Ignorant Dance Teachers

(Someone has been irked by this post, so she ANONYMOUSLY accused me of making MANY assumptions in this post and insinuated that I did not understand the difference between ID and ballet training… obviously not a regular reader of this blog. As I state at the beginning of the post below, I was sent off on this rant by a post on dance.net, but day after day I receive emails from parents and dancers asking for help, recounting their stories and their injuries. Up until now my dance kinesiology posts have been about the body as a way to encourage dancers and parents to take responsibility for their own body knowledge. I have been thinking that I should also say clearly that it should be the professional responsibility of every dance teacher, no matter the discipline, to understand the human body and how it moves. So, I say it now.)

Ok, can’t take it anymore…got up this morning, perused the web a bit to wake up, and unhappily came upon this:

“im 19 and have been dancing since i was 4. I have beautifully turned out feet but recently i have been getting serious pains in my knees and ankles. i went to an orthopedic who was shocked at how bad my leg alignment had become, presumably from ID. I was always told to ‘push my ankles forward’ in order to turn out my feet. Nothing was ever mentioned about my hips. I have never heard anything about using my hips. This might be the underlying cause to my problems. can anyone please shed some light on what i’m supposed to be doing with my hips when turning out my feet and trebling etc??? Any advice is welcome.”

PUSH FORWARD IN THE ANKLES TO TURN OUT!!??!! NEVER HEARD ABOUT USING HER HIPS!!??!! This teaching stupidity is stunning. Poor thing!

Why is any ignorant moron allowed to mess with young developing bodies just because they call themselves a “dance teacher”???!!!

I have always had a problem with bad teaching, regardless of the subject matter. I have walked out of many lectures, workshops, studio classes and university courses…I make no bones about ill-prepared lecturers, lazy presenters, and ignorant “teachers” of all kinds, no matter the guru they profess themselves to be. As a university professor, I probably shocked many a student when I would take their former teachers’ ignorant and dangerous ideas and teaching methods to task. What inflamed me more than anything were the “chronic injuries” that dancers owned as if they were badges of honor…these injuries were a sign of bad teaching, of damage done to them by ignorant teachers… they were not good things!!

Dance teachers work with the human body, therefore they should know how it is put together, how it works. They should know the bones and their articulations. They should know how each and every joint is constructed and how it is meant to move. They should understand the role of bony formations and ligaments in supporting and restricting movement in the joints. They should know the difference between ligaments and tendons and muscles, and they should know what bursae are for. They should know how muscles work by acting as the forces that move the levers that we call bones. They should know how muscles create movement by working with or against gravity. They should know the physics of jumping, turning, kicking, leaping, etc, etc, etc. They should understand correct skeletal alignment and effective and safe dance posture inside and out!

They should know how turn-out is accomplished if they want their students to use it. They should know how to strengthen a dancer’s legs and feet, and that it takes a few years of concentrated, specific training before a dancer should be put en pointe. They should understand how much stronger an Irish dancer’s feet really should be to perform toe stands in shoes that are not supportive or designed for such a maneuver. Irish dance teachers should understand the particular demands that the very specific Irish dance technique places on the body…the fact that dancers’ heels are not to contact the floor and that their knees are always to appear straight is very stressful on the legs. The fact that they are required to jump with out the benefit of the full use of the foot lever OR the arms requires unbelievable strength. They should understand the stretching that should be a MATTER OF COURSE for any dancer. If Irish dance teachers are going to continue to borrow movements from other dance techniques (ballet, in particular), then they themselves should be taking classes so THEY are trained to perform these steps. What has ID taken from ballet? Changement, entrechat quatre & six, cabriole, pique, pas de bourree, gargouillade…don’t know what these are? Then why are you trying to teach them to your students!!!!??

It should be a GIVEN that dance teachers understand the human body completely! Period.

There are bad teachers in every dance form. The mind set that the art of dance and the science of dance are mutually exclusive was quaint 75 years ago when the dance star of the day was no better than the average intermediate-advanced student of today. But as the athleticism of dance advances, so should our understanding of movement, of motion. The dance training needs to be more specific, more careful, more focused as we try to defy gravity in more and more complex and innovative ways because the HUMAN BODY DOES NOT CHANGE AS THE DANCE FORMS EVOLVE!!! Our bodies are put together the same way they were 50, 100, 1000, 10,000 years ago. This is not new news…so why is knowledge of the human body not a given?

If your dance teacher will not take responsibility for your body, then you take it. And find a new teacher. Good ones do exist.

Click for more kinesiology info: Dance Kinesiology
To start educating yourself, try here.

6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Peggy
    Sep 08, 2007 @ 11:19:00

    Thank you thank you!!
    I was another one of these students who did ballet for 8 years without ever hearning the hips were involved in turn-out. WHY??? Perhaps the same reason my kneecaps still do not track properly.
    The lack of teacher/dancer/parent education is unbelieveable.

    But now I’m finally getting some education. Thanks!

  2. kktsews1
    Sep 08, 2007 @ 23:04:00

    I do wish the process for training ID teachers through the TCRG would teach them something about kinesiology. Since there is actually a certification process for these teachers (unlike many other dance forms), that’s a great way to ensure they are at least exposed to the physiology aspects which are critical to development. Wonder how to formally suggest this?

  3. Ann
    Sep 08, 2007 @ 23:09:00

    I have thought about maybe writing an open letter to the commission here on the blog about it…what do you think?

  4. Ali
    Sep 10, 2007 @ 02:18:00

    I think an open letter would be excellent! These people are doing real harm. Anyone, regardless of discipline, who is telling others how to move their bodies, needs to know the science behind it. I was SO disgusted with the “blame it on the parents” attitude on the message board. Parents DON’T know these things, and while educating them is a great step, they don’t have the power to correct TCs, only to leave (if there is another ID school nearby! If not, what, they pull their kid, who loves ID, from the sport?).

  5. Beth M.
    Sep 12, 2007 @ 08:16:00

    Ann,

    I was glad to see your post on uneducated dance teachers. I have been “rehab”-ing Irish dance injuries through pilates for the last 3 years.

    I had made a similar comment about An Com adding anatomy and physiology to the TC exam on Brooke’s blog; however, in thinking over the last few weeks I came to the following conclusion: CLRG’s role in certifying new instructors is only in administering an exam (both written and practical) to persons wishing to become certified Irish dance instructors. Those wishing to become teachers are left to learn the material on their own (through videos) or with the help of an existing certified TCRG (a TC does have to recommend them for the exam). Would uneducated teachers then help to create more uneducated teachers? Where would they get the correct knowledge? How can this be changed?

  6. Trackback: Dance Kinesiology posts « Taoknitter

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