Teaching: the supreme art

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Damien Grima has been teaching for 14 years. He is now at Alegria Studios in Sydney.

Do you specialise in a particular age group?

I teach all ages, from six years old to full-timers. I love seeing the progression from when I teach them the fundamentals of dance all the way to them achieving their goals in dance. It’s extremely rewarding.

Has the coronavirus lockdown left you with lasting changes to the way you teach?

I’ve tried to look at this in a positive way. I’ve learnt to teach more with my words, describing the way things should feel rather than adjusting the students physically. I sometimes think that the students can gain more from figuring it out themselves rather than me adjusting them or demonstrating. It has also forced me to create new exercises that are stationary rather than travelling around the room. I still use these exercises as well as my regular ones in class.

How do you balance the importance of technique with the importance of artistry in your students?

I think that artistry in dance is extremely important. My exercises keep a balance between both. Some focus purely on technique while others are improvisation exercises. I give them restrictions in their movement so they have to find other ways to use their bodies. I also focus on them creating stories/themes through dance. I find that this changes their movement depending on the mood that they’re trying to portray. Anyone can be a technician, but making the audience feel something is hard. If the performer feels it, the audience will too.

What is the most rewarding part of teaching dance?

Watching the students achieve their goals and coming back to the studio to say hi after their contracts overseas. Its feels great to have helped make their dance dreams come true! It feels even better when they thank you and appreciate you for everything that you’ve done for them.

What advice would you give to your students if they decide on a teaching career?

You can’t just be a teacher. You have to be a mentor, a friend and an inspiration to the students. Students need nurturing and encouragement as well as discipline and structure. It’s hard at times to balance it all, but it’s totally worth it in the end. Helping people make their dance dreams come true is an extremely rewarding experience!

This article is included in our special Teacher Focus feature in the current Oct/Nov/Dec issue. Print is for keeps! Buy your copy from your favourite dance retailer or online here or here.

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