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

 

Book Review: Eating the Alphabet by Lois Elhert

What a beautiful way to incorporate healthy ideas into your preschool dance classes!

 

Lois Elhert has done an exceptional job illustrating the shapes, colours, and textures of a rainbow of fruits and vegetables from A to Z in her book Eating the Alphabet.  From A to Z (or Zed for our Canadian readers) she has beautifully illustrated the more common fruits and vegetables, but also some that are less common as well.

At the back of the book the author has included an index of all of the foods in the book, explaining what they are and where they originated.

Ways to incorporate this book into your class:

Pick a letter (page) of the alphabet and explore the different fruits and vegetables that represent that letter. Use the shapes and colors in the artwork as a springboard for the exploration of shape, texture, and colour with your students. Consider not only what is familiar, but also what is unfamiliar.  Talk about the energy we derive from the foods we eat and explore how energy, or the lack of energy, can make us feel.  Incorporate this into a lesson on exploring effort in relation to how energy affects us physically.

My students love to look at the shapes and colours on one page, pick their favorite fruit or vegetable and then go into their personal space to make their bodies into the same shape as the picture.  Enjoying a challenge, they get a kick out of trying to move around the room without changing their shape, or moving in the same energy that they think they might receive from eating that particular food.

To wellness in dance and life!

 

 

 

Fa la la la laaaa, la la Alignment!

(2011) Bruce Monk

Alignment is the foundation of  [all] good dance technique and fosters a healthy spine, for life! Because it is so fundamental to the healthy dancer (and individual) it is beneficial to begin preschool classes with a posture exercise and focus warmups for higher levels on posture and alignment as well.   In programs working with individuals in wheelchairs it is also tremendously beneficial to focus on the alignment of the spine as poor posture in seated positions can hinder the use of the arms and flexibility of the upper torso, as well as promote excessive tension.

In our November Newsletter Monique Lavoie discussed the stereotypical posture of a ballet dancer, demonstrating that  poor alignment can hinder our strength and overall balance.     Whether teaching the once, twice, three, or six times a week dance student I feel it is our responsibility to build not only train healthy posture, but to foster students understanding and appreciation of the importance of posture and alignment in all aspects of movement.   Pilates is an excellent tool for retraining our neuromuscular pathways for overall musculoskeletal health.    Monique’s article is a brief discussion, but an important one – click the following link to check out her article.

LINK:  Focus on Pilates (from Nov. 2011 Newsletter)

TEACHING TIP: Use songs (for preschoolers)  and visuals to foster both the understanding and the physical implementation of posture.   In my opinion, when we ‘see’ alignment and begin to apply it, the muscles begin to hold the correct alignment of the bones.  From here the students begin a more organic process of using the muscles to stabilize posture.

 

Using foam shapes (I use dots or stars) play connect the dots with your students (of all ages)!    With the help of an assistant or a student the conversation with the class goes something like this…

 

Where does the teacher look first when checking your posture?    “my feet!”   (place a dot – on the side of a child’s ankle)

Next?  “my knees!”   (place a dot on the side of the demonstrators knee)

And next?  ” my hips!”  (you get the picture)

And next?   ” my ribs!”  (Preschoolers have a hard time with that one sometimes)

Then?  ” my shoulders!”     And then?  ” my head!”

 

This worked wonders with my preschoolers – now all I have to say is “Have you connected your dots?  Are they in a line?” And they will begin to physically self correct their alignment.

 

Older students and even adult students can benefit from this visual as well, incorporating how the use of turnout can impact alignment (demonstrating the need to re-align when turning out) and the adjustments that need to be made when turning out.

Author: Jacqui Davidson

Photo by Bruce Monk.