Being a good choreographer does not automatically make you a good teacher. It doesn't make you a teacher at all, really. Think about it this way: being a Biologist doesn't qualify you to become a Bio Professor. You have to go into Education. It's one thing to know the subject, another thing to know how to teach it. But there is no official, systemized way that choreographers in our community can "earn" the right to teach. It's mostly based on the quality of their choreography (videos) or the relationships and networks they form.
Because of this lack of education-education, sometimes their teaching is not the most effective for students. Earlier this week, we broke down the things that choreographers like and dislike.
But on the opposite side of the coin, it is just as important for the teachers to keep in mind what makes a class truly valuable. We can go on for ages about great teaching tactics. But here are some major points that class takers hate – and appreciate! Keep reading to up your teaching game so you can start, or continue doing what you love – in the best way you can.
It's great to push your students' pickup and retention, but you have to stay in the pulse of the class.
See Related Video: How To Pick Up Choreo Faster
When the choreographer has too strict of an agenda for their checkpoints or where to end the class, it can push the students too far.
Especially when the first half of the piece was taught and received at a good pace, trying to cram in the last 4 8-counts in 10 minutes can just mess people up.
Within reason, it's a challenge for both parties.
But there is a boundary where it's obviously more for the choreographer to feel complete than for the students to learn.
If you notice the class struggling in any way (not being able to see, needing to drill a fast combo, choreo overload in the brain), gauge how to go from there.
All classes will have different levels of students and learning styles – resulting in a different pace of learning.
It's your job to ensure that your students take away the most they can, not to finish teaching up to the chorus of the song.
It's up to the choreographer when and how much they want to play the music, as are most things in class...
but this should also take into account what the students prefer, as should most things in class.
Once, I took a class where the choreographer taught an entire 12 8-count piece and then let us see it with music. Twice.
Obviously, this is an extreme, and the choreographer doesn't have to run the music 100 times in between sections of learning.
But letting it play does help with digesting the musicality, and retaining the information taught.
See Related Article: How To Train Your Musicality As A Dancer
Music is so supremely important. Students are trying to hear the piece the way that you made it – so let it play if they need it!
As cool as you look rollin' up with your squad, it can be frustrating if you zero in your attention on them during the class.
Maybe that's your comfort zone. Maybe you don't notice you're doing it. And that's okay – it's natural!
Just try to keep in mind that people paid money to learn from you.. and you can hang with your friends any other time.
See Related Article: How To Cultivate Positive Relationships In The Dance Community
Class is a chance to connect with everyone, not just your crew!
It's great to vibe out with people you know, but too much attention to one group can take away attention from the rest of the class.
Make sure you balance it out!
I feel like technology, in large part, is responsible for the way that we view a "dance class" now.
It's cool to be able to teach a class. It's cool to have a flyer with your headshot on it. It's cool to have a video to post in Instagram after.
It's become a social activity, a marketing opportunity, a chance to stroke your own ego as a choreographer.
It's cool to call yourself a teacher.
But there's so much in the equation that has nothing to do with "teaching" your "students."
See Related Article: 3 Concepts To Help You Become A Better Choreographer
Think of the definition of the word "class" in the most literal context.
It's where you go to learn something.
So as a teacher, you must be able to teach something.
Ask yourself if you are teaching for the right reasons.
Are you trying to showcase a piece of choreo?
Or do you actually possess the knowledge, wisdom, experience, and intention that can truly help someone become a better dancer?
Have you studied ways that people learn? Have you thought about what your strengths are and how to pass them on to other dancers?
If not, there's nothing wrong with choreographing for yourself or making videos.
But if you want to teach classes, make sure you're learning what and how to teach.
Since dance is a form of expressive art, there is always a motivation behind each piece.
It could be as simple as "I just like the song!" or deeply personal "The mood of the piece emotes my current struggles..."
Beyond the piece itself, there is so much knowledge and insight choreographers have to offer.
There have been some classes when their tidbits of personal advice was more valuable to me than the choreography itself.
From experience to technical tips, or just wisdom beyond the dance scene.
It's amazing to walk out of a studio refreshed and enlightened, not just with a few new moves in my repertoire.
When you're in the position of teaching, you're never just limited to teaching moves.
Whatever it is you have to offer (Your vulnerability? Your life stories? Your encouragement?) – GIVE!
Give to the hungry dancers, who will, in turn, offer back the satisfaction of knowing you helped an aspiring dancer grow in more ways than one.
Of course it's difficult to notice everyone in a class, especially if there are dozens of people filling the room, but it means so much to me when the choreographer tells me "Good job."
Sometimes, in a smaller class, I'd even ask the choreographer if they could watch me during groups and let me know my areas of opportunity.
Or, when you go up to thank them for class, it's nice when I can have a small back and forth instead of just "Thank you for class / Thank YOU for taking!"
It's just the idea of someone taking an interest in who you are and making an effort to connect.
See Related Video: How To Make The Most Out Of Dance Classes (STEEZY Original)
The same way you're not just a set of moves to offer, your students are more than receptacles of that information.
They are people, dancers, who look up to you enough to plan, drive out, and pay to learn from you.
Try to give a little more warm attention to your students!
It WILL make their day :)
One thing I grew to really appreciate is when the choreographer opens up the floor to those who just want to share.
They do this with or without a "select group," but that doesn't really matter.
The "Any __ people who just wanna dance!!" is immediately encouraging to hear, and presents a challenge for those who were iffy about their performance.
The "sharing" part of the class is just as valuable as the "learning" part.
I love it when choreographers dedicate time to let students dance for each other.
See Related Article: How To Dance With More Confidence
Teaching dance, and teaching how to LOVE dance, are related but different.
The choreographers that I seek to learn from are the ones that reignite my passion constantly to learn and live out my lessons.
Encourage your students to place value in LOVING to dance, just as much as in learning the dance.
We hope this helped you see what students are looking for in a class.It's an incredible and fun but oh-so-very difficult job to be a teacher, so we're glad that you're not taking it lightly!Keep creating, learning, and extending your knowledge on to others – in ways that work :)What are some things that YOU h8, or appreci8, as a class-taker? Comment below and share with us!The choreographers on STEEZY Studio have years of experience in teaching. They know what it takes to help you learn in the best way possible! Try it out for free today. This article was originally published on April 9, 2015.