I've been working with an amazing group of 7th and 8th graders the past few weeks on choreography for their end of year festival. They are doing a wonderful job with salsa, cha cha, and merengue, and the majority of them are learning the footwork for the first time. They are picking up on the choreography so well I find myself challenging them beyond what I had planned. It's exciting to see their faces when they get the movement down - the pride they feel is just priceless.
Today was my favorite day there because everyone showed up, they remembered last week's choreography, and were eager to learn more. That alone makes my day. But it was one of the comments a girl made at the end of class that made me smile. She is one of those students who is very polite, cooperative, and works very hard even though the movement doesn't come easily. She happened to glance down at my Visitor's badge that the front office gave me to wear and asked why I had to wear it. I replied that it was policy for everyone who teaches the after school programs to wear one. She then said, "But you're not a visitor. You're part of our dance family."
What a powerful statement. And by far the best compliment I've ever received.
I started a new school yesterday teaching third and fourth graders. The moment I arrived, the coordinator told me that most of the students were terrified of dancing. Terrified. I've been told before that the kids were nervous or scared, but terrified was a little shocking. The boys told me right away that they didn't want to dance with a girl and vice versa. When teaching partner dancing, this can be a problem! Luckily, I came prepared with some ideas so they would get over the "ick" factor.
As with every class I teach, I always ask them if they've seen partner dancing on television before. Almost all of them have seen Dancing With The Stars or So You Think You Can Dance. This helps get the conversation started about dancing with the opposite gender. However, it doesn't mean they want to do it!
I taught the kids their first dance, the merengue, in a circle all doing the same footwork. This they were just fine with. There was no touching involved. The moment I mentioned that the next class we would partner up with our teammate, they all groaned, shrieked, and said, "No way!" I had to think fast.
I noticed a few of the boys were really getting into the dance, and I thought I would try to use one of them to help me show the class how cool partner dancing could be. So I asked the boys if any of them was brave enough to dance with me. Of course, five of them immediately backed up and shook their heads. Then I looked to my left and say one shy boy raised his hand. I have never been so grateful to an 8 year old before!
His name was Santiago, and he said he would dance with me. I asked him to hold out his hands. The class groaned, but he did it. I held his hands and showed the class the entire merengue routine in a hand hold position. He did an amazing job keeping his feet moving as I turned into the different positions to show the class what they could do with their partner. The smile on his face was all I needed to know this was a great idea. But what sealed the deal was when I led Santiago into his turns and the entire class went, "Oooooohhh! That's cool!" Santiago was a star, and they were almost sold on the idea of holding hands with their teammates.
I say almost because even though they cheered their classmate on, at the end of the hour I showed them escort position and lost them once again! Holding on to the boys' elbow was still too much to handle, but I have more tricks up my sleeve to handle the cooties' outbreak they think will erupt next week.