As a dance teacher, I often hear colleagues complaining about undedicated students. They often say that back-in-the-day students where at the studio Monday through Friday, fixed on mastering the art of dance. A student would never dream of telling their dance teacher that they had to miss class for a small school event, or friend’s party. Perhaps teachers back then were sterner and less lenient as we are today but whatever it is I think the key is for dancers to love what they do.
So what’s the solution then? How do you inspire the love of dancing into young students without harassing and bombarding them? They have to want to come, not feel forced to. Here are some ideas that have worked for me thus far:
1) Inspire your dancers:
- For the teachers: My students excel most when I give them specific individual attention on a movement that can be improved. They feel inspired when they finally understand how to engage the turn-out muscles for example, and then they go home and practice (or at least intend to).
- Share what inspires you: Watching an amazing dance fills me up with excitement and gets my creative juices pumping. When I see a move executed beautifully, I will spend hours trying to figure it out. Share what you find with them. If it inspires you, it might inspire them too.
- For the parents: Take your children to see dance productions and events. They need to see what they are working towards, and more importantly they need to be moved and inspired by what they see.
- For the dancers: Find videos/clips on you tube of dancers that you find amazing, and then try to replicate what they do.
2) Incorporate their interests in the studio: Tell your students to find a move on the internet that they would like to do, and then make the effort to teach it to them. By doing this you teach them to take their dance talent into their own hands. As a result dancing becomes more about them, and less about what you keep telling them to do. Included “play time” into class, where you teach tricks and interesting movements. Nothing is more wonderful than watching a student come back the following week to show you the move they have practiced every day.
3) Get Social: It is also very important to try encourage friendships in class, and outside of the studio.
- For the teacher: Host socials and small events where everyone can come together to mingle outside of the studio. It is important to develop a sense of community where everyone feels welcome and included. This insures that dancers will be coming not only for their classes but also for the friendships that develop.
- For the parents: Ask your child to invite one of the dancers when you watch a dance show or production. They can enjoy it together and talk about what they saw and then bring it back into the studio.
4) It starts with the parents: Avoid allowing your child to miss classes unnecessarily. Encourage your child to give 110% effort in everything that they do, and teach them that they will only succeed through dedication and hard work. Praise your children in their competitions, but don’t forget that constructive criticism is better than feeding their ego unnecessarily.
5) Cut your child some slack: Children these days are overly bombarded by extra murals. When did quality over quantity lose its significance? How should a young girl aim to be a prima ballerina if her head is filled with what the piano teacher said just before her ballet lesson, or what her hockey teacher yelled at her on the field? As much as we all want super children, one really shouldn’t expect a child to absorb hours of extra mural activity sufficiently. Ask your child to pick their favourite two, and commit to mastering it.
Well there you have it. A few tips to bring out the passion and love for dancing in anyone who walks into your studio. If you have any other suggestions of things that have worked for you, or if you find any of the suggestions above work well, please let me know. I would love to hear from you.