It is important to me that my students love dance — love to move, love to watch movement. I want them to enjoy the experiences of learning about dance and learning to dance. I aim to instill a love of dance within my students so that they strive to become better movers, speakers, creators, and supporters of dance. I want my students to develop their own voices and learn how to follow specific choreography and instruction. I want them to learn proper technique and become artists.
Physiological safety is paramount during every technique class. I encourage students to work within a safe and comfortable range for their individual bodies. I monitor them as they expand their ranges. Every student, whether beginner or advanced, recreational or professional, deserves proper technique and sound corrections.
My classroom is energetic, engaging, and supportive. I use a variety of movement, music, and teaching methods. Repetition is a useful tool when used in moderation. Detailed topic exploration is important and also useful in moderation. I keep students engaged with an energetic pace balanced with ample time to delve into subjects of interest to the students. I require adherence to specific rules, such as punctuality, strict adherence to assignment due dates, and classroom etiquette. I believe these rules form an environment of expectation management amongst my students. No one receives special exemptions. We all support one another.
Students learn best when they feel safe. When students feel safe, they experiment, step outside of their comfort zone, take risks and grow. I create a safe environment in which the students know they are valued, noticed, and respected. We begin the semester with an acknowledgment of each individual’s contribution to the whole and simultaneously create an opportunity to learn about each other. Each class provides an opportunity for the student to voice their emotional or physical concerns to ensure they are heard. When the student feels safe, they can more easily put aside fear of embarrassment and self-conscious thoughts. Subsequently, they are more likely to try new things knowing they will not be made fun of, laughed at, or told they are wrong.
I encourage students to support one another. I do not permit negativity towards each other in my classroom. I mix up groups through placement and diverse activities so that students understand and support one other. Working in small groups creates an environment of acceptance, leads to a forum for experimentation, and balances diverse backgrounds. Even in a small classroom, working in pairs helps students feel comfortable about voicing their opinions and trying new movement or ways of executing familiar movement. Receiving feedback in a smaller group builds student confidence, and in turn, helps them speak or move in front of a larger group. Ultimately, these efforts culminate in an opportunity for students to learn from each other.
I recognize the value of each student’s strengths and personal experiences. Dancers learn and grow when they let go of their physical habits and embrace new ideas and technique. Knowing I value their past training, students have the confidence to step onto this new playing field. When I teach a strong ballet dancer a modern class, they often have a hard time forgoing leg height and position. I recognize the strength of their leg extension, as well as clarity of position, and then remind them that they are capable of reaching new heights with their strong technical foundation.
Students must be challenged and feel successful. I provide material that requires a high level of physical and mental effort, as well as, material with which they feel comfortable. I do this through monitored repetition, recognition of student’s strengths and weaknesses, and curriculum variety. I work to discover universal learning points even in the most diverse classrooms.
Students flourish when the learning environment encourages experimentation and questioning. We discuss, choreograph, write about choreography, and improvise. When learning new concepts, I encourage the students to share their thoughts, further developing their voices. Students are free to question and experiment when they have a knowledge base including a verbal/movement vocabulary. I work to impart this vocabulary and provide clarity of assignments/activities to help the students with the required basic knowledge.
As the teacher, I always strive to be the expert. I am the person in the classroom who must know the most about the subject matter. The students trust that I do. I must remain a student within the career field, and therefore always learn, study, and investigate so that I may expand my knowledge. I study what is current, groundbreaking, and inspiring and incorporate it in the classroom. As the teacher, I am a mentor. I help the students discover their goals with their careers and within the course material. As a mentor, I also help them find ways to obtain their goals. As a facilitator, I create an environment conducive to growth and help the students learn how to learn. I light the fire and assist with exploration. I endeavor to provide enough information and inspiration to give the students a strong start and to encourage them to delve further. As the teacher, I am the entertainer. My classes are fun. The students enjoy themselves. We laugh, we create, and we learn.