Category: Technical

 

Working with technical instructors

06 photo shoot2 055Students who work with technical instructors fair better than with  the non-technical.  The problem comes when the student has to work with too many non-technical trainers.  That is when you start to see your student falling behind. When the non-technical teachings override the technical, you are setting your student up for failure. The effects are almost immediate.

The trade off for glittery  glamour and fancy costumes are no substitute  for technique. I find this hits home a lot in the ballet and technique courses taught at some studios.

A  good  rule of the thumb is that everyone should teach the same form of technique.  You must  be consistent.  However,  if you allow someone who has no formal background in ballet technique to be your lead,  you do your students a disservice. You are in a business, and you are supposed to hire the best, and to offer the best product you can.  Emotions and feelings will not build your studio.  True talent will.  

Take a good look at your studios top dancers.  Did you really train them or did someone else?  Have you taken the credit for someone else’s work?   What would happen if you lost that instruction?      I can tell you that your level of technically trained dancers will decrease.  If you aren’t teaching proper technique, you may have a nice sparkly show, but it won’t pay off in the end at competition.     As a competition judge – I’ll bust you on the technique score sheet.  Because I can, and because I should.  Dance is a discipline after all  – and you are there to compete and be judge.  If it weren’t for judging you wouldn’t show up.  Think about it. 

 I’ve watched this technique formula unravel recently as a newer off shoot studio had its dancers level up, and in many ways is beginning to pass the older studio.  It’s about being willing to WORK!  If it were a popularity contest there would be a lot more people beating down the doors to work for you.  At some point studio owners have to face the hard cold facts.  What is technique, and how does it effect my bottom line in the long term investment of my business?  What a concept “long term investment”. 

Studio’s need to hire the best.  But if the best is only versed in one style of dance, and  has little or no formal back ground in ballet, you only have short term profits to look forward too.  Dance styles change constantly, technique is here to stay however.  Your long term investment is in investing in someone who will discipline your students to be consistent and hit those movements every time.  That investment should include training the trainers as well. If your instructors are not on the same page from preschool to 3rd grade levels, your top levels will be weak and sporadic to say the least.  Those per former years are mandatory for  so many reasons.  From 3rd grade through 9th grade, you will have growth issues to content with.  You must have instructors who understand those growth spurts and can help student to re-learn technique. Their young bodies are developing, and muscle and bone growth is tremendous.  Example: The bones in the foot of a point ballerina.

Chances are, if you have neglected technical training for your dancers, your top dancers are getting training from someone else outside your organization.  So, back to the questions “Take a good look at your studios top dancers.  Did you really train them or did someone else.  Have you taken the credit for someone else’s work?”  Are you giving a non-technical short term instructor credit for years of someone else’s instruction. Possibly destroying hard learned technical disciplines to boot.

Look at your business as “a business”.  New and shiny is always enticing, but the true and proven, hard core disciple of dance is rough, and controlled, and has long term payouts.

 

Turns and Leaps!  Dance on !

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Inexperience vs. Experienced

Be careful when you choose who you will dance with, and where.   Also, know something about the different type of dance degrees available , and how they compare against other degrees, or up against an experienced dancer/instructor.

Someone with a two year degree in dance (associate level), has basically taken pre-dance classes. “PRE”…or the general ed’s of dance. They have only taken the pre-classes that might help them gain entry into a bachelors (BFA), or masters (MFA) program. A two year degree is no guarantee you will make it into a real dance program. Most professional schools of dance require a tryout / audition(uofu’s modern department link), as well as a host of other preparatory physical skills.

A number of two year programs really do not offer all the prerequisite skills  that will be necessary to enter into a four year and/or major university dance program. Two year programs offer very little real technical  dance experience above the entry level.

You would be better off  going to a university and auditioning, and getting into a real program.  Auditioning is the only way in, and if you do not have the necessary technical dancing skills, the competition will be overwhelming to you.

To better understand, think of  dance levels as categories, starting with beginner, then intermediate, advanced, elite/varsity, and then pro. A two year course is pretty much beginner to intermediate. I doubt any instructor at a two year institute would lead their students to believe they were anything above that level.  You don’t see a lot of two years dancing on college level dance teams and performing before large audiences of 40,000 or 50,000 people.  Two years are the beginners, and may perform at recitals.

Be careful, don’t let someone lead you into something that will cause you to embarrass yourself.  Chances are they have political and/or money motives in mind, and not your best interests.

A four year bachelors of Fine Arts (BFA)will give you a much better understanding of what will be  necessary  for you to learn as you embrace the dance profession.  A masters degree (MA) (MFA) is a specialty degree.   To teach at a university, a masters degree or higher is required for undergraduate courses.  Graduate level courses are generally taught by instructors who have doctoral degrees.  You will probably train with a number of  tenure- track associate professors, who have  both teaching and research experience at the graduate level.   Full tenured professors have PhD’s, which qualifies them to hold the position of Dean’s.

A professional or semi-professional dancer may have a combination of dance experience and/or academic training.   Or, they may never have gone to school, but rather learned their craft from years of experience on the competition floor, and studio training well beyond basics.    Participants of SYTYCD are a good example of  studio trained and street competition dancers.

Semi-professional and professional dancer generally have a dance portfolio, or dance history that they can present.  It is a chronological history of events, trainings,  areas of expertise, and current status, be that in training, judging and/or teaching.  Many have a list of accomplishment and/or  published works.

Fake or for Real?

Be careful of the dance institutions that make promises they really can’t deliver on. They can be a rip off, and the training can be extremely poor; as they suck in unexperienced students. The degrees can amount to no more than a certificate that is non-transferable. That’s another aspect to look at. See if they are an accredited facility of higher education. Meaning….their credits will transfer to other colleges or universities. You will be surprised at how many do not.  Two year colleges lack a lot of credibility in this area.

Two year graduates might be able to skim by working at a studio that doesn’t really care about what your academic training is; or with directors that just want to control their own environments, and don’t want or need any competition that makes them look “different”.

Basically, no experience is necessary to own a studio if you want to.  But to be good – that takes skill – a skill that is recognized by the community and dancers.

Experience is what matters.  Dance is an art, and dance is a sport, you can’t learn technique with your head in a book.  It takes years to develop skill and knowledge.  You might memorize terminology and be able to recite after reading a book, but you would do better to practice what you preach. 🙂

Be warned if you are trying to fabricate your way up – that those dancers and instructors who are highly involved in dance can spot a fake a mile away.   They probably won’t tolerate your behavior.

Your claims will be under the microscope.  It DOES  matter in the dance community, what you do, or don’t do. When people pay money for you to train their children, and you can’t even teach them to do a simple turn correctly or teach them to point their toes – you let them down.

Getting serious
If you are serious about setting your life ambitions to be a dancer, you have options.  One, you can go the university route, or two, you can develop a  life time of dance performance through  precision studio training and upper level competitions.  A lot depends on the style(s) of dance you wish to perform.

Dancing on a university team is also a  good choice to help you develop your skills along side of  dancers  your own age and of equal ability. Many pro’s and semi-pro dancers dance(d) on university teams.  It’s a whole different level of expertise that complements your former training, be that in ballet, contemporary, hip hop or jazz.

Learning to dance with a partner is a challenge for many.  Do it!

Serious dancers know when another dancer is their senior, and they acknowledge that. Equal dancers also acknowledge the level of each other. When you dance with equal level dancers you really are a team. You recognize each other, and respect each other. That is the way it should be. Yes, there is competition – but it is a recognizable merit of skill.

Deciding where you dance is as simple as acknowledging your own level, and being honest about yourself.

What’s out there for you?
What is available for  teachers, choreographers, directors, cheerleaders, experienced coaches, ballerina’s, and hip hop artists?

There are so many wonderful programs available for the person who wants more of a professional background rather than a recreational one.

Many top organizations offer franchises and specialty training. Masters level classes, memberships, and more.

Check out some of the Utah links on our website, and start to explore or branch out in your dance career.

~”A great dancer is not great because of
their technique,  They are great because of
their passion.”

Author: Martha Gram


Terminology vs. Slang

Cricket and Kim, back stage of "Peter Pan" the ballet

As teachers, we all struggle at times when it comes to training our young students proper terminology and technique. Being able to relay to them the correct terms and positions, and have them mimic back what they have learned is often a wobbly feat at first.

Connecting all the movements, and making them appear strong and sharp is what we strive for. For some, the learning comes easier than for others. Practice has a lot to do with it. You can train your students in the proper form, but if they don’t practice – all that hard work can fall on deaf ears. Students need to want to be there. They need to want to learn.

It is critical that teachers and assistant teachers know the proper terminology, and be able to demonstrate the movements. You can’t learn it from reading a book. It takes years of practice, and concentrated muscle memory to become skilled in the art of dance technique. As well, it takes years of study to learn the proper terms (and slang).

Dancing throughout the years, most have probably heard different terminology used for different movements. Take for instance a jete lanses (turning leap), or better known to others as a barrel leap or calypso.  Which term is correct? The Jete lanses is the original term. The turning leap and/or barrel leap are a cultural manifestations, as is the calypso. It really depends on where you are dancing, as to what it is called. Many only know it by one name only. Some also confuse a renverse’ with a turning leap, but they too are not the same. A lot of the original ballet movements have had cultural slang words created to describe them.  View the Jete lanses/barrel leap here: A barrel leap

I like the definition of a “leap over a log” on Off Jazz’s website. You can view it here.  I would be interested to know what others might call it. What is the ballet term?

The back bone of dance is technique.   Having said that, I do know that  a lot of new technique has been developed over the last 50 years, that has created whole new forms of dance. You can probably think of a lot,like, Hip Hop, Lindy, or Modern, or Contemporary. Each genre of dance seems to have taken something from the other. You have whole new vocabularies to describe movement in dance. It’s cultural and it’s still growing. What I do notice about all these genres of dance, is the basic’s of Cecchetti Ballet.  There still seems to be a hint of Cecchetti in all the genres.

When you start to research the origins of dance, you begin to learn about the rituals that came with it. All that cultural stuff. The most ancient images of dance depict people dancing before their gods, as a form of worship. Dance as entertainment isn’t seen until about 1400 BC . Egyptian paintings show women in lose clothing and  musicians, on the walls of tombs. It was thought that these women dancers would keep the males delighted in the next world.

Ballet first appeared in Rome during the Roman Pantomime. But it disappeared during the mid-evil time period. It returned in the lavish plays and dances put on for kings and courts in the early years of the Renaissance.

Terminology goes through changes, as with anything else. Cecchetti Ballet, was the product of one, ENRICO CECCHETTI.   When you think about dance terminology, most people in the US have trained under the Cecchetti Ballet method in some form or another.

It is well worth knowing the correct terminology for ballet. That way you aren’t thrown off when someone uses an incorrect term. Teach your students wisely. If you teach them correctly the first time, you shouldn’t have to repeat the lesson too often.