The dance studios have been in existence for a long time, and they all do tend to follow a similar format. There is no right or wrong way as long as the goal of growth in the students is being achieved. But let’s say generally, here’s what you will find in a dance class.
The first part is the welcome. For younger children it is important to set the beginning of the class. It may be a share time or a routine activity the children do to prepare for class. Perhaps students come in, place their items in a designated place and then find spot at the barre. For older students and adult students, it may be simply entering the class to find a place to dance and having the teacher say a quick hello.
We need to start with some type of a warm-up. A cardio type warm-up may be appropriate for a hip hop or tap class. Sometimes a warm-up could look more like a yoga warm-up for a lyrical or contemporary style class. A warm-up for ballet class might begin with easing into movements at the barre. The warm-up prepares our bodies and brains for the class while working technique.
Then in the classes we work on different types of skills so everything from technique and working on pliés or tendus or working on shuffles in tap class. We also call this “center” as it is work that is done in the center of the room. Center work develops skills specific to the dance style.
Dance requires physical skills; therefore, classes will likely have stretching and strengthening. We keep working on our flexibility. Stretching in the beginning of class prepares us for the movements we will do in class. Stretching may be at the end of class when it is most effective for long-term increase in flexibility. Strengthening helps protect us from injuries and helps us gain more effective technique. Different styles of dance can have different requirements of strength.
Across the Floor
Typically in a dance class, there is a section that we call “across the floor.” Dancers line up to do our skills one or two at a time across the length of the floor. Similar to any other sport performing a drill activity, this is a dance class drill time. Whether it’s to work on a specific turn across the floor or a specific combination of traveling steps, this is our time to develop traveling skills.
Then there’s a time when we would work on a “combo” (short for combination) or choreography. This is when the instructor will teach a dance to a specific song. The dancers will try to pick it up as quickly and specifically as they can. This dance will become their routine. This is when the class puts together their work of warm-up, technique and across the floor into practice. This can be a dance just done for just that class on that day or could be something that is carried over from class to class building to one longer dance. That dance may be performed formally or informally.
If the name of the game is dancing better, there are a bunch of other activities that can help us get there. You may see dancers practicing a skill around the room, working on improvisation, completing an obstacle course, playing a game, doing a relay, writing in journals or reflecting. There are many different activities teacher implement to aid learning. Dancers need to work on rhythm, performance, skills and virtues. Teachers choose the appropriate activities and lengths of time doing those activities based on the students age, experience and goals.
Consistency and Variation
While these are the typical activities you would see in a dance class, teachers develop their own order and style of classes. It is best when teachers have a routine to develop consistency in their classes and variations to keep things fresh for the body and brain.
See you in class.