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.