Whether you’re trying to make it in the industry or travel the world teaching others, it all begins in one place: class. Classes, master classes, workshops, intensives, camps, and more! Taking class is great. Taking class is necessary for maintenance. Taking class also means money, money that may not come by easy for everyone.
However, with the wide variety of dance education offered to us today, it’s easy to get strayed into thinking we need to attend every class out there if we want to dance with Queen Bey someday. Whether you’re a studio kid or are the occasional drop in student, here are some tips I’ve learned over the years to maximize your dance vocabulary without minimizing your piggy bank every day. First things first, if you’re new to the classroom environment, know the basics of class etiquette:
- Find a window if one is available. That means don't stand directly in front of someone. If the class is packed like sardines, trust that the choreographer will switch lines.
- Do not hog the front of the room 24/7. This can actually hinder your growth because you get too settled in one spot of the room, which isn't healthy. Also, when you're split into groups at the end of class, you won't feel as anxious as if there is a spotlight on you.
- Raise your hand if you have a question. Shouting "I didn't see that!" will only distract the choreographer from their teaching. On the flip side, if you find that you can answer your own question by simply observing the choreographer, test yourself!
- DO NOT CHECK YOUR PHONE DURING CLASS. Especially if it's to see how many likes you got on that new Instagram post. Granted, life happens, so if you find yourself needing to use the phone, quietly step out of the studio.
Alas, my go-to list when taking class:
- Move around the room when the choreographer says to switch lines. Not just from the front to the back of the room but also inside out. This immediately switches up your learning energy, refreshes your senses, and prevents the possibility of getting too comfortable. [i.e. second point regarding class etiquette].
- When the choreographer says “I’m going to the play the music and I just want you to watch me do it.” WATCH. SERIOUSLY, WATCH. None of that lowkey marking in place. Pay attention to timing, musicality, dynamics, weight shifts, subtle head looks, flow of the choreography, what the piece is portraying, etc. Because that can be quite a lot to look for at first glance, don’t be afraid to ask the choreographer to show you again. Personally, I have to watch them at least three times to understand. Heck, sometimes I won’t notice certain details till halfway into class. Look alive people, look alive.
- Stand next to your inspiration. I used to be terrified to stand next to anyone I looked up to in the dance community. “They’re gonna make me look like a beginner!” “I’ll be too busy making googly eyes at them that I won’t pay attention in class!” Perhaps not the latter but in any case, try it! I’m a natural people watcher so I enjoy studying my surroundings. By standing next to someone you admire, you can pick up on his or her learning tendencies and utilize it for yourself.
- Stand next to someone you’ve never danced with. Again, you’ll pick up on their tendencies but you’ll also learn how your body moves in comparison to how they move. Maybe they’re anticipating the choreo more or maybe you hit your levels differently. Stay aware.
- Meet someone new. This is something I only recently started practicing. I can sometimes be a hermit crab when it comes to approaching new people but I’ve learned if we’re all in this together [cue High School Musical theme song], then why not? Who knows, maybe there’s someone who looks up to you and you would’ve never known had you not taken the time to find out. Networking is your friend.
I go to class to find myself and at times to lose myself but always to better myself. Know that everyone’s learning capacity is unique but as long as you open your mind and trust yourself, you can only get stronger. What strategies do you have to make the most of taking class? Leave a comment below to share! Having difficulty picking up choreography in class? Check out tips on how to pick up choreography faster here!