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Tools To Make The Learning Experience More Fun


Teacher article



 As we all know a very important part of learning to dance is by having constant repetition in class. Many times students tend to zone out by losing their focus and just going through the motions and as a result end up being bored or burned out. Repetition is a necessity but there are some creative ways to add a little excitement to the daily grind.

One of the ways that I have found that students love is when I give them a challenge such as having a split competition. I always plan it in advance and the students know that on that certain day their splits need to have improved. I reward them by giving them small prizes and also by giving them recognition in front of their peers and they reward themselves by having better splits and therefore better extensions and leaps. Also they learn that by practicing and with constant repetition things do indeed improve.

Jumping is something that dancers love to do, especially if it is a grand allegro step such as a grand jete or a saut de chat or leaps in second but what they don't like doing is the precise petit allegro in Ballet or small jumps in Jazz. Because jumping is so important for all dancers and as it has now been proven by recent studies on Ballet companies around the world that the more you jump the stronger your bones become and the less likely you are to become injured, I am always trying to come up with ways to make the dancers jump and keep jumping so that not only are they getting stronger but they are also building their stamina. A fun exercise to do is what we call the "spotting" exercise .This is simply four sauts facing the front and four turning to the right making a quarter turn on each saut then you build on that always doing the four sauts facing the front and then doing half turns, three quarter turns and then full tour en lairs all turning to the right. Then you reverse the whole exercise to the left. Everyone is always sure that this is going to be a piece of cake until they get to the three quarter turns and they always have difficulty with those and invariably get into a fit of laughter because they realize that it was not easy and that in order to execute it correctly they really do need to use a strong "spotting" action with their heads to make it work. Again it is another way to work on repetition.

Because in Dance there are so many types of pirouettes and because all dancers want to be able to do at least two pirouettes, including them in every class in some way or another is very important. Most students do not just like practicing their releves in retire or pass, they want to go right to doing those turns but, of course, as teachers we know that without having that strong secure releve on one leg, the hope of being able to do a sound pirouette of any type is virtually impossible. I have found that this very simple exercise is an easy and fun way to get the students to hold the releves for longer periods of time. Take your usual preparation for whichever pirouette they are working on and then have them take their releve holding it while they clap 3 times. Once they have been able to do that have them hold it while they clap 4, 5 & 6 times .Just by focusing on the amount of claps you will find that their releves really do improve and although you are using repetitive movement it is done in a fun and relaxed way.


Angela D'Valda Sirico

Angela D'Valda Sirico

Originally from England, Angela spent her early years in Hong Kong where she studied with Carol Bateman. She continued her training at Arts Educational Trust in England. After moving to New York City she continued her studies with Martha Graham and Matt Mattox. She appeared with the Matt Mattox Company and toured with the first Disney On Parade working with Disney and N.B.C. Contracted to the Teatro National of Buenos Aires she performed for one year and spent an additional year as a featured soloist at the Teatro Maipo, Argentina. Travelling to Madrid, Spain she worked for Spanish television in a weekly variety show Tarde Para Todos and from there decided to form her own Dance Company. With the Company she choreographed and performed throughout Spain in theatres, and on television. Angela met her husband Steve while working together on a television special The Valerie Peters Show filmed in Tampa, Florida. In 1979 they formed the Adagio act DValda & Sirico appearing in theatres, clubs and on television shows such as David Letterman, Star Search and the Jerry Lewis Telethon. In 1982 they were contracted to Europe and appeared in a variety of shows in Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Finland, Switzerland and Italy before going to London, England where they appeared as Guest Artists for Wayne Sleep (formerly of the Royal Ballet) in his show Dash at the Dominium Theatre. Angela and Steve have owned and directed their dance studio in Fairfield, CT. for the past twenty two years and in 2005 added music and vocal classes to their curriculum. Angela served as chairperson for the tri state panel of the Royal Academy of Dancing and is Co-author of a Partner syllabus currently used for teacher training by Dance Educators of America. She continues to adjudicate and teach for major dance organizations and choreographs for theatre, television and conventions and was commissioned by Boston Ballet 11 to choreograph the highly acclaimed Brother Can You Spare A Dime? DValda & Sirico are currently in production choreographing the opening to the National Speakers Association convention on Broadway at the Marriott Marquis for August of 2008. Angela is co-owner of Dance Teacher Web designed as an online resource for teachers worldwide.

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