By Angela D’Valda Sirico of Dance Teacher Web
With the new season just ahead of us it is important to get our students to perform for shows, competitions and in class! Students need to understand that it’s not just about the technique but to also get them to understand how to express themselves through their performance. When children are young it is relatively easy to get them to perform because they haven’t developed all the inhibitions that come along with pre-teen and teens, but once those hormones start to come to life it can be an uphill struggle to get them to just enjoy their dancing. Usually it is because they are afraid to demonstrate any emotion because they feel so unsure of themselves, but for those that have these issues they definitely need help to feel confident letting it all come out!
I don’t encourage “mirror dancers,” but very often students are afraid to really look at themselves in the mirror and to actually like what they see. This is the first hurdle that they need to get over. You know the dancers that I am talking about, the ones whose eyes are always darting from side to side giving a look of total insecurity. I encourage my dancers to get acquainted with themselves and to look in the mirror and see someone who looks fabulous and exciting instead of dull and unattractive. To find the qualities in their faces that they like and to make different expressions to see which ones they think reflect their personalities best. Of course, in the beginning they are unable to look at themselves without giggling and feeling supremely embarrassed but the more they get used to looking at their faces the more they begin to see their redeeming features. Then the key is to get them to dance to different types of music so that they can have an opportunity to express whatever feelings are appropriate.
Just as we teach technique so must we teach performance skills to our students so that they are truly able to not only express themselves but also to reach out to their audiences with something powerful and meaningful. There is so much emphasis today on how many leaps and turns dancers can do and all the other tricks that are used in choreography that the message can sometimes be very confusing to young dancers. Of course we want them to have clean, strong technique but let’s not get away from the real reason people dance, and that is as a means to express themselves. Let’s not override the beauty of movement and the feeling of being at one with the music, the pure joy and empowerment of making something memorable on stage that will leave the audiences wanting more!
I always tell my dancers that the technique is the vehicle to help them bring the most that they can to their dancing. It is extremely important to have correct technique, and the more you have the more possibilities open up for a dancer to show the world how talented they are, but technique alone does not a dancer make! There are many technically great dancers in every major city who struggle on a regular basis to find a job performing because they have become so hung up on only perfecting their technique that they have forgotten why they wanted to dance in the first place. I find this so sad because they probably didn’t have a teacher who could help them to develop their individuality and confidence to a point that they felt comfortable with themselves so that they could get out on a stage and express their feelings to their audiences. Some people are just shy and find it so difficult to come out of themselves and put their feelings on display, however if you can get them to do it as teens they will go out into the world with confidence and this will help them even if they don’t become performers because they will be well received everywhere.
Once dancers understand the whole picture and everything that is needed to make a terrific performance, they will fall in love with dance all over again! They definitely need help to arrive at this conclusion unless they just happen to have that “it” factor, but as we know, those individuals are few and far between. The more we are able to help them find themselves, the more they will be able to give to their audiences, and the better they will feel about themselves in general.