What my students teach me

The one thing that can solve most of our problems is dancing – James Brown

One of the kids I teach came into class late last week. She wasn’t quite herself as she went to put her shoes on and as I normally do I said lightly “how’s it going?”

She avoided eye contact but her eyes were brimming with tears and she just said with her voice breaking “I don’t know I just feel sad today”.

All the other kids were listening and so I just said well let’s get your shoes on and dance it away.

She took a few moments to relax into the class, but then she was asking questions and trying to do the harder versions of the steps and showing me when she could do it.

At the end of the class as she was walking out I asked if she felt any better now and with a big smile she said “a lot better!”

I don’t know what happened that morning – she might have had a fight with her sister, or she might have been upset with herself for being late, or she was simply having a bad day. What I do know was giving her the space to dance and to breathe and to express herself was all she needed to find herself again and turn her day around. I had arrived into class so tired that day and wishing for a moment I was still in bed. I left feeling grateful for the opportunity to share my experience with these wonderful little people, inspired to continue to work hard to better myself as a dancer and a teacher and just simply feeling ALIVE.


If you can walk, you can tap.

Since September, I’ve been teaching a new group of kids in Ozanam House, all under the age of 11. We’ve been working on some jazz, some musical theatre, and some ballet. As expected, there were some kids who were natural dancers, some kids who went home each week and practised really hard and came back fighting, and some kids who loved coming to dance class just to see their friends.

5 weeks ago, we started tap class. Most of the kids had never seen tap shoes before, and so when they put them on for the first time, I let them loose. They could do whatever they wanted. The smiles on their faces were totally worth the 5 minutes of mayhem that followed. Their smiles said “I can make as much noise as I want???” What followed was a beautiful disorganised crazy cacophony of sounds as they explored what taps felt like.

Now that we’re on week five, they all know what a flap is, and a shuffle and a cramp roll. They can clap to 8 and (mostly) stay in time. And the children that hadn’t much of an interest in actually dancing in dance class all of a sudden are some of the most natural tappers in the room.

Ozanam House is not a stage school – it is a place for children in the community to come and enjoy themselves with their friends on Saturday mornings and learn something new. So how is it that children with very minimal dance experience have taken to tap dance so well?

For me, it proves what viagrasansordonnancefr.com Buster Brown used to say “if you can walk, you can tap.” Tap is the every-man’s dance; you don’t even need special shoes if you’re really old-school! A dance that’s based on improvisation, individuality, style and stealing steps means that there is never a mistake in tap. One of the best pieces of advice I ever got as a tap-dancer was from Heather Cornell. She said if you make a mistake, do it again. And then do it again until it becomes part of the music. This is something I go back to time and time again – our mistakes are what make us human, they are what make us original as dancers. For a six year old child, tap-dancing is like noisy walking. For someone like me, who has tapped for over 20 years, tap is as natural as walking. The challenge arises in the middle, when we worry about what we sound like and who is watching, and instead of embracing our mistakes as lessons, just answer “oh, I can’t dance.” I say yes you can. I say episode choose your story hack own your mistakes. I say if you can walk, you can tap.