Wednesday, May 23, 2012
I Love It When Students Ask Questions!
After my Monday morning Zumba class I was chatting with some of my Zumba participants. Ones who have been with me for about a year or so.
One of my participants asked the question of why do I sometimes face the mirror for certain dances vs. facing them for others. So, in exploring this question, may be I can give some insight into the fun challenges of group instruction. Notice I used the word fun. Challenge doesn't always have to be negative!
I love these types of questions! Conversations of technique and the art of delivery light my fires. Anyone who has taken beginning adult ballet from me can tell you that I can go on and on.
Is it because I have all the answers? Dear God no!
Many things in dance technique did not come easy to me. Not that I begrudge anyone that absorbs dance technique like sponge (a dry, ready to absorb at max levels sponge), because each and every one of us has our own personal battles, when revealed, usually makes us count our own blessings. But because of and through my own personal struggles (nothing epic, mind you) I have found a passion in trying to decode dance movement. At least for the dance styles that I engage in.
Okay, back to the earlier question. Facing the mirror vs. facing my students and/or participants.
Like I mentioned at the beginning, sometimes I face my Zumba participants and sometimes I face the mirror. Actually I face the mirror most of the time.
Why all the switching?
Facing participants definitely fosters a more connective feeling. Its more intimate and friendly. For me, its fun and thrilling (sometimes challenging). I love looking into someones eyes and sharing a big ol' smile!
Why would I ever do anything but face participants?
Sometimes a certain series of steps are just easier to follow from the back, or with the instructor facing the mirror. A clearer image of both the front and the back of the instructor are available. There is no doubt that when the instructor moves their left arm that's it is indeed their left arm.
As an instructor, I can get a more panoramic view of the room at large. I can easily scan all four corners and everything in between.
There's another reason why I might prefer to face the mirror. Sometimes I need to cue off of myself! It's kind of a crazy visual-learner sort of thing. My memory will be quicker with the next step change if I have the visual of the instructor (myself in this case0 in front of me. Sort of a security blanket for myself if a routine is very new to me.
Every time I assess adding a new routine to my Zumba line up, I always first decide if it should be done facing the class or the mirror.
To challenge myself, I like to try and find routines, whether I am using someone elses choreography or creating my own, that I can do facing my participants. There will always be dances that just work better facing the mirror. If I benefit from the challenge than my participants do too. And isn't conquering new challenges what keeps us on our toes!
Another reason to be able to operate both ways is that not every location will have a mirror at all. Also, sometimes we will do dances that will take on different group formations; group circle, conga lines, "battle" groups. Being flexible with which direction you can face and follow makes it easier to join the party and the fun!
I have heard that fitness industry standards prefer instructors to face their participants. But with so many different formats in group exercise it seems best left as a strong suggestion for instructors as opposed to a mandatory across the board rule. My opinion.
Now when I teach ballet or lyrical I am much less flexible.
For myself, I want to keep a much closer eye on my students if I am doing the steps along with them. I also use much more vocal cueing- "Tombe pas de bourree right, turn left..." I don't trust myself to reverse my sides while calling out the opposite. My brain just might explode on the spot!
Thanks for reading.
Enjoy the dance that is life!
As a participant, which direction do you like the instructor to face? The mirror or the participants?
If you're an instructor, which way do you prefer to face?