Use Modeling and Imitation
Dancers Learn By Imitation!
You may read this and think, "Well, duh. Dancers obviously learn by imitating their teacher."
But before you roll your eyes, take a second to hear me out and understand what it means to give students a good visual representation while you're teaching:
Okay, that makes sense. But what does modeling have to do with this?
The first step in teaching choreography involves you demonstrating your material for your dancers to watch and replicate. It is not only custom, but vital that you show your choreography as accurately and clearly as possible during this period.
Why? Albert Bandura, a social cognitive psychologist, developed a theory that people (especially children) learn from imitation. According to his theory, your dancers learn naturally by encoding the movement they see you do and copying it. The more they see you move, the better your dancers can encode and replicate your movements. So, what should you do?
Dance your choreography fully! When you are initally demonstrating your choreography, you should dance it as if you are performing. You want your dancers to imitate the choreography the way it should look on stage.
Show your choreography from different angles! You can't expect your dancers to visually encode a movement that they can't see. This means you need to alternate the way you're facing in relationship to your dancers or even change where you stand spacially in the studio.
Avoid marking! Not only does marking make you look hesitant about what you're showing, but it leaves your dancers guessing what the actual movement is supposed to look like.
To read more about Albert Bandura's theories
Modeling refers to the way you present yourself as a choreographer. Bandura's theory not only states that people learn from imitation, but that people are more likely to learn depending on who is setting the example.
People are more likely to learn from models who they perceive to be:
similar to themselves (gender, race, etc.)
competant or have expertise
to be of higher status than themselves
Of course you can't change your gender or race, but manipulating what you can change about your appearance does make people more likely to follow you. What you wear as a choreographer matters!
If you're skeptical about how influential appearance is, watch the video below
If you still don't think appearance is that important, see for yourself!
After looking at the people in the image above, answer these questions for yourself:
Which person would you pick to teach you to play basketball?
Probably not the woman wearing heels, right?
If you had the flu, who would you want to give you instructions on treating your symptoms?
Probably the woman dressed as a nurse or the man who looks like a doctor. Why? Because they look like they know how to treat an illness.
And if you were a dancer about to learn a new dance, who would you choose to teach you the choreography?
You would pick the woman who looks like a professional dancer!
This doesn't mean you should wear a costume to rehearsals daily, but as a choreographer whose job depends on people imitating your movements, appearance can make a huge impact in the liklihood of dancers attentively observing you. This is especially important for young choreographers!
What you should do:
Model your dresscode. If you don't want your dancers to wear socks, you shouldn't wear socks. If you prefer that your dancers wear pants, you should wear pants.
Dress according to the style your teaching. This may seem silly, but don't wear a leotard and a ballet skirt if you are teaching a hip-hop dance. Remember that you want to look like an expert!