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Helping Your Students Make the Correction Connection

Giving dance students corrections © Sean Nel |

By Emily Yewell Volin of Dance Informa

As a teacher we must give our students corrections, but how can we help them to make the connection between correction and improvement? How can we keep them motivated while critiquing their efforts and help them turn corrections into achievements? Dance Informa reached out to professional teachers and adjudicators for their tips on giving constructive criticism and empowering critiques.

Giving corrections constructively

Arleen Sugano
Ballet teacher/coach. Arleen taught at the 2010 International Ballet Competition USA School and is co-author with Dr. Kenneth Laws of The Physics of Dance, 2008, Oxford University Press.
I believe the more ways I can stimulate and affect the senses (sight, hearing, touch) in delivering corrections, the more I am able to maximize my efforts in helping them hone their technique and performances.

I usually work on the technical aspect first and then address the stylistic. But sometimes this doesn’t work because the style impacts the execution. That’s when I use the time to deconstruct in order to make it all work.

Brandon Cournay
Dancer with Keigwin + Company, adjudicator for Headliners
You can overload a student or a class with information and corrections. It’s really your tone and delivery that make students receive and perceive what you are saying.

Give students time to process corrections

Arleen Sugano
I think you have to know your dancers and their information threshold. For a teacher/coach, you have to have a sensibility and sensitivity to how much a student can realistically process.

Brandon Cournay
There are days you need to push your students. You have to remember you are a person working with other people who want to be there. It’s easy to push your students and want them to work really hard. But, I think if you see someone is having a day, just back off.  You probably have days too.

Daniel DeFranco
Artistic Director, Groove Dance Competition,
With competition critiques we suggest that the instructor view all video critiques before sending them to the students. We also recommend that all students watch their video critiques with their teachers. Having a teacher there to interpret and talk through the corrections is valuable.

Empowering dancers in technique class

Arleen Sugano
My dancers are in class several times a week and typically I give generally the same class three times in a row. The first time is to learn the choreography and pattern of the exercises. The second time they work on the technique, understanding muscle usage and the physics. The third time, I expect them to work on the artistry and put everything together.

Giving corrections in a master class

Daniel DeFranco
In a master class I usually reach out to use someone. As an example, saying, “This person is doing this wrong, I’m going to correct them, but lots of people here can apply this correction to this common mistake.”

Brandon Cournay
I gear master classes toward dance training. This is my time to really evaluate specific movers. I go into these classes to inspire. You are not going to change years of training during a master class.

Giving corrections at a performance, competition or audition

Brandon Cournay
I look at a dancer’s overall movement quality instead of judging the choreography and give them information about overall stage presence. I’m talking about focus, use of space and communication - not just dancing through the music.

Daniel DeFranco
An adjudicator has three minutes to give a one-way correction. You are not going to change the way a dancer dances in three minutes of corrections. If the adjudicators like the choreography, that’s great. If they like the costume, that’s great. But if they feel the choreography and the costume detract from the dance, we want them to focus on the student. The comments in the critique are for the students.

Arleen Sugano
I use a method I developed while on the road as a rehearsal director. I take notes during rehearsal and when I get home, I type in everyone’s name on a list for a given piece of choreography. Then, with each note, I go through the list, and under the dancer’s name, type out the note. When I’m done, I print out the entire list, cut it up and deliver it to each dancer. If there is a general group note, I type this at the beginning of their personal notes. This is something that they have and can reference at a later date. They don’t have to come and ask me because they have it in writing.