A girl making a heart with her hands in front of a crowd.

Getting Dancers to Put Their Hearts Into It

Do you ever feel like your dancers may not be giving it their all? That they’re just not putting their hearts into it? Or maybe going through the motions just fine, but they are missing the energy which makes their performance special?

How do you get them to step it up and to dance “full out” even in class and rehearsal?

First of all, they should realize that they need to rehearse the way which they intend to perform. If they don’t rehearse with vigor and emotion – at the top of their game – it just won’t happen when the heat and the stage lights are on.

Dancing “full out” will impact more than the dancers’ performance. It also affects their growth. Without dancing “full out” during class and rehearsal, they will not continue improving, and they will likely never reach their full potential.

Today’s students are different from those of a decade ago when every student was willing to work like crazy in order to reach a higher level. Today, there are those who are driven to excel, but they are often buried amidst students who are satisfied with participating at mediocre levels – as long as they get credit for participating. Participation awards are unfortunate since they reward students for minimal effort. Sadly, excellence is nowhere on the horizon for these students.

Are there ways to get even these kids to dance “full out”? Yes!

Reward hard work in a way that all students can see.

Be creative. A gift card? A new leo? Tickets to a show which they want to see? A picture and a description of their accomplishment in the lobby?

You know your students well enough in order to understand what may excite them the most. But it doesn’t really matter what the reward is, as long as it is something that will make a statement to the other students.

Make a video of class or rehearsal and have the students watch it.

Why will this appeal to them?

  1. This is their preference. Children today look at everything on a screen.
  2. They can look at something instead of listening to teachers talk.

Why is it effective?

  1. They see the proof of their less-than-impressive performance.
  2. They can’t tune it out.
  3. It’s easier to point out good and not-so-good in videos of their live work.

Keep students inquisitive and alert.

There are many ways that you can do this. Below, we’ve noted a few ways that are proven to work.

Ask questions and demand answers. This will keep their brains working along with their bodies.

Build their confidence. Break skills down for students when they are troubling to them and encourage them as they are working hard at improvement.

Simply ask. If you just ask them to change what they are doing, they might just respond. They may be surprised that you’ve noticed a difference in their performance and want to help them perform better.

Give them projects. Relate these projects to their dance training. Make sure there is a research component where they must come back to you with information.

Be clear about your expectations. Leave absolutely no question in their minds about what you want and what you know that they are capable of.

Encourage critical thinking. Show them how they can identify ways to improve by looking at what they are doing with a critical eye.

Reward the zealous students. Give students who investigate, research and learn a special incentive. Never accept a computer printout, because you know it only took them a few minutes.

Create competitive energy. By having students present their projects and share what they’ve learned with everyone, you’ll get their creative and competitive juices flowing.

Keep it positive. Your dancers are in environments every day where they see plenty of reinforcement for “mediocre” results. They need to see hard work as positive – not negative. They need to see that there are amazing rewards for hard work. That it’s worth the effort. And that you’re there to help them reach their full potential.

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Sources: Dance Life, Dance Advantage

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