- Everything looks better when you point your toes and straighten your legs. This is more of a technical lesson, but unless otherwise instructed to do opposite, if something doesn’t look clean the best way to get the line is to point your toes and straighten you legs.
- Use your core. The center of all body movement is the core. Trust me, everything is easier if you are engaging in your core and trusting your core to have the strength to support your entire body. You must work on getting a strong core for dance class and for life so no one can knock you down.
- Mind over body control. When you think your body is telling you that it is tired and sore but yet you can pull of doing an intense 3 minute jazz routine 5 more times in a row with out a water break. That my friends is the power of mind control and body discipline. “Trust me, you ain’t tired.”
- Always go to the front of the classroom. Common Sense. When learning a dance you can actually see the teacher, so you actually know what the steps are supposed to look like first hand. Instead of trying to see past people in front of you or look at them for the step. Also when your in the front, you guessed it, the teacher can see you too, and may even give you corrections before the students in the back.
- Listen to the Teacher and when they ask a question answer it using your voice. Dancers have voices and dance teachers want to hear them when they ask a question. Dance is community and conversation is a part of that, feedback, questions, answers, and brainstorming about movement. It’s good to know that other people are in the room and not just dancing robots. When the teacher ask “How did that feel?” answer her/him.
- When you compare yourself to others you will get stuck. It is human nature to observe your surroundings but you don’t have to compare yourself to your surroundings. You will end up spending too much time thinking about what everyone else is doing and what you are not doing, instead of just trying to do your best and being better than you were yesterday. Even if you are “the best”, then you really have no where to grow, because those who you compared yourself to no longer can “compete” with you and then you become content and stuck. No one is “the best” but you can be really really good and getting even better.
- Attempt everything and the more fearless you are the better you look. You take dance class to dance! There is no being timid and scared of dancing when your in a dance class, no matter what the level. Another thing is no one cares how you look because they care about how they look. So just go for it, no one has the time. DANCE! Techniques is 20% because all you need to know is core, straight legs, pile, and pointed feet. Commitment is the other 80% because you must have the heart and courage to fully put your body and emotions in the movement.
These lessons apply specifically to the 3-4 year olds I teach pre-dance to at 9am and 10am on Saturday mornings.
I have realized that the students can not read my mind and not everyone is going to hear the directions the first time I say them. There are a lot of side conversations, a lot of questions, screaming, free styling, running and a lot of confusion that is up to me to clear up. So I have to take a breath and take in the room and all the personalities I’m working with and time accordingly. Leading ten, 4 year old girls in dance is no easy task. But I tell myself before I go in, “I can do this, I can do this, I can do this.”
When my patience is running out action must be taken. My top discipline tool in the classroom that has some effect for only a few minutes and then I have to remind them of, is taking away the ever important stickers that the girls get at the end of class. They work hard for the princess and star stickers at the end. However, that fades when ever someone looks in a new direction so then I revert to the time out or leave my class.
(occasionally I have had a few girls gladly want to leave the class or sit down with a lot of enthusiasm, so that technique back fires at times.)
A few times I have not prepared a lesson plan for class and we ran out of dances to do, and they were looking at me and I was looking at them like……….. FREEZE DANCE!
4. Sound Authoritative
I have a high pitch voice and I can tend to sound like their peer instead of their teacher, so I have to lower my voice and get a nice bass, chest resonating sound, so they know I am serious and I mean business, this is ballet people.
5. Be Clear
Be clear with directions, be clear with the dance moms, be clear with my steps, and be clear with everything I say so their is no confusion. Also make sure there is no side chatter so everyone can here.
6. Bumping Playlist
For this age group, FROZEN. However, the challenge with “Let it Go” is that it promotes being a free spirit and rebellious to authority so the girls tend to break off into song instead of doing plies at the bar.
7. Be Observant
Find out who the leaders are, the free spirits, the rebels, and who the quite girls are, and locate the best friend group and separate accordingly.
8. Expect Tears
for no reason at all.
9. Expect ALL the unexpected
There are tears, blood, unscheduled story time, drama, eye rolling, back talking, tattle telling, bathroom emergencies, pranks (one of my students hid in the corner and surprised me when I walked in the studio).
10. Smiles, Hugs, and Laughter are the best medicine
This has been the most rewarding job that I have ever had and I worked at starbucks for a short while. Watching these girls express themselves through dance and work out all of their energy is such a pleasure. These girls work hard for stickers and work hard on all their steps. No matter what mood I’m in through the class, when it is over and I get a big hug and I hear “Thank you Ms. Ciara!” I know I’m doing exactly what I need to be doing in this world. And I have a responsibility to give these girls the best dance class possible so they can fall in love with dance just like I have.
Directed by Joi Porter
Choreography by Ciara Dianne Jones