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A Hands-On Approach In Dance Class

Dance is a physical art form where a hands-on approach is not only pertinent to convey the relevant skills of the movement but is also necessary for teaching dancers body awareness, for preparing dancers for partner work, and for ensuring dancer’s safety in classes.

As a dance teacher it is among our most difficult tasks to teach dancers body awareness. It is challenging to connect our verbal cues and corrections with a dancer’s physical manifestation of those cues. It is valuable to persist in giving these verbal cues with sensory touch cues so that dancers may learn to associate both in learning the physical response - he/she can apply the verbal cue or correction in movement because of the physical sensory support you have provided as the teacher. By applying touch and/or pressure to the muscle or joint that is addressed in a verbal cue, the dancer can better execute a correction or movement to engage that particular area more accurately and precisely.

Not surprisingly, a hands-on approach early in dance education introduces children to touch cues that not only helps them manifest greater body awareness but prepares them for partner work. Even if dancers are not partnering in a pas-de-deux at age 7, chances are they are working with partners for group tricks in acrobatics. Partner work from a young age (as appropriate) allows children to also develop the skills, strength, and body awareness to manipulate two body centres at once in addition to his/her own. Certainly, it is most important that a dancer have the strength and awareness to first control his/her own centre and this will promote safety and efficacy in future partner work.

In the interest of preventing injury (acute and overuse) in dance at large, it is necessary to assess physical movement for each student, to provide correction (both verbal and physical), and to persist in doing so until dancers execute movements using the correct muscles or muscle groups. For big steps such as grand jetés, addressing the step by explaining which muscles support the movement performance is key to leading dancers in executing the step properly and therefore safely. It is equally important to spend time assessing, correcting, and working with individual students to correct any mis-movement habits when teaching a new step. Remember that 756 repetitions of a movement pattern then becomes engrained in muscle memory so correcting poor movement as early as possible will ensure safety as well as correct performance of a step. This end is facilitated when teachers use a hands-on approach in the studio in order to reinforce verbal cues and corrections which also lends to teaching dancers body awareness, preparing dancers for partner work, and ultimately being the most effective teacher you can be!

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