This series is a part of the Creating With Kids Interview Project! I have set out to interview 52 dance teachers working with young children everyday. By doing this project, I have learned that you are all amazing, hard working, creative and inspiring! I hope you enjoy the interviews and can take something special away from each one. A look inside a dance teacher’s class, is a look inside a dance teacher’s heart. -Maria
Introducing Stephanie Greeves…
Stephanie describes herself as a mommy of three girls, dancer, dance teacher, friend, nurse, therapist, hug-giver, shoe-tieing expert, lover of music, and owner of a dance studio! She teaches ages 18 months through adult in preschools and at her dance Studio, Center Stage Dance Company, in Virginia Beach.
Stephanie has a degree in Elementary Education with a minor in Special Education and Dance. Her master’s degree is also in Elementary education. As far as dance goes, she completed a teacher training program and interned for over 100 hours and her studio growing up was very supportive!
Maria: Paint us a picture of your typical teaching day?
Stephanie: A typical teaching day for me is an hour after lunch at the local preschools teaching a class of 10 ballet and tap in a designated classroom. I then return to the studio to teach our “Mommy and Me” dancers (ages 18 months-3),followed by a combo of tap and ballet to 3-4 year olds. That backs up to other combo classes of students in ascending age groups. Some days my evenings are spent teaching hip hop and Zumba, too!
Maria: In a few sentences, describe your teaching philosophy.
Stephanie: My philosophy is that I want children to love dancing. If we teach them to love to dance, the technique and the terminology will be so simple for them. I want dance class to be THE best hour of their week! I can remember being so sad when dance class was over when I was young. I want to make sure the children wish they could stay longer!
Maria: If I came to observe you teach today, what is the first quality I would notice about you as a teacher?
Stephanie: My enthusiasm. The students sometimes confuse this with me being completely wacky!
Maria: You told me you have a partnership with your local recreational center. Can you tell us more about that?
Stephanie: We have a special partnership with our local recreation center…they offer a program for adults with special needs where they learn different styles of dance. It was an honor to be a part of that program by having the students come join us at the studio for special lessons. This opened the door for those students to cross over to our studio and take classes with us.
This is a great experience for both the adults and our students. We sometimes invite the adults to join our regularly scheduled hip hop classes of the children in the 8-12 age range. We find it particularly rewarding for both groups! At first we were worried that the children would be overwhelmed and the adults would be too nervous around the ‘pros’! However, that was not the case. The children cheer for the adults, the adults cheer for the children. The children get a chance to be a leader and show others how to do a step and the adults get help from the little ones. In our show, the children and special adults performed a routine and the crowd loved it! They stole the show!!
We have since added an adaptive creative movement for children with special needs. It is on our schedule for 2014!
Maria: What are 2 things you love about teaching, and one thing you don’t like very much at all.
Stephanie: I LOVE watching a dancer finally “get it”. The look on their face when they know they’ve mastered a step is priceless. I also love seeing the end product on the stage, knowing how many hours went into the process….definitely a proud moment for any teacher. The thing I don’t love is excuses. I have heard it all! Excuses about why I couldn’t dance last week, or why I can’t find my shoe, or why I have to stop dancing. I don’t love excuses, however, I do appreciate the creativity of excuses! Honesty always wins!
Maria: What surprises you the most about teaching dance to young children?
Stephanie: It surprises me how much young children can remember. Repetition is huge in my dance classes, so it’s not TOO surprising that they remember terminology after just two or three weeks. We sometimes don’t give the little ones enough credit!
Maria: If you were going to speak to a group of aspiring creative dance teachers, what would you tell them?
Stephanie: Never stop learning and don’t get in a rut. There are so many valuable resources available out there. I try to switch up my lessons every week, while still presenting the same material in a familiar way. You don’t want a student to get bored and kids will certainly tell you if they are!
Maria: Share with us one teaching moment that you will never forget.
Stephanie: I will never forget the time when a young student (in the middle of center floor ballet lesson) ran from her spot to hug me and said “Ms. Stephanie I want to be just like you when I grow up!” Yep. That did it for me. I knew I was making a difference in those little ballerinas!
Maria: Teachers of young children need a pocket full of management techniques and tricks to keep things on track. What is one trick in your pocket that almost never fails?
Stephanie: If i’m losing control of a class, I like to say “if you can hear me, put your finger on your ear, If you can hear me put your finger on your nose”….I continue saying it with a different ending position until all students have joined in.
Maria: Since teachers continue to learn too, what is one teaching goal that you are working towards?
Stephanie: I am working towards pushing my students. For many years, I had the mindset of “oh…they are too young to learn XYZ, and I would not even attempt it. Now, I realize thatI can present it to a group of dancers, pay close attention, then modify the lesson. For example, I have never taught brush-back-step in tap to my three year olds. Just this year I did that, and they are rock stars at it! You have to give them the opportunity to try it before you decide it is too hard!
Maria: Share with us your most favorite creative dance lesson so we can all use it tomorrow. You know, Maria’s Movers style!
Stephanie: My favorite lesson involves rainbow scarves! I came up with this randomly during a class and went with it, and now it combines many ballet skills! Its called “Going to the Circus!” Music is to Richard Maddox’s “A Day at the Circus”. BUt you can use any music, of course!
I prepare the children by asking “Who has ever been to the circus?” “what do you see at the circus?” After lots of answers, I lead them by saying, Clowns, elephants, dancing girls, tightrope walkers, birds, etc. “We are going to go to the circus today!”
I start facing the children, they are in a straight line facing me. Each child receives a colored scarf. We start by doing por de bras while holding the scarf in one hand. We switch the scarf and repeat. It is much easier for me to say ‘the hand with the scarf” rather than “use your left hand”. We then add in floating arabesques. Where they sway from side to side with arabesques. I say, “okay its time to be a clown” they make a ball with the scarf and throw it up. I then add ” Saute” so they thrown the scarf while hopping each time. We change the movement to elephants, so the children use their scarf as a trunk. Then its time for the tightrope walkers! We walk around the room on releve practicing our ballet walks! Next we turn into dancing girls where we practice pique, passé, tendu, bourse turns, coupe, and anything else we have introduced. We often return to the clowns because they love throwing the scarf up in the air while chanting “sauté, sauté, sauté!” We practice a simple ponche, where they balance and they love it! The possibilities are endless!
As our finale, the girls hold their scarves and we take turns practicing our grande jetes! *just enough to introduce the movement, not looking for perfection. But once they get the idea about leaping from one leg to another, then you an add in corrections such as straighten your back leg, point your foot, etc! We do the jete line over and over until they are tired!!! Its always a crowd pleaser! If you really want to add more, I have the girls line up in rainbow order. Girls with red scarves, then orange, yellow, green….finishing out the rainbow. It helps them learn the order of a rainbow and eliminates the “I WANT TO GO FIRST!!!”
you can connect with Stephanie on her website. Thank you Stephanie for being a part of the project! This was the best advice: “You have to give them the opportunity to try it before you decide it is too hard!” Thank you for reminding us to try, try, try. 🙂