Pictured is my 3rd batch of Girls’ Hip Hop course students (ok, I know there’s no such thing as GIRLS hip hop but theres more emphasis on isolations, walking, posing etc.) When I first started teaching classes, I was quite discouraged that my class sizes were generally pretty small, especially when you compare the class size to other music video classes at CJ. But I’ve learnt that working with a small group, especially when they’re enrolled in a courses, helps you push each individual student more. Most of them join courses to get their basics right, so that they can do better in music video classes. A smaller group helps me assess what each person is getting, or not getting, and these nuances are so essential in mastering basics!
Prior to teaching I’d been very used to dancing with dancers. You tend to take the way your body moves and responds to music for granted. I’ve learnt that it takes a lot more drilling and repetition to get basics pat down. A lot of it depends on momentum and coordination with music, which can’t be mastered by just doing it once or twice. I’ve also learnt to be more aware of my body, which muscles I engage when I do something, and if I can’t explain it in words, to find an every day move that students can relate to, to reach the same end goal. (e.g. to engage your core, it should feel like you are constipated)
The average warm up I do consists of stretching, core exercises, isolation exercises and bounce exercises. This will take up about half the duration of the class, but I felt it was essential to build the right muscles and control, especially for beginners. I guess it’s very different from what students were used to from the start. My “dropout” rate was pretty high, and that used to affect me a lot too. In fact, it’s still pretty high :s…But I’m actually glad the people who didn’t want to take their learning seriously have left. Now, I teach 2 open classes, and I can’t be happier with the students who come. They’re okay with the amount of time I take to run through these exercises, and they’re always, always very focused. They listen and observe, and I think those are the most important keys to learning. They always do much better at the end of each class than when they first execute the choreography, and for me, that is enough. Especially if it’s just half an hour of learning and correcting.
Which gets to my next point, I used to find satisfaction in choreographing a piece that I personally felt good dancing to, and would aim to get as much of the choreography taught as possible. I’ve learnt that because people come to learn basics, it’s important to choreograph pieces that they can apply their basics in, yet is challenging enough to push them to improve. It’s also more important to make sure they execute it right than cramming as much choreography into their brains and bodies as they can absorb. If it takes us repeating certain segments over and over again, we’d do it. Also, if it takes me singing off key and shouting above music to make sure musicality is right, I’d do it.
I also used to be very soft spoken, and because I didn’t want to offend people, I let a lot of mistakes go. I’ve learnt that engaging a class for an hour requires me to constantly push myself. No matter how tired I may be, I need to constantly keep my energy up. It’s very unlike me not to be “nua”. For the sake of the students, I’ve learnt that I need to be more assertive, to be stronger, louder and more daring. If someone makes a drastic mistake I’ve learnt to walk up to him or her to correct it, and once done, move on. The key is to never harp on it too much that it seems personal. I’ve also learnt to encourage more, and to provide more affirmation. Of course, that doesn’t mean saying students did great when they didn’t, but reminding them of their strengths, credit when due and point out weaknesses that they can improve on; while providing a solution to improving their weaknesses.
I’ve also learnt to scan the class more. I used to be guilty of only focusing on the people standing within the middle section. But no! No one should be left behind or ignored!! And this would also negate the false sense of security have when they’re out of my direct field of vision. Stooffi is watching.
It’s been 7 or 8 months since I first started teaching… I definitely am not the best dancer or teacher out there, but I have learnt so much, and I believe there’s so much more to learn.
Thank you, each and every one of you, who attend my classes, and supported me as your teacher. Alsooo thank you, CJ and Clement for believing in me and giving me the chance to experience this!! I was so scared coming in to teach, especially with no prior teaching experience, but I’m starting to love it now… and I’ll strive to be a better teacher!