Helping your students see beyond the patterns
Teaching Snack #1
Your students seem to be hungry and motivated to progress, but they whine and moan when you try to teach them technique. They either get overwhelmed and intimidated, or they get impatient, waiting for you to hurry up and get to the next pattern.
I was teaching a new private lesson student last weekend. “Joe” explained to me that he had “broken up with WCS and gotten back together several times” over the last decade or so. He said felt frustrated that no matter how much time and effort he put into his dance, he wasn’t improving his look or his feel.
He’s now back to give it another shot and is willing to put in the work. He just recently got into Intermediate and wanted to work on “perfecting his basics”. I asked him what he meant by that, and he said, “You know, I want you to give me the BEST passes, BEST whips, BEST pushes…”
I stopped him. “Ok first, I need you to consider that what you are describing are basic patterns, but there’s more to basics than patterns. There are these things called basic skills that make them look good and work properly.”
Joe looked confused. So I prompted him.
“So, when you watch a leader you admire, and you like his Under Arm Turn, what are you looking at?”
He answered, “His arm position, the way he moves his feet, his body shape…”
I said, “Yeah, those are all skills. You need to learn them independently. Have you ever done that?”
Joe shook his head.
“It’s the skills that make you look and feel like a dancer, not the patterns. Skills keep you in love with the dance”
He nodded, almost salivating.
“I’m going to make sure that if you ever break up with WCS again, it will be because of life reasons, not because the dance let you down.”
Morals of the Story:
1. At every stage of their development, students should be taught the value of skills and their relationship to patterns, to prevent them from becoming pattern junkies.
2. Teachers don’t need to use technical terms that make students make the mistake of thinking technique is hard and tedious. Use conversational language to make the topic of skills more accessible and unintimidating.
Okay but how?
It’s easy for a teacher to profess that skills are important, but it’s not obvious how to teach them. Many dance teachers think they are teaching skills, but don’t realize they are actually just scratching the surface. When teachers trained in skill development pedagogy teach students skills, they make them relatable, unintimidating, and immediately effective. The students pick them up faster, are better able to adapt, and have more fun dancing without the craving for more patterns.
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