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7 Ways To Increase Your Dance Students' Growth, Development, and Self-Esteem - The Let's Talk Dance Blog - Empowering Dancers To Create A Better Quality of Life!

7 Ways To Increase Your Dance Students’ Growth, Development, and Self-Esteem

Dance Teachers, What Do You Want To Accomplish In Your Classes This Year?

As the new school year approaches, us dance teachers have to take time to really think about what we want to accomplish in our dance classes this year. More specifically, what we want our students to learn in our classes this year. There should certainly be technique, movement vocabulary, and dance history (among other things) that we want our students to take away at the end of the year. But even more than that, I think that it is our responsibility to ensure that our students walk away from our classes at the end of the school year, with improved self-confidence, self-awareness, an increased ability to tap into their creativity, and a stronger/well-balanced relationship with their body, and eating habits.

This may sound like a lot, especially if you only see each group of your students once-a-week. Or even more so, if you teach very young kids, but it is certainly possible.

It is so crucial to try new techniques, activities, and exercises (mental and physical) with your students each year, in addition to your core teaching methods that are tried and true. If you don’t, you’re at risk of becoming stale.

Here are 7 ways to increase your students’ overall growth, development, and knowledge in your dance classes:

1) Ask Them Questions. This year, I plan on sitting down with all of my students on the first day of classes, and asking them why they’re in my classes, what they hope to learn/gain from taking my classes, and also what dancers they look up to, or admire within that specific genre of dance. I can bet that asking them these questions will give me much insight into their minds, and help me to develop a specific plan for the classes, that will be most beneficial for my students.

2) Give Them Homework. Yes, I said homework for dance classes. Sound crazy? It shouldn’t. Young dancers (especially) need to learn more about the art of dance, the history of dance, and who some of the dance greats are that came before them, and created the techniques and dance forms that they enjoy doing today. So many young dancers today are so caught up with dance tv shows, and their “stars”, but have no clue who George Balanchine, Lester Horton, Martha Graham, Alvin Ailey, Rock Steady Crew, Gregory Hines, Don “Cambellock” Campbell, The Electric Boogaloos, Misty Copeland, or Frank Hatchett are. Make your students do some research, and motivate them to learn more about dance than what they see in music videos, or on the latest Youtube video.

3) Let Them Create. One of my favorite things to do in my classes, is give my students the opportunity to improv, freestyle, and choreograph. They wow me every time! I highly recommend doing this. It allows your students to challenge themselves in a new way, embrace their own style and creativity through movement, reveal a bit of their own personality, build a very crucial skill set as a dancer, oh, and of course, have fun! My students LOVE doing improv and having the chance to choreograph. This really works with kids and teens of all ages. If you haven’t done it in your classes yet, give it a try this year. You’ll be shocked at what you see. And don’t just do it one time, do it on a monthly basis.

4) Address Health, Wellness, and Nutrition. How many times have you seen a student (or students) of yours who’s eating habits are unhealthy, or who is struggling with finding and maintaining a healthy and balanced lifestyle? Too many times I’m sure. It’s definitely worth sitting down and talking to your students about what a balanced diet should include, and how to have a healthy relationship with food. If this is a subject that you’re not comfortable discussing with your students, or you feel unqualified to broach the subject, I suggest going online and simply bringing some print outs to your classes to distribute to your students, from health and nutrition experts.

5) Explain the Importance of Stretching and A Proper Warm-Up. I have no idea why, but for some reason, many young dance students hate warming up. That is the question that I hear most often from my younger students, “Miss Ashani, do we have to warm up today?” And my answer is always, ‘Yes!!’. Then I go on to tell them how proper stretching and warm-up helps to prevent injuries, helps to improve their dance abilities, and so on. I think that when you’re younger, you can sort of get away with doing a lot more physical movement and exercise, without a proper warm-up, than you can as you get older. But, pulled or strained muscles are no joke, and not fun. So, it’s important to emphasize this to your students, and make sure they really get it.

6) Address Competition Within The Class Setting. Between the dance competition tv shows, and the thousands of local and national dance competitions, our students can get a little tainted at the whole notion of competition. They begin to think that dance is all about winning or losing, or being better than the person next to you. We need to remind our students, on a regular basis, that they’re goal should be to be the best dancer that THEY can be. Not to try to one-up or compete with the dancers around them all the time. We must reiterate to them that their focus should be on themselves, improving their own technique, strengthening their weak areas, and developing their strong areas. The only person they should want to compete with is themselves. It’s also important that you recognize and highlight their improvements, or progress throughout the year. This is extremely important in motivating them, and building their self-confidence as a dancer. For older dance students (teens), I would go so far as to ask them what they think they’re strengths are as a dancer, and what things they think they need to work on. That way, you can keep their progress focused on those areas, and be able to evaluate their progress based on that, not based on other students.

7) Make The Dance Studio A Safe, Fun Place To Be. The best way to help students to flourish in their dance classes, is to create a warm, fun, and welcoming environment in the studio, where they know they will not be judged, and they can be themselves. That’s when you will see your students reach new heights! The fact is, we don’t know what is going on in the lives of our students at home, or in school. Some of them may be dealing with some pretty heavy stuff in their personal lives. It’s our job to ensure that their time spent in our classes is one where they can be stress-free, release their frustration through dance, and walk out feeling better than they did when they walked in.

Are you ready to make a positive change in your students’ lives this year? Please leave a comment below and share how you keep your students, learning, growing, and motivated throughout the year.

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