How to Motivate the “Non-Dancers” In Your Class?

Every once in a while, you get that one child or a few children in your dance class whose parents signed them up for dance so they wouldn’t be sitting around the house all day. It can be frustrating and detrimental to the progress of the class. However, I believe that everyone has the ability to dance if shown they can, and may eventually come to love and/or appreciate the art of dance. But first, they must be motivated to check it out.

There are several proper and educational tactics out there about how to motivate children. However, I believe that every teacher has to find their own way to motivate. As a teacher, you should not use a tactic just because someone suggested you to do so; you must see them as being beneficial to your style of teaching, while also willing to modify it to fit your classroom. With that said, I am going to share a three ways I like to motivate my students, the dancers and the non-dancers. (These are not all of my ways of motivation, just 3 favorites.)

1. Have a saying that motivates the students.

I do not want to stick to some familiar sayings like “don’t say can’t” or “practice makes perfect.” The students have most likely heard them before- this does not mean that they are not useful, I just want my classroom to be unique. I have and are creating catchphrases for different activities in response to different things.

For example, when I want to instruct a group of children to add something to their dance phrase or to try a double pirouette instead of a single pirouette during their combination, the children would respond accordingly: Me: “Class, do you think you can try a double pirouette in place of a single pirouette?” Class: (folds arms) “Challenge accepted!”


I got this catchphrase in particular from one of the millions of memes that are floating around on the internet. Its a phrase some students might be familiar with. It will excite the students to try, and it will breed competition which most children, dancers and non-dancers, love!

With that said, you should have catchphrases when things don’t work out so well. I am still working on this one. However, some examples are “when at first you don’t succeed, try try again”, “never give up,” and the like. I probably won’t use these because, as I said before, I want my classroom to be unique.

By having the class respond in such a way, those that would not normally try because they are afraid might try because everyone else would be trying with them. The indirect support of the whole class could motivate the child to try.

2. Take interest in the students other interests. Then, make it connect to dance.

Especially for the “non-dancers”, always approaching class with the same terminology and tactics can get boring, making the student uninterested. So, it is important to spice things up a little. A way to do so is by showing the students that you are interested in them.

For example, there’s a “non-dancer” in your class. She would rather be reading her books but she’s in dance class. As the dance teacher, you are trying to get this student to execute a dance phrase with some life and excitement. So, you can ask to student to bring in her favorite book and point out her favorite part in the book. As she is dancing, read that passage to her. By doing so, you are showing interest in her interest while getting her to dance. The student may start to really get into the dance because the words are there to bridge the connection between her and dance.

3. Let the students know your weaknesses.

Sometimes, students see their teacher as being perfect. While they are looking up to you, they could be either using their admiration as inspiration or as comparison. For either instance, as a teacher, you should inform your students of your journey to becoming the dancer and teacher you are today. This way, those inspired do not go away with a false  expectations, thinking that just because they want to be like you, doesn’t mean that they will or should. And, those comparing will no longer compare but analyze; they would then analyze what their strengths and weaknesses are such that they can balance their focus and training.

Especially when I am teaching choreography, I will let my students know when I can properly execute the movement and when I cannot. I still try to execute it, but I let them know that this is an area I am still working on myself. The students still see me as their teacher but they can now understand that I have my challenges too, but I don’t let them stop me from trying. Instead of saying, ‘I will never be like her,’ they could look at my weaknesses as a challenge to pursue and learn to become better.

Motivating students to dance can be tough, whether they have the passion for it or not. However, I hope these tips helped or at least made you think about how you motivate your students. Remember: Every teacher has to find his or her own way to motivate their students. I’m just here to help 🙂


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