For Dance Teachers: How To Find a Balance Between Mentoring and Teaching

This is a guest blog post from our PR Intern, Jordon Cloud.

Anyone who dances professionally or even recreationally can most likely look back on their dance experience and recall at least one individual who has heavily influenced their will to keep dancing. It may be a parent, an artist of another discipline or another person who has actively pursued a career in dance. Thinking back to those times when we so eager to live our passions, it is interesting to recognize, and sometimes easy to forget that as teachers and performers we are putting ourselves in that position everyday when we are surrounded by a younger generation of movers.

As someone who is currently a student at a public University, I think that it is especially important to remember that the students you are teaching look up to you in more ways than one. They are interested in not only your ability to dance, but also your ability to live your life. For many young students, their dance teachers are the coolest, most creative people that they know outside of their families. This is an important thing to remember especially when you’re teaching young people who are just beginning to make big life decisions.

Important things to remember when conducting your life as an individual that your students look up to:

Define your role. Do you want your students to know how your day went? What if you had a bad break up or a death in the family? Sometimes it’s best to keep these things under wraps, as hard as it may be. As a dance teacher, you have to remember that you are putting yourself into the eye of the community as a leader in more ways than one. Nobody expects you to be perfect, but the pressure to stay happy and eager to work is something that everyone needs to address.

Watch what you say online. Are you going to be the teacher that accepts friend requests from all of your students? That’s probably not the best idea. Even if you keep your Facebook or Twitter feeds relatively PG, you don’t want your students to see the accidentally tagged photo of you at a night out with your friends. While it may seem like something you can control, especially with all privacy options available, you can’t typically control what other people are saying to you publicly.

Don’t play favorites. Young people can sometimes take even the smallest of comments very seriously. We all remember who the favorite dancer was at any given school that we’ve trained at. We may also remember what it feels like to be the favorite. Sometimes being the favorite student can ostracize a that person from the rest of the group or cause big egos to grow. Jealousy can run rampant especially in a field where so much of our experience is based on getting noticed. Pay attention to who you are speaking to in class and encourage all of your dancers to do their best no matter what.

Don’t keep secrets. Are you the cool teacher that your students come to and confide in? In some situations, you may be the one that your students want to come to to tell secrets about serious issues such as eating disorders or promiscuous behavior. Although it might feel good that they trust you to that degree, they will be crushed when you end up passing the information along to someone who is in the position to help. Unless you are a trained mental health physician, don’t try to talk your students through serious issues, even if you have been there before.

Encourage Individuality. We all know how it feels to be the odd one out in a group of people who have known each other for a long time. At dance studios it happens all the time! When teaching dance, do your best to foster an environment where the students can rely on one another for emotional support but at the same time can respect each other despite their differences.

We can all remember a time when one of our favorite teachers moved away or stopped working at the school that we attended. It was a disappointing experience not only because we would be missing the teacher that we had grown attached to, but also because we would have to get to know a new teacher who may be a lot different from our favorite.  The fact is that life changes and we can’t stay in the same place forever. However, for young and impressionable students, this is sometimes a concept that is hard to understand. Communication is KEY in the field of dance. Make sure that everyone around you knows what’s going on in order to avoid hurt feelings. Rumors travel fast so it is important that your students know what’s going on to avoid speculation.

I’ve learned that if you’re pursuing a dance career simply in hope of becoming the star of the stage, you’re not going to get very far. As performers we have the responsibility to create a community filled with collaboration, respect and encouragement. Sometimes this is easier said than done.

As dancers we share things all the time; our emotions, our personal stories and of course our physical capabilities. As dance teachers however, we must be careful not to share too much! No matter what, your students will look up to you. Be sure to look back to your past experiences and remember what has helped or hindered you in terms of dance mentorship throughout your career. Personally, I have shared some of the most intimate experiences with my dance mentors. In the end it all comes down to how they are able to respond to personal information and issues.  Remember to be the best person you can be when in a teaching position because young eyes are watching and listening!

If you found this post helpful, please leave a comment below and share this post on Facebook and Twitter.

This is a guest blog post by Jordon Cloud, PR Intern at Kiner Enterprises Inc. You can check out her blog at,

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