Dance; while the very word triggers images of solo dancers fleeting across the stage and the art of perfecting your performance and technique takes a lot of independent and individual discipline and drive, dancing is actually very much a team sport.
Producing a fabulous group performance takes equal drive, dedication and passion from every single dancer and being a great team player a part of an even greater team will soar your dancing to new heights.
Let’s think about what happens when you play a team sport.
You don’t get to play in the footy grand final if you haven’t been to training all year.
You don’t get to be in the starting 5 in the basketball game if you haven’t been pulling your weight.
You don’t walk down the netball court while your team mates sprint past you.
You don’t question your soccer uniform or get to choose your team colours. You get what you get and everyone wears their team colours with pride.
If you are late on game day, you don’t get to play.
So, here’s how to be a team player at dancing.
If you plan on participating in the concert you need to be prepared by coming to class.
If you want to stand out on stage, you need to give it your all.
Don’t let your class mates dance harder than you. Match their energy and drive.
Be proud and patriotic. Your dance uniform is important. It promotes unity and a strong work ethic. Wear it with pride.
Be punctual. If you are late to class, rehearsal or concert days, you miss warm ups, important information and on busy event days, you could even miss your turn to dance!! Being on time is vital to having a positive experience dancing.
Did you know that in our code of conduct (agreed to upon enrollment) it states: “Main St Funk believes that a dance class should feel like a team where everyone is treated equally and works equally as hard. No one student is the star and no student is left behind.”
This is because we endeavour to raise hard-working, team players who love to dance!As we settle in to preparing our performance day routines, let’s keep thinking of our dance class as our team. Let’s keep being patriotic and proud. Let’s keep encouraging and cheering on our team mates and let’s SOAR together to new dancing heights.
Teacher at the end of class: “Make sure you practice!” Student: “Yeah, right. When?”
“Practice” – It’s a daunting word. What comes to mind when your dance teacher suggests that you practice at home? A montage of sweat and tears? A marathon of turns and leaps that never ends? Hours upon hours of hard work that leaves you feeling sore and defeated? Actually, when your teacher suggests that you practice at home, that’s not what they mean.
Most dance teachers recognize that students, just like them, have a life full of action and activities outside of dance and trying to fit in yet another responsibility in your week can be stressful. Your dance teachers are also well-educated and passionate about the benefits that can come from practicing at home. Students who practice are generally more confident in class and on stage. It means they can have a more progressive year of dancing because instead of having to “re-learn” what they learnt in the previous class, they can move forward, on to the next step or skill. They can work on refining their technique and performance skills instead of spending class time trying to remember the choreography AND the more you practice, the faster your muscle memory develops, meaning you will pick up new dances quicker and remember them more than if you weren’t practicing at all.
So, how can we fit dance practice (outside of our scheduled class time) into our weeks?
If you can practice every single day of the week that’s great. But, not realistic or sustainable and actually, not really beneficial as our bodies and brains would soon become burnt out and fatigued. Sit down and look at your schedule and decide on a realistic expectation that you can set for yourself. Perhaps you can practice three times a week? A Sunday afternoon when you have lots of free time, after school on a night when you don’t have to rush off to another activity and maybe one night right before bed? Remember that you don’t need to spend hours at a time practicing. Think about how much time you actually spend on your routine in class. Once you take away a warm up, technique work and skills, a cool down, that leaves about 20-30 minutes for choreography. So if you can manage three 20 minute practices a week, you are already doing an extra hour of dancing! It’s a good idea to squeeze in a quick practice right after your dance class, while the choreography is fresh in your head and right before dance class, so that you can progress on to the next block of choreography quickly.
BREAK IT UP:
Practicing a whole routine, remembering every step and finding corrections for yourself sounds like a daunting process. Why not break your dance up into sections and practice one bit at a time? Perhaps there is a part of your dance that is particularly challenging for you, focus on that until you feel confident with it and only then, move on to the next section. You don’t even have to practice specific choreography. Perhaps there is a tricky turn, skill or just one transition that you need to work on. It’s amazing how everything can fall into place once you have jumped over one hurdle.
VISUALIZE & LISTEN:
This one is especially good for those weeks when your body is sore and exhausted from all of your other activities. Or perhaps you are run down and not well enough to exert all of your energy dancing. Pop your headphones in and listen to your song. Close your eyes and imagine yourself doing the steps. Also, imagine your classmates with you so that you can remember your choreography and formations in relation to your teammates. Visualizing yourself performing on stage in costume and under the lights is a great way to reignite your passion for a piece of choreography that might be becoming stale or “boring” as you have been working on it for a few months. Picture what you want to look like when you are on stage in front of your family and friends. What does your performance face look like? Practice this in front of a mirror! Or a friend if you are feeling brave. Just listening to your song over and over without any added distractions can help you understand the musicality better, which is important for timing and unison in a group dance. Next time you’re in class, ask your teacher for a copy of the music or the title and artist so that you can have it at home. You can listen to your song on the way to school, while you are doing chores or just in your down time.
WRITE THINGS DOWN:
It’s understandable if from time to time you get home from dancing and think “What did we do??”. Take a notebook into class and write down keywords or new things that you learn so that when you are practicing you can jog your memory. Make note of any corrections your teacher gives to you personally or to the whole class. Ask the teacher if there is anything specific they think you need to work on. Write it down in a way that you will understand. Write down the things that you think you are awesome at as well and practice those too!
So now that you can remember all of the steps to your choreography. That means there is no point to practicing right? ….Wrong! There is always something to work on. Why not film yourself performing your choreography and then sit back and watch. Sometimes dancing can look so much different than what it feels like. You might notice you aren’t fully straightening your legs and stretching your feet and ankles even though it feels like you are. Or if you’re a hip hopper, maybe it’s the opposite and you are not bending your knees and dancing into the ground as much as you thought. Make some notes about what you see. What do you do well? What can you work on? Imagine you are the teacher and you are correcting your student. What would you tell them?
Like any good habit, practicing will take time to work into your routine and the more you do it, the better you will get at it. Everybody has a different learning process so find the method that fits your lifestyle and learning style best. When you practice, tell people! The encouragement and good feedback you will receive, will fuel you to keep practicing AND that energy is contagious, it will encourage your teammates to practice too.
There is no right or wrong way to practice your dancing at home and your dancing can only get better if you give it a go! We challenge you all to apply these 6 tips to your practicing schedule and get ready to watch your dancing sky rocket! What have you got to lose?
By Chloe Jobson: A chronic nagger who can often be found rocking back and fourth uttering the words “please practice” over and over.
Winter is here! Tis the season for hot chocolates by the fireplace, early nights in, flannelette pajamas and electric blankets. Tis’ also the season when typically our enthusiasm for dance class, exercise and commitments in general begin to falter. To ensure you get the most out of your dancing this year it is important to stay on top of things, even when a night in under the heater with mum’s best soup recipe is calling your name.
Here are 10 simple and easy life hacks to help dance students and dance parents stay motivated about coming to class during winter.
CAR POOL: Just like having a gym buddy, if you’ve got a friend relying on you and keeping you accountable you’re less likely to be tempted to stay home under the blankets. Take it in turns with your trusted dance parent friend so that every second week you get the night off but your dancer still makes it to class.
DON’T GO HOME: Pack all of your dancing clothes and shoes in the morning and leave them in the car. Head straight to dancing after school. This cuts out some travel time too!
HOT FOOD: Snacks before and after dancing (or during if you’ve got a long night of classes) are important to fuel our bodies. Hot food like steamed veggies and soup are great ways to warm you up from the inside out and are super healthy. Cook up a big batch, label it “dancing food” and pop in the freezer, ready to heat up each dancing night. This is great for students and parents and siblings that might be waiting around at the studio.
HOT DRINKS: Probably not suitable for during class but great for before and after. Herbal tea or hot water with lemon will warm you up, keep you hydrated and give you a natural energy boost before class. Mums and dads who wait around, treat yourself to a take away coffee or hot chocolate, fill up a thermos from home OR help yourself to the tea and coffee at the studio. Re-fills are encouraged!!!
LAYERS: You can wear lots of layers and still be dressed appropriately for dance class. Fitted is best for ballet, contemporary and jazz AND it being close-fitting to your body, is actually warmer. EG: ballet stockings, leotard (long sleeve leo if you can!) leggings, ballet crossover or fitted long sleeve top, woolly ballet shrug, leg warmers! You can always remove layers as you warm up in class AND why not wear your track pants, ug boots and Main St Funk hoodie over the top for to and from class!? Little people, could even bring their pajamas to pop on after class. Then you can jump straight into your nice warm bed when you get home.
BLANKETS: Dance studios are typically pretty cold if you are not the one dancing and working up a sweat. Mums, dads and kids that wait around, leave a little blanket or rug in the car to pop over your knees while you’re sitting at dancing.
HOT SHOWERS: Yes, before class!! It will refresh your body and mind after a long day at school or work and warm and relax your muscles. Put your dancing gear on as soon as you get out of the shower.
HEAT PACKS/WATER BOTTLES: Keep your hands, feet or wherever warm with a heat pack or hot water bottle while you are sitting around the studio. These are also great for relieving sore muscles and joints.
DON’T BE LATE, BE EARLY!: Warming up at the start of class is always important but particularly during winter when our muscles have tightened in the cold and our bodies take a littlelonger to warm up. If you can get to class early, start your own warm up. Star jumps and jogging on the spot are great ways to get to the blood pumping and spinal rolls to mobilise the spine.
THINK AHEAD: Think about what missing a class might mean for you and your team. Typically, when a dance student starts to fall behind on choreography or work they start to become even less motivated to come to class and eventually it all becomes too much to try to catch up. Dancing is a team sport!!! Encourage each other, hold each other accountable and be a team player that your team mates can count on. We are all in this (crazy Melbourne weather) together!
Looking forward to seeing you all in class, dancing away the winter blues. Do you have a life hack that keeps you motivated during winter? We would love to hear it and I’m sure our dancing family would too!
By Chloe Jobson – Chronically “feels the cold” but has danced through many winters.
It’s a tale as old as time and it goes a little something like this: “I have decided to take a break from dance this year because I need to focus on my school work.” At first glance it appears this young student is making a wise, mature and grown up decision, one that I am sure would not have come lightly.
Maybe this is a thought that has been niggling at your brain, maybe this is a decision you have already made or one that you are considering strongly. But who is it that made you believe that you couldn’t continue with dance while being so focused on your schooling? Your parents? Your school teachers? Your peers? Whoever they are, they have your best interests at heart. However, if you dig a little deeper you might find that if you decide to stick to your extra-curricular activities, it can only benefit you in the long run.
We all know the physical benefits of staying active rather than being cooped up inside, studying all day – and the psychological benefits of taking a breather and a moment to escape the stresses of senior level schooling by doing something creative and fun. But what else?…
It is said that VCE and high school are preparing the youth of today for the “real world”. A mythical place that secondary students are repeatedly told about and apparently only comes into existence when you finish Year 12. I have been living in this so called “real world” for 7 years now and it saddens me when I hear teenagers say that have been discouraged from continuing dance so they can focus solely on their studies, in preparation for what we think happens outside of the school grounds.
I wish more people were telling you what you CAN do, what you’re capable of and of the mountains that you can (and inevitably will one day have to) climb. Tackling school whilst staying committed to something you love is just a small mound compared to the obstacles you will jump in your lifetime.
The real world is an extremely exciting, wonderful place where dreams do come true if you work hard enough but it is also a place that is very, very, busy!
Deciding that you will pick one thing and one thing only to focus on forever, or for a year, is unfortunately not an option. The real world is quite the juggling act.
Upon leaving high school many of you will enter university or TAFE. Your new level of independence will mean that you will probably secure yourself a part time job. You might choose to move out of home to live closer to your new school. Your new group of friends means that your social calendar is booked out.
Suddenly, on top of your assignments and studying, you have to work and probably take on more shifts, you have to find time to cook, clean and pay bills and of course…exercise! Eventually you will land your dream, full time job, one that comes with this thing called “deadlines” and before you know it, you might be responsible for a family of your own, on top of all of that!
It sounds pretty daunting. But, if you’re someone who has decided to stick with your dance training or extra-curricular activities, you will be teaching your mind and body those awesome time-management skills that we so need to survive. You are well and truly ahead of the game.
You will be used to timetabling your week to include all of the important and fun things that you want to make time for. While your colleagues will tell you that they don’t have time to exercise or socialise, you already know that you are more than capable of putting aside a few hours a week to get moving and have fun.
The next time someone encourages you to quit something you love to focus on your school work “in preparation for the real world”, I want you to ask them what they do when they finish at their 9-5 job. My bet is that they have families to look after, bills to pay, a hobby or two and a list of responsibilities they will tell you is a mile long.
Multi-tasking and time management are vital to our survival and they are not skills that magically appear when you step out of the school gates for the final time. They need to be taught and practiced (just like dance steps!)
If you love dancing and you want to continue with it and you want to smash your VCE scores too, you absolutely CAN do it all and if you put your heart and soul into it, in the passionate way that dancers are known for, you absolutely WILL succeed.
Just look at MSF co-founder Carla Jobson. Not only did she tackle VCE whilst staying committed to dance, she passed with a VCE enter score of 95.45 and was College Vice Captain, all in the same year.
Now Kristie and Carla share Main St Funk with their little sister (me) while they both maintain their passion for their “day-time careers” which they studied long and hard for (primary school teaching and digital consulting); they are both loving and committed mums and they still make time to stay fit and see their friends.
If they can do it, so can you! It’s ok to be passionate, driven and willing to succeed in more than just “one thing”. Who says you have to choose? Let’s show the real world what you’re made of!
By Chloe Jobson – Co-Owner of Main St Funk Dance School Epping
P.S: If you’re ever feeling overwhelmed by your workload, why not chat to your dance teachers? They have been there and done that (and would probably do it all again if they were given the chance) and they are experts at making time, so they will always have time for you.
The word “no” is usually associated with negativity and disappointment. However, at Main St Funk there are ten “no’s ” that help create a more relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere that makes MSF a little bit unique.
So, here are the “Ten Things You Didn’t Know You Wanted To Know About Main St Funk And They All Start With ‘No’”. (Try to say that ten times fast!)
NO ADDITIONAL COSTUME FEES: We understand that the cost of kids’ activities can add up, so we endeavour to make participating in dance as accessible as possible. At Main St Funk, all costume fees are included in your term-by-term tuition, so you don’t pay anything extra at the end of the year. This is great for big families, students who want to take lots of classes and anyone who likes to plan their budget.
NO SEWING: All embellishments, sequins and altering is done by the MSF team.
NO AUDITIONS: Main St Funk are proud to be inclusive – the only prerequisite is that you must LOVE to dance! We do have a committed competition crew and while it is common practice for dance schools to hold auditions for their comp teams, Main St Funk welcome any keen students to join their crew as long as they can be a dedicated team player.
NO FAVOURITISM: Main St Funk dancers work hard and while some students may display more natural talent, it is important to acknowledge the hard work and effort of ALL of the dancers. All of the MSF kids are given a turn in the front row and a moment to shine.
NO PARENTS IN THE CONCERT DRESSING ROOM: Yes, you read that correctly. Main St Funk have a “no parents backstage” policy. Don’t worry though, all of the younger students are buddied up with an older student who looks after them backstage. MSF are pretty proud of this buddy system. It teaches independence, responsibility and team work and ensures that every single parent gets to sit in the audience and see their child shine on stage.
NO EXCLUSIVITY: Main St Funk attend a number of community events throughout the year. These are always a fantastic opportunity for the MSF kids to gain experience dancing in front of an audience and in a casual environment. These events are always an open invite to all of the MSF kids. It is a great way for the students to bond with their classmates and to feel like they are an integral part of our dancing community (which they are!).
NO BULLYING: Main St Funk prides itself on the friendly, family & inclusive nature of its classes. Main St Funk have a ZERO TOLERANCE for bullying. MSF teach their students about respect, team work and treating their classmates as equals. We are all friends at Main St Funk – dancing is our happy place.
NO EXAMS: While learning a syllabus and completing a dance exam definitely has its benefits, the aim at Main St Funk is to provide a quality dance education where students progress at their own pace without the added stress of deadlines, exam scores and report cards.
NO INAPPROPRIATE MATERIAL: Main St Funk have a strict policy on ensuring that all song choices, choreography and costume designs are appropriate for the age of the students in their classes as well as the members of the audience. MSF is a family orientated dance school and work towards a standard that ensures that all students, whether they are minis, teenagers or adults, feel comfortable in what they are performing and wearing. Main St Funk keep up with the latest trends without crossing any boundaries. It is all good family fun (or FUNK!) at Main St Funk.
NO WORRIES: At MSF we LOVE dance, and all of these “no’s” are in place so all of our students can experience the joys and benefits of dancing. It’s as simple as that. Come and experience why all of these “no’s” are why so many kids and parents say “YES” to dancing at Main St Funk.
Doesn’t that sound like MAGIC!? Like all things magic though, you have to see it to believe it.
When you think of hip hop and ballet, you might imagine them on opposing ends of the dancing spectrum. They are apples and oranges. They are north and south. They are black and white and there is no grey area. As dancers it is our duty to identify with only one and not the other.
I can hear the chant of young hip hop dancers way off in the distance… “Yo, I’m just a hip hop dancer. Ballet ain’t my thang.” Or something to that effect. Once upon a time I shared that attitude and would have fully had your back bro. However, ballet has since won me over.
When I was growing up, dancing was a consistent part of my life but there was little room in my schedule or my heart for ballet. I took class for a year or two here and there but never with the consistent and disciplined attitude of an A+ ballet student. I was a self proclaimed “anti-ballerina”, leotards and tights made me feel self-conscious and I was often heard telling people “I wasn’t built for ballet.” No, I didn’t (and still don’t) have amazing feet or great turn out and I’m not super flexible. Nor do I possess any of the ideal physical traits of your stereotypical ballerina. But, I have a new mantra now. “Nobody was built for ballet. Ballet was built for us.”
In 2012, I began my Diploma of Dance Teaching and Management course. One look at the timetable was enough to give me nightmares. Three 1.5 hour classes of ballet a week for two years and no hip hop! I walked into that ballet studio tentatively, frightened and admittedly a little bit “too cool” for this. 2 years later I walked away as a changed dancer and student. It’s now 2017, I am training in hip hop and urban dance styles full time but I still take at least one ballet class a week and I encourage you, young hip hopper, to do the same. If you can’t take my word for it, read on for 4 reasons why.
1. Body Alignment
One of the first ballet classes I had at TAFE was unlike any dance class I’ve ever had. For the first half of the class we just stood. There was no dancing. My ballet teacher walked around correcting and adjusting and talking us through what correct body alignment should look and feel like. “Who knew I had been standing wrong for the past 19 years!?” I remember muttering under my breath. But I had been “standing wrong” and had I not taken that class that year, maybe I would have never known. Body alignment is the optimal placement of the body that ensures our muscles aren’t working unnecessarily hard to achieve everyday movements like walking and lifting as well as dancing. Injuries, headaches and soreness often originate from a misalignment. My alignment has since improved but is a work in progress and re-training your body is something that takes time and focus and strength! When we are young and still growing, our bodies are easier to mould and re-train. This is why I always recommend my young dancers start ballet as soon as they can.
“Dancers are the athletes of god.” Yes they are. They are fit, fierce and strong, and when I started taking ballet I noticed my strength and fitness levels gradually improving over time. Thanks to our good friend the plie, my legs became stronger and I could jump higher and dance lower into the ground – how many times a class do you hear your hip hop teacher remind you to bend your knees? I found new strength in my arms, I could hit cleaner lines in my choreography and I had a better understanding of the muscles involved in holding those positions. The feedback I received from my hip hop teachers was that I was hitting their choreography harder than ever. My core strength improved which meant I could turn faster, balance for longer and I had better control. For the record, my ballet teacher never asked me to do a sit up or hold the plank position. Mentally I was stronger too. It took some time for me to learn to not take corrections so personally and to train my mind to embrace each correction as a positive and a chance to improve. Once upon a time a teacher’s critique would have left me feeling low and defeated but ballet has given me a thick skin and the mindset to take on board constructive feedback in dance class and in life.
3. Focus and Discipline
When I was a younger there was no better feeling than learning a new set of choreography and smashing it out from to start to finish. Picking up steps came easy to me and I rarely felt challenged. But that was because I was missing a crucial point. The challenge was right in front of me, I just couldn’t see it. I didn’t understand the concept of perfecting each step in a way that would mimic the choreographer’s demonstration or vision with technical precision and correct technique and so each correction or suggestion that I should practice or go over the steps was met with frustration. “But I know it!…” My focus, not unlike many eager hip hop dancers I come across, was the choreography and not the mechanics behind the execution. A ballet teacher once said to me that dancing will never be easy and if it feels easy you are probably doing it wrong. It was in her class when I discovered she was right. I remember walking into her class one day feeling extra confident. I had finally memorised a particularly difficult Rond De Jambe exercise at the barre and I stood at the front of class determined to prove myself. At the end of the exercise she was frustrated and listed all of the things that needed work. It was a long list. At the time I was convinced she was nit-picking and she was out to get me. I had after all “remembered” the whole exercise however, I hadn’t given any thought to straightening my supportive leg, or maintaining my turn out, or keeping my hips facing the front when rotating my legs to the back and the list goes on and on. Now I understand that each dance step, no matter how simple it may seem, requires effort from the body and mind. I limit talking and laughing during class (although we are allowed to have fun, it is dancing after all!). I try not to just copy the movements of the choreographer, I listen to the way they describe each action and what muscles they are using and where their weight is sitting. I try to apply each correction given to me and my peers and I go over things so my mind and my body can remember what to do. Even the simplest warm up exercise deserves your full focus and it was ballet that taught me that.
4. Choreography and Performance
Ballet opened up a whole new realm of movement for me and my “made of wood” body. My sharp and somewhat linear dancing was contrasted to the round and continuous movement I had to adapt to in ballet. My body learned to extend, to be soft and gentle, to turn and to jump and to use the floor. Suddenly, I had so much more material to use when I was choreographing routines for me and my students. Ballet taught me to embrace dynamics, to go from smooth to sharp and from long extensions into short and snappy movements. Choreography became more fun for me and I’m sure (or I hope) more interesting for my audience to watch. As far as performance goes, ballet played a huge part in squashing the “competition kid” smile out of me and taught me instead the importance of presence. A great performer can just stand on stage and have the audience enthralled. It’s the eye line, the jut of the chin, the sly smirk, and the connection with the audience. Plastering a smile on my face and glueing my eyes to the lighting box at the back of the auditorium was a habit that was hard to break and one that, admittedly I still need to work on, but my ballet teacher’s constant sing-song reminder of “head and eyes girls!” still rings through my head when I’m in class, on stage or teaching.
It’s now 3 years since I graduated from that course. Ballet, hip hop and all genres of dance continue to challenge me and even though I am a teacher, there is still so much for me to learn. I maintain that “ballet was built for us.” It really is the foundation of all dance, designed to push us, inspire us, break us at times and allow us to be the best versions of ourselves whether you are a dancer in training or not. In short, ballet gave me the big kick up the butt I needed and I am forever in debt to that wonderful ballet teacher who gave me some much needed tough love.