Behind the Curtain with Miranda Spada
Miranda Spada grew up dancing her entire life life, traveling an hour and a half away to train under her personal mentor Larraine Susa. She always knew that she had a passion for dance, and that it was meant to be her profession as she grew older. After graduating from the University at Buffalo and beginning her teaching journey, her heart was drawn toward mentoring young dancers, choreography, education. She found a passion for being in the classroom every day and working on herself alongside students. Pushing the dancers in front of her to be their absolute best in and out of the classroom was something she fell in love with.
Join me in getting Miranda's perscpective on how dance is more than just the steps learned in the classroom, or the performance put on at a recital! Below we'll take a deep dive into how the art of dance is more than meets the eye, and how every decision our dance teachers make can have a profound positive impact on a child.
Connecting Dance and Child Development:
Q: How do you see dance contributing to the overall development of children, both physically and mentally?
A: I recently made a statement while adjudicating a dance competition, explaining that we are special as dancers. We have a healthy, positive, and safe outlet to express ourselves, our feelings, and what we are going through. Physically dance provides an avenue to release emotions, express our individuality. We become confident in who we are and how we move. Mentally, dance provides children with the ability to positively focus on something that will develop not just their physical self but also their emotional self as well. Now more than ever, having safe places to be, move and explore is so important to developing children in all areas of their life.
Adapting to Different Age Groups:
Q: How do your teaching methods differ when working with children of different age groups, considering their developmental stages?
A: Being able to understand your classroom is imperative as any kind of teacher, and this is something I have been exploring more and more over the past few years. For most if not all of my teaching career I primarily worked with teenagers and older dancers who need need positive guiding, affirmations, kind and tough love, and the ability to grow and develop at their own pace. Recently, stepping into classrooms with younger children has opened up a new area of opportunity for me as an educator. Young children crave a safe space for them to move and play! Being able to help them understand directions and movement, introducing them to rhythm and patterns, and teaching them structure and the ability to interact with others their age, is so critically important for their overall development. There is little that is more important than working with young children to build a foundation of trust and allowing them to safely learn in the space where they are. Without a foundation, you cannot build more! Understanding this allows us to look at the critical parts of what need to be involved in a weekly lesson plan, and is what makes me so excited to jump head first into the classroom with younger students!
Building Confidence and Self-Esteem:
Q: In what ways does dance help children build confidence and self-esteem, and how do you foster a positive environment in your classes?
A: Being able to be responsible for your own movement and artistry is very powerful!. Watching dancers learn new skills and learn how to push through obstacles and frustrations all leads to the confidence of being able to say ‘I did it.” When dancers step on stage to perform in front of an audience with material they have become responsible for, they become empowered and confident! That success bleeds to all areas of their lives! As dance teachers, we have the ability to be one of the most motivating factors in a child's life by creating a positive environment. I do this by sharing motivational quites, istening to them, sitting with them, understanding them, and letting them know I am on their team!
Balancing Structure and Creativity:
Q: How do you strike a balance between providing structured dance lessons and allowing room for creativity and self-expression or play in children's dance classes?
A: At Tonawanda Dance Arts, we have an outstanding children’s curriculum that enables us to find a balance between structured dance and free play. With research everywhere suggesting that children learn best through play, we understand that importance of working this into our lesson plans and allowing the kids in our classroom to be kids! Young children are so imaginative and their brains are always creating - it's amazing to see. Kids crave structure and they also need to explore, freely move their bodies and even get a little silly! Being able to go back and forth throughout a singular class allows the dancer to become comfortable with knowing they can co-exist.
Addressing Different Learning Styles:
Q: Children have diverse learning styles. How do you adapt your teaching methods to accommodate visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners in a dance setting?
A: Experience and Education!!! Being able to receive an education in dance has provided me with tools to teach to various learning styles and having the opportunity grow my career also has given me a unique set of eyes around this as well. In every classroom, you are given the opportunity tp find out what works, what needs adjusting, what students respond to, etc. Being physically in the classroom and working on myself as a teacher is one of the ways how to adapt. It becomes second nature to pick up on cues and energies as well as particular changes and even uncertainties. Being able to pivot on the spot to accommodate each child is a vital part of being a successful teacher.
Collaboration with Parents:
Q: How can parents support their child's dance journey at home, and what role do you believe parents play in a child's dance development?
A: Parents are absolutely vital in their dancer’s journey! They are the avenue with which a child’s dance development happens, and the reason their child can have a relationship with this amazing artform. Being able to be supportive and encouraging is a great way to build confidence within children. Allowing their dancers room to make mistakes, try new things, practice and ask about their time in class is always a great way to engage in the journey. They journey of a parent through dance involves signing up for lessons, providing transportation to and from classes, financially supporting goals, and being a cheerleader and a motivator, but all of that just barely scratches the surface! Looking back on my own mother’s sacrifices and encouragement for my dancer journey I have never been able to thank her enough for everything she did for me. Both her and my dad were essential in giving me the opportunity to find myself as a dancer, create my passion, and pursue it full speed! Supportive Parents are so important in every aspect of life and can make such a difference in their child's dance journey.
Tips for Parents Choosing a Dance Studio:
Q: For parents looking to enroll their child in a dance studio, what advice would you give them in terms of choosing the right studio and instructor for their child?
A: Always think about what is best for your child. Every child is different in their wants and needs. Not every studio will be the right fit for them and that is okay! I'd recommend looking at a studio’s website and getting an idea for their values. View the instructors and their personal relationship with dance as well as working with children! Visiting the studio for a trial class or just to check in, and learning how they present themselves are all important in doing your research. Your dancers may have the opportunity to grow up in this space, and you want to make sure that it is a safe and nurturing one for them!