I had the privilege of spending some time on the phone with my teacher, Barbara Swanson, earlier today, and the observation was made that teachers don’t have a system for teaching tap the way that they used to have. When I was learning, Barbara made sure to take us through a natural progression from single to double to triple sounds, to make sure that weight transfer was correct and that we weren’t faking our way through our tap terminology.

Now, it seems as if the students (and their parents) are so intent on seeing results that teachers are sacrificing the learning process in order to “wow” everyone with flashy steps at a young age. The problem with this is what we see at so many competitions today – the quality of movement, the lack of tone, and the gaps in a dancer’s education are all dreadful.

My approach has always been to have a loose syllabus that allows for plenty of flexibility, but underlying my teaching there has been that same progression from simple to complex.

In ballet, we wouldn’t dream of teaching a fouette turn without first ensuring that a student understood the mechanics of a proper double pirouette. So why would we teach a paradiddle before we taught a dig? A time step before a flap? Just doesn’t make sense to me.

What are your thoughts? How do you approach your classes? I’d love to hear everyone’s take on the state of affairs!

Pirouettes and paradiddles,