it's practicing recital dances or trying to improve on a skill or general dance technique, it is important that dancers continue to practice at home. When it comes to getting new skills, a lot of times it's stretching at home to become more flexible. With a new tumbling trick, it might just need consistency in trying a new skill or gaining the strength needed. With recital dances, it is all about repetition and muscle memory. Here are some tips on how you can help your child succeed at their best!
1. Video + Comparison
This is my go-to for new dance skills on dancers 7 and up. If I have a student who gets a correction constantly, sometimes it's because their brain is sending the wrong instructions to the body. They might know they're dropping their arm in their turn (because you told them), but they don't see how much they're dropping it. Until you take a picture or a video. Sometimes they just have to see what they look like in order to realize "Oh, that's not what I want it to look like. I want it to look like THIS." and then boom, much better.
2. Practice their Dance with Video at Home
Have them watch video of their dance a couple times a week. Whether it's your video taken from the studio, or when the dances are completed we usually take videos and send them to everyone. Have them practice four times a week at home. They do the dance while you look at the video to make sure they are doing the correct moves. Every time they forget, have them look at the video and repeat that part a couple times. Then go back to the beginning and have them start the dance all over again until they can do the whole thing with no memory errors.
I can remember coming back to dance class as a kid from summer break and struggling at skills I used to have because I had basically lost all my natural flexibility as I had not stretched at all during break. Stretching at home is so important to becoming a better dancer, but truth be told it can sometimes be boring, it can hurt a little as your muscles initially release and you don’t get results overnight which is hard for kids to understand as they want instant gratification. It is so much easier for kids to gain flexibility when they are younger as their muscles and tendons are more malleable than to try and gain flexibility when they are older. If you encourage a daily practice of a few core stretches, done consistently there is no doubt that this will help your child become a better dancer.
3. Encourage your child to perform for you and other friends and/or family members.
Practicing on your own is a very different feeling from having to perform in front of people. Each child will respond differently to this situation. Some children thrive on the chance to perform in front of others. Some feel very pressured and insecure. Arranging for your child to perform in front of friends / family members is a great way to help overcome any insecurities. Surprisingly, it can be much more difficult to perform in front of people you know than people you don’t. Assure your child that if they can do this, they will have no problem performing on stage. Start small, particularly if they are a little shy, as this could feel very daunting at first.
4. Offer positive encouragement as well as gentle constructive criticism to your child.
Even if you do not have a full grasp of the technique your child is trying to achieve, there are some things you can look out for. Don’t be afraid to praise your child for doing something well, or pointing out some areas that they could work on gently. Here are a few things that we emphasize in class and which you can help look out for:
Listen to the music they are performing to. If it is bright and fast, they should have a big bright smile on their face with ‘sparkly eyes’. The sparkly eyes make the smile look genuine instead of forced. If the music is soft and pretty, or strong and regal, their expression should match.
Whether the music is slow or fast, dance should always be performed with energy. Watch that your child is ‘hitting’ where the strong accents are in the music, fully extending to the ends of the finger-tips / toes, and dancing with fully extended posture.
This is vital. Signs of an unconfident performance are slouched posture, un-extended arms (particularly when above the head), non-genuine smile, lack of eye focus (eyes may look towards the floor or dart around the room).
Rhythm and Timing
Does your child appear to be presenting the steps in time with the music?
Here is a short check list of what you can help your child look out for when he / she practices the various genres:
Heels well lifted off the ground
Feet well picked up when executing the taps
Loud, clear beats
Confident use of arms
Legs and feet well stretched
Energy throughout the entire body to the tips of fingers and toes
Strong confident lines – arms and legs fully extended with the body lifted and necked lengthened
Maintenance of posture
Maintenance of turn out – turn out is external rotation of both legs evenly from the hip joint. As well as being visually more aesthetically pleasing for the dancer’s body, it also helps the dancer to achieve greater flexibility and range of movement.
Legs and feet well stretched
Arms well shaped (no broken lines)
Technique similar to Jazz, plus
Shows emotional connection to the music
Arms reaching to full length