Friday, June 28, 2013

Becoming a Dance Teacher

A conversation in the car after the West Coast Swing dance:
ME: I like dancing to the bluesy West Coast Swing songs.
FRIEND: I like the hip hop songs!
ME: I guess that goes to show you can dance West Coast Swing to just about any type of music!

At the West Coast Swing club, the older gentleman I was dancing with was telling me to FEEL out the music and don't rush the moves. Take as much time as I want and finish doing my thing before coming back to him on the forward walks. By the end of the night, he was smiling and praising me. "You need to have confidence in this dance, and you got confidence! You got confidence!" he said.

There's nothing like going through Valley Social Dance Teacher's College to convince me that to dance well, you have to be comfortable with your own body. Dance is about being comfortable in your own skin. Even if you don't feel entirely confident, the more you dance and learn, you will develop poise and then confidence.

Our male dance instructor drills us on moving from our torsos and dancing with our bodies, not our feet. This is our constant goal, progressing from the beginner who thinks of all figures in terms of what their feet are doing to realizing that the feet react to what is initiated from your center. When you walk down the street, for example, you don't walk feet first. You lead your movement from your core and rib cage.

Our dance teacher's college is teaching us to dissect our movements and then see how they fit together as a whole and with our partner, from the elements of footwork to dance positions to lead and follow and arm styling.
This week we learned about developing professional poise and how to stand like a dance teacher, feet close together, weight evenly distributed on both feet when not demonstrating. Two arm positions only: straight down at your sides OR bent at a 90 degree angle ready to gesture. Sound meticulous? But it make sense. Stand this way while mentally repeating "I am a dance teacher, I am a dance teacher" (JUST KIDDING!) and you start feeling empowered!

We learned the secret that distinguishes a dance teacher from a student is the tone in their body. Tone comes from the practice, practice, practice of engaging your muscles. A dance teacher often carries himself or herself with dignity. .

-Wear appropriate, attractive clothing
-Be clean and well-groomed
-Be heard, but don't shout
-Be respectful and attentive toward students
-Use your best technique when dancing and demonstrating
-Do not "slump" when you are not actively teaching
-When you stand and walk, your students should still see that you are a dancer.

I like it. Essentially, you proclaim with your body who you are, that you are a dancer - whether you are dancing or teaching or observing others dance.

"The body expresses the person" is the philosophy weaved throughout JPII's Theology of the Body discourses. When we dance, we proclaim with our bodies the truth of who we are. The strength of a man's lead and his follower's feminine response is both mysterious and magical to watch, for the truth of who we are is marvelously astounding.

"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful!" 
(Psalm 139: 14)

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