At the beginning of a dance season, I always like to open the curtain on the reasoning behind some of the things we do inside of our dance rooms that parents may or may not understand. This stems from years of people in our lobbies asking things like, “Why are they sitting down?” “Why are they stretching for so long?” and many other similar questions. It also stems from me being a parent in other “sport environments” where I, myself, questioned methods and exercises and never really got answers.
Here, at Elite, we believe in children having solid foundations to promote the educational environment in the best way we can. We train our staff at the beginning and throughout the season and have many active conversations surrounding the best ways to do this. This month, I want to share a few insights about our methods.
Setting the Tone
In all of our classrooms, we like to help our students understand how to show up, how to participate, how to behave while in class. It is important to help children walking into a new setting to understand the rules of engagement and expectations of Elite as a whole and of each teacher individually as well. We have a general set of guidelines and a very thorough curriculum taught at Elite but each teacher has their own way and style of operating too. The entire month of August and most of September will be spent revisiting these things as we have new children joining us all of the time and with so much going on, it is always nice to remind all students so they get the most out of class. When expectations are set, there is no guessing as to HOW to “do” class so that students can then concentrate on learning to dance rather than “what comes next” in the classroom setting.
We are People First, Dancers Second
My son, Chase, recently got into competitive basketball. I have been learning so much about my own businesses as a result of being the “new parent” in this environment. One of the things that I found VERY ODD came after about two months of practice when I was asking Chase about a certain teammate of his. He did not know the child’s name and when I asked if they had been introduced to each other, he said “No”. I couldn’t imagine kids trying to build rapport and a warm, nurturing environment where kids want to support each other’s learning if they didn’t know each other’s names. What a miss!
We, at Elite, make sure that children know who their teachers and classmates are. We have exercises where we help them to learn each other’s names, to form bonds beyond the actual classroom and to help create a “third home” outside of their home and school environment otherwise. We also “check in” with each other week to week to see how everyone is doing. We care about your children’s lives, accomplishments and struggles. If someone didn’t do well on their math test or they had a BIG family vacation, it can help us to understand how a child “shows” up to take class each week. We take time to do this and sometimes that might look like “standing around” or “just talking” to family in the lobbies.
Warm Up – Why So Long?
Back when I was a dancer in training (yes, a million years ago) the warm-up was revered as the most important part of class. Then, as a teacher, I actually continued to think that and spent so much time really ironing out my warmups with precision to be sure I addressed all areas of the body. Then, when I opened Elite, I wanted to be sure we were conscious of the importance of a great warm up as well. A dancer has to understand their bodies first and foremost to learn how to dance. The movement done in a warm-up not only “wakes up the body” but it also “wakes up the mind” to be aware of each part of the body. Most often, we walk around pretty unconscious about how are bodies are in general. This is why we might all of a sudden feel our sore neck when in reality it has been hurting for a week or two and we have no idea why. In our classrooms, we spend a large portion of time to really educate the kids, to stay injury free and to be more aware as they move into the rest of their class activities. The head, the neck, the back, the arms, the core, the legs, the hands, the feet, the toes, the fingers, the face and of course, the heart ALL MATTER when it comes to dancing done well. So, we take our sweet time to nurture each and every part of these precious bodies that we serve.
Basics, Basics, Basics…and Repeat
Often in many of our genres, we offer exercises either at the barre or as movement across the floor in lines of children. These exercises focus on the fundamentals of those specific styles. Many times we have dancers and their families ask why we do these things week after week. The reason we do this is not to bore kids 🙂 but to prepare the body to learn more advanced skills with solid foundations for that movement. The basic exercises focus on things like straight knees and extended arms and hands. They focus on a strong center core and stable bases with proper neck placement. This is so that you can add elements of difficulty where children can concentrate on the harder pieces rather than the basics in the future. This is similar to how singers perform the most basic scales regardless of whether they are brand new to the art or the most advanced. We educate our students and remind them frequently about why this is so important to their training. It is another reason why we tell students that it never hurts to return to a level below them as they can learn something in every class that they take at their level or below. It all is in the student attitude toward the exercises being done in the classroom as to the measures of their growth and overall dance success.
Hopefully, this brief look at our methods and practices will help you, as parents, to understand some of the things we do as you watch in our lobbies. We do believe that all of the activities we do add to the quality of our classrooms. I also hope you can use this information as knowledge and education to help your child when they may question some of our ways as well. If you ever have other questions about what is happening in classes, please ask. We would love to provide more insight for you to appreciate the time and energy that we spend focused on the quality of our classrooms. It takes a village to raise healthy, well-balanced, active children and we take being part of your village, very seriously.