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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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Choreography creating Dance and Social Media Dance Competitions Educators

Tricks

Let’s talk comps! “Tricks win” is a common sentiment regarding dance competitions and judging. Threads inquiring about what judges are looking for is is another common topic of conversation. Complaints about critiques are prevalent. I’m going to break this down.

Executing tricks for the sake of tricks is not interesting. It’s not something I want to see or something that is impressive. 99% of turns in second on the competition stage are not stage ready. A majority of pirouettes done on the competition stage are not stage ready. Aerials are almost always not interesting. Heel stretches (I don’t enjoy calling them that, but you know what I mean) are almost always not done correctly. You see what I mean. I could go on.

When I sit at the judges table, I’m not looking for anything specific, but what does move me and make me excited is authenticity. When a choreographer and/or dancer finds a piece of music that moves them, and the movement follows the arc and dynamics of the song, the audience feels that. They get that. Realness is more desirable than a string of technical elements lacking individual stylistic quality.

BUT if the sequence of “tricks” is executed with technical proficiency, it’s going to score well. We are judging technique, stage presence and precision. Even if I don’t like it, I’m scoring it high if it’s executed well.

It’s true that judges’ critiques can often fall short. A common complaint is that the judges don’t talk throughout the dance, then give a score. I agree that we do need to hear from whoever’s adjudicating. If a dance is very good and I find myself not speaking as much, I articulate that. It’s something like: “I am really enjoying this and that’s why I’m not saying a lot. Your technique and artistry are exquisite.”

If, as we sometimes do, we get a judge that doesn’t really know what they’re talking about, but they at least keep talking through the dance, cool. Honestly, cool. I’m (almost) never mad at that because it’s just not productive. In the end, if we are on that hypothetical professional stage, our audience doesn’t know dance but they know what they enjoy. Connection = success.

If we can take a genre that generally has a narrow audience and bring awareness to a broader audience, that’s what it’s all about. Think: Twyla. If a judge doesn’t know tap (they should, but… you know) yet the choreography moves and has relatable rhythms, dynamics and style, then it will more often than not adjudicate well. If it doesn’t, we take a look at it and see what we can improve, or we shrug it off and try again next time.

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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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Dance and Social Media Educators Technology Trends

It’s not what you say

Humans love to complain. We publicly post a dance rant and have 500 of our closest friends chime in on how they hate that too and then list 5 other things that that they can’t stand.

Who doesn’t love instant gratification? There’s that feeling of ultimate satisfaction for about 5 minutes, and then what? All of the sudden dancers start wearing tights and two shoes, age appropriate costumes, they stop filling the music with all tricks and all of the competition judges become perfect? Probably not.

If we put out work we believe in, work that reflects what we want to see on stage and what inspires us, we can find a longer lasting satisfaction than the knee jerk say-what-you-feel-right-now impulses that propel us to take our grumbles to social media for all to commiserate with.

What we say matters far less than how we say it. Expressing what we love to see is equivalent to expressing what we loathe to see, except more will listen if we frame it with a positive spin.

The reason trends exist is because somebody started them and our culture pushes us to conform.

Not every effort will be a home run, but if we bunt and get a base hit, it’s a promising start.

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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.

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Artists Educators motivation Training for success

Taking class is a skill

Anyone who is a leader of any kind, whether they teach classes, conduct seminars or coordinate a team, has the responsibility of preparing and showing up ready to connect and extend themselves, fostering an environment of progress and positive, focused energy.

Those attending classes as students have the same level of responsibility to show up and be open and receptive to the energy, to make the corrections given and accept critiques with a “thank you”, “got it” or nod.

Sometimes the universe hands us a bad day (or recently, year). What we do have control over is how we choose to improve our mood, whether it’s by reading or listening to something positive, or just reaching out to a friend with with an “ugh” and and eye roll emoji to get it off our chest.

Being a student is a skill. Giving back energy to those we take class from and with is a high priority skill. The mood we bring into the room is a skill. If we practice at it, we become great at being present no matter what the universe has handed us that day.

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Artists Educators Training for success

Who are you?

If you are a student in a dance class or audition (remember those?) that is difficult and the challenge makes you uncomfortable, what do you do?

Do you decide that it’s too hard so you won’t bother to try to struggle through to accomplish something new and surprise yourself?

Do you believe your teacher when they confidently tell you that you fit, that you are doing well, that you’ll get it if you stay focused and train?

Do you believe your teacher when they tell you that you aren’t quite at that level, but if you dedicate yourself to training you can get closer to where you want to be? Do you accept the level you are placed in?

Do you decide that you don’t really like this style anyway so you’re going to slack off and resist taking corrections because why bother?

When the choreography is challenging, do you do the extra work to rise up to the level of the material you are given, or do you settle for not really mastering it?

Are you teachable? Trainable? Do you remember the corrections that you got last time and apply them?

If you are a teacher, I bet you can think of students that relate to all of these questions. If you are a student (we are all students, really), it’s important to reflect on this and see where you can do better.

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Artists Careers Educators Training for success

When to stay and when to walk away

Part of achieving success as an artist is having the right training. Having the right training means you have mentors. The best mentors will help you achieve your maximum potential in a way that is demanding without being condescending.

In vulnerable states, artists may rely on their mentors to get them through the roughest patches. If this vulnerability becomes manipulated, it crosses the line into unhealthy.

Your teachers helped you reach great heights under their tutelage and may have believed in you when it seemed nobody else did.

It’s all great until it isn’t. Fifty great things your mentor has done for you cannot outweigh one very bad thing they have done to you.

The effect teachers have on students lasts a lifetime, the good and the bad. If it doesn’t feel healthy, walk away, and cherish the ones that push you to your best and catch you when you fall.