4 Tips for Teaching a Mixed Level Dance Class by Erin Pride

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4 Tips for Teaching a Mixed Level Dance Class  

With Erin Pride 

I step in front of my class and I am ready to go in! I am prepared to teach the modern classes of all modern classes…Combination -check, set warm-up- check, across the floor - check, check! 

And then it happens, I start teaching and half the room goes silent. Silent in dancer language = blank stares with imaginary question marks popping up over students’ heads. I was in full internal panic mode and had no clue what to do with those students who were lost. 

I signed up for this teaching gig and was told the dancers were advanced, so that is who I created my class for - advanced dancers. Little did I know this particular studio’s advanced meant some superhuman dancers mixed in with dancers that have never taken a class in their life.

Let me just tell you, the class was brutal! I left physically and emotionally drained. The students probably felt the same. 

But, with all challenges comes a lesson (that is if you're open to it).  

What was my lesson? Simply that I had to embrace, and learn how to teach mixed-level dance classes.

Here are 4 quick, actionable tips you can use today when teaching a mixed level dance class. 

1. Prepare- Preparation is key in anything, prepare your combination, warmup, across the floor as you normally would. 
2. Plan - Here is where the magic happens…   
  • In your head, on a piece of paper, on the notes app in your phone plan the following:                                                                                  
  • Easier variations of each exercise/ the combination. (This can be without a port de bra, half tempo, etc...). Think of it as stripping your exercises down to their bare bones: subtracting. 
  • More difficult variations of each exercise/ the combination. (This can be double time, turning on releve, etc...) : adding. 
3. Group - If students vary in level - break them into groups.

I like to divide the room in 2's or 3's, grouping students with their appropriate level, or if you are teaching ballet, place the students at the barre according to their level. This will help you navigate the different versions of each exercise that you will be teaching. 

*Students can do all versions at the same time, or if you find the students on a lower level are getting confused- I suggest letting one group perform their version and then the next (for example, if students on the beginner level perform their version of the exercise, followed by students on an intermediate level, followed by students on an advanced level). You can give a cue such as- once the first group is done the second group starts immediately, or the second group holds 8 counts and then starts. This will help eliminate downtime. Students can watch each other and give feedback if you find some are not engaged.

 4. Communicate - Students are more inclined to buy in and to work if they know the "why" behind something.
  • Explain to your students why you have different versions of the exercises, and if you have students who express interest in doing the more difficult versions, but are not ready yet, use this as an opportunity to teach work ethic and applying corrections. 

    Hopefully, these tips can help the next time you stand in front of a dance class and get hit with a case of the “mixed-level blues”...  What are your tips for teaching mixed-level classes? I’d love to hear in the comments below. 

    For learning on the go check out  “The Power of Do Now in Your Dance Classroom”  Episode 57 of the Dance Boss Podcast  Listen Now 

    For discovering supportive dance shocks stay 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 classroom 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 Podcast.   To learn more about Erin visit erindpride.com, and you can hang out with Erin on Instagram and Facebook. 

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