a conversation, or call and response, with a partner. One partner begins by improvising a movement that uses breath their partner can hear, and the second partner responds, also breathing out loud while improvising a movement. I like to encourage contact between the dancers during this exercise to form a more intimate connection between the pairings.


CC0 Public Domain
CC0 Public Domain

Perfecting With Performance

Challenge your dancers to breathe out loud during a rehearsal run of your piece. This will force the dancers to think about their breathing as they dance. Give them places in the choreography where they should incorporate specific breathing patterns, such as inhaling when arms or legs are lifted or at the initiation of a jump, and exhaling at the beginning and end of a turn or during the landing of a jump. After the run has concluded, allow the dancers time to process their experience individually.


Encourage Experimentation

While the structure described in the rehearsal example above provides a great starting point for dancers to explore the connection of breath to movement, it is important to not always apply such a rigid arrangement for breathing. Every body is different, and every dancer will find that a different, specific breathing pattern assists his or her technique and performance.


Once a dancer understands the basic principles of using breath with movement, he or she can master this on his or her own body through discovery and experimentation. Ultimately, this process will lead to a deeper understanding and enjoyment of the dance.


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Laying The Path To Your Best Work in Dance And Education http://www.danceadvantage.net/evolving-as-a-dance-educator/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=evolving-as-a-dance-educator http://www.danceadvantage.net/evolving-as-a-dance-educator/#respond Fri, 19 Feb 2016 16:00:21 +0000 http://www.danceadvantage.net/?p=43187 A year ago Heather wanted to quit teaching dance. She's back but with new purpose after reevaluating and evolving. Find out what it took to find her way back.]]>


About a year ago, I was ready to leave dance.

I had had enough of trying to convince students, parents, and administrators that there is more to dance than precision and performance. I began to think, “if this is where dance is these days, if this is all that dancers want from it, I need to leave.” I was tired of the fight. I was tired of the struggle. I wanted out.

Many months later, I am back.

I left the environment I was in.

I left the aspect of the field I was living in, however, I didn’t really leave my work. Instead, I honed in on the aspects of my curriculum that still sparked interest and passion: creative process, personal connection, artistic transformation, art as social practice. This is now what I do, full-time, all the time, not in units of study.


I analyzed my work.

I looked at my work from the last decade and noted the processes for working with students (particularly at-risk) in which my strengths truly lived.



Exposing the connections of big ideas and delivering sophisticated content in digestible pieces.


I began to really consider the promise of movement as healing.

Everywhere I was looking, I was noticing students were stressed and pained. Sometimes this was masked in achievement and accomplishment, sometimes in poverty and challenging home lives, but the bottom line was the same.


As soon as I started looking for other ways in which to apply my strengths, interests, and knowledge, doors opened, new partnerships formed, and everyone in my house is happier.


dancing feet    reaching hands


I now offer Creative Self-Care and Project-Based Learning in Healthcare and K-12 settings. I am involved in a community of artists and business people committed to improving our city in real ways. I consult for people and organizations outside of my community and state. I write. I work with people I trust. I meet people who inspire. I am laying the path to do my best work.

One of my clients recently said to me, “When I stop trying to define things, I realize there is nothing to fear. It is when I impose perceptions and definitions that I get stuck.” This summarizes my career in dance and in education.

I was scared of what leaving public schools would mean for me as an educator. How would I be identified? How do I describe my work that doesn’t fit neatly under established labels and categories?

What I have found is that I am able to focus on my favorite aspects of the “work” and make change in my community in ways I only dreamed of doing. I also still work at times in public schools.


When I stop trying to define things, I realize there is nothing to fear.” #dancelife
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Dance career advice

A dad in Nebraska asked if I would share my journey with his daughter as she starts to plan her career goals and college education.

Here is an excerpt:

“If you are considering a life in dance, become a master of dance in all its forms- technique, performance, creative process and choreography, history and theory, production, pedagogy, and somatics.

When you do that, you can do anything you need to do in order to create a life in dance.

Approach dance with an open mind and an open heart. Your definition and relationship to dance will evolve. You will evolve.”


I concluded by mentioning Liz Lerman and the four questions she poses which have been instrumental in helping me arrive at my own truths and forging new paths:


How might these questions deepen the work you are doing?

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What Charlotte The Spider Knows About Nurturing Champions http://www.danceadvantage.net/nurturing-winners/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=nurturing-winners http://www.danceadvantage.net/nurturing-winners/#comments Thu, 07 Jan 2016 15:30:31 +0000 http://www.danceadvantage.net/?p=40514 If Charlotte can take a small, lonely, frightened little pig and turn him into a healthy, strong, confident winner, so can you. With lessons from "Charlotte's Web," dance teachers can learn how to turn their dancers into real champions, not just in competition but in life.]]>


Anyone who has ever felt a little emotional (or, outright sobbed) during a telling or re-telling of Charlotte’s Web knows it is a heart-warming yet bittersweet story about a little girl’s love of animals and also the friendship between a wise spider and a young pig. But, as Leah Singer writes, “[Charlotte’s Web] is also about words and the difference storytelling can make in people’s lives.”

This is the front cover art for the book Charlotte's Web written by E. B. White. The book cover art copyright is believed to belong to the publisher, HarperCollins, or the cover artist.
This is the front cover art for the book Charlotte’s Web written by E. B. White. The book cover art copyright is believed to belong to the publisher, HarperCollins, or the cover artist.

If you’re not familiar with E.B. White’s classic children’s story, Charlotte’s Web is about a small pig, a runt, in danger of being slaughtered because he is “very small and weak, and . . . will never amount to anything.” A young girl named Fern convinces her father to spare the pig, who she names Wilbur. Fern loves and nurtures Wilbur but his life is once again in danger when he is sold to her uncle. It is Charlotte, a barn spider, that ultimately saves Wilbur’s life. Charlotte weaves a series of words into her web–”Some pig.” “Terrific.” “Radiant.” “Humble.”–which the farmers take as signs of Wilbur’s greatness. Word spreads of this remarkable pig and he becomes too famous to kill.

Wilbur is entered into the county fair and, though [SPOILERS ahead] he does not win first prize, he wins a special award for being extraordinary. Knowing that Wilbur is now beloved by all and his life is for certain no longer in danger, Charlotte finally gives in to her own death but not before leaving her egg sac in the care of Wilbur who returns with it to the farm. There, he welcomes and befriends Charlotte’s children and future generations of spiders for years to come.

Through Charlotte, we learn a lot about coaching young dancers to greatness.


When it comes to nurturing champions, Charlotte knows:

That words matter and that the story you tell can save a life.

In the book, Charlotte makes a choice to re-write Wilbur’s story. At first she’s just tricking the minds of gullible humans on behalf of a little pig who is scared and defenseless but Charlotte does see something special in Wilbur. Maybe it’s just that he is willing to see beyond her “bloodthirsty nature” but helping Wilbur gives Charlotte’s life purpose and makes her feel good.

“…by helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone’s life can stand a little of that.”.

Where would an “unlikely ballerina” like Misty Copeland be without her first supporters and mentors who chose to see beyond the obstacles of her early life and the color of her skin and instead speak of Misty’s potential to rewrite what could have been her story? Not all dancers are as famous as Misty but I’d guarantee that, if asked, every single person in the dance world could give you the names of teachers whose words changed their lives.

"Barn Spider" by Dave Fletcher is licensed CC BY-ND 2.0
“Barn Spider” by Dave Fletcher is licensed CC BY-ND 2.0


That ordinary dancers become extraordinary the same way gifted ones do.


Wilbur blushed. “But I’m not terrific, Charlotte. I’m just about average for a pig.”

“You’re terrific as far as I’m concerned,” replied Charlotte, sweetly, “and that’s what counts.

Wilbur doesn’t start out as anything special. He is a common runt and even he doesn’t believe he is anything more. It takes time, hard work, and Charlotte’s steadfast belief in him but, by the end, he truly is a magnificent, “completely out of the ordinary” specimen of a pig. Wilbur can barely handle all the praise he receives.

I don’t think Charlotte foresees all that Wilbur eventually accomplishes but that doesn’t matter. She always plans her messages one word at a time. Who can truly predict which students will go on in dance, and which won’t? Who knows what the result of your influence will be? A perfectly average dance student becomes exceptional the same way a gifted student does–one step at a time.


An average dance student becomes exceptional the same way a gifted one does… one step at a time.
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That the way a student feels is as important as their skill.

Charlotte loves Wilbur but she’s not always overflowing with praise. She sees his limitations clearly. While searching for her next word, Charlotte asks Wilbur to run, and jump, and flip. He exhausts himself doing everything she asks. When he’s finished, Charlotte concludes…

“I’m not sure Wilbur’s action is exactly radiant, but it’s interesting.”

“Actually,” said Wilbur, “I feel radiant.”

“Do you?” said Charlotte, looking at him with affection. “Well, you’re a good little pig, and radiant you shall be.

Charlotte acknowledges that Wilbur is eager and willing and realizes that a pig’s natural abilities aren’t everything. Not to mention, they are completely different from her own abilities. She sees that the way Wilbur feels about himself is absolutely essential in helping him become all that he can be. Later, people take notice of the “interesting” things about Wilbur.

Your students are their own kind of dancer. They need you to guide them and challenge them even though they will eventually go their own way. Positive praise when your students show enthusiasm and effort builds their confidence but so does validating them. Show them that their feelings and thoughts–who they are on the inside–matter.


That people (and pigs) live up to their descriptions.


“When Charlotte’s web said SOME PIG, Wilbur had tried hard to look like some pig. When Charlotte’s web said TERRIFIC, Wilbur had tried to look terrific. And now that the web said RADIANT, he did everything possible to make himself glow.”


Over time Wilbur transforms into the pig that Charlotte says he is. He’s always been a sweet little pig but, according to the story’s narrator, “good food and regular hours were showing results.” Wilbur goes from a weak, lonely, uncertain runt that no one wanted to a healthy, strong, and confident pig that “any man would be proud of.”

Saying what you want to see is a concept that works for work ethic as well as pointed toes. It’s not that you need to make things up about your dancers that aren’t true. When you have a seed, you water it because you know the potential for growth is there if you do. As you work with your students, regularly sprinkle them with recognition of the growing potential you see in them.


"Piglet" by Jim Champion is licensed CC BY-SA 2.0
“Piglet” by Jim Champion is licensed CC BY-SA 2.0


That encouraging humility brings handsome results.


“Wilbur was modest; fame did not spoil him.”


The other animals worry that all the attention might go to Wilbur’s head but it doesn’t. In the back of his mind, he knows the fate he’s escaped–it haunts his dreams a little–and he knows he would not have gotten far without Charlotte. “During the day he is happy and confident” but, when faced with his biggest challenge, he still wants Charlotte with him

When they attend the county fair, Wilbur’s owner has a special crate that says “Zuckerman’s Famous Pig” in gold letters and his wife fusses to make Wilbur look good with a buttermilk bath and clean straw. They believe his fame and looks will win him the prize. But Charlotte sizes up the competition and though there’s a bigger pig, she knows exactly what Wilbur’s got that that pig doesn’t–she writes HUMBLE above Wilbur’s pen. Charlotte’s word is true and it serves Wilbur well. Everyone has something nice to say about it him.

As a mentor to your students, you can help them see their best qualities. The rest of the world tells your students that being a winner means you must be “Instafamous” or look and perform better than everyone else. But when you let dancers know with your words and actions that humility matters, they win.


Charlotte the spider shows that as a mentor, you can help students see their best qualities.
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That the work you do every day is a miracle!


Though it is remarkable that Charlotte is able to understand and weave human words into her web, Fern’s uncle fails to see it as anything special. Fern’s aunt hints at the idea that perhaps it is the spider that is extraordinary and not the pig but Charlotte’s role is soon forgotten in all the excitement over Wilbur. That’s okay by Charlotte. She cares only that her plan works and that Wilbur is saved. When Fern’s mother becomes concerned her daughter is spending too much time talking to animals, she consults the family doctor. They end up chatting about the writing in Charlotte’s web and he has this to say:

“When the words appeared, everyone said they were a miracle. But nobody pointed out that the web itself is a miracle.”

“What’s miraculous about a spider’s web?” said Mrs. Arable. “I don’t see why you say a web is a miracle – it’s just a web.”

“Ever try to spin one?” asked Dr. Dorian.


Like a spider’s web, not everyone appreciates everything that goes into teaching dancers and the “ordinary miracles” you perform every day. Your reward isn’t the point or the purpose for doing what you do but when they do come, the rare moments of recognition are all the sweeter.


"spider web" by Alan Reeves is licensed CC BY 2.0
“spider web” by Alan Reeves is licensed CC BY 2.0


That you are never too small to leave a legacy.


Though she is small, Charlotte works extra hard to do her very best on Wilbur’s behalf and Wilbur never forgets her work and sacrifice. No matter the lengths you’ve gone to support your dancers, no matter how intricate the web you’ve woven, like Charlotte, you probably fade into the background. But your students remember and, just as Wilbur carries Charlotte’s egg sac back to the farm, your students carry forward the things you’ve taught them. They spread them, share them, and often pass them to future generations.

Your students may not become famous or win in every competition but if you help them as Charlotte helped Wilbur, they become winners–ordinary dancers who succeed, who go on to live lives that are remarkable in their own way and, in the process, create your legacy as a teacher and dance educator.

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Things I Never Thought About Before Becoming A Dance Teacher http://www.danceadvantage.net/dance-teacher-ups-and-downs/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=dance-teacher-ups-and-downs http://www.danceadvantage.net/dance-teacher-ups-and-downs/#comments Mon, 12 Oct 2015 17:10:40 +0000 http://www.danceadvantage.net/?p=22231 Teaching dance isn't all fun and games - I knew that going in. But, throughout 20 years as a dance instructor I have discovered some surprising difficulties and rewards in this career - things I never thought to think about at the start.]]>

A few years shy of 40, I’ve been teaching dance classes since the “ripe” age of 15. That means, for over 20 years and more than half my life, I’ve worked as an instructor in more than a dozen different studios, institutions, and organizations.

If you had told me at the start that teaching dance is a challenging but rewarding way to make a living, that my students and their parents would keep me on my toes, I would have probably smiled politely and thought… “duh!”      Hey, I was 15.

But looking back, I’ve realized there are things I never thought to think about when I set out on this path. All sunshine and lollipops? No, but there are definitely rainbows.

I don’t claim these observations as universal dance teacher truths but, for better or worse, I want to be real for a second about some of the unexpected ups, down, pros, and cons I’ve discovered during a relatively long career of teaching dance. So, here goes…

I Never Thought…


That I’d miss being the pupil.

Students show up and work. They sweat hard, they dance hard and, as a dance teacher, at some point I started to miss being a student. Well, maybe not the self-doubt or insecurities… But to dance for myself or to dance and not be in charge? Bliss.


Photo by NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan is licensed CC BY-SA 2.0
Photo by NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan is licensed CC BY-SA 2.0



That I’d spend so many hours (physically and mentally) on the job.

Class planning, choreographing, performances or competitions, and problem-solving everything from technical corrections to behavior take up hours of time outside of class. Then there’s the task of professional development and continuing education, the pseudo-celebrity of always running into people you know when off-duty, and the long/late hours working in the studio while everyone else is home for the day or out socializing. Plus, after talking with other dance teachers about their home lives I’ll mention that even if you’re prepared to wear your dance teacher hat almost constantly, friends or spouse or family may not always be. Something to think about.


That parent-wrangling would be such a massive part of what I do.

No matter how challenging or wonderful dance parents are, they require as much management, finesse, educating, care, and energy as my dance students. The moments when I’ve been unprepared or unable to embrace these facts have been the times when I felt most worn down or burnt-out by teaching dance.


That my students and their families would feel a certain ownership of me.

They are sometimes surprised to find out I have a life outside the studio, or are insulted when I’m not available 24/7 and yes, on occasion someone has felt that paying me means ownership or control over my decisions and methods. The flip side of this is that I’ve also been treated like family on holidays, during the birth of my kids, and even in times of struggle. A dance teacher has a large, extended family and all the joys and troubles that go with it.


That I feel a certain ownership of my students.

In striving to be a great dance teacher, I’ve invested great time and emotion and energy into each student even when my interaction with him/her lasts only a short time. As a result, many students have left a lasting impression on my own life and I have felt their successes and failures deeply, at times needing to remind myself they are not my own. The losses are hard too. When a former student of mine suddenly passed away 2 years ago, I genuinely mourned her loss. We were no longer close in proximity or even relationship but she was one of mine for a time, and that’s all it takes.

There are ups, downs, pros, and cons to a career as a dance teacher.
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That hourly pay can be risky business.

There are short-term and long-term periods during which dance teachers are sometimes unable to work. My children were born in summer and I had a partner with whom I could juggle schedules. Even had that not been the case, loss of my income would have been felt but not detrimental, again because my partner’s job covered our living expenses. But not every dance teacher is in that situation or able to secure salaried employment, and being out of work (and therefore out of pay) due to pregnancy, or illness, or injury, or to care for a child or family member are circumstances all dance teachers are likely to face at some point. “No work = no pay’ is a harsh reality of the work in both planned and unforeseen situations.


That there are drawbacks to never holding a full-time job.

Benefits like health insurance, sick days, pensions, and disability/injury compensation may not be offered to part-time workers. Dance teachers have more flexibility in some areas – bringing children to work or choosing their schedule for example – but in the wake of health or life-changes, I’ve witnessed teachers struggle to add or transition to occupations that offer benefits or stability. Even if you have a full-time teaching load, your hours may not be considered full-time by law or by future employers. A series of part-time jobs on a job application can have a negative impact on gaining employment outside of dance. And despite published recognition of what dancers bring to the table as employees, not all employers are willing to test the theory that dancers are some of the smartest and hardest workers on the planet. When the only credits on your resumé are dance-related, employers in other fields may consider it a leap of faith to offer you the job above candidates with more traditional work experience. With that being said, dancers often DO make great employees and they’re tenacious enough to keep going after what they want despite the obstacles.


That I would continually be scrutinized.

Dance is often seen as something purely recreational or just for children so, when you are young, there’s little resistance to the notion of pursuing it. When I went from being a 20-something to 30-someting, I started to encounter those of the opinion that teaching dance is an occupation people grow out (or age out) of. But a dance teacher’s age isn’t the only thing under a microscope. Anything/everything is subject to analysis and review – weight, muscle tone, hair, makeup, attire, body art, skin-color, relationships, family, past mistakes, and more. Unfounded or not, fair or not, the level of scrutiny can be a challenging aspect of the job.


Photo by is licensed CC BY 2.0 [text added]
Photo by Flavio is licensed CC BY 2.0 [text added]


That some people will never see the value of what I do.

Whether it’s a parent, a student, another teacher, friends or members of my own family, I’ve found there are those who will never understand why dance matters – the purpose or usefulness of dance – those who will fail to respect my contributions to a class or to the community, who will diminish my work because it doesn’t align with their own notions about what dance or teaching is all about.


That some days I want to be anywhere, doing anything else and some days I wouldn’t be caught dead being anywhere, or doing anything else.

The spectrum of feelings I’ve had toward something about which I am so passionate has sometimes been surprising even to me. Love affairs can be that way.


That I’d forever be revising myself and my methods.

I have yet to figure out the best way of doing anything. I’m continuously learning, tweaking, and striving to do better. I knew that learning is ongoing but I thought at some point I’d feel like I had everything down to a science and in some things that’s true but the refining process of teaching is never done, just like dancing itself.


That uncomfortable tasks and conversations would often fall to me.

From bodily function and body odor to offering critique and evaluation of a student’s progress, there have been topics I’ve had to address and both literal and figurative messes I’ve had to clean up that have made me uncomfortable, if for no other reason than they made someone else uncomfortable. Being a dance teacher is never easy… or dull!


That my work could be someone’s lifeline.

I remember that, as a kid, dance felt like my lifeline. Despite this, I don’t think I ever put much thought at the start into how dance might be a lifeline for my own students. I didn’t anticipate that someday my class would be the only place a student feels he belongs, or that my encouragement would be the most positive part of a student’s week, or what simply showing up could mean to a dance student experiencing uncertainty and chaos at home. No, I’m not a doctor or nurse but my work and efforts HAVE been that kind of lifeline, not because of who I am or the way I teach but because dance is powerful – dance matters, it makes a difference and I’ve been blessed enough to witness that.

Dance is powerful – dance matters and I’ve been blessed enough to witness that.
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That’s why, despite the ups and downs, pros and cons of spending half a life or more teaching dance, I feel privileged to be part of this work.


Yes, I know some veteran teachers have decades on this newbie so, if you want to add your own observations, we’d love to read them in the comments.

If you’re just starting out or still considering making a life as a dance teacher, I hope you’ve found my list insightful. If you have questions or thoughts, we want you to share those too!


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Boost Your Dance Rehearsal Efficiency http://www.danceadvantage.net/rehearsal-management-tips/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rehearsal-management-tips http://www.danceadvantage.net/rehearsal-management-tips/#comments Mon, 29 Jun 2015 14:45:06 +0000 http://www.danceadvantage.net/?p=21723 Choreographers, avoid the frustration of unproductive dance rehearsals so that you can focus on the creative heart of dancing. These tips will give you more control and help you make the most of your practice time.]]>
Photograph by Paul Marotta.
Photograph by Paul Marotta.

Directors and choreographers can easily get overwhelmed with and distracted by all we hope to accomplish in a single practice. Yes, adding an extra rehearsal here and there would likely help, but we often don’t have the luxury due to schedule conflicts or lack of resources. Instead, we must make the best use of the precious time that we have.

Over-scheduled, over-committed and over-stretched – it’s no wonder that frustration levels soar when we feel unproductive in rehearsal. We’ve all been there: the dance instructor or choreographer seems woefully unprepared; the awkward, pregnant pauses while dancers exchange knowing glances; and the miscellaneous fidgeting from reviewing choreography to surreptitiously checking messages in a futile attempt to at least get something done.

It’s not a fun situation for anyone in that studio – least of all the choreographer.

To help you minimize panic, here are ten tips that will not only boost rehearsal efficiency, but also reduce anxiety and deliver a sense of control. Most importantly, by approaching rehearsal in an organized and thoughtful manner, your mind will be free and clear to focus on the heart of dancing: the creativity.

1. Determine Your Goals

Although most seasoned directors can probably wing a decent class or rehearsal, set your heart on a particular goal or set of goals to truly maximize time. Building a plan for rehearsal and allotting a certain amount of time for each agenda item is a good way to keep objectives in check.

2. Communicate the Plan

Once you have your heart set, it’s time to let it sing. Communicating the rehearsal goals and agenda to your dancers helps them prepare mentally and physically, and enables everyone to work together to meet the common objectives. It will also show that their time in rehearsal will be well spent.

3. Start on Time

Demonstrate regard for your dancers by starting rehearsal right on time. Even if only a fraction of the group is present, this custom is a surefire way to strike a chord in their hearts. It conveys appreciation to those who are punctual and encourages others to do the same. If you respect your dancers’ time, they will respect yours.

If you respect your dancers’ time, they will respect yours. #dancerehearsal
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4. Practice Purposeful Repetition

Chances are, we all have a few stalwart warm-up exercises in our repertoire that will not only get the job done, but get it done well. Purposeful repetition builds neural pathways, allowing the technique to become more autonomous. When we know an exercise by heart, dancers have the opportunity to focus on technique without thinking too much about the steps or the sequence. And it is also a surprising time saver. Rather than spending precious minutes on a detailed explanation of the exercise, directors can instead pause to provide meaningful feedback and critique. All that said, too much repetition can backfire; dancers may lose attention as they go out for a “mental vanilla chai latte”. Try switching up the exercises once a month and adjust the cadence as needed.

5. Use Purposeful Multitasking

To make your heart beat a little faster during technique exercises, combine closely related movements into a single exercise. Footwork, tendus and dégagés, for example, can all be mixed and matched. Consider working in sun salutations to not only generate heat throughout, but also to elongate the spine, stretch the hamstrings, and strengthen the core, chest and whole upper body.

6. Divide and Conquer

Do your heart some good by splitting a hefty agenda item into sub-parts. For instance, if a trio section is rehearsing, ask the remaining dancers to work together to review or clean other parts. Or, if there is a considerable amount of choreography to learn, see if you can enlist the help of another dancer to pre-teach her the choreography before rehearsal. Have her lead one group while you work with the others. You can fine tune anything that gets lost in translation later in rehearsal.

7. Prioritize

Recognize that despite your well-laid plans, it may be impossible to get through everything on the list. When a change of heart is in order, identify your priorities and decide where to invest the time. Have a show coming up? Concentrate on cleaning and rehearsing the pieces for the gig and perhaps shelve new choreography until the following rehearsal. Have a limited amount of time with a guest choreographer? Focus on “getting the choreography out” and then create some opportunities and tools, such as online videos, to help the dancers digest the material.

8. Acknowledge, Apologize, Abort

Periodically, no matter how much we prepare, things will go awry in rehearsal. Avoid complete derailment by having a heart to heart with the group. First, acknowledge that the practice is not going as planned. Letting the dancers know you are aware of the situation will instantly alleviate some of the frustration. While it makes sense to spend some time attempting to right the train, there are occasions where it is best just to apologize, abort and move on to other work.

9. Document and Review Corrections

A foolproof way to the choreographer’s heart is to retain and recall the countless notes and corrections delivered in rehearsal. Write down the key changes and adjustments during practice. At the next rehearsal, test for retention prior to running the piece by asking the dancers what changes they remember and then fill in the gaps.

10. End on a High Note

After a particularly grueling rehearsal, sometimes we need to remind ourselves why we take the time out of our day and push our bodies to the brink. Give your dancers a shot in the arm by ending rehearsal with a piece the group knows well. You know the one. The one that just feels good. The one no one has to think about. The one they nail every time. The studio will be teeming with that magical, electric energy that can be created in no other way. In other words, let them dance their hearts out.

Photograph by EPL Photography.
Photograph by EPL Photography.

JessicaGoepfertJessica Goepfert has been choreographing, teaching and performing professionally for over 15 years throughout New England. She is the co-founder and director of Cambridge Dance Company and currently runs the Suffolk University Dance Company. Jessica has an MBA from Babson College and a BA in Dance from Connecticut College. Follow Cambridge Dance Company on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube @CambridgeDance.

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Potential Hazards of Discussing a Dancer’s Potential http://www.danceadvantage.net/potential-hazards/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=potential-hazards http://www.danceadvantage.net/potential-hazards/#comments Tue, 03 Mar 2015 03:30:16 +0000 http://www.danceadvantage.net/?p=20519 Dancers care a lot about their potential to "make it" in a dance career. But do you and your students define potential the same way? How you talk to dancers about their futures matters.]]>

Talking To Dancers About Their PotentialIs an educator obligated to share his/her perspective on whether or not a dancer will “make it” in the professional dance arena?

Recently, I was talking over topic ideas with a friend preparing to moderate a talk with a panel of professional dance artists. Among the topic suggestions, education came up as well as the role of the educator in the preparation of a dancer’s career — specifically, the question above.

Ripe for discussion and debate, right?

Here are my two cents:

The Hazards of Potential: When the Future Trips Up the Now

We as educators need to be careful with how we handle (talk about, promote, define) potential.
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For the young dancer, this is a loaded term and one that I think they equate with landing jobs and securing fame. I did.

As educators, I think we see potential as a culmination of skill, work ethic, and artistry. We may see that this dancer has the same “grit” that was required for the path we took as professionals, or the paths we view as being professional. It will include the skill of the dancer, and the artistry. It might also include the willingness to sacrifice, the tunnel-vision, or the financial backing. It might also include the “right” physicality, the aesthetic, the etiquette.

So much might be implied yet never even considered by the person, or people, hearing the message.

I say people there because it isn’t just the main character of that narrative that hears the explicit and implicit dialogue about potential. It is interpreted and acted upon by all the characters of the narrative – those dancers making up the rest of the community within a program. It is somewhat responsible for how the pecking order to established; how the politics are determined.

We must be clear in how we perceive and define potential.

Standing on bench to see eye to eye
Seeing Eye to Eye by Chris Beckett is licensed CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

I think we benefit from being honest about how we view the profession of dance as well as professional dance. I think we are obligated to teach all of our students fairly, if not equally.

Proportionally, very few of us are teaching in conservatory feeder schools to major dance institutions where people go to learn how to dance this specific way. Most of us are teaching students that will go on to do a myriad of careers in dance, or nothing, and everything in between. We simply can’t predict the future of dance anymore than we can predict the future of a student.

Lack of Potential

When the talk turns to the lack of potential, the emphasis should be on the choices obstructing potential and not the person. The behaviors are what we as educators can address, in the hope to inspire the person to make change. It is not our responsibility to judge the person and condemn them to the thought that they aren’t good enough to “make it” in dance.

Some educators, though, treat conversations as anecdotal evidence for the negative message being conveyed about a student. A scenario like this, “I tried to talk to her about how she’s late to every rehearsal. I told her that won’t cut it in the real world. She didn’t even want to talk to me about it. See, she doesn’t have what it takes.”

Here are some examples of how you can turn your conversation enders into starters. These will only work, however, if you are interested in the dancer as a whole person.

Instead of:
“Your classwork is sloppy and inconsistent. No one will hire you with a work ethic like that.”

“You appear to be making choices that don’t support your best work, I am wondering if there is anything I can do to help. Would you like to hear what I mean?”


Instead of:
“You want the fame and the glory but you aren’t committed. You can’t make it without commitment.”

“I hear you saying you want this, but your actions tell me otherwise. Would you like me to share what I am noticing?”


Instead of:
“You claim you want to want to dance [insert place or company] but you won’t fit in.”

“I am wondering if your goals still include this, because if they don’t, I would like to adjust the feedback I give you so it is most useful.”


Personal Potential

I think it is important that we go back, though, to the perspective of the educator in defining the profession as well as potential — the story of that educator’s life and journey in dance, and in professional dance.

Not all educators have engaged in professional dance and not all educators have engaged in the type of professional dance that may speak to that student. (See Nichelle’s great article about Defining Dolly Dinkle Dance and the brilliant commentary).


So how are you determining your potential in educating dancers?


First Sprout” by Cristina is licensed CC BY 2.0

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Create a Recital Routine Your Teen Beginners Want to Dance http://www.danceadvantage.net/choreographing-for-teen-beginners/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=choreographing-for-teen-beginners http://www.danceadvantage.net/choreographing-for-teen-beginners/#comments Mon, 09 Feb 2015 15:00:44 +0000 http://www.danceadvantage.net/?p=20330 It's a challenge to choreograph for teen dancers with limited experience and insecurities. Try this approach to create a dance routine you can all be proud of.]]>

A dancer’s first time on the dance recital stage can be terrifying, especially for a teen beginner but, if you teach dancers brave enough to set foot on stage with limited experience, you owe them a performance piece that allows them to shine.

Creating a recital dance that allows beginners a first-time performance experience can be especially challenging when working with teens—try some of the tips below to create a dance that everyone can be proud of.

Four teen dancers lift their arms
Photo by Johnson d is licensed CC BY-ND 2.0

The piece should make them –and you– look good!

Play to their strengths. Give them movement that they are comfortable doing – typically movement that is slightly easier than the material you are presenting them in class. Now is not the moment to show off how many unique progressions you can think of.

On stage, everything changes. People get nervous. Beginning dancers (yes, even teens) get confused about where the front is. Costumes malfunction. Clean and simple material that showcases what they do well helps your dancers to feel confident enough to deal with all the other unknowns, which is less headache for you, too.

Give them a gimmick

No one can resist a good gimmick. Get the audience to buy into your piece before your teens even start dancing. This could be as simple as choosing an extremely popular song with a well known music video and using some similar movements.

Consider using a prop to draw in the crowd. I’ve seen beginning classes use hoops, stretchy bands and ribbon wands to create interest and depth for dancers who aren’t comfortable stringing complex steps together. I used glowsticks for a teen beginning ballet piece. The audience loved it, and it raised the dancers’ confidence to have the audience applauding as soon as they entered the stage.

Dancers love to feel like they are a part of something unique and exciting, but teen beginners don’t have the technical vocabulary to follow out of the box choreography. Use something with a little schtick to draw them in.

A dancer in red spreads arms on a yellow stage
Photo by Johnson d is licensed CC BY-ND 2.0

Get dancer buy-in

Teen beginners are taking a big risk, so I consider their likes, dislikes, and get their input.

I often ask my dancers to brainstorm what they would love to do in a recital piece. I ask for costume ideas, music choices and  general themes. I also ask them to let me know (privately if they want) what they would be embarrassed to wear. If wearing a leotard and tights will cause them major anxiety, choose a different costume.

I use a lot of instrumental arrangements of popular songs for my teen beginning ballet dancers, and songs from well known musicals for those just starting out in Jazz. If they can get excited about their performance, and can relate to what they are dancing, they are more likely to feel comfortable onstage.

Repeat, repeat, repeat

Do not a fear a great repetitive phrase. This will not only give dancers a lifeboat if they get lost in the choreography, but will tie your piece together and give the audience something to expect. Using repetitive footwork also allows you to be more creative with your staging and movement. You can have your dancers repeat the phrase facing different ways, in different formations, and with different arms to keep it from getting boring.

Most of the audience will be excited to see first-time teen dancers on stage at all, much less moving in unison with each other. There is no reason to get too fancy.

Start Early

It’s never too early to start planning your recital dances but, if you aren’t ready to introduce your song and all its trappings to your dancers early, don’t worry. Plan a phrase or specific steps you’d like to use in your choreography and start using them in class. Put that awesome leap progression your kids have been working on into their recital dance. Take the combination they do in their warm up, add some arms and use it.

How to choreograph dances for teen beginners (that they'll want to dance)Your dancers will thank you for using material with which they are comfortable when they step onstage, and will be impressed with your forethought. No beginning dancer has every said she was over-prepared for her performance. Feel free to start months in advance.

Teen beginning dancers don’t always feel super-comfortable in their skin. They are more worried than other age-groups about what they will look like in front of all those people, and the recital experience is unknown to them. Giving your teen beginners something they are confident in, comfortable doing and excited about performing, not to mention the opportunity to succeed at something that takes courage, is a gift for which they’ll be thanking you for years to come.

Your teen beginners will thank you for a dance about which they feel confident and excited.
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Carlye CunniffCarlye Cunniff is a professional dancer and dance educator based in Seattle, Washington. She currently co-directs and dances in the Seattle Irish Dance Company, teaches all around the city and writes about all things dance.


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12 Traits of Terrific Dance Teachers http://www.danceadvantage.net/great-dance-teachers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=great-dance-teachers http://www.danceadvantage.net/great-dance-teachers/#comments Wed, 07 Jan 2015 14:30:35 +0000 http://www.danceadvantage.net/?p=20293 "A teacher affects eternity." Dance teachers who have the most positive influence on their students and future generations of dancers share these twelve characteristics.]]>

“Apart from my parents, my teachers have done the most to shape my life.” ~ George Lucas, filmmaker.

What would any dancer be without his dance teachers? 

Of course, he wouldn’t be a dancer at all. Not in any formal sense, anyway. Dancers are captivated, shaped, nurtured, and released into the dance world by dance teachers. And top dancers often have superb dance teachers to thank for their success.

So what are the qualities of a great dance teacher?

This is our list. If you agree, disagree, or want to add to it, please comment and share the post so that others can do the same.

The Characteristics of a Great Dance Teacher
Modified photo courtesy Francisco Gella Dance Works.


A great dance teacher…


1. Really loves dance.

The best dance teachers breathe dance in and out like oxygen. Dance is not the only thing in the teacher’s life but it is safe to say she immerses herself in dance and is compelled to share this fascination with others.

“A good teacher is like a candle — it consumes itself to light the way for others.” – Mustafa Kemal Atatürk


2. Loves and honors teaching.

Beyond the compulsion to share what they love with others, great dance teachers are enthralled with the art and act of teaching. They revere the craft and their role as a teacher. Because of this, a great teacher keeps working and learning to develop his teaching skills and is dedicated to providing the highest quality experience to his students.

“No one should teach who is not in love with teaching.” – Margaret E. Sangster


3. Has been there and keeps going.

A great dance teacher knows and remembers what it’s like to be a student. She’s developed and mastered the skills she is passing on to you and yet, doesn’t stop there. She is not content to rest on her knowledge.

“A man should first direct himself in the way he should go. Only then should he instruct others.” – Buddha 



4. Supports you.

Great dance teachers are sensitive to the needs of each dance student, regardless of ability or innate talent, and works to find the best way to encourage each pupil. A great dance teacher believes in you, encourages you, cheers your successes, and helps you understand and correct your mistakes.

“Every child deserves a champion – an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.” – Rita Pierson

“Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you help them become what they are capable of becoming.” – Goethe


5. Motivates you.

Support from a dance teacher often involves pushing and pulling. A great teacher challenges you and inspires you. One way or another, he will find a way to lead you to your full potential.

“A master can tell you what he expects of you. A teacher, though, awakens your own expectations.”
– Patricia Neal

“The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called ‘truth.'”  – Dan Rather


6. Respects you.

A terrific teacher is not just sensitive to your needs but appreciates your individuality and humanity. While she may be beyond you in knowledge of dance, she shows deep consideration for your feelings, your thoughts, your body, and your progress. She expects you to progress and do your best, and resists giving up on you even when you fail to meet those expectations. You might also say she loves students as much as she loves dance and teaching.

“A child cannot be taught by anyone who despises him, and a child cannot afford to be fooled.” – James Baldwin


7. Shows empathy.

It is possible to learn from negative or discouraging teachers, but a great teacher inspires because he cares. It doesn’t mean he’s a push-over. It means he responds to his students with understanding and, when appropriate, compassion. He reaches people where they are, not where he wants them to be.

“One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings.  The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.”  – Carl Jung


8. Adapts and is flexible.

Great teachers are ready and willing to go off-track to nurture your train of thought. They empower students by teaching them to think and sometimes direct the learning. A great teacher knows when she’s lost her students and will always try new ways to help them recover, discover, and understand.

“You can’t direct the wind but you can adjust the sails.” ~ Anonymous


9. Cultivates and cares about your health.

Your physical and mental health are crucial to your success as a dancer. A fantastic dance teacher will keep up with the latest and best information on safe teaching practices. He will also stop at nothing to keep the classroom a safe space to try, fail, and grow.

“I never teach my pupils. I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.” – Albert Einstein


10. Leads a process of discovery.

All dance teachers should have a method to their madness – usually one that is born of trial and experience. Good teachers study and strive to create a curriculum or process to guide students with logical standards, goals and objectives. The best teachers create space in that process for questions, exploration, and problem-solving. They want you to be a thinking and self-motivated dancer.

“A thousand teachers, a thousand methods.” – Chinese proverb

“The best teacher is the one who suggests rather than dogmatizes, and inspires his listener with the wish to teach himself.” – Edward Bulwer-Lytton


11. Speaks to every student.

It is a special gift of dance teachers to be able to translate movement concepts into a language that makes sense to students. A great dance teacher communicates concepts over and over in multiple ways until everyone understands. It is worth it to him to attempt to reach every student because he feels every dance student is worthy of his best.

“The average teacher explains complexity; the gifted teacher reveals simplicity.” – Robert Brault

“The task of the excellent teacher is to stimulate ‘apparently ordinary’ people to unusual effort. The tough problem is not in identifying winners: it is in making winners out of ordinary people.” – K. Patricia Cross


12. Creates community.

The best dance teachers are like planets with their own atmosphere. The students gravitating around such teachers become part of a unique culture that seeks to bring out the best in everyone breathing the same air. A teacher who creates such a community teaches more than just dance. She instructs students to live as better people.

“We do not teach math, history, science, or grammar – we teach students.” – Unknown

I like a teacher who gives you something to take home to think about besides homework.” – Lily Tomlin as Edith Ann


Great dance teachers love dance, honor their art, respect you enough to expect of you, don't sacrifice quality for anything, encourage you, inspire you...  A teacher's influence

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Individual Goals for Individual Dancers http://www.danceadvantage.net/goal-setting-for-your-students/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=goal-setting-for-your-students Tue, 30 Sep 2014 15:34:07 +0000 http://www.danceadvantage.net/?p=19413 Each one of your dance students is unique. Laurel walks you through the essential process of addressing each individual's physical issues and limitations to help him/her reach goals.]]>
Dancer Meagan Swisher Does a Grand Jete
KCB II Dancer Meagan Swisher. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.


Every dancer is different. I know this is a fundamental concept, but it bears repeating.

Every dancer brings something beautiful to the stage. Some are beautiful adagio dancers. Others are brilliant jumpers. Then there are those that can tell a story so vividly that Margot Fonteyn herself would be jealous. However, for every strength there is a weakness; something that we find difficult, and sometimes impossible to overcome.


Identify, Assess, Address

As teachers we have a responsibility to identify and address weaknesses in our students, and help correct them. In some cases, we may need to work with, or around, those weaknesses.

Assessing and addressing weakness for individual dancers can be time consuming and frustrating, especially in large classes with a wide variety of body types. However, if you pair your knowledge of the body and dance technique with the dancer’s individual goals, you can address these issues with a bit more ease.

Limitations typically fall into one of two categories: they can be either soft tissue or structural. Let’s take a look at each.


Soft Tissue Restraints

Soft tissue restraints involve the balance between muscle strength and flexibility, and are readily addressed.

Every dancer wants to be more flexible. Some have short Achilles’ tendons and their pliés are very shallow. Others cannot get their leg higher than 90 degrees in a developé a la seconde. Some have such tight hamstrings that they cannot sit up straight with their legs extended out. At the opposite end of the spectrum are dancers who are hypermobile and struggle to develop the strength to be able to control their flexibility.

Whatever the case, strength and flexibility must be balanced for the dancer to be successful at any level. Unfortunately, this balance is not always achieved in dance class.

There are several methods for cross-training including Pilates, Yoga and Gyrotonic® that are highly recommended for dancers. All of these methods help strengthen and stretch the entire body. If the limitation is something small, you can give dancers stretches, or strengthening exercises, where appropriate. Instruct them to practice at home, or in their spare time at the studio. Obviously, it is important that they are performing these exercises and stretches correctly, so take a few minutes to make sure they are working with proper form.


Structural Constraints

Structural constraints – where the bone structure limits the amount of flexibility – need to be dealt with delicately, in a very sensitive manner. Muscles and other soft tissues are pliable and can be stretched and strengthened. Bones, though, are a different story. Bone structure may dictate that a dancer may never get their splits all the way, or that the foot may never pointe well enough for pointe work. Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do to change bone structure.

This is where you need to consider the dancer’s goal’s. For example; I have a dancer in ballet class who is an incredibly hard working young woman and has absolutely no more than 90 degrees of turn-out. We have already exhausted our stretching and strengthening options and I am almost positive that the turnout limitation is structural. If she aspired to dance for American Ballet Theatre, we would have to have a career altering discussion. However, she would rather dance for a contemporary or modern company. So, she needs to be able to access her “turnout muscles,” but by no means does she need to rotate her legs to 180 degrees. She works at 90 degrees in ballet class. She has what she has and we work with it.

Once you see that there is a possible structural issue, consider the dancers goals and determine how much the limitation is really going to affect her or him. Maybe it is something you can work with or around to help the dancer achieve their goal.

If not, and it looks like you might have to have a career altering discussion, send the dancer in to see a physical therapist with a dance background and request that they have imaging done. It’s always good to have a second opinion; then you will know for sure if there is a structural restraint.

It may be that the problem is not structural, but muscular. Then the PT will be able to help out with strengthening exercises or stretches as needed.

In each of these categories the plan of attack is the same: Identify the problem. Assess how it will affect the dancer’s individual goals, and how to best work with the limitation. Then address the issue with the dancer.

 How do you help your students with their individual goals?

Laurel Foley Laurel Foley has been dancing for over 20 years, she earned her BA in Dance Pedagogy from Butler University. She currently teaches ballet and children’s dance at Style Dance Academy in Franklin, IN and is enrolled in the BASI Pilates teacher training program.



Kindness in the Classroom: Moving, Discussing, and Being Our Best http://www.danceadvantage.net/kindness-in-the-classroom/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kindness-in-the-classroom http://www.danceadvantage.net/kindness-in-the-classroom/#comments Tue, 16 Sep 2014 13:39:48 +0000 http://www.danceadvantage.net/?p=19259 This summer Heather led workshops on empathy-based pedagogy and emotionally intelligent teaching. Are you sending messages of kindness to your students? Heather gives tips on how.]]>
Students of the Kansas City Ballet School
Kansas City Ballet – Upper School. Photography by Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.
Copyright Kansas City Ballet

As you know, I am all about critical and creative thinking in the classroom. This fall I am ready for some new practices. This is my list of potentials as I start the new school year, along with some tips I swear by.

Setting Up for Success

This summer I started offering some workshops on empathy-based pedagogy and emotionally intelligent teaching. In other words, I am helping educators identify messages they are sending not only in what they say, but in how they structure their classes and organize the people and movement within them.

Tip #1: Start moving before settling into lines. Begin class with a “free walk”- stylize it, add rhythm, add step patterns, with music or without- it hardly matters. What matters is getting the students and the energy moving, passing, shifting. Give a quick four counts to start warm-up.


Of course we need to organize our students in a way that we can see them and manage traffic. If we allow our students to set themselves day after day, there are subtle but powerful signals that will impact the community and the culture of your room.

Spatial organization tends to turn into a power struggle with certain students claiming areas of space, leaving others “pushed” to parts of the room they may not be happy with. Usually this is determined by social structures but sometimes it is about a sensed hierarchy of who feels they deserve to be in the front.

Everyone deserves to be in the front

Which brings me to….

Tip #2: Keep moving, shifting, passing- as in YOU.

If we always treat the front of the room as the front of the room, habits settle in. Apart from “the front line”, there tends to be mirrors in the front and they aren’t always the helpful tool we want them to be.

Consider the benefits of students sensing movement and initiating movement from an internal place rather than relying on the external image to inform their dancing.

Consider the power of turning the tables of the social hierarchy as everyone gets to be seen and commended for their work.

Mill around the room as you are talking dancers through patterns and provide personal feedback. Give sweep of positive observations, “I am noticing your scapulas are engaged nicely.” “I am noticing you are more aware of your instep.” “I am noticing you have placed more energy in your arms.”

When you are at the head of the class again, ask students to contribute things they learned as they were dancing. If no one immediately volunteers to speak, safely call on dancers that you spoke to while dancing to offer your observations.

“Jane, what did I observe in your dancing?” (she answers) then follow up with “Did you feel that before I mentioned it? I wonder where you’ll direct your attention next time, any thoughts?”

Not only will students have something to say that may spark others to think and speak too, they are voicing positive things about their own work that have been validated by you. They are the ones saying it out loud. And soon they will be able to find more improvements in their work without your help. How empowering!

Keep ‘em talking, reflecting

Tip #3: Pass the Yarn.

To break the awkward silence when starting a class discussion, use a ball of yarn to spin the information web and visually represent the value of communication and contribution.

Sit in a circle. Invite students to ask questions about a movement experience, about something they have seen or about the field of dance. Offer the skein of yarn to a student, or model this yourself. Hold the loose end and when the response has been concluded, roll the yarn to someone across the circle. This continues until everyone has communicated.


In the old application, I have used this in potentially heated dialogues in which several people may want to talk over each other. Only the person who holds the ball is permitted to speak.

In the new, I think I will do this in the first couple days to build community with a conversation about perspectives in dance and if that goes well, I may use this semi-regularly to support the effort of making sure everyone in our community is contributing.

Inviting questions offers an opportunity to hear students think while taking the pressure off of having an answer. Soon, you will be able to pose the thought-provoking probes and they will take on the answers.

The result is a web of communication that continually brings the group back to how they are connected as well as the responsibility of being a contributing member. It is harder to be mean to someone if they are seeing you, as in a class circle, than it is when you can turn your back.

As an educator, you are able to see more of the social dynamics when you are in the circle with them and are willing to be seen as well.

Practicing success

In the end, through these steps, we will have practiced kindness from within ourselves, one on one, and as a whole – we have shared empathy.

But don’t forget about yourself!

Treating each class as an experiment helps me stay connected and helps me stay engaged. Treating my teaching as a practice and a process has allowed me to more authentically share myself and my journey of learning while teaching with my students.

In demonstrating to them that I am operating from a place of trial, error, and reflection we all feel less pressure to “perform” in the negative sense and instead “process at my best”. Isn’t that what it is all about?

How do you practice kindness in the classroom?

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Magical Kingdom of Dance Giveaway http://www.danceadvantage.net/magical-kingdom-of-dance/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=magical-kingdom-of-dance http://www.danceadvantage.net/magical-kingdom-of-dance/#comments Fri, 08 Aug 2014 13:30:46 +0000 http://www.danceadvantage.net/?p=19173 The Magical Kingdom of Dance is an instructional dance program designed to teach little ballerinas French terms, basic steps and a lifetime love of dance. Using the key teaching tools of the program, the Alphamat and Magical Kingdom of Dance Encyclopedia Characters, instructors teach ballet through visualization and association.

Mary Alpha Johnson, who opened her studio in Meridian, Mississippi in the 1950’s traveled the country as a faculty member of the National Association of Dance and Affiliated Artists, Dance Educators of America, and Dance Caravan. As she traveled and taught, she realized that students did not know proper French ballet terms. It was during this time in the 1960’s she began developing her ideas for the Alphamat and Encyclopedia.

Magical Kingodom of DanceHer daughter, Tonie Bense continues to use and share her mother’s teaching program and talks with Dance Advantage about its development, use in the classroom, and the legacy she’s inherited.

Dance Advantage: Tell us a little more about the Alphamat and how your mother developed it.

Tonie Bense: After years of teaching experience in dance and ballroom lessons, my mother knew that if someone could see where to place their feet that it would be easier to teach that student, no matter the age.

The idea of associating a fun character to a dance step made perfect sense to her. This led to the development of the Encyclopedia of Dance and the Alphamat.  She would pick a character like the cricket, choose the movement that represents the character (PLIÉ the Cricket,) write an original poem and research if that animal was ever represented in a ballet. She would also purchase a stuffed animal to keep in her studio so that the students could get to know all of the Magical Kingdom of Dance (MKOD) friends.  The Alphamat puts many of the Encylopedia’s characters beneath the feet of young students, helping them with directions like right, left, front, and back, diagonals, and more. It was created under the premise of “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

My Mom worked on finding the proper material to design a mat around the stage directions.  Therefore, there are the four corners, front, back and 2 sides plus diagonals, circles and a home spot for the feet, Righty Red and Lefty Blue, which simulates the dancer’s square.

The first prototype was a 4’X4′ board that folded in half. That evolved to the vinyl material that it is printed on today.  It was very important to be able to have these mats connected in a row for the dance teacher classroom use.

Now, the Alphamat is made of a durable, washable, vinyl polyurethane material and can be ordered as singles or in a row to fit the dance studio needs up to a row of 8.  She used two rows of 8 in her studio with her students for many years. It was evident that having the mats led to more fun, creative play, easily learning terminology and organization.

DA: Your mother wrote and illustrated her Magical Kingdom of Dance Dictionary herself. What was her background in visual art?

TB: My mom, Mary Alpha, was a great supporter of the Arts. She enjoyed all of the arts and would travel extensively to see any and all types of productions, shows, and ballets and would enthusiastically applaud all efforts.

She had a knack for art and probably could have become a great artist had she pursued that field. Creating and illustrating the characters for the Encyclopedia of Dance was her favorite project, however, she wrote many other books to compliment and expand her vision of Magical Kingdom of Dance which we plan to share in the future. It is interesting to know that she also designed beautiful costumes for her students and my grandmother headed up a team of seamstresses who made them.

The book became her main focus as we searched for a manufacturer for the mat. She was constantly updating, tweaking and rewriting her book. Even the week before she died at age 91 she was changing a few pages in the book and had new ideas.

DA: How long did you carry on her legacy before deciding to share it with teachers everywhere?

Tonie and her dancers with the AlphamatTB: I moved from Mississippi to Florida when I graduated from University of Southern Mississippi. After teaching in the school system for two years I decided that I wanted to open up my own dance studio.  I made sure that I had enough Alphamats to get started.

The manufacturer who made the original silk screen mats closed down and it was extremely difficult to find someone to reproduce the mats cost effectively.  Therefore, my mats that were now 30 years old were showing the wear and tear and I really needed new ones. Mother had entertained many contracts for MKOD but none were just right for her.  Meanwhile, she kept searching for a manufacturer and I kept hoping that the Alphamat would be reproduced.

We couldn’t really promote the mats until we found someone who could reproduce them and that became a reality just a few years ago.

When my mother’s health started failing, it became evident to me that this was all going to become my legacy. There were two choices; either her life’s work on all of the products would sit on the shelves and eventually deplete or I could step out on a limb and share this method of teaching with other teachers.

DA: How do children do when they leave the mat? And when or how soon does this typically happen in your program?

TB: All of our Tiny Tots, Pre-ballet and ballet/tap classes for Kindergarten and 1st grade use the mats most every week for the season. The mats do not have to be used every lesson and they do not have to be used for the entire lesson. Sometimes we are so busy and so happy on the mat that I can use it the whole lesson if I choose.

The Alphamat keeps your students organized and gives them their own personal space where they can’t touch each other. That in itself is worth a million.

The wonderful advantage of the mat is you can still teach your students as if they were on the mat even when you choose not to use them.  For example, quarter turns are taught by vocal cues. Jump and face Jack, the backyard, Jill, and the front.  Jack’s house is on the Right and Jill’s is on the left.  Students remember that even when they are not on the mat.

Or you can ask them to face The Apple Tree (which is Corner 1) and they know exactly which way to face. If you want them to walk in their own circle, you ask them to walk around their house. I don’t begin ballet barre until my students are in the 1st or 2nd grade so that is when we leave the mats as a whole, knowing that we can roll them out when needed.

There are many advantages for using the mats with older students as needed. Sometimes when I am teaching a specific step and my student and or students are having trouble learning it, I can find the visual cues on the mat that they need to master the step.  It is also very advantageous to teach the body positions on the mats, as you can use the corners and visual diagonals to line their bodies up perfectly in their own square. It is extremely valuable in teaching body lines and body directions.

DA: Do you offer a teacher’s guide or lesson plans with the Alphamat?

TB: Yes we do. We offer a “Magic of The Mat” DVD that compliments our detailed “Magic of the Mat” Teacher’s Manual. They are sold separately or can be purchased as part of our starter package with mats, Righty Red and Lefty Blue bracelets and footwraps and Level 1 tools. We also have an MKOD membership program that will be available this summer. For a monthly fee, members will receive new material each month that will expand their MKOD program with videos, downloadable lesson plans, etc.

Also, a creative teacher would have no problem utilizing the mat along with the book.  You can pick a character a day, read the double page in the Encyclopedia and follow the suggestions in the book.  On each double page you can teach them the term, show them the word, show them the step, sing an accompanying song, act out the poem, discuss the “Twinkle Toes Says,” which has great bits of wisdom that teach our young dancers to have good manners and a positive outlook.  “Bright ideas” are also suggested by each character.

DA: If your mother was still with us, what words of encouragement do you think she’d offer to young teachers struggling to help ballet students dealing with increasingly busy schedules, media overload, and other distractions?

TB: I think that she would encourage every teacher to stick to her principles and continue to teach not only dance but the life lessons that go along with dance. You can only teach and reach the students that come to class.

Educating the parents as to the importance of constant attendance and using the “P” words help with perseverance leading the way, followed by patience and passion. Treating each student like they are special and that they matter will bring them back to class.

My mother had a knack for making each student feel like they were her most important student.  I still hear from many of her former students with messages of what an important part she played in their lives. She had her studio for 67 years and was still teaching at 87. She was such an inspiration to all that knew her and many times taught three generations of family members. Dance and life lessons were taught at the Alpha School of Dance in Meridian, MS.

DA: What are three tools or ‘rules’ you use in your teaching of young dancers that you just couldn’t live without?

TB: Keep your students BUSY by keeping your class in constant forward motion.

Be FLEXIBLE in your lesson plan.

Be AWARE of the short attention spans and use it to your advantage.

Magical Kingdom of Dance Alphamat

Enter to Win

Tonie has generously offered the following three Magical Kingodom of Dance prize packages to be given away to THREE very lucky Dance Advantage readers.

3rd Prize –

  • Twinkletoes and Magical Kingdom of Dance Encyclopedia
  • Level 1 Coloring Book
  • Level 1 Flashcards

Value: $79.95

2nd Prize

  • Teacher Manual
  • Single Alphamat
  • Twinkletoes and Magical Kingdom of Dance Encyclopedia

Value: $234.95

1st Prize –

  • Set of 4 Alphamats
  • Twinkletoes and Magical Kingdom of Dance Encyclopedia
  • Teacher Manual
  • 12 Righty Red Lefty Blue

Value: $534.95

To be eligible to win, you must enter with a comment answering the following:

What is the greatest challenge in teaching your youngest dancers ballet?

Comments will close Tuesday, August 12 at 11pm EST.

You must be over 18 and within the continental U.S. to win!

Winners will be chosen randomly from the comments and contacted privately via email. They will then have only 48 hours to claim and confirm their prize. Check our giveaway policy for more details.

Best of luck!

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