There really is no “off” season as a dance instructor. Even in the middle of summer, downing iced tea to stay cool, you were probably gearing up for fall classes.
While most dance educators have our tried and true, most favorite exercises, lesson plans and curriculums, not having the time to rest and regenerate can often mean that we head back to teaching with the best of intentions, but sometimes our go-to’s can fall flat and feel stale.
Whether you’ve had time to rest and plan up for your fall classes, or just jumped right in from your summer programs, here are three ways you can freshen up your fall routines so that your students, and you as well, can come to class feeling excited and energized!
Do you have that handful of well loved, well worn CDs or playlists that you could sing in your sleep? Me too. We all have our favorite music, but something as simple as finding a new CD or playlist can be such a breath of fresh air. (David Plumpton is a personal favorite of mine.) There’s no shortage of amazing artists and playlists on Spotify or Pandora, and if you belong to any dance teacher forums on any social media platform, asking for others’ recommendations will usually result in a plethora of new options. You can even take this one step further and add ear training and basic music technique in your classes. Take 5-15 minutes out of class every so often and have students listen to music; ask them to identify key or time changes, or teach basic sight reading and practice your quarter, half and whole notes with drums or tambourines. Music is such an integral part of dance, and students usually love learning more in depth about it!
This may feel a little ‘self-help-y’, but hear me out: Studies have shown that when we rewire our brains to think in the positive, major changes can occur. Professional athletes and dancers have been incorporating visualizations into their training for years now, and it’s time our words and thoughts entered the game as well. Research ways to incorporate growth mindset, and affirmations into your classes (Editor’s note: Guest author Katrena Cohea offers a course on Body Positivity & Empowerment in the Dance Classroom, for example). Part of our job as dance educators is to ignite passion in our student’s bodies, minds, and souls! Including affirmations in class will not only build your student’s confidence, but create a supportive community with their cohorts and establish an atmosphere of kindness and care in your studio.
3. Partner Work
Let yourself have a bit of a break and give your students some responsibility for their technique! Students (especially older ones) will love working with each other and helping one another with barre or center work. Letting students work in partners has endless possibilities (have one watch and give feedback while the other performs, or have them do an exercises at the same time mirroring each other), but also gives students responsibility. Teachers are so good at teaching, but sometimes receiving and giving feedback from their peers can be just as valuable as it coming from a teacher.
There you have it! Three ways you can freshen up your fall class plans! No doubt this list is just a jumping off point. Here are a few more ideas that may inspire you for your upcoming season.
Will you be adopting any of the above for your classes? Comment and let us know!
Katrena Cohea has been teaching dance for over 10 years at both for-profit and not-for-profit schools and serving a diverse community of dancers. She graduated with B.A. in Theater and Dance from California State University, East Bay (CSUEB), where she trained with noted Bay Area directors/choreographers Nina Haft, Eric Kupers and Laura Elaine Ellis. She has performed and taught across the United States and Canada including Vancouver, New Mexico, and New York. Katrena is the owner and Founder of Different Drummer Dance, a bi-coastal dance studio on a mission to teach dance from the inside out. Different Drummer Dance takes a holistic and inclusive approach to dance education, focusing on growth mindset and positive affirmations so dancers grow up knowing that their bodies and ideas are powerful. Katrena is also a writer for the magazine The Wonderful World of Dance, a member of The Royal Academy of Dance and the National Dance Education Organization. She splits her time between Northern California and upstate New York, and travels to as many new places as she can with her husband and dance shoes in tow.