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What do people look for in dance teachers?


dancerbabe82
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My daughter found the teachers at vocational school (6th form), who were ex professionals, had more understanding of the emotions the students were experiencing during auditions than those who weren't. Up until she went away to 6th form though, she had 5 teachers at 4 different schools who were a mixture of both and all were very good.

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DS started with a dance teacher who danced professionally in small companies before taking over her mother's business. I feel this experience allowed her to convey to her "small town" pupils just how hard dance can be and certainly she has had many pupils go on to "low level" dance careers. However I don't believe she had what it took to get her pupils to hit the "big time". DS was her first pupil to be accepted to one of the Big Four and I believe her grounding made that possible.

 

The quantum leap to the Big Time I believe was stimulated by initially the EYB experience (Miss Lewis was a Principle Dancer with RB) and getting additional training through the Leicestershire Arts in Education programme run by former RB Principle Dancer, Graham Fletcher. He was awesome. He expected perfection, but the harshest words he ever said were "you know you can do better than that".

 

So yes I believe having had professional experience is essential, and the higher that level the more the teacher understands how to teach the difficult techniques constructively having been exposed to the very best choreographers who expect perfection.

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While I do agree that a professional dancer brings much more to the table as a dance teacher it does not automatically follow that a professional dancer makes a good teacher.

 

One of the problems I've noticed which can arise with a teacher who has had a stellar career is that he/she may forget just how difficult the most basic movements are. It has been so many years since such a teacher has had to really think about how to do something like a "simple" assemblé or a glissade, or a sauté in first position - or even stand correctly..

 

I have observed such teachers who become quite impatient when a student is struggling to master these basic concepts. Over lunch one day one such teacher (stellar professional career) told me it drove him distraction when his students couldn't quickly catch on. He admitted that he had forgotten what it was like to be a beginner and how difficult ballet is at the lower levels. He said he found himself erroneously thinking that his students were purposely not doing things quickly. Even though he realized all this - it didn't help and he had a tendency to become sarcastic and impatient in class.

 

He is probably an extreme example, but I have noticed it to one degree or another with some retired professional dancers who turn to teaching. Another whom I interviewed for Ballet.co.uk - a retired principal with ABT - told me she had difficulty making the transition from totally focusing on herself to now focusing on her students. She did make that transition - and from what I observed - successfully.

 

Professional experience does not automatically translate to teaching in a classroom. Especially for the lower grades, I think it is more important for the teacher to have some stage experience - but not necessarily with a top company or in the top ranks of a company.

 

It is the ability to teach which comes first because without that nothing happens. And, that ability includes inspiring her students to consider the classroom a stage. The classroom IS a stage. The mirror IS the audience.

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Very good question, dancerbabe82. For me, it depends whether we're talking Directors of Dance - i.e. at a Vocational School - or Teachers. IMHO, I think it's better if a Director of Dance has been a professional dancer, as they have an insight into company life, what company directors are looking for, etc. Hopefully this may help them somewhat in the selection process (for Upper School, certainly), and help the school foster links between the school and companies.

 

In a Dance Teacher, I would look for someone hands on, who has the "people skills" to teach anyone from 3 upwards at an appropriate level, and who is skilled at breaking down each exercise into its component parts. I also think a good teacher explains WHY an exercise is done, and can motivate students, give praise as well as correction, and get the best out of each student.

 

I've seen teachers who have been professional dancers and teachers who haven't, and there are good and bad in both. So for me, teaching skills are more important than a teacher's background. But in Directors of Dance, there is probably benefit for both school and students if the D.O.D. has danced professionally. In my humble opinion, obviously!

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My DD recently changed dance schools which was included in a discussion on another thread so I do not want to repeat my reasons for this again! :-)

My DD's first teacher never worked as a professional dancer but was put through her teaching exams by another dance school. She is a very good teacher and at the end of the day she transformed my dd from a hyperactive 6 year old to a dancer . However, whilst she gets excellent exam results, with hindsight I can see she had no experience or understanding about auditions and was unable to prepare or support my DD with this. She lacks "contacts" and it was left to me to research and apply for EYB, additional associate schemes and eventually the CAT scheme my dd attends now. In 9 years since the school has been running not one pupil has gone on to have a professional career in any dance genre.

My DD's new ballet teacher was a professional dancer with ENB, I have no idea if my dd will get the same exam results as she has done previously (probably not as she has switched from IDTA to RAD vocational anyway) but dd is loving her new classes with this teacher. She has a working knowledge of the industry and has already made suggestions and given advice to my DD regarding this. She runs additional vocational classes in addition to the syllabus classes because of her understanding of the standard that is required. I think your ideal teacher is someone who has the teaching skills but also the knowledge of the industry and how to best support those children with talent. :-)

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What I would look for is sound teaching of technique but above all a passion for dance and an ability to fire this is in their students and encourage them to be the best possible dancer they can. My son was fortunate enough to study under Anatole Grigoriev, a wonderful and inspirational teacher and my granddaughter has been fortunate to find an equally wonderful teacher who is a constant source of inspiration to her.

Edited by akh
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I find that parents seem to hold those teachers who have performed professionally in higher esteem, personally I am not sure if this is valid or not, as has been said before there are excellent teachers who have never been professional and there are some professionals who are unable to relate to the students, particularly the younger ones who tend to require more attention and range from 'just for fun' to 'I want to be a prima donna'.

 

my personal finding is that ex-proffessionals tend to be better at visualising a dance and choreographing entire dances, but as i've said that is my personal view, the quality of teaching tends to balance out overall. :)

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The question is whether people believe that ex professional dancers make better teachers than those who haven't been professional dancers.

 

In my view, yes people do believe this to be so which saddens me as many of the best teachers I've come across did not have have a performing career. And some of the worst, or most unpleasant teachers had been professionals but had no empathy with struggling students, poor classroom skills and a tendency to address only the "chosen" few. I have unfortunately also come across 1 or 2 dancers who are clearly just filling in between contracts who simply don't care whether the students are working or not.

 

I do think it is important for vocational students to be taught by ex professional dancers- some are fabulous and are able to help make the transition from student to professional. When looking at vocational schools I was careful to look at actual teaching qualifications, however well known a person was. Of course there are teachers with many qualifications who are mediocre at best but it mattered to me if someone, whatever their background had clearly made some commitment to teacher training and was up to date with teaching practices.

 

Many of my vocational school teachers did not dance professionally but they were the ones who helped me the most as they had a better understanding as to why ballet doesn't come naturally to the majority! The teachers that were ex professionals were not nearly as approachable- their skills lay more in the teaching of repertoire; I was so lucky to have the best of both worlds.

 

Now Im a teacher myself my proudest moment was when my DS, after three years of WL turned round suddenly and said "wow Mum you really are a bloody good teacher!"

 

Now I did dance professionally for a very short time but I honestly don't think it makes me better than many of my excellent colleagues who didn't have that experience. Although ex students of mine have gone to Royal, Tring, Hammond, Central and ENBS I don't pretend that it was all down to my teaching- rather the ability to realise when a student needs to go elsewhere having gone as far as they can at the schools I teach at. Afterall its not just about the quality of teaching at non vocational schools, its whether the most gifted dancers are able to do class with similarly minded and able students.

 

Keep having to edit spellling!!!

Edited by hfbrew
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Perhaps one isn't better than the other, just different.

 

I suspect that it does older children the world of good to experience different teaching styles and methods, rather than having one teacher all the time.

 

What do I look for in a dance teacher? Glee on dd's face when she comes out of class!

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I look for a teacher who is interested in my child and helping them to reach their full potential. The teacher needs to be passionate about dancing, They need to understand the students growing body and understand the emotional journey the child goes through especially when they are going through puberty and when the body goes through dramatic changes. A good teacher is flexible with their apporach to training and does not keep to a set routine every lesson. The teacher also needs to keep themselves up to date with the constant changes that happen in the ballet world and keep themselves up to date with courses that may be available to them. A good teacher actually listens to his/her students and looks at ways to conquer any problems. A good teacher doesnt hold the student back in their ongoing development and training.

My dd has been very fortunate in finding three such teachers in England. They are all ex professional dancers which helps in that they understand what dance companies are looking for, however regardless of this they are fantastic teachers who understand and nourish my child and seem to want her to suceed in the professional world as much as she wants it herself.

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Thanks. I agree with you Primrose. I saw a job advert recently for a teacher at one of the 'big 4' and it basically implied that if you haven't had a performing career don't even bother to apply. I believe that having a good eye for technique, line etc and being able to relate, explain things and inspire students is just as important.....

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I agree with a lot of what has been said, but my daughter has always been loyal to her original ballet teacher who did not dance professionaly. This teacher is just lovely and brilliant in her teaching. She taught Kristen McNally from the Royal and a few other well known names that I can't remember right this minute. This teacher keeps herself up to date with the dancing world, and she welcomes my daughter back to her school during any mini breaks, just such a lovely relationship. Right from the age of three my daughter and my family have had the greatest respect for this little dance school, that produces some very talented classical and non classical dancers.

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I think it is not only important to observe how the teacher relates to your child - but also how he/she relates to all the children.

 

The atmosphere in the classroom as it affects all the students is crucial. It's easy to relate well to those children which catch the teacher's heart and eye - the test is how he/she relates to all the students.

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Being a student i look for a teacher who understands the ins and outs of being a dancer and in most cases these teachers are ex-professionals or have had advanced training in physio therapy, pilates etc or both! so they can understand the anatomy of a dancers body.

 

as Anjuli_Bai said earlier i also think its important that the atmoshphere in the classroom is good as you dont want to be tense etc you want to feel comfortable.

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I have had two wonderful teachers. The first is now sadly certainly dead. She taught my mother's best friend to dance as well as me. She was strict, but also warm and affectionate to her pupils, and young Christina who teaches me now, is a joy to learn with.

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