Dance Education: Workshops, Intensives or Clinics- Which is Best for You?

May 20, 2018 at 5:37 am

I have posted a few times that I was offering dance clinics in the East Anglia area. Recently,  I had someone write me and ask what the difference was between a workshop and a dance clinic. (And thank you for your question!)

There are actually three types of common dance learning events outside of classes: workshops, intensives and clinics.

1) A WORKSHOP is usually a public event in which dancers of various levels are introduced to a set of concepts or skills- different movements, a choreography, a prop- over a period of a couple hours or for a day. Notes may or may not be offered. Workshops are good for the novice or dancer who just wants some extra inspiration because they offer a training experience without any pressure, since they are designed to introduce new movements or techniques rather than targeted technical improvement or extended movement work. (See Making Workshops Meaningful in an earlier Notes)

2) A DANCE INTENSIVE can last anywhere from a couple weeks to a month, and are usually geared toward higher-level dancers, feature a well-planned lesson plan focused on specific areas of interest and often involves students billeting at an outside studio or dance camp. Intensives tend to focus on the advanced dancer who is working on improving her career or preparing to move into another phase of her career, such as professional performance, teaching or choreographic/stage work. Dance Intensives can also include “head work”- musical study, production, career development, and so on.

3) A DANCE CLINIC can last from a day to a week depending on the goal, features a focused lesson plan targeting specific areas for improvement based on a teacher’s assessment of her student needs and always offers notes to students so they can remember their individual areas that need work. In some cases, if requested, a student assessment is offered at the end of the clinic to further guide the student to areas she may need to work on. Clinics are perfect for the teacher who wants students to improve their technical skills, learn new variations of movements, perfect execution of movements and develop understanding of performance skills and stage craft. Usually, the teacher benefits from these clinics, too, by selecting areas of focus she herself may not be as skilled in, or is skilled but is looking for inspiration or new ideas for her classes. Clinics are also excellent for troupes, because they can be tailored to fit the needs of an individual troupe. And like intensives, clinics can also be used to teach students the foundational elements of dance and stagecraft. One bonus is that dance clinics come to the teacher and her students, instead of involving travel for the students and teacher.

So the first step is to decide what you want to achieve, or what your students need and what you want them to achieve, ,and which types of learning event- workshop, intensive or clinic- will meet those needs.

One of the most important things to remember is that whether you attend a workshop, intensive or clinic, the students need to attend with the idea of learning in mind, and pay attention. They also have to be open to learning new ideas- don’t bring “our teacher does it this way” to a workshop, intensive or clinic: you are there to learn something new (not repeat what you already do), or improve on a skill set, not keep doing it the same way, with the same mistakes!

Your next step is to select someone from the outside who will present the workshop. The objective of bringing in an outside teacher serves several functions: 1) she brings a different perspective on the art itself, 2) she is usually an expert in the selected subject, 3) as a fresh set of skills, the teacher sponsor may well be inspired or learn some new skills, 4) the outside teacher is more able to correct a student because she is not emotionally involved with the student’s emotional response to correction and is more willing to correct mistakes or poor technique than a teacher might be who is concerned about losing students, and 5) the students tend to listen more because the teacher is unfamiliar to them.

Costs are another factor, and this is where the students have to consider whether they want to become dancers or simply want to be able to dance. Learning to become a dancer can be expensive. The difference is in where you dance and for whom, your skill level and your understanding of the difference between dancing for yourself and other students/family and friends/dancers, or dancing as a performer for the public. Unless you are performance ready and able to perform at a high level of competence and technical skill, you are probably not going to invest as much time, work and money into your training.

Workshops offer a wide range of prices and might be the most affordable (though they are usually the least effective for skills improvement); dance clinics are usually negotiated between a teacher and the presenter, so offer a good range of affordability (and good results in skills improvement). Dance intensives can be fairly expensive, but since they are aimed at those wishing to move forward to a career in dance, and the level of training offered is so high, the serious student is usually willing to make an investment in herself and her future.

A good teacher is always aware of her students-  their level of achievement in the class and development of skill sets  and their training needs. As a teacher, her job is to observe, take notes, assess, and recommend further educational opportunities. Understanding the difference between workshops, intensives and clinics is part of her tool kit of dance instruction. Knowing which to recommend to her individual students is part of her own further development and reputation for caring about her students.

So- workshop? Dance clinic? Intensive? Which will you recommend to your students on a case by case basis?

(c) 2018 Prima Beladi