Check out our podcast episode on this hot topic! Subscribe now on Apple Podcasts & Spotify!
Ask a dancer how they got hooked on dancing in the first place and many will credit their first formal class in a studio. But just like there’s an art to performing, there is also an art to taking class.
This week, co-hosts Courtney and Lesley chatted with IDA judges Ashley Marinelli and Kimberly Soel about how dancers can continue to maximize their training, whether in person or online.
While dancing online isn’t the most ideal way to take class, it certainly has been a lifesaver to dancers throughout the pandemic. So how can dancers maximize their online experiences? Ashley suggests that students frame themselves in a way for the teacher to see the whole body, with their cameras at eye or chest level. But as teachers, we have to remember that some students are just doing the best that they can in their tiny spaces and that’s okay! Kimberly also suggests that dancers talk to their families about scheduling and logistics--it’s important to make sure that everyone in your household knows when you’re in class and can respect your time and space.
While the hybrid model is still happening across the country, many dancers are now returning to the studio for in-person classes. For many of us, it’s been months since we’ve been in a studio, so Ashley and Kimberly shared some helpful reminders for an easy transition back.
First, remember that knowledge is power. Kimberly suggests that students familiarize themselves with the studio’s COVID-19 protocols. The better everyone understands the new policies and procedures, the more dancers and teachers can focus on the big picture: DANCING!
It’s also critical that everyone maintain awareness of their surroundings. Ashley emphasizes the importance of this awareness, both physically and socially. While dancers should always be careful that they aren’t going to kick a friend if they do a battement, it’s also important to know when it’s appropriate to engage in certain behaviors. If a teacher is breaking down a step, it probably isn’t the right time to cheer loudly--save that for when groups are doing the combination at the end of class.
One of the advantages of social distancing is that many studios now have tape grids on the floors to show dancers where to stand. This is a great way for younger dancers to better understand how to spread out. Hopefully when we return to “normal,” dancers will have a better grasp on spatial awareness in general.
The importance of spatial awareness extends beyond center floor exercises, though. When traveling across the floor, dancers should remember that there are others behind them, so upon completing a pass, they need to swiftly get out of the way! Similarly, dancers should always start far in the corner or to the side of the room to maximize their space. Teachers always love when dancers figure out the second side of a pass or progression, but be sure to do so out of the way of fellow dancers.
These points are valid in any setting, ranging from a home studio to masterclasses and even convention classes in ballrooms. Often, dancers flock to the front of these spaces to show their eagerness, but it’s important to remember that the teacher can see everyone in the room, so if you’re stuck in the middle and can’t move, head to the back. Ashley points out that if someone is fierce and full out in the back, she’s probably going to notice them more than the people crammed in the front. Convention spaces are huge, so take advantage of the whole space!
Ashley reminds dancers,
“Eagerness is a great thing if it’s directed towards your own self-development. Eagerness is not a great thing if it’s for people to notice you. If you’re interested in your own self-development, people will notice you!”
Along those lines, dancers should always act politely and in the best interest of everyone in the room; class is, ultimately, a community. Teachers also prefer if dancers don’t ask how much time is left in class. As Ashley requested, “If you’re going to take class, commit to being there.” Try to avoid looking at the clock, and if you have to yawn, cover your mouth--some teachers are bothered by these behaviors and others aren’t, so always err on the side of caution. Be mindful of your body language, such as crossing your arms over your chest, which could come across as boredom or disinterest.
Ashley and Kimberly both also encourage dancers to research teachers before they take class. Try to get a sense of the vibe of the class and movement aesthetic to plan accordingly. Is the teacher’s focus precision or experimentation? Will there be an abundance of floor work in this class? The more you know ahead of time, the better prepared you’ll be, from your outfit (i.e. wearing pants for floorwork) to your attitude.
Kimberly notes that,
“This can fall on the teachers as well...I always sit down with my students...‘Ok, here’s who you have this weekend, this is what their style is, be ready,’ and just sort of mentally prepare them. And that, in turn, teaches them that they need to do that.”
She also encourages teachers to map out each student’s goals prior to a convention weekend to set them up for success.
To round out the episode, the hosts and guests threw out their favorite class etiquette tips, Here are the highlights:
Be on time!
If you have a question, try to figure it out yourself before asking...and don’t ask a question that has already been asked!
Turn OFF and put away your cell phone...and Apple watch!
Set your dance bag off to the side and out of the way!
Limit your water breaks!
Use the restroom BEFORE class!
Don’t try to be the teacher!
Say ‘thank you’ and applaud!
Finally, remember, thanks to Ashley, that,
“Class is not about being the best in the room. Class is about improving yourself and learning something you didn’t know before.”
So always take class and try to put your (literal) best foot forward with these helpful tips!