At first, you would think that if you, as a dance student, 'do your best' in a lesson, you would maximize your learning process. You can't do more than that, can you?Nothing could be less true! There are several other tricks that you can apply to optimize your learning process as a dance apprentice!
Work with your teacher
A teacher works with you as a student in a certain way, in which the teacher offers specific material and with a method that suits the target group, we all know that. But also as a student you can work with your teacher in a 'certain way'! An often underestimated resource in your learning process as a (beginning) dancer.
As a student, you are often so busy with your dance and the 'best possible performance of the dance movement', that you forget to learn 'smartly' and to work with your teacher, instead of your teacher only working with you ;-).
I have listed a few examples for you, how you can apply the "smart learning" method during your dance class.
1) Eye contact
If you, as a dance student, make eye contact with your teacher, you are 'available' for feedback such as tips or compliments. If you want to learn more, this is your first move! Look at your teacher and make sure you have eye contact during the dance class.
Often you will see the dance student after the practice, for example after crossing the dance floor:
- chatting with his 'crossing-partner' a few words about how it was (or something else to talk about ;-) )
- that the dance student is in his own world (thinking about what went right or wrong)
- looking at the other students' crossing points (in itself a very good action)
In all these scenarios the student doesn't pay attention to the teacher.
From the teacher's point of view: the teacher has seen you during the exercise and when you are finished the teacher would like to continue working with you. He might want to:
- give you a compliment
- give you a tip
- point out a specific step that's just a little different from what you thought.
In short: the teacher is ready and willing to help you further in your learning process and where are you with your attention? If the teacher can't reach you, you're missing out on a great opportunity!
So after you have done a dance move: find eye contact with the teacher! There is a good chance that you will be able to:
- earn more compliments
- get a better understanding of your dance action
- receive more feedback so you can optimize your learning process!
2) Physical testing
Another aspect in which you as a dance student can gain advantage is physically trying out corrections. If a teacher takes the time to correct you, it means that the teacher wants to invest in you as a dancer. Don't just nod your head like 'ah yes, thank you I get it'. We dancers know better than anyone, that we can 'understand' a lot but that the body sometimes has other plans. The body often needs to try it out physically so that the muscles, the joints and everything involved in the movement can feel the movement.
If the teacher corrects you, pick it up by physically trying out what it feels like in your performance. Just try to understand and feel the dance move with your body. Don't miss this opportunity.
This also applies to classroom corrections: even if the correction does not apply directly to you, it is the perfect opportunity to try it out and learn more!
By responding you can mean different things; in this case I mean your attention in the dance class. Sometimes you are dragged into the group as a dance student and you are less aware of your own presence in the lesson. If a teacher asks you to 'go to the right corner', then you can go along with your fellow dancers. Or you can make a profit, be smart and react in an active way! Maybe that's why you're not going to go to the corner, but you're going to do this with a little speed or dancing. Whatever it is, react!
Even if the teacher beckons a bit of 'come forward', you can be the one who comes to the front, take the first row! It increases the interaction with the teacher, so you have a more direct 'line' which makes it easier for you to learn since the teacher can work with you more easily.
Hear the teacher and see the teacher!
The teacher gives instructions in various ways on how you can react as a dance student:
- hand gestures to provide extra clarity in direction, tempo, motion, etc.
- side-coaching texts to support you in direction, tempo, movement, etc.
- names for movements or specific words to support the movement: repeat the words that the teacher mentions in your head, so that you can really benefit from the input that the teacher gives you - this also makes it easier for you to remember the movement!
4) Going through dance material
Review dance material before it is offered (if the material is what you have danced before) or if it is offered, activate yourself - and your peers - in practising the dance material. Some dancers learn by looking and standing still (everyone has their own way of learning ), but most of the time the most improvement is achieved by physically trying out the choreography, so that the body knows 'oh yes, this was it'. You will notice that sometimes you don't know the choreography in your head any more, but that your body still knows it! This is proof that the body is very helpful in remembering dance moves. Go through it physically!
5) Increasing physical training
For example, you can increase your physical training in a lesson by:
- going through the dance material and dance (make sure you have the space)
- when the instructor explains dance material to physically 'follow' the material by doing it with your body, not just looking at it
- when a teacher explains a transition, get in position and practice physically
Note: As soon as you stand in a ''normal'' position with your body (as if you are waiting for the bus), the body can rest, sometimes very necessary in a dance class. Though it can also be a missed opportunity to train. See what is desired in what situation and what you choose: choose wisely!
6) Be an individual and learn from your peers
Make sure you don't get too carried away by the group, although in some cases this also has a positive effect. On the one hand, let yourself be inspired by your fellow group members, to improve your learning process. On the other hand: be an individual. Make sure you go for yourself and always place yourself in the first place. It is your lesson, it is about you - and that is allowed!
So let your fellow dancers inspire you. Keep an eye on whether the dancers around you are promoting or slowing down your learning process!
If your teammates promote your learning process, this will become visible:
- be inspired by the energy of your peers
- be inspired by the quality of that one dancer (or several dancers) from which you can learn a lot
- be inspired by the social contact that stimulates you to come to the dance class, to have a good time, to enjoy dance in cooperation with your fellow dancers
- observe, see your fellow group members in their good and less good aspects, from which you can benefit!
So open your eyes and see the other dancers!
When your peers slow down your learning process, this becomes visible:
- that you notice that you are always distracted from the content of the lesson
- that you're not very good at following the teacher
- that you are going to compare yourself too much with your peers, which will bring yourself down - stay with yourself!
It's about you, right where you are now!
7) Ask questions or just try it out!
By asking questions, you create a highly interactive relationship with your teacher. Please note that you can also ask too many questions, which indicates that you don't want to or can't try anything without being sure. Asking questions generally has a deepening, empowering and strengthening effect, not to mention clarifying! You can ask questions about many topics, for example:
- dance material in terms of form
- dance material in terms of direction of movement
- transitions from one movement to another
- movement intention & emotional charge at movement
- technical questions (about how to do something)
The teacher generally likes the fact that you ask questions as a dance apprentice! This makes us feel involved in what you are doing.
Though you can really ask too many questions. Students who don't dare to take risks or need a lot of support (or can't let go of control) are inclined to ask so many questions that they feel dizzy. Often you see that before these students have the answer they wouldn't actually want to perform the movement to music because they feel too 'insecure'.
A good teacher will fish these students out like this and will motivate them to just try it or to find the answer themselves in doing the movement. Taking risks is also an experience in dance lessons!
8 ) Communicate, really dare to work together.
As a dance apprentice, you can say what you experience! There's a bit of a taboo on that in dance culture, but let's break through it anyway, please. Dance student what do you think? What do you feel? What do you experience?
Do you think the lesson is going too fast, or too slow? Do you have other experiences that matter in your learning process (as if there is an experience that doesn't matter!)? Do you have any additional questions about the one thing that was said to you, or the correction that you didn't quite understand afterwards?
Dare to visit the teacher and take up the subject together.
In short: work with your teacher, be smart!
Those were just a few ideas how you could improve working with you teacher, don't be afraid to think further and try things out for yourself!
Hopefully these tips by dance teacher Esther Nederpelt have contributed to a nice lesson with your teacher. If you'd like to read more blogs by Esther or if you would like to keep up to date with her activities, then check out her blog. Have fun dancing!
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