Ideas and advice from our readers
Classroom Connection: Picturing Dance
Dance photos can support your curriculum and offer playful springboards for activities with students—from preschoolers to high schoolers.
When teaching new steps like jeté, pas de chat, or sauté, photos can provide students with another pathway to learning. You might bring in a few photography books, such as Jordan Matter’s Dancers Among Us or Lois Greenfield’s Moving Still, with Post-it notes on pages you’d like to show.
Online, you can use Google Images or other search engines to find photos to discuss in class. For example, gather students around your tablet and search “arabesque.” The photos you find can help clarify the position of the leg or the relationship of the back leg to the front arm.
When American Ballet Theatre dancer Misty Copeland was promoted in 2015, photos of ABT’s newest principal dancer provided me with a fun and simple warm-up, as well as a great way to introduce her to my middle-school class. Together we tried out all the poses and actions in the photos, then I divided the students into small groups and asked them to use the images to link several of the dance ideas into a combination they would perform for each other in class.
Images pasted onto card stock are great starting points for creative activities that address technical concepts with elementary- and middle-school-aged students. For example, to practice balance, provide each student with an appropriate image and have everyone stand in a circle. After the students have tried to balance in the way shown in their photo, they put the photos down and move one spot clockwise, where they try the next pose. In a matter of minutes, students explore a handful of balances while working on leg strength and stability.
Be sure to find images that highlight not only various steps but also diversity in the dancers in terms of body shape, race or ethnicity, gender, and age.
Reality Check: Tough Moments
Q. I just lost my first student to another studio. I understand we all offer different things and people will choose what matches their needs best. But it still hurts and makes me wonder if I am doing enough. How do you handle these moments?
A. I’ve learned to use this quote: “If you love someone, set them free. If they come back, they’re yours. If they don’t, they never were.” It hurts, but it’s usually not personal.
A. It’s all part of the learning curve of being a teacher. Years ago, when I lost my first “star” student, I felt crushed. I could hardly believe it 20 years later when she applied for a job. At first I was hesitant, then thought I’d have a chat with her. She is a beautiful young woman who has been with me for two years and does amazing work.
A. As much as it hurts, wish them well, remain gracious, and display that attitude to your remaining students and parents.
A. As teachers, we get our feelings hurt because we invest in the child. But people who aren’t 100 percent on board will only weigh you down. Be like Elsa and “Let It Go”!
—Kate Lenaway Undercoffer
A. As you are around longer, it gets easier to say, “You will be missed. It’s been my pleasure, and the door is always open.” Young women who left me for the next best thing are now at my studio taking Zumba, yoga, and alumni classes.