Dance Daze Fairy Tale: A True Story

Once upon a time, there was a brand new dance program in Alameda, California called Dance Daze. It was founded by Saumirah McWoodson, an extremely zestful dancer and educator who had been dancing all over the place since she was 5 years old. Saumirah loved dancing so much that when she grew up, she decided to study ballet in New York City! She became an American Ballet Theatre Certified Teacher and was so eager to teach dance to children, teens, and adults that she started her own program!

The Dance Daze studio was located within Bridgehead Studio, at 2516 Blanding Avenue in Alameda. The street, like its name suggests, was pretty bland, but the beautiful mosaic on the outside of the building made it sparkle like the diamond it was!

Dance Daze - 2516 Blanding Avenue

 

Slowly, but surely, tons and tons of students of all ages began taking classes at Dance Daze. A trip to the Dance Daze studio was always exciting for everyone, especially because of all the gorgeous art on the walls that was often changing!

Hallway

 

There was a big studio downstairs in the building that Dance Daze students used for large classes of about 10 or more people, but students usually started off taking classes in the smaller studio upstairs. The hardwood floor was simply gorgeous.

Dance Daze Small Studio

 

Parents liked the upstairs studio because there was a comfortable waiting area inside and a lovely rooftop patio outside where they could lay out while their children were in class!

Patio

 

Saumirah somehow eventually got everyone she knew to fall into a dance daze with her! (Maybe it was because she was so dedicated to keeping the world up-to-date with Dance Daze via Facebook and Twitter!) Within a few years, Dance Daze classes were taught all over the United States of America! Many of Saumirah‘s students became professional dancers when they grew up and made enormous amounts of money doing what they loved. Saumirah was happy that she got to pursue her two biggest passions of dance and education and spread them throughout the land. (This made her smile even more than normal, even in her old age.)

Despite all of their crazy successes in life, neither Saumirah nor her students ever forgot about their early experiences that all started when they first walked down the halls of Dance Daze, and they all lived happily ever after.

Exit Sign

 

THE END

How Do You Reinforce Dance?

Hard candy

Last week, we had our last class at one of the schools where Dance Daze hip hop is taught. All of the children were very excited about what I had gotten them as gifts for their last class of the semester.

When one of my 6-year-old students asked me, “Did you get us candy?” I responded, “Nope! I don’t believe in that!”

My student looked up at me, as we walked to the gym, and said, “How come? Is it because you don’t want us to have so much sugar before class and then go crazy?”

“No,” I said.  “It’s because I don’t believe in using sweets as a positive reinforcer for physical activity.”

I realized when I said it that this truly is one of my fundamental beliefs as a dance educator. Although I’m admittedly not a big sweets fan (milk chocolate, two types of ice cream, and plain cake are pretty much it for me!), I’ve never thought it was good to pair candy with dance or any physical education. (If you remember, I was even hesitant about giving out candy on Halloween!) I’m not quite sure when I developed this belief or when it became so strong, but I know that as a young dance student, my classmates and I always only received stamps and stickers for behaving well in class–never candy.

What’s your policy? Do you ever give out candy at the end of your classes or at your studio? Do you think it’s a big deal either way? Why or why not?

Insights from Last Week

I had some great insights in my classes last week that I wanted to share with you!

First, I realized that 1 hour per week is simply not enough to train a budding ballerina! I’ve been working with one of my students for about 6 weeks now, and I simply love how willing she is to work hard at improving her ballet technique. Yet, every class we had together felt so very rushed to me! In each of her classes, I’ve been including floor barre, barre, center, and traveling exercises, and though I’ve written and re-written her classes several times to try to make everything fit better, it simply wasn’t working out. So I spoke to her and her parents about it, and we all agreed that it would be best to not only extend her class time to 90 minutes per class, but also to increase the number of classes she has per week! I’m so excited to begin this new system, where we won’t feel pressured to skip exercises and shorten explanations, all for the sake of time! Now, with 3 hours of training per week, I know we’re going to make great things happen for her!

A ballet dancer doing barre work.

Second, I learned a new trick for getting my youngest ballerina babies to really use the brushing movement of their front leg when doing grands jetés! Many of my young Creative Movement students also take gymnastics classes, so, even at only 4 and 5 years old, they are more aware of how to use their bodies than the average young dancer. This is really helpful for me as a dance teacher. We usually do leaps over colorful noodles at the end of our 45-minute classes. Two weeks ago, I began having them jump over colorful yoga blocks, positioned so that the students have to jump higher to get over them.

Yoga Blocks on DanceDaze.org

This was great to have them understand the feel of really using their pliés to really get off the floor and into the air.  Last week, I wanted them to really start brushing and extending their leg in the air for a greater amount of time. I stared at those foam boxes for a few moments, and it finally came to me: I needed to have them start their jumps farther away from the item they were hurdling! To do this, I needed to have them jump over more than one item.  So I started putting my foot in front of the foam boxes.  This forced them to do several things:

  1. They had to run really fast to gain enough speed to start their jumps farther back.
  2. They had to focus on the actual jump more to make sure they wouldn’t trip over my foot or knock over the foam box.
  3. They had to really throw their leg up in front of them and extend it to get over more than one item.

Still, a few students were afraid to really commit to the jump.  The greater distance required to leap over 2 items was a bit intimidating to them, so they would do half-run, half-skip sort of thing up to my foot, then sort of pretend to jump over my foot and the block one at a time. I can remember having some of the same fears when I was their age.  I think some of my biggest fears were the vault and running and jumping into a forward roll in gymnastics practice. Maybe in the coming weeks, I’ll move away from improving technique and place more attention on dispelling fears.  :)

I’m having so much fun working as a dance educator, and I can’t wait for all the new discoveries I will make as I continue this work that I love!