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Learning the Soft Skills of Dance

I have been blessed to have seen the magic that dance wields. I have watched as stories were told through movement in 5 minutes or less. I have been moved to tears watching dancers exemplify my struggles or victories. I have experienced that a community rooted in service and dance can change hearts, inspire understanding, and encourage open dialogue. I do believe that we are all made out of love and it is love that we share and we seek when we create. Because I have seen it done, have experienced it for myself, I know that it is possible to co-create a Latin dance community that is loving, accepting, encouraging, unified, diverse, and authentic. I use the word “co-create” because no community rooted in collaboration and service is created by one person. It has taken quite a bit of soul searching and honoring the wealth of experience I have as a dance instructor and dancer to finally develop a model for how Aroha Latin Dance approaches teaching and learning. I humbly offer what I have learned to others and what I call “SOFT SKILLS”…

1. Learning dance is a process. You start with the simplest, foundation building steps and as students acquire a solid command of the basics they see their learning accelerate. 2. Build on prior knowledge. By emphasizing to students that they already know a certain skill removes the fear and mystery from expanding upon what they already know. 3. Establish language that speaks to the creator in students. “I am learning how to lead the cross body.” “I am following the cross body” Eliminating negative language eliminates negative thought and allows for a shift in the way students approach the process of learning. By stating ” I AM” students declare something to BE and dedicate themselves to the process that gets them there. 4. Have a solid curriculum and syllabus. Having a curriculum that a syllabus is based upon makes the teacher accountable, provides a clear path for learning, and is available to their students. Over the years I have developed dance curriculum and recently took on the Black Belt System developed by Edie “The SalsaFreak” for Salsa Instruction. Using a combination of my experience and education I create a syllabus for each level of learning in my dance classes. 5. Have guiding principles. The guiding principles of Aroha Latin Dance are Service and Love. – Service to one another as dancers and members of society is the greatest contribution a person can give. Service looks like collaboration, empathy, and a willingness to share of oneself as a contribution to the beauty of the dance. “To give real service you must add something which cannot be bought or measured with money, and that is sincerity and integrity.” –Douglas Adams – Love is the energy that holds the universe together. It is what creates and binds us. Because it is the essence that we all come from it only makes perfect sense that it is applied in our dance steps and connection. Love looks like patience, encouragement, truthfulness, and dedication by teachers and students alike to help each person reach their potential as a dancer. “Aroha is the creative force behind all dreams. Aroha defines great leadership, ensures personal success, and inspires us to go the extra mile. Aroha means Love.” – Makuini Ruth Tai 6. Be in a learning mode. By staying in a learning mode teachers are constantly improving and by extension their students are as well. Being in this state of mind changes mistakes into opportunities to learn and every question is welcome. As a teacher I learn something from my students every class. I have not taught every type of person in the world so each person who walks into my dance class is a challenge and opportunity to hone my skills as an instructor. 7. Etiquette and expectations of conduct. It is so helpful when everyone knows the rules. When everyone understands that their safety is considered. There are definitely behaviors that contribute to the enjoyment of everyone on the dance floor. By communicating etiquette, teaching how to apply etiquette, and holding students to the standards of etiquette creates a space where people know what to expect allowing them become open and creative. Over the years I have been honored that people chose to learn from me. It is a sacred space to teach and watch people connect to the part of them that creates. I have experienced such joy and a sense of rightness on this path.

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