Classroom Connection

March-April 2015 | Classroom Connection

Dancers who believe they have lost their ability to turn need to be told quickly and clearly that turning is only one part of their “game”—only one specific skill in a large repertoire of movements for a dancer. A turning slump should not become a dancing slump.

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February 2015 | Classroom Connection

1) Cardio Fit, Cardio Fun: Because cross-training helps dancers develop the stamina and strength they need, we implemented a dance-based program in our elementary-age, beginner-level jazz classes that involves different activities each week. 2) Dance Your Name: At the first rehearsal for my recital production number—which would bring together my lyrical classes for kids ages 9 to 10 and 11 to 12—I knew I had to find a way for the two groups to work together despite the differences in age and experience. When I tried out a “Dance Your Name” game I discovered my best icebreaker tool yet.

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January 2015 | Classroom Connection

Teaching Older Adults: Dance classes for older adults are becoming increasingly popular. When designing a class for this population, keep in mind that your class will likely comprise a wide range of ages and physical abilities. As we age, hearing, vision, balance, and short-term memory often diminish. With information and planning, a standard class can be modified to target older adults. …

Choreographers in the Classroom: My daughter, Bridget, who takes my advanced teen lyrical class, confided that she wanted to become a choreographer and longed for an opportunity to create a combination for a class. When I realized that several students shared her interest and that others were interested in teaching, I decided to help them learn to do both. …

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December 2014 | Classroom Connection

At a recent teacher training program, I demonstrated an improvised salsa-like step—right foot forward, shift left, right foot back, shift left. I used this repetitive motion to emphasize the point that teachers must take their students on a journey that includes one step forward, then one step back.

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November 2014 | Classroom Connection

One of the things I loved most about dancing was the feeling of connectedness, as if I were one with my classmates. Now, as a teacher, I help my students experience that by having them dance as partners. Partnering teaches many valuable lessons, and these can be learned with or without boys in the class.

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October 2014 | Classroom Connection

This year I taught a pre-ballet class for 6-year-olds. At first they were unfocused, bored, and sloppy while working at the barre. So I bought rolls of colored ribbon and told the dancers that anyone who did the best plié, tendu, or other barre exercise would get a ribbon—a Ballet Bow. I walked around the class and tied these around the ponytails or buns of students who were doing good work. I have never had a class work so hard on their technique before.

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August 2014 | Classroom Connection

In the classroom, I look for different ways to convey my point. To connect with all of my students and help them understand on multiple levels, I’ve started using math and science alongside explanations and analogies.

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July 2014 | Classroom Connection

My dad always asks me one thing about my dances,” announced Angela. “Am I in the front row?” This set off an impassioned discussion among dancers in my 9-to 12-year-old jazz class, and it became clear that where they are placed onstage determines how they value themselves as dancers.

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May-June 2014 | Classroom Connection

Covering classes when teachers call in sick can be a challenge. Substitutes are not necessarily familiar with the class level, the music for the choreography, or current class structure. I have found that doing a little extra work up front pays off.

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March-April 2014 | Classroom Connection

To help students learn to remember choreography, let them become the teachers. This method works with both recreational and competition dancers, though it seems to benefit the latter most because as team members, they must learn their choreography quickly.

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February 2014 | Classroom Connection

One day I had 15 minutes to spare at the end of a beginner jazz class for 7- to 11-year-olds. “What am I going to do for 15 minutes?” I thought. Then I remembered my days teaching 5- to 6-year-olds and it hit me: freeze dance! I needed to create an older version of this kindergarten hit, on the spot. I recalled the improvisation class I’d taken from Derrick Yanford at the 2011 DanceLife Teacher Conference, and it came to me: improvisation freeze dance.

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January 2014 | Classroom Connection

As an instructor of 2- to 3-year-olds, I use music, movement, and routine to draw these very young students in and share the beauty of dance with them. But there is more to teach than dance steps. I add basic educational concepts and everyday values to my dance curriculum; each complements the other.

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December 2013 | Classroom Connection

Young pre-ballet students often need help feeling the difference between pointed and flexed feet while they’re moving. They do fine with seated point-and-flex exercises in pike position, but moving around is a different story. In order to encourage preschool and kindergarten dancers to stretch and point their feet, I have devised “Princess Pointy-Feet,” a simple game that uses pointed and flexed feet.

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November 2013 | Classroom Connection

In my classes these days, the first time I mention a name like Bob Fosse or Agnes de Mille to a young teenager, I am met with a blank stare. And hardly anyone knows the music or can tell me the storyline of more than one or two major ballets.

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September 2013 | Classroom Connection

Musical theater class can involve far more than choreography done to Broadway tunes. Here’s your chance to work weekly with your students on one of the most difficult skills to grasp—how to create and sustain emotion and/or character.

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August 2013 | Classroom Connection

It is important for students to understand that one of the greatest resources they have in the studio is the other dancers. Teachers can provide strategies that allow students to really use the dancers who surround them for their benefit.

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July 2013 | Classroom Connection

Say It With Silence When I woke up with laryngitis one day and had to teach tap, I thought, “Oh great. No voice, no class.” But I was able to teach and it turned out great! Since I couldn’t rely on the power of projection or the rhythm of my voice, I had to use…

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May-June 2013 | Classroom Connection

I am always mindful of how I use words, especially when helping students understand how to do a move or form a position. Because I teach from a wheelchair and do not demonstrate, it is my words a dancer must process to make or break development. In 21 years of teaching, the most challenging problem to address is a sickled foot.

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March-April 2013 | Classroom Connection

It’s easy to let classes fall into a too-comfortable routine that can dampen dancers’ enthusiasm. To keep things fresh and interesting in all types of classes, change things up! Here are some ideas.

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February 2013 | Classroom Connection

As each semester begins, I often re-explain the cues that play like the soundtrack of my class. Phrases like “dance taller,” or “engage the abdominals,” and the more personalized “long toes,” or “hollow your leg,” constitute a working language within my class. New students need time to understand what these cues mean. While cues will eventually allow the class to proceed more quickly, I understand that what I mean by “lifting up” may be a very different thing than it did for my students’ last teacher. Similarly, until I work physically and verbally with my students, “long toes” may have no meaning for someone who has worked for years to perfect a toe clench.

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December 2012 | Classroom Connection

One of my goals for my junior and senior dance majors at the University at Buffalo is to get them ready to go out on their own as dancers. So I began disclosing my process as a teacher.

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November 2012 | Classroom Connection

I introduce theories of shape early, when kids are 6 to 8 years old, explaining that shape is an element of space and an important visual component in dance. I show examples of angles, lines, and curves; and open/closed, symmetrical/asymmetrical, harmonious/contrasting, and centered/off-center shapes. Here are some activities that reinforce this concept while also engaging young dancers.

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October 2012 | Classroom Connection

Normally I don’t approve of “tricking” kids into something. But if it’s for their own good and they end up loving it, what’s the harm? When structuring a class, I like to give students the technique they need but also sprinkle in some of the juicy material that makes up the final combination. Here’s the scoop on how to structure a class that fits in technique and lets kids dance their hearts out at the end: sneak the final combo into the class bit by bit.

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September 2012 | Classroom Connection

Observing students with a critical eye and responding with thoughtful feedback is something dance educators do in every class. You can let your students practice these skills as well by using So You Think You Can Dance as a format for a role-playing exercise for 10- to 13-year-olds.

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July 2012 | Classroom Connection

Preparing a dance is a rigorous process, as any teacher knows. When my 6- to 10-year-old students were having a difficult time remembering choreography, I knew I needed a creative way to inspire them.

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May-June 2012 | Classroom Connection

How well do your students know the names of the steps you call out every week in class? Have you ever asked a student to demonstrate a step and had her look at you blankly?

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March-April 2012 | Classroom Connection

Here’s an easy tool to help your young students (ages 3 to 7) look forward to coming to class: establish a “Dancer of the Day” program. This system of recognizing and giving special privileges to one dancer each day makes everyone eager to be in class because they never know when it will be their turn.

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February 2012 | Classroom Connection

Teachers try to impress on students the importance of being on time for class. However, if students arrive early and simply text or chit-chat, we can redirect them in their use of time.

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January 2012 | Classroom Connection

During an across-the-floor exercise in a jazz class one day, I realized that all the students (7- to 9-year-olds) were leaping with their upper bodies slanting forward.

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December 2011 | Classroom Connection

Using class time to its best advantage is a challenge for teachers of all age groups. Here are some tips to minimize transition time and maximize instruction time.

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October 2011 | Classroom Connection

Your iPod is loaded with music, you have a killer combination ready to thrill your students, and you’re heading for class. But have you prepared yourself for class?

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September 2011 | Classroom Connection

I began teaching modern dance at the University of Wisconsin–Madison in a cavernous former gymnasium that swallowed my voice and dwarfed my movement. After my initial classes I felt physically, vocally, and mentally exhausted. I quickly learned a few ways to conserve energy, and these lessons still prove helpful, regardless of studio size.

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August 2011 | Classroom Connection

Probably one of the most widely used tech items found in the studio today is the iPod, which allows teachers access to their entire music library with the touch of a finger.

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