I always forget how much students don’t know at the beginning of the year. Especially with young students—what do you mean you don’t remember what first position is? Why is it so hard to stand in line without talking?
I guess this is the fun of teaching dance to children, but I do envy the teachers who get to work with the same students over a few years. It seems as if I have to crunch in as much info as I can in one year, and then start from scratch almost immediately. It’s exhausting! That being said, I love seeing how each student attacks new challenges differently.
This year, I feel the first few classes have given me a chance to figure out my students’ learning styles and preferences; overall, they just want to keep moving. They don’t necessarily care how they look when dancing, or how to do a step “more like a ballerina”—they just want to move and discover how their bodies work. (Unlike my class last year; I could talk to those students about tendu for hours and their interest would remain peaked.) Neither is better, but now I have a jumping off point for shaping the rest of my curriculum.
It is most exciting when students have revelations. In one instance, we were exploring the concept of triplets, and began moving across the floor with “down-up-up” walking steps. “So the first time I do a ‘down’ step, I use my right leg, and then the next time there’s a ‘down,’ it’s on my left foot,” exclaimed one student so enthusiastically, it was like she just discovered ice cream. And it only got better: “Next time we go across the floor, can we go ‘up-up-down?’ And then how about ‘up-down-up?’” I was so happy that she was interested in the class activity—interested enough to reflect on it and be creative. I’m often worried my exercises aren’t fun enough, or my students don’t care about what I’m teaching them and they’d rather be in hip hop or tap. So I’m thankful that there are times like these that provide a little reassurance that I’m getting through and sparking their creative minds.