Friday, August 22, 2014

A Durga Approach to Dance

Durga is a Hindu goddess, a calmly fierce, protective mother/creatrix figure wielding 10 arms. That's a lot of arms! But she keeps it all together.

 I have quite the affinity for Durga (having named 2 nationwide tours after her), and feel as a dance teacher, each "arm" can be something to remind us of what we need to do - as we break down past barriers and help our students find themselves through dance.

Here are my 10 arms of dance:

1) Teaching is about the students, not about the teacher.
Teaching is not about ego, it's about the information, and transmitting that information in the best way possible to the students.

2) Not everyone learns the same way - no one system works for all. 
Some folks learn better by numbers and counting, others need to copy and follow, others need imagery, others want to know the specific muscles, some need mirrors and some do better without, some need a choreography to follow and others work better via improv, etc. A specific method may attract/appeal to certain groups, but it doesn't mean it works for all, or that other systems and methods are wrong.

3) It's not how much material you cover, it's how well they get what you do cover. 
What's better? "I taught my beginners 60 new moves in 6 weeks!" or knowing that your students got a dozen movements down solid and feel confident about what they learned?

4) A syllabus is a good thing.  Flexibility to cover what's needed is even better.
It's good to have a plan for what you want to cover.  But it's not a failure if your students want to go over material from last week, and if that wanders into a different plan, that's fine.

5) Understand that every person takes class for different reasons. 
Some folks take dance class for pure fun, others want to learn about culture, some want to perform, some want exercise, others are looking for something mental or spiritual. Sometimes it's all of the above.

6) Every BODY is different. 
Being a dance teacher means being a student of the body. Movements will vary depending on weight, shape, muscle structure, frame, health, etc. Be respectful of their bodies.

7) It is never too early to teach musicality and culture. 
From the very beginning, I talk about rhythm, history, etc. It may not soak in immediately, but it does bring familiarity.  Don't short-change your students by thinking that it's "not interesting" or "relevant" to mention rhythms, artists, etc.

8) It's OK to not have all the answers. 
You don't know everything, and there is nothing wrong with that - unless you're claiming that you DO. If someone asks me a question I am not sure about - I either reference someone who may help, or look it up to find it out.  We can learn together!

9) Create a positive environment. 
Respect your students, respect your community. Don't mention names in negative situations. If there's an issue to correct/address, be general, and offer solutions. Catty time is not for class time.

10) Teach them to DANCE. Ask yourself what does it mean to dance, and are you helping your students truly do that?


  1. Yes, yes, yes - dance is a gift meant to be shared with love and respect.