I once had an amazing mom tell me that she did not put her children in dance class to become great dancers. This sentiment I was very used to hearing since Choreography by Rae offers recreational dance classes. We don’t enter competitions and use trophies to support a belief that we are the best. We don’t offer a pre-professional dance track. We dance for a lot of reasons and each move is executed with the idea that we all want to be a better version of ourselves. I strongly believe in pursing being better over being the best. Why? Because Better is constantly improving. The Best is a finite state, and that title can be taken away at any moment. As dancers we should always be on a track of constantly improving.
So why did this mom enroll her 3 children? Unlike my parents who sought a form of physical exercise for her kids, this mom had a different plan. She wanted her children to learn self-discipline. At that moment I realized exactly what I wanted to teach moving forward. I no longer had to worry about whether I was in the know on the hottest new dance moves. I decided to refocus my dance classes on strengthening more than just the body. My student would focus on three of the skills that contribute to being a better person: Self Discipline, Commitment, Team Work
“In dance we focus on building Self Discipline, Commitment, andTeam Work. Three skills that contribute to being a better person.“
I meet a lot of musicians and martial artists who are intimidated by dance, but dance has a lot in common with these other art forms. The instrument for the dancer is the body. It takes a lot of self-discipline to get the body to do what you want it to do. I met a dancer once who’s had physical limitations that affected her sense of balance and memory. Her self-discipline when performing was evident in every move she made. Dancing can be hard, but when we remember what we are striving for then we accept that falling and failing is part of the process towards success. I always tell my students to find one thing to focus on. Find one thing that you will be good at for the day. In this post multitasking, smart phone world the idea of focusing on just 1 thing seems impossible. The great thing about dance is anything is possible.
“The great thing about dance is anything is possible.“
This is probably the one area that parents struggle with more than the students. In most cases, it is the parent who is responsible for making sure that their child makes it to class on time. It is the parent who is responsible for ensuring their child that it is okay to commit to something they enjoy. In New York City there are a ton of activities other than kids dance classes that compete for children’s time. There’s a misconception that your child will miss out if they don’t try every interest while they are still young. Having lots of interest isn’t bad, but an inability to commit to something because of the desire to try it all can have unexpected repercussions. When a student tries hops around among various activities without committing learning more about the art form, they are missing out on learning more about themselves. No child should be forced to stay in a class they don’t enjoy, but they should be allowed to develop a healthy understanding of what it is that they do enjoy. The “this was fun, now let’s try something else,” attitude can lead to a desire to constantly seek gratification by what pleases us in the moment. Ever date someone who you got along fine with, but they just couldn’t commit? Ever date someone who ran for the hills, at the first sign of a disagreement? Commitment doesn’t just make us better dancers, it makes us better in all areas of our lives.
Because Choreography by Rae offers recreational kids dance classes in New York City, a lot of our students have schedules that are far busier than most adults that I know. The students that get the most of class are the one’s that: tried it, liked it, and committed to getting the most out of it for the semester or school year. These are the kids who hate being sick when it’s time to go to class. They hate it when the studio closes for a holiday. Sure these kids have had moments in class where they don’t feel like following instructions or trying the combination “one more time.” That’s normal, the same way as adults sometimes we just don’t feel like working. These students understand that they have made not just a commitment of time but a commitment to trust that themselves more.
When our dancers find they are ready to go pursue other activities, the students that were committed, are the one’s that we know will leave with a healthy belief in their own abilities, a healthy relationship with dance, and a desire to really commit to that new activity. Basically we are high fiving that awesome person as they head off to embark on a new adventure.
“No child should be forced to stay in a class they don’t enjoy, but they should be allowed to develop a healthy understanding of what it is that they do enjoy.”
I love my smart phone. I can get a lot done while traveling between lessons. I find it hard to imagine my life without a smart phone. Strangely enough, I did survive life before I had a smartphone and even before I had a cell phone. There is a generation growing up that has never known life without a smart phone or the internet. They don’t have to go to the library to research something or ask an elder for a recipe. They can Google it. Entire dinners are eaten in homes, where kids are on their phones instead of talking with whoever is at the dinner table. While smart phones are used as a teaching tool in our classes (we offer class tips and videos via the Azagi mobile app), students must talk to each other to learn the movements. There’s no “Like” button to click on. We must applaud one another to show our appreciation of the hard work our classmates have put in. It’s not uncommon where I get a student who is used to receiving a lot of praise at home for their dance ability. These students are ready to kill it on the dance floor and they are always taken aback when I challenge them to show off while being apart of a team. Why am I so cruel? Whether their future lies in performing on concert stages or running a Fortune 500 company, they are going to need to learn to work with other people. They are going to need to be able to accept ideas from others and to work with the flaws of others. They are going to need to want success for themselves and for the group. You can Google empathy, but to understand it you must experience it and that is what working as a team in a recreational dance class can provide.
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Want to read more more great thoughts on dance? Check out this fun blog post by blogger New Jersey’s Progressive Dance Studio: I don’t Pay for Dance Class