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Blog: being seen as a teacher

Teaching is a performing art, you stand in front of people and hopefully they listen to what you have to say. Teaching requires a certain amount of assertiveness, courage and fire in order to stand the scariness of it. When we are in front of 6 people or 20 or 70, we are on the spot, they look to us to see what we have to offer, which way we are guiding them. The difference to a performance is that in a live performance in a theatre people can go home and if they didn’t like it they won’t come back. If they don’t like what you are offering in class you will see and hear the results directly in front of you. In a way teaching is the scariest thing you can do, but it can also be the most rewarding.

You don’t have to be a professional dancer and choreographer in order to teach dance, but you need to practise being seen when you dance. If you love dancing, but freak out when you are being watched it is going to be difficult to demonstrate an exercise in front of the class. If you are afraid of speaking in public, as well. So what’s the solution? Practise, practise, practise. If you know you are shy and would rather be in the back of the class than in front, practise standing in front. If you know you are fine with dancing in a group, but soli make you freeze - practise. If you are afraid of speaking in front of people, try it in front of a mirror, your children, your friends.

Some of the most amazing teachers and performers have terrible stage fright (author included), but it shouldn’t keep you from offering what you most desire to offer. It does need awareness though that it is a skill on its own to be able to withstand the demon inside that tells you you are not good enough, to recognize that articulating your movements clearly and demonstrating slowly is not egotistical but functional. As a dance pedagogue students will look towards you as a an example, their BodyMind will automatically catch onto your favorite way of getting in and out of the floor, they will imitate that specific grip you do with your dance partner and they will mirror your short comings. So the more precision you bring to your own dance and your „performance“ as a teacher the better your teaching will be.

Please do NOT get me wrong about this, teaching is not about YOU! There are a many fabulous dancers out there, that have brilliant technical skills and know how to present material in front of students, but their teaching is all about THEM. They want to get attention and affection, they want to be seen in their fantastic abilities and they want you to love them. Nothing wrong about all of that, but I would not call that teaching, I would call it showmanship.

Some of us are naturally more extroverted, some more introverted. Either or, what matters most is that you love dancing and you want to help others feel that same joy you get out of dancing (remember though: their joy might look very different than yours). It is helpful to get used to being in front of others while you dance, so they can get used to expressing themselves freely before you and other participants. It is helpful to practise getting feedback yourself, so you can give feedback in a kind and thoughtful manner. Furthermore it helps to look at our (for most of us) deeply engrained fears of doing something wrong, so we create a non-judmental space, where students will feel safe to experiment to learn.

So we aim for that beautifully balanced place of being a good example and a receptive guide. You need to hone your physical and verbal skills as a teacher to become an inspiring example and you have to practise keeping your focus on the abilities, developments and needs of your students. That is the high art of teaching.

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