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Seven Habits of Highly Effective Dance Instructors

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Seven Habits of Highly Effective Dance Instructors

Post  Joy in Motion on Sat May 30, 2009 3:27 am

I finally published an article to begin a series I am writing on the qualities of effective dance instructors. I really feel that more discussion and reflection on the art of teaching in the world of dance is needed. Please share your own thoughts and experiences, whether they come from a teaching perspective or a learning experience. Enjoy!

Seven Habits of Highly Effective Dance Instructors
Copyright © 2009 Karin Norgard

For the true lover of dance, exploring all aspects of their art form brings great joy and exhilaration. For the true lover of teaching, the same satisfaction is found in bringing their passion for dance into the lives of others. It is often the case that dancers who reach a certain level in their dancing move on to teaching. However, teaching is not a higher level of the art of dance, but its own art altogether. Dance instructors therefore must find themselves navigating and uniting two unique sets of skills. This can be both challenging and rewarding to the instructor who is willing to spend the same time and energy on the art of teaching as they do on the art of dancing. Following are seven habits of dance instructors who are highly effective at making a meaningful and lasting impact on their students’ dancing.

Habit #1: Professionalism and Respect. The effective instructor, whether teaching one class a week or a full-time schedule, views him or herself as a serious professional. Word usage, voice dynamics, style of dress – every aspect of manner and speech communicates to the student professionalism and respect. The effective instructor takes his or her position very seriously and ensures that his or her communication skills, interaction with students of the opposite sex, and advertising and promotion methods reflect their intention to earn a good reputation. The professional also recognizes that the body of the dancer is the instrument to be trained, which means that the act of dancing – and receiving feedback on the movement of one’s body – is very personal. He or she therefore treats the student with deep respect when providing instruction and corrections.

Habit #2: From Stepping Stones to Beyond. The effective instructor understands that there is a logical progression in learning. Beginning skills are the building blocks that provide a solid foundation before more intermediate and advanced skills can be attempted and learned. Therefore, emphasis is placed on learning the techniques that will lead to enjoyable dancing at any level instead of trying to learn complicated moves and combinations without the prerequisite skills. The effective instructor is able to break down the skills he or she teaches, explore the musical elements, and discuss the hows and whys of the dance. The effective instructor also emphasizes the deeper qualities of social dance, including connection, musicality, and the culture and history. He or she gives students the tools and questions that will help them explore the dance to its fullest, both during their time with the instructor and for exploration on their own.

Habit #3: Dance Skill and Style. The effective instructor has gone through the same learning process they are guiding their students through. They have mastered the basic skills and techniques, progressed to more advanced combinations and concepts, become comfortable in both leading and following, and explored the deeper aspects of the dance. The instructor has gone through this process to reach a higher level in the dance, and yet he or she maintains a constant curiosity, always growing and finding new ways of approaching the dance and teaching it to others. In addition, the effective instructor has developed a unique style, quality of movement, and creative interpretation of the music that challenges students to do the same for themselves. He or she also demonstrates great listening skills on the dance floor, showing a genuine desire for two-way communication on the dance floor as well as responsiveness to the music.

Habit #4: The Art of Adjustment. The effective instructor appreciates the uniqueness of each individual learner. Every student comes to a class or lesson with a different background and set of experiences, different learning style, and different goals and motivations. Some students catch on quickly to certain concepts simply by watching, while others might need a more analytical explanation. Some students are interested in the social aspects of the dance, while others approach the dance as a sport or performing art. The effective instructor is able to adjust their methods of communication – including but not limited to their words, actions, and sense of humor – to accommodate a variety of learning styles and motivations. However, he or she is also able to introduce the deeper concepts that the student may not otherwise think to explore or pursue.

Habit #5: Real Community. The effective instructor seeks to build a community of people – of all ages, sizes, backgrounds, and skills levels – who love to dance. To this end, they do everything they can to promote an open and friendly atmosphere for students and fellow instructors in their community. One of the biggest reasons people leave the dance scene despite a deep love of dancing is the clique factor, the forming of separate groups of dancers who keep to themselves, gossip about others, and create a competitive spirit in what should be a social environment. Instructors play a major role in either encouraging this behavior or choosing to promote unity in the dance community. The effective instructor is also not afraid to share everything they know because their goal is not promote themselves but the level and quality of the dance in their community. If others improve and rival them in skill or ability, it only serves to make them better as well. The instructors – just as much, if not more than, the students – determine the atmosphere that permeates the dance scene in their community. The effective instructor understands this and takes their role seriously.

Habit #6: A Student of Teaching. The effective instructor realizes that being a great dancer does not guarantee that one will be a great teacher of dance. He or she sees teaching as an art in itself, requiring a set of skills as well as regular reflection in order to help students develop and grow in both knowledge and curiosity. To develop these teaching skills, the effective instructor is always learning and looking to find new and better ways of communicating and teaching others, paying attention to the other six habits and viewing each class as an opportunity to learn something new. When the instructor does this, his or her teaching is always fresh and provides multiple layers and multiple approaches to the same concept.

Habit #7: Pure Motivation. Having the right motivation is not required to be an effective instructor, but it does make the difference between a good instructor and a great instructor. Even if all the other qualities are there, this seventh habit – or, perhaps more accurately, state of mind – ensures that they are working from the inside out. So what is the “right” motivation? It is not to hold the title of instructor or to prove one’s skill or ability. The truly effective instructor enjoys seeing others learn. They feel a passionate desire to share what they have learned with others, are interested in developing good dancers and good relationships, and want to create passionate life learners in dance who will in turn teach them and stir their own creativity. When this happens, the line between instructor and student blurs and we all become – quite appropriately – partners in the dance.
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Re: Seven Habits of Highly Effective Dance Instructors

Post  meenakshi on Sun May 31, 2009 2:37 am

Word usage, voice dynamics, style of dress – every aspect of manner and speech communicates to the student professionalism and respect. The effective instructor takes his or her position very seriously and ensures that his or her communication skills, interaction with students of the opposite sex, and advertising and promotion methods reflect their intention to earn a good reputation.

Hey Karin the article is fantastic..... not forgetting to mention the golden words that are quoted above. I think this is one of the key habbits that an excellent instructor SHOULD acquire - a GOOD REPUTATION and RESPECT.

Thanks a ton for sharing this article with all of us.

Happy Dancing...
Meenakshi Very Happy Very Happy
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Amazing Article

Post  vivek0712 on Sun May 31, 2009 8:02 pm

Hi Karin,
Datz an interesting article, however for beginners like me we would look at articles dat gives more insight on habits of a student and how one should improve as a student....... for me and ppl like me our trainers are always rite....... :-)
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Re: Seven Habits of Highly Effective Dance Instructors

Post  Joy in Motion on Wed Jun 03, 2009 3:50 am

Thank you for the positive comments.

Vivek0712, any of the articles I have posted previously are meant for all dancers, especially those just learning. For learners, this article is important because it shows you what to look for in an instructor. I would really make sure you find a teacher who emphasizes the proper progression when learning skills and who also focuses on technique and dance etiquette. While it is perhaps natural for learners to think this way, I would discourage the belief that the teacher is always right. That is most definitely not the case. Instructors differ greatly on their approach to the dance, which is why it is important to find someone who is a good fit. You also want someone with a style you like and appreciate, but at the same time you want to make sure he or she encourages you to develop your own style and not just copy him or her. The more you learn, the more you will start playing around on your own and discovering the dance for yourself. Teachers are meant to be guides, not the final word. In the end, the most important thing is to enjoy yourself, express yourself, and bring out the best in your partners by allowing them to express themselves within the partnership.
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Re: Seven Habits of Highly Effective Dance Instructors

Post  Joy in Motion on Wed Jun 17, 2009 1:39 am

FYI, I am covering each of these seven habits in depth in the coming months. The first habit on teaching with professionalism and respect was published online a few months ago. The second habit on proper progression was just posted today! I would recommend everyone read Habit #2, learners and teachers alike. I think learners need to understand the principles of proper progression as much as, if not more than, instructors do. The third habit will be coming shortly online as well. You all know where to look. I welcome your feedback on any of these habits. It is such a growing experience to share when it comes to these topics. Unfortunately, many people are more interested in learning as moves as possible than they are in exploring the deeper aspects of dance Sad.

Habit #2: Stepping Stones & Beyond
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