Listening to discussions at the Skype meeting today made me think of changes in learning attitudes from when I was a child to the teenagers of today. My first ballet lesson was over 50 years ago when the teacher was a strict disciplinarian who you obeyed without question. The etiquette in class is, I am sure, the same wherever in the world you teach but there have been subtle changes in recent years in my teaching......what sparked the changes I really don't know....I just know the message I send out and the way it is received is different. I deal with your average 'once a week' pupil who fits in a few classes alongside a myriad of other activities in a very active week. When we were children, parents (well in my case anyway), couldn't afford to pay for endless activities....you went to dance OR you had riding lessons OR you went to gymnastics......now, the children I teach have a different activity each night and the etiquette in dance class has mirrored this.
Their life doesn't revolve just around dance and consequently they have many other adults in positions of authority in their weekly lives. Some of these activities have a much freer attitude to discipline, motivation, respect and authority. Children are often encouraged to be on first name terms with their youth club leader, or gym teacher and they interact in a very different way, helping to shape the activity of the moment and share their opinion - in other words, active participation is encouraged through discussion and sharing of ideas. Gone are the days when the dance teacher was put on a pedestal and admired and feared in equal measure and above all, what she said was accepted without question!
I have found that today's teenagers need to feel as relaxed in their dance class as they do in other 'out of school' activities. They refer to me by my first name, they send me texts themselves (rather than parents contact) to let me know they are missing class or need to book private lessons etc. It's no longer a gulf of unapproachable authority that it once was. In lessons, they can't concentrate on too much repetitive technique work when their life outside ballet moves at a faster pace. Lessons have to move at a faster pace....they challenge the choice of steps in choreography.....they feel able to show you if they are not happy with the work and I have to monitor the moment and tackle technique when the receptors are right! I'm not saying dance teachers should all be 'down with the kids' but the days of structuring a class in advance is not always possible.
The teens of today live in a buzzy world of instant everything and we cannot expect them to understand that 'instant' ability to dance is not like they see on the reality TV shows. I try to give them more buzz, more instant routines and choose the moment to filter in technique work along the way. Gone are the days of 'let's go to the barre..' Now I always start in the centre with warm ups and games and fun and get the attention first, meeting them head on in their 'instant buzzy world' and gradually rein them back to looking at technique. 40 years ago I would never have dared to communicate with my dance teacher but today I love the challenge of motivating my teenagers and I LOVE that they can talk back and offer ideas and suggest different choreography. They challenge me and I challenge them and we get along just fine!
Tuesday, 27 September 2016
Monday, six classes to teach, old back injury flared up to the point that I could sit but not stand, walk or demonstrate! You don't realise how much unspoken communication there is in teaching until all you have is the spoken word. Describing steps or exercises using the same words as normal feel flat and uninspiring without the body movements that I've taken for granted for 25 years. As a dancer we all 'dance' instruction without realising, the slight use of eye line, the movement of shoulder, the gestures with hands all back up the vocal instruction and add the 'colour'....take away the ability of even turning my head as in last nights classes and the verbal communication suddenly became very different. Articulation of finer details took so much longer to get across verbally without being able to show line, or breadth of movement. A new experience trying to explain the concept of turnout to an 8 year old without demonstration! As my 52 year old body is getting to this 'worn out' stage more frequently and as my old injury incapacitates me to the body of an 80 year old without warning, it's time to think of new ways to share. Off to search for 'vocal colour' to help paint the picture my body once drew for me....
Sunday, 18 September 2016
Start of a new adventure......MA in Professional Practice Dance Technique....exciting times! No idea where to start as yet but looking forward to the journey ahead and new discoveries about dance, about teaching, about communication, about how I came to be where I am now and finding a pathway to the future. I'm probably not the oldest student in history but at the start of this journey I sometimes wonder if I'll cope....here goes!