I, too appreciate good eye contact. If I am lost in a set, it probably
shows in my eyes--and I am exceedingly grateful for meaningful glances or a
hand held out a trifle early for a turn (accompanied by a smile).
When I am teaching, particularly coaching for performances, I stress the use
of body language and eye contact first before speech because dancing is a
team effort. We work a lot on mistakes, not only on how the person making
the mistake should deal with it, but how the rest of the set should respond.
If body language is insufficient to correct the mistake, I ask that one
person only should speak--how can a dancer possibly hear two or more sets of
There is one exercise I particularly like for advanced dancers, to build
teamwork and to remind dancers of what it was like to be a beginner and
confused. I make up an easy dance and let only the top couple know what to
do. Everyone else has to pay attention and respond to body and facial
cues--no talking allowed.
I have made some observations regarding the maturing of dancers, and wonder
if anyone else notices the same or similar:
It seems to me that enthusiastic dancers often pass through identifiable
stages of maturity as dancers: as beginners, they are attentive and
studious and willing to work hard--they take direction. Their smiles when
they "get it" are infectious.
Then comes early intermediate dancers. They've learned the rhythm of the
pas-de-basque, they understand that the skip change starts with a hop, and
they want to share their knowledge. These typically are the well meaning
but high maintenance students who will speak over the teacher to coach a
newbie, and are the ones most likely to push people into place. They do not
notice their own imperfections. The challenge as teachers is to keep the
enthusiasm but redirect their efforts from assisting everyone into improving
their own dancing. These dancers rarely take direction well, but often give
it to any and all.
It is tough to move out of this adolescent-like stage of dancing. Keeping
quiet when you see how improvement could happen is very difficult,
especially for some teachers who are dancing as a member of a set rather
than as a teacher.
If the dancers can be moved beyond the middle stage (some never can and some
do skip it entirely), they become mature dancers--those dancers who are fun
to have in a set, whether their footwork is technically superior or not.
They know how to enjoy themselves and even more, know how to help others
have fun. They are not judgmental, and take direction, which rarely needs
to be given.