Teaching Class: a Lesson in Dance Pedagogy

To finish off our year in Freshman Seminar, we have been learning about dance pedagogy (teaching dance). This has been a great lesson for all of us, because even though some members of my class have taught dance classes at their studios or otherwise, it has been helpful to take a collegiate approach on the subject.IMG_3144

When given the assignment “teach your classmates a dance class”, we were told to break into groups of 2 or 3 students and work collaboratively to design and structure content to teach. I was accompanied by my classmates Amy Allen and Natalie Newman in this task of teaching, and we decided to make a class aimed towards an “advanced 14 to 16-year-old” group. We began constructing our course by reflecting upon subjects that we had learned throughout the year, as freshmen in college. We wanted to create a class that introduced ideas that we all wish we had been able to grasp earlier in our dance experiences (namely concepts we wish we knew when we were 14-16). We decided upon “understanding space as three-dimensional” and “initiation points of movement” as the two main ideas to center our class.

Once we had decided on 3-D space and initiation points as the concepts that would guide our class we created a structure for a class to be taught within an hour, and we developed content that would fill that structure. This attached PDF document, TeachTheClass, showcases our lesson plan for the day.

After our preparation for teaching… we taught!

From this experience I learned that teaching a dance class is a practiced skill, and that as a teacher I fed off of information from my students as much as they did me. I realized that a lesson plan must be flexible, and I should be able to adapt to any situation that may arise throughout class time. Through this experience I also came to better appreciate the time that teachers take to create material before class. I always knew that there was significant preparation time that went into designing classwork, but through the creation of our own class I found that it was more time than I had expected. A structure needed to be created, as did material to fill that structure, and music to properly accompany that material.

While teaching my class, I found that I wasn’t really doing much “teaching”. I was more engaging in a “follow me” dynamic, where I would show and do dance combinations with the students without truly watching them do the movement. And while the “follow me” style potentially works better for beginning dancers or the starts of a long-term class, I feel like I missed out by not taking a step back and watching how the students moved through our class material. I forfeited opportunities to correct, give out helpful mental imagery, or watch the choreography to discover how my material took on bodies other than my own.

Moving forward, as teaching dance is something that I enjoy and will surely find myself doing over time, I want to look at my dance history as a student and a teacher to develop my own theories on dance pedagogy. But more than anything, I need practice with teaching dance. Because as much as I may develop ideas about teaching on my own, I will have to try them out on others in order to grow.

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