A Beautiful Distraction

 

A Beautiful Distraction

Teaching learning. How do you  teach someone to learn?  It’s a beautiful distraction.

Learning to teach isn’t quite the same when you realize you have to train others on what you’ve just learned.  You must offer the simplest and traditional training first.  It is here, that you make the decision of what not to do as well.

A Vision of Dance.  It’s a Beautiful Distraction.

New approaches are only incorporated when you understand that some change or actions can work, and work well.  New approaches should be looked at,  as beautiful distractions.  But, not everyone will adapt to new approaches, or accept outside assistance.  Some will fight off change no matter what – even if that change is the substance necessary to make things better in their studios, or their own personal performance, etc.

Good teachers research their subject.  But how do you teach research?  With tutorials?  How do you write the tutorial without the research? Or without the teacher?  Or even without the student to learn?

Somewhere in time,  someone (maybe you)  took on, or will take on,  the task of inventing  a dance process by which others will benefit.  When  a process is finally viewed for the first time by others, many begin to understand the pain staking hours that it takes to learn,  teach, research and write out,  an explanation of a  vision.  A vision of Dance.  It’s a beautiful distraction.

Dance Choreography is “A Beautiful Distraction”.  You take the very raw elements of dance technique and music and you incorporate your own personal vision.  You can add pieces of emotion, and suspense.  You learn to talk and express a story using your body, and facial features, even the use of your hair flowing as you turn and move.  You feel the movements of dance in your soul.

Dance, like with all the arts,  is perceived differently from one individual to the next.  It takes time, energy, and patience,  to make your dream a reality.  It is the lucky artist however, who is able to reach a vast audience.

Sunday Snapshot: Canyon Repose

Follow your dreams – look into your own “beautiful distractions” that come your way.  One of those distractions may be that rainbow that you have been waiting for.

To all those I’ve ever taught, or will teach,  I just want you to know, that having you in my life is a “Beautiful Distraction”.  You make up a very colorful rainbow.  Thanks for the  Skittles! Dance on, there are a lot more rainbows to come.

To see the article from Sunday Snapshot:  Canyon Repose, click HERE

It’s a Beautiful Distraction!

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.


Drama Momma I

 

Guess you can’t really have a site without first addressing one of hardest topics of all – “drama momma”… “momma drama”….

This little article is not meant to demean anyone. I
‘m not pointing fingers or tagging anyone in a thread as being one. It’s just a fact that in the world of dance you have Drama.

I haven’t seen anyone else stepping up to the plate to talk about the issue, so I’m assuming none of you have drama, right?  Right…..

This is an old article fist posted March 19, 2009 at 6:18pm .  So, if you feel this article is talking about you – maybe you should consider the advice it contains, and seek to make changes in your life.   I began writing about people like Abby Lee, before she and her fellow actors became a reality show phenomenon.  Mamma drama, or the term, stage parent, are nothing new.

I was told not to go easy… so here goes….

The following  statement is meant to warm you up, and welcome you to the land of mama drama.

Well the blood sucking venomous cow! Don’t go waging your finger in my face. My baby is above your rules.

Life in the dance world doesn’t have to be filled with drama every single day. With that being said, some of you are laughing at me already. You should be careful however; I might be describing you within this text.

Offended already? Not yet? No?  You might be thinking I’m a stupid know-it all old crow who talks to dinosaurs.  Good!  You keep thinking that, and  let’s get down to business then.

Any mom or dad that has a child in dance should know a little about the world of stage/dance competition before signing their little darlings up for class. You may innocently think that your family (child) is above the drama.

Why would you think that? Because you are spiritual maybe?  Or your political views, family values, etc., are stead fast? You know you represent the elite amongst the crowd – and rise far above simple drama.

Why you are so good and so helpful to all the new parents – without even being asked to help. You help in many ways. You begin by explaining to any new parent you meet your experiences with little you-know-who, and the other parental units in the group that need to be avoided. You explain the difficulties of the past, and then tell them they are lucky it isn’t happening  now.

Did you just fall for that crap? If you did – I have a bridge I’d like to sell you.

Anyone who starts off with the statement “do you know so-and-so”?  RUN… RUN away really fast!

Most seasoned dance parents know that if they have their child signed up for classes everyday of the week, and in all the advanced classes, they are now somehow entitled. Hummm, entitled to what?

Maybe it gives them an advantage as far as what classes they are in, but it doesn’t give them a reason to bad mouth, or isolate others.  Doesn’t mean you get the lead or the Presidents position either.  It’s based on merit only!

You may have your child on the bare minimum plan, one class “period”. Surely no drama can take place in one class right? You have a mamma, then you have drama.

Next day the phone of the studio is ringing off the wall with some angry parent wanting to know why you are destroying the precious psyche of their little darling.

It only takes one person – one little tiny person to kick off world war #4 on the dance floor.  Say that real fast “world war #4 on the dance floor!” It generally begins with, so- and-so said this and so-and-so did that.

Next day the phone of the studio is ringing off the wall with some angry parent wanting to know why you are destroying the precious psyche of their little darling.  As an instructor, you are totally oblivious to the whole affair, but you try to reasonably assure the frantic parent you will look into the matter. You agree to sit in on the class and observe.

I find that it is easy to spot the weak teachers from the strong. The weak teachers quickly put the little darling trouble maker up front.  The “I’m in the special spot -I’m in front and your not,” spot. Of course this poor teacher has unknowingly just fed into the fire storm rolling down hill in his or her direction.

Next day, another call comes into the studio. As you listen you almost can feel the anger of the parent  through the very fibers of the phone line. You are bombarded with negative comments like “you play favorites at that studio”, and “you let your friends brat’s control everything”, and “your kid gets everything even when I’m paying your big fat bill each month”.

Ever wonder why it is hard to get the director on the phone? See above….

Let’s play a game.

Suppose we have 7, 8, 9, 10 or more, of these special little dancing darlings in a class. It’s time to give out positions and learn the brand new transitions to those positions. Well, let me tell you, NATURE has a pecking order. It’s the primeval instinct that is born into the survival of the fittest – it’s called competition.  I can just hear it. Mommie she put me in the back for the opening.”

Frankly, there is a lot of special treatment handed out at studios. I’d like to think it is because of the hard work and dedication of those students who are successfully following directions and thus improving. But, it isn’t always true, and that is unfortunate.

It is also hard to work with students when you have your own child on the front line. Any of you who do have children in your own studio know it is true. When your child fails to accomplish good things – It is a double edge sword for sure. You love dance, and your kid doesn’t. It can quickly become a battle field.

The number of times I’ve watched a studio owner put their own child up front even when they couldn’t get the simply movements down – is numerous. All I could do was secretly hope their phone rang off the wall the next day.  Well, maybe I will just meet one of those newbie moms at the door and warn them about it. NOT!

I love this thing called dance, don’t you?

Now you understand I’m just looking at some of the negatives. But, unfortunately, things like this really happen. As good as you may want things to turn out, the potential for mamma drama, or drama in general can ruin the best of days. Don’t let it.

If someone is taking advantage of your child, it is the responsibility of the parent to look into the matter. It doesn’t matter if you own a studio or not. But, to all those blood sucking venomous cows who are just trying to live their lives out though their children, it’s time to stop. Your children deserve to live their lives and learn lessons in the world for themselves. I’m talking about the simple lessons in life  like, “you can’t have the front because you pitch a fit and call your mommie”. And mommies, you can’t micro-manager everything they do. It isn’t healthy.

Parents need to learn that their job is to be the cheerleader. You do have a role. You are their greatest fan. You have to cheer them on, even when you know the outcome may mean they didn’t win at a competition, or get the lead in the dance. They might not have even made the cut. The important thing is that your child tried to do something, and that should be rewarded with praise.

Parents sometimes push their young children out onto the stage without thinking about the fears and anxiety that comes with that event. Stage fright is real. Some kids love it – others don’t. As parents, we really shouldn’t ask our kids to do more than we ourselves would be willing to do.

Parents need to actively sit on the side lines and let their children grow up. You can’t jump in there and beat up the 2nd grade teacher because she moved our child to the side or back, or made them sit in the naughty chair, and call their parent.

At some time in the dance game, you will be surprised with something you might not be expecting. Usher in the teenage years.

Experienced teenage dancers should have their acts down pretty good by this time. Doesn’t mean they don’t sharpen their claws however. The thing with this age group “teen something” is it really isn’t much different from 3rd grade.

The biggest difference for girls is PMS, and many of them let you know about it too. I’m not so conservative that I can’t say “GET OVER YOUR PMS”!  If you have a doctor’s note “fine”.  If not, you are expected to be on the dance floor ready to go.  Besides Menopause trumps PMS.  I’m on it 24/7 – wanta go there with me?!….. I didn’t think so.

I had to explain to a group of cheerleaders about the benefits of good hygiene one time. They were appalled when we got to the part about smelly tights. Did their moms just stop talking to them? I wondered..…

If you dance or do any type of sport, you will have smelly tights. Boys too. Deodorant can save a lot of students from embarrassment. I don’t wait for the other students to pick on a member of the group – I let them ALL know up front where they can find deodorant samples at the front counter area. “Please take a sample home with you – and use it!”

It is one thing to leave the studio smelling like something the cat drug in; it is another to show up already smelling that way. Do your best with that one.

Kids are cruel. One little hair out of place, a rip in a garment and you are scarred for the week. I love the poster of the ballet point shoes that are beat up and tore. I think every studio should have that poster hanging at the front door. Clean nice neat shoes are a sure sign of a weak studio, and weak dancers. The more beat up – the better. Many studio dancers don’t dance with shoes at all! Most use  PAWS,  Foot Undies, an old sock, or just go barefoot (except for ballet).

Clothing on young dancers varies depending on what genre of dance you are teaching. Ballet is one of the strictest, and for good reason. Leotards, tights, proper shoes, and hair back – that is proper for ballet. There should be no jewelry, or minimum at the least. From ballet, clothing can vary.

It’s easier to have everyone wearing the same thing. The warm up outfits don’t have to be ugly either. There are so many options that students and studios can choose from. Rule of thumb “get input from the students on costumes” – they DO know style.  You can always turn down inappropriate clothing.

I have TROUBLE with students who show up with their butts showing, guts hanging out sporting the latest belly ring fashion, or tops that have to be adjusted every 6 to 8 counts. Not cool. I’m not too hip on tattoo’s either. Body art should be washable.

If I wanted to view someone’s art I’d visit an art gallery. I prefer a team that looks like a team rather than a group all competing for a chance to glorify their solo body art. If it can’t be covered by the costume or shoes don’t get it.

“Well you blood sucking venomous cow!” Yep, that would be me. I’ve heard worse.

Drama Mama’s come in many sizes, shapes, personalities, and economical social cliché’s. No group is immune.

Some words from the past:

  • “Well, don’t you just think you’re miss hottsey-tottsey?”
  • “Crawl down off that cross and give someone else a turn.”
  • “I hear she’s sleeping around.”
  • “Little miss perfect – got caught.”
  • “I’m going to take you to the school board”
  • “My child deserves home coming queen”
  • “She/he is a back stabbing little beep”
  • “I’ll show them!”
  • “I’m back baby”
  • “My child is the best jock”
  • “My, my, my tie is on so tight, the blood vessel in my neck might pop!”

Some of you are thinking “are you the real deal?” “Would I want my child around you,” “is she this way in class,” “and is this how it really is?” “My sweet little baby is so much better than this. I may home school”.

Well, I’m not that way. But if you are offended by what you have read here, competition studio dance or drill, may not be the way for you go. This is how it can be. But, it doesn’t have to be.

If you don’t know ANY warning signs, you may be setting little Julie or John up for a bad experience. Growing up is tough, and some parents have a hard time adjusting to that fact.

You should also Read

Momma Drama II “Re-Visited”
Stage Moms and “call security” Stage Dads.


Some would argue that if you get control at the beginning and set up ground rules “it just isn’t allowed” that makes it not happen. People… It happens.  Yes control at the beginning is GOOD, but it will not keep all of the drama out.

One thing I can state, is that I don’t have small children in dance anymore. I don’t eat, sleep, and drink my college student’s life for them either. I’d like too !  Darn, I guess I have to trust that they actually learned how to maneuver through the blood sucking venomous cows on campus and off.

Many parents would love to be at college with their children.  They would be the best helicopter parents you ever seen. Unfortunately for them however, the administrative staff usually discovers where the parent  landing pads are, and turn the lights out on it.  They can’t seem to land anymore.

Oh empty nest! It’s almost as bad as third grade.

Love your dancers; trust them to make the best decisions. Don’t micro manager everything that happens in their lives. Let them live. Set them free and they will come back to you. After all, you’re their biggest fan. They love you. They just want you to be proud of them.  Getting boo boo’s on the knee is part of growing up.

Dance is a discipline.  Your child will have to learn that.

There is a thing called the unforgivable momma – drama. As a teacher the hardest thing is to hold someone else’s baby when they cry and they tell you their mommie hates them because they are stupid. They have the bruises too. I have called Department of Child and Family Services. Yes I have.

From a well seasoned drama momma survior,  to all my blood sucking venomous cow friends! I don’t really miss you!

Ha ha..Yea I guess I do.. Some of you..

Jan

You should also Read

Momma Drama I

Momma Drama II “Re-Visited”
Stage Moms and “call security” Stage Dads.

 

 

 

Evaluations versus Tryouts and Auditions

The excitement of a new dance year!  It’s something you live for, and worry about, all at the same time. Nobody knows what the instructors will challenge you with.   Many students are new or may come from different dance studios or schools.  Each student may have learned in different ways. For example, some studios don’t have a formal evaluation process that places students according to their abilities.  Progression may have always been based on whatever the teachers thought was best for that student at the time.  Other studios have rigorous evaluations to determine what strengths and/or weaknesses a dancer may have.  Still other studios may not have a lot of choice who they sign up.  If they have a heart beat they take them.

I like the evaluation process.  For me it takes the bias out of the decision process.  Students should be prepared for dance evaluations however.  Preparation classes can be offered to help  maintain and improve a dancers  skills before evaluations start.

 

Evaluations and tryouts are totally different.  Evaluations place you into the category you need to be in – based on your true ability.  Tryouts are competitive, and often have a lot of bias built into them.  It is the nature of the beast, but is it helping students grow?  Are tryouts really a good indication of what a student knows?

 

Assessment in dance

As part of an audition you may be required to choreograph and perform a solo and then do an evaluation of the dance on top of that.  You have to be able to communicate on your performance skills, technical ability, and style of dance you choose. You may have to write it and/or do a short speech.

A dance evaluation form is a useful tool and contains the requirements for evaluating an individual’s dancing skills and understanding. It helps dancers prepare for possible auditions later on in their dancing careers. There are a number of different reason to get  a proper evaluation of a student.  A studio, institute or instructor can use the evaluations in the planning process and to track growth.   The evaluation should capture both the basic understanding of dance as well as the attributes gained from other trainers.

In the recent past I’ve had students come to me who have demonstrated problems with turn out, kicks versus side tilts, prepping on tippy toes on the front foot,  popping out their hips in turns, sickling, improper knee placement, etc.  While the student may adequately do other dance movement well, they haven’t had the basics taught to them yet, and those basics reinforced.  My answer of course will always be, that ballet is art, but it is also a discipline.  That discipline in turn, will make you a fabulous dancer.

 

That is what I want my students to be working on.  “FABULOUS”.  Because they know they are!

DANCE   EVALUATION

I found the following Sample Dance Evaluation Form on line.   It’s a  evaluation sheet.  Don’t reinvent the wheel, when   the material is available for free on line.  http://www.bataviaschools.org/docs/Rubric%20for%20Scoring%20Dance%20Performance%20Evaluation.doc

OR  http://www.sjboces.org/pdf/Gifted/Dance%20Rubric.pdf

There are also evaluation forms for instructors.  Having been a judge and knowing that judges critique each other, I see no problem with instructors receiving evaluations as well.  Actually, they should be evaluated.  Directors be honest, where do you put your weakest instructors?  What progression or training is available for them to learn from? Do your instructors have the basics down?  Are your instructors over qualified? Are they mean to other instructors?    Afraid to talk? Moon lighting?

Be honest in your evaluations with your instructors and help them to grow too.  Evaluations often allow you to state things that need stating.  No more hiding pent up frustration, tippy toeing around issues, or worrying about grumbling and hurt feelings.  Get it all out on the table.  But, do be prepared for some back lash.  Note that as a director, this is part of your job.

If you have uneducated teachers, you are probably producing  poorly trained students. On the other hand, If your instructors have more ability than you, stay out of their class rooms.  If you want training “as a director”, from your instructor, do it after your instructor is done with his or her class. Respect them, and they will respect you back.

Are you willing to allow your instructors to evaluate you?

2004_0101120009

I understand that evaluations are really tough sometimes.  The outcome can be something other than what you think.  But, if we mandate that our students have to go through the process of evaluation – then we need to also experience that process ourselves.   Remember why we are here, to learn dance.

Ballet is a discipline.  Dance in general has to be a practiced discipline.  You have to learn the progressive steps one at a time.  You learn those steps though time, disciple, and evaluation.

Anything that you decide to do in life, do it well.  It’s like receiving critiques on a score sheet – they matter. It is a mirror of how hard you worked at some point in time. The best thing to do is take the lowest score, and work up from there.  Conquer that score!