Thursday, April 29, 2010

Boys Dancing

This has been a busy week with new classes underway and "bring a friend" days giving new children a taste of our form of dancing. Sometimes it is hard for dancers to bring friends as all their friendship group dances. Sometimes there is another reason. For some students, often boys, it is a secret that they dance. Their friends don't know, they feel they will be made fun of if news of their interest gets out. Even in this day and age with So You Think You Can Dance being such a success the question of boys dancing is an issue that can result in bullying by some who ignorantly think dancing is not the strong, athletic activity that it is. We as dance teachers do our best to support and encourage boys but sadly sometimes it is not enough and talented students leave to join basketball teams and pursue other more socially accepted physical challenges. What percentage of your school's students are boys? How do you encourage them to combat social pressure and keep dancing? I would love to hear from you.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Different Ages Present Different Challenges

This week my adults class started and what a pleasure it was to teach. There were 6 participants with the prospect of more next week. The oldest was a man in his 70's who had never dance before! He was fantastic! It made me reflect on how different each class feels. The 2 1/2 year olds are organized chaos, the kinder kids are sorting out friendships and consequently easily distracted, the prep, grade 1's and 2's are much more focussed (though 5 year old boys can be a challenge!), the grade 3's and 4's are very chatty with big personalities vieing for attention, grade 5's and 6's seem to struggle with energy and have a touch of "attitude"and the teens are full of life and energy that needs to be focussed into the movement they are doing. Now with the adults there is I love much easier to teach and how beautifully they danced.

Do you have a similar experience? I would love to hear from you.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

5 minutes of design

Doing design at the beginning of a class is some thing I learnt from Mangala (the Creative Dance Studio in Melbourne where I started on my journey). They call it centering and is provides a gentle segue from the some what frantic life out side the studio to the more calm and focused atmosphere in the studio. Many different materials can be used.....little terra-cotta pots and chopsticks can become villages, felt pieces can be made into pictures, stones or jewels into fantastic patterns.

This week each child was given a bowl and a handful of jewels to put around the rim of bowl placed upside down on the rug. When that was taken away there was a perfect circle that could have a central design added or what ever the dancer wanted to do. I have to keep an eye on the is very compelling and some dancers get so involved that they would do it for the whole hour. It is a happy memory for many older dancers who don't have it as part of their class any more. Even last night one teenager asked if they could do "jewels" this week..... mmmm.... I think she might have just wanted a rest though!

Do you have any activities for helping promote concentration and focus in the class? I would love to hear.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

What worked well this week

Two activities I did this week might be of use in your creative classes if you have not tried them before.

The younger classes were exploring the theme of "Houses" (above is a photo of our "Teepee" village) and as one of the activities I asked them to make statue shapes with windows, doors, tower, bridges etc. I then reminded them of the story of the 3 Little Pigs and how the Big, Bad Wolf huffed and puffed and blew the straw and wood house down but couldn't blow the brick one down. I then tried to discover what material they were by feeling how strong they were...the straw collapsed, the wood wobbled and the brick was immovable. This activity gave the students a clear difference in the feeling of internal strength and they loved to trick me by starting off brick then turning to straw and falling down.

The other idea I used in the older classes when we were doing mirroring exercises. I asked pairs to copy each other but instead of a mirroring their partner I wanted them to do the same movement - if A raises and moves his right hand , B facing him moves her right hand. A little more difficult than classic mirroring but it resulted in creating some very interesting movement sequences that travelled in opposite directions.

I hope these ideas can be helpful. Did you do anything that worked really well this week? I would love to hear from you.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Down Side

I love teaching but the business side of having a dance school can certainly give me grief. Every term I expect to lose 10 students for various reasons and always hope that parents will let me know if their child is leaving so that if they change their mind at a later date (or bump into me in the street) they don't feel awkward. Yet few do.

This week coming back from holidays there were dancers missing and their friends informed me they have "quit". Quit is a very powerful word I find and in these circumstances makes me instantly want to "quit" too. With an attrition rate quite high (about 15%) I have to constantly find new students to keep the school viable. Advertising is not nearly as successful as "word of mouth" with "bring a friend" week being the best way to give friends a taste of our dancing. Still with so much competition for the students time from sport, other dance schools and drama I often feel exhausted by the struggle to keep positive.

Do you have similar issues? What are your strategies? I would love to hear from you.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Wonderful Blog Land

This morning I have a few moments to myself and have become lost in "dance blog land". I love the plethora of information that blogs give me access to. When I first got the internet many years ago I would type in Creative Dance and many sites would come up but the info was about their classes not what went on in them. Sometimes "the well" needs filling and if one is, like me, in a country area it is sometimes hard to find new inspiration. I am lucky that Central Victoria, Australia has attracted many artists and dancers but is great to get out of my own back yard and meet others interested in dance from around the world. It is great hear what they are doing, what inspires them and what their concerns are. Though I teach creative dance the way ballet teachers use imagery to help dancers understand various concepts can start me on a whole new way of seeing things.

Blogs I love are Move.Create.Educate, DanceAdvantage, Leaping Legs, Dancing Branflakes. You might know of more. Let me know if you do.

I could not resist posting this photo of my friend Liz. She hates having her photo taken and does not perform at all anymore but you would have to agree she still loves to dance!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Old Dancers Never Die

Yesterday I gathered some of my friends to take photos for an ad I want to run in the newspaper for an Adults Creative class. It was great fun putting on the music and having a dance. None of my pals, who are of a certain age, have danced professionally but the love of moving has continued and in some has gathered momentum as they have got older. It is such a sweet release to give yourself up to the music particularly with a supportive group of like minded people. Here's to dancing FOREVER!