The Dancer's Life: How the performing arts can positively impact your child
GURU SPOTLIGHT: LAUREN NAIRNE
Over the weekend in Sydney, I was fortunate enough to spend time with my dear friend, Lauren Nairne, founder of the Dancer's Market. After working professionally in the dance industry for many years, it became very clear to me that Lauren's passion for the creative arts is intertwined in every fibre of her body. I loved hearing about the amazing people she's worked with (*cough cough* Dance Moms' Abby Lee Miller...), but even more inspiring was hearing about how she has seen how dance (and the performing arts in general) can positively impact the children she works with. It was fascinating hearing about her past experiences in the dance industry as well as getting her take on how children can use performing arts as a platform for channeling their creativity and embracing their journey of personal growth.
WCMS: We hear you have quite an interesting background! How (and why) did you start teaching dance?
LAUREN: As a professional dancer one of my first jobs was performing in kids Cartoon Network shows throughout Asia and the Middle East. I was very fortunate throughout my career to travel extensively. I've performed for the Princess in Thailand, at the birthday party of Shiekha Fatima of Dubai (daughter of Shiekh Mohammad), I've travelled to from Cairo to Norway and almost everywhere in between. Right from the start of my professional journey I realised that I loved being surrounded by kids. The joy that movement and music brought to the kids I saw daily in these show lead me to teaching. Combining my love for choreography as a way to express my own creativity and my passion to help make more kids smile teaching seemed like the obvious transition from my professional career. It has never let me down... I love it, I'll probably be teaching until i'm 90!
What are your favourite benefits associated with getting children active an involved in dance?
I think that with the current state of our education system and the curriculum that's taught in all main stream schools kids often don't get the opportunity to be creative, to express themselves or discover their true personality. I know that dance, music and movement helps develop this for kids, teenagers and even adults. I was a private school kid who always had good grades but was never an academic. I thrived in dance, drama and music and I loved the feeling and the gratification that came with my own hard work. When I worked hard at dance, practicing at home and listening to my body I saw direct results that moved throughout my whole life. That helped boost my confidence, it wasn't about what grade was written on my paper at school. I know each child is different but I know there are a lot of kids who need the creativity that dance provides.
What are your top tips for encouraging your students to channel their creativity when dancing?
It doesn't matter how old they are I always encourage kids to pop the music on and just dance the way they feel it. Even if I have choreographed a routine for a competition I always allow the kids to add their personality to the number. It's important, kids shouldn't be taught like robots they should be able to express who they are. That's what we want to see on stage, a joy from within. Adjudicators, examiners and teachers want to see who you are when your dancing. Bring that personality and freedom to class, onto the stage and you will find that you will enjoy what your doing a lot more.
What is the best age to get children involved in dance, and how do parents approach finding the ‘right’ genre for their child?
To be honest my mum actually hadn't thought about putting me into dance until my aunt recommend it. Mum wasn't a dancer and didn't take dance class so it wasn't something she had thought about. I danced from such a young age, I started at 2 and I haven't stopped. Even though I think each child is different starting young definitely has it's benefits. More important than starting early, though, is starting with a good dance school. They don't have to be most consistent award winners or the biggest in your area. You need to feel a connection with them from the moment you walk in the door. You need to feel safe leaving the teacher to guide your dancer. The genre needs to choose your dancer, not the dancer choosing the genre. Try everything. It may take a while but your dancer will find the groove and you will know without having to think too much which 'genre' is the perfect fit for your little superstar.
I couldn't agree more with Lauren about the benefits of the performing arts, and I loved her tips and tricks on how to tackle the dance industry. Let us know what you think in the comments below!