Dance Teachers – What We Really Teach

Dance Teachers – What We Really Teach

Take away: Character, Ethics, Virtues

It’s so easy to go into class, prepared to offer new choreography, or a new idea on how to “fix” a technique problem. And of course, that’s exactly what we dance teachers do. Work on our dancers’ technique – create movement our students execute – enjoy watching them perform onstage.

However, the longer lasting, more important lessons being taught go to the core of each student. The actual “who they are” part of them. The good stuff that will define them throughout their lives.

Perhaps 2% of our students will choose dance as their career. So, we’ve got that covered. Because we’re teaching them how to move beautifully. For that 2% and the rest of them, the lasting lessons – those that actually mold them into good people and the leaders of the next generation - is far more important.

If we keep this concept at the forefront of our mind – and actually attach it to our overall philosophy of why we do what we do, then each time we speak, teach, make corrections, give praise, discipline our students, we have an opportunity to strengthen our students Character, Ethics, and Virtues. Little by little, year after year, the more we consciously offer this sort of teaching, the stronger “healthy sense of self” our students will achieve.

Here’s a very limited list of what I’m talking about, and, some definitions apply to all three:

  • Character: Responsibility, Honesty, Self-respect, Healthy Self-Esteem, Goal-Setting, Perseverance, Sincerity, Courtesy
  • Ethics: Integrity, Loyalty, Fairness, Respect and Concern for others
  • Virtue: Respect, Accountability, Caring, Determination, Excellence, Gratitude, Patience

To become accomplished, a student must exercise a good portion of the above list. Here’s one example of how dance training strengthens Character, Ethics, and Virtues: 

Goal Setting: if you’ve actually ever created a dancer from scratch, this will resonate with you. We spend months to teach a young dancer on the placement of a passé while holding the barre. After that’s mastered, they learn to press to relevé while in passé. That takes more months. Then we try it center floor – more months. Then we try to execute one rotation while in passé relevé – more months. Then it happens. Your dancer just executed a beautiful single pirouette.

So, is that it? Does your dancer settle with that accomplishment? Do they feel like they’ve made it? Of course not – within a few weeks of executing a single pirouette, using goal setting, they’ve already imagined themselves doing a double. And so, the journey continues on how maybe pirouettes your dancer will eventually be able to do.

That’s just one example of how we dance teachers teach way beyond dance. If you want to dig deeper into this concept, here’s a paper I wrote on this topic: What You Really Teach

Keeping this present in the mind when we’re teaching will continually assist us to stay focused on the what we really teach.