Dance ED Tip #35:
Response to Dance Magazine- Why we need to go back to teaching technique

July 19, 2018 - Olivia Mode-Cater


Dance magazine recently published an article by Theresa Ruth Howard called “Is Instagram Changing The Dance World’s Value System?”  In her article, Howard discusses how social media has led the dance community (especially the younger generation of movers) to become fixated on the extremes of dance: hyper-flexibility, endless turns, and gravity-defying balances. One of the consequences she describes in her article is the impact this type of value system has on dance education. She argues:


“These tricks, in and of themselves, are not bad things. However, devoid of a codified technical progression, which builds the steps incrementally, they can be disastrous. Dancing happens in the transitions, in the pathways. The foundation of technique is in the "how" steps are entered and exited."


This can be challenging, however, as young dancers want to do what they are seeing on Instagram and for paying students we feel the pressure to teach them what they want to learn. But, our jobs as teachers isn’t always to give students what they want. We have to also give them what they NEED.  


Howard points out in her article that dancers need progressions, or carefully-curated and layered exercises, so they can understand HOW to dance. That is exactly why I created a Building Technique Progressions Workshop and Online Course.  Our students need to become versatile vessels of dance that can easily adapt to various artistic visions, instead of being movers who have a limited arsenal of tricks.  


Technical progressions are how we guide our dancers into making the important shift from one-trick-ponies into self-sufficient, life-long learners of dance. It’s analogous to that old saying, “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man how to fish, feed him for a lifetime.” When we teach dancers steps, we are feeding them for the day. When we are teaching dancers how to dance, we are feeding them for a lifetime. Technical progressions provide a solid foundation in which dancers can build upon. They create a mental and physical understanding as to why and how we move certain ways and with that deep level of understanding dancers can take that knowledge and build upon it. They can use the foundation that progressions provide to still do tricks, but they can also use that foundation for more.


Our challenge now as educators is to make teaching progressions exciting and impactful, so that dancers begin to value technique. We need to use our creativity, talent, and skills to help young dancers buy into these ideas so that they have solid roots that enable them to take artistic risks. Our role as dance teachers is to create options and opportunities for growth and I believe that clear technical progressions are a big part of how we do that.  


If you’d like to improve your technical progressions or learn how to create your own visit click here.


Visit original article “Is Instagram Changing The Dance World’s Value System?”  by Theresa Ruth Howard.


Happy Teaching!