Performances and evaluations are a natural part of a dancer’s life and with them come the highs and lows of performing. As a teacher, one of the most helpful things you can provide for your students is the knowledge to get through stressful situations and still have a good experience.
1. To help your students with performances, competitions or exams, tell them everything you can and encourage older students who have been through the process before to share as well. Depending on the circumstances, it can be helpful to recreate the experience your student will undergo. For example, if they are preparing for an exam performance in front of a judging panel, create an improvised judging panel in your studio.
2. The more your students can anticipate, the easier it will be on them. Have them perform their routines in costume to ensure that they fit properly and move with them. Also, talk to your students about what to do if something goes really wrong – if the CD starts to skip, if the wrong track is cued, etc.
3. Use the rapport you have with each of your students to your advantage. Each dancer is different so each of their coping mechanisms will also be different. Some might prefer to be calmed down before a performance, others might rely on being pumped up.
4. It’s also important for you as the teacher to know what your students’ parents are expecting. While you are a support system, parents are with their children more often, so it’s important for you to be aware of their goals and perceptions. Consider telling both parents and students that the adage “nothing ventured, nothing gained”, applies to all dance evaluations, exams and performances.
5. The life of a dancer involves lots of auditions and examinations, and also the opportunity to learn how to receive critical feedback. It’s healthy for your students to experience this aspect of performance life at an early age, allowing them to develop thick skin and coping mechanisms. As a teacher, it’s important for you to help your students learn that the value of exams, competitions and even performances is not always in the outcome. It can also be in the journey that you and your students take to get there.
Remind your students that even professional dancers make mistakes, miss at auditions and aren’t always perfect. Mistakes will always happen so it’s important to focus on moving forward. And be sure to tell them you are proud of them no matter what the outcome. As their teacher you saw how hard they worked in preparation for this day and that is what counts most.