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  1. #1
    Established BHUZzer Andrea2's Avatar
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    Spinoff-unasked for critique or teacher guidance?

    The Soraya thread got me to thinking about teachers and correcting students. I'm wondering how the rest of you feel. Here's the question: should a teacher give a review of a student performance if the student doesn't ask for it? Does it depend on what the critique would be?

    I ask because I could have used some guidance and didn't get it because my teacher liked to avoid confrontation. When I was a baby dancer, I didn't know squat. I wasn't taught the difference between folk and cabaret and the appropriate costuming for each. I only knew what I liked. I cringe when I think about how I cluelessly mixed up stuff. The worst thing was that I was never told. I had a Saidi dress that I did cabaret in, and I think I did veil to Saidi. ..cr.: ..l;, I don't think that she should have come up to me right after the performance, but I do think that after a week or so she should have explained stuff and helped me out.

    I feel that it's the teacher's job to teach more than just the movements (assuming they know the background stuff). This teacher was knowledgeable, but never said a word. I remember when I learned and was horrified at what I'd done. I don't think a newbie should have to preview what they are planning to perform, but after the first time I should have been gently informed. Sadly, I was allowed to butcher the dance several times (not saying I still don't, but at least now I'm aware of what I'm screwing up ..g.: ). The strange thing was that as my teacher she didn't want to fully teach (that includes maybe saying negative things), but she would freely tell me I needed to change my hair (unsolicited).

    No one wants to hear negatives about themselves, but as big people we have to know that it's not always puppies and kittens. I don't think teachers should offer unsolicited advice regarding choreo choices, but I do think they should let their students know if they are really screwing something up. What do you think?


  2. #2
    Master BHUZzer Michelle75's Avatar
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    Re: Spinoff-unasked for critique or teacher guidance?

    You will know the students in your class who are really serious about WANTING to learn and those who are just there because of whatever reason.

    Maybe when your new classes start you could tell the class up front that you will be monitoring them and you will be giving them feed back PRIVATLEY when needed. This way, they can come to you and tell you upfront that they won't feel comfortable and you two can possibly work something out.


  3. #3
    Ultimate BHUZzer mish_mish's Avatar
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    Re: Spinoff-unasked for critique or teacher guidance?

    Some people just aren't good teachers or they aren't well-rounded teachers who understand that you cannot just put information out there and expect to be done. Teaching is about give and take with students. Giving corrective feedback is one of the hardest parts of teaching anything. Most people are not comfortable with this.

    If I was performing anything that was sponsored by my teacher, I would expect critique. If I danced at a private gig or show and my teacher happened to show up, I would only want feedback if I asked. I don't like the types of teachers who feel so possessive of students that they feel obligated to be in the teacher role all the time.


  4. #4
    Ultimate BHUZzer laura 2's Avatar
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    Re: Spinoff-unasked for critique or teacher guidance?

    This is kind of a tough call for me, because the few students that I have who perform have so far openly solicited my input, and seem to really want to make sure they're not doing anything wrong or offensive. It may be because often, I bring up the fact that this is a dance based on someone else's culture, and it's disrespectful to not at least try to be educated about ME culture if you're going to do this dance. I let them know about the mistakes I made, and how I wish someone had helped to guide me in some of the choices I made (sword to Warda? WTF was I thinking?????).

    My first teacher also would never give me any constructive feedback about my performances. She would only gush and after a while, it started to go in one ear and out the other. Sadly, after I had been dancing a couple of years, hanging out on Bhuz and taking workshops, I knew way more about cultural context than she did, despite her having a 20 year career.


  5. #5
    Master BHUZzer Adishakti's Avatar
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    Re: Spinoff-unasked for critique or teacher guidance?

    Every teacher is different... personally, I would never offer critique to a student (or anyone) post performance unless asked for it. I would much rather celebrate in the positive aspects of their performance at that time.

    Yes, I want my students to be their best, but dance is supposed to be fun, and I want them to enjoy themselves! Post performance we're often quite vulnerable and after all the hard work they've done, I'd much rather celebrate the things they did well.

    That said, I would not put my students in a situation where they were performing a solo publicly without my knowing what they were doing beforehand. But I am also of the mold that newer students performances should be limited to friendly haflas and not public shows. If I'm trusting them to dance at a public venue, I know they're at a level where they're not going to dance to Oum Kalthoum with a sword in a thoub. ;-)

    If I noticed anything in a solo performance that I felt needed work, I'd simply work those little things into the class format to improve on them if it's an issue I feel the others could benefit from. (Unless it was something major, in which case I would speak to them without invitation).

    If it was a group number, then we'd iron out any little issues prior to the next performance.

    Critique is important, but I feel there is a time and a place for it. I'm not going to beat them up post performance, but will most certainly gush about something well earned at that time. We'll deal with the less than perfect things at another time.
    Last edited by Adishakti; 03-31-2008 at 05:07 PM.


  6. #6
    Advanced BHUZzer nisaasaintlouis's Avatar
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    Re: Spinoff-unasked for critique or teacher guidance?

    Oh lord, Andrea, is this ever one that I feel strongly about...

    I feel it is the teacher's obligation to provide guidance to students as they develop performances and to offer constructive criticism after performances (note this doesn't mean IMMEDIATELY AFTER), whether group or solo. Once a student enters the realm of performance, they need this sort of guidance and critique. If teachers lay the foundation in the beginning - before students even think of performing - by clearly spelling out performance guidelines and requirements and by clearly indicating that teachers will be active partners with students as the latter develop as performers, then students will realize that this guidance and critique is for their benefit - i.e. so that they can walk off stage feeling proud of the fact that they practiced hard, got their background info straight, and put on a really great performance.

    I think we can still foster students' creativity without going to the extreme of "anything goes". Everyone in my area knows I am a big flaming traditionalist. But right now one of my students is putting together her first solo for my student recital in May, and she's using non-traditional music. She knows and respects the boundaries I set for my program - it is a Middle Eastern dance recital, therefore student solos need to be able to tie into the overall theme. Her music is a Raquy and the Caveman song, it has lots of electric guitar and sounds very heavy/rock-and-rolly. She developed a really elegant veil piece, and she is going to costume herself in black pants with gold bedleh. I have advised her in the process. It will actually be a really nice fit with the program because it will illustrate the direction that American fusion artists are taking an essentially ME themed dance. I am proud of her for developing a really classy fusion piece and for accepting my guidance and respecting the theme of my recital program.

    Andrea, I am like you...I look back on some of my early performances and sometimes resent my teacher for not stopping me for making such an ass of myself. I don't want my students to feel that way. If I had had good background info, good guidance in picking music, honest critique of my technique, and I had STILL put on a mediocre peformance, I would have felt better about myself because at least I would have known that I did everything possible to prepare myself.

    In the moment, students may look at it as the teacher being a "meanie" or whatever, but I think that in the end, students will appreciate a teacher who helped bring out their best, rather than just threw them into the ocean without a life raft.

    Nisaa


  7. #7
    Ultimate BHUZzer *Shira*'s Avatar
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    Re: Spinoff-unasked for critique or teacher guidance?

    If the event is something the teacher organized (such as arranging for her students to perform in a hafla, or a student recital, etc.), then she should give feedback afterward. Maybe not in the first 20 minutes following completion of the student's solo, but a week or so later. The feedback should certainly include specific praise for positive things: "You had really nice, crisp technique with your hip work," as well as suggestions for improvement: "I noticed that your attention and energy were withdrawn - let's work on your stage presence in class." Such feedback should not be a complete list of everything the student did wrong, but rather should focus on the most important things that are the highest priority to fix first.

    The way I see it, if a teacher organizes an opportunity for her students to perform, she is offering them a learning opportunity. Just how much can they learn if they don't get feedback? I think a teacher should set an expectation that every performance is a "class" of a different sort, and both praise and correction will be part of the experience.

    If the performance was one the student arranged on her own, and the teacher just happens to see it, then I'd say that the teacher probably shouldn't give feedback unless it's either asked for or there's a serious faux pas that should be addressed.


  8. #8
    Ultimate BHUZzer ssipes's Avatar
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    Re: Spinoff-unasked for critique or teacher guidance?

    As a university teacher in a culture where college students often lack writing skills, I can say that giving a writing assignment, collecting, and grading it, with the intention of improving students' writing does nothing unless I work with them before the final version is due, to give them a chance to revise their writing. Most teachers don't do this because it is labor intensive.

    The same, it would seem, should be true with dance. A critique after the fact is not worth much without critique before the performance.

    One thing that would make this easier is to control the structure in which students perform at your events, or otherwise as representatives of your company.

    For example, students could be told that it is your new policy that in order to perform a solo at your event, they have to receive coaching and comments from you on their piece two weeks before the performance and again within 1 week of the performance. They could also either be told that they will receive constructive comments from you after the performance, or encouraged to meet with you afterwards for constructive comments (if you don't want to make it obligatory).

    Sedonia
    Last edited by ssipes; 03-31-2008 at 12:34 PM.


  9. #9
    Ultimate BHUZzer laura 2's Avatar
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    Re: Spinoff-unasked for critique or teacher guidance?

    Quote Originally Posted by nisaasaintlouis View Post

    I think that in the end, students will appreciate a teacher who helped bring out their best, rather than just threw them into the ocean without a life raft.

    Nisaa
    Totally agree. With my student troupe, I've even gone so far as to flat out say, "I'm not saying this because I'm a control freak, I'm doing it so you don't look clueless in front of the other dancers." They seem to appreciate it.


  10. #10
    Advanced BHUZzer nisaasaintlouis's Avatar
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    Re: Spinoff-unasked for critique or teacher guidance?

    Quote Originally Posted by Shira View Post
    The way I see it, if a teacher organizes an opportunity for her students to perform, she is offering them a learning opportunity. Just how much can they learn if they don't get feedback? I think a teacher should set an expectation that every performance is a "class" of a different sort, and both praise and correction will be part of the experience.

    If the performance was one the student arranged on her own, and the teacher just happens to see it, then I'd say that the teacher probably shouldn't give feedback unless it's either asked for or there's a serious faux pas that should be addressed.

    :thumbs_up:


  11. #11
    Advanced BHUZzer nisaasaintlouis's Avatar
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    Re: Spinoff-unasked for critique or teacher guidance?

    Quote Originally Posted by laura 2 View Post
    Totally agree. With my student troupe, I've even gone so far as to flat out say, "I'm not saying this because I'm a control freak, I'm doing it so you don't look clueless in front of the other dancers." They seem to appreciate it.
    Yeeees!!!!!!!!!!!! It's not about us (the teachers), it's about THEM (the students) feeling good about a job well done.


  12. #12
    Mega BHUZzer indigostars's Avatar
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    Re: Spinoff-unasked for critique or teacher guidance?

    If it's health-related, by all means, I want the critique. There should be no question about it if you're doing something harmful to your body.

    Perhaps pre-emptively discuss with your students that you want them to be at their best for performances so you want to and would be happy to review and critique any piece they're working on prior to performance.
    One of the things I both love and hate is having pre-screening of any performance with only a teacher present. I love it, because I learn what I'm doing well and poorly. I hate it because I get nervous that all the attention really is on me. I wish more teachers would discuss the concept of critique and that it isn't saying they're bad or stupid or whatever have you. It's a learning tool.

    The idea of critiques remind me of what a piercer and I discussed about piercing techniques. He had very specific beliefs on how a piercing should be done (mine was done, in his opinion, incorrectly). He went on to say that there really is no "right" or "wrong" way, but that in his experience and the logic of the idea (a straight piercing should be pierced with a straight piece of jewelry and not a ring) made the most sense to him. He also added that he made the same mistake in the past. With some exceptions, perhaps offer your opinion as an opinion based upon experience, not absolute fact and authority. I always like stories that we've all had similar struggles or struggles, btw; it helps me realize that I can do this and that I do not have to be perfect or seemingly perfect immediately, that my teachers worked hard to get where they are.

    I think teachers should also prepare their students for any comments or reactions that are less than positive. Even a student performance can have nasty folks who say bad things (remembering people's parents in high school getting all upset about the outcome of a football game).

    If this is a student piece already performed, I wouldn't say anything immediately afterwards. I would figure out how to integrate a correction in class without directly citing the performance. If it's a zill piece, for instance, and they're having trouble zilling and moving their arms (something I don't do well), perhaps have them work on that for a class.

    I think we all have our little internal demons that make us sensitive to anything less than praise, but I don't think avoiding critique is the way of conquering them. One of the best things (not performance related) for me was having a really strict Indian dance teacher who analyzed EVERYTHING I did. If my arms weren't in perfect 90 degree angles, I had to start over. It really helped me learn not to take it personally. Perhaps don't be that strict but I don't find it healthy to shield people from the inevitable. For better or worse, it's inevitable someone will find flaw in your dance eventually


  13. #13
    I could get used to this! EveRabie's Avatar
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    Re: Spinoff-unasked for critique or teacher guidance?

    I have been in the same boat as you when I was a newbie, not exact same situation, but similar. And yes, the teacher has an obligation to tell you you are doing something wrong. Period. It is one of the not-so-nice things about the job of teaching anything. Sometimes you have to give honest critiques but, yes, doing it gently, whatever that may call for on a case by case basis, is absolutely a given. I know I still want honest critiques from MY teachers and will solicit their advice if I feel needed even. Sometimes a teacher may be so busy as to not remember to tell you you were doing something wrong, then remember late at night when lying in bed and falling asleep! (I have done this!) then poof it's gone the next morning. (My guy keeps telling me I should get a pen and paper by my bedside table! LOL)

    So, just some thoughts there. Good question.
    Eve


  14. #14
    Ultimate BHUZzer *Shira*'s Avatar
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    Re: Spinoff-unasked for critique or teacher guidance?

    To Sedonia's point about polishing numbers ahead of time...

    One thing I've done for rehearsals for GROUP pieces is to have two group members at a time taking turns sitting out and watching a run-through. Each must then state one good thing about what they saw, and one area of improvement needed. Those two then rejoin the group, and two others sit out. I do this until everyone has had a turn sitting out.

    I like doing this because 1) it teaches the students that constructive critique involves not only fault-finding but also praise for what is being done right, 2) It accustoms the students to being watched by someone other than me, 3) It gives a visible purpose to each run-through, 4) it forces them to "perform" the run-through rather than just going through the motions, and 5) it heightens their awareness of what they need to work on.

    When possible, I videotape the actual performance. (I sometimes videotape rehearsals too, but not all the time.)

    Immediately following the performance (ie, while we're still at the event), I praise them for the things they did well, but I don't talk about opportunities for improvement just yet.

    At the next rehearsal after the performance, I show the video. First I show it once without comment. Then, before showing it again, I ask them to each prepare a comment of praise for what was done well and a suggestion for how it could be improved next time. I then show it, and afterward ask each person in turn to share her critique. Sometimes they disagree with each other on these points, and I invite discussion.

    We then rehearse, and they do so understanding why I'm asking them to focus on certain things.


  15. #15
    Ultimate BHUZzer laura 2's Avatar
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    Re: Spinoff-unasked for critique or teacher guidance?

    Quote Originally Posted by Shira View Post
    When possible, I videotape the actual performance. (I sometimes videotape rehearsals too, but not all the time.)
    I f0rgot to mention that - my student troupe does a dress rehearsal the last rehearsal before a performance, and I videotape it. We run through the choreo a couple of times, I tape it, and then we watch it together and discuss what's good, what we need to keep in mind for the performance, etc. This of course, is after weeks of rehearsals and corrections, so by this point there aren't any major bugs to work out, just tweaks and polishes. But I present it to them as, this is what you're going to look like on Saturday. If you see anything that bothers you, speak up now so we can fix it.

    I like your idea too, Shira, about a "pre-performance" in front of peers. I've had my student troupe perform for their Level 2 classmates, and one of my students who recently did a solo performed for both the Beginning and Level 2 class. This is a win-win, because not only does it provide valuable feedback and experience for the performers, but the non-performing students who don't come to events get to see what all the fuss is about.


  16. #16
    I could get used to this! nakiajizeem's Avatar
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    Re: Spinoff-unasked for critique or teacher guidance?

    Being a student, I expect guidance and advice. I want to know if I am messing up. I won't know it unless I am told. Especially if I am doing the wrong type of dance to music. I try to read up on the ME culture and do the best I can but I'm no expert in the area. My teacher has always been great at giving us advice. I think if a student is taking a class they should want advice and guidance to be the best dancer they can be or why take class.


  17. #17
    A journey of ten thousand miles begins with a single post. Lauren_'s Avatar
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    Re: Spinoff-unasked for critique or teacher guidance?

    Great responses so far.

    I'm also of the mindset that AFTER the performance is too late! I wouldn't want my teacher telling me "Hey, by the way, you made a total fool of yourself last week at the hafla in front of every dancer you respect in the city." (which is exactly how I'd feel if she gently said "oh, by the way, we don't do XXX to YYYY music."

    I find I'm much more comfortable giving feedback to my students before their performances, in a structured environment. Last year I devoted a 6-week session before the student show to solo work, teaching solo skills and how to choreograph, and having each student soloist or small group bring in what they're working on to share with the group. It was a fantastic session, I thought, on many levels, and I'll be doing it again.

    If I have one or two students dancing at someone else's event, that's trickier. I don't feel right using class time for that, and I don't feel like I have the right to demand that they pay for private classes. I also feel like at that point, I have to trust them and let them make their own mistakes.

    One of them did make a folkloric faux pas, and I had to approach her about it after the fact once. I did so as gently as possible, more than a week later, and she took it well.


  18. #18
    Ultimate BHUZzer bintbeled's Avatar
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    Re: Spinoff-unasked for critique or teacher guidance?

    Boy, do I have strong feelings on this topic. Years ago, I attended a recital given by a local teacher, and I cringed at the way her students looked. Sometimes it was technique that needed tweaking, sometimes an unflattering costume could have been easily modified -- it was stuff that would have been easy to fix. In a conversation I had with her later, when we were talking about correcting and coaching students, she said that she hated to correct because she felt mean. She wanted her students to think that she was nice.

    ,m:: ,m:: ,m::

    IMHO, this is a totally wrong-headed approach. If our students don't look good performing, we don't look good as teachers. If we're lucky enough to be able to provide coaching and guidance before a performance, we need to be frank but constructive. There's always something good to reinforce, and there are almost always areas that can use a bit more attention. If one of my students happens to perform without the opportunity for coaching, I will usually wait a bit, and ask if they would like feedback. My approach in either case is that we're a team, and we both have the same goal: to make the student look good on stage.

    Bobby Farrah used to say, "Why be good when you can be great?" I use this quote a lot with my students (tee hee, and with myself. I'm a work in progress).

    Latifa


  19. #19
    I could get used to this! cassiopeia's Avatar
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    Re: Spinoff-unasked for critique or teacher guidance?

    I often have upper level and professional performers ask me beforehand to critique their performance. I always give them one positive and two improvement suggestions.

    If I have student who I know will be performing, I immediately have them perform their routine at every class until the performance. This allows me to help tweek their performance, they get used to performing the piece in front of an audience (classmates) and they become very relaxed and confident. The classmates also offer helpful suggestions. The classmates love watching each other dance!

    Other than that, I only ever offer a genuine compliment to a performer unless it is "Hun, you might want to check the fit of your costume, certain body parts are trying to peek out..."


  20. #20
    Mega BHUZzer indigostars's Avatar
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    Re: Spinoff-unasked for critique or teacher guidance?

    If our students don't look good performing, we don't look good as teachers.
    I think that's probably the best point. I don't teach and perform that much (well, not all now), but when I do perform, I gladly tell people about my teachers if they're looking to take class. I hope I haven't been bad advertisements for them!


  21. #21
    Master BHUZzer casbahdance's Avatar
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    Re: Spinoff-unasked for critique or teacher guidance?

    Really Great Stuff, everybody! ..g.:

    Deborah


  22. #22
    Official BHUZzer LauraLevana's Avatar
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    Re: Spinoff-unasked for critique or teacher guidance?

    I actually appreciate the fact that my teacher threatens us in class to "punch us in the neck" if we do certain things on stage. I'd rather get the tough love and feedback before a performance than make a fool of myself in public.

    As students, we should realize that if we're never doing anything wrong, then we're not actually learning anything--we're just doing what we already know how to do.


  23. #23
    Mega BHUZzer Linnyg's Avatar
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    Re: Spinoff-unasked for critique or teacher guidance?

    As a baby belly I want to know what I am doing right and what I am doing wrong. I have no intention of going pro, but I would like to dance in front of people some day and I don't want to make any obvious mistakes. Since I don't really know a whole lot about the different types of dance with different types of music, I want to hear that I am going astray. It doesn't hurt my feelings, if anything, it makes me work harder to get it right and I can trust that my teacher is being honest with me. That means that when I do get a compliment, I know that it is sincere and not just someone blowing smoke up my a because they are afraid that I will be angry with them.


  24. #24
    Mega BHUZzer anyadance's Avatar
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    Re: Spinoff-unasked for critique or teacher guidance?

    Quote Originally Posted by cassiopeia View Post
    I often have upper level and professional performers ask me beforehand to critique their performance. I always give them one positive and two improvement suggestions.
    Just a suggestion on refining this: use the "crap sandwich" method...a positive, something to improve on, and a positive. This way the student will have more positive to focus on. If they're more advanced you can add more: pos, improve,improve, pos. But always leave it on a positive note- it helps to motivate the student and remind them of what they've really done well.


  25. #25
    Official BHUZzer atareen's Avatar
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    Re: Spinoff-unasked for critique or teacher guidance?

    I love the constructive criticism.... I find there isn't enough of it.... I also have no problem doing when I see other dance at event to bolster my dance skills.... I love the 1 good 1 bad concept.

    The other ways to gather comments is do it on pieces of paper so itís anonymous... That way everyone is honest but no feelings are hurt.

    Remember you canít fix what you donít know is broke.


  26. #26
    I could get used to this! EveRabie's Avatar
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    Re: Spinoff-unasked for critique or teacher guidance?

    I totally agree that constructive criticism is necessary. I once had a teacher that, when I pressed her for a critique, asking, "Soo..what did you think?" after a hafla solo, all she said was, "Always growing, always growing!" and smiled as if that was an answer. I asked this question twice during this hafla, but all she would do is say the same thing. She didn't mind going on and on my "great costume!" though. Her problem was not that she wanted people to think she was nice. She simply did not want her students to think they could live without her tutelage, so she left them in the dark as to their progress, ability, etc.


  27. #27
    Mega BHUZzer indigostars's Avatar
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    Re: Spinoff-unasked for critique or teacher guidance?

    Comments like that would make me so uncomfortable. I mean I wouldn't want to be torn apart, but I'd partially think "Damn, was I that bad that there is nothing specific to say?" I tend to look at critique as I have potential and can do better, though.


  28. #28
    Master BHUZzer Souzan's Avatar
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    Re: Spinoff-unasked for critique or teacher guidance?

    Teachers need to be supportive and nurturing, particularly when giving constructive criticism or helping students make corrections or improvement. Some people, however, are simply not supportive or nurturing by nature.

    Unfotunately some teachers fail to recognize that adult students learning something new or something they are emotionally invested in are as vulnerable to neglect, negativity, and lack of feedback as children are in a learning situation. So failing to identify and use teachable moments providing appropriate reinforcement means they really let their students down. And at that moment they are not teachers at all.

    Souzan


  29. #29
    I could get used to this! cassiopeia's Avatar
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    Re: Spinoff-unasked for critique or teacher guidance?

    Quote Originally Posted by anyadance View Post
    Just a suggestion on refining this: use the "crap sandwich" method...a positive, something to improve on, and a positive. This way the student will have more positive to focus on. If they're more advanced you can add more: pos, improve,improve, pos. But always leave it on a positive note- it helps to motivate the student and remind them of what they've really done well.
    Usually by the time they start asking for my critique, they have heard nothing but positive stuff and only want to hear my recommendations for improvement. They would love to receive a long list of suggestions, so I should have mentioned early that I limit my recommendations to just two. The dancers seem OK with that.

    Cassiopeia


  30. #30
    Mega BHUZzer MakedaMaysa's Avatar
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    Re: Spinoff-unasked for critique or teacher guidance?

    I would expect my dance teacher to critique me. As a member of her troupe, I have become quite comfortable with receiving critique from her, as well as fellow troupe members. I expect and respect it. They care about me enough to want me to be better and I believe that their critiques are signs that they believe in my ability to get better. Troupe choreographies are picked apart, down to the very tiniest movement. My solo choreographies have been critiqued, as well. I am a much better dancer for it.

    Makeda


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