This time of year cleaning your choreography becomes a very important aspect of your classes. Major time will be spent on the cleaning process. With recitals, showcases, demonstrations and national competitions just around the corner, cleaning will be a critical element to the success of the pieces you are presenting.
Now the key question is how do you keep these rehearsals fresh, fun and productive? That is the real challenge, especially for the dancers who are more recreational in their interest. We stress that it is important for the dancers to perform the piece each time that the number is rehearsed, dancing full out and finding new ways to make the movement more challenging. As the dancers become comfortable with the choreography, it is only human nature to start to water down the movement after it is learned. They will unconsciously make the movement easier and the dance will start to look like they are marking it. Pointing this out to the dancers so that they are aware of it has been very successful for us.
Here are other ideas to keep rehearsals moving in the right direction.
Make it a fun activity. One idea we use is to let each dancer have a chance to perform the dance. The idea of doing it solo will be a bit scary to some of them, but with a little encouragement you can get them to take this leap of faith. Once the material is mastered, your students will gain a new sense of confidence that will radiate through their performance. It is important not to make it competitive, but more of a demonstration to see how well they know the choreography. It will also help you know how well they know the work, too!
Face different directions. This is always a challenge for the dancers. Facing the mirror the entire time is a big mistake. Especially once they get on stage, dancers will be very disoriented if they are only used to facing the mirror. Try doing it facing the back of the room and even to the side. Split up into groups. If you have a big enough group, you can practice it in smaller clusters, with each group watching the others. We have each group support the others with applause and positive feedback. Its also fun for the dancers to see what their piece will look like from the audiences perspective.
Make copies of the edited music. I know that this may take a bit of time, but this has worked well for us. We encourage all of our students dancers of all levels to bring in a blank CD with their name, and the day, time and the exact name of their class. We burn the CD for them and have them practice at home. The results of this one tip have been fantastic! Being able to work on their own with the edited piece enables them to become very familiar with all the nuances of the music.
Get together with other classes. This one you will have to clear with your studio owner, but it is fun and exciting for the dancers. If you have several classes going on at the same time you can spend the last 10 minutes bringing all the dancers into one room and having them perform for each other. It is a great way for the dancers to see what the other groups are doing and will motivate each group to be as good as the others. If you only have one room, then allow two classes to have five minutes of overlap time. Let the dancers know at the beginning of earlier class that you will be doing this and you will get them fired up to really step it up.
Go over all stage entrances and exits. Stage left and right become fuzzy to dancers outside of the studio. Make sure you go over several times from several angles where stage right, left, up stage and down stage all are! Even something as simple as where they enter and exit can become a challenge for the dancers in a different setting. Keep asking the dancers where they are and where they enter from. This will also help when you get to the theater and have to run it through on the stage. You’ll be able to say, Move stage right or Move further down stage and the group will actually know which direction to go in!
Some dancers may need some extra work, and private lessons will be a great way to help them improve. If you see a dancer is really struggling, don’t wait! Bring it to the attention of the studio director and have them contact the parent to arrange a private. While most students have fun getting ready for a show and enjoy the spotlight, it is frightening to others. Keep this in mind and continue to build up the classes overall confidence. If one part of the dance is just not working, it may be that you need to change the choreography. One extra turn, leap or dance sequence does not make the dance, and taking it out won’t break the dance. The overall appearance and entertainment value will far exceed any one ingredient of the piece.
Here is something to remember: If they don’t look good, you don’t look good!
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