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the next generation of Dance as Art

I've been asked before, when can I give a class and I always have to explain that I don't "give class".  It's not because give may imply that there is no charge for this service, because I will often do pro bono work for different organizations.  It's because I choose to teach a class, not give it.  

Looking at the definitions of give as both a transitive and intransitive verb - the definitions indicate an active and a passive party.  The person doing the giving is being active, but the other party, who is receiving, is not necessarily invested in the process.  Where as, when I look at the activity of teaching, both sides need to be more invested or engaged in the exchange - especially if your teaching style is more learner focused.  

When I think of someone "giving a class", I think of someone who presents a series of movements, but doesn't go much beyond presenting steps or patterns and expecting the dancers to copy them to the best of their abilities.  As a trained, former professional dancer, there are days where taking a class that someone is giving is an okay choice for me.  It gets me up and moving, allows me to push or not push myself as my body and mind need and lets me just move for movement's sake.

While I can appreciate this style once in a while from the dancer point of view, it's not a skill set that I am comfortable with as a teacher.  I am much more comfortable teaching class.  I like seeing the lightbulb moments on a student's face when they put together the theory and the movement and understand how things build and develop.  I enjoy teaching more than just the movements - explaining the hows, whys and other information that allows more depth to the comprehension of the movement.  Nothing makes me happier as a teacher, as when students come up to me and they can explain things, in their words, from their experiences on why things work a certain way or why we do things in specific ways.  

As my students continue to develop as dancers and mature as people, I hope they will have some teachers who give class.  This will give them the chance to use the skills and knowledge that they have learned in a different kind of environment.  The important point being that they will have a good foundation in the needed skills going into this kind of class.  Every dancer needs to experience the free joyful movement that comes from "taking class" when they are ready for it.  

To the more advanced and prepared dancer, a balanced diet of types of classes is crucial for the continued development of artistry and technical abilities.  Teachers at this level are able to present material in a different manner because the foundation is strong and the focus is about teaching and learning in a different way.  To a less prepared dancer, the giving class style of teaching can lead to gaps and lack of knowledge and understanding.  

Not sure if you are teaching or giving class, here are some areas to look at:

1 - What do your lesson plans center around?   A series of exercises without a common thread or goal for that class, may skew more towards the giving class idea.  

2 - How do you handle an exercise not working out?  Do you re-arrange the remaining part of class to focus on a problem area that came up, or do you just gloss over it and continue through your prepared combinations.

3 - Do you explain the progression of the exercises over time - (a tendu building into a degagé, to a battement, to a grand jeté for an example)?

4 - Are your students engaged in the information exchange, or is it more a you demonstrate and they follow along kind of format?

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