The lights fade to black, and at this moment I not only want to crawl out of my skin, but I want to crawl out of the theatre. My recital piece was a hot freaking mess, and not just a hot freaking mess, but an embarrassing hot freaking mess.
You see, I knew this piece wasn't going to be good, but instead of solving the problem I lived in excuse land - “My students don’t show up consistently”, “My classes are mixed in level”, or even better, “My students don’t go home and practice”. Sound familiar? I get it, but the truth is, as a dance teacher, it is our responsibility to ensure our students look successful on stage, and as a studio owner it is our job to ensure each piece that hits the stage meets our standards and your values.
I like to think of it as a funnel… At the top of the funnel is the studio owner who funnels their vision, and expectations to the teaching staff, then the teaching staff funnels the studio owner's vision and values into the work they create, and finally, the students share that vision and meet those values on the stage.
But let's be real, many studio owners don’t set up guidelines, protocols or assessments to create this funnel effect, and it is left to the dance teacher. This is totally fine, and workable, but requires a major mindset shift.
A lot of times as dance educators, we want to create from a masterpiece mindset. That is what I did for the hot mess express piece mentioned above. We go into class and want to create pieces that are amazing, breathtaking, that the audience really connects to, and that the dance studio owner gives us accolades for, etc... Let's be real - there is a lot of pressure on us to create "good work", but let's think about how we define "good."
During my early years of teaching, I used to give students material they never saw before, and I would expect them to execute that material in a dance, and be amazing (hence, the “hot mess” express piece mentioned above). I would feel defeated, frustrated, less than, and embarrassed when the piece looked a hot mess on stage. But, honestly, what did I think was going to happen? I was throwing foreign movements and concepts at my students with no real time to prepare.
Advanced students and company kids can learn and master new skills and concepts quickly, but the majority of students can't and I started to see how it was unfair of me to go into class/rehearsal, asking students to do skills they never saw before and in turn got frustrated because the piece didn’t look how I wanted it to look.
Here are 3 things you can do before entering creation mode, to ensure your piece come out successful:
If you start this now, by May/June, students can possibly master desired skills, and in turn, feel successful when performing them at the end of the year, as well as feel confident. To me, confident students on stage are the real masterpiece.
If you like this, then I think you will love the free 2-day live virtual training I am hosting for high school dance educators, going down on 1/19/20, to learn more visit Erin Pride's Website HERE
Erin is your personal dance education coach. Jersey girl all the way, she graduated from Montclair State University with a B.F.A. in Dance and received her Masters in Dance Education from New York University. Erin is a dance classrooms expert and specializes in lesson planning, unit plan design, and curriculum creation, as well as classroom management strategies. She has over a decade of experience teaching, writing curriculum, and developing programming. Erin is the Director of a High School Dance Program in New Jersey, and the Host of the Dance Boss