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I see it from coast to coast. Dancers who want the reward without the sacrifice. Dancers seem to want to advance without putting in the proper training and taking the steps to move forward with correct technique. This, I believe, is partly because we live in a society were instant gratification runs rampant. I see knees inverted and hips lifted in almost every extension executed as well as legs coming forward instead of remaining in second in 99% of a la seconde turns. I see dancers attempting technical elements and choreography styles they are not yet ready to tackle. They want it and they want it now….and to make a living, some teachers just agree to give them what they want in order to keep the peace. I understand, but where do we as educators draw the line and try to change the negative trend in society with our dancers? The world doesn’t always give us what we want, and in the real world, we have to work for everything. Shouldn’t we teach this life lesson through dance too?

Dancers these days, not all but many, don’t have the attention span, or sometimes work ethic, to work on the fundamentals. Fundamentals are essential and they have not changed. The basis of all advanced elements and movements have the same derivatives as they always have for decades passed. Styles may change and vary, but technique never changes. It is still necessary to teach isolations, weight transfers, and transitions, while constantly working on body placement, balance and elementary turns. These are the things are allow a dancer to continually grow in skill level and movement quality. We know this as teachers, but unfortunately, some dancers and their parents don’t understand this concept.

In a day and age of instant gratification, it can be hard to make a young dancer or a teen dancer understand the importance and value of these types of classes. It can be very hard to hold their attention and keep them focused. Changing up the your thought process of teaching these classes can be the key to success! It can keep you, the teacher, from becoming bored, just as it can keep the dancers on their toes! Fundamental technique classes can be the most challenging and interesting classes a dancer can take if taught correctly. It can be tempting to just give them what they want instead of what they need, but don’t give in! Working on the basics and fundamentals are crucial to development! If we all stuck to our guns, dancers wouldn’t be able to just studio hop down the street to a new teacher who would just give them what they wanted.

Balance is something that can always improve. Beginning each class with balance is a great way to center the body and focus the mind. From there, moving into a basic turn and balancing immediately following the rotation is always a challenge. Moving basics across the floor, individually and in simple combinations, allow students to focus on proper technique, finding stability and working body placement all while keeping their attention AND keeping them motivated.

I am amazed at how many students I come in contact with or see perform that cannot execute a simple rib isolation, yet they want to learn advanced contemporary movements. Isolations should be taught! Sadly, I have found that more often than not, they are not. Exercises can be basic center floor and grow into advanced combinations across the floor which are worked on weekly in class.

Whether it be formation transitions, how dancers transition from movement into a preparation for a turn, shifting their weight, or transitioning to or from the floor, transitions are a big problem with choreography. Do not overlook working on these areas moving across the floor or center floor combinations. I suggest, teachers sit in the floor and observe where the students are placing their feet in these transitions. How they train is how they will learn choreography. How they learn choreography is how they will perform. It is much easier to make sure they train alike than to go back and have to clean these details in every piece.

I suggest not changing the combinations until they are mastered: Vaganova ballet class 101 style. My ballet teacher, Madame Majewska, would not move on to the next lesson until the lesson we were on was mastered. Training is important. Again; how a dancer trains is how they perform. How a dancer progresses depends on how they are trained. Don’t skip the fundamentals because we live in a day and age of instant gratification. As teachers, we must adapt and teach on the level of our students to get the most out of them. We must set our students up for success not failure. This means making them do things they may not want to do. The truth of the matter never changes: without the training, you can’t succeed. We have a responsibility to the next generation of dancers. But dancers have a responsibility too. They must respect the art, their teachers, and realize they are the teachers of tomorrow. It is all “the circle of life”. Even if they never dance past high school, dance teaches so much more than choreography and technique. Dance teaches life lessons. There is also another unfortunate truth. As the saying goes, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. We, as teachers, must provide a quality education and be good mentors. It is entirely up to the student if they accept and apply the knowledge. If they choose “not to drink”, you can still lay your head on your pillow at night knowing you have done your job and done it well. If only all dancers and their parents realized that going back to the foundation produces tremendous growth at a more rapid rate. Can I get an Amen?

Dance hard. Dance smart.

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