“Dance is a silent art,” one of my favorite teachers quoted to quiet his talkative dancers. That admonition also applies to instructors who talk or shout over the music, I’m guilty of it myself.
Must we remain silent and allow students to fail?
As the teacher, I want to keep the class experience vibrant, and to propel the participants to get warm and move vigorously. I also sympathize with the underdog, that poor dancer who is so eager to advance that he or she dares to take a difficult, higher level class and is attempting step sequences beyond their grasp. In order to avoid humiliating them or to prevent their stumbling from slowing the pace of the better dancers in class, I yell over the music and spoon feed them cues. Do the beginners even recognize the names of the steps that I’m shouting? I’m screaming French at them. Why?
Even if my hollered instructions work, the practice encourages a dependency that I’d prefer to eliminate. I’d rather show a greater respect for the music and for my dancers, to recognize them as fellow artists who need to hear the music in order to phrase and accent their movement.
What do you recommend?
At the end of the year, I broadcasted an email announcing my decision to stop teaching one of my classes. It was the second time that year that I initiated a class closure. Inconsistent attendance made it impossible to progress my choreography or to advance the skills of the few students that showed up. I was bored.
As soon as I hit the “send” button, I had second thoughts. What am I doing, turning down a pay check? However intermittent their attendance, a few students will be disappointed, and my boss will be unhappy with me. I tried promoting the class for months before choosing to abandon it. I worried that one week was insufficient notice; but in the end, I said ENOUGH.
How do we balance our own needs with those of the community we lead?
The problem is that, whether the choice is made by the teacher or by the program director, canceling a class is a unilateral decision, even though a class is a team effort, a collaboration. The Group Exercise Director has a vision for his program and a roster of offerings to support that vision. The other dance teachers on staff may have a sense of faculty and take pride in knowing that other instructors of high caliber teach at the same facility. Every student, however irregular their attendance, is juggling a little dream of their own as well as a schedule.
What do you think is my responsibility here?