Jive Junction You're not wrong Walter, you're just an asshole. -The Dude

16Oct/122

Branching out

Thanks to Josh and Marisa in Venice, I had the opportunity to do something which I've not done before -- teach a dance class. Jan and I taught a beginner class and a swingout class, and I was able to incorporate some ideas I've had about teaching.

Not having ever taught before, I made some classic errors such as not giving the students opportunity to ask questions (although they asked anyway, thankfully) and not being able to count the steps quite right. But in my opinion we kept the class fast-paced, we were relatively funny, we kept lecturing mostly to a minimum, and were very encouraging, which addressed issues I've had with bad classes in the past.

How often do you see classes where the teacher just talks forever, or demonstrates a move over and over? I think the best thing to do is just get students moving immediately, as much as possible, regardless of their skill level.

In addition the classes were small enough that we were able to devote a few minutes of mini-private to each student -- Jan and I danced with each student which I think is invaluable for showing them what good connection and technique can do. Although we spent 90% of the time teaching steps, we were able to briefly mention style and technique tips (keep your connection low, body position low, maintain Barbie arms) and demonstrate the evolution of partner Charleston into lindy hop.

All this blather is meant to say that teaching is kind of fun -- it was nice to see complete beginners pick up things pretty quickly and, as far as I can tell, enjoy themselves. I surprised myself by not being completely inept at teaching (mostly). I have more respect for good teachers now. And it was surprisingly easy to summon enthusiasm for teaching, even though I've been focusing on drumming and parenthood instead of dancing for the past six months.

I kind of miss dancing I guess.

Posted by Julius

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  1. Teaching is fun. Especially teaching the same group regularly. I found it a very nice thing to take up after years and years of dancing. It gave me a new way of thinking about dancing. And it’s hard, so there’s something new to work at.
    I mean, the most important thing I had to learn this year was that students don’t learn to dance in one lesson, so you don’t aim to teach everything in one class. The other most important thing I learnt was that you don’t learn to teach dance in one class, so you should get ready to learn wonderful and amazing new things each time you stand up with a room full of students.

    Dancing. It’s great.

    • I agree. Dancing forces you to be analytical about your own dancing, and can only improve it. I realized that I’ve been doing Charleston differently for years and had to force myself to do it the ‘normal’ way to teach it.

      Also it’s an excellent exercise in making a jaded, grumpy old dancer be outgoing and enthusiastic.


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