Teaching Dance In Germany

The Around The World project is inspired by a mothering around the world series that I really enjoyed reading. I thought it would be a wonderful idea to see how teaching dance varies around the world. Each month I will post an interview from a different country. I’m so excited to learn about the way dance is taught in other places. I hope you enjoy it! :) 

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Meet Jessica Nitsch who teaches dance in Germany!

On your background…

I studied music, dance and theatre. My original plan of being a musical actress vanished quite fast when I started teaching “until I have a job in a theatre”. I discovered my passion in working with children and now this is already my third year as a dance teacher. I’m also teaching singing, acting and piano.

On teaching dance as a career…

Living by teaching alone would be possible if I’d do it full-time. I just started again slowly after pregnancy and birth of my first child, four afternoons a week. In Germany there is no need for a special degree to teach dance, as long as it is not a “professional” dance school – although you can study dance education. Everyone, who likes to and has a certain talent with the kids, can teach creative dance.

On teaching dance at every level and age…

My youngest children start with 2 1/2 years. It goes up to 15 years in my classes. I worked out my own curriculum, inspired by a few books and my own experiences of the last years. Happily lessons turn out to be much more relaxed now and I am able to improvise if something doesn’t work out as I thought it would.

On creating dance for early learners…

My kids have the possibility to take part in small recitals over the year. Once a year there is a huge production of a show, where they can perform in a big theatre in front of over 700 people – this is always a great excitement and a big motivation, even for the youngest. In their dances I try to include the movements, that they discovered in improvisation and leave some time and freedom to play.

On parents…

I try to speak to the parents before and after lessons and also during “drink and pee”-breaks. They are involved in creating costumes and looking for the little ones backstage during a performance. A toddler-parent-class would be nice, but since most parents (mothers as well as fathers) work quite long and just have few times it might be hard to get some participants.

On your dance educator community…

A dance educator community is nothing I discovered up to now, but that would propably be more, if I actually had studied it. There are a few books on the market, but I get most ideas and inspirations from english websites and blogs.

On Dance In Schools…

Dance in schools isn’t that common in Germany. Of course teachers try to get the kids moving to music some time, but it could be much more. I’m happy to teach in schools once in a while for workshops and activity weeks. That’s both fun for me and the kids.

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On Dance in a private studio setting…

Taking dance classes is a very common hobby over here. There are many private dancing studios, but also registered associations, where the equipment might be a bit lower in quality and quantity – but therefore also more affordable.

On Boys in dance…

It’s unfortunately still not that common for boys to dance. I have had three all in all in the last three years, which integrated into the class full of girls without any problems. For me as a teacher there’s of course the task to give them the chance to be creative apart from fairy dust and unicorns ;)

On dance and tradition…

Germany has a long tradition of dancing, especially in certain regions. On different occasions you can see them being performed in public, often from clubs and for free. For “professional” and modern dance you often have to pay quite a lot.

On dance and language…

In ballet classes and also in my older jazz dance classes I’m using french terms. With the little ones I try to describe what we are doing or explain it in a little story. For example that we let a butterfly fly through our legs in Plié or let a ladybug goes under our heels in Relevé. This way they know why we are doing it and are always very creative with it.

On dance and technology…

In preparation of big shows I like to use videos to show the girls what they are doing. Often they don’t feel if they are really pointing their feet or stretching their arms. After looking at the video I ask them to say out loud, what they want to do better. It works fine!

On anything else you would like to share…

At first I started teaching “until I have a job on stage myself”, but very soon I discovered, that the passion for teaching is stronger than being always on stage myself (plus it’s more family-friendly). Every lesson is a challenge and gives so much to me. I’m very happy to do that job and be a part of the kid’s childhood and youth. It’s a big responsibility, but it’s wonderful!

What would you like to see in the future in dance education?

I’d like to see even more dancing beyond borders. No matter if girl or boy, big or small, what age ore size …

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 Thank you Jessica! :) If you teach dance to littles in another country, and would like to be featured in this series, please e-mail me using the contact form on the left of this page! 

Themes

IMG_7345Do you use a theme for your showing, performance, informance, recital? This will be my 4th year doing a celebration with my littles on the stage. The first year, I didn’t use a theme mostly because I was just testing out to see if putting two year olds on stage would even work.

The second year, the theme was friendship. Last year was seasons! And this year I think I am going to use the theme of animals. I have been researching music already and I am excited to use things like rubber ducky!

I have found that even though I loosely follow the themes, it helps me streamline the music and the ideas around creating the dances. I don’t really even let the theme be known. If parents ask I tell them but I don’t name the show beyond a celebration. I was just thinking that this may help some of you that are putting together a show, but not wanting to feel overwhelmed with a giant theme.

Since all of my students are under six, I can use preschool themes. If you have some older students, it may be more challenging to pick a theme that includes everyone.

What themes have you used in the past? Will you use a theme this year? I can’t wait to hear your creative ideas!

 

Baby Wearing

IMG_7280Happy New Year Friends! I’m still enjoying time with little one, but plan to trickle back to teaching in the next few weeks. I have been trying out wearing baby in this wrap a mom of one of my students so generously made me! It’s so comfy and instantly puts baby to sleep. He’s like a snug bug in there!

I’m curious, have any of you taught dance while wearing your baby? What was your experience? Was it hard? To distracting? Amazing? I think it would be fun to try!

I played some of the music I play in class last week for the little guy and he was so alert, he recognized it! Babies are fascinating! :)

p.s. More ideas, celebrations, interviews, and giveaways in 2015! I hope you will stay with me! xo

 

Christmas Tree Shapes

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This year with my 6-7 year olds, we put together a little nutcracker dance for a holiday performance. To put it together we explored shapes and ideas about christmas trees.

I partnered them up and asked them to work together to make pointed, rigid, spiky, triangular, symmetrical christmas tree shapes. They made some really interesting shapes on the floor and upside down. Some of the shapes were connected with different body parts, and some were just made side by side. I’m thinking we could of also made a class tree, using everyone to make the branches. :)

After we had all different trees, we slowly grew the trees from the ground up. We added music and counts! In the final performance, they used glow bracelets to symbolize the lights on the tree. They loved it!

Have you ever tried making christmas tree shapes with your littles? I think next year I will try this lesson with my 3′s, 4′s, and 5′s. I know they will love it too!

Introducing…

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Hi Friends,

I am sure you have been wondering where I have been! I have been meaning to update you! My husband and I had our baby on November 30th and he’s so amazing! I knew becoming a mommy would be wonderful, but I had no idea how much my heart would overflow with love.

I hope to write a few more posts this month, now that I am feeling back to myself again and am getting into a routine with baby.

So this is Harrison, my little dancer, who sleeps with his hands over his head, is hungry all of the time, has the best smell and the best part so far is watching him smile in his sleep. xo

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Setting The Thanksgiving Table

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Full Disclosure: This drawing is not my best work… but you get the idea! :)

I have always loved Thanksgiving. It’s a special holiday for me, I’m not sure why, I just love it. AND I love dancing about it! Every year I try to come up with lessons that make sense for me and my littles to do around Thanksgiving time and every year I come up a bit short, because nothing seems just quite right.

Well, today I went to the craft store and just took a mosey around. I was looking for a prop (of course) but couldn’t really find anything that made sense to use in dance class. Then I came across all of the thanksgiving gear to set the table. I had an aha moment! What if we set our own table, using our bodies. So that’s what we did! Hope you can use the idea with your littles too!

I used this idea with my 4, 5, 6, and 7 year old classes. First we brainstormed. I told them the story above as I just told you about the store. We brainstormed what goes on a thanksgiving day table. They were quick to jump to food, but here I really just wanted the “bare bones” of the table. Here’s what they said:

1) tablecloth
2) plates
3) cups
4) silverware – (I asked them to be more specific) knives, forks, spoons.
5) folded napkins
6) baskets
7) candles

I’m sure there is much, much more to brainstorm. After we had our list, we explored the shapes of each idea. Then, we set the table. Depending on how big your class is, you can let them choose what they want to be on the table. Or you can pick how many place settings you want and ask them to make that many! Could even be a group activity if you have a really big class.

Have you ever tried setting the table in class? It was really fun, I look forward to trying it all week with my littles along with this turkey song!

What Thanksgiving dances are you doing this week? I would love to hear!

Nutcracker Craft Book

Crafterina Nutcracker Photo TMCrafterina just launched a Nutcracker craft and coloring book! It looks amazing and so beautiful! If it’s something you celebrate or perform with your littles, this is perfect to have in your collection. I just wanted to tell you about it early so you have the time to get it! :)

This week Vanessa (the creator) is giving away a book on her facebook page. You can enter to win here! 

Thanksgiving and Christmas time already! Exciting! :)

Teaching With Baby Update

image2Hi Friends! How are you doing? I thought I would write a little update about teaching with baby, if you want to hear! I have a little under 4 weeks to go. So close! I loved hearing from you all and your experiences and now I would like to update you on my experiences!

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For the most part, teaching pregnant has been great. It feels good to move around all day. At this point, neither sitting nor standing is comfortable so dancing feels good!

What I was most worried about was getting up and down off the floor so many times in a day. If I only taught one class a day it would be totally fine, but 6 classes a day, up and down was getting really hard! I still get up and down sometimes, there’s really no way around it when your students only come up to your knee. :) But, it’s minimized because I have started teaching warm-ups on the exercise ball! Have you tried it? It really, really helps!

When I first had the idea I thought maybe the littles would get distracted by it, but I don’t think they even notice it that much. When I asked them if it would be OK to teach from the ball, they were all for it. What they are starting to notice though, is my belly! Ha! :)

They want to touch it, and see it. And ask me really funny questions like “Miss Maria, is your baby tickling you?” and “Miss Maria, did you know that I have a baby in my belly too?” It’s the best!

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I am feeling a bit sad that I won’t be teaching for a little bit but I will be back in no time! I still plan to blog a little bit, and I plan to set up this new series to start at the beginning of the 2015!

Are there any topics you would like to hear about that I haven’t covered on the blog? I would love to set them up, so let me know!

As always, thanks for reading and I can’t wait to introduce you to our little one! xoxo

Follow The Leader + Flocking

IMG_5604A few weeks ago, I tried a follow the leader game with my 5 & 6 year old students and it was the most fun. I love doing partner dances with my older students and coming up with challenging ideas that might work and get them thinking. Here’s what we did:

First I partnered them up and had them do follow the leader across the floor. Once one partner had a turn, they switched and gave the other person. We talked about movement that might work well for follow the leader. Turns, don’t work so well, but arms, legs and going down to the ground does. I tried to encourage them to do more then one movement across the floor to challenge their partner and so we don’t get board.

After we did it in partners, I asked who was feeling brave enough to try to be the leader of the whole class? Of course, many of them volunteered, so I gave many of them a turn. I tried to set them up in a V formation so they could all see what the leader was doing. It turned into flocking, right away. It was the coolest!

They love to do turns, but I tried to give them other ideas to think about. I think this is an exercise you can bring back all through out the year, especially if you have a particular class that needs to focus, and fast! :) I did the lesson 2 weeks in a row, so it gave it a chance to “sink in.”

Have you ever tried follow the leader and/or flocking? I am surprised I have never tried this before! I’m excited to now have it a part of my tool box! :)