October 7, 2014 by Nicole
Photo courtesy of Lisbet Photography, lisbetstudio.com
By now, you’ve probably had a chance to settle in to your fall semester, with a few weeks of classes under your belt, but then the inevitable happens. You can’t help but notice some changes….maybe you’re in class with all-new peers or there’s been a curriculum change with placement levels or your favorite teacher is no longer one of yours or even available (the list goes on).
Since change makes most people uncomfortable, you’re probably asking what do I do now? Or, if you’re a dance parent, how do I help my dance student in the midst of a transition?
First, it’s ok to have some butterflies about change. It’s normal. But change, especially in dance, is one of the most constant forces in the universe. Things will change throughout your career – you won’t always have the same teachers, the same peers, the same roles, etc. In the dance studio is a great place to start learning how to get comfortable with change. Here are a few things to keep in mind…
When my favorite dance teacher leaves the studio…
Dance teachers are humans too. They retire, relocate, even change jobs sometimes. For this reason, among several others which I’ll get to, it’s important to not get too attached to personalities. It’s wonderful and pretty common to have a personal connection to your dance teacher, but the same way we don’t expect our kindergarten teachers to see us all the way through high school graduation, it’s unrealistic to think that we won’t have many teachers throughout our dance lives. And it’s a good thing.
Growth is accelerated by learning from multiple teachers. Without realizing it, in addition to dance technique, you’re also learning how to learn – how to work with different personalities and adapt to different teaching styles, sometimes even within the same discipline. You don’t want an audition to be the first time you have to learn a combination from someone other than your favorite dance teacher.
And since everyone has their own unique set of experiences, background & perspective, each teacher you come across has something new and beneficial to offer. Take advantage of that. Even if your favorite teacher is still part of your schedule, challenge yourself to take class from others, even occasionally, to broaden and diversify your dance experience. It will make you a better dancer and a better student.
When you’re in a new class, with all new peers…
Maybe your dancer aged up or you have to take class on a new night, which means all strange faces at the barre with you. That’s good too. In the same way that multiple teachers help, your fellow dancers also help you to grow and vice versa. You’re hearing their corrections and watching their progress the same way they are yours….sometimes all it takes is seeing someone else apply a correction we couldn’t that makes us go “ohhh. That’s what that means.”
Or maybe you went from being best in the class to having to try really hard to keep up…that’s a huge opportunity for you or your dancer to make a big stride forward. It may not always feel good for your ego, but stick it out. Approach it as a challenge to stretch your capabilities and improve (whatever that means for you).
When your peers move up to level 3 and you’re still in level 2…
While I can’t speak for 100% of all dance schools & teachers, I can very nearly promise you that your class placement is not a personal vendetta. Your dance teacher wants to see you (or your dancer ) succeed. Sometimes that means pushing them up a level to challenge them and sometimes it means holding back to master a set of fundamentals. Since each dancer is unique, there’s not a formula for how this progression should happen. It should be a partnership between the school and dancer (and dancer’s parents, when applicable) to determine readiness and which path is best for the student. This is another one of those instances where your class placement may not do wonders for your ego. The trick is to set aside any personal feelings like disappointment and challenge yourself to master those things that prevented advancement in the first place. If you don’t know why or what those things are, ask.
The bottom line
Make decisions based on the big picture, not short-term discomfort with where you are right now. If you’re in a school where you are recognized, challenged, encouraged and supported as an individual, the benefits of that can far outweigh personal feeling about new classes or teachers. You want to be with an organization that makes its students’ best interests a top priority and values each dancer. A dance organization with a history of exceptional education, recognition and support, that has outlived trends, is also likely to thrive and be a place you can call your dance home.
What have you done when your favorite teacher moved away or stopped teaching your level? How did you handle being in a class with all-new peers? Any other big changes I’ve missed?