Creating a positive atmosphere in dance lessons part 1

By Rachel Wilson


Rachel, Dance Teacher in Leeds and One Dance UK Dance Teacher Advocacy Group Panellist, gives her top tips for positivity in dance classes:

  • A Praise Book: At the end of class, students can opt to pop a comment in to praise someone else in the class. It could be a peer, the teacher, a duet they liked, someone who stood out today or helped the with a movement etc. At the end of the week/month the teacher shares these back to the class.
  • Advocating for dance: Create a display for office/studio/corridor with pictures from lessons, trips, shows etc. Add speech bubbles with real quotes from students recounting what we love about our dance department.
  • Dancer of the week: Choose one student per key stage that has stood out, take their photo, award a certificate and call home! It is always so great to speak to home and celebrate students.
  • Relaxation lessons: Activities like relaxation techniques, meditation, team building exercises, mindfulness activities etc. can be built into dance lessons. We play Sleeping Lions and some Drama games too to cheer us up!
  • One off lessons: Lessons where students write on a piece of paper a song they love or a style of dance they are desperate to explore in class and we put all these ideas into a hat. We then pull out 4/5 and create lessons to suit these desires. For example, I use a favourite song for a warmup, a style for some technique work and another song for a routine. I don’t spend hours planning or creating resources but it generates 2 weeks of lessons for the end of a term/year and students like the ownership of it. You may want to ask more able and confident students to create some material using a chosen song and lead this in class or maybe lead the warm up or cool down etc.
  • Site-specific: If the weather is appropriate, site-specific work can be really uplifting and gives the students a boost when things are feeling a little ‘flat’. You can explore corridors, outside steps, classrooms etc. A new setting and change of scenery can inspire and motivate students especially in the summer or on a dry Autumn day! You can use professional site-specific work like Cross Channel, Rosas Danst Rosas or DV8 as inspiration.
  • Student as teacher: Students volunteer to lead different parts of a dance lesson. A warmup, 3 exercises, a travelling sequence, a short sequence and a cool down. Teacher gives them helpful top tips and advice and students plan the music and what to do. Students love this and it’s nice for the teacher to take back seat and watch the students blossom. (You might hear your own voice in them too!)