Five Dance Teacher Tips
I am super excited to share on this topic of Dance Teacher Tips.
When I started teaching I was only 14 years old, I remember spending so much time on lesson plans and music. At that time, I taught with my twin sister so it was helpful to have a partner to help navigate the learning curve with. I continued teaching through high school and college and then after I graduated, I became the artistic director of a performing arts academy here in Sydney, Australia!
To be honest I was so out of my depth at running a studio at 21… I felt like my career had flipped a bit, but I have loved every minute of it. Over the years I have learned a lot and potentially some of it even the hard way and I would love to pass on what I have learned to you!
Here are 5 teacher tips to help you become a more confident teacher.
Tip #1 - Plan ahead of time
Come to classes prepared ready to give an awesome class. Students can totally tell when you are making up choreography on the spot or music is not going with the step that you have choreographed across the floor. I get it some days are busy and we have to wing it but make sure to plan ahead of time as much as possible.
Here in Sydney, students' classes are structured by terms which are about 10 weeks long. At the start of the year, I sit down and review what I want that class to learn from a technique and performance perspective. Some studios may have a class syllabus for you to help guide class levels.
After I do this initial review, I then organize the steps that I want to work on in each term with the goal that we will use all of that new material in their end of year concert. Then when I go to plan the lesson for the week I already have an outline of what I need to achieve for that class. This can really help by creating a path of growth for your students. It’s also great to see what steps might need to be worked on or broken down over the course of a few terms.
Tip #2 - How to break down movement
Being a great dancer does not mean you are a great teacher. Ha! This may sound harsh but it’s true. When I am looking for someone to hire I often ask them how they would break down a movement for different levels of classes.
Here is an example of how I would break down pirouettes for my 5 year old jazz class.
Relevés with strong ankles and finding their balance
Relevés on one foot, starting at the barre so they have something to hold on too
Passé while laying on the ground so that their alignment is correct
Passé in centre keeping the supporting foot on flat
Working on going from a prep position to passé on flat and on relevé
As you can see there are so many elements that make up the ability to do a single pirouette that even little ones can work on to correct alignment and technique so that they are set up for a win as they advance to more difficult turns.
Tip #3 - Different learning styles
Have you ever been in the position where you have a solid class plan and have thought through breaking down steps and there is still a disconnect with students?
This disconnect might be due to the fact that their primary learning style is not being used in your classes. The four main learning styles include: visual, auditory, kinaesthetic and reading/writing.
Here is how you can make sure to include all learning styles while teaching:
Demonstrate the step for the visual learnings
Give verbal cues for the auditory learnings
Have students practice the step with you for kinaesthetic learnings
Encourage dance journals where students can write down corrections to refer back to for reading/writing learnings
In one of my classes a few years back I had a student who was deaf and another student who didn’t speak English. Firstly, I just have to say how brave they were to give a dance class a go and they both loved it. I also saw how much I had to rely on visual and kinaesthetic learning styles for these two students to be able to understand and have fun during the class.
Tip #4 - Music
Music sets the tone of your classes and is so important to create a fun learning environment. Music is also something that can be so challenging to keep upbeat but also age appropriate for students. One way I have found to keep curating new music without taking too much time is to have a Spotify (or whatever music platform you use) playlist labelled Teaching Master Playlist. Whenever I hear a song that I think could be a good dance song I add it to that playlist.
At the start of the teaching year I create a playlist for each class and genre using the master playlist as my main source of songs. Throughout the terms I will change some of the music to keep it fresh and also help me stay sane. ;)
Here are some other tips I use to find good teaching music:
Listen to Spotify mood playlists (always find some gold!)
Watch out for what movies your students are loving at the moment and add the movie tracks to your teaching playlist. Some great examples are The Greatest Showman, Trolls, and Sing.
Once in a while for a stretching or free style step, ask students for song requests
Once you have a Spotify playlist, scroll to the bottom and look at the recommended songs, you can also refresh recommended songs for more songs
Tip #5 - Structure and Vibes
How do you create a structure of optimal learning but also keep the fun and inspiring vibes?
Most teachers will find themselves leaning a bit more on one side and have to be intentional to include the other. For instance, I can lean more on structure and have to make sure that I keep things light-hearted and fun, especially for my younger students.
Especially when you are teaching a new class or have new students I love telling students what to expect in a class. This can simply look like saying we are going to do family circle time, warm up, across the floor and finish with a combo. When introducing structure to a class I also like to outline some class rules. These can include being kind to each other, listening when the teacher is talking, encouraging classmates and trying your best. I also find that if a student is acting up in class it’s important to correct the culture of the class right then and explain why that is not allowed in class.
With some simple rules in place, you can then have a great time teaching, keeping energy high and encouragement strong. With fun music and a strong lesson plan students will be thriving in class and the vibes will be great!
I hope that you have found this blog helpful. Drop a comment below, would love to hear your thoughts!