This weekend I attended a yearly event called Swing Into Spring hosted by the Connecticut Swing Dance Society. Unlike most workshop weekends that feature an individual teacher or teaching couple Swing Into Spring features a different teacher for each class.
This year the teachers were Noelle Gray, Jerone Gagliano, Shawn Hershey, Amanda Gruhl, Marc-Andre Vachon, Ben Oaks-Lee, Dianne Eramo, Nicole Zuckerman, and myself. The goal (other than to teach) is to provide the teachers with a group format to work on and present material to a class and receive feedback from their peers on their teaching method, class layout and material. It was also the custom for teachers to participate in the classes enabling them to evaluate the material, but more importantly to provide individual instruction to those in rotation thus creating a stronger learning environment.
Very few events offer opportunities like this to regional teachers who want to improve their teaching skills without being thrust into a trial-by-fire weekend workshop. The format provided time to come back after each day of classes and have a discussion on what worked and what could use improvement for each class; sunday also included commentary on what could be done to improve the event itself for the following year.
For my experience, I had the pleasure of teaching a showmanship class with Dianne. It went better than either of us anticipated, having never taught together or taught a class like it we had decidedly prepared more than we needed.
The class focused on the essentials of showmanship that need to be present whether you are dancing solo or with a partner. We began with the statement (approximately): “the best dancers only have to walk”; and then proceeded to walk our class up and down the floor with different comments in mind for a good 45 minutes. We included some basic jazz steps in our walks and finished off the class with a partnered step to showcase both walking with a partner and a shoe-shine. All in all we received very positive feedback from our peers and will hopefully get to teach it somewhere else.
It felt good to teach again, especially such a conceptually oriented class. I had forgotten the joys of seeing peoples’ dancing and movement change in the course of a single class. I look forward to my next opportunity to teach.