Make 'Em Laugh
During an across-the-floor exercise in a jazz class one day, I realized that all the students (7- to 9-year-olds) were leaping with their upper bodies slanting forward. One of the dancers was angling so far forward that her upper body was actually touching her front leg. I explained the correction, but the dancers repeated the combination with little improvement. Clearly, it was time to get creative.
I stopped the music and said, “Girls, the upper body is supposed to be straight during a leap, not leaning forward like this.” Attempting to look as ridiculous as possible, I hurtled myself through the air in an exaggerated leap, low to the ground, practically lying on my front leg. The girls started to giggle. I had their attention.
To drive my point home and keep them engaged in a fairly boring correction, I had them look in the mirror with their bodies facing the side. I instructed them to lean forward and say, “Wrong.” Then I asked them to stand up straight and say, “Right.” Then we did it again and again, each time increasing the speed. When we started moving as fast as we could, everyone looked so silly that the entire class burst into laughter.
Finally, with a completely serious expression, I said, “Sometimes if you yell loud enough, your body can hear you.” I told the dancers that when they were in the air, they should yell the word “Straight!” loud enough for their backs to hear. I also told them that while they were waiting for their turn they could help the people going across the floor by yelling, “Straight!”
Since I enforce a strict “no talking” policy, the dancers were delighted to be allowed to yell in the middle of class. Before we even started, one girl bent forward, shouted, “Straight!” and then stood up. “It works!” she exclaimed with delight.
I suppressed a smile and responded dramatically, “Oh, it works!” The dancers had a great time yelling “Straight!” as they soared across the floor. But the best part was that every dancer leaped with a perfectly straight back.
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