Teaching's Not the Same as Tapping or Where Did My Sounds Go?


I'm sitting here writing this in my nerdy Atari pajamas and my "I'm not a morning person." (it's true) t-shirt after a 45 minute tap workout.  Faced with a gradual decline in my tap skills I figured it was time to take action.  But how did I get here in the first place?

First and foremost I teach less "live" classes than ever before and most of that time lately is cleaning routines.  When I tell people I'm a tap teacher they often comment how I must be in great shape.  Unfortunately that's not the case.  The longer I teach, the less I tap.  That's because I'm spending more and more time listening and correcting my students' feet instead of working on mine.  I'm not saying I don't tap at all, but my total actual tapping time for 18 "live" classes this week (some are a half hour, some an hour) was probably 1 hour.  That's it.  My focus is cleaning my students' formations, arms, and feet, not my own.  Teaching tap is not the same as tapping.

Then there is the age thing.  I'm certainly not getting any younger!  It's not just that though, it's the many, many years of tapping as hard as I could for many hours a week.  That takes a toll on your body.  Now I deal daily with back and toe problems that often hamper my ability to push myself when I want to.

Speaking of "when I want to" - there are so many things going on in life (father of 15 month old twins for one), it's rare that I practice because I want to (or have time).  That's kind of sad.  Don't get me wrong I'm not looking for pity here, I make my own decisions.  Unfortunately tapping for pleasure has fallen low on my to do list.  

But I don't take decline lying down!  Eventually, the urge to slip on the shoes and get my skills back up to snuff hits me like it did this morning in my pajamas.  It was both invigorating and sad (that my skills were so bad).  But most importantly, it was enlightening, in many ways.

Throughout my teaching career I have often gotten new students who were very good at the studio they came from, but who struggled with often simple things I had them do like dig toes or shuffle step.  Now I know why.  When you become advanced you rarely spend time doing dig toes and shuffle steps.  Instead you are working on the latest 5-count wing or 6-sound pullback.  But without doing those simple steps over and over, they get rusty.  Really rusty.  In fact I'm sweeping the rust off my practice floor right now.   

In addition to that, tapping slower is actually a skill.  It takes a different set of abilities to properly execute and time slower tap movements than fast ones.  If you doubt this have a reasonably advanced tapper do a simple step slow, not super slow, but slower than they normally would.  You might be amazed how many rhythmic or auditory inconsistencies you find.  They might be amazed too!

I've always taught a variety of tap classes from beginner to advanced.  Doing warm-ups in the beginner classes I did many many dig toes and shuffle steps (I often wonder how many shuffles I've done in my life...I think it has to at least be 50,000).  That was a big reason my feet were always sharp and clean.  Which brings me to a simple but iron-clad rule of tap dancing.

THERE IS NO SUBSTITUTE FOR REPETITION

I have many tricks to help my students (and me) get their sounds and make them clean but sometimes you just have to do a step a couple hundred times.  Which is what I did today.  In so doing, I caught myself trying to fix my feet with my ears.  What I mean by that is that I heard a problem like an early spank in a scuffle step (dig spank step) and I kept listening to it while trying to adjust my feet.  But my main focus was on listening to it not the actual adjustments I was making.  When I transfered a majority of my mental focus to the specific adjustment I was making (or needed to make) I had much more success.  This was enlightening and I'll be sure to pass it on to my students.  

Comments

  1. So excited to see some new entries on this blog! I also teach yoga and know what it's like to have your personal practice reduced because of the amount of time spent teaching!

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  2. Thanks for sharing. Sounds like you are in the same boat. How funny because if you told me you teach Yoga I would have assumed you do Yoga the entire class and people just follow - the exact same thing people assume about me when I tell them I teach tap!

    Rod

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  3. Hi Rod!
    Great that you do write your feelings, 'cause this helps on getting to understand 'the moment', the priorities, and so on... Yes, writing can be a wonderful therapy! : )
    After 15 years of marriage I had my daughter, my treasure, nevertheless, for many times I got a down feeling asking myself 'who am I'!? 'Will I, one day, be able to be MYSELF once again'? Truth is: yes, you will be able to have 'individual moments', but they will be quicker, different from before, 'cause you are a different person now, at a different time period of life.
    Now,that my daughter turned 5y.old, I am catching up my life from where it had 'paused', but... things have changed, yes, they have. Somethings are not so important anymore, some new stuff have crossed my way and some old, old passions have come to the fore. As a child I did not have the chance to attend ballet, tapping, jazz, piano, or any of these fun Kids' stuff.
    At 4y.old my daughter just fell in love with tapping, got crazy about buying the shoes and taking classes. While watching her Saturday classes so many things and feelings came through my mind, like a filmstrip... and, in a month or so, I was taken by an overwhelming passion for TAP DANCING!!!
    Here I am, starting a brand new 'something' in my life and in a very intense way, just like everythig else I did in my life, until 6 years ago :)
    So, my advice is, breath deep, don't allow your heart to feel hurt for more than 10min. per day and focus on the most important 'for the moment': taking care of your double blessing :) , getting rest periods 'whenever possible' and brushing your teeth once in a while!!! Hahahahah!
    Check the scene: your children tapping with you in 5 years from now! Wow! You will be so proud that everything else will be forgotten!
    Sorry if I wrote too much and with my kind of broken English, but I just felt I should and I am used to follow my very own heart rules, above all others!
    May 2013 be better than 2012. Health, Love and Wealth for you and your family.
    All the best from your newst friend, Julia Sáddi - Brazil
    my corner: http://www.paperdesignbyjuliabsb.blogspot.com.br/

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  4. Ooooops!
    Am I a little LATE with this comment? Hahahaha!
    6 months late or so!? Hahahaha!
    Anyway...
    All the best Rod,
    Julia Sáddi - Brazil

    p.s.: crazy about getting a Tap Floor into Brazil!!!! :)

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  5. Just happy to read this comment. I teach at a studio that does everything fast.....they start out teaching shuffles a1,a2 rhythm. The more advanced students can dance really fast but consequently can't do anything slowly..... so their clarity and proper technique suffers. they do not hear the beat because they were never taught in a progressive manner. Drives me crazy.
    How do teachers teach rhythm when they don't understand basic music theory and counting?
    And your comment on focusing on the adjustment you are making as opposed to listening is sooo true.
    Thanks for what you do

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