We’ve all walked into our classes and seen a myriad of things going on with our dancers. Sometimes good, sometimes not optimal. Just as we set a standard of excellence and expectation during class, what we should be requiring before class should be no different. Sure, dance has a social element where dancers are close friends, there to catch up on their day (especially if they go to different schools) and talk about the latest things, but there’s a way to keep the pre-class protocol engaging as well as preparatory for class. So what should you be implementing? Well, each class and teacher are different, but the following are general guidelines to avoid seeing the coffee klatch day after day and keeping the energy focused and productive. With time, reminders and repetition, it will become habit and studio culture which is positive and infectious to others.
1. Warmup: Yes. Believe it or not, dancers seem to forget they should be engaging in light stretching before class. Particularly if a student has mentioned an injury they are dealing with, your dancers should know this is a given. No dance teacher wants to walk in and see dancers sitting or lying around doing nothing. You need to make it a point to remind dancers that this is the expectation. Nobody is expecting silence, but keeping voices to a respectful level and being proactive to care for one’s own body and needs is a great habit to instill from a young age. It also doesn’t hurt to point out that it is disrespectful to a teacher to walk in and see dancers laying on the floor or causing a raucous.
2. Practicing something specific: This one is especially important before rehearsal. For example, this year I’m using hats and canes for a number with some pretty intricate tricks. What I was quickly noticing was dancers were not visiting their props during the week at all except for rehearsal on Saturdays. Therefore the skill set and agility with their props was not improving. In turn, the piece was not clean or getting cleaner. Reminding dancers that they need to be proactive and carve out time before class, rehearsal, etc. to get the group together during the week to practice and get comfortable with their props is essential. Even if your dancers are using different props, they should be grabbing them whenever they have down time for even 10-15 minutes and manipulate them, rehearse with them and understand the mechanics.
3. Reviewing: Every dancer, regardless of age or level has something they can be reviewing. This may be a combination you gave earlier in the week, a correction or specific note you gave them, vocabulary words or anatomy lessons you assigned, a new exercise they didn’t quite grasp in a previous class, teaching a fellow dancer what they missed the week before or a stretch demonstrated that felt really good on their body, etc. Bottom line-there is ALWAYS something a dancer can be reviewing whether it’s on their own or with a partner.
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