Hello Everyone! My name is Gabriela, Director Founder of LEYENDA in Riverside, California.
Although Leyenda Ballet Folklorico started as a young adults dance company geared for TV Shows, corporate events, and dance tours, one day we received a call from a Hollywood movie casting company to appear as “background” for the movie “Little Fockers” the sequel to “Meet The Fockers” with Ben Stiller, Robert De Niro and Barbra Streisand. They required a performing arts ballet folklorico class for children. The assignment was to appear giving class to children 7-12 years old at an arts school where Ben Stiller’s character was looking to enroll his children. The casting was successful and our children class was selected.
Lucky for LEYENDA Ballet Folklorico company, our children class had already been stablished just over a year and they where doing good. This was a sign I felt, to the continued development of a children’s class that pushed standards. From that moment on we wanted our children students to develop posture and projection like the young adult team and the international team.
BUT, HOW TO MAKE THE CHILDREN INTERESTED?
I didn’t want artificial interest, I wanted genuine interest from each child. The challenge often faced by a dance teacher or dance director is a studio filled with children in an age bracket were often the student comes in because parents tell him or her to come. Or the student does not focus, doesn’t try hard, there is no motivation, or they simply don’t grasp the level that as a dance company we strive for.
Interest: Observe each student throughout the class. Look for reaction to the usual class structure for example warm up exercises to see how hard the child tries to stretch or do the routines. This will tell you more than words.
Does the child pay attention? This will indicate level of interest as well. There may be days when children come tired from school or they did a lot of homework or they did not eat well before coming to class which will cause less energy. However you as a teacher can tell if this is an isolated incident or a daily pattern.
MORE SUBTLE SIGNS OF GENUINE INTEREST IN DANCE CLASS.
Does the child ask questions? Remember, there are children who are very shy. However, eventually you know their personalities and you know the difference between lack of interest and being shy to ask.
Does the child chat’s with others during class? This tells you two things. A) The child is there for “social” “recreational” reasons and does not care about following the class and on top is distracting others while you teach. (Bad habit) or B) The child is shy to ask you the question so he or she asks another student. The difference between A and B is simple. It’s all about facial expression. You can tell when someone is asking a question to another student, because they are not smiling or laughing.
NOW YOU HAVE STABLISHED WHO IS VERY INTERESTED IN DANCE DEVELOPMENT
I personally come to the philosophy that every child that comes to LEYENDA Ballet Folklorico is welcome regardless of the level of interest or experience. It is important for me to embrace this because students can change over time. Maybe that dis-interested child can become your best in a year from now. The key to me is not to force the personal decision of my students.
The point of identifying interest levels is the key to LEYENDA’s success. In our class room, we let them be. We make the children feel comfortable. We also set boundaries. We tell them: “You will perform when you are ready to perform” “When your performance matches the rest” and the rest are performing in great synchronization.
This allows them to feel at ease. They are not being pressured. But they know the standards. By doing this, the child makes his or her choice to progress and learn. They know if the skill is not there they won’t be ready for the stage until they can keep with the rest of their team.
GO THROUGH CLASS
Be prepared with a structured class. Maintain standards. I like to give a class that has very little “down” time. I personally like a short class that has only water breaks. I used to have very long 3 hour classes that had a 45 minute lunch (Sundays) but I noticed that the kids showed up late, and returned from their breaks 5 minutes after I requested it. Today, Classes are shorter, we arrive to class, warm up follows technique and dance routines, there are water breaks, that’s it.
MAKE THE CLASS FUN
With so much to remember, it is nice to be in a class that is fun. There is discipline in our class but the class is fun because we make it interactive. I’ve learned to make my explanations shorter. I figured more repetition is better for everyone and everyone feels like they get more out of the class.
Change regions (Repertoire) often. No one likes to dance the same song for on hour.
Present different scenarios for the same song.
Recreate the event that you have been invited to perform at.
Demonstrate, demonstrate, demonstrate
When someone is doing great, say so. This is inspiring for the complemented one and it pushes the rest of the team upward.
Have a calendar of events you are rehearsing for.
It is nice to feel the excitement about an event the whole team is working towards. Coach along. Encourage. Push.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN INTEREST AND MOTIVATION?
To me, the difference is that interest is found at the beginning of the student experience with a dance class. Interest is that initial push that makes a student want to learn ballet folklorico. Motivation is what keeps the student striving to achieve. Motivation is what interest turns into eventually.
Motivation is more related to goals. A well motivated student will focus, learn, develop, and be great on stage. Show students what they can do and they will follow. Our students see the International team in Red Carpet Galas in Beverly Hills and Hollywood. they see the performance team go to Televised Shows and open concerts or perform in very top notch events. This gives any beginner student something to strive for. Something to set goals for.
It is very motivating to our intermediate students or Junior team to start performing in local events, social parties to develop their skills. The local parties and small events are important for them to gain experience so they can make their way to bigger events. They know that our company goes by skill and that regardless the age of the student, if the student can perform a routine with excellence, they can participate and become part of that.
Imagine if you where stuck with the same “type” of events. How would you feel? We pride ourselves in offering so many levels of events they can participate. We see how comfortable they perform and graduate them to different type of events as they blossom.
INTEREST AND MOTIVATION IS THE SECRET TO SUCCESS
With all that I have shared with you I conclude this article with my belief that interest and motivation are the secrets of success. I believe that anyone can teach and everyone can learn. However, without these two magical ingredients the results of a dance class won’t be dazzling.
If your team is not motivated it is crucial to think why. Do it quickly.
Motivation is the sparkle in a performers eyes. It is the magic in their movement. It is the sound of the applause by the audience after seeing your motivated students.
And don’t forget,…. It all start with INTEREST.
Thank you so much for the kindness of your time to read my humble article. I hope you enjoyed it. Please let me know what articles you would like me to write about. LOVE YOU everyone!