Parents and the first day of Dance class

Health and Wellness in dance encompasses a myriad of subjects, today let’s look at ways to make that first day of dance class a positive experience for your child.   In my experience, often times how a parent handles that first day (particularly with young students or when starting at a new school) has a great impact on how the child copes within a new environment, or with a new teacher.

 

The first day of dance class is filled with much excitement, particularly for the youngest students coming into our studios.  Many nerves often accompany the young dancers, and their parents as well!   In some areas it is common to have a ‘viewing window’ for parents so they can sit and observe the class from outside the studio.   And, in others it is common that the studio/teacher asks the parents to wait outside during the class.

Having taught in both situations experience has demonstrated that students are much better off if they come into the class on their own starting from the beginning of the very first class.   Parents, on the other hand, are sometimes not so happy with this decision.

To the Teachers:

It is helpful to provide a time at the END of class (the last 10-15 min.) for the parents to come into the studio and sit with their child (ages 3-8yrs).   This allows you time to get to know your students and set the ground rules/boundaries for your class, AND (perhaps most importantly) gives you the time to address the parents and explain the ground rules and boundaries to them as well.   If you want parents to back you up when it comes to discipline or issues that arise in class,  taking the time to address the parents directly is incredibly helpful.  This also allows you to properly introduce yourself (assistants & accompanists) to the parents and give them a bit of insight into your experience  (aka…building trust between teacher and parent).

To the Parents:

More often than not, you are much more nervous about your child’s first dance class than your child is themselves.   Here are a few general guidelines to follow on that exciting, first day which will help to ease anxiety for all involved:

1.  Ensure that you have the appropriate attire for your child.  Every dance school usually has specific requirements – the last thing you want is for your child to feel left out on the first day because they do not have the correct attire.   Dress code is the same as a uniform that would be worn for sports – if your child is dressed in the wrong uniform they will feel it when they go onto the ice being the only one dressed differently.   This is part of the tradition and history of dance, creates a uniform look amongst the students, and fosters a feeling of unity within the group.

Here is a great blog post from The Healthy Dancer blog about why dress code is so important:  Dress Code

2.   Ensure that your child’s hair is secure.   Again, every school has their requirements when it comes to hair.   Is a bun required?  Ponytail?  Some general guidelines –  hair should always be secured off of the face so that it does not fall out during class (distracting your child).   Boys with long hair should also pull hair back into a ponytail.  All of these options lengthen the line of the neck and allow the teacher to be able to see the alignment of the spine from the lumbar region (lower back) through to the cervical region (neck)

Here is a link to an easy to follow bun making lesson on YouTube:   Bun-making Tutorial

 3.  ARRIVE EARLY.  Especially on day one, whether you are going to a new dance school or not.  Rushing adds stress to both your experience and, most importantly, your child’s experience.

4.  The Pre-Class Bathroom Stop.   Whether they need to or not, take a moment to take care of this need beforehand.  Yes, some will need to go during class, but we do want to try to work towards not having to go during class time.  And on day one, particularly with 3-6 yr olds, if one has to go during class there is sure to be a revolving door between the studio and bathroom that day as every student in the class suddenly has to go.

5.  Viewing Windows.  Please, please, please, avoid being the parent that waves constantly at their child or tries to scold them via miming gestures during the class.   First, this is very distracting for the entire class.  Second, this is completely embarrassing for your child ( My apologies if anyone is offended…but its true!).

6.  If the teacher asks you to wait outside the studio, please do so.  Again, making your way into the class (barging in) right off the hop, in my experience,  is not going to help ease your child into the studio environment – it actually makes the process much more difficult.   Generally the child will then expect the parent to be in the class with them the following week (and weeks to come).

7. EXTREMELY IMPORTANT.  If your child has any behavioural or attention issues, injuries or surgeries they are recovering from, or physical impairments of any kind – take a moment at the end of the class to SHARE THIS WITH THE TEACHER.   Too many times have teachers been left ‘out of the loop’ by well-meaning parents who do not want their child to be ‘labeled’ by the teacher.  This is understandable, but the teacher cannot provide the best environment for your child’s experience if they do not know your child’s story.

8.  If there is a place for you to sit and relax at the studio, take the time to do this on day one.  You will have a chance to meet a few parents, check out the surroundings, and ensure that you are there precisely when your child comes out of class ready to tell you what they learned!

Wishing you a wonderful start to the dance season!

Author:  Jacqui Davidson

 

Why Dance Matters…

Have you joined the movement?   Why Dance Matters…is an exciting, brilliant movement happening on the internet.   Take a moment to check it out and share your thought and feelings on why dance matters to you.

First, how much do we love that Nichelle from Dance Advantage has taken this initiative? Brilliant!

So, here we go!

Why Dance Matters…

1.  Dance was the one thing above all else that truly spoke to me.   I finally felt that I had ‘found the words’ and was understood.

2.  When I have the rare occasion to be  a student today I find that dance guides me back into living in the moment, in tandem with the music and the movement.

3.  Dance, and teaching dance, gives me absolute joy!

4.  There is an unspeakable beauty in giving my students the tools they need to achieve in dance, and then watching them use those tools and make connections to their physical self that they had never experienced before.

5.  Living a life in dance means that you are a life long learner.  Whether than means exploring new avenues in academics, learning from new teachers, or experiencing new perspectives through performance – we are learning and absorbing constantly.

6.  Dance quickly became part of who I was as a teenager, and is has remained part of me throughout this life.  My career has blossomed in ways that I had never imagined – because of dance.

7.  Hearing my students, of all ages, express how much they love dance is the best gift I could ever receive!  Best moments, ever.

8.  Finally, Dance matters because it is a celebration of the human spirit.  Regardless of age, whether in a studio, stage, backyard, living room, club or in a classroom – it is an expression of joy and will lift us up into joy!

 

I hope that you’ll take a moment to check out the movement – on Facebook, twitter, and on the Dance Advantage Blog.

Wishing you wellness in dance, and life!

Creating an effective, efficient warmup — Keep it fun!

 

In a recent guest post Diana Harris discusses the physiological response to warming up the body.  Today’s post delves into the how:  How do I create an effective warmup (that doesn’t take up too much time)?  And responds to the question that many are thinking – Yes, but does it really HELP my dancing?

Yes!   As a dancer you will find that you are more aware of  your body beginning from the first plie, rather than halfway through class.   While blood is circulated and warmth is brought to you muscles, your neurotransmitters also become more efficient at sending and receiving messages via the warmup – so they are ready to respond more quickly.  The result?  Quicker muscular response = decreased chance of injury AND increased progress!

[Adult students – this applies to you too!  Taking the time to arrive to class a bit early and do a brief warm up will not only encourage a quicker muscular response, it will also help you to focus your energy in class.]

The good news is that the process of warming up does not have to be complicated, nor lengthy.   Teachers can invest a bit of time in ‘setting’ a warmup – and then keep that warm up for a few weeks.   Keep it fresh by changing one element every once in a while, but the goal is to keep it simple and easy to remember (so that your students can then do it on their own, without specific instruction).

A sample warmup 8yrs and up:

[Music – ideally starting at a walking pace and speeding up gradually as the pace of the movement increases.]

    1. Begin walking in the space at a moderate pace.
    2. Quicken the pace and encourage students to use their arms more aggressively (exaggerate the natural swing of the arms).
    3. Progress to high marches – activating the quadriceps and abdominals by lifting the legs in a high-stepping march. Continue the exaggerated swing of the arms.
    4. Progress to a skip – still traveling freely in the space.   Add cues to change direction.
    5. Alternate steps 3 and 4 – two to four times.  Increasing the length of time and encouraging students to ‘skip higher’ each time.
    6. Slow it down to the high march – encourage a focus on breathing.
    7. Slow it down to a brisk walking pace and bring the students into a circle in the middle of the room.
    8. Taking a cue from the Asanas used in Yoga –  standing in parallel, bring the arms overhead as you inhale.   On the exhale open the arms through second position of the arms and bend forward to the floor, keeping the knees slightly bent.
    9. #8 can be repeated, and/or move into a lunge (for teens) stepping one foot back into a lunge position (ensure that the front knee remains at a 90 degree angle with the knee directly over the ankle).   Repeat on the opposing side.
    10. Finish with students returning to standing with an energized inhalation and exhalation.
      • Note:   If you use turned out positions in your class you can incorporate a more relaxed plie in step 10 beginning in a wide 2nd position of the feet and moving to 1st position.  This will help students to access alignment with external rotation before diving into classwork in turned out positions.
      • Circles, patterns and pathways:  This warmup can be done in a circle or moving freely in ‘personal’ space.
      • Here  skipping is the aerobic movement – who doesn’t love skipping?  It brings a smile to the face of the even the shyest students!   Yes, older students find it a bit silly to skip — but the silly factor gets them smiling and laughing.  Class begins with a giggle and a more positive perspective.  That said, any aerobic movement could be incorporated into this warmup example.

Author:  Jacqui Davidson

Now it is your turn!   What tools do you use to warm your dancers (or yourself) before class or performance?

 

A ghoulish ballet for a ghoulish kind of day…

Happy Hallowe’en AD4L readers.   Below is an excerpt from the film version of Mark Godden’s Dracula:  Pages from a Virgin’s Diary, filmed and directed by Guy Maddin.   The dancers are from Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet, this excerpt features the recently retired Tara Birtwhistle as Lucy, and Johnny Cheng as Dracula himself.  Ballet and ghoulishness — perfect!

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