Dance Teacher Problems
Looking for recital solutions for this stressful time of year? Dance teachers, students and parents sometimes need some help to make this a success! I received this letter from a dancer teacher this weekend. She voices her concern over their school’s upcoming recital and the inconsistent attendance by her students. This is a typical predicament that all dance teachers experience each year.
“I have students that are in other activities such as soccer, volleyball etc. They are usually my best students but they hit and miss class. I develop choreography for our competition and recital that is very demanding and try to showcase as many students as I can to have 8-10 seconds of fame in a group dance by stepping out and performing a solo. This year has been very discouraging as a teacher due to the absenteeism of students. We perform next Saturday evening. I’m not pleased with what I see. At this point we should have choreo memorized and only working to improve technique and presentation on stage. I have one more evening with these girls before we go onstage. Do you have any suggestions or words of encouragement to make the most of our last evening of practice. Thanks so much…”
I thank this frustrated dance teacher for her sincere letter. I know it can be very worrisome to set choreography and not have consistent attendance from your students. We have all been in that boat!
Students, don’t worry~ we are aware of the pressures in your life from school, family and other activities. I hope you will add some suggestions in the comments below as well!
- My immediate suggestion is to send a letter out to the parents of this group and ask for an additional rehearsal time in light of their absences. You want them to do their best on stage and you are willing to do this for them (?).
- Another option is to shorten the music to the length that the dancers have memorized.
- Suggestion for the future– make a personal note to your students in advance of beginning choreography with your expectations. The parents and students sign and return it to you. This can prevent some of the frustration on your part and will make your expectations very clear for performance involvement. If you are not the Director of the school, run it by them first. Perhaps you can work together on a draft for the entire school!
- Below are a few other ideas from my experience this year! Merde to all of you 🙂
My dilemma this spring~
Our studio set the student performance two months earlier than usual. Even though I started all my choreography on time, one piece was not complete. My predicament was that I had selected music that was too long for the number of dancers. I did not know that several of the students chose not to participate in this piece. So here I was with a long piece and less dancers!
I found this very stressful and with various winter breaks from the different school districts, there was inconsistent attendance for three weeks.
Realize also that each class time has their particular dance. This translates as: 1 rehearsal per week for 11 weeks. Deduct three irregular weeks = 8 rehearsals! Not enough time to set a 3+ minute dance for just 9 dancers. (Less dancers means more responsibility for each one).
I live in the Silicon Valley and the majority of our students have cell phones, usually iPhones. I video my rehearsal every week as a time saver for myself and the dancers. The dancers started asking me to send them the video of the dance. It was a brilliant solution! We did that the last two weeks of rehearsal. After class, I would send one video to one girl and they would send it to each other like a chain letter.
Paramount to me as a ballet teacher and a mother, was that these children took PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY!
Rehearsal improved. We had teamwork and they danced beautifully! Another benefit to this experience is that some dancers who often “followed” others or relied on others, had to come forward into the spotlight. I love to encourage anyone that takes initiative and works hard. I was so pleased!
- Find a way that the dancers will take personal responsibility. It could be sharing the rehearsal video, it would be setting a deadline for the choreography to be “earned” not “learned”. I know that the mini solos are just short moments, but perhaps the dancers could audition for the various sections. They do work harder to earn something. I feel that is especially important for any solo , no matter how short. Reinforce that it is a privilege to be on stage.
- I always tell the dancers that they are the ones on stage, not me. This often is a shocking realization until about two weeks before the show. They are on a professional stage in front of a paying audience. It may be an audience of parents and family but they are not all your family. You must represent yourself well, your studio and your art. Have pride in everything you do.
- Sometimes students have to learn the hard way. They cannot do everything. Choices must be made. I find this is very clear for ballet students. When they go en pointe, they must commit to more classes, be consistent and learn to conduct themselves in a more serious fashion. I am sure there are other standards for other dance forms. Perhaps it is as simple as moving up to a different level, a team, achieving a certificate, being a leader etc. Most importantly, keep your word and encourage them to keep working. Our school has a checklist for getting en pointe and they must pass a personal assessment with the Director. They also must be consistent in attendance, abide by the dress code, wear their hair in a bun or they cannot dance en pointe.
To parents who may read this post—
I can understand “exposing” children to different activities so they can find out which one is most appealing. After a certain age, choose! Dance takes a big commitment year round. Most dancers cannot participate in team sports, ski or even have a big social life. But they will find life long friends, stay busy into their teen years, be resilient, athletic, integrate left and right brain activities and build skills for their futures regardless of career choice. Dance teachers know that you value dance education or your child would not be enrolled. You may have to encourage your child to make a choice.
A recent article in Dance Magazine “Why Dancers Skills Are More Important Than Ever” touts the newly discovered benefits to dance study.
“In the past 30 years, job tasks in the U.S. have shifted dramatically towards tasks requiring noncognitive skills.” Sometimes known as “soft skills,” these noncognitive skills include problem solving, communication and innovation. As technology advances, it is becoming less important for workers to do and more important to organize and innovate.
Finally to consider~
Absences effect the entire class. With so many options available, some people try to do it all~ regardless! The problem is that other dancers suffer from the student’s absence. Under the age of 14, students have a hard time visualizing and keeping track of the absent dancer’s place. Even worse, the absent student could be their partner and they miss out on this interaction.
If you know dancers, parents or other dance teachers who need support and some ideas at this busy time of year~ please share this post with them! Click on any social media icon to share or the envelope for e-mail.
I do appreciate you so much!
NOW HAVE A FANTASTIC PERFORMANCE!
- Share your accomplishment beautifully on stage!