True art requires love. But love is not always predictable and spontaneous. Sometimes you have to cultivate it. This growing power within helps us create beauty and expression every day. The more you dig into the art of dance, the more love you find for it. For me, this love has gone through a few different steps. The first one being the teacher planting the seed, myself discovering the beauty of movement to music, and finally, the community bringing that love to another level and giving it meaning.
The Role of the Teacher
To me, the most essential piece of any puzzle is guidance. Not just in dance but in everything. Without direction, things become messy and uncertain. Teachers have the highest responsibility to educate but also inspire and cultivate stronger individuals who are ready to tackle life's challenges, whether it is on the dance floor or not. In comparison, the teacher's responsibility only comes close to the one parents have, hence why very often teachers are called "dance parents." Every lesson, as dancers and teachers, we create the future! Build it wisely brick by brick.
Understanding WHY a student dances
We all come from different backgrounds. We all have our ups and downs. Those shape us and makes us who we are. The downs cut deep wounds, and the ups close them, but the scars are always there. Unless you apply the magic scar medicine- dance. A movement to music is the superglue that can bind souls together and heal any wound. Like anything else, it doesn't come "cheap." Unlocking the secret formula requires a sacred gift- hard work. Sometimes hard work is challenging, and then we need to remember WHY we started- because scars hurt!
Understanding how people think and learn
Navigating through the realms of someone's brain and understanding how they think makes the teacher's job very difficult but, in a way, easy as well. The thought process and analysis that takes place to translate into learning is a difficult task that not very many people can understand in themselves, let alone in others. However, this is a crucial step in which mutual understanding takes place, and efficient learning starts.
Understanding the value of personal experiences and emotions
Dance and music are two of the most sincere forms of personal expression. The artist's internal fire is continuously fueled by his/her experiences and emotions that translate into the beautiful craft they are in. As teachers and students, we should all embrace, nurture, and use to the fullest the unique experiences within us to create our own unique art and form of expression.
Understanding their goals
Since all of us come from entirely different backgrounds and have unique life experiences, it is only natural to have different goals. I would not expect my 58-year-old pro-am student who is a full-time lawyer to have the same goals as an aspiring 20-year-old who will pursue a professional career in dance. Understanding that well will help us, teachers, to craft a plan together with the dancer to meet their personal goals. When the goals are not achievable or measurable, this could lead to frustration and eventually fading love for the art form.
Understanding your limitation as a teacher
A single human being cannot possibly be all-knowing and naturally good at everything. As a teacher, a lot of what we teach/ focus on is a reflection of our personality. Some are great technicians- maybe they are naturally good analysts or engineers. Others are good with choreography, dynamics, or planning. Knowing your limitations as a teacher is a real power that, if realized, can help the dancer greatly. Sending your students to other teachers to seek the help you cannot give is an act of love for the student and commitment to their further improvement.
The Role of the Dancer
In the previous paragraphs, I discussed some of the things a dance teacher should pay attention in order to preserve and nurture the love of dance in the student. Even though I put them under "the role of the teacher," I firmly believe that the learning process should always be a two-way street. So I encourage all dancers to read through the paragraphs and see how they can participate in the process. You know what your learning style is? Let your teacher know, help them to help you achieve your potential faster.
The bigger picture
There are many steps in a dancer's journey. More often than not, the teachers tend to have a bigger picture, a master plan, about the development of a dancer's art. If you are a dancer, and you are not sure why you are doing something at this particular moment in your dancing, check with your teacher. Maybe they have a specific idea and order about how things should happen from experience. If they don't, you should both create the plan, so you are on the same page and have a step by step approach to the development of the craft.
Why does your teacher wants this?
Sometimes, but not always, we have a good idea about what our teachers want us to do. But when we don't, it is easy for frustrations to arise and for us to go on a self-critiquing spree. Asking your teacher about the purpose of a particular exercise, change in the routine, timing, characterization can help you stay on track and motivated when repetition becomes tedious or overwhelming.
I firmly believe in one thing-the dancer must build a healthy relationship with his/ her dance self. Nourishing your dance soul through discovery and further research of the craft can significantly impact your performance and advancement in the field of dance. Another essential part of the learning process is that you take those discoveries and discuss them with your main teacher/ coach. Keep growing and becoming your best self always through a conversational two-way street approach and teamwork. If the dancer or the teacher becomes inactive in the pursuit of art- creation process, the relationship quickly turns into a cold one-way street monologue.
Life is a roller coaster, sometimes it is difficult to resist the wind, and sometimes you enjoy it. A great community, however, can cheer you up and guide you through the struggles in life and celebrate with you when you are at the top. It becomes an integral part of anyone's journey in life that should not be overlooked. Remember, dance is not always lovely costumes and spotlights, sometimes it is hard work. We cannot do it alone.
At some point in life, all of us will need help in some shape or form. Once we broaden our perspective on life, and we can look beyond ourselves, we quickly realize that everyone is facing struggles similar to ours. United, we can be better, and helping each other is the first step to improving each other's lives. Some will seek help more easily than others. This, however, doesn't mean that the latter do not need it, they, sometimes, really do. But giving can be expanded beyond the physical representation. Giving experiences and smiles is one of the most powerful things that we can provide for someone!
Wrapping it up
Nurturing the love of dance is a continually evolving three-way symbiosis. It starts with the seed of love from the teacher, then it grows within the dancer and finally flourishes within the community. Each one of those steps is crucial and fragile. We can get it wrong, and honestly, most likely we will, but we can always go back and replant the love. Remember to give back, and never hoard it- love is to share! Happy dancing, everyone.
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