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Teaching Dance: Toddlers To Teens

dance teaching
By Sarah Beth Byrum

Many dance teachers are teaching multiple age groups and sometimes even directly back to back from toddlers through teens. Here are a few quick ideas to transition your focus and give every age just what they need from you.

Change your tone of voice:

While a bright imaginative voice can be perfect for little ones, it can sound condescending to older dancers. Be aware of the tone of your voice and how you are speaking to your dancers to ease between age groups seamlessly. What is a “tummy” to preschoolers may become “lower abdominal muscles” to your high schoolers.

Change your music:

Be sure you are aware of your age group and select your playlists accordingly. Theme, tempo, and rhythm patterns should all be considered when selecting age appropriate music. Even the same style of dance should have different music lists based on age.

Change your expectations:

Every level of class should maintain a calm learning environment where they are progressing their skills. However, the expectations of what a four year old can handle, versus an eight year old are different. A quick rule of thumb is the number of years of age is the number of minutes a dancer will focus on one task. So, a five year old can spend about five minutes focused on one task before it’s time to switch it up.

This length of focus increases as the dancers get older. Consider carefully what age you are teaching and keep expectations high yet realistic.

Change your choreography:

For younger dancers, movements should be on the whole or half note pattern and repeat several times. Also considering repeating the movement to both sides of the body for your youngest students. As dancers progress, begin to syncopate rhythm patterns, layer movements, add more complex weight and directional changes, and increase technical difficulty.

No matter what level you are teaching, leave the practice for the studio and only include skills your dancers are comfortable with in their choreography.

We don’t showcase what our students can’t quite do yet – we celebrate what they have achieved.

Change your perspective:

Every age is something to celebrate. Watching a toddler twirl across the dance floor with joy can feed your soul. In the same way, guiding that senior dancer in to developing their own style and artistry is life-changing. Embrace every moment of your journey with your dancers. Before you know it, that two year old will be standing in the senior classroom, so don’t blink! Enjoy each step in this dance we call life.

Published in collaboration with All That! Dance Company
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Also by Sarah Beth Byrum:

Teaching Resilience: Suck It Up Cupcake!

Dance Class: The Do’s and Don’ts

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