This year the Teaching Team at Momentum Dance Studios are focusing on one key pedagogy theory specific to educating young people in the creative arts.
It’s called SPARK!
The term “Spark” in relation to education for children and teens was crystalised by the American Psychologist Peter L. Benson and his work on positive facets of youth development. Peter Benson understood many young people thrived in life when their spark of the creative arts was facilitated and supported by those around them.
Personally, I love the word spark because it captures what we in the performing arts have felt intuitively since starting dance class, performing in our first concert or watching our choreography performed on stage. It certainly feels like a little spark that ignites within you and drives you to continually to improve, explore and evolve – even when your feet hurt and your body is tired!
Our challenge this year, is to look beyond the dancer standing in front of us in the studio and really observe what element of dance ignites each student’s spark. This will be different for each student. Some children thrive of the routine of a well-structured class with repetition, clear rules and planned progression.
Others will experience the spark by responding positively when given the opportunity to contribute and express themselves through dance creation. I observed evidence of this only last Saturday in our Contemporary Dance class which caters to students age 10 to 12 years. We introduced an enormous sheet of fabric to incorporate within a dance routine. The physical presence of shimmering satin that stretched from one end of the studio to the other was a pure delight for students to explore. Imagination ran wild with the potential impact of this prop on stage under lights! Student’s faces glowed as they ran across the studio with the fabric and smiles were abundant.
More commonly, a young person’s spark is ignited after they perform a meaningful, fun or exciting piece of choreography publicly. Provided the child is well prepared and the performance environment is a supportive and organised one, this is where the spark is so visible it tends to illuminate kids.
The adrenalin experienced when performing can aid young people to produce a higher level of energy and technical ability not yet achieved in the studio. The body’s endorphins are released and elation is experienced – a nice natural reward for their previous hard work in class. These positive elements coupled with praise and respect from observing family and friends enables children and teens to thrive in areas beyond the performing arts.
So, our little obsession with spark will continue year long. Momentum’s Teaching Team observations and adjustments in class may seem inconsequential but now you know that we are vigilant observers of all things that make our students thrive and we hope you might be too!
Director of Momentum Dance Studio since 2004 based in Sydney Hills District. Natasha holds a Bachelor of Education & Bachelor of Arts (Dance & Theatre). She is a member of Balcombe Heights Estate 355 Council Committee and volunteers with Learning In The Hills. As a mother of two, she is also passionate advocate for child safety issues in the dance community.
Watch Peter Benson's TED Talk here:
You can follow Momentum Dance Studios via Instagram @momentumdancestudios
After recently completing the very informative and at times confronting Child Safety Training from the Office of The Children’s Guardian (OCG) I am even more compelled to ensure child safety is put at the forefront of my dance school and encourage other dance school owners to do the same.
This free online training is well structured into easily digestible modules. The option to pause the module you are working on to attend to any business is great, not to mention you can move at your own pace, work from your own home and at a time that suits you. Cleverly, the OCG has removed many of the road blocks that busy dance school owners may have experienced even when they want to make child safety a priority their school.
One very interesting message that has made a strong impression on me after completing this training is how child safety isn’t the job of one person. While strong leadership in this area is vital, it takes a village to keep our children safe. An informed village is more likely to deter offenders, prevent harm, report assaults and secure convictions.
To achieve this, your dance village needs to be included in the initial planning and policy making. The Child Safety Risk Management Strategy (CSRMS) isn’t created by the dance school Principal alone and preserved in a filing cabinet like a museum artefact. Consulting staff, stakeholders and students is how you can create a CSRMS that is alive! By alive, I mean the CSRMS should be the foundation of your daily work, your compass for decision making and regularly reviewed as events occur and times change.
Personally, I find it a reassuring thought that my staff, dance parents and students will contribute to my CSRMS because then I know it will be a more valuable and ultimately more effective strategy.
More importantly, if my dance students are part of a village that is child safety aware, even our youngest dancers will be more empowered to speak up if they feel unsafe and know their rights.
Until a time when having a CSRMS is linked with a dance school’s insurance requirements not all schools will be informed or willing to put child safety procedures and policies at a high level priority and children may still be vulnerable in this industry. Since the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse the dance community has struggled to come to terms with some of the horrible events that were recounted in March 2016. The Findings from the Royal Commission have guided government, regulatory bodies and in particular the OCG to make so many positive changes towards prevention of harm and protect children better. Dance schools need a push to make the time and effort to create a CSRMS and regularly review it.
One incentive that may become the tipping point for a dance school to train, develop and implement better Child Safety protocol is the NSW Government Creative Kids Program. Introduced for 2019 this wonderful program recognises the value of the creative arts for young Australians and provides $100 vouchers to all school age children to participate not only in dance but also theatre, circus skills, singing and art. Similar in concept to the Active Kids Program, dance schools can apply to become an approved service provider. Wisely, the NSW Government has set a prerequisite for approval which includes submitting your Child Safety Policy or completing the OCG Child Safe training.
Now with a financial incentive, those dance schools slow on the up take to self educate and put into practice child safe protocol may be spurred into action. Here’s hoping that in 2019 every dancer will be safe amongst their more knowledgable dance village!
Happy dancing in the New Year everyone!
Photography credit: Dagmar Wilcox from Fabulous Photos
Dancer: S.Hams Garriga from Momentum Dance Studios (published with parent consent)
Over the years of producing dance concerts for children I regularly see the manifestation of nerves in children as the big day approaches. These nervous feelings, often displayed as signs of self doubt in children are a normal reaction to the realisation of an impending public performance.
The Youtube Artist Spotlight Stories recently captured an interesting comment from successful singer Shawn Mendes https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZYkvxtriIrI on pre-performance anxiety and if he still felt nerves. Shawn says “Always! Nerves means you care right”. This is true because the most challenging part of the performing arts is the having the bravery to put your art and yourself (because they are intertwined) out there publicly. Difficulties arise when pre-performance anxiety becomes debilitating or stops you from performing all together. So preparing children for live performance is crucial in overcoming these very natural emotions.
A good dance school will ensure that the preparation for a performance is a solid one with plenty of time for rehearsal, fine tuning and talking to dancers about what to expect - especially for first time performers. However, there are some things that parents can do to support this process from their end.
Here are some tips for parents:
To Perform Or Not To Perform?
Know the different between nerves and simply not wanting to perform at all. Not every child wants to perform or indeed needs to. Consistent reluctance, not just as the performance approaches but from the onset and regularly voiced, will be an indicator that performing isn’t a positive experience for your child. There is a difference in supporting your child through uncomfortable emotional states and forcing them to do something they dislike time and time again.
Take The Pressure Down
Enjoyment needs to be experienced as much as nervous anticipation in the lead up to a performance. If a child is constantly reminded of all the relatives and friends that will be watching, how much the tickets cost and senses your stress this can be counterproductive. Check in with what messages you are giving out, your positive words will carry an impression as much as your negative ones. But most of all remember it’s a time of celebration not judgement.
Get Organised In Advance
Minimise any stress by knowing the facts about the event such as arrival times, where you can park, what your child needs on the day. Ensure that they have all the necessary equipment with their name marked on it and know where it is in their bag. Facilitating a relaxing evening the night before a show is ideal also. A good night’s rest will set them up well for the day ahead. Fuelling them up on a healthy breakfast and ensure a good selection of food is available to them on performance day is key to keeping up energy too.
Support Them To Develop
The learning curve from one single performance is so valuable whether a first time performer or a professional. Dancers can always improve in a particular area of their training so the opportunity to perform to a live audience can help dancers to move up to that next level more rapidly. There is also a wonderful residual effect that performers experience. A special bond is often created with fellow dancers and teachers by this exciting shared experience of performing.
Most importantly, confidence is gained and a sense of achievement is experienced when children are given the chance to overcome their nerves with support - we should never rob kids of this developmental opportunity.
Wishing everyone a wonderful up and coming concert season!
References: Ausdance Fact Sheet#2: https://ausdance.org.au/articles/details/parents-code-of-behaviour
Read More Like This: How The Performing Arts Benefit Kids
I’m pleased to say the people that have mentioned the extraordinary cost of the performing arts were not from my dance school but other schools! There are a few minor differences that add up to a major saving for my dance Mums and Dads, which I’m prepared to share with all!
Here are some great tips for dance parents to save money over the dance school year:
HIRE DON'T BUY
Purchasing your dance costumes rather than hiring them will end up being one of your biggest financial outlays next to your dance fees. If your school competes regularly in eisteddfods you can be looking at around $300 for a performance quality tutu and an average of $120 on a Jazz, Tap or Lyrical costume plus shipping costs. Keeping in mind that these costumes are worn for a very short time and only for one dance routine it can be hard to justify the price tag.
If your school does not provide the option to hire performance costumes, you may have no alternative but to purchase your child’s new sparkly sequins ensemble. Some dance teachers will allocated a particular costume for your child’s troupe so there is no way around having to make that purchase. If this is the case you should look at reselling online afterwards. There are some fantastic facebook pages that specialise in ex-performance costumes that have hardly been worn or treated well which you can pick up for a fraction of the cost or you can sell your own there. My favourite place to sell a specific costume to a ready buyer is the Australian Wanted To Buy page on Facebook.
I have come across new costumes with tags still on via these sites that are being sold because a dance school over ordered or simply ordered the incorrect size. Search for #TroupeCostumes or #DanceCostumes on Facebook and you will be surprised at what is available and for how little.
“If I had a penny for every time I heard
someone say the performing arts is
expensive I’d be driving a new BMW
not a second hand Mazda!”
REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE & SAVE
Over the course of a dancers life time they will use an average of 50+ pairs of dance shoes. Multiply this buy the amount of dancers around the world and then you will see the environmental foot print our dancing feet leave on the planet. When you have the opportunity to pass on or reuse a pair of dance shoes don’t be afraid to do this.
Our school provides a Pre-loved Dance Shoe Box for parents to sell their child’s shoes once they have grown out of them. This is a great option for younger dancers and they will often grow out of their shoes before they wear them out. Needless to say, you will be saving money each time you buy a preloved pair and earning money each time you sell a pair of dance shoes. It’s a win win situation!
Keep in mind that for older or more serious dancers, correct shoe fittings are important to ensure the right fit for their growing feet, especially if undergoing long hours of training.
Your biggest expense will be your tuition fees. There can be a big difference in cost from one school to another so always know what you are in for before signing up your child. Once settled into a school it can be difficult to move across to another and you may literally pay the price if you didn’t read the fine print on your contract. Look for or be proactive and ask about the additional charges. Hidden costs such as exam fees, compulsory workshops or international/interstate dance performances can double your fees without you realising.
Personally, I would avoid schools that want you to sign a contract, direct debt or require your credit card details as you will be less aware of your monthly costs. When paying dance fees independently online, by cash or cheque you will naturally assess each time if the classes are still worth it and that’s a good thing.
Do a cost comparison with local schools if you haven’t done this before. You may be surprised to see that your dance school is above and beyond it’s competitors and may prompt a change. If changing schools allows your child to do more of what they love then go for it!
Wishing you a long and affordable dance journey!
It seems really obvious right - put on a jumper!
But knowing how to dress properly in winter is a bit of an art and can make a difference to children when participating in physical activities like dance.
As an Aussie dancer, it wasn't until I spent my first winter in the UK that I discovered the skill of layering clothing so you can quickly adjust to the varying temperatures when you are out and about in a cold climate country or season. I have been sharing this concept to all the dance students in my school, Momentum Dance Studios ever since. Layering clothing for children when training in winter is important, not just in dance but any physical activity.
Here are three key points for dressing your child for physical activity in winter:
Your child's sport or activity may have a compulsory year round uniform whether baller leotard, soccer jersey or netball uniform so ensure this is the base. On cold days or evenings, children will warm up and even get hot when exercising. Good activity organisers will factor in a solid set of warm up exercises to prepare kids for their game or activity so overdressing them can cause it's own difficulties. Over heating in children will cause them to fatigue more quickly and participate less. Performing a Grande Jette in a bulky parker is near impossible!
Adding a long but light layer of clothing on top of your child's basic kit is going to help in a few ways. Initially, it will simply keep children warm and then as they start moving these layers can be easily removed. Layers that a child can remove on their own are best . The tie up wrap ballet tops are impossible to remove on their own so go for the elasticated ones. Light layers are ideal because they keep muscles warm without over heating children and prevent injury.
TO & FROM ACTIVITIES:
Never underestimate a good warm jacket, parker or coat that is quick to put on and off. If your child arrives to their activity already warm you will be helping them to adjust to the demands of a physical exercise more quickly. Your child will be hot and potentially reluctant to put a jacket on after an exciting game of soccer or a fun dance class however the body cools down quickly after exercise so keeping warm will help to prevent muscle soreness the day after.
After a long hot sumer it can be a shock for Australian kids when winter hits. While our children are lucky that we don't experience excessive snow fall in Sydney unlike some European and American cities, it is still important to remain active during winter time and leave hibernation to the bears!
Natasha is a mother of two girls and owner of Momentum Dance Studios in Sydney Australia. She holds a Bachelor of Education & Bachelor of Arts (Dance & Theatre). Natasha is also a volunteer member of ADESA (Australian Dance Education Standards Association) who have created an awareness campaign for child safety in Australian Dance Schools.
You can follow Momentum Dance Studios via Instagram @momentumdancestudios