Q: What do you do when a dancer shuts down because of a correction?
A: Many dancers take corrections as put-downs. You need to change their thinking. Teaching dancers how to take a correction is something we start very young at our studio.
Our Mini competitive dancers (5- to 6-year-olds) are taught that a correction is gold. We cup our hands like we are handing them something very valuable and tell them that once they use the gold we give them, we can give them more gold, and they will become better and better dancers. For example, we say, “Sara I am giving you some gold to stretch your feet on your jumps.” We find this puts the correction into a positive light.
As dancers get older, we say that corrections are the biggest compliments that a teacher can give them. I explain, “If I didn’t think you were capable of making the corrections, I wouldn’t waste my time giving them to you.” I also try to put a positive spin on what I’m trying to correct. For example, I might say, “Maya, you have beautiful feet and legs on your aerial. If you were to relax your shoulders, it would be perfect.”
Finally, when dancers use the corrections we give them, we make a big deal out of it. Everyone—including myself—applauds the dancer and makes them feel special. This makes the correction an opportunity to receive praise from their classmates, and in turn builds self-confidence.