With the summer season quickly approaching, a lot of dance teachers and studio owners will be able to engage in a bit of down-time as recital and competition season comes to a close and before summer sessions commence. Before you know it, September will be upon us and it will be a brand new year to get working on new projects and curriculum building! While students receive a well-deserved break during the summer months, dance educators often forget that we too need to pause; in order to refuel our own creative juices and let ourselves become re-inspired. As with any artist, a little respite is a great time to self-reflect on the teaching year; choreography we were proud of, things that did or didn’t work in our curriculum, changes we’d like to make for the following season and what new information we can use to reinvigorate ourselves and consequently our students.
Professional development is key to any great educator, but in the case of the dance teacher, nurturing one’s own artistry and education will only enhance what you are bringing to your students. Often times, we get so wrapped up in the current season, we forget to “take care” of ourselves as artists and who we are as dancers. Remembering that the best teachers are also the best students, it is so important to keep yourself informed, inspired and invigorated; as you are the source of all information beyond steps and counts for your students.
There are so many things you can do during the summer break that concentrate on you, the dancer, not just the dance-teacher or studio owner. Whether it be taking a class for yourself or discovering a new dance book, below are some of my favorite suggestions to take a little “you time” and stay current. The result will be a teacher in September who is rearing to go with creative ideas and tons of new concepts to bring to your own dancers!
*Take a dance class, an obvious suggestion for all dance educators, but what about stepping out of your comfort zone or trying something exotic? Think about taking a technique class or series of workshops you never thought of: African? Bharatanatyam? Flamenco? Butoh? Pop & Lock? Hula? Think of the new influences your choreography could include!
*Take yourself to a show. While mainstream musicals and company concerts are always a great way to become inspired, think about those performances that may be a bit outside of the box! A performance-art show, a modern art gallery exhibit, catching (or participating in) a local flash-mob, Shakespeare in the park…all wonderful ways to incorporate fresh variety into a new dance season!
*Focus on YOU as dancer and choreographer. While we all get burnt out from being “teacher” and having to create works for our students, take this time to concentrate on movement you really love to do and create for yourself. Take a choreography composition-class or improvisation workshop. Or…take technique classes you are unfamiliar with but that have always piqued your interest. Duncan? Gaga? Forsythe? Fosse? Luigi? The possibilities are endless!
*Create a night of showcasing your own choreographic works with local professional or pre-professional dancers and musicians in a really cool space. This can be artistically empowering to create and produce more conceptual, experimental dance for the general public in an avant-garde venue (maybe outdoors?!,) which is solely movement you love.
*Studio owners, think about bringing in a master-class teacher for your faculty or take them to a conference (i.e. Dance Teacher Web is a great one!) as a thank you for all their hard-work during the season! A series of workshops is a wonderful way to continue the flow of education, provide teacher training for your staff and have quality time together as a group learning and being ‘the dance student.”
*Start a book-club! This is a great way to read up on dance books you’ve been wanting to read all year; including biographies, technique, curriculum building, choreography, dance history, injury and prevention books, etc. Take some time each week during the summer to discuss them as a faculty! The ones you really enjoy can be compiled and passed along as a reading list to your students or used to start a studio reference library!
*Do something completely unrelated to dance! Sometimes shifting our focus to another interest and taking up a new hobby will inspire us in new and refreshing ways we never could have imagined. So...spend time in the garden, paint, take a cooking class, go for a run, travel...see what sparks you and gets your motivated!
The summer is a great time to reinvent yourself, so remember…take a little down-time enjoy, experiment and become inspired…your students in the new season will thank you for it!
See you in the Dance Studio!