Marching Onward… and Checking In!

Hi friends, just taking a moment to check in and say I’m still here!  Crazy busy, but still here!

February to June is my super busy season, as I’m sure it is for many other dance teachers and studio owners as we prep for our annual recital, register for summer classes and work on next season’s schedule!

Haven’t had as much time to write down thoughts and new music finds, but I wanted to share a funny story from my beginning ballet class.  They are first and second graders and always surprise me, but one caught me off guard!

We were at ballet barre about to work on tendus…

Miss Cait (that’s me): “Now what do we need to remember about tendus?  Sophie?”

Sophie: “Straight legs!”

MC: “That’s right, what else, Julia?”

Julia: “Make them sticky!” (see more about that here)

MC: “Yes definitely… ok, anything else, Morgan?”

Morgan (just as brightly and matter-of-factly as the other responses): “My fish died!”

MC: “Oh.. well… I’m very sorry to hear that – what was your fish’s name?”

Morgan: “Swishy”

MC: “Well…” (scrambling for the appropriate response)

Sophie: “I know!  We can have a funeral for Swishy!”

MC: “I don’t know…”

Julia: “It’s perfect ’cause we’re all dressed up for a funeral – we’re all wearing black!” (we wear black and pink)

MC: “Ok then, let’s dedicate tendues to Swishy”

Kids: “Swishy, this is for you.”

So that’s how we ended up dedicating part of our ballet barre to Swishy the fish!

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Dance Imagery, Illustrated

Finally got around to posting this for the April Challenge – favorite Dance Imagery!

I was reading Moira’s response to the challenge about Irish Dance imagery (or lack thereof) and realized that all of my imagery happens when I teach modern, jazz or ballet… not too much in tap class.  I am going to pay attention in the next few months and see if I can’t come up with some tap imagery.

In the meantime, here are my favorite images, which all happen to be in ballet.  Probably because my youngest students are my ballet class and I try to use a lot of imagery to help concepts stay in their minds and bodies.  Enjoy… and please don’t laugh too much at my drawing skillz 🙂

Balloons on the ears!
Balloons tied to your ears:  To keep necks long, and ankles, knees, hips and shoulders over toes in releve, I ask my students to pretend they have balloons tied to their ears to keep them lifted up.

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Thera-Bands for Dancers: Improve Balance

Here's some other posts you might enjoy:  Preparing to Exercise, Foot & Ankle Exercises or read all the posts here: Thera-bands for Dancers
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Today's post contains exercises you can do in class or at home to improve your muscle strength.  Before you begin, remember to review our exercise tips.

Benefit to dancers: Strengthened hip flexor muscles and improving balance on one leg (which helps with turns and static poses).

All of these exercises need the band to be stabilized by a stationary object low to the floor.  At home, this could be a sturdy table, bed post or other heavy piece of furniture. In class, you could use a partner – just remind the students to check their bands for small tears which could cause the band to snap.

Slow Degages to the Side (Hip Abduction / Adduction)
Loop the band around your ankle and attach the other end to the sturdy object.

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Teaching Tip: Sticky Tendus

I got this visual teaching tip from watching my ballet teacher’s preschool and Ballet 1 classes.

Her class was practicing tendu and the students had very slow and articulate feet during their parallel (preschool) and turned out (Ballet 1) tendus!  After class, I asked what her secret was and this is how she teaches tendu:

1.  Take out your imaginary piece of gum and chew it up so its really sticky (in the preschool class, everyone gets to say what flavor/color gum they are having)

2.  Take out some of your sticky gum and put it under your toes!  (An explanation of why we only do this with imaginary gum and never at home is also given at this point)

3.  With straight legs, try to slide the foot out… but the toes are very hard to move!  Finally we get all the way out and the gum pulls us back to the starting position.  Repeat while teacher says “sticky sticky (foot slides out) tendu (close)!”

4.  Repeat with the other foot.

As they progress during the year, the teacher only needs to say “sticky sticky tendu” and the students recall the sticky sensation and slow down while pushing through their toes.  I think this imagery would also benefit older students – after all, who doesn’t love a little silliness in their class every now and again?

Hope it helps you or your classes!  What teaching tips do you have for tendus?