By Nina Pinzarrone
As a teacher, the more you know about music, the easier it is to develop musicality in your students. Some students are always “on the music” while others tend to rush ahead or drag behind. You can help the less-than-musical students by developing their listening skills. (Remember that while musicians learn by listening, dancers are visually and physically oriented and learn by watching and doing.) To be on the music, the dancers must slightly anticipate the pulse. When doing classroom exercises, use the musical introduction to set this process of anticipation in motion; it establishes the tempo and indicates the quality, which helps the students prepare to move at the right speed.
If you have an accompanist, have her vary the length of the introduction for each exercise; the students will have to listen in order to know when to begin. If the intro is always the same, the students tend to tune it out. But in performance, an intro might be only one note of music, or there might be no musical introduction at all. Learning to listen is critical.
If you are using CDs with intros that are the same length, try starting the dancers’ preparatory arm movement on a different count of the introduction—the first beat of the second, third, or fourth bar instead of the first bar, for example, to force the students to hear each individual bar of the introduction. If they have trouble hearing it, count out the intro and have your students count or clap along with you.