As dance teachers we are faced each day with not only nurturing our students from a technical aspect but more importantly from a psychological one too. The majority of dance teachers do not hold degrees in psychology and yet we need to help our students, especially the teenage ones with this incredibly important side of their dance training. Even in our discussions with dancers promoting nutritional health very often the psychological side is omitted. Without adequate nurturing in this direction for our young dancers many of them will never be able to realize their true potential as dancers or as professionals in whatever field they choose to work in.
Teaching students the art of positive thinking and giving them positive reinforcement are the keys to having success with the students and success as a teacher. Our goal is to give our dancers the motivation to come to class, to work hard to achieve higher levels and to help them have the confidence and self esteem to let their creativity flow freely.
Most dancers like the social aspect of coming to the studio or dance school and the feeling that they are among friends and that, in a sense, it is their second home. The more we can do to help promote that sense of belonging and the feeling of being an integral part of the school, the better the results will be in the classroom setting. When the dancers feel good about themselves and the friends around them they are more willing to take risks with their dancing and to go the extra mile for their fellow students.
Promoting healthy forms of motivation such as emphasizing collaboration with the group and de-emphasizing rivalry, rewarding effort over talent and showing dancers that they have control over their improvement and work ethic and are responsible for their ultimate success; By giving the students these tools you will help them in the classroom, on stage or in whatever profession they decide to embrace. Sometimes dancers who are gifted with amazing natural talent are the ones who give very little effort in class and that can be extremely frustrating to other students who are less talented and also to the teacher who wants them to be brilliant.
Talent is typically viewed as something that is beyond our control. Just as dancers with the 'IT' factor are admired for that reason but often don’t really feel it themselves because they do not think it is something that they can control. Talented dancers sometimes worry that their talent will only take them so far and that they lack the control to go beyond that point. This is where we can step in to nurture their true sense of self and ability and enable them to take the steps necessary to move higher up the ladder and realize their true potential. Less talented dancers often beat themselves up and take every correction as a reinforcement of how bad a dancer they really are. Training dancers to truly feel that every correction is a gift and that the teacher recognizes that they have the capability to do more is a good way to build that confidence that may be lacking.
Rewarding the effort made by any dancer and letting their peers know when a fellow dancer has made an improvement goes a long way in helping them to be better achievers. Letting each dancer know what your expectations of them are and the reason why you have those expectations is important. Every dancer can improve whether it is in a tiny or big way; they just need to be told that they can do it.
Putting the focus on the joy of dancing, the real reason why any of us dance, and giving our dancers feedback on what to work on and how to do it rather than emphasizing the faults and problems that they may have will promote a healthy and happy feeling among your students and in the long run will make them stronger dancers and stronger human beings.