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Showing posts from 2012

Summer Format or Tech Ketchup

So basically from late January through June/July I have ben working on recital routines in my classes.  I did take a few weeks off here and there to work on technique but by and large I was working on routines.  Naturally when that happens I find the students (and my) technique suffers.  So as summer classes ramp up I have decided to focus almost exclusively on technique including omitting my longer combinations I usually do at the end of class.  I figured I'd share my summer class format with all of you:

First 10 minutes - Warm-up or as I call them "Drills".  I've never liked the term warm-ups for tap even though I use it.  As I get older it applies to me more and is more of a process of actually getting the body moving and warmed up but for most kids I teach - they come from other classes and are ready to go.  I prefer to call them drills because it is a chance in my view to drill steps they already know as well as easy steps and keep them strong.  We tend to thin…

Pick a Card or Simple Motivation

I like my students to be self motivated but sometimes we all need a little push in order to pull out our best work.  Try a deck of cards.  An old deck of cards, preferably (or a cheap deck).  Here's how it works:

Split the deck of cards in half based on color - half red, half black.  Now have your students perform the dance or combination they're currently working on.  While they're dancing you walk around watching their feet, face, arms, etc.  If you notice good footwork from a student, hand the student a black card (yes, while they're tapping - they are talented and will be able to dance just fine with it in their hand, though the card will get a bit mangled).  If you notice anything else done really well such as sharpness of movement, great expression, or nice body lines, give them a red card.

That's it!  You'll be amazed how hard the kids will work for a simple playing card.  Also there is no punishment or taking cards away.  Most rehearsals we tell them w…

Teaching's Not the Same as Tapping or Where Did My Sounds Go?

I'm sitting here writing this in my nerdy Atari pajamas and my "I'm not a morning person." (it's true) t-shirt after a 45 minute tap workout.  Faced with a gradual decline in my tap skills I figured it was time to take action.  But how did I get here in the first place?
First and foremost I teach less "live" classes than ever before and most of that time lately is cleaning routines.  When I tell people I'm a tap teacher they often comment how I must be in great shape.  Unfortunately that's not the case.  The longer I teach, the less I tap.  That's because I'm spending more and more time listening and correcting my students' feet instead of working on mine.  I'm not saying I don't tap at all, but my total actual tapping time for 18 "live" classes this week (some are a half hour, some an hour) was probably 1 hour.  That's it.  My focus is cleaning my students' formations, arms, and feet, not my own.  Teaching…

Knowing When to Cut Your Losses or Let's Try Something Else

Over the years I've learned a valuable lesson about abandonment.  In tap, especially choreography, it's a good thing.  Sometimes, despite your best intentions, you just can't create choreography you love.  Sometimes you've spent hours brainstorming and have an incredible idea but when it comes to actually making it real, it just seems to flop.  When this happens you have two choices.  Keep going or scratch it and start anew.  Most times I think starting anew is the best way to go.

I remember I had a brilliant idea for a tap piece that would be done almost entirely behind a large piece of fabric.  To create visual interest, since you couldn't see the tappers' feet, I was going to have them use objects to push against the fabric to basically tell a story of sorts.  I spent many hours planning this and at our first actual rehearsal we gave it a shot.

Total Failure.

Due to a variety of factors the shapes were not at all distinguishable from the audiences perspecti…