Forum: Highland / Highland - Teachers Only

Highland - Teachers Only
Technique with Beginner students?
By ScottishLilt Comments: 46, member since Tue Oct 01, 2013
On Mon Oct 07, 2013 07:48 PM
Edited by ScottishLilt (261880) on 2013-10-07 19:50:01

Hey everyone

So I recently moved to a new town where Highland dance was previously non-existent, and have started teaching lessons. All of my students are beginners with basically no dance experience. They range in age from 3-13, but I've split them up by age group and am teaching several different classes.

I'm wondering how you deal with students who have some... difficulty with the movements? We're a few classes in now and I still have some students (aged 7-9 mostly) who are unable to do shedding along with the music- it's still too fast for them. Pas de basques are the same idea. Is it normal to be unable to do these things? I guess I'm used to dealing with dancers who do have a dance background, and are able to do the Fling and Sword at this age. Am I expecting too much? These kids probably won't be going to competitions, this is a more recreational/fun thing for them, so I'm not worried about that aspect, but I also do want to teach them to the best of my ability (ideally I would like to be known as a performance group) and to get more out of them than what I'm getting right now.

Am I just being impatient?

4 Replies to Technique with Beginner students?

re: Technique with Beginner students?
By cuttlefish Comments: 48, member since Thu Aug 16, 2012
On Tue Oct 08, 2013 12:07 AM
We've got a lot of kids like that. They all seem to start out like that, and then something will click and they'll get it, but it happens at very different rates - some you just want to give up on, but they will get there eventually. Being able to hear the timing in the music isn't always an automatic thing. Do they have music to practice to at home? Even if a parent doesn't know the dance, they can still clap along and make sure the hops are in time.
re: Technique with Beginner students?
By Highland71 Comments: 40, member since Fri Nov 12, 2010
On Tue Oct 08, 2013 04:22 PM
Two words: Glen Sinclair. Try his cd- he has some fantastic SLOW speeds for the highland dances (aptly entitled 'killer'!), then work your way through the speeds. Also try having them hold on to a barre/back of a chair for balance when they do this.
re: Technique with Beginner students?
By batd_teacherPremium member Comments: 2551, member since Mon Feb 23, 2004
On Wed Oct 09, 2013 05:46 PM
Hi there! Good for you for bringing Highland some where new!

Teaching brand new dancers (meaning students who have never danced any method before) can be a challange and a blessing!

I teach by using the syllabus to help the dancers achieve to the level they need to be. Break down the movements, use proper theory, but sometimes you have to add a "little something" to get the idea across to dancers who don't have the dance vocabulary down pat yet.

Body awareness takes time to develop. A 3-yr old won't get it as fast as say a 9-yr old. It takes lots of "drills" sometimes to get it across.

Of course, the more classes, the more practice, the more muscle memory is created. And of course, encourage a strict practice regimen, if possible.

I've lots of suggestions and am sure you will get even more here!
re: Technique with Beginner students?
By ScottishLilt Comments: 46, member since Tue Oct 01, 2013
On Wed Oct 09, 2013 08:21 PM
Edited by ScottishLilt (261880) on 2013-10-09 20:23:11
Thanks so much for your replies! I figured that I was just being impatient- I know it will come with lots of hard work (on their parts and mine!)
cuttlefish, you're totally right- I have a few who it has *clicked* for already, so hopefully soon the rest will follow suit. I think I'll practice clapping out the tempo of the music, when I'm watching some of them I think part of the problem is that they are just not hearing the timing.

Highland71, thanks for the music recommendation! We have been doing the shedding movements slooooowly, without music/hopping and I've had them dancing it to the slowest music have, but I will definitely try it with Glen Sinclair!

batd_teacher, thanks for your reply! I always look forward to reading your knowledgeable comments. I do think part of the problem is body awareness/control- it's hard for that 7-9 group! We have been practicing drills and breaking down the movements, so I will continue to do so. My main worry is that it will become to technical and not-fun, especially since they are beginners and not necessarily looking to compete- however, I also think that it's important to hold them to a high standard of dance regardless of whether or not they will be competitors or not. I think it will just take some time and dedication. I will definitely encourage practice at home!

Thanks again for the replies! If anyone has any ideas of how to make drills and bare bones technique more ~fun, please share! I think dancing to pop music or turning it into a challenge might work well for this group- thoughts?