Keesha Beckford is the Youth Division Liaison at The Joffrey Academy of Dance, The Official School of the Joffrey Ballet, in Chicago. In the following quick guide she shares “valuable strategies that both newbie and veteran teachers can use to foster a classroom environment students will love and that studio owners/school directors will all but crave for their program.”
8 Easy Tips To Ace Your Next Dance Teaching Audition
After looking for teaching work, it’s a huge relief to be invited to come in for an audition class. How do you show you have what it takes to develop strong, smart dancers, while keeping students excited about your classes year after year? Whether you’re trying to land your first teaching gig, or you’re a veteran looking for new opportunities, the following eight tips will ensure that your next teaching audition is a resounding success.
Go Beyond the Level
A level can mean vastly different things at different schools. A school affiliated with a regional or national-level ballet company might train their students slowly and conservatively, seeking to finely tune details of alignment and mechanics, while another studio might promote a higher volume of vocabulary to push their dancers’ artistry and athleticism. Do your research and learn the goals of the program. Ask to see the syllabus, and then contact the current teacher to find out exactly what their students are working on.
Dress professionally. Neat hair and clothing please — save the sportsbra and booty shorts for when you yourself are taking class. As for musical selections, even some clean versions feature questionable lyrics. In terms of songs, if you have a doubt, leave it out!
Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail
Plan a class so well you could do it in your sleep. Write it down, or type it up and print it out with as much detail as you will need. Include notes on pacing, time to workshop concepts, and of course, cues on music and meter. That said. . .
Make Sure You Have a Plan B (and C and D)
When I’m observing a potential teacher, I’m looking to see that they can think on their feet and adapt to the bodies in the room. It reads as inexperience or a lack of care if a teacher forges ahead with their plan even though their material fails to match student needs. If students are less advanced than you thought, use slower music and/or give less material.
If they are more advanced, challenge them with different tempi. Use extra slow music for an adagio, followed by an uptempo piece. Emphasize the different intention and dynamics suggested by each piece of music. You can add difficulty with jumps or turns; reversing or changing facings tests spatial skills. Be creative! Remember, you want to show how you can challenge students and give them the tools to succeed at the task.
A game where everyone stands in a circle and presents a movement while saying their name is a fantastic introductory icebreaker. If you are in a modern, contemporary, or choreography class for example, and perform the series of names as an accumulation, not only will you know who everyone is and their movement preferences, but you’ll have student-generated material to use later in class if you wish.
Do have everyone state their name and try to retain as many as you can. Sure, some folks are simply terrible with names, but students feel validated by someone who learns their name quickly, especially when that teacher exhibits cultural sensitivity. If you encounter a name you haven’t heard before, learn it, and then move on. A new teacher who can offer feedback to students by name is sure to leave a good impression.
Be Hands On
After you’ve asked if students mind being touched, hands-on corrections are a terrific way to guide dancers into correct placement. Getting down on the floor to help with foot articulation or to move a spine into a flat back allows a studio owner or school director to gauge your attentiveness as a teacher and the depth of your physical understanding. Use imagery and anatomical corrections, for sure, but never forget the power of touch to ease students into proper form. Bonus: this is a great way to push talented students as well as to avoid singling out students who need a little extra TLC.
Share What Makes You Special
You want to show how you can build a dancer, so how clearly you communicate information is absolutely key. What do students gain — and love — about your class? Is it technical rigor? Is it brain-teasery sequencing? Dancey, expressive movement? Whatever it is, make sure your audition class strongly communicates your values. Also, remember that you are a teacher, not an Instagram post. While beautiful feet, oodles of pirouettes, and to-die-for extensions and jumps are impressive and inspiring, they don’t teach students how to achieve those feats of nature. But sharing your wisdom about spotting or your secret that helps you seemingly float in the air? That’s information students can store in their toolbox forever.
It’s completely natural to be nervous at an audition. You are being observed, and while you want to create a judgment-free zone for students, this doesn’t apply to you. The person watching your class is weighing your merits as a candidate for their faculty — as someone to serve as a trainer and role model for their students. That said, none of us is doing this to get rich. We dance because we love it with every fiber of our being, and we want to share this phenomenal art form with anyone who wants to learn. Create an atmosphere of fun, curiosity, and inspiration from the get-go, and it will be a class that your new boss will want to students to experience again and again.
Photos of Keesha Beckford: Headshot by Cheryl Mann, Studio Pics Courtesy The Joffrey Ballet
Article Via: The Joffrey Academy