Practice Makes Progress
Any dance instructor will tell you that the secret to improving and developing skills in dance is practicing at home. In order to progress, dancers must take what they’ve learned and ensure that it’s not forgotten by their next class.
But as many dancers and dance parents will tell you, it can be confusing learning “how to practice”. What does that even mean? How long should practices last? What should they work on?
What is Practicing?
At Saorsa, we’ve seen how parents can play a key part in encouraging their dancers. As instructors, it’s difficult to know if your students will remember a single word you’ve said once they’re out the studio door.
Building that bridge between dancing in-studio and at-home is essential to making progress! When students don’t retain what they learn in class, they just have to spend the next class relearning it. This makes it very difficult to learn anything new.
Read on for information on our practice initiatives, what a parent’s role is, and how practicing can develop not only a dancer’s skills and technique, but also their character, sense of self-determination, and teamwork skills.
Our dancers are all asked to have notebooks dedicated to dance. Having this devoted space helps to keep things organised – here’s what they can be used for:
- Dance goals. Whether they’re short-term or long-term, goals are meant to be written down. If a dancer wants to win the world championships 10 years from now, they should have it written in their notebook!
- Corrections. At each class, dancers are given corrections from their instructor, and having them written down is the surest way to ensure they’re remembered and practiced at home.
- Practice logs. Keeping track of what dancers should practice, what gets done, and how much time is spent on it helps when considering what should be the focus of the next practice, and helps us to fill in the squares of the class practice boards (read on to learn about these!)
Class Practice Boards
In our studio, we have a wall dedicated to tracking our dancer’s weekly practice habits. Each class has their own sheet with the dancer’s names listed, and the number of practices or practice hours that they will aim to complete within a given time frame.
With our younger, recreational dancers, squares are measured in number of practices. Older, competitive dancers, have their squares measured in hours. The number of practices or hours for a class is calculated by the number of students in the class, and the amount of practicing they should do each week for their age and skill-level.
For example, our Novice class should each be practicing at least 3 hours per week. There was 9 dancers in the class, so there was 500 hour squares to fill from September to January.
These practice boards help our dancers to feel like they are not simply individuals, but also think of themselves as a team, working together to fill the chart. When a class fills a chart, they earn a party for their class.
The Novice class filled their chart in Spring 2022, and their party featured a choreography competition, fun snacks, and other games!
Not only did the dancers work effectively as a team throughout the year, encouraging each other to practice at home, they got to have a well-earned team-bonding experience together.
Each week, at the start of class, dancers are asked to present their notebooks detailing how many practice squares they will fill in. This tradition helps remind dancers that practice is an essential component of dance class.
The Nicole Odo School of Highland Dance Practice Crew is an initiative intended for dancers who are serious about making progress!
Dancers submit their practice hours and details to us for review.
- Primary Dancers (ages 3 – 6): 15 hours per semester (3 hours per month/45 minutes per week/3 x 15 minute practices per week)
- Beginner (ages 7+): 50 hours per semester (10 hours per month/2.5 hours per week/5 x 30 minute practices per week)
- Novice – Premier: 80 hours per semester (16 hours per month/4 hours per week/4 x 60 minute practices per week)
Joining the Practice Crew is a big commitment, but it’s worth it! For the progress you’ll make, and for the free personalised sweater you get when you complete your hours! Each semester you earn your Practice Crew status, a new arm band is added to your sweater.
What is a Parent's Role in Practice?
Depending on your child’s age, dance experience, and skill-level, practicing at home will look different.
- Primary Dancers (age 3 – 6): This age is crucial for forming positive practicing habits. Try asking your child a few times throughout the week to show you something they have learned recently in class. This will reinforce the tradition of setting aside at least a few minutes every day to think about dance.
- Beginner Dancers (any age, first few years of dancing): At this point in a dancer’s progression, it is important for dancers to understand the importance of practicing each day. We encourage parents to help their dancers to comprehend that practice makes progress! You can check in and encourage your dancer by asking them to show you a new step or movement they have learned.
As dancers get older and/or more experienced, they should be taking more charge with their practice schedule. Even as dancers require fewer “reminders” to practice, we still recommend you ask them to show you something they’re working on every once and a while!
- Novice to Premier Dancers (any age): At this point, dancers are competitive and should be taking charge of their practices. Parents can still do check ins, and can also serve as a liaison between dancers and their instructors, if they have questions or need an extra lesson or two.
Having a Dedicated Dance Space
For primary and beginner dancers, having a dedicated dance space at home is highly recommended. For Novice and Premier dancers, it is essential! Allocating space, even just a small amount of it, to dance is important. In their dance area, dancers don’t have to worry about anything else – just focusing on dance.
Practicing to Music
Something that is often neglected when dancing at home is the value of practicing to music. Using music is crucial because one of the foundations of dance is musicality! Luckily for you, we’ve put together a Spotify playlist that includes some of our favourite warm up tunes along with dance tunes of varying lengths and speeds.
So, Are You Ready to Make Some Progress?
Let’s get practicing! When dancers establish strong practicing routines, they learn the value of consistency and focusing on your goals.
If you’re looking for more specific practice guidance, contact us and we’ll work it out!