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On the last day of the contemporary intensive, the students finished their day with a choreography skills class. Now let me preface this by saying that the day before, this group was very shy in their improvisation class. Moving how they wanted to versus doing specific choreography that was given to them was definitely out of their comfort zone. I was nervous about how open they would be to making something that was their own.

We started off the class creating movement in pairs doing an exercise I call “dance twister”. Each pair has a person “A” and a person “B” and I called out different things for them to do. “Person A, initiate your next movement from the top of your head. Person B, make your next movement have a heavy quality.” etc. By the end of this they had a beautiful duet together.

Then, plot twist! They had to turn their part of the duet into a solo. I got several “deer in the headlights” looks, but reassured them to trust the process. After several minutes to themselves to figure it out it was time to perform in random groups of three. The work all of the students created blew me away, but one group really stood out to everyone.

This trio had such a wonderful flow. It looked as though they had worked together, even though they hadn’t. Suddenly they all made the same shape at the same time. It was a moment of pure dance magic. The whole room gasped together and some whispered “woah” to their friends. It was such a beautiful thing seeing a room full of kids, who had been skeptical about the exercise at first, see the kind of wow it could create.

Making moments like the one that happened in this class is what most choreographers aim to do. We want to stop the audience in their tracks and command their attention. But there is something so powerful about this happening organically, like it did with these students. Take a look at the video below of this group sharing their work so you can feel the magic too!

 

 

A couple of weeks ago I was working with a student on her tap skills. This particular child was very timid in classes during the year. I could barely hear the sounds coming from her feet, and she would physically back away from me when I would move in closer to listen. In this private lesson we took the time to break down steps that had been giving her trouble and suddenly a new confidence started to show. I saw her eyes light up as she accomplished skills that had just moments earlier seemed so far out of reach. It gave me goosebumps seeing this transformation not only in her tapping but in her whole demeanor.

Private lessons may seem intimidating at first. But just like tutoring can greatly improve a student’s grades in school, these one on one sessions can really make a difference in one’s dancing.

Lessons are uniquely yours! 

No two students are alike, therefore no two private lessons are the same. Because there is just one dancer, the teacher is able to address specific details that there may not be time for in a larger classroom setting. The individualized lesson plan they are able to create for the student can cater to their needs allowing them to have maximum potential for growth.

In a regular classroom we focus on teaching technique to an entire room of students and the goal is to get these concepts across to everyone. With just one dancer we can dig into what they need to improve and find some strategies for them to use while they are in their normal classes.

Trying out something new! 

Private lessons can be a great place to take a new discipline of dance on a test run. The dancer can decide if it is something they want to pursue without any pressure. Instead of coming to class feeling self-conscious because they don’t know the terminology or how to execute the movements, they are able to start at the beginning with a teacher who knows what building blocks they will need to excel in the fall classroom.

Time to get serious.

For some dancers, private lessons are the place to get really serious about their training. This means it is a chance to hone in on their technique and really perfect their skills. Most students with these aspirations in mind want to maintain what they have already learned and push even farther. Fine tuning like this is hard work, and isn’t the right thing for every student, but some crave this extra challenge.

Thinking about the goosebumps I got with my tapper gives me so much hope. Seeing such a dramatic change in only 45 minutes is inspiring. I cannot wait to see her continued growth as well as the growth of all of the other students this summer! If your dancer is interested in a private lesson please contact us!

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Whitney is the “Beautiful Dreamer”

Every year at the recital we celebrate a Dancer of the Year!  The Dancer of the Year is chosen from the students who were nominated for Student of the Month over the course of the year.  This year we are excited to congratulate our 2017 Dancer of the Year: Whitney Cookston.

Whitney started dancing at ADC in 2010.  Since then she has taken several different classes.  Over the past couple of years we have watched Whitney not only fall in love with dance, but really dedicate herself to being the best dancer she can.  She is always in class, ready to go, with a positive attitude.  In jazz class she jams out to the music and in contemporary she truly expresses herself with the movement.  Whitney joined the performance class this year.  She has always been a good performer, but this year she went the extra step and her performance stood out on the recital stage.  We have loved having Whitney in the ADC family for the past 7 years, and are very proud of her accomplishments.

How old are you? I am 15 years old.

When did you start dancing?  I started dancing when I was three years old in tap and ballet.

What is your favorite style of dance and why?  I like contemporary because I have more freedom to move and express myself.

What is your favorite thing about dance?  After a long day at school, I love coming to dance because it helps me relax.  Dancing makes me feel calm and less stressed.

What has been your favorite recital dance so far?  I liked this year’s red riding hood themed contemporary dance.

What is your favorite food? Tacos

What do you want to be when you grow up?  I want to be an interior designer!

Becky and Charlotte!

Charlotte Flood is finishing her fifth season at Atlanta Dance Central, and we are beyond excited to announce her as our Student of the Month.  Charlotte has been dancing at the studio since she was 3 years old.  She began in our Ballet for 3’s kinder class, and worked her way up through our kinder program in Ballet/Tap and Jazz/Acro.  After 3 seasons she graduated into the youth classes and has been taking acro ever since!  Charlotte has been catching our eye for years and this is her month to shine!  Here is a note from Ms. Michelle about why Charlotte was nominated:

Charlotte Flood has been an exemplary student this past month. Recently perfecting steps that she once was nervous to attempt, she has shown how determination can pay off. She listens intently and applies corrections quickly. Her kindness and support of others in class shows a great deal of self confidence and humility. We are so proud to have her in the ADC family.

Congratulations, Charlotte!
What grade are you in? 1st
What is your favorite subject at school? Art
What is your favorite thing to do besides dance? Soccer
What is your favorite summer activity? Going to the pool.
Why do you love dance? I love doing cartwheels and all that, and I love just dancing!
What is your favorite movie? Moana

We are four weeks out from recital which means our recital day countdown is officially underway!  Costumes are here and choreography is finished.  In these last few weeks we will practice the dances to make sure dancers are confident and the dances look polished.  After that our youth dancers will have two opportunities to show their family and friends what their hours of hard work have produced.

History behind two performances.

A few years ago we only had one youth program recital.  Dress rehearsal was Friday evening and the official performance date was on Saturday.  Saturday came around and we ran into an interesting predicament.  Our youth recital had sold out.  While we celebrated the fact that we had enough students to sell out a 600+ seat theater, it was upsetting to tell family and friends who came to the recital that we didn’t have enough space for them to watch their dancer perform.  For that reason, we added a second show!

Benefits from the perspective of a dancer.

No matter how much practice we get in the studio, performing on stage brings a different energy to our dancing.  Whether it’s nerves or excitement, things just feel different which can cause our dancing to be shaky, less grounded, or even cause mental blips.  The desire to impress and entertain family and friends is something that can’t be replicated in front of a mirror.  Friday night shows are amazing because of that energy and anticipation.  As a dancer I know that on Friday I go all out because of it!

I may be dancing with more energy on Friday, but on Saturday I’m always able to dance with more confidence.  I’m more familiar with the stage, my spacing, and the light cues.  I also can relax more and my dancing looks more polished.  It’s also nice to get a second chance to perform if something didn’t go as planned the previous evening.  During the Saturday night show I’ve found my groove and feel like everything has really come together.

Benefits from the perspective of a viewer.

Watching a dance performance twice is similar to watching a movie twice.  The first time I watch a performance I don’t know what to expect.  As I watch my eye may be directed to one area of the stage while something different is happening in another area of the stage.  When I’m piecing together the meaning of the dance, I may miss how it correlates with the song lyrics.  Similarly to performing, sometimes I’m so excited to watch a dance performance that the actual viewing experience may be overstimulating.

The second time I see the show I always see things I didn’t notice the first time.  I have a greater understanding of what is going on and can make the connections between the dancing and the story.  Also, if my eye was pulled to a certain part of the stage the night before, I know I can watch what is going on on the other side this time.  There are even times when something really cool happens – a lift, a turn, maybe a jump I’ve never seen.  Going twice means I get to see it again!

Benefits from the perspective of a teacher.

Dance is different from a lot of activities because parents may not be able to witness their student’s progress on a weekly basis.  Dancers may practice from September – May without their parents ever being able to see what we see in the studio.  Recital is the only time that year that the students have to celebrate their accomplishments and be proud of their hard work.  Performing twice not only gives them a chance to show off how far they have come, but also give them the opportunity to learn and grow from one night to the next.

Join Atlanta Dance Central for our recitals:

Youth Recitals: Friday & Saturday, May 12 & 13 at 7 p.m.
Kinder Recitals: Saturday May 13 at 11 a.m. & 2 p.m.

All recitals are held at Blessed Trinity High School.

 

Congratulations to our March Student of the Month, Natalie Merritt!

Natalie started dancing at ADC in the Ballet for 3’s class, and is now in Ballet/Tap for 5’s.  This is her last year as a kinder student!  Natalie was quick to develop a passion for dance.  Ever since her first year, Natalie has been a very sweet student who is eager to learn.  She is always focused, on task, and friendly to all of her class mates.

This year Natalie has started a new tradition among her classmates.  Her class starts in tap shoes and half way through they have to change into ballet shoes.  Natalie is a super speedy shoe changer, and Ms. Andrea quickly noticed.  Now, she and her classmates have a friendly “Shoe Changing Olympics” each week to see who can change their shoes the quickest.  Natalie doesn’t always receive the gold medal, but she is always at the top of the class and has a good attitude regardless of who wins.

As she has gotten older, Natalie has really taken hold of her dancing and can remember dance theory and vocabulary.  She is also working on memorizing the recital choreography without needing help.  We can’t wait to see her perform her very first tap recital dance in May.  Wonderful work, Natalie!

How old are you? 5

What is your favorite color? Pink

What is your favorite movie? Beauty and the Beast

What is your favorite food? Spaghetti

What is your favorite flavor ice cream?  Chocolate

Why do you love coming to dance class?  Because you’re my teacher.  (Awwww.)

My very first recital was when I was about three years old.  I went to a small studio and instead of doing the recital at a theater we did it in the studio.  My teacher set up chairs in one half of the studio, and the other half was the stage.  Even though I had been practicing the dance in that studio for months, I never made it on stage.  Instead I cried and screamed as my sister tapped her way through the dance with a couple of other classmates.

Now I brag about my amazing track record for getting the little ones on stage.  I know I shouldn’t do it, but each year I do.  I’m bound to curse not only myself but an innocent little ballerina, but hopefully not this year.  We have a fool proof way for ensuring the success of our dancers.  Here’s how we pull it off:

Preparation is key.

As soon as we start learning our recital dances, everything is the most fun ever!  “We’re going to start learning our dance that we’re going to perform on a big stage in the spring time.  It’s going to be awesome.”  I repeat this phrase using different words every week, emphasizing how much fun performing is.  We also have children’s books about ballerinas performing on stage that we begin reading to the students to help them prepare.  In one of the stories, the performance does not go as planned but everything still turns out in the end.

We’re also fortunate enough to be in the theater the entire week leading up to the recital which means our dancers get at least two trial runs to be successful on stage before recital day.  At our tech rehearsal we take each class on stage and back stage, giving them a tour of the theater environment.  We also get to practice the dance that day.  Sometimes kinder students are hesitant that day since it is a new environment.  I don’t make a big deal of them.  I tell them they can watch that day and we can try again at dress rehearsal.  Usually by dress rehearsal they are ready to try it out!

“Nervous” is NOT part of the vocabulary.

Feeling nervous can be very similar to feeling excited.  Younger dancers have trouble distinguishing the difference between the feelings, so I prefer to use the term “excited.”  Nervous has a negative connotation.  It implies that something could go wrong, that messing up is bad, or that trouble is in the near future.  Excited makes the students think just the opposite.  When you are excited for something it is usually because it is going to be an enjoyable and rewarding experience.

Especially when it’s a tiny student’s first recital, they don’t know what to expect.  When we manage their expectations by telling them exactly what is going to happen and how successful they are going to be, they are more confident!  When preparing your dancer for recital day, remember to keep everything positive.

Make it fun!

I’ve said this a million times before and I’ll say it again, but recital is my FAVORITE day of the year.  I love it because it is fun, and I am filled with pride when my students take the stage, no matter what happens.  At recital students get to wear beautiful sparkly costumes, wear their hair a certain way, and put on a bit of make up.  It is a special day to celebrate growth, hard work, and accomplishment.  Enjoy the one day your dancer gets to show you what they’ve been working on for the entire year.  It really is a great one!

Our recital theme this year is “Beyond Belief” and I personally can’t believe that it’s just around the corner.  We’re already counting down to the best day of the year, and we can’t wait to see all of our dancers take the stage in May!

Good luck!

I start most of my classes off with a quick share time.  In share time we are allowed to say anything that takes 10 seconds or less, or I give an alternative.  The alternative is usually what they ate for lunch, but sometimes it’s their favorite color, movie, song, book, or flavor of ice cream.

With my middle to high school students it can be hard to stick to the 10 second rule.  Some students need to get things off of their chest.  Over the course of the year the dance studio becomes somewhere where the students can share their true feelings.  I hear about successes, stresses, school frustrations, and more.  After share time the students feel better.  They have cleared their mind and can now focus on their technique.

Recently in share time one of my students shared that she was stressed because she had a night full of homework ahead of her.  Her story went something like this:

Tonight I am going to be up until the a.m. because I have so much homework.  My Mom didn’t want me to come to dance but I came because I love dance and it makes me feel better.

I immediately felt a pang of happiness in my heart.  As dance teachers we are constantly trying to find the balance of setting realistic expectations for students without giving them additional stress.  Obviously they need to work hard to reach their goals and improve their technique.  The pressures of school are much greater than they have ever been, and we strive to make the studio a place where they can release their anxieties.

Share time ended and we transitioned into technique class.  Two thirds away through class we began recital practice and ended up finishing the dance.  All of the students were excited to have finished.  The sense of pride, accomplishment, and happiness filled the room as the clock approached 9 p.m.

I watched as my students performed our full dance for the first time.  Naturally, it wasn’t perfect.  We have some details to fix here and there.  But their performance and the energy they are putting behind their movement at 9 p.m. inspired me.  At the end of the dance, the clock struck 9 and I walked over to the music to turn it off and dismiss class.  That’s when a voice chimed in:

Can we run it one more time?

This is a question that I rarely say “no” to.  Most middle and high school students are so stressed and tired that they are ready to go when class is over.  As I turned around, I realized that the student who was asking to run it again was the one who shared that she was going to be up late doing homework.  In the moment, that stress didn’t matter to her.  The feeling she was going to get from two more minutes of dancing was more valuable than two more minutes of homework or sleep.  I responded to her request, “Absolutely.  I’d love to see it again.”

We ran the dance one more time, exchanged “thank yous” and “great jobs,” and turned out the studio lights.  As she walked into the lobby, I wished the student with homework the best of luck.  While she had a night of stress ahead of her, she was still able to let dance be her stress relief.  And that made my night.

Our student of the month for the month of February is Katie Saxon!

Katie joined the studio a few years ago and immediately immersed herself as a member of our youth program.  Her sweet and positive attitude in and outside of the classroom made her transition into the ADC family a very easy one.  Since joining the studio, Katie has become a member of the Atlanta Rising Talent company, currently as a senior company member.

This past year Katie joined ADC’s teacher training program.  This program requires students to assist in classes and meet once a month to learn and build dance teaching skills.  Katie has thrived in this program and assists several classes per week.  All of her students love her because of the love she shares with them.  We love having Katie teach and assist beside us because she is so helpful and involved with all of the students.  Through the program and assisting classes, we have seen Katie’s confidence, energy, and personality grow.

Congratulations, Katie!  We are very proud of you.

When did you start dancing?  When I was two I started taking ballet.

What is your favorite style of dance, and why?  My favorite style of dance is contemporary because it is a great way to express your feelings and emotions.

What is your favorite thing about assisting with classes?  I love hanging out with all of the students.  They’re so funny and they make my day ten times brighter.  I love them.

What is your favorite food? Mac & Cheese

What is your favorite movie?  Tangled!

Since dance is an art form, the idea of it being a “team” activity is often overlooked.  Sure, some studios have competition teams, but even without having one, dance is very much a team activity.  Other activities also have the advantage of having games and tournaments more often than dancers have recitals.  This makes recital even more important.  It may be only one time per year, but it is the most important display of teamwork that happens for the studio that year.  Here’s why:

  1. Individual dancers are performing choreography as part of a class.   Starting at a very young age I teach my dancers that we have to dance together.  I have even told 4 and 5 year olds that they need to dance like twins, because they understand that it means they have to be performing a move at the same time as the dancer next to them.  As dancers get older they have to use their peripheral vision while they’re dancing in order to stay within the same timing.  In this way, they are having to work as a team in order to portray the choreography accurately.
  2. Teamwork doesn’t just happen on stage, it happens behind the scenes.  If only everyone could see all of the hard work that happens back stage.  As teachers we work as a team to make sure everyone makes it on stage successfully.  Each one of us has an important job, and we know the students are watching us set an example as a team.  What filters down from that is a team of middle and high school students who are eager to help.  When they have down time back stage they are helping younger students change costumes, put their hair in buns, and touch up make up.  Students helping each other is a rewarding sight to see, and it also makes recital run extremely smoothly.
  3. We are all working together to put on a show together.  Recital is like a giant group presentation.  Last year our recitals had over 275 performers! The staff, parent volunteers, technical crew, and cast includes more than 300 people.  All of those people work together to put on a spectacular show.  What’s even more exciting is the feeling of accomplishment at the end of the show that we all did it!  Each small group is an important part of the entire studio as a whole.

Recital is a great display of teamwork on both a small and large scale.  When each dancer does their part to learn choreography, dance as a group, perform with passion, and help others succeed, it makes for a great show!

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