Archive for the ‘Instructing’ Category

Sorry for the long dormant period of this blog! School has been demanding, what can I say? 🙂  But I will be trying to get some more posts in.

This is for those dancers that have trouble dancing “passionately”. Your dance instructors keep telling you that you lack passion, but how do you obtain it?

I used to have this problem with playing piano. Sure, I did a good job and I played all the notes correctly and in time and even added in some great dynamics, but my teacher said that I was a little robotic. I couldn’t help it; it was just how I played.

How did I fix it? It all changed in one day. I decided that I’d practice for a long time, and I sat at the piano for about two hours straight practicing just one song. This was the day that I began actually loving the piano; before this, I played but I couldn’t say that I loved playing. I might have been good at it, but being good at something and loving it are two completely different things.

One concept of passion is loving what you do. I know, I know–you love to dance but you still lack the passion that your instructor wants. Maybe the problem is that you’re tricking your mind; I know several people on my drill team who said they loved being on drill, but I knew that they did not love it in their hearts because of their horrible practicing habits. If you love to do something, pratice is a reward rather than an arduous task. I used to hate practicing piano; if this was true, how could I love playing? After the day that I practiced for two hours straight, I was completely changed. From this day, I began practicing all the time. Now that my school schedule is so demanding, I have barely anytime to practice and any time that I do have is spent practicing. I love practicing.

One quote that my music teacher told me comes from a famous musician (I forget who): I never practice; I always play.

I think this quote enforces that “practice” should be just as fun as playing. So many people find practice as something that’s unfavorable. Attributing practice with the term “play” has changed the whole aura of the word. Practice suddenly becomes fun.

The steps to developing passion:

1. Begin to LOVE practicing
How do you do this? I say to do it the way I did. Spend at least two hours practicing one dance, and you will be completely changed. And spending two hours at a dance lesson does not constitute practicing. Go home, and set two hours just for practicing–no breaks. You may be surprised at how much you change at the end.

2. Practice like you perform
Put lots of energy into your practice. Lots of people love performing but hate praticing. If this is so, then perform everytime you practice!

3. Love & be moved by the music
A large aspect of dancing is the music. When playing music, in order to play passionately you need to become moved by the music. Same goes for dance.

Remember, passion is about loving what you do. You know how you can just tell in someone’s face what mood that person is in? A smile indicates happiness; a frown indicates sadness. Well, passion is similar, but harder to describe. It’s not just a smile or a frown, it’s an aura and a feeling. Music can make you feel a certain way just because of the aura that it brings; a passionate dancer does the same. Someone can look at you and decide if you’re passionate or not just like someone can look at you and decide your mood. When I watch a passionate dancer, I feel moved and engulfed in the dance. It’s a very hard thing to describe, but when you have it, you know it. First thing–begin to love practicing.


I know I write about consistent schedules a lot, and I can’t stress how important it is!

Lots of dancers never have time for anything, and this is a somewhat true statement. Mostly the problem with scheduling is in high school, where it can sometimes be hard to find places to practice all the time (though this is only an excuse to not have practice–read Finding Places to Practice). With a consistent schedule, this won’t be the case. The reason that dancers don’t have the time for anything is because of inconsistency in their schedules. Dancers have problems finding jobs when they don’t know when they’re busy with dance! You can’t tell your manager that you are sometimes busy Mondays-Saturdays. Dancers also have hard times joining organizations as there is never a clear indication of when exactly they are busy. If you have an inconsistent schedule, you can never know if you’ll be able to make the club meetings after school on Monday. Why not keep your schedules consistent? Jobs and school are mostly consistent, right? Imagine your school starting at different times everyday, and your job also starting at different times everyday. It just doesn’t work out that way. When a dance schedule is inconsistent, there is almost no time for other activities besides school. I strongly encourage your team to keep a consistent schedule! It makes life so much easier.

If you do change to a consistent schedule (which I hope you do!), tell me about it! Leave a comment! Trust me, it will change your life, and you and your team will be much less stressed.

When you create the routine, you need to make sure that it’s challenging, interesting, appealing to the audience, etc. That’s the obvious. You also have to make sure that it is capable of being 98% perfect.

A difficult routine is great, but a difficult routine performed poorly is just as bad as a boring routine. Challenge yourselfs with a difficult routine and make it as perfect as possible. Of course there is no such thing as 100% perfection, but if you want to succeed in competitions, you’re going to need at least 90% perfection. If this is just not happening for your team, maybe it’s because the routine is too difficult! Maybe the counts are too fast, the moves are too far apart to transition to, the music is too fast, etc. Simplify it and make the work easier on the team. If you’ve read my other articles on choreography, you should know that you yourself must be capable of performing the routine with the music first. Sometimes people will create moves that they themselves can’t even do! Practice first. Teachers don’t teach things that they don’t know; likewise, you shouldn’t be teaching a routine that you have not practiced and perfected. Make sure 90% perfection is possible.

As for the routine itself, one way to make it fun, new, and interesting is to add your team member’s creativity to it. They can contribute to the choreography and make your life as a captain easier! In the end, make sure anyone who creates a section of the choreography gets credit for it in some way! After all, if you don’t credit this person, you’ve basically took credit for her work. You’ve learned this lesson at school already. Don’t plagiarize.

The main reason choreography is so hard to perfect is because it is created without consideration to the pace of the music and the plausibility of the moves. Of course it’s okay to first start off slow and speed the counts up to the music, but the instructor’s responsibility is to perfect the choreography before she teaches it. If you can’t do it, no one else can. Make sure you can do it, and make sure there are no extremely difficult, based-on-chance moves. These could be cartwheels or other risky moves. It usually leads to sloppiness anyway. Don’t add something to the routine unless you’re sure that everyone is capable of perfecting it (including yourself!).

Though I say to not add something that can’t be perfected, I don’t mean to make the routine boring and easy. Challenges are good, but extremely risky challenges like head-spinning just won’t work, unless everyone can do it. Make your routine as creative as possible, with unique transitions and a bit of everyone’s creativity in it.

Happy choreographing )

Trying to get everyone to practice is tough! Drillers have their own lives outside of school and sometimes can’t work around the schedule. Don’t you wish you could freeze time? )

So in the case that you can’t freeze time, what can you do to get everyone to practice? Working with missing members is difficult, so here are some ways to work around this.

Remember, if you are a captain, your responsibility is to accomodate team members and work with them. You’re not better than them. You’re just leading them, and in order for this to happen, they must be able to attend!

Vote on practices. Ask your team members what the best days for practice are. Usually Sundays are already eliminated because many people have religious affiliations. But some people are busy every Wednesday with other important things. You can’t stop them; these people have their own lives and drill should not interfere! Voting will eliminate skipping practices for periodic events, like meetings, Church, whatever people do. This allows team members to speak up for when they cannot be here. Remember: work with your team members. Instead of scolding them when they aren’t here, create a schedule that will allow them to be here. It’s simple as that.

Keep practices consistent. Don’t make the schedule random. After you’ve voted and found out which days are okay for practice, find out which days you will practice. This should be a periodic schedule, like Every Monday to Thursday from 2:30 to 4:30 PM. Something like that. This way there are no random practices on days that people are busy. In additional, members will have a chance to join clubs and be involved in the school in other ways; in this example, Fridays are always free, so members can join clubs that are on Fridays.

No surprise practices. This goes with keeping practices consistent. Don’t expect everyone to be at practice if you alert them the day before! Preferably, practices should be scheduled one month in advance. Two weeks is good enough, but it’s the bare minimum. The earlier they know about practices, the more time they have to alert you about times that they cannot be here; consequently, you will have more time to reschedule or cancel and keep everyone at practice.

If an extra practice is necessary, VOTE! Again, it’s not a team member’s fault if she can’t be there. This way you know who can make it.

NEVER schedule before asking/voting. This is probably the biggest planning mistake there is, but people do it all the time! Just ask yourself why you would schedule something when you know someone can’t make it? Without everyone, practice is almost a waste because one person is behind.

Be nice about it. If someone can’t make it, ask why (nicely!). If this is a plausible excuse, then it’s ok. Reschedule practice if there is time. Things like funerals or sickness come up unexpectedly. You can’t expect a member to alert you two weeks in advance about this. Also, some appointments can only be made during practice time. Clinics usually close early and are closed on Fridays. Just ask the member to explain and use your own reasoning to see if this is okay. Smile. If you’re angry about it, the then she will be also. This creates a negative team.
Make sure you show everyone the schedule. They can’t be here if they don’t know!

There is always someone that likes to be sick or have a headache every other day. In this case, you should talk with her. See if this is a plausible excuse or if she is simply trying to miss practice. Don’t be afraid to kick her off the team; besides, the reason she’s always “sick” is probably because she hates practice. These people pull your team behind.

Remember that bad scheduling leads to missing members and unproductive practices. Scolding your members for being absent leads to a negative team mood. So work with your team members to form a schedule!

My article about planning actual practice time might also be helpful.

Moved! has moved to

New articles will be added there. All the old articles from this site are there as well. Enjoy! )


A whole lot of time is spent at practice being unproductive because some people still don’t know the routine. And as a captain or even a team member, you start thinking, “why do they not know the routine? It’s been a month since they’ve learned it!” It’s a very good question, but there isn’t really an answer to it, other than the fact that they’re lazy, effortless, and don’t place drill on their priority list. But you can’t just kick them off the team–they’re important. You’re going to have to deal with it some way or another.

The main problem about someone not knowing the routine is that it brings the team down. You can’t really work on angles, formations, etc. so you’re forced to instead go over the routine (and waste time) or find another activity to do (conditioning, marching, etc.) that won’t really help your performance which is coming up in two weeks…

It’s extremely frustrating when practice after practice, these same people continue to not practice and not know the routine. You start wondering why on earth they were selected at the time of try-outs.

When I was on drill, the captains/coach always enforced the fact that we’re a “team” and have to do “teamwork” in order to be successful. Well, it’s true, but only to an extent. Of course you have to rely on each other have good angles, be sharp, perform well, etc., but another thing that annoyed me was the concept that if one person didn’t march the right way, the whole team would have to march again and again until everyone had it right. There was always the one person that didn’t point her toes, or the one person that decided to not keep her posture back, and even though I was doing it fine, I had to repeat it over and over again just because of the girl who didn’t point her toes, the girl that didn’t want to be sharp, etc. It really angered me and I am pretty sure that it angered every other person on the team. It just brought everyone’s mood down and I stopped caring completely after doing it the 5th time in a row. I mean, is this concept of “teamwork” really applicable? No. It’s important to work together in a team, but you shouldn’t punish everyone for one person’s errors. It’s just not right.

So, just because some people don’t know the routine, does that mean everyone should go to practice and waste their time going over the routine, for the millionth time in a row? No. Here’s my method of teaching a routine:

1. After choreographing, create packets for everyone (make sure you triple-check for errors)
These packets were very useful for me when I was learning the routine. They would have the count # and the moves next to it, indicating where marching started and stopped. Here’s an example of what I mean:
1 High v, in fists
2 Swirl arms down to low v (start high-knee marching)
3 W angle in fists
& T, in fists
4 Broken T, in blades (stop marching)

OK, so that wasn’t exactly a realistic routine, but I hope you get the idea. It’s really easy to forget the routine after it is taught, especially when a lot is taught in a day. Sometimes people will leave out entire 8-counts and it just leads to confusion. These packets are good references and you will never have a team member telling you “but…I forgot about that part”, “you didn’t answer your phone when I called for help”, etc. Just make sure they don’t lose their packet.

2. Set a time period for teaching the routine to the team
Some teams like to practice daily for an hour or two a day; others might like to practice for 3 hours a day two days a week. It all depends on how your team does it. For a normal, approximately 3 minute routine, I would say set a week to teach the routine. You don’t want to teach an overwhelming amount in one day, nor do you want to take a whole month to teach it. Make sure you give everyone a 5 minute break between a set of four 8-counts for them to think about what they’ve learned and catch up on it. If you’re talking the whole time, no one will have time to think about the previosu 8-count or the one before it, so make sure you close your mouth for a few minutes and just let them think about it and practice on their own for a bit. One time when I was being taught, the captain just kept going on and on to new sets of 8-counts. I just gave up midway through practice and decided I’d go home and learn it. I just didn’t care anymore. You don’t want anyone to just give up, so “thinking-breaks” would be helpful.

3. Leave a 1-week time space for team members to practice
Don’t schedule practices for one week. Take the stress off and enforce everyone to practice and take advantage of the time off.

4. Schedule one week for individual practices to evaluate team members
Create a sign-up sheet for evaluation sessions. Have five of these (one hour each) in one week. Divide your team up evenly (ex: 30 members on a team, divide this by five days so that you will evaluate six members per practice). Allow members to sign up whenever they wish, as long as it’s in the timeframe. During this practice, your job as a captain is to evaluate every team member on how well they know the routine. This has nothing to do with perfecting it. Knowledge is the first part–you can perfect the routine later. If the person knows the routine, she passes, and if not, she will fail. Don’t be too harsh, it’s a know-it or don’t thing; you don’t want everyone stressed out over this. Create a punishment for failing, like going to practices during the weekend or going to “fail” practices. This will be your time to punish those that didn’t know the routine, because it was their fault and they deserve to be punished rather than the team as a whole. Use this time to help them learn the routine so that you can start practices with the entire team to work on the next step–perfection.

And there you have it! One week to teach the routine, one week to rest, one week to evaluate. A three-week process. This might seem long, but if you think about it, it’s really not. Most captains make the mistake of teaching a routine in 1-2 weeks and going immediately into the perfection process. Though many team members are dedicated and spend time practicing, there are the ones who don’t. Running straight into the process of perfection is therefore only a waste of time, because the people that don’t know the routine can’t perfect what they’ve not yet learned. When you perform, the judges watch every single person on your team and you cannot risk having one person off. If one person doesn’t know the routine, she’ll never have time to perfect it and her bad angles/posture/etc. will catch a judge’s eye.

Sometimes even months after the routine is taught, people still don’t know the routine. I remember times when people hadn’t learned a routine until four months after being taught. So if you think about it, a three-week process with every single member knowing the routine is a pretty good deal. As a whole you will be able to move on and not have to practice formations with the girl in the back who doesn’t know the routine and is always in your way because she doesn’t know where to move. You have go step by step, and the first step is knowledge. Not just in most of the members, but every member. You need to surpass this step in order to move on.

Have fun teaching!