Yesterday marked the first day of the new dance season. This season makes my eighth year as a teacher at my “dance alma mater”. I love teaching dance. This artistic expression is one of my passions in life and I get to share that with kids from ages 3-18. Three nights a week I get to train young dancers and teach them about this great art form. I also like to think I teach them a little about life as well…#lifelessonsfromMsKelly.
I teach kids from all levels of experience as a recreational dance teacher. What does that mean? It means the kids that I teach take class for fun and have a recital at the end of the year. The classes I teach are not like what you may or may not have seen on Dance Moms. My kids don’t compete, they take their time learning their end of the year routine, and are simply doing it for fun. With all of this said, there are still some things that I feel that parents and students should learn about this dance world.
I’ve seen posts like these before and , of course, completely relate to them. However, I haven’t quite seen one from the perspective of the recreational teacher. The one who’s students may have just come from soccer field and are trying something new. The one who’s students have never heard of first position or know the difference between flex and point. The one who’s students’ parents have no idea what their kid is going to do in class, has never taken a dance class before themselves, and is just here because their kid said they want to be like Maddie on Dance Moms. That’s where I come in…
First off, if you’re that last one and your kid has said those words to you, I’ll be really honest and say that that more than likely isn’t going to happen. Especially if your child’s first dance class is after the age of six. There are, of course, exceptions but becoming that kind of dancer takes years of training and more than one hour a week. There, that’s out of the way! On to the list!
- Please Don’t Chew Gum – Not only is it rude to watch you chop while I’m teaching but it’s not safe. Whether you’re 3 or 18, you will , at some point, be jumping, turning, or moving fast in some way. This means it’s dangerous to have gum, or any food for that matter, in your mouth. I will ask you to spit it out. I don’t have any desire to perform the Heimlich during class and I’m sure you have no desire to choke.
- Ballet Is A Discipline – While things that are difficult can be fun, they are not ALL fun. Ballet can be as fun as you make it. Think of it like going to the gym. You can totally have fun while doing some group fitness classes but when you get down to it, it can be hard work and you’re sweating. Ballet is the foundation of your dance training. You are learning technical aspects so that you’ll look graceful and fabulous when you perform. You wanna get better? You got get through the tough stuff. Just about everything that comes easy to you was once difficult.
- Just Try – While were on the topic of dance being difficult from time to time, all I ask is that you just try. Try your best. Something we’ve heard over and over all our lives, right? But there is a very important word in that sentence that can get overlooked. Try YOUR best. If Tammy Turnsalot is great at something, it does not mean that you simply can’t do it. (Please don’t say that word in my class!) It means that Tammy’s best is not the same as your best and you can keep trying until you get better. If you were in class and already knew how to do it all, what would be the point? You can always learn something new in any class you take. Also, if you’re just going to do something halfway, why are you here? Give it your all and I promise you’ll be glad you did.
- Please Wear Proper Dance Attire – Would you go out, or send your child out, on the soccer field without shin guards? Probably not, right? I know that a leotard and tights is not the most comfortable thing to wear, but there is a reason we ask you to wear it. It is so that I see the shape of your body as you are going through moves. Dance is all about the shapes the body makes and if you cover that up with baggy clothes, I can’t correct you. If the tights bother you that much, wear them on the outside. I used to ALL THE TIME. That way you can rip them off the second you get the chance. Heck, wearing them on the outside can actually help me correct the line of your hips, so there’s that too. Hip Hop is a different story. Wear what you want there, it’s a different style with a different focus. Each class has it’s different needs.
- It’s Not All About Being Flexible – I say this to my kids every year but it never seems to sink in. I would much rather see you have the most beautiful feet and straightest legs at a 45 degree than a hunched back and bent leg with your leg up to your ear. At that point, it’s not impressive, it’s just bad technique. Work up to the flexibility, it will come with time if you put in the effort to stretch daily.
- Try Your Best Not To Miss Class – Life happens, I get it. I’m a mom before I’m a dance teacher so I DEFINITELY get it. But if you’re not sick, it’s not a family emergency, or the weather isn’t preventing you from coming, PLEASE make it to class. Whether it’s a new technique, new choreography, or even important info the studio may need you to know, you miss a lot when you don’t come to class. This is especially important once we’ve begun to work on the recital routine. At this point, it’s not only you who can struggle from missing class, it also affects your classmates.
- Know That I Can Always See You – There are mirrors! I know when you’re misbehaving. That is all.
- Please Don’t Correct Me (Unless Asked) – I can’t tell you how much this irritates me. Now I will say that I have my fair share of mom brain moments when I cannot, for the life of me, remember what we did the week before. This is not what I’m talking about. If I don’t ask you if a certain step is right or if you remember something, just assume that I changed it and learn it. However, more often than not, I’ll ask.
- Don’t Quit – Don’t give up. I can totally understand that if the thought of coming dance class makes you want to throw up, than clearly this is not the activity for you. There is no need to force something that is not there. But if you just aren’t “feeling it” or your having a problem with someone in the class, PLEASE come talk to me. Dance will not always be easy, on some days you may go home and wonder, “What just happened?!” But thats ok. Challenge is good.
- I’m Here For You – Students and parents, know that your dance teacher is here to help. If there’s a problem in the class, I’m more than willing to fix it. If you have a question that you think is stupid, it’s not. If you have no idea what’s going on, tell me! I’m here to help. Just because the word dance comes before my job title, doesn’t mean I’m not a teacher.
My hope is that this sheds just a tiny light on this little teacher world of mine. I have years of experience as both a dancer and teacher. I’ve grown up in and been a part of this culture and I love it. All of this is so that you can love it too or, at the very least, come out with a greater appreciation for the art of dance.