Three days goes by really fast.
Spend three days at a conference for dance teachers (like I did in early August at the Dance Teacher Summit in NYC) and you just might feel as though a tornado spat you out on the doorstep upon your return home. In fact, I can sympathize with poor Dorothy. Having been whisked off to a colorful place filled with compelling characters, I woke up a little woozy, too… and you were there, and you were there, and you… And also like Dorothy, I found myself back at home with very little physical evidence that I had actually been there! I am afraid I am as neglectful at photography as Miss Gale is at landing houses. C’est la vie!
So, instead of actual snapshots I’m sharing some of the thoughts and impressions I picked up along the yellow brick road (I promise that’s the last Wizard of Oz reference). I hope you’ll use, think about, or act upon these little nuggets from the Dance Teacher Summit. I had a great time collecting them for you.
Please note that unless quotations are used, I am paraphrasing as nearly as I can the awesome info shared by these esteemed guest artists.
Break the mold
When competing students, consider the body of work which you are presenting. Prepare the students well and diversify. Not everyone will fit that “contemporary, acoustic” mold. You have students in the back row on those numbers waiting to soar with their strengths in other realms. Mandy Moore had a ton of great things like this to say in her open conversation with attendees about competition mistakes.
Preparing for partnering
When you are getting ready for partnering (or helping to prepare students for partnering) both the guys and girls need to have a strong core. Pilates is great for that. In addition, according to Keith Roberts (Come Fly With Me, ABT, Twyla Tharp Dance), what guys need more than a ton of push-ups, is to build leg strength. Girls need to get strong too and a great exercise for women, according to Laurie Kanyok (Come Fly With Me, Movin Out, Fosse): practice smoothly lifting yourself up and out of a swimming pool with your arms. Summer’s not yet over so give that one a try!
There is a recipe for good pirouettes and an essential ingredient is an effective downward plié and push into the floor. Think of an old-fashioned top and where its power to spin comes from. The button spirals down into the mechanism, and when it rises it spins beautifully with ease on that little point. Thanks to Finis Jhung for that theft-worthy image!
The love and fire and soul you give away today as a teacher will return to you. Your students will give back to you and lift you up and heal your spirit, perhaps when you need it most. Frank Hatchett is an inspirational example and after a fun, classic, jazz class, his beautiful message sent us out the door.
Let it flow
Kathy Blake offered many quotable thoughts in her session on Studio Ethics. You don’t have to own a studio to be inspired by this: Being a positive problem solver, one with high levels of integrity and maturity, is not inherent or natural to most people. It is a choice you make every day to “be bigger than the problem you are solving.” As a leader you must help people adhere to your policies and procedures because what you put up with, you give permission to. Know that it is okay and the natural course of things to let people (including students) flow into your life, but also out of your life and studio.
Just about anything is a prop when you are working with little ones and you should keep that in mind when you visit dollar stores and shops. In addition to sparking imaginations, they are great for helping young dancers work together and learn to do basic partner work and formations. Have children share and pass a prop to learn how to take turns and promenade (walk) around a partner. Or, use floor mats or other markers to aim and stop at a point in the space when crossing the floor. I loved the Ribbon Rings used by Beverly Spell in her Props & Across The Floor Session. Purchase these and other great materials at Leap ‘N Learn. And check out Maria Hanley’s homemade ribbon rings (with directions) at Maria’s Movers.
Counting and rhythm
To help your students develop understanding of rhythm and timing, address their developmental needs. When working with 3 to 5 year-olds, use pictures. Relate the step or movement to something that they can visually picture in their mind. Kids this age can’t associate number counts to beats of the music, associate numbers with the amount of times you do a step instead. For ages 5 to 7, use pictures in conjunction with sounds relative to their movement (like zip, boom, tat). Kids can come up with fun sounds too. Start to associate numbers with the beat of the music and introduce some musical theory. For ages 8 and up, along with pictures and sounds, use counts. By now students should be able to associate number counts with an 8-count of music and they are capable of learning where to start count 1 in a phrase of music. Tricia Gomez of HYPE Studios and Dance – In a Box, packed a ton of great teaching tips into her Hip-Hop for All Ages seminar.
Give studio parents some face time
Your studio Facebook page (that’s the one with the big ‘Like’ button) provides a great platform for your school to become “the thread woven throughout your community.” Use it to share links and news from the broader arts and dance world and to connect with businesses, organizations, and events in your local community. Better still, says Suzanne Blake Gerety in her session on Social Media, spread goodwill (and probably get a little returned to you) by making it a point to connect with the local businesses and pages for dance parents at your studio.
Return to one’s roots
Dance is for everyone. We are deeply connected to movement as a means of expressing the human experience. Reconnecting to that basic need to dance is just joyous. It isn’t necessarily a lesson I had forgotten but I know few teachers who communicate our shared history in dance as well or as enthusiastically as Thom Cobb. It’s been years since I took his “Vintage Jazz” at Slippery Rock University as a student and dance major, and I was glad to be reminded how much I like “killin’ time” with TC. Waaw!
Avoid the scribble and scramble
Carry business cards. Okay, that one is just my own advice for any teacher that finds themselves at a conference or out in public for that matter. Hey, it doesn’t happen often; take advantage when it does! 😉 It was so fun seeing excited teachers meet and share resources and advice with someone new at the Summit. Inevitably I watched many do the scribble and scramble as they tried to quickly exchange information before the next session, while others easily exchanged cards.
Be generous with who you are
At the Dance Teacher Summit I had the great fortune to meet a few of you, along with a number of brand new names and faces. In addition, I met in person some friends I first encountered via Twitter and only previously interacted with online.
With many of these friends I have shared tweets, emails, and phone calls over the last year or more. Among the group are Suzanne Blake Gerety of DanceStudioOwner.com, Maria Hanley of Maria’s Movers (see Maria’s Summit wrap-up here), Leslea Clark of Uptown Dance (see Leslea’s Summit reflections here), Chad Michael Lawson of Real Deal Dance Marketing, José Ramirez of Backdrops Beautiful (see Jose’s post on our little Tweetup here), and Marc Kirschner of TenduTV.
Following the summit Suzanne wrote something about her experience that I’d like to share with you.
“When you’re being generous with who you are, what you stand for, what you’re passionate about, and truly being social…the ripple effect of a tweet can’t be measured.”
Whether it is online or at a conference like the Dance Teacher Summit, I’ve found it immeasurably important for teachers, dancers, and artists to find opportunities to encounter new ideas and validate ‘old’ ones by spending time with others in their field. The Dance Teacher Summit was a success because so many wonderful professionals, both well-known and not, shared their generosity and passion for dance with peers and colleagues. I encourage you to be generous with who you are as often as you can manage it. It is really the only way to make great connections online and off.
I hope to see you next year at Dance Teacher Summit 2011!
Unite … Share … Inspire
Some clips from the DTS 2010 Gala, courtesy Leslea of Uptown Dance NJ
Special thanks to all the Dance Teacher Summit organizers and staff for a great time!
Nichelle Suzanne is a writer specializing in dance and online content. She is also a dance instructor with over 20 years experience teaching in dance studios, community programs, and colleges. She began Dance Advantage in 2008, equipped with a passion for movement education and an intuitive sense that a blog could bring dancers together. As a Houston-based dance writer, Nichelle covers dance performance for Dance Source Houston, Arts+Culture Texas, and other publications. She is a leader in social media within the dance community and has presented on blogging for dance organizations, including Dance/USA. Nichelle provides web consulting and writing services for dancers, dance schools and studios, and those beyond the dance world. Read Nichelle’s posts.