ATS® Teacher Training

In a previous post I’ve written about ATS® General Skills, which is a pre-requisite to take Teacher Training. Usually they suggest you do General Skills first, go back home, take some time to get the moves into your muscle memory, then come back. This is adviced even if you’ve been dancing ATS® for a while, simply because it *is* entirely possible that you’ve learnt a move in a way that is slightly different from the “official cannon”, and it’s a good idea to get those kinks ironed out of your dancing before Teacher Training. Even if your technique is solid, it is very likely that you will pick up new nuances in the moves and combos, and again, it’s a good idea to incorporate these before Teacher Training. But not everybody can do this separation. Personally, I am glad I did; my initial plan was to do GS in the UK and attend the Teacher Training that would take place in Budapest in March 2018. Megha’s visit to Europe this year has been suspended, so I’m glad I went out of my comfort zone and did the training last year.

The format is more or less established. You will get a booklet with extra training before the event. You will be expected to be familiar enough with the contents of this booklet. There will be suggestions of bibliography in it, but basically, you are expected to have:

  • some basic idea of anatomy as related to dance; there’s no prescribed book for this, but if you look in the FCBD®’s website, there are a few listed.
  • Some familiarity with movement theory: Carolena prefers Delsarte, I’m more of a Laban person as one of my teachers uses Laban’s Choreology principles in her teaching; but basically, the idea of this is to give you further tools to describe movement to your students
  • knowledge of every single movement from ATS® Classic and Modern; the note I got before GS said “verbatim”; and although you are not expected to repeat word by word what’s on the DVDs or PowWow lessons, it helps to be familiar with the descriptions used in those so you don’t add your own “flavour” to the steps

Something not required, but a good idea to have regardless, is some basic training into voice projection, and some practice on your diction, so your voice travels well and you are clearly understood when you are evaluated. It is also a good idea to do these two days wearing as close to prescribed class attire as possible: choli (or choli dresses), skirts lifted in ostrich tuck to enhance your hip movements and show your legs and feet, and hair up to leave your neck and back clearly visible. You will not get penalised if you are not presenting yourself in this manner, but it’s likely that you will hear something during feedback, and considering you have limited time to get feedback from the teachers, it’s better to spend that time with information that will improve your performance, and not being told that your skirt was obscuring your legs.

Teacher Training takes place over two days. You will get a lecture during the first morning, then the evaluations will start. You will be divided into several “virtual classrooms” with fellow trainees. You will be assigned a step, either randomly or by choice from a small stack of cards. When it’s your turn, you will teach your step from scratch to your fellow trainees. You will have to assume they have as little previous instruction as possible, but if you’re asked to teach a level 2 move, you can assume the students know all the level 1 moves. You will have about 8 minutes in all to demonstrate, explain, drill, correct, and answer questions.

During your teaching period, the teachers evaluating (Carolena, Megha, Philippa, Jesse, etc) will be walking around the virtual classrooms, listening to you, and taking notes not just on your delivery, but your tone of voice, command of the classroom, engagement of your fellow students, and yes, your technique too. After your time is up, you will have a period with your group to get feedback from them, to see what work and what didn’t, what they wished they saw more, or what you would have said, and sometimes if they saw something they didn’t quite like or understood. After this, you will all sit, and group by group, you will listen to the feedback they gave the “teacher”, and then the actual teachers will give you their feedback. It is a *very* good idea to listen to the feedback people get before you, and plan to adjust your delivery; if you’re especially lucky, you will hear someone else getting the critique for the same step you will be teaching, which is invaluable.

You won’t get a mark, just told whether you passed or not, but it is a very good idea to take into account ALL you’ve heard during your training and before you start class. One more thing that I would strongly recommend is, if you haven’t got the information through other channels, either to take a good course on safe delivery of dance classes, or at least invest in a few books and read them before attending Teacher Training. You will not be expected to pronounce “sternocleidomastoid” or “gastrocnemius”, and you might even be disuaded from using muscle names if you are clearly not familiar with them, but having a good idea of where movements originate, how they work in general, and how to structure a dance class safely is invaluable, particularly if you will be working with hobbyist dancers who might lack proper dance conditioning or awareness. A book I thoroughly recommend is Safe Dance Practice, by Edel Quin. I am currently reading it, and will write about it once I’ve finished it.

Overall, just don’t expect to do Teacher Training and come out knowing it all; this is not how these things work. Instead, expect GS and TT to be the first steps towards deepening your understanding of the format.

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