How media (social or otherwise) is skewing our students’ perceptions and making our jobs harder.

I’ve seen several conversations in several social media groups lately about how students are “learning” difficult, technical dance skills by watching videos and trying them out in their rooms.  If you’re like me, you just shook your head and let out a huge sigh of disgust.  That’s because you and I know that, at the ripe old age of 12 – 19 (although there are exceptions) we do not have the experience, knowledge of anatomy, or eye for detail to break down a complex series of movements into it’s core elements in order to safely, and correctly, recreate that skill without instigating a litany of bad, or even dangerous habits.  So how do we fight this battle?  How do we convince our students that, while another dancer their age and skill level is making a specific movement work, it may not be/probably isn’t being executed correctly and they need to trust us that we will teach it to them when they are ready?

I talk about this a lot in my classes and workshops…process.  Whether we want to admit it or not, we all wanted to skip over the work and get to the doing when we were young.  We all just wanted to throw that turn or bust out that leap without really understanding what we were doing.  We just wanted to DO IT!  The difference is, now these kids have footage at the tips of their fingers, literally, almost every minute of the day.  So how do we combat it?  I say we don’t.  I say we use it to our advantage.

  1. Create a list of the hardest elements you can think of; turns, leaps, acrobatic tricks etc. and then create a graphic that breaks down all of the fundamental skills they must master before learning that very difficult movement.
  2. Next, establish for yourself a syllabus of sorts; a breakdown of what skills dancers will learn when and publish it for them, they’ll have an established timeline that they can follow and see where they are in the process.  This way it doesn’t seem like a never ending journey.
  3. Have them search for and bring in videos of dancers doing the element they are working toward and watch them as a class.  Be prepared yourself with videos of professional dancers executing them correctly.  Evaluate them together and compare and contrast.  Help them to see why the videos they are watching and trying to emulate might be counterproductive or even dangerous!
  4. Have them self-evaluate throughout the process.  Take advantage of technology and record them.  Then they can compare the core technique of their execution to the evaluation you did with the other videos and see their progress as they go.
  5. Celebrate each success in each step of the journey.  Don’t wait to celebrate for the final success.  Getting that single pirouette to sustain at the end and controlling the descent is a HUGE SUCCESS!  It’s the third step in learning a fouette turn!  That’s amazing!  Make them celebrate it!

If they are focused on mastering the core elements of the more complex movement (and realizing how difficult even those are) they will begin to understand the importance of process. It may not be fun, it may not be instantaneous and it may be a lot of extra work on our part, but isn’t that what we’re trying to instill in our students?  If we’re not willing to slow down and do the extra work, why should we expect that they would want to?

Dance is such a beautiful microcosm of life.  It really does give us a way to understand every aspect of our existence if we pay attention.  Teaching process is core is to helping our students understand that life happens in steps.  Each day prepares you for the next and every experience we have and lesson we learn sets us up to navigate challenges down the road.  MPower Dance Workshops’ in-studio conventions, intensives and touring Un-Conventions are all designed to highlight this truth.  Our themed events help dancers focus on the process so they can become more aware of their habits, both physical and mental, in order to overcome obstacles and achieve success in every aspect of their lives.  Our instructors are passionate about educating the mind of the dancer as well as training the body.  Be sure to visit our website at to find out more about us.  Our 2018 NYC Summer Intensive takes place August 6th – 10th.  We hope you’ll encourage your dancers to join us for a truly unique experience.



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