I have been a professional dancer, choreographer, and professor of dance for 45 years and I know a gifted dance teacher when I meet one. I have worked with and taught mostly college age through adult performers, but circumstances at one period of my life forced me to have to work with children. I love children. I just knew nothing about teaching them at the time. I watched my twins’ kindergarten teacher easily quiet and focus a large class of 5 year olds and I wondered what kind of pills she was feeding them. However, over a period of about ten years I learned by doing and I did become a better teacher of children, but it was never my gift. Teaching young children is not simply teaching the subject, but actually has to do with motivating and building knowledge and interest in dance while teaching rudimentary techniques of movement. In Kim’s case, her “babies” will move into traditional ballet classes in several years, so she must also begin to teach foundational ballet movements, as well, which can be deathly boring to a child of three or four. The lucky children who study with Kim Black, however, do not have a chance in a blue moon to be bored!
I met Miss Kim when I began taking my 4 year old granddaughter to dance class. I looked for a reputable school that focused more on dance technique over flashy, no-substance recitals and remembered hearing about a “Miss Kim” who was already known in Burlington for being wonderful with little children. The first time I saw her in action was kind of amazing for me because not only did she captivate the children, she entertained and captivated the parents in the room, as well! My granddaughter fell in love with her and looked forward to her classes each week. Kim has innovative and entertaining ways of presenting material so the children are working on their locomotor skills while they are having fun navigating through hula hoops, learning their ballet barre exercises as they rhythmically recite the French names and English translations of the steps in a little self-accompaniment poem, and they stretch on the floor while Kim tells them stories or talks about any number of things so the time goes by quickly. Most importantly, she allows them still to “play” and be spontaneous and creative through guided improvisational segments where the children move to different musical styles or songs that they love. The class is highly structured but it looks, especially to the child, as though they are there to continue their play. They learn dance class etiquette in ways that do not frighten or embarrass them, but instead make them want to become a team player. Children will take their own time to come around to the discipline of learning dance for its own sake, and some will not come around to it at all. Some very small children may not even seem to be participating at first, and are doing very little of what the teacher asks. In Kim’s class children are given the time they need to follow or watch, and even to not participate for a while. They naturally become assimilated into the class and I guarantee that in a relatively short amount of time, all the children in Kim’s classes are present, engaged, and enthusiastic about being there. It doesn’t take Kim long to win them over and get them to face their fears. It just happens. No big thing. Structured play, children expressing themselves in artistic ways, the rudiments of ballet, easily distracted little girls learning how to take direction and how to collaborate with their peers; these are just a few of the life lessons my granddaughter learned during the years she studied with Kim Black.
Professional Dancer, Choreographer, and Professor of Dance for 45 years