Wednesday, May 20, 2015

"Yee-Haw!!" Allowance

I love teaching contra dance to kids. Line them up in two lines, sit down with my banjo and sing some play party songs that tell them what to do…”Bow, bow, bow Belinda…Swing your partner, oh Belinda…Do-di-do, oh Belinda…" Etc. Today I did this with 2nd grade and some of them remembered that they had done it with me in kindergarten. “That’s right, “ I affirmed, “but now that you’re in 2nd grade, I expect more clarity and finesse and style. Every step on the beat, graceful swinging, clear understanding of where to go. I’m going to be super-strict and stop the moment I see something sloppy.”

And off we went. Predictably, I needed to stop and correct. Predictably, some kids kept right on doing the same thing I had just corrected. So I reached in my bag of tricks and took out the “Prize for the best individual dancer! Prize for the best couple! Prize for the most improved!” That tightened things up a bit and no one seemed too disappointed when they realized that the prize was simply me publicly naming them. No Walmart gift certificate, sticker or candy.

And yet still some kids (would it surprise you that they were “boys?”) were more into screaming “Yee-haw! Wee doggie!” at the top of the lungs than actually mastering the steps. And so out came Lecture Number 35: “Remember, you’re here to have fun by doing things well, not by doing them sloppy or making fun of them. I love that you like the spirit of ‘Yee-haw!’ but you have to earn it! I don’t want you to dance poorly and just scream and shout. Any fool can do that. I also don’t want you to get all the steps correctly and be scared or nervous about doing it right and not having any fun. But what you’ll find is that if you’re serious enough to actually learn the steps and the sequence and pay attention to the beat and treat your partner with grace and courtesy, then you’ll now be ready to let out a sincere and hard-earned “Yee-haw!!!” One. Or Two. Not the whole dance through. Got it?”

Of course, they live in a Yee-haw culture. Shall I blame Arsenio Hall for that? That TV mentality of whoopin’ and hollerin’ without actually having done anything of worth to earn it. “I paid for the ticket to be in the TV audience, so Yee-haw, baby!!!”

Well, the good news it that their dance improved and they indeed began to have sincere fun doing it well. Next class I’ll give them a “Yee-haw” allowance according to whether they successfully performed their work as a student. 

I imagine a few classes down the line, some kid will sincerely come up to me and ask, "Doug, can I get a raise in my Yee-Haw allowance?"

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