The three most important communication tools we use when we teach a dance are our words, our voice and our body. Yes, I said BODY! However, many instructors become so focused on reviewing the dance and thinking about HOW they are going to teach the steps (the WORDS) that they don’t always think about their VOICE and how they use their BODY language to communicate their message.
Depending on the source you read, only 7% of your message is communicated via your WORDS. I know – that’s ridiculous, right? And what’s even more jolting is that around 37% is about your VOICE and 55% is about your BODY – or at least how your body “shows up” during the teach.
The VOICE bit is all about the speed, volume, pitch and tone of your voice. There’s enough here for another entire blog. Watch for that! So, focusing on the BODY component, here’s my top FIVE tips for teaching effectively using positive body language. Check out the pneumonic SOLERA below!
S = Stand tall. Even though your knees might be trembling because it’s your first teach of a dance OR there’s a tricky step coming up. GULP! Watch your posture. Good posture reflects a confident demeanor to others. Stand straight, with your shoulders back and head held high – you’ll look self-assured and poised.
O = Open your body. Use open body language to engage your class. Practice using open gestures and mirroring the expressions and movements of your dancers. Face the class whenever possible. And watch your arms! Resist arm crossing and hold your arms at around waist height versus hanging them at your side.
L = Lean in. Step toward or lean into your class on one foot when you are trying to make an important point. Change positions! Move from “centre” stage - your “teaching spot” - to the right or left to connect and engage with dancers on the “sidelines”. Leaning or stepping toward them helps them to feel included!
E = Embrace eye contact. Appropriately, of course! Look directly at a dancer’s eyes for at least 3 seconds and then glance to another person. Don’t stare! Eye contact imparts a sense of intimacy and confidence to your interactions, and makes the dancers feel more positive and connected to you. And remember to look at everyone…not just the people you know or the dancers directly in front of you!
R = Resist fidgeting. Stop clutching that step sheet, twirling your hair, or biting your nails – they are obvious signs of anxiety and nervousness. Acknowledge your nerves! It’s normal to be nervous. And remember that these nervous movements draw attention away from what you're saying and distract people from your message. Avoid touching your face or neck, which also indicates you feel anxious. Fidgeting sends the message loud and clear that you aren't self-assured.
A = Adopt an accepting facial expression. Smile! It not only makes you more attractive and trustworthy, it also improves your stress level and your feelings about yourself. It helps you to relax. And nod your head when listening to a dancers question or comment. It suggests that you are actively listening with the intent to understand exactly what they are saying. This along with focused eye contact (see ‘E’ above) will help you to build a connection with your dancers!
Using positive body language makes you a better communicator! And teaching is all about communication. When you are confident in your body language you're sending messages to your brain to reinforce positive, confident feelings. And showing up with confidence is an instant SUCCESS, right?!
What have YOU learned about how to use your BODY effectively when teaching line dance? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your TOP TIP. I look forward to learning from you too!
If you want to learn more about positive body language check out any video or book you can track d0wn by Amy Cuddy OR Mark Bowden.