Just because you danced doesn’t mean you can teach…Yeah I said it!!!

Dance teaching is my career. I have trained from the age of 5 at one of the best dance schools in the world and have had the opportunity to learn from and work with some of the finest people in the industry. My parents invested every cent in my sister and I in order to become the best dancers and teachers we can be and I continue to invest every penny, minute and effort in to excelling at what I do. I take my job incredibly seriously and consider my responsibility of training students as important as my role as a mother. I will forever impact these students and know that if I am not truly equipped to pass on dance knowledge that I will ruin their future not only as dancers but possibly as people. So, if you are not all in than you should not be teaching the fine art of dance to anyone. Take a class, enrol your child and watch from the audience but for goodness sakes do not teach a dance class.

Where does this anger come from. Oh my…..so many places that I am truly stumped as to where to start. So I will start with a scenario I have come across time and time again.

Dance teachers with little to no formal training besides taking class as children; does a million and one other sports besides dance; and, uses dance as their part time job are absolutely everywhere. One day I was sitting down in a cafe and a lady just like this approached me and asked “how do you get your students so flexible?” I said “enrol them and they will find out for themselves.” She replied “no no I just need a couple of exercises and I will show them.” I let her know that is not something I feel comfortable doing for obvious reasons. Can you believe she actually teaches dance for 1 hour a week….. WHAT THE!!!!! When she left the table I realised something; this women thinks she can do my job after a 5 minute conversation. That I will give her these exercises and she will miraculously know how to execute them in a professional and useful manor. I can’t begin to describe how ignorant that view is of the dance industry and honestly it makes my blood boil. There are also so many dance schools where no formal acrobatics teacher exists but they are performing acro tricks at dance comps and concerts…again…WHAT THE!!!! If you don’t love this sport, live and breath it and ultimately do not have a long standing, well rounded dance education than include dance in your own life but do not take responsibility for others, not even for 1 hour.

Let’s talk about whether or not a teacher should be qualified. I am, but honestly for a long time I had no need to be part of a governing body because I was working with semi-professional and professionals, mostly doing choreography and teacher training. These people do not need to be put through exams and honestly exams are not the be all end all nor do they make you a good or well qualified teacher. On paper you are qualified but often not in a global, creative, technical, forward thinking dance sense. What they are good for is learning structure, terminology, sequential learning and is a stepping stone to successful auditions. Many terrible teachers and dancers are able to get a piece of paper and yet so many of the worlds best teachers and choreographers do not have a single piece of paper to their name. I am not saying not to get accredited but I promise you it does not necessarily mean you’re a great teacher or that your child is attending a great school if there is a qualification involved. The reality is that you can attend a seminar, get nominated and even take a test online and guess what YOU ARE A QUALIFIED DANCE TEACHER. Yup, its that easy! So yes go for your qualifications however teachers my recommendation is to always attend workshops, seminars, involve multiple industry professionals opinions and never ever under any circumstances stop learning no matter how hard the lesson is; and parents and students do not assume what you are going to get is relevant, proper training from a “qualified” teacher since that qualified teacher may not actually know anything about the current world of dance and or have enough teaching experience to conduct a meaningful class.

Is teaching dance your part time job? If so you need to find another part time job. Sorry but when you are working with children this is unacceptable. If you need extra income than do not selfishly gain it by teaching something that requires immense passion and a massive amount of knowledge. Like I said get creative but do not include a child’s education in your pursuit for vacation money. I know of dance teachers who work at Target and then own a dance school. This teaches others to see dance as something not deserving of focus and respect so these teachers are just perpetuating terrible habits in an industry that should be and use to be known for its discipline.

This leads me to the next issue I have with todays teachers…..

A MASSIVE SHOUT OUT TO THE TEACHERS WHO TEACH OFF YOUTUBE…….STOP IT NOW!!!!!

When attending a workshop, watching youtube or any other performance you are only getting a small fraction of the teaching story. Seeing someone do a jete does not mean you can figure out how to teach a jete. Have you started with teaching them to work through their metatarsal for effective, light and well executed jumps? Have you taught them to extend and reach through warm ups? Have you correctly taught a square split without arching forward in order to take the weight from the front leg to their centre? Are they working in ballet to develop lovely shoulder and upper body lines to create a beautiful picture in the air? Do you do saute exercises each and every class to teach them to use the appropriate parts of their body to jump? Are they learning to land their heels in that saute exercise? Have you built long lean muscles that allow for beautiful lines? Do you know what exercises build lean dancer muscles? And the list goes on. You need to have the benefit of working with a great teacher for many years in order to learn how to get your students from A to Z. Yelling at a kid to get their leg up in a jete means nothing and is certainly not helpful. Knowing why they are unable to reach the full potential of their jete and how to make positive and meaningful change through proper progression is the essence of your job. Do they have ligaments that are shorter than their bones (this was one of my issues while I was growing)? Is their split misaligned? Are they still working their flexibility? Have they neglected their feet in their training? Are they bringing their knee up, pointing and extending at the height they want? Are they a little more flat footed? What direction are they sending their energy? What does the preparation look like? Again the list goes on. You cannot teach properly without this knowledge. And let’s be honest I would bet my life on it that TODAY a massive portion of dance teachers are screaming “point your toes”, “stretch your knees” but don’t have the slightest clue how to fix it and probably believe that it’s the students responsibility to know how…….See why I am worked up. These kids are trying their hearts out and getting frustrated because they are taught to believe it is their job to teach themselves so they ultimately feel inadequate.

And now to the greatest question of them all: Why is anyone and everyone able to start a studio? Well a lot of the time parents are willing to pay so where there is money people will come. And honestly, a lot of parents don’t know the difference in the same way I don’t necessarily know the difference between one plumbers job to the next guy unless my toilet explodes. In the case of dance these parents only find out after the damage is done. Their children lack confidence, they lack obvious skills and god forbid they want to work in the industry but its too late and they have too many terrible habits. I have unfortunately seen the result of this by being privy to internal processes of shows like So You Think You Can Dance and the moment you see a child get crushed because they truly thought they were great because of the extremely irresponsible teaching practices of what is in my opinion a scammer, you will understand my anger.

All children deserve an education that is true to its form; That has a passionate message behind it and a teacher that cares so much about that child’s future that they will stop at nothing personally and professionally to provide that child with the attention and teaching they deserve.

There is space for recreational teachers, competition teachers, choreographers, full-time program teachers, technicians, exam teachers, public education based dance teachers exc exc.. however know and understand your skill set and be honest with what you can provide and to what extent. Be so honest that you will tell a student that if they want to do this for a living that you may NOT be the teacher for them. Ok so you lost a tiny bit of income but what you have done is shared your passion for teaching children and their wellbeing is your utmost priority.  You will be rewarded with further business that wants your type of instruction and that child will be set on the appropriate path that will help them realise their goals.

So to all the dance teachers out there that shouldn’t be teaching….You need to stop because its so much bigger than you!! Its the children that suffer, the industry that loses its history, discipline and respect and us full-time dance teachers who believe in what we do and stop at nothing to give everything we can in the best way we can for our students lose the legitimacy of our professions.

And parents, not all studios are created equal!! Be aware, be mindful and understand that experience far outweighs qualifications. But if we really start to take this issue seriously than you will have qualified teachers that actually train how to teach. They are not one and the same and currently one barely has anything to do with the other!

GOOD LUCK!

Long live dance!!!

Published by everythingdancewithashley

Ashley Grottoli is an award winning dancer and choreographer who has helped thousands of students achieve their personal and professional goals. "Teach a dancer tricks and they are impressive on Instagram; Teach a dancer to harness their mind and body’s full potential and they can become anything they want to be" says Ashley.

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