The editor at Dance Teacher magazine cut lots of information from my article on Denise Wall for lots of reasons – mostly because of space, especially after she asked for more information on Danny Tidwell – and I had to cut an immense amount of information simply to meet her word-count requirements. However, I wanted today to include one little bit of imagery from Denise that does not appear in my article, which is the featured article on this month’s (October) issue of Dance Teacher magazine.
Denise herself told me about this bit of imagery, as did two of her students…but the editors felt it was a bit “suggestive.” Well, maybe for girls, but I didn’t see it until she said it to me. As for boys, which is who we’re talking about, I think we can let that particular sexual reference go. Or I hope we can.
Anyway…Denise’s biggest “secret” to teaching dancers comes down to imagery. She finds imagery that works for each individual dancer to help them complete whatever dance move they are having difficulty completing. In this case, to help all her dancers improve their turn out in ballet class, she offered a visualization about a flower bud opening. Here’s how she told me about it:
“There’s this new thing I made up, and this is crazy! I tell them to imagine what a flower bud looks like opening up. I come behind them and put my hands between their legs and say, ‘Back here I have your flower bud.’ I push my hands through and open my hands to give them more turn out and say, ‘Imagine the flower bud opening.’ Then later during the class, they’ll be standing there, and I’ll just point to their legs and say, ‘Open up your flower,’ and they will turn out more. And they all freak out, because they weren’t trying to turn out more. But the imagery makes them turn out more.”
One of Denise’s students actually said that now during ballet class Denise only needs to say, “Flower!” and everyone’s turn out miraculously improves.
I share this not to prove the editors at Dance Teacher wrong (and maybe you’ll think they were right to exclude this visualization. I could see their point after they made if – if not before) but for this reason: If your son is having trouble with some aspect of dance, maybe you or someone else – his teacher can employ Denise’s imagery secret. Come up with an image that works for him.
I tried one of the others in my article with Julian (the one about the Achilles tendon and pointing the foot), and it didnt’ work for him. However, in tap, we talked to him about pretending he was playing soccer and getting over his knees like in soccer when he dribbles or juggles the ball, and that helped him.
It seems this is a very personal art, and Denise has it down. She is so good at it because she really knows her students. That doesn’t mean someone else can’t learn this art, and who knows these young male dancers better than their mothers? Anyway, give it it try.