You may think the best student in dance class is the one with the most talent. This is not necessarily true. While it is great to have natural talent, hard work beats talent every time. Dance teachers love students who come to class prepared.
Arrive early - That means arriving at class 10 minutes before class so you have your shoes on and are ready to go when class starts. It also gives you time to stretch and/or practice the steps and dances you have been working on in previous weeks as well as your theory. Grab a friend from your class and go over some of your steps or dance before class and see how much it helps you improve.
Come prepared - This means arriving at class with everything you need.
Wear your uniform/dance clothes so that your teacher can correct your posture, stance and arm positions. Wearing the wrong clothes can restrict your movement. If you are wearing your uniform, you are able to easily move into all the required positions. I have seen students coming to class in tracksuits they can’t stretch their legs out in and in T Shirts, sloppy shirts or jumpers. They spend more time fixing their clothes than dancing.
In Winter, it is best to have a crossover or a skin-tight long shirt or skivvy. Crossovers don’t cost a lot of money and allow dancers to perform well and be corrected as necessary. Posture is important in all dance styles and allow the dancer to perform movements correctly. Lots of steps cannot be performed with incorrect posture. If your teacher can’t see your body then they are unable to correct you.
Bring the correct shoes - It is best to have a dance bag with all your shoes, uniform, spare hair ties, a brush, bobby pins and a notebook in it. You wouldn’t believe the number of times students have come to class and forgotten their dance shoes. If everything is in your dance bag then you just pick it up and everything is already in there, with no chance of forgetting shoes. It doesn’t need to be a fancy dance bag, just one that fits all your shoes. Without the correct shoes you are unable to perform the correct movements for class. Ballet students can’t perform ballet well with jazz shoes and tap students can’t perform tap well with ballet shoes. You need the correct shoes for the correct class. You don’t see football players or soccer players wearing joggers, same for dance.
It is best for dancers to wear their hair in a bun for all classes. Alternatively, a ponytail with hair pulled off the face. When dancers turn their hair flicks them in the face (or someone else) and they are unable to do any turns. Head movements form part of the dance and with your hair all over the place it inhibits your movements. Children without their hair pulled back in a bun spend a lot of time fixing their hair and missing out on steps or parts of steps while they fix it. By having your hair in a bun you can make the most out of your class.
Take corrections - The best student remembers their corrections and focusses on them. Nothing is more delightful to a teacher than a student who has remembered their correction and fixed it for the next class. These students improve at the fastest rate as their teacher can identify the next correction to focus on. Some students bring a notebook to class and write down their corrections immediately after class to help them remember. They may also write down steps they had trouble with in class and need to practice at home. When they are practicing at home or immediately before their next class they can read their correction so they remember before the next time they try that step. This helps them fix the step faster and become better dancers.
Practice at home - Practice makes perfect, right? This is definitely true so the more classes you can take or the more you practice at home the better you will become. By practicing at home you will re-enforce the knowledge and skills in your class and be better prepared for your next class. If you are doing well with your current classes and you would like to extend your dancing capabilities ask your dance teacher which classes you could add to your schedule. Most dance schools have a range of genres to choose from.
In general, a second class a week will improve your skill level. A ballet class will make you a better jazz dancer. A stretch class will help you improve your jazz and ballet class. A turns class will improve most other styles. A ballet class will be required to be able to perform contemporary classes.
Don’t have days off, unless you are sick. Students who miss class also miss key elements of their class. Often students will learn a broken-down version of a step and then extend upon it the following week(s). If you have missed that class you will be behind for the next class. When learning a dance, you will have missed a whole section of dance. Teachers don’t have time to go over the next section as the rest of the class is ready to advance. Of course, teachers don’t want sick children at class, but if you are injured then go to class and watch the class and even take some notes. That way the following week you will already know what to do and be able to continue on with the rest of the class. If it is unavailable to attend one week or sick then come to class early the following week and get one of your classmates to show you what you missed out on. That will help you and will also help them by helping them re-enforce their knowledge and skill.
Stay focussed, alert and energetic in class. Work hard in class. Be well rested and eat well. This will help you get the best out of your dance class. Ask questions in class. If you are unsure of something in class then ask. Dance teachers love enthusiastic students and will be happy to answer your questions. If you have a question about a step or part in a dance, chances are others in the class will have the same question, so you will be doing them a favour too.
Who are the dance teachers favourites? Often dance schools have students who seem to be front and centre in lots of dances. These are generally students who remember the dance the best by being prepared, taking corrections, dressing appropriately, working hard in class and have good attendance rates.
Nothing is better for a teacher than watching a student improve and reap the feelings of accomplishment. By following these steps you can improve at a faster rate and watch your confidence grow.
In Summary to be the best dancer in your class:
Arrive on time (10 minutes before class starts is best)
Have a dance bag where all your shoes live permanently
Dress the part - Wear the correct uniform with your hair tied back in a bun
Practice your corrections
Don’t have days off unnecessarily
What to have in your dance bag:
Jeanette Briggs Dance Academy offers a variety of dance classes for children as well as adult tap class in St Helens Park, south-west Sydney. For more information phone: 0418 472 652 or visit www.dancejbda.com