How Incentive Programs for Physical Achievements Can Have a Negative Impact on Dance Students
An example of a bulletin board about goals from Pinkadots Elementary
You've seen them. I know you've seen them. I literally just saw two in a Facebook group for dance teachers.
Ice cream parties. Prizes, Eternal glory on a bulletin board in a studio. In what is intended to be a positive reward system for students that stretch and push themselves to achieve more, dance teachers often arrange incentive programs for students for meeting their physical goals, such as getting down in their splits. Students are enticed to stretch at home in front of the TV, before and after class, and anywhere and everywhere, and push themselves little by little to get their name in shining lights. Seems like a great way to help kids move forward in their dance careers, right?
But what about the kids that will never be able to do splits?
I, in fact, was one of those kids once upon a time. Thanks to the art of genetics, I have short tendons throughout my legs, causing me to be less flexible than the average person. I spent my childhood in physical therapy, leg braces, and ballet class correcting my walking so that I kept my heels flat on the ground. Exercises like plié helped me significantly. For example, I constantly needed to focus on pushing my heels into the ground when doing jumps like échappé and changement. Ballet was beneficial to me in this way, and I am grateful that I was able to take these classes as a child.
Splits were always my biggest challenge in ballet class. At first, there were only one or two girls that could bend in half right away. These girls had genetics on their side. My teachers would tell me to "just keep stretching", and stretch is what I did. In front of the TV at home. On the playground during recess. But, as research shows, there is a limit to how flexible a student can become even with proper stretching practices. As time went on, more of my friends ended up sliding right down to the floor. Eventually, I was the only student still pitifully struggling while my friends whipped out splits as naturally as walking.
To say this took a toll on me psychologically is an understatement. Sometimes I feel like a broken record, but I cannot stress enough how this affected my self-esteem as a child. How was I ever supposed to be confident and beautiful in ballet class when all I could think about was how pathetic I looked not even getting close to the floor in my splits?
Looking back on this as a dance teacher, I've been thinking about ways to avoid repeating history and create a positive atmosphere for all of my students. If we truly believe that all children should dance, then we have to make our classes inclusive and enriching for all of our students. We cannot only celebrate those that achieve the stereotypical goals of dance. Thinking even further, if we can't even accept that some children have slightly different bodies than others, how can we ever expect to welcome students that have actual disabilities or challenges? If what happened to me, a child with a slightly abnormal set up, can happen so easily, then certainly our classes are at risk for being non-inclusive.
It's time to go back to the drawing board and think about how we can improve our practices in order to meet the needs of all of our students. Every dancer is different, and it's time we start reflecting on the flaws in our own training and experience and acknowledging that things could be better for our students. Think about what you value as a teacher, and how you can practice what you preach.
Bulletin boards and other motivational tools can be great ways to help your students achieve their goals and improve as dancers. I don't mean to criticize teachers that have used "split boards", as I understand that their intentions are likely pure of heart and only meant to help their students. However, it's important to hear stories like mine (as I'm sure there are many far worse out there) and consider new practices to help reach more of your students. One way you could do this is to help students set their own realistic goals and reward them when they've met them. These goals can be anything from landing a double pirouette to getting over their stage fright and performing in your end of the year recital. These goals would be unique to ever student and as a teacher, you should be able to guide them to what is realistic. You could use a bulletin board, sticker chart, a journal, etc. to help students track their own progress. Students may still be stuck in the norm, however, and feel inferior if their goal isn't something that is as valued in the dance world. Be sure to treat every achievement as that- a valuable achievement- so that students don't get discouraged this way, either. You could also simply celebrate students you see improving by posting about them on your board or social media!
There is a time and place for competition, but a dance classroom should be a safe learning environment where all students can learn and grow. As dance teachers, it is our responsibility to celebrate our students achievements and find their strengths. Whether our students are flexible or not, there are plenty of beautiful ways a student can succeed in dance class, and it's time we celebrated those things, too.
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After all this time, here's to you.
It seems that time has slipped away from me and I have been unable to dedicate as much time to writing as I would like. As a graduating senior this past semester, I had so much going on that it was hard to write about every little exciting thing. However, I have so much to be proud of and am excited to share with you all soon.
Throughout my four years of college, there is something that has been weighing on my heart, however. While it may seem that everyone in my life is so supportive of my journey and career path now, it wasn't always this way. I truly believe it is water under the bridge, but it's impossible for me to forget the person that did not have faith that I could become a dance teacher.
When I first enrolled as a dance major, this was something I thought a lot about. I was so distrusting of everyone that showed the littlest bit of faith in me, and I felt like I had something to prove. I was left with a bitter taste in my mouth and anytime I failed or made a mistake on my dance journey I was filled with fear that this person was right all along.
As time went on, this feeling faded away. I have studied with some of the most beautiful, inspiring, and encouraging people I will ever meet. I aimed to achieve my goals and move forward instead of attempting to rewrite the past and surpass the expectations of an individual that is no longer in my life. I let go of the life I had and created a new one where dance exists and is joyful in a new way. I am no longer motivated by the satisfaction of proving someone wrong, but with the faith that I am destined to achieve greatness and pass this on to others as a dance educator.
There are a million and one things I have wanted to say to this person in the past four years. My anger and frustration have festered for a long time and I have spent many nights crying to myself about what I cannot control. I have written and rewritten posts like this and kept them to myself because not only do I feel the words never come out right, but I do not want to slander this person or harbor any resentment anymore. The past is the past, and I believe you had your reasons and rationale. Now, there are only eight little letters, two short words, that I have left to say.
Thank you for not supporting my decision to study dance in college. If you had guided me through the college admission process as I had hoped you would, I probably wouldn't have ended up at Bridgewater State University. BSU has given me countless opportunities, friendships, and mentors and I am so grateful that I enrolled there.
Thank you for not giving me any opportunity that took up too much of my time that I would have had to quit my summer job. I love my job and have learned so much from working there for the past five summers. I wouldn't trade that experience and the friendships I have made there for the world.
Thank you for my love of musical theatre. If I had never needed a break from dance, I never would have gotten involved with theatre in the first place. Theatre has given me improvisation skills, confidence, and lasting friendships. Although it is a small thing on this long list, I am forever grateful that not only was my break short lived, it lead me to another beautiful art form.
Thank you for reminding me of what my body cannot do. You left me with a curiosity for what my body is capable of. During this investigation, I learned to see dance as an expressive art form and I have fallen in love with the language of movement. While I still struggle with body positivity, I have begun to make peace with body for what it looks like and what it can do. Thank you.
Thank you for the nights of tears and broken dreams. While those nights aren't fond memories, they taught me what pain really feels like and how to stand back up again after being knocked down. I learned how to march on after a setback.
Thank you for making me feel uncomfortable in a dance studio. It really gave me a deeper appreciation for dancing outdoors, or dancing where I didn't feel like I belonged. I'm more adaptive than I ever was.
Thank you for causing me to distrust you. This made it harder for teachers to earn my trust, and ultimately they grew deeper bonds with me through it. I also learned to not put my faith in people so quickly, and when to draw the line if someone is a negative influence.
Thank you for teaching me that if I want something, I have to work for it. And fight for it. I have to continuously go to Plan B or even Plan C to achieve my goals. I have practiced the art of "fake it till ya make it" and have leaped over obstacles that come my way.
Thank you for pushing me away, because letting go of the life I once had would have been far too difficult for me. If I hadn't left, I wouldn't be where I am today. You pushed me towards a new light shone by people who would lift me up. My life has changed for the better so much that most of the people reading this won't know who this letter is for. Thank you for them.
Today, I hold a Bachelor's degree in dance and now I am licensed dance educator in the Massachusetts Public School System for grades pre-k to 12. I am also proud to share that I will be attending New York University Steinhardt (my dream school!) in the fall to earn my Master of Arts in dance education.
Most importantly, I have a big thank you card hanging up in my room from my fourth grade students this semester. I made a difference in those kids' lives in just a few short months, and I am looking forward to giving the gift of dance to more students like them in the near future.
Just like you said I wouldn't.
Thank you for not believing in me. It taught me to believe in myself even when I had no reason to, because someone had to.
image from Groupon
I still remember when the first Kidz Bop album came out on cassette tape. The album featured clean, kid-friendly versions of everything from blink-182 to Ricky Martin. There are so many alternative or pop punk songs I know now because I first heard it on Kidz Bop. I loved these albums as a kid, especially growing up in a household where we didn't listen to the radio, but as I got older I began to question why these albums were still so popular. With clean/radio edit versions of singles being released on iTunes, Spotify, and Youtube, I wondered what the need for Kidz Bop was anymore. Popular songs have become much less kid-friendly, too (if you need a good laugh, I suggest the Kidz Bop covers of "Thrift Shop" by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis and "Closer" by the Chainsmokers). Since becoming an elementary school dance teacher, however, I have gained an appreciation for Kidz Bop. Not only does Kidz Bop clean up songs for the radio, they take out anything that the most conservative parent would oppose. Although I listen and laugh, as a dance teacher I appreciate having this resource for my classroom.
With that being said, I have complied a list of kid-friendly pop music that you don't need a Kidz Bop cover for. As kids get older and gain more access to the Internet, Kidz Bop may seem too "babyish" for them, and it's good to have a Plan B if it's not working out. Here are some modern(ish) pop songs to play in your dance classes...
Have any to add to the list? Leave a comment!
a guide to applying to undergraduate dance programs
The story of how I ended up as a dance major at BSU is a long and complicated one. I have wanted to be a dance teacher since the time I could play school with my stuffed animals and stage my own production of The Nutcracker with the incredibly talented cast of my Barbie dolls. My path to embarking on this journey has not always been as clear, however, especially during my time in high school.
College was always in the cards for me. I attended a college preparatory high school, and from day one of freshman year I told my guidance counselor that I was going to be a dance major. I spent the next few years explaining to people in my life that yes, majoring in dance is in fact a "thing", sifting through dance magazines looking for colleges to apply to, and Googling dance programs into the wee hours of the morning.
There is a lot to know that I really didn't know when considering which programs to apply to. While I am no expert on the subject, here is the best advice I can offer a high school student looking to take dance to the academic level, things that I feel would have been good to hear when I was going through this process...
Know Your End Goal
Do you want to dance professionally, choreograph, teach, or some combination of these or other possibilities? Look into the different programs out there and find out what the focus of each program is. You can do this by looking for specific majors (i.e. a degree in dance vs. a degree in dance education) and looking at the curriculum to see what courses you would specifically be taking. Some schools have dance as a concentration rather than its own degree, but the courses may still prepare you for your future.
Additionally, look into the type of degree you are applying to. Typically, a BFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts) program is geared towards professional dancing and students will spend the majority of their time taking technique or choreography classes. BFA programs are also known to be more competitive programs to get in to. BA (Bachelor of Arts) programs usually have a more diverse curriculum. The level of competition to get into a BA program will depend on the school. If you are looking for a two year program, schools like Dean College and some community colleges can offer you this.
Get To Know the Program
Familiarizing yourself with a specific program can help you decide if it will be a good fit for you or if it is likely to be an option. Many dance programs often open houses or drop in classes that you can attend to see if you will be able to keep up there. If the program you are interested does not offer this, try reaching out to their department and see if you can shadow a student or take a class with them!
If may also benefit you to look up a program's acceptance rate. Keep in mind, a school's acceptance rate will be different from your specific program (if the program requires an audition). Many schools will accept you into the institution, but not into the program if you do not pass the audition.
Make Sure You Have Options
With many of these programs being as competitive as they are, it is important to tier your schools like any prospective college student would. Which programs do you genuinely feel you have a shot at, which are safe bets, and which are a reach? Apply to a variety of these programs to ensure that increase your chances of studying dance as planned. Note: pedagogy or dance education programs are sometimes just as selective as a dance performance program, depending on the school.
Plan As Far in Advance As You Can
The harsh reality of applying to be a dance major is that it takes much more planning than your typical college application would. In addition to the researching process, auditions, audition videos, portfolios, interviews, etc. can be very time consuming. It is in your best interest to start looking into these programs as soon as you decide that is what you want to do after high school. Invest in a planner or use an online calendar to plan auditions and application deadlines. Like any other audition, start practicing and preparing for that early, too.
Diversify Your Experiences
The first experience I ever had with modern dance occurred during an audition. While it is important to try new things during an audition regardless, it will help you to seek out new opportunities in dance before this process. Dancing at the collegiate level is going to diversify your experience, but starting ahead of time can help you feel more prepared for the audition and make you a more desirable candidate. Even something as simple as taking a Vaganova style ballet class when you have always studied Cecchetti will make you feel more comfortable to walk into whatever lies ahead of you.
Ask Yourself What You Want Out of a College Experience
If what you what to do in college is just dance, dance, dance all day, everyday, then you will want to attend a conservatory style school. If you are looking for a more traditional or diverse college experience (whether you want to double major or add a minor or get involved on campus), a conservatory style program is better for you.
Make Your Dream Work
This process may be a trying time for you, especially if you watch your friends get acceptance letter after acceptance letter and all you want to focus on is the senior prom. However, if this path was meant for you, I truly believe you will get there. You may need to adjust your plans or seek alternative options, but you have the capability to make your dream work.
I hadn't heard of Bridgewater State until my guidance counselor mentioned to me that they have a dance program. I have had many failed auditions that I went into with no preparation and no potential to pass. I have submitted applications the day they were due and struggled through this process without any guidance from the dance world. Yet here I am, four years later, about to graduate with my BA in dance and will be student teaching this month. No, I didn't end up at the dream school I'd hoped to go to since I was 14 years old, but I have learned so much and have met the most amazing mentors and friends at BSU.
Do what it takes to make your dream work, even if it doesn't seem like your desired path. You might just end up in a better place than you ever thought you would. I know that's what happened to me.
If you are interested in dancing in college, BSU's NDEO Student Organization will be hosting our annual Bridge to BSU event in which prospective dance majors and minors can come experience a day in the life of a college dancer! The event is on February 10, 2019 at Bridgewater State University in Bridgewater, Massachusetts. Click this button for event details!
If you have a big audition coming up for any of these programs, read my article "Audition Advice" to help you prepare!
Stuck on what to get your dancer this holiday season? Christmas may only be 9 days away, but there is still plenty of time to get your dancer the gift they want! Here's your quick guide to great gifts for the deserving dancer in your life...
Best of luck with your shopping this season!
Happy Holidays from Ballet with Becca!
I have had many failures when it comes to my dance career. I was looked over year after year for the role of Clara in The Nutcracker, I was never any good at doing fouettés en pointe, my piece was rejected from a student choreography showcase, I failed my dance MTEL on the first try, and I'll never be able to do a split. I don't have any trophies or crown to show that I was ever any good at dancing when I was younger. Nobody shares videos and photos of me online because they're in awe of me. I have been beaten down (metaphorically speaking) to the point where I was ready to quit dance altogether. Ironically enough, today I was cleaning out my house and found an old rejection letter from a dance program.
We are so quick to equate these superficial signs of "success" to the value of our dancing. We treat the glorious as the gods of dance, while we brand the less fortunate or less successful as wannabe dancers. The second we walk into a ballet class, we identify the good and the bad, while trying to find our place at least somewhere in the middle. We get envious of those that can show off their incredible flexibility in photographs. We don't skip that third class of the week in order to keep our teachers, dance moms, and classmates happy. We even perform to get the crowd on their feet in roar of applause. So much of what we do in dance is for someone else.
As I have gotten older and have taken a step back from performing and training as rigorously as I did growing up, I have had this fear of not really being considered a dancer anymore. Yes, this sounds crazy, especially considering I've been studying dance at BSU for the past 3 (going on 4) years, but I no longer have these outward attributes of a dancer. I don't have a show to rehearse for or a new move to nail. But I still have dance in me.
Last week I took a ballet class for the first time in a year. Even though I've been taking other styles for the past year, I could definitely feel that I am much less flexible than I was in the past. I was definitely one of the least advanced in the class, but I still felt like I belonged there. The familiar feeling of tights being stuck to my legs on a hot July day had not been forgotten. My technique was still there, and it felt like I had never left. Ballet had not left my body just because I had left the barre.
Dance is mine. It has been mine since I was three years old and I took my first ballet lesson. It was mine when I found out I was genetically predisposed to being less flexible than the average person. It was mine when the girls I went to school with made fun of me for doing ballet productions instead of dance competitions. It was mine when I first became injured and had to come home and ice my knee every night. It was mine when I fell into a deep depression because someone in my life discouraged me from pursuing my dreams of becoming a dance teacher. It was mine when I choreographed my first musical with my best friend, and struggled to just get my dancers to master a jazz square. It was mine when I cried at my first big audition because I got cut halfway through. It was mine when I finally got to be Clara in The Nutcracker, even if it was just for community outreach performances. It was mine when I got anxiety over modern dance classes because I really had no clue what I was doing. It was mine when I received my first card from students with "Miss Rebecca" on the envelope. Dance was mine, and is mine, through every trial and triumph, success and failure, good memories and bad, that I was been through...and it always will be.
To my future students, please know that dance is all yours. No matter where you are on your dance journey, where it begins, where it ends, or where it throws you for a loop, dance is yours. The joy you feel when you dance will stay in your body throughout your life is you let it. Don't let this false idea of what a dancer is cloud your judgment. Don't let someone take dance away from you, as they have no right to. It doesn't matter if you're the best in the class or you make it as a professional; what matters is that you love dance, you keep dancing, and you save a place in your heart for dance, always.
Dancers typically have very little (if any) free time in their schedules, but unfortunately dance is expensive. Between pointe shoes and master classes and entry fees, dancers may find themselves...well, broke. Especially for students, getting a summer job is a great way to earn some extra money to fund your dance career (and maybe pay off some loans)! Here are some of the best summer jobs for dancers...
Amusement parks are a great way to break into the entertainment industry. Many amusement parks have performances or entertainment departments that can provide you with dance or performance experience. Even if you are working in another department, every employee in an amusement park is part of the entertainment business. There's a reason many amusement parks call their employees "cast members" and use terms like "on stage" and "off stage" to describe parts of the park. Regardless of weather or crowd conditions, employees are expected to put on a show for their customers and provide them with excellent guest service and quality entertainment.
Local dance stores are often looking for extra help, and their employees are usually members of the dance community. By working in a dance store, you can learn about the dance retail industry, give advice about merchandise to other dancers, and possibly get a good employee discount!
Many dance studios and schools offer dance camps, so look for a job assisting or even teaching at one of them! Getting some teaching experience can't hurt your dance career, and if you're lucky, you'll be paid for your time.
Like jazz squares, children's theatre camps and workshops are a crowd favorite, and are often looking for choreographers and/or dance teachers. Look into programs like these and see if you can find yourself a job!
Professional, pre-professional, and local productions may already have choreographers, but dance captains come in handy during the rehearsal process. See if any theatre companies are putting on a show this summer, and try reaching out to see if they need a dance captain.
Want a fun way to stay in shape this summer? Start your own dog walking business in your neighborhood and get your steps in while taking care of some furry friends!
Dancers are also artists of many forms, so if you have a knack for crafts or other art forms, try making your own little business and selling your work! Some cool ideas for dancers would be painting/bedazzling/redesigning old pointe shoes, making wreaths out of old pointe shoes, making doll replicas of dance costumes, or anything else you can find on Pinterest!
Assistant at Dance Intensives
Many young dancers board at their summer intensives, and these programs hire "resident assistants" (or a similar title) to look after these students in some way, shape, or form. Look into intensives and see if you meet the qualifications for this kind of position!
Schools, museums, and other places hire tour guides to show their guests around. Being a tour guide can help you practice your performance skills and get some exercise in! If you are a college student, your school might even be hiring tour guides for the summer.
Interested in applying for a job? Create or edit your resume (see CONTACT for my resume as an example!) or design your own website (with Weebly, like this site!) to create an online portfolio. Happy summer, and happy dancing!
Photos from MTL Blog and ABCDance
If you live in the Salem, New Hampshire area, consider applying to Canobie Lake Park! Hundreds of jobs are available and you can work in a fun environment with flexible hours and awesome team members! Visit canobie.com or click the button below!
Students at Westfield State University visibly upset after news broke that the school would be tearing down their set a week before opening night in order to clear the stage for a televised political event.
Photo from Facebook
You really can't make this stuff up.
A few nights ago I was scrolling through my Facebook feed when I came across this photo with a captain describing what happened at WSU. According to students at WSU, they had built this extravagent set for their upcoming production of Urinetown, and have had this space booked since last Spring. Last week (two weeks before the show goes up), school staff members were beginning to tear down the set because they had double booked the space for one of the production dates. Senator Elizabeth Warren was set to speak at this event and MSNBC would be filming. The show was going to moved to a black box theatre that would only be able to fit 13 of the 35 cast members on stage and would not be able to have this set.
By looking at the photo, you can see the funds, heart, blood, sweat, and tears that had gone into that set. And it was being taken down for a PR event.
First of all, I would like to take the blame off Elizabeth Warren. I'm not just saying that based on political views, but she isn't the one to book her own events. Her people probably didn't even know there was supposed to be a musical in that space, and that the set was being destroyed on the event's behalf. The school was basically sweeping the show- and more importantly, the students- under the rug for this event. Not to mention, knowing Senator Warren's platform I don't think she would have been okay with any of this.
But what I am saying WTF to is the fact that any sane human would think that destroying this set and throwing away all of this students' hard work was a good idea.
What I am most horrified about is that this was real life. We've all seen an episode of Glee or some other TV show where the arts are underrated, but this is proof that shows like Rise and Bunheads weren't lying. There are actually awful people that are willing to hurt the arts and its students for selfish reasons. All I have to say about these people are they are unjustified, cruel, and not fit to be working in education.
How many times do we have to say that the arts are important??? How many times do we have to spell out the benefits of the arts??? How many times do we have to stick up for kids that like to do something other than play sports???
Never underestimate the power of the arts (and social media), because news broke this past Friday that MSNBC has pulled out of the event after hearing what the school was planning to do to its students. I am so happy for these students and grateful that someone came to their senses. However, I think it's pathetic that the school did not make this decision themselves. Someone that works in education should ALWAYS put the students first.
Long story short, I am proud that these students stood up for their art and saved their show. I just wished they didn't have to defend it in the first place.
If you'd like to read more about this story, read about it here:
Like any other subject, dancing and teaching dance are two separate things. For example, you wouldn't expect an astronaut to one day leave the Moon and pick up a textbook in a local elementary school and teach first grade science, would you? Sure, he might come in to do a fun presentation for the kids, but what does an astronaut know about classroom management?
Education is a separate subject and at many schools, a separate degree. Bridgewater State University (the school I attend) is known for its education programs. I am a double major in dance and secondary education, meaning that I am learning how to dance while learning how to teach dance. Within my dance major, there are many classes that are geared towards teaching dance, as many students that attend BSU plan to become dance educators one day. There is a difference between taking a ballet class, where I focus on perfecting my own technique, and taking a course where I learn how to teach others what I have learned in that ballet class.
The differences between studying dance and studying dance education can be seen when comparing college dance programs. For example, getting a BFA or a BA in dance (or a specific style of dance) at a conservatory style school will most likely prepare students for a career in performing dance (or sometimes other elements of dance performance, including choreography etc). Some conservatory schools do have concentrations in dance education or pedagogy that will prepare students for a career in dance education, while others are strictly for dance performance.
It is possible to have careers in both dance performance and dance education. Some professional dancers teach while performing, with others wait to teach until they are retired. Look at Ballet West's Allison DeBona, for example. I had the opportunity to take classes with Allison through her summer intensive artÉmotion. Allison created this program as a way to teach both aspiring professional dancers and recreational dancers that just want to improve their technique and have fun. During my time in Salt Lake City, it was clear to me that Allison has a passion for teaching. She was very student-centered in her methodology, gave effective and clear corrections, and was focused on helping us improve and have fun. Allison is currently a First Soloist with Ballet West, and is the perfect example of a professional dancer who has sought out teaching dance as a vocation, not as a fallback plan to make extra money or because she has nothing better to do after retiring from dancing professionally.
I have noticed a problem, however, with professional or wannabe professional dancers who deflect to teaching dance, especially in the ballet world. Some dancers study and train as hard as they can, but never make it professionally, so they decide that teaching is a good alternative. Other dancers are forced to retire from dancing professionally, whether it be because of age, injury, or settling down with a family, and feel teaching dance is the next step in their life. While there are success stories, like Allison's, teaching dance is not something that dancers should "deflect" to. Dance education is just as important as dance performance, as the dance world would not exist without dance teachers. If a professional dancer or a dancer who never made it professionally decides to teach dance, they can't just do it because they believe in the philosophy "those who can't, teach". In other words, if someone pursues a career in dance education simply because they feel they have no other options, they may be doing the dance education world an injustice.
The first problem with dancers "deflecting" to teaching is their potential lack of training. For example, if a professional ballet dancer holds a BFA in dance, they may have only studied dance performance, and have no training in teaching. They may lack skills of teaching to all learning styles, classroom management, lesson planning, advocating for dance education, injury prevention, and other elements of dance methodology. Like other subjects, dance is not usually something you can simply teach effectively without some kind of teacher preparation. There is a reason public schools (and many private/charter schools) do not hire teachers that do not have a teaching license or any kind of teacher preparation. While dance does exist in some schools, the majority of dance education occurs in private studios, where anyone is allowed to teach. Without this crucial training, even the dancer with the best of intentions may be unprepared. This does not mean, however, that all dancers should give up their dreams of teaching dance. There are many teacher preparation programs available through colleges and universities, as well as the National Dance Education Organization. My advice to aspiring dance educators in this position is to get the knowledge, skills, and experience needed to be an effective dance educator, and keep in mind that dance education is a separate vocation from dancing professionally, not just something you feel you can do or have to do after dancing professionally. Also, keep in mind that teaching dance is not your only option! There are career opportunities in choreography, dance criticism and journalism, and dance production. Pursue dance education if you wish, but please educate yourself first!
An even bigger problem with dancers "deflecting" to teaching dance is their attitudes. If a professional dancer, like Allison, truly has a passion for dance performance and dance education, then that dancer has great potential to be an effective dance educator. However, if a dancer is only pursing teaching because they feel they have no other options, they may have a negative attitude towards teaching. Although this is not a real-life example, take the character of Saskia on Dance Academy. Saskia was a star of her ballet company, but is given the chance to teach when her career is put on hold due to an injury. Saskia was a terrible dance teacher. She was cruel to her students and became jealous when they could do things that she was physically incapable of. She even injured a student when she pushed her beyond her physical limitations (something I learned about and did a research project on in my dance education program at BSU!). Professional dancers need to have the attitude that dance education is an important and valuable thing, not something to look down upon or "deflect" to. If a dancer even uses the term "deflecting" or thinks of teaching dance as a fallback, they should not be teaching dance. Dance Academy may be fiction, but this happens in the real world. I've seen it. A dance teacher should be enthusiastic about his/her/their career in dance education, not bitter because their professional is over or nonexistent and feel trapped in this job.
I can't stress enough how important dance education is. There is research as well as anecdotal information about how dance education can improve the lives of students of all ages, all ethnicities, all genders, etc. Just because someone is a good dancer does not mean he/she/they will be a good dance teacher. At the same time, just because someone is not cut out for a career in professional dance (like me!), does not mean he/she/they will be a bad dance teacher. To quote Damn Yankees, all you really need is heart, and the heart of a good dance educator believes in teacher training and putting the needs of students first. Dance education is not something to casually fall back on, but a worthy career that takes time, effort, and education to properly pursue.
Here are some ways you can support dance education...
No, the girl in the photo is not floating by magic or receiving an exorcism...that's me doing aerial yoga!
What is aerial yoga, you ask?
I don't know the history of aerial yoga or really that much about it (sorry I'm no journalist), but from my experience I have learned that aerial yoga is like yoga done with scarves that hang from the ceiling. I didn't think I was going to be good at it, as yoga takes a lot of upper body strength (one of my weaknesses), but I was better at it than I thought. The only moves I really struggled with were ones where I was supposed to go upside down without holding on to anything, and I mostly struggled because I was too afraid of falling.
Flexibility played a key role in aerial yoga too, but not necessarily in the way you would think. Anyone who has previously read my blog before knows that I struggle with flexibility, but I felt aerial yoga is a unique way to work on it. A lot of the stretches we did in the class were not out of my reach, and made me felt even more stretched than I might after a ballet or other conditioning class.
I highly recommend aerial yoga to anyone, but especially dancers. It was a fun and relaxing way to work on both strength and flexibility. It is a unique way to stay fit and improve your condition for dancing. If you get a chance, take a class!
For anyone in the Bridgewater area, I took my first class at Juniko in Hanover, MA. Your first class is free at Juniko, and beginners are welcome!
Courtesy Photo from Bridget Buckley
Hello there, my name is Becca and I am a 22 year old dance teacher from Massachusetts.
News & Events
9/18 Follow my new Instagram just for my dance things!
12/23 I was one of NDEO's Guest Bloggers this year! Read "Teaching is a Vocation. Not a Fallback" on their Behind the Curtain Blog!
9/27 I will be presenting my research at the National Dance Education Organization National Conference next week! See my research project by clicking the button below!
4/15 While working on PMA's production of The Addams Family, I got to combine my two favorite styles of dance (ballet and musical theatre) for "The Moon and Me"! Watch my talented students dance by clicking the button below!
2/20 I am choreographing PMA Theatre Guild's Production of The Addams Family! Come see these amazing high school students perform at Presentation of Mary Academy in Methuen, MA April 13 & 14! Tickets available at the door.
2/20 I am stage managing BSU's Dance Kaleidoscope this year! Show dates are March 29-31 at Bridgewater State University in Bridgewater, MA. Come see this student choreography showcase!
11/5 I will once again be dancing in a BSUDC concert! Tickets to WinterDance are now available!
8/24 NDEO's National Honor Society for Dance Arts has published one of my articles in their newsletter! Read an updated version of "Audition Advice" here:
5/16 Interested in learning about movement concepts? Visit Becca's new Educational Dance website!
5/8 BSU Dance Company's Dance Kaleidoscope 2017 is now on Youtube! You can watch my performances by visiting the VIDEOS page!
4/23 I recently performed for the residents of Allerton House in Hingham, MA! You can watch part of my performance here!
Amesbury Children's Theatre presents...James and the Giant Peach Jr, featuring choreography by me! Click for tickets!
2/8 My piece "Barefoot" is now available to watch online! Click to watch!
2/5 Happy to say I have been cast in BSU Dance Company's Spring concert Dance Kaleidoscope! I will be dancing in 3 faculty choreographed pieces, including excerpts from The Sleeping Beauty in which I will be dancing the role of Lilac Fairy! Show dates are March 31-April 1 at Bridgewater State University.
Click the button for more info!
1/15 Ballet with Becca is now on Facebook! Click to visit the page, and be sure to like it while you're there!
1/14 I am happy to say I will be attending artEmotion's summer intensive in June! I will be dancing in the one week artEmotion Adult Program. If anyone would like to join or audition for any other artEmotion program, visit their website!
12/13 My photo gallery has been recreated! Click to see the new page, including photos from WinterDance 2016!