Back to School….yet again!

Access Dance for Life is still here and kicking — just on a bit of a delay these days.   Diving into graduate school certainly adds to my daily schedule and is limiting how active AD4L is online.   BUT the blog will continue on — just at a bit of a snails pace for awhile.

This week I had the opportunity to do a radio interview with the local CBC Radio’s Up To Speed along with one of my students and her mom.   They are a part of the ExplorAbility program that was the inspiration behind the Dance-Ability program now offered through AD4L.

Click the link below to have a listen to the interview.

 

ExplorabilityCBC

 

Buckets Overflowing…

 

Dance is a beautiful, dynamic, and expressive art form that touches our hearts, connecting us to music and emotion on a visceral level.   To those who are swept away it is much more the ‘just dance’.  We dedicate our lives to the art form – whether performing, teaching, or creating.   It becomes a part of who we are as people.   Because of this personal connection to dance we tend to become tied our ideas and methodologies, so much so that perhaps our expectations are a bit unreachable on occasion.

We may even take ourselves a bit too seriously at times. 🙂

As [dance] educators, whether teaching preschoolers or high school students, we need to remember that not only are we molding the technique and artistry of our young dancers, we are also molding their minds via our role as educators.  The words we choose, or do not choose, directly impact students’ self-esteem, self-worth, and self-confidence.

So does that mean that giving correction and criticism is wrong/damaging?   Short answer, No.   Constructive criticism and correction is entirely appropriate when given and taken in the right context.    It is key to ensure that correction and constructive criticism is given with a purpose.

Why do we correct?  Because we know that a particular student or group is able to do more and accomplish more within their technique.   If we didn’t see the potential, we would not push students toward more specificity, more artistry, more performance, in their work.  We want you to be the best that you can be!

A group of 5 yr old creative movement students reminded me that there is an important exchange occurring between both students (of all ages) and teachers.  It’s an important exchange that is worth paying attention to in our teaching.

Filling up the buckets.

It was a Saturday morning and the conversation with my 5 yr old class went something like this …

(Me)                “H, why are you sad today?”

(Little H)       “No one filled my bucket today!”

(The entire class of 18 )   “We have buckets too!  Our teacher says that when you do/say something nice to/for someone that you put a little happy into their bucket.”

(Me to little H)  “You know, when you put some happy into another persons bucket you are also receiving a little happy in your bucket too.”

(Little H)         “Yes!  I did do something nice for someone else today.  My bucket IS full!”

Later at the end of class…

(Me to the class)  “You all were so patient today while you were learning your recital dance.  Good job!”

And everyone in the class, as if on cue, held out their hands like little buckets to receive their compliment.   On this particular day my bucket had been feeling a bit empty, but as they left the room I felt like my bucket was suddenly over flowing.

(Cue the sunshine flowing into the room and my heart melting… )

It is crucial that we, as dance educators, ensure that we are making the time and effort to fill the buckets of all of our students, everyday.   The individual work of fine-tuning technique with confidence and the enjoyment of dance is directly connected to the joy we all feel when in the studio.  This fullness is what carries each of us (student and teacher alike) through the days/moments when maybe we aren’t so positive or are maybe struggling with the work.

How can we do this via our teaching?

  • Taking the time to acknowledge the effort students are putting into their work – whether they have accomplished  a step/task or are still working on it.
  • Taking the time to recognize and acknowledge an effort to change behavior or to make a better choice.
  • Helping a student find other ways to be a part of class when they are injured.
  • Acknowledging that what they are working on is challenging and that they are doing a good job at working through it.
  • Or maybe it’s a simple “thank you for working so hard today!” at the end of a class.

Some things to avoid.

  • Sarcasm –whether it be in jest or within a correction.   Sarcasm can be easily misconstrued and taken to heart.
  • Poking fun.
  • Making up names for students, though [probably] only done in jest this puts the students in an uncomfortable position and negatively impacts self-esteem.

The moral of the story?  How we choose our teaching words can give or take away the joy our students feel through dance. And when we give our students joy – what an amazing gift we receive in return.  The Best!

Author:  Jacqui Davidson

Dear Readers,

See?!  AD4L really is still online!  Life has been a little crazy lately and well, sometimes life takes priority over blogging.   It happens.   But don’t dismay!  A newsletter is in the works and today is a NEW POST inspired by some amazing and energetic 5 yr olds.

Hope you enjoyed it!

Have a beautiful day.

Jacqui

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

 

The Magic of Winter!?!

 

Living in the centre of Canada, though not the northernmost part of Canada,  a larger than usual portion of our year is spent adapting daily life to (extreme) winter weather conditions.    Our children are very familiar with the excitement of the first snow, and the inevitable winter blues that affect us after months and weeks and hours of snow.  Extremely low temperatures often visit between snowfalls – cold enough that children are not allowed to go outside for recess.    As this is part of our geographical landscape the number of school days children miss because of weather is surprisingly limited.   Instead, allowances are made for those travelling long distances and for those in rural areas, and recess is adapted to the weather conditions whether than means only 10 minutes outside or recess in the gym.

Parents, teachers, and children agree that sometimes winter seems to be endless!  Oh, how we yearn for the days of not wearing boots, coats, hats, mitts, and layers upon layers of clothing!  (Can you sense the mid-January exasperation?)

Ezra Jack Keats’ book,The Snowy Day is the perfect book for reminding us of the fun we can have exploring in the snow, by ourselves and with a friend.   Simple activities, like going for a walk, become an adventure!   Walking in the snow we can see our footprints, we experience the ‘crunch, crunch, crunch’ sounds beneath our feet, and the feeling of sinking into the deep banks of snow (the best mode of travel in lieu of cleared sidewalks).

Keats’ captures the wonder of  witnessing the sparkling snowflakes falling, giving our landscape a magical lightness.   And those first moments waking  up after a snowstorm/blizzard, looking out into the neighbourhood that has magically been transformed into a sparkling, white, crystallized wonderland.

Taking this book into the studio, creative movement (3-5 yr olds) lessons can include exploring different pathways on the ground, the shapes and sparkle of snowflakes, tip toeing through the snow attempting to make the smallest footprints possible, and tunnelling through the huge piles of snow.     For 6-7 yr olds (pre-ballet) we can explore our footprints in the snow — turning our feet out and in (external and internal rotation), high tip toes with turnout, and long runs (for the boys) that take us soaring low across the snow.

The final page of the book seems to sum up a child’s early experience of our winters…little wee persons surrounded by HUGE piles of snow!

Everyday is truly and adventure.

Simply magical.

Author:  Jacqui Davidson

Happy New Year!

Most common question of the day,  “what resolutions did you make?”

Most common response to this question a month from now is, “Resolutions?  Oh riiiiigggght…”

Instead of creating a list of resolutions that most often support unrealistic expectations I suggest that this is a time to reflect on the past year – on both our successes and our failures – give ourselves a collective pat on the back for being awesome and then make a list (mental or otherwise) of those things in life, in dance and in ourselves, for which we are grateful.

 

“The miracle of gratitude is that it shifts your perception to
such an extent that it changes the world you see.”
— Dr. Robert Holden

Let’s break this down to the dance studio…

 

Before you step back into the studio consider the impact that dance has had on your life, and on you.   Has it had an affect on how you live?   Your view of the world?   How much joy does dance bring to each day?  What would your life, your day, be like without it?

In dance we often focus our energy on what needs to be improved, striving for that ever elusive perfection.  Today, take a moment to appreciate & acknowledge what you have accomplished.    What are your strengths?   Have you accomplished a step you never though you would be able to perform?  Have you learned a new role?   Have you performed something new or more often than you’d expected?

Thinking specifically about the role of dance in your life,

for what are you most grateful?

 

My challenge to you on this first day of 2013 is to live life, and dance, through the perspective of gratitude.   Begin each day and each step into the studio holding gratitude for the gift of dance in each breath you give to each movement and to each note which inspires you to dance.

To kick off this challenge, take a moment (in the comment section below) to let us all know what you are most grateful for in dance.  Let’s get some collective gratitude started for 2013!

 

Wishing you all the best for your best year yet!

 

November Newsletter

Starting today, AD4L newsletters will be available to absolutely everyone (scroll down to read it!)!  Subscribing is still the easiest way to ensure you don’t miss out on a single post or newsletter (and you will receive the occasional bonus too!).  However if email isn’t your thing you can keep in touch via Facebook and Twitter as well.

To share the newsletter with your studio and friends:   In the viewer below click ‘expand’.   Hovering the cursor over the newsletter you will see sharing links at the bottom of the page, click on one of these to go to a sharing page.   From here you can download a  .pdf, email, like/share on facebook, tweet, and much more.

In response to Diabetes Awareness Month, this month’s newsletter discusses diabetes as it applies to the dance studio setting.  My mother is a Type II diabetic who is now living with the long term, life altering medical conditions that can accompany a life with Type II (vascular disease, kidney failure, neuropathy and amputation).   Caring for an individual living with these conditions, it saddens me to know that children are now being diagnosed with what used to be ‘adult onset’ of diabetes (Type II).  In essence, this diagnosis is a predictor of the life span of these children.   Eating lots of sugar is not a predictor of diabetes, and early detection followed by changes in lifestyle are key in preventing the life altering medical conditions that can occur.   Please read and share with friends and family in dance, and life!

 

Wishing you wellness in dance, and life!

 

 

 

 

To subscribe to our post and newsletter updates:   SUBSCRIBE

Tweet with AD4L:  @AccessD4L

Get social with us on Facebook:  Access Dance for Life!

 

Accelerate Your Progress in Dance

YOU have the ability to accelerate your/your childs’ progress in dance!    Generally when students hear this they are a bit surprised– but its true, your actions and thoughts have a direct impact on your progress.  Just as selected the best foods will give you the fuel you need to get through your long day, you can fuel your progress by following a few simple steps.

 “How can I maximize the impact of my actions & thoughts on my progress?”

 

The power of positive thinking.

Your perception of yourself in dance (& life) will impact your performance whether you dance simply because you love it or because you want to pursue a career in performance, choreography, or teaching.  Keeping a positive mindset in class will foster your ability to absorb information and corrections both mentally and physically.  Receiving constructive criticism from your teachers becomes easier when you start with a positive outlook on both yourself, and your dancing.

 What can you do when you have those moments in class when you feel discouraged and negative?

    • Take a deep breath and remember why you love to dance.
    • Do something to ‘change the channel’ – get a sip of water and tell yourself “I can do this”.
    • Remind yourself that dance is a process – your teacher is challenging you because he/she believes that you can do it!

Keep a dance journal.

Taking a moment after class (or during if your teacher allows) to write down the corrections your received, how you felt about the class, and even the exercises that were taught in the class, will help you to retain the information you received.

    •  3 positives:  Simply by writing down 3 positive things that happened in class will help you to keep a positive focus.
    •  3 corrections:  Recording 3 corrections to work on will help you to keep a positive focus where you need to focus your energy during class.
    • 3 points of gratitude:   While you are at it you may as well include 3 things/moments that occurred that day which gave you joy/made you happy.   Keeping track of the things/moments you are grateful for will help you to stay focused on the positives throughout life.  Eg.  A sunny morning,  a hug from mom/dad/sibling, a good day at school.

 Be sure to keep your journal with you and read it through (2 or 3 times would be great) before the next class.  This will remind you of the positives and of where you need to focus your attention throughout your classwork.

 

Preparation will fuel your progress.

This is a simple one, but can be hard to follow through with when life gets busy.  When you journal you are in a sense preparing your mind, this particular preparation will help you prepare your physical self for dance.

    • Prepare your dance bag before you go to bed – make sure you have the appropriate gear, your shoes are ready for dance, water bottle, snacks are packed and ready.

TIP:  Set a reminder with an alert tone/sound on your phone to remind you to prepare you dance gear the evening before a day of dance!

    • You have arrived early for class – take a few minutes to warm up.  Jumping jacks, jog on the spot, jog the stairs (something active to increase your heart rate), and then do a few light stretches (not for flexibility) such as downward dog and a back stretch (cat/cow is great) to increase blood flow to the muscles.

OR

    • You have arrived late for class – just 5 minutes until class begins!   If you can, still take a couple of minutes to do some light stretches before diving into class.  Take a few deep breaths to calm yourself and, while you are at it, have a quick glance  at your journal notes from last class to focus your mind on dance.

 

Parents:    How does this translate to younger students?

 

Positive thinking – Encourage your child to speak about dance in a positive manner.  Even when a child experiences challenges in dance, whether its behavior or technique, let them know that there are positive results to learning how to deal with such challenges.

 

Journaling – Maybe there is something that the teacher focuses on regularly  (eg. Posture) in class.  Ask your child to draw a picture of this and explain it to you.   Or, as you drive home from dance ask your dancer “what was one good thing that happened in dance today?”   “What was one thing you teacher wants you to work on in dance this week?”

 

Preparation – Have your dancer help prepare their dance bag the night before dance.  Lay out their dance clothes and pack their shoes.  Ensure that a water bottle has been packed, and if he/she takes more than one class in a day – pack a quick, energy snack for between classes.

NOTE:  Being on time for class makes a huge impact on a students’ focus, particularly when tardiness is consistent.

 

 

Teachers:  How do we teach this to students and parents?

As you already know, the role of a dance teacher is to educate both the students, and the parents.   On your parents’ day/open house/observation week, take the time to talk to parents about ways students and parents can impact progress in a studio setting.   If you have worked on any of this in class – let them know this as well.

Though this might take a few minutes of your class, your students will reap the rewards in the coming months (and parents will appreciate the proactive direction!).

Some suggestions to help spread the word to parents:

Create a poster and place it in an area where parents and students will see it.

Post something on your schools’ website or Facebook page.

Create a handout for parents’ day.

Author:  Jacqui Davidson

Wellness via Dance

 A year ago AD4L was launched as a mode of promoting the connection between the science behind the movement (from the studies of sport & dance science) and dance teachers, students, and parents.    To further broaden the scope of health & wellness in relationship to dance the ‘tagline’ for AD4L is being updated to the following:

“Promoting health & wellness in, and through, dance.”

 

 Why the change?

Health & Wellness is no longer solely related to nutrition and how often one works out at the gym.  With the current health trends we, as educators (classroom & studio alike), need to (must) rethink how and what we promote as physical activity.

Presenting at a recent arts in education conference health & wellness panel I concluded my presentation feeling that I hadn’t shared my views specifically on how and why dance can be a method of promoting physical activity in today’s youth.

 

(this is me, getting up on my soapbox…bear with me)

 

In this teachers view, dance is one of the most malleable, flexible teaching tools available.  We have more dance classes and performing arts programs in our schools now than ever before; Preparing performances and assemblies, we also have more of these groups participating in competitions & festivals.  More provinces also have specific dance curriculum within both arts and physical education.  Isn’t that enough?

Perhaps we are limiting ourselves, and the discipline of dance.  We tend to hold dance within the boundaries of the discipline and the starkness of the studio & space setting, ultimately excluding those with less movement experience and natural ability for dance.

Everyone can connect to dance in its most basic form and structure – space, body, effort, & relationship awareness.  The beauty of approaching dance from this perspective is that it can be applied to virtually any subject– math, history, science, english/literacy, geography, physical education, music, etc.   Most importantly – this perspective of dance is also extremely adaptable to individual needs and abilities.

The recent addition of programming to AD4L (Dance-Ability programs) is based on this notion.  Taking these concepts of movement and wrapping them around more formal dance disciplines to create a dance environment which can be molded to the needs of the individual and the group.

What I wanted to say to the educators at the arts conference (gotta love hindsight)…

Let’s step away from the notion of [the joy of] dance being held captive within the boundaries and limits of the formal dance disciplines, stark studios and spaces, and bring dance [movement] into our everyday teaching.  take a moment to explore lessons through movement and encourage students to incorporate music & movement in their presentations.   Avoid leaving the task entirely up to the music & dance teachers.  Dance (& creativity) teaches students how to take a risk, to put all of your effort, creativity, and thought into a movement/performance.   Challenging ourselves as educators to bring a movement perspective to our teaching will not only bring a new dimension of learning to students, but will also provide our youth with a new lens to view the benefits of physical activity for daily life.

 

Here are some example of how using movement  more actively in our classroom teaching can affect a child’s health and perspective on wellness.

Let’s look at the dimensions of health:

 Physical:  On a physiological level, movement = increase in endorphins (which make us feel good & gives an energy boost).  When we move we take in more oxygen (energizing our blood and therefore the brain as well).  For youngsters, often this activity reinforces and creates more opportunity to develop the crucial psychomotor skills necessary to participate in all forms of physical activity (for life!).

 Emotional:   See point regarding endorphins above… increasing our energy puts us in a more positive mindset.  Dance & movement in a less formal setting reinforces positive, healthy, respectful ways to express our emotions.   Confidence and self-worth increase when we repeat this activity.

 Spiritual:  Regardless of your belief system, when we feel better about ourselves we see our world in a more positive light.  When we make this action part of our daily lives we instill this positive perspective throughout the whole of our lives – at home and at school.

 Intellectual:  Fostering active learning through the creative arts provides problem-solving (critical thinking!) challenges for students (& teachers).    Challenging our cognitive skills and encouraging the development of critical thinking.

 Social:  Children & youth of all abilities moving together, learning together, presents a myriad of social learning opportunities.  Learning to work together as a team,  being respectful of everyone’s ideas & stories, giving each participant the opportunity to contribute to the final product – all worthwhile and important social skills.

 Occupational:   Essentially being a student (at every age) is a form of occupation.  We prepare for it and spend a large part of our day doing work that is delegated to us by our teachers.  Making it an active experience makes the process much more enjoyable, and therefore going to ‘work’ is a more pleasant and enjoyable part of our day.

Happy Anniversary!

In celebration of the one year anniversary of AD4L, the September Newsletter is here!   The format has been changed slightly – the ISSUU format is very slick and allows for easy viewing and sharing.

An archive of past newsletters has been posted on our Facebook page – have a look HERE.

And, here is a sample of what is in the September 2012 newsletter – SAMPLE.

If you would like to receive our bi-monthly newsletter, follow this LINK to sign up today!

 

 

 

 

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