November 2014 | On My Mind


Words from the publisher

Those of you who have attended my seminars for dance teachers and school owners know that I rant about the “grab-the-foot-and-yank-the-leg-to-the-ear” move we all see at every dance competition and on TV. “It’s the way to show a good extension,” a teacher once told me. I don’t agree.

Having a good extension means doing a beautiful, controlled, slow développé on a turned-out supporting leg with a lifted center body. It doesn’t involve grabbing or yanking anything; the inner thigh does the work. That kind of technique shows not only extension but an understanding of what the movement should be.

Photo by Mim Adkins

Photo by Mim Adkins

I get upset when I see tweens and teens doing this move as if it proves they’re good dancers. That’s bad enough; but it’s unconscionable when it’s being taught to preschoolers. “What?” you say. You heard me.

Scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed recently, I came across photos shared by the teacher of a “kinder-movement” class. Most of the time I love seeing pictures of dancing preschoolers because they show such joy, such pleasure in discovering the movement potential in their bodies. Not this time. In these photos, a teacher was yanking these tiny students’ legs up to their ears. There was a big smile on the teacher’s face—and on most of the students’, except for the ones who were grimacing in pain. It seemed like the teacher, and maybe the kids too, thought doing this move was a rite of passage for a dancer. But along with the smiles, there were twisted ankles, bent knees, and collapsed center bodies.

These children should be learning how to skip, how to clap to the beat; they should be discovering the magic that comes from the movement and the music. Instead, they’re attempting useless feats that could damage their bodies. I can’t help but think that one of these tots will grow up to be a teacher who believes that preschoolers should be taught to do such ridiculous, inappropriate movements. And she’ll believe that because she was taught to do it at an early, impressionable age.

You’ve heard me time and time again, pleading with dance teachers to let kids be kids. Give them age-appropriate songs to dance to. Give them costumes that don’t make them look like miniature adults, all dolled up with an emphasis on sex. And give them movements that won’t overstretch ligaments and encourage them to form bad habits.

Dance is a gift; I know each one of you believes that. Let your students receive that gift in ways that won’t harm their minds and bodies.

DSL publisher Rhee Gold has owned a dance competition, presided over national dance teaching organizations, and founded Project Motivate. His book, The Complete Guide to Teaching Dance, is in its second printing.