I was 14 years old, when I was given a choice, by my mother, to either play an instrument or take dance classes. Obviously, she saw my talent early in summer, where I was performing with a youth group to “Grease – You are the one that I want”. Cheesy I know, but classic. Hating the fluit, the choice was made quickly and my dancing career started with some amazing performances and looking like a professional…. NOT. It didn’t last long and I stopped and started again, just to stop again until that one moment I was asked to take ballet classes with one of my classmates. As a nearly 18-year-old grown up man, there is only one answer you can give: Of course! The rest is history.
At that moment, I didn’t know, where dance will lead me too, but here I am fully engaged into this world. I was thinking back and realized how much I didn’t know about the possibilities and diversity of dance. That is why Nelse and me decided to start this series. We not only want to give young dancers a realistic view about what they can expect and how they can improve and get what/where they want, but also give them different ways to follow their passion. Because a professional career as a dancer is not made for everybody and failure is part of the journey.
Besides all of that we will cover as much as possible about dance, about dance psychology, from starting to dance until creating your own dance business. Some things we will cover in depth, others we just will speak briefly about, but the bases of #Dance101 is your input, your questions, your participation in our discussions and helping to support each other. So, if you have any questions or any topics you want us to talk about, leave a comment, a private message, an email, whatever! We are here
Let’s start with our first general dive into Dance 101
Dancer – Dance Teacher - Choreographer – Dance research
Obviously, those are the 4 main topics we will talk about, three of which are well known by mostly everybody, but if you are just getting started with dance, you might want to know more about those general topics and their many layers. Now we just want to give you a small insight what you can expect of all those worlds.
We all start off as dance students, even if you learn it by yourself or through Youtube videos. You are already making the first big decisions in your long journey within dance: The Style. Depending on where you grow up and what is available to you, you might choose for Ballet, Hip-Hop, Breakdance, Jazz Dance, Modern or Contemporary, or something else. Every style has its specifications, movement style and technic, which we will get to know more about at a different moment. With each style you also become a part of a community, which will become your second family, where you hopefully find support and can grow, but sooner or later will also come in touch with jealousy and competition.
At a certain point in time, you want to learn more and get more knowledge and besides training several times a week you will start to learn different styles, to become more versatile in your dance. Off you go to even take a bachelor study to become a dancer.
After some years of pushing yourself and getting good in any dance style, you will have the chance to become a dance teacher. Here you have different possibilities depending on where you live. Some states will offer studies others offer courses on dance and pedagogic and at other states you will just grow to become a teacher. As there is this variety on how to become a dance teacher, there are some core principles you will have to think about before becoming one:
You have the responsibility to train your dancers on a healthy way
You should get some insight into the human anatomy and understand the different physical abilities and restrictions of a body.
You should have a great level on expertise on the style you are teaching, as this will not only help your students learn faster and get better, it will help you eventually earn more and most of all keeps your students healthy.
You have to think about exercises to train your students and to create movement combinations for your classes.
You have to understand musicality
Know how to teach verbally and non-verbally.
As one of my teachers once said: it takes 10 years learning about dance and your body to understand the basic concept of dance technic. And I can confirm! The more you do the more you will discover and the more you will learn about your body and the use of it with those basic technical ideas what are the foundation of everything.
Does this mean you should dance 10 years before you become a dance teacher? Not necessarily, but if you want to become one, you definitely should take your time and explore first, before committing to teach. But as there are studies you can follow to become a dance teacher, you might as well try to get in one of those. As the selection is based on the level you have, being accepted will still offer you the possibility to grow as a dancer, through different dance classes. It will also teach you all the skills you need to be a teacher. Best of both worlds, I would say of all worlds as you get insights into dance, teaching, choreography and how to research.
Creating a dance combination for your class, actually means you are a choreographer. Some will disagree, because there is more to it and it has a reason why there is an education solemnly to become a choreographer. I have seen 3 minute pieces who are amazing and I saw performance of an hour that made me want to stand up, leave and ask my money back. But knowing, that a choreographer cannot please everybody, your vision becomes you empire. It all depends on how you work. If you truly want to become a choreographer, besides being creative in your approach towards moving, you should be able to explore movement and have a great vocabulary and knowledge about the material you are offering. You should know how to transform your vision and ideas into movement and towards your dancers. And most important understand the structure of a performance. We all know “Begin, Middle and End”. But how about storytelling, characters, interrelated conflicts, movement themes, associated movement, conceptual framework, stage design, costumes, lighting, flow of a performance, contrast, conflict, acts…..
As a beginning choreographer you will have to think about this all, as most of the time you won’t have a dramaturg, stage designer, light designer or costume designer at your hand. Nobody is taking away some of your work. You will be a DIY-Choreographer! And you will create bad pieces in the beginning, but you will find your way. We will cover more about it throughout time. Don’t be scared, as we will offer a guide through that mess in the future.
Up to this point I still don’t know much, but I know that there is much going on. As I see it, it is a professional way to cover what we are doing with dance. You start diving into the culture of dance, researching methods on how people work, describe what a style is all about, go deeper into anatomy, dance within social structures, dance within different cultures, dance in relation to social media etc. I think this world is a beast on its own, as dance is developing daily. But after all, to work within this world you must have a study that at least covers research, data processing, research design and how to present it through essays or articles. One way of course is statistics and a huge passion for dance and the other study I know of is a Master of Art Education.
We will do some more research about this topic, but if you know somebody or you are somebody who is busy with it, let us know and maybe you can help us out and share your knowledge.
Anyways this is for people who have a passion with dance, but just don’t want to do it, but love to explore this world on a different level. It is one of the worlds that silently goes along but creates a huge foundation for dance world-wide and plays a huge part, why we have the possibilities within the dance that we have now!
If you look closely those 4 worlds interact and you, most probably, will come in touch with all of them. Most of the time you are not aware, what you can achieve with it, so I hope this gives you a small insight into the general structure of how the dance world is constructed. Now we are ready to take a deep dive into each topic and really get to the point.
Stay open, stay creative, for you and everyone!
Christoph Eberl & Nelse van Heurck
Written by: Christoph Eberl