One step to the right, and spin around on your left foot, and here we are again!
Yup, here we are, right back at the start of in-depth and jumping right into it all, literally. This week was the real beginning, and a very big week for me. I had my first dance class! Well not my first ever, but let’s just say it’s been at least ten years since the last so, this was certainly a change. And can I start by saying that it was so much fun! I went in to the class unsure of what to expect and a little bit nervous, as you might expect. Nevertheless, I came out bounding with excitement and ready to move, which I will be doing a lot more of in the near future!
My class was at the Room to Move Dance and Fitness Centre in Port Coquitlam, and it was taught by my current mentor Bev Soh.
Fun fact: it turns out me and Elyssa were taught by “Mme Soh” as a TOC in our grade seven class! Further, she even taught us some dance in PE! It was very funny when we all realized where we had seen each other before when we were introducing ourselves before the start of the class.
One of the things that I found really helpful in making my first class so enjoyable was the people I was with. First off, being with a few of my friends was certainly a factor that allowed me to be more comfortable. As I mentioned earlier, in my first post, I am doing this project somewhat alongside my fellow learners Alyssa and Elyssa, I know, the pair of names is great right? None of us have done any dance in very recent history, at least to my knowledge, and so we are all kind of “in the same boat” on this adventure. After just this first experience I can tell that having these two other people to talk to for feedback and support is going to be very useful throughout the project, and also make it a lot of fun!
Additionally, Mira, also in our TALONS class, is also in our hip hop class! However, she is not doing dance for her in-depth project but rather just takes this class from time to time with her mom. She was actually the one who recommended us to this class and teacher, and let me just say, it was a very good recommendation.
At this point, Bev is my main mentor. At the conclusion of these classes, or possibly earlier, I will begin to work with another mentor who will help me for the remainder of the project in achieving my goals. I am hoping to really look for someone in the next couple of weeks to be my next mentor. With any luck I’ll have them by my next post! Nonetheless, for the time being I am in the hands of a very talented and experienced dancer herself, and that is our Hip Hop class teacher, Bev Soh.
To speak to some of the topics discussed in this week’s introduction to mentorship skills and the background of our in-depth mentor, Bev has a wealth of knowledge spurring from many different experiences that have led her to be the skilled dancer and teacher she is now. She started out with a bachelor’s degree in Art and Education at SFU. From there she has gone on to become a dancer in the BC Lions Felions Dance Team, and danced at the 2008 Grey Cup in Montreal. Another notable achievement was dancing at the Closing Ceremonies of the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. Bev has experience in many different dance areas too, so her skills and expertise go well above just the basics. She has also been a part of many other dance groups and become an experienced dance teacher, adjudicator, and choreographer over the years as well. You can find more information on her background on her personal website here. Finally, as I mentioned earlier in this post that I was actually taught by her as a substitute teacher, she has experience teaching young students and in a classroom and learning environment. Although this isn’t the same as teaching a dance class, it can be very similar, and many of the skills that help her be an outgoing and involved substitute teacher also help her be a successful teacher to newcomers to her passion.
Most importantly, that’s what it is, her passion. Dance is something that she has obviously worked her whole life for and it shows in the work that she does. Though we did not directly talk to Bev about what these experiences were like for her, as we are only taking her class, you can tell that they have all made her the amazing dancer she is now and built on something she loves doing. You can see in the way that she teaches the class, even to a first-time-beginner like myself, that she is having fun! That is the most important thing, in dance and in anything, you have fun! That is probably the biggest piece of ‘wisdom’ I have learnt from Bev so far. By extension, having fun allows you to let loose more in your dance and just go for it, because it’s not so much about what other people think, it’s about what you think, and feel, and that is what makes it look good. Mind you, I should add that I have also started to learn the difficult skill of body rolling, which I struggled with a little in middle school, to say the least. We had to follow a dance to a song that we found online for a presentation in PE in grade 8, and lets just say my body roll wasn’t the most pleasing to the eye. So we’re off to a good start with the dance there too!
Some of the things I have learnt so far from Bev in terms of how to be a good mentor and facilitating learners also involve having fun and also being positive and energetic in what you do. Some of the first things I noticed about Bev were that she was very kind, friendly, and welcoming. I was kind of expecting such an experienced dancer to be more formal and expecting of us per say, but Bev was very open and supportive to everyone in the group. Because of her energy and positive attitude, it became a very casual atmosphere which really helped me feel comfortable in trying all these new moves and steps, and dance in general. She also treated everyone like she’d known them for a long time and also like we all knew the space well and had been there before, casually saying we could all grab a chair to get started on the choreography. Though this may seem a little too informal, it actually kind of makes you feel that way about yourself, that you know her and should feel comfortable with her and also everyone there. It plays with your mind. This is a really important skill when working with other people and when mentoring people who may be uncomfortable or unsure of themselves and what they are doing.
Further, I noticed that she always had an eye out for people in the class who needed some extra help on a move, and she gave extra instruction and support when it was needed. For example, when we started on the body rolls, and I think she noticed I was giggling a bit in a little self-conscious and nervous state, she spent an extra minute or so explaining how they work, recognizing that I hadn’t really done them before, or at least, didn’t know how. I must say also that her skill in looking out for everyone is quite remarkable in this setting as we are a group of about 10 in a room and she is facing away from us. She can see us all in the mirror at the front of the room but she is also dancing at the same time to lead us. It’s quite a talent!
Something else that really helped me in my first outing, was how she started. Once we were all in the room and had finished introducing ourselves with our names. She cranked up some music and started our warm up, shouting out to make sure we were spaced and to just follow along. This impromptu style made it a lot easier for me because otherwise I would have been very nervous and shy to start. It could have taken me a long time to get going, but this just forced me into it without giving me time to think.
These are all some great skills that I think I can take forward to help me if I ever become a mentor for someone or am ever helping someone in the future in general. They are also some great techniques in terms of facilitating all the learners in a group.
Well it certainly was a great start to my project this week. Thanks to some efficient mentoring and teaching, we were able to get a little ahead in learning the choreography to the song Confident that you can look forward to seeing a video of at the end of these classes! I also hope to get some small practice clips of myself up soon.
I hope next brings just as much excitement and I’ll be ready to slide in to the next move!