Learning how to be a good dance teacher is about much more than simply correcting form and demonstrating the right techniques. Good dance teachers transcend from being just an instructor to becoming a role model, to making a lasting impression on students and to being a positive force in both their personal and dance development.
Great dance teachers are not soon forgotten. Writer and Life Counselor Jesua shared a powerful memory of her dance teacher with the Huffington Post. Jesua had neurological damage and injured legs as a result of meningitis contracted when she was a child. In college, she bravely decided to take a dance class in order to help improve her control over her body. She felt incredibly self-conscious as she stumbled through her routines, watching the other students completing them perfectly. But one day, an interaction with her dance teacher changed her outlook not just on dance, but on life:
“In front of the entire class, she yelled at me, scolding me, with so much intense love and conviction and passion I have perhaps never recovered since. She said: ‘Look at you, shame on you! Holding these long, beautiful limbs so close, so tight to your sides?’ Then she got in my face: ‘How generous are you willing to be? How generous are you willing to be with your whole life? Will you share yourself with us? With the world? Do you dare? Or are you just going to hold yourself tightly in … just keep yourself to yourself for the rest of your life? In case you fall? In case you fail? Or: are you going to choose to just be generous anyway? To just take up as much space as you actually take up? To be as big, as graceful, as long, as gorgeous, as enormous as you actually are?”
She stopped, out of breath from her spontaneous explosion, and stood there, staring up at me, tears of wisdom’s fierce love glistening in her eyes. Stunned tears came to my eyes as well, and I met her gaze, with what must have been the light of humbled gratitude.
Good dance teachers inspire their students, help them grow and enable them to be the best they can be. Read on to learn about the most important qualities for good dance teachers and ways that you can improve them:
The most effective teachers are the ones that truly try to see things from their students’ perspectives and are understanding about their unique concerns, fears and struggles. Think back to the time before you became a teacher: There were certainly moments in class when you were frustrated or grappling with issues that you felt like no one else understood. A good teacher levels with their students. As Dance Advantage stated, a good dance teacher “responds to his students with understanding and, when appropriate, compassion. He reaches people where they are, not where he wants them to be.” To practice more empathy, remember that all of your students are going through stresses and anxieties just like you did as a young dancer, and recognize the unique perspectives of each student in your class.
How can teachers connect with students if they’re not actively listening to their needs, or creating an atmosphere that encourages free expression? Listening skills and open communication are essential to being a good dance teacher. “The goal of a dance educator is to understand why each student has come to the class and what they hope to achieve,” stated Inspire2Dance. Your job is to guide students on their dance journey, and this can only be achieved by fostering a class environment that encourages students to share their thoughts and concerns with you. Open communication, however, is not a one way street. To build an atmosphere of open communication, Inspire2Dance recommended that teachers frequently check in with students, ask them questions about their dance practice and gather feedback. Show your students that you value their thoughts and opinions and remind them that you are here to help them succeed.
Whether students spend just one or five days a week in class, they are influenced by the behavior of their teachers, and often see them as mentors. To be a good dance teacher requires constant self-awareness of how you are being perceived and the lessons that you teach beyond dance skills and techniques. “In the students’ minds, the teacher brings not only personal perspective to the environment, but represents the broader knowledge of the field, and all the teachers that have come before this individual,” stated an article in the Journal of Dance Education. The article advised that instead of shying away from this role, teachers should embrace it. Pay attention to the language you use, your attitude and your behavior to make sure you are being the best role model you can be for your students.
Work on these qualities to improve as a dance teacher. With time, care and dedication, you won’t just be a good teacher, but you’ll be a great one.