Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Teacher Awareness Syndrome

It's estimated 8 out of every 10 students suffer in silence.* 

It's not new. It's been around for years but it's just now getting the recognition it needs to be addressed.**

It's called Teacher Awareness Syndrome and it may have affected you when you were younger and you didn't even realize it. I will confess to being affected even now - occasionally, and not often, but yes it even happens to teachers and experienced dancers.

Not sure if you have it? Let's look at the symptoms:

1. Sudden inability to do even a demi-plie in first position at the barre when the teacher walks past you.

2. Perfect petit allegro dissolves into bumbling shuffles when called upon to demonstrate.

3. Leg and arm coordination evaporate when the teacher stops to ask your name or how you're doing.

Look, it happens to all of us, or at least most of us. You're doing perfectly fine. You've memorized the tendu combination and then the teacher swings by and you immediately forget all of it, resulting in the teacher thinking you either weren't paying attention or don't belong in the class.

The lucky few who shine when a teacher walks past are the innate performers. They are the ones who love the spotlight and standing in front of the room. They want to be the leaders of the first group across the floor. They want to be the ones the teacher holds up as examples for others.  

Those students are not the norm. Seriously, after years of teaching, I can tell you that even the best dancers falter under the scrutiny of a teacher. You can't help it: you want to do well. You want the teacher to notice you and give you feedback. It's helpful when it's corrective but it's also nice to get a comment like, "Nice job!"

My advice? 

Students: Relax. The teacher knows you're (probably) not screwing up her choreography on purpose. She knows that when you feel her eyes on you, you get nervous. If she pauses to watch you at the barre, just keep doing the exercise and don't engage in eye contact. If she calls to you during the center, let the comment wash over you and take it in after the exercise is over. It takes practice to do this but you'll get it.

Teachers: One method I use is to glance into the mirror when I'm watching a group, especially during adagio when people often falter. This lets me see everyone and scrutinize them but they don't feel my eyes on them individually.

Happy dancing~
* Estimated by yours truly
** Recognized pretty much just by me


inge said...

LOL! It is so true. One teacher calls it the curse. Another instructor at a local prominent dance studio would make this a discipline. I am getting used to him. My guess is that he wants you to get over your nerve or anxiety, and get use to being scrutinized. He would stand next to you and watch you deliberately.
It might or might not work. For me, it works most of the time. His method served as a reminder to focus on him, his instructions, nothing else. Still, thank you for making us feel less idiotic. ;) :D

Leigh Purtill said...

Thanks for your observation, Inge. It definitely teaches you to dance in front of an audience!