Insight into the teaching philosophy and values that School Principal, Miss Simpson, instills throughout her school
Courage and Determination
One of the key things that I say to my students is to have Courage and Determination. You have to first have the Courage in this life to follow your dreams and then you have to have the Determination to follow through by working hard. That’s my key little phrase for life and for dance.
Students are offered a broad dance experience starting from the age of three and are encouraged to learn in a non-competitive, supportive atmosphere, whilst they grow in confidence and develop poise and coordination.
Individual creativity and mastery of skills are valued equally.
Classes offer a balance of appropriate level technique and more informal improvisation, music and movement.
Key to positive teacher/student/parent relationships?
Trust is very important and the basis of a great student, teacher, parent relationship. Students coming through the school community will already have a great relationship with the teachers from when they were quite young. For those students new to the community, it’s best to build a relationship and develop the trust between teacher and student first. But you also need to keep the parent in the loop as teenagers think they are handling everything really well and that may not be the case. Always have a meeting with the parents and the student, and keep the doors open at any time.
Proudest achievement as teacher
What I have contributed to the lives of all wonderful students that have come through my school.
On rewards of teaching
I love to teach and see children and students grow as their passion for dance grows. I have not waivered as this passion has given me the lucky opportunities to touch so many special young lives and help them fulfil their dreams
How important is a consistent work ethic?
Inconsistent work creates injury – coming in and working yourself to death and going away for 3 weeks causes injury. Working up to a performance or exam, the amount of work increases and if they are not fit or managing their bodies prior to that the risk of injuries is increased.
Role of technique in a dancer’s career?
Technique is so very important as it’s what creates safety in training – the safest way is often the correct way. Dance is not a very safe past time, human beings weren’t meant to turn out etc. so being able to do those things properly takes care of the body in the long term and it also builds up the correct muscle tone for your body.
When should you see a health care professional?
Prevention is of absolute importance so we teach students to learn to recognise issues themselves. Our course includes pilates and complimentary activities, and many of our teachers are physios as well. Of course, if they do develop a niggle or major injury we recommend seeing a health professional. We try to ensure the child isn’t reliant on health professionals to know what is happening with their own bodies. This reduces the added stress and cost of consistent health professional appointments to prevent injuries. Rest is also essential as is massage to help stave off injuries and ensure their bodies stay supple.
First term issues for Full Timers?
Many dancers new to full-time are enthusiastic and want to go to as many classes as they can but this can, and often does, lead to fatigue. Whilst at full-time they are staying at school and increasing their dance load, which also increases their physical and mental fatigue. Being able to manage their time both within and outside full-time and finding time to rest is very important which is why I spend time with my students timetabling their lives to ensure everything is manageable.
On teaching Dance Audition Skills
I teach audition technique all the time. Not that all of my students are going to be dancers, but I say, ‘If you can do it in a dance class, then you can do it in the rest of life. Each time you do a performance or an exam, you are having to stand up and be responsible for yourself. You have already learnt that this is part of life, also part of auditioning and part of dance.'
I do quite a lot of open work in my classes, because if you are in an audition it is not going to be set work, I teach them how to manage in a classroom, how to manage with new material, and not to stand at the back of the classes all the time – you need to be seen. Most of my students are not frightened of auditions. It is part of the teaching process, if you teach your classes like that, then it is part of the learning process of all classes and not such a big deal when it comes to actual auditions.
I like my kids to have to earn where they get to. So if I have an incredibly talented child, in my school they still have to crawl up the ladder, even if everyone knows that that young student is the best. Everybody learns many of the parts, and then it is very clear how I chose the parts. TV shows like 'So You Think You Can Dance' are about overnight stars. Real enduring careers are not about that. They are up and down and hard work. Well, then the point is how are you going to manage that? Do you love dance enough to manage that? I am always teaching that.
On Teaching Choreography
I have some very simple strategies for using choreography in the classroom. Sometimes I say, ‘You make up the plié, you do the tendu’, and musically, it is great for them. You notice what they understand about music this way. I might also say to them, ‘It is an eight-bar ending, can you make up something to end this exercise?’, and we might use that. Often in a creative way, rather than a technical way.
Dancing is often about following instruction and the rules. To offer them the opportunity to be choreographing means that they have to drive the creative force rather than you. Particularly with children who find it hard to express themselves, it encourages them to think about how they feel about dancing. It gives them a voice. On the other hand, for the child who loves to create, it is an opportunity for them to show what they love to do. Very often if you have really creative kids, if as a teacher you are open-minded about it, you can incorporate their work.