More than steps
If you have spent much time with me you will have heard me say that we are teaching our students so much more than steps. But is that just a cliché catch phrase? What does it really mean?
Indulge me for a few moments while I unpack the extras that you receive in a dance class beyond the dance!
In dance class there is a big emphasis on the preparation and or breathing movement. This is the moment just before an exercise begins. In this pause a dancer lets go of what has happened before, composes themself, and prepares for the next move. This idea is continually unpacked from the moment a student steps into their first class right up to and including their professional career. When students can master the art of letting go, breathing and preparing in their dance class, it will help them countless times in their life. A moment of absolute concentration and focus to prepare for a task is worth far more in clarity and purpose than the time it costs.
A dance class will help a student find and maintain the ability to be perfectly still and composed. This is a dying art! So many children are fidgety, overly excitable, distracted, wiggly and unable to just be still. It sound so simplistic and ridiculous to think this is important. But it is! Can you imagine a child concentrating well on their algebra if they don't have the ability to be still and think? Can you hold down an articulate and intelligent conversation with a child who can't stand still long enough to listen to you? There is a link between the ability to quiet your body and collect your thoughts. This skill is not something that a child will learn on the play ground or at basketball, but it is such an essential component to a successful life.
Ballet developed in the Italian Renaissance courts of the 15th century. It was very closely linked to the deportment, posture, position and respect shown to and by the
As ballet developed into the art form we know it to be today, it has maintained the important essence of the deportment and grooming, respect and etiquette. And although these things are considered old school, who doesn't appreciate a well groomed, respectful and poised adult?
A place to be celebrated and to be encouraged to achieve is a safe haven in a tumultuous world. There are not many truly lovely places to belong outside of our family connections. A wonderful dance studio is a collection of like minded people who are encouraging and achieving together. When students aren't competing against each other, but are lifting each other up to a higher level, a real place of belonging and connection can be fostered. I recently caught up with someone I danced with in my teen years and the connection and friendship that we still share is something really special. We have teen dancers that have been together in the same class since they were 3 years old. The stories and connection that they have is beyond compare.
There is always something to develop students in dance class. There is always a risk to take, a new skill to develop and some old techniques to truly master. If later in life a dance student becomes a surgeon instead of a dancer, the same habits that they developed in ballet class will help them perfect and master their craft. The steps themselves may become irrelevant... but the ability to try new things, to perfect skills, to follow directions, to be a wonderful team member, to pay attention to the details, to rehearse and prepare, to push themselves, to self-correct, to take correction from others, to set goals and to realise achievement - are life skills that are irreplaceable.
Dance class is about so much more than the steps!