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  • Writer's pictureJeanette Prather

Dancing (from 2011)

So just recently I was thrust into a week-long dance intensive, resulting in me performing two Disneyland parades and one stage show. And although this particular dance intensive kept its participant’s feet firmly placed on the ground in traditional jazz and hip hop technique, it had me thinking of the type of pole and aerial student I am as well.

Having danced for 17 years, and of that having taught for 10 years – four of which are dedicated to the aerial arts and pole – it is sometimes hard to fall in line, learn and listen alongside other dancers.

I notice that I pay more attention to the teaching style of the instructor or choreographer rather than the material taught. Subtly in my head I’ll compare my style with theirs; what I like and don’t like, and the way that the other students respond to the choreography and teaching methods.

Once in a while I’ll be in a pole class and have to bite my tongue when the instructor touches on a topic that I know a lot about. I want to blast my little anecdote on the subject, make everyone laugh and be the most knowledgeable student in class, but as a teacher I find that really annoying so I don’t.

I have mixed feelings about a more advanced student helping out a less advanced student in the middle of class while I teach as well. This is a lengthy topic with a bunch of components: On the one hand, if there is a student stuck on one particular move that you’ve gone over a ton of times already, it can be useful to have a seasoned student discreetly break it down for them again while you continue on with the routine.

And then the flipside to this scenario is when there is a student in class who keeps jumping ahead and choosing all of the advanced level modifications for the dance while adding in her own material and distracting the class. Or worse yet, teaching another student moves that aren’t even in the lesson.

I’ve never come across the scenario of a student being a nuisance by instructing another student as well as showing off. Usually it’s one or the other.

In one of my first West Coast aerial classes, I found myself as a student assisting another student while the instructor was working with someone across the room. We were instructed to do a candy cane into a kite into something else in the silks, and my peer was having a difficult time with where she was in space. As I guided her through the movements, another student came over and began helping out. I paused to let the other student instruct as our actual instructor made her way over to us and shut it all down.

“If someone gets hurt because you are telling them to do something, then I still get in trouble for it.” She yelled at the student standing next to me. “Stop it!”

It can be challenging to take a step back from the teacher mentality and just put on your student hat, but it’s also very beneficial. In my experience, no matter what format you teach, students will profit from a growth in vocabulary via taking class from other instructors. It’s easy to get into a teaching rut with your choreography and style, especially if you’ve been doing it for so long, but once you break out and humble yourself enough to fall in line with other dancers or students, you’ve opened your mind to new possibility that you can share with your students.

Just one more bit of advice; remain modest in class, take the instruction and remember to act the way that you would want students to behave in your classes.

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