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Artists Dance Competitions Educators motivation

Ditch these terms

“We’re a recreational studio” or “they are a recreational dancer.” These phrases get used as a crutch to say, ‘we’re not very good’ or ‘they don’t train that much so they don’t have to be good. They’re just recreational.’ Some dancers train more hours per week. Some like to pop in once a week and pursue other endeavors like sports, extracurriculars, band or other passions. The qualifier ‘recreational’ has come to have a diminishing or condescending tone. Do we still need it?

“They’re a competition/competitive dancer.” Do these dancers spend hours every week at the studio to chase that dangling carrot of top adjudication? Is that the motivation? Do we need the qualifier ‘competition’ or ‘competitive’? There’s nothing impressive about it.

Dancers are dancers. Full stop. If you dance, you are a dancer. We get out what we put in, and measuring accomplishment externally, by awards or others’ assessments of us, is far less rewarding than the intrinsic satisfaction we from feeling a little stronger than yesterday.

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Artists Educators

You might be surprised

The dancers that show up on the first day, so excited and posting on social media about their first day, don’t last.

The quiet dancers in the back row, who you’re not sure are that into it, stick around.

The dancer that you put your heart and soul into all year, who progressed tremendously under your tutelage, disappears.

The young dancers that always had a great time in class and were so excited about being there didn’t come back.

The dancers you thought weren’t coming back return after 6 months, 9 months, 2 years…

The best thing we can do is keep showing up as our best selves, plan classes with specific focuses and continue personal growth as artists and humans. Those who are meant to be mentored by us will remain in the room.

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Artists Educators Training for success

What is a class

Learning choreography the whole time is not a class.

Rehearsing a routine the whole time is not a class.

30 minutes is not a class, unless the dancers are 6 years old or younger.

This applies to all dance forms, but let’s talk tap!

A tap class consists of a warmup, drills, exercises, traveling exercises (across the floor) and a combination. It needs to be consistent.

The exercises and combinations should change periodically (every 2-3 weeks) to build versatility, musicality, artistry and the ability to pick up and retain material. Dancers need a strong working vocabulary, as well as the ability to see something and replicate it. I go, you go.

Every-class drills are a great way to build and refine technique. These are constants and can be interspersed with exercises that vary. When we feel that it’s time for a change, we replace the current every-class drills with new ones.

If a class is planned with the specific intention to improve dancers’ capacities to pick up and retain a long combination (important for auditions and professional work!), OR the lesson plan is to work on a piece of classic rep, that is an exception to the first statement.

Add improv and games to encourage dancers to figure things out on their own.

Training dancers, training artists means checking all the boxes, making sure progress is continuous. Whether they train once a week or every day, the same principles apply.

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Artists Choreography Educators motivation online learning Training for success

Make it stick

Start today. Don’t start tomorrow, or the next day, or the day after that. Start now but start small.

Be a student. Always be a student. Those of us who educate dancers do our best work when we take class too. The classes we take will inform the classes we teach, what will move and motivate our students. Work on your tendus. Work on your shuffles. I still am.

And when I get a compliment from my teacher, it still feels really good.

Check out our new project, Tap Educators Intensive! IG: tap_educators_intensive • Website: http://tapeducators.com

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Artists Careers Training for success

Listen up

Sometimes, you should listen to those who have expertise and experience in your field, people who are practiced in it and educated in it, when you have choices to make.

Sometimes you shouldn’t listen to advice.

There’s no easy way to go about it.

There are dancers that I believe would have achieved certain goals of theirs had they heeded my advice and guidance.

There’s the teacher who didn’t seem to think much of me, who thought that I should have taken the first job I was offered because it was the only job I’d likely ever get.

Now, I didn’t turn it down because I thought I was above it. I turned it down because I wasn’t mature enough to leave home and tour for a year. As it happened, I was offered one of the top jobs any dancer could get less than a year later.

I digress. As artists and as humans, we do need mentors and colleagues to dispense feedback and wisdom, but we need to choose who we let in judiciously.

Not listening to anyone is bad. Listening to everyone will get you nowhere.

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Artists creating Dance Competitions teamwork Training for success

Who cares

Every year there are a few months when competition complaints and criticism of judges are abundant. It’s consistent from year to year, even in this most unique of seasons.

  • The judges don’t know tap.
  • They only want to see tricks.
  • The scoring is all over the place.
  • Do judges take off points for…

What’s interesting is that the kids aren’t the ones who are upset. Honestly the parents (of my students, at least) are never upset either. They are excited to see their kids on stage and to see the growth in ability from one season to the next.

Dancers are there to perform, to understand the rewards of working toward something and to work through the nerves of performing on a stage, in a costume, under lights and in front of an audience and/or complete strangers who will assess them in 2 minutes.

Winning is fun in the moment, but if we don’t win, are we going to hinge our validity, progress, artistry and joy on a snap judgement numerical score given by a stranger that can’t possibly know what it took to get that dancer or group of dancers on stage?

Trust the artistic process and enjoy the ride. Nobody remembers what the score was.

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Artists Dance and Social Media Technology

Start with this

Everyone can now know what we think about everything, should we choose to share it. There are no longer gatekeepers between us and our audience.

When something happens in our industry that we don’t like, the first instinct is often to take to social media.

“Everyone must know what I think about this.”

What’s the goal, really? What will change if everyone knows how much I dislike something or how against it I am? Will everyone all of the sudden start to do things differently? Will 500 people I don’t know give me life changing advice when they can’t really see it from the inside?

These exchanges very often turn into arguments that nobody ever wins, or mountains of advice and opinions from people who really don’t know us.

If we want to make change, truly meaningful change, we make culture by starting with the people right around us. This is our group, and our group does it like this.

When the impact starts small, it ends up much greater.

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motivation rejection Training for success Uncategorized

You might be terrible

Wanting to learn something new is easy.

Signing up to start learning it is fairly easy.

Getting yourself to step into that first class or lesson isn’t quite as easy. Fear can start to kick in, combined with inhibition and vulnerability with a side of nervousness. But still, let’s say getting to the first class isn’t so difficult.

You get to the first class and what you imagined yourself doing might not be what comes out of you. Well, you say to yourself, this is much harder than it looks.

There’s the rub. What do you do?

Fun fact: it’s ok to not be good at something. You might be terrible at it. Let’s think ahead though.

What happens if you keep going back? You become less terrible. And the next time even less terrible. One day, low and behold, you will be good at it! The rewards are much greater than the frustration and stumbles along the way.

Many have bailed before they got a chance to see what they are able to accomplish. If that inner voice is saying it’s too hard, find that stronger voice that tells you to enjoy the journey. Enjoy being terrible. I’m not here typing this because I’m great. I’m here because I was terrible and I kept going.

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Artists creating motivation

The non-negotiables

As dance educators, as any educators, as humans, we have more to give if we take time for ourselves. It can be as little as 15 minutes (longer is better but take what you can).

Take your time

I’m going to take these 15 minutes to eat breakfast and read the newspaper.

I’m going to read 10 pages of this book.

I’m going to do 20 minutes of yoga.

I’m going to take ballet class at noon on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, so I’m not available then. Call me at 1:30.

I’m going to take 45 minutes and learn something new.

I’m taking these 10 minutes to write.

Put your me time on your to-do list and make sure you check it off.

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Artists Choreography creating Educators

Make it real

We have the ability to ask 10,000 people what a good song would be for a 7-8 year-olds musical theatre solo.

We can join a group where colleagues will share with us how they marketed their studio and all of the promotions and trials they did that were a smashing success.

We can pick songs and create dances based on what we think people would like to see or dancers would like to do, or what we think would score well.

Nobody does you better than you.

All of this is not for nothing, but none of it will work if it doesn’t move you from the core, if it doesn’t feel right and natural, if it’s not coming from you, if it’s not consistent.

My biggest flops were when I was trying to emulate someone or something else because I thought it was better than what I could create or be on my own.

Let your flops and failures be YOUR flops and failures. Only then can your massive successes truly belong to you.