What on Earth is a Dance Coach?
When people ask me what I do as a dance coach, I find my response slowly transforming into, "I study people's movement, and I teach them how to move better."
I work with dancers to enhance what movement is wanted, and diminish or eliminate the movement they don't want. I do not cover up any deficits or weaknesses; I identify them, and I help the dancer strengthen them.
I use my education, training, and knowledge as a dancer and instructor, and I help human bodies adapt to movement that is not natural, which tends to be the majority of the the movement we find in dance.
Teaching vs. Coaching
As a dance educator (teacher), my subject matter is all aspects of dance from technical training to history, artistry, use of props, musicality, and the cultural elements and benefits of dance for the individual as well as for the community.
But as a coach, my subject matter is movement. After I help the dancer learn how to move better, they always dance better. Moving well is the key to dancing well.
I have been providing this type of learning to my students in group classes for many years, and thought of it only as "giving corrections" and "helping them tweak a few things", but it's more than that.
I provide dancers with movement they can accomplish on their own that will help them achieve better technique, and I give them the truth about timeline, which is that all things change over time. Nothing significantly measurable in dance ever happens quickly, and it takes months of training to gain an inch of success, but that one inch is what makes the most difference.
The benefits I have seen my students gain from the individualized methods provided to them is what made me look further into what is really going on. I have been obsessed with dance since I was a child, but equally obsessed with the success of sports in the United States. Coaching works for pitchers, hitters, defensive linemen, figure skaters, and cheerleaders. Of course it works for dancers.
We are Individuals
I want to mention that it is not every teacher's strength to notice every detail, or to help correct millimeters that can make the difference in a turning sequence, or to know all there is to know about dance.
It is important, especially for parents with younger students, to remember that we are all different, and that everyone has their own strengths. Teaching dance to toddlers requires different skills that are not required when teaching elementary age children. Teaching dance to middle school or high school dancers also requires a different set of skills. And teaching dance to kids who only dance a few days a week and perform in the annual recital is different than teaching dance to kids who are dancing every night at their studio, dancing on the weekends, dancing over the summer, and going to competitions and conventions. Everyone is different, and we must recognize and embrace each others' strengths.
Coaches should be close to an expert level in their field because they are top-notch problem solvers. They should carry with them a lot of experience and education both in leadership and in modalities that help advance a dancer. They tend to be very focused and very motivated. With this in mind, it is important that the student is prepared for the responsibilities that come with working with a coach.
Students should expect to work hard, show up prepared and on time, and be willing to work hard during every session, during their regular dance classes, and outside of both with whatever their coach told them to do. Students should also understand that the coach is as invested as they are. The right coach will check in with the student to make sure that the track toward the goal has not shifted.
It is powerful to be the example for sweat equity, put the work in to achieve a goal, and achieve it... It is equally defeating when we know we are putting the work in, and feel like we are getting no where close to where we want to be. The right coach will be your problem solver, help you get past your deficit, and move toward your goals (but, you still have to work for it).
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