April Andrews is the Regional Director for the Southeast. She has always enjoyed working with people. Working for TutuTix and being a dance mom, April understands the performing and ticketing aspect of the business. Her southern hospitality will make you feel more like family instead of just another client.
It’s the middle of the season. Are routines are looking fine but feeling tired? Are dancers going through the motions but also holding back? Have you heard more complaining than usual? You’ve got the warning signs of some imminent dancer burnout.
Few things are more natural for dancers, athletes, or people who practice their talent or craft repetitively. The dancers have been going hard for several weeks and their skill is coming along, so they might start to get a little distracted or let their focus slip. There’s plenty of other things for them to think about: school, family, friends.
How do we keep them reined in? Let’s talk about a few strategies to keep dancers focused and engaged on the dance floor.
Personal rewards can go such a long way! And as teachers, we need to be clear about why a dancer would get a reward or how they need to go about earning one.
Giving a dancer a reward is not about saying “your one action today deserves this nugget of fun,” whatever that nugget may be. It’s about that dancer having accomplished something (whether they’ve nailed a particular move or have really improved their attitude) and then giving them a personal sense of recognition for it.
Have your dancers write down a skill, a run of choreography, or another concrete goal for themselves. Now, give them a deadline: maybe two weeks? Say “Go!” And at the end of two weeks, if a dancer has accomplished their goal, do something for them that is personal and valuable.
That might mean:
A certificate to put on their fridge (to show off to family and friends)
An “upgrade” in the choreography (give the dancer a small feature)
Letting the dancer act as assistant teacher during stretches next week
Not candy. Never candy.
Mix It Up
I’m sure many of you teachers have a standard class structure, which helps dancers know what they should expect, and helps to keep them on task during a particular portion of class. My challenge for you: how can you mix up your schedule without sacrificing the progress in your curriculum?
Let’s be clear: we’re trying to avoid dancer burnout, and that does NOT mean adjusting classes so that dancing progress suffers. Instead, we need to be creative in adapting the time we have to add some surprise or excitement.
What if you:
Let dancers submit song ideas, you pick one you like (or reward a great dancer^^^ by choosing their song) and use that song for a warmup freestyle dance session? 3-4 minute adjustment
Teach a new piece of choreography with a game. “Simon Says” one step or several steps at a time! At the end of the game, you challenge everyone to try and run through the choreography and see who remembers the most.
Practice newer or advanced moves by running through older choreography (like, from last year). If there were some really fun dance steps that you know your dancers enjoyed, highlight the specific moves and how they relate to this year’s choreo. You can even have a short competition and see who still remember’s last year’s dance for fun!
Build On A Personal Connection
There’s no doubt that as a dance teacher, you and your dancers will develop a strong connection. You’re guiding them along a path that they love, and you want to see them excel. They’re going to feel your investment and love!
So, focus on making your studio a positive space. And focus your class a positive experience that dancers will gravitate towards. You want dancers to feel like they’re special as individuals (yes, definitely), but that they also fit into a bigger picture and a bigger narrative that is your dance class.
Is your classroom time just not enough to connect with some of your newer students? Try hosting a weekend workshop or dance studio social event that gets the dancers together and building relationships.
At the end of the day, the mid-season slump is just that: a slump! Get your dancers thinking past this mid-season time and looking ahead to bigger things and bigger performances.
Ownership of choreography dance moves is a tricky subject. When a choreographer puts their body into motion and pen to paper, they’re creating an original expressive piece that takes their personal experience and creativity and translates it into a work of art. Once it’s put into a tangible medium, you can apply copyright protections to the piece.
So how could there be any question about owns that piece? In this article, we’re going to take a look at a couple of different scenarios that studios and choreographers might run into when they work together creatively.
Scenario 1: Hiring a Choreographer
In this scenario, you are a studio owner (or the guest choreographer who is being hired to create the work). Some of the big topics you’ll want to cover are:
A timeline for delivery (when is the performance, and how long will the dance take to learn?)
Who will teach the choreography (is the choreographer also coming to class to teach the moves?)
Services (what all is being requested of the choreographer, or what all do they offer?)
Pricing (based on the services, how much should the payment be? Is this choreographer part of a larger professional community, and can they then ask for a higher price?)
And finally, ownership of the material. In this scenario, the guest choreographer is being hired as a freelancer. That means that after their job is completed, they won’t continue to have any ties to your studio.
Now it comes down to having an honest conversation with the choreographer about your expectations and theirs as well. As a studio owner, are you expecting to take this choreography (which you have essentially commissioned for your students) and use it again in the future? Are you also expecting that your choreographer won’t later work for another studio and produce a dance that’s very similar to yours?
Well, it depends on this honest conversation going on. Choreographers are professionals, and their ability to create an expressive and elaborate piece is why you’re hiring them in the first place. They may very well expect to reuse or recycle parts of one piece when making a different one, since those parts are their own creative works. They may also expect for you to use their work once, for a singular performance, and to then ask for additional permissions in the future to perform it again.
So, while this conversation may be honest and productive, you can clearly see how it could get a little tense with different opinions about the work. As the studio owner, make a list of your priorities and decide the most important factors in this project:
Does the choreographer make great work, and are they worth hiring consistently?
Do competing studios also hire this choreographer, and would you be worried about similar choreography showing up in their recital or at competition?
Is this performance theme very specific, where this choreography might not fit with other themes in the near future?
As the choreographer, make a list of your own priorities as well!
If you work locally, are you trying to build relationships and secure future contracts?
If you work within a larger community, do you need the ability to recycle parts or entire pieces?
As an artist, do you expect for your work to remain your own, and for studio owners to ask to use your work in the future?
As a business professional, how can you maximize the income you can get from a single piece of work?
Studio owners, be sure check out the choreographer priority list. Choreographers, be sure check out the studio owner list! When everyone is on the same page and both parties’ goals are clear, it’s way easier to find common ground and find room for compromise.
Very important: don’t rush into hiring a choreographer or starting to make choreography without having this discussion, and putting it into writing. We can’t stress this enough: MAKE A CONTRACT. And that includes having your legal counsel check the contract fully before it’s signed.
With clear language about who, what, when, where, and for how much, any potential disagreement can point back to the original contract for clarification.
Scenario 2: Teachers Creating Choreography
Maybe your studio has talented teachers who choreograph their classes’ dances: sweet!!! So who owns their work?
Can there be exceptions? Of course. A person who makes a creative piece will want to feel like they have ownership over their work. So how can you, as a studio owner, make that work?
Back to the priorities. For studios:
Does the teacher make great work, and are they a valuable member of your staff?
Does your teacher work in a dance capacity anywhere else, and would you be worried about similar choreography showing up in another studio’s recital or at competition?
Besides at your studio, where else could your choreography dance moves be used?
Do you create choreography on the side, and do you need your choreography dance moves to be available for other clients?
On that note, do you have a non-compete agreement with your studio already in place? What does it say about choreography?
This honest conversation between teachers and studio owners has a different feel to it than the freelance conversation. These teachers will be working at the studio for an extended period of time, and are directly invested in the studio’s success.
Probably the best question for a studio owner to ask: “Why do you need your choreography to be used elsewhere?”
An honest answer will set up the rest of the conversation. Maybe the teacher wants to work freelance on the side but not compete with your studio. Maybe the teacher wants to have a choreography portfolio, for a future career decision. Maybe the teacher needs to move in the near future and wants to be able to take the choreography along for future work.
As a studio owner, if you trust your teachers, these all sound like pretty legitimate reasons! And to show your support and build a closer relationship with your teachers, it could definitely be worth it to find some room for compromise.
With competition season, you’re probably in a whirlwind of costumes, choreography and cosmetics. Hopefully you’ve coordinated all these different aspects of your team’s performances to really impress the judges, but don’t overlook one of the most crucial aspects: the dance competition music.
Sure, you could go with a classic like “All that Jazz” or “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend,” but you might see some peoples’ eyes glaze over when they’ve already heard it three times that day. There are certainly a number of overused songs that you’ll hear at competitions – here’s a handy list from the Dance Exec – so spruce up your routines this year with unique, infectious music that will have the crowds on their feet.
1. Consider Age Appropriateness
If you’ve been competing for a number of years, you’ve likely seen a great dance team get cringes from the audience because their music crossed a certain line. While “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke is certainly catchy and has a fun beat, the lyrics aren’t something that parents want to see young dancers connecting with.
Always take the age of your performers into account when choosing music for their performances. It’s best to steer clear of songs with overly suggestive or mature themes – there are plenty of clean options to choose from!
2. Stay Away From Top-40 Songs
Top-40 songs are a go-to for many choreographers, but you can bet that hundreds of other studios have the same idea.
Stand out from the pack by choosing tunes that will make your performances unique!
Whether you choose an “oldie” or a track that hasn’t made it to the radio yet, you’ll be putting your team in position to give a one-of-a-kind performance.
3. Make Sure Everyone Loves It
You may love a certain ’60s rock ballad, but if your dancers aren’t keen on the music, their performance may fall a little flat. Work to find music that both you and your performers enjoy. After all, you’ll probably be hearing it 500 times or so before the competition, so it’s better if everyone likes the tune.
4. Look for Must-Haves
Once you’ve whittled down your choices to a handful of appropriate, under-utilized options, you can rule songs out by looking for certain must-have characteristics. Your song should be easy to cut down to the right length, and it also needs to have a strong beat and proper tempo.
You’ll also want to consider how the music fits into the genre your kids are performing in. When you take these aspects into account, you’ll be able to pick the perfect song!
Dancing is both an incredible art and a very physically demanding sport. Competitive dancers work hard during their classes to perfect their routines and often dedicate much of their free time outside of classes to their fitness regimes. This level of commitment may be harder to maintain in the off-season, especially without the strict scheduling that regular dance classes provide.
Keeping dancer fitness levels up during the off season is essential for dancers who want to be able to pick right up where they left off when they return to their lessons in the fall. Creating a healthy and challenging exercise program during the off-season is a surefire way to maintain the strength, balance and flexibility you worked so hard to build in your classes.
The Importance of Cross Training
One of the most beneficial things any athlete can do for himself or herself is take part in a cross training program. While practicing moves and routines that are specific to dance are great for muscle memory, it can leave some areas of the body under worked. According to The Dance Journal, the point of cross training is to add to a fitness level without causing overexertion. It can create a more rounded, total body fitness that helps to prevent injuries.
There are many ways to cross train, with each offering its own benefit to your fitness regime. Aerobic exercises like running or spinning can improve endurance and lung capacity. Weight training can help you pinpoint specific muscle groups that you want to target, like creating more dynamic leg muscles or strengthening your core.
Whatever your goals for the off season are, it’s important to take your cross training slowly and to make sure you’re doing exercises correctly. Trying to do too much to too soon can lead to easily preventable injuries. Be sure to also take rest days and to mix up your workout routines. Doing the same exercises every day will cause you to eventually reach a plateau where you stop making progress and just increase your risks of getting hurt instead.
Attend Other Fitness Classes
If you prefer the structure of having classes to go to each week, consider joining a gym that offers fitness programs. Classes that focus on strength and flexibility, like yoga or pilates, are great for building the muscles and increasing the range of motion that you need for dancing, according to Marie Claire. Having a schedule can help keep you accountable during the offseason so you’re less likely to skip workouts.
The summer season can be a good time to experiment with different workout programs. Find something that you enjoy and that gives you the results you’re looking for. Attend classes that are fun and make you excited to be there.
Talk to Your Dance Teacher
Planning a dancer fitness program by yourself can be a tough task, especially when most of your dance technique experience comes from the classroom and not the gym. Ask your teacher for specific exercises or workouts to be doing during the off-season, so you have some professional guidance on how to keep your form up. Depending on your studio’s summer plans, you may even be able to get into the classroom a few times over the summer for some dedicated work.
Taking Care of Your Body
Exercise is important to dancer fitness but it isn’t the only element. Be sure you’re still taking care of your overall health, like eating healthy, balanced meals and drinking plenty of water. Remember that your body needs calories for energy. Try to avoid doing heavy workouts if you haven’t had a substantial meal yet, and stay hydrated during hot summer days.
Sleep is also critical for staying in shape. Your body makes repairs and rejuvenates itself when you’re getting some shut-eye. Make sure you don’t skimp on the rest so you can feel and perform at your best.
If you have any concerns about your summer dancer fitness plans, be sure to talk to your instructors or a doctor. Focus on your safety so that you’re ready to come back to dancing again in the fall.
Dancers work hard to train their bodies for their craft. It’s a physically demanding sport that requires extensive practice, dedicated training and muscle memory formation. While these athletes take every precaution they can to stay safe, no physical activity comes without the potential for injury. Read more to find out how to come back to the studio safely after a dance injury.
Recognize When You’re Hurt
A problem for athletes of any discipline is the “walk it off mentality” that tells the injured they need to ignore their pain and just keep going. While tenacity is an admirable trait for dancers to have, ignoring the warnings that your body is sending you can lead to bigger problems.
Too many times dancers will try to push through an initial dance injury because they don’t want to miss out on any practice time. But, then they increase damage to where it becomes physically impossible to continue. They end up making injuries worse and spend more time sitting out than if they had just taken the break they needed in the first place.
It’s hard to say no to something you love, but dancers who want to have a long career in the art need to know when they’ve had enough. When an ankle rolls the wrong way and becomes painful to put pressure on or you feel a sharp pull in your back while you’re twisting, you need to take a step back and examine what’s going on with your body. An injured dancer should remove herself from activity as soon as she notices the pain.
While it’s normal to feel sore when you’re pushing yourself through a rigorous workout, there are a few signs that the discomfort you’re feeling is a sign of significant injury. The International Fitness and Physique Association has listed several signs that athletes should look out for when they’re assessing a potential injury:
Sudden pains in muscles or any kind of pain in the joints.
A sore area that is tender to the touch.
Decreased range of motion.
Greater weakness on one side of the body than the other.
Numbness or tingling.
If you start to experience any of these sensations while you’re dancing, you should take a moment to stop and regroup before trying to continue with your practice.
Properly Treating a Dance Injury
While you may be able to treat some minor damages with rest, ice, or over-the-counter medications, some injuries will need professional help in order to heal properly. If the pain is unbearable or doesn’t subside after a day or two then you’ll need to check in with a doctor.
If you feel a pop in your knee and are then unable to bend it, for example, you’ll want to head straight to the emergency room to ensure your didn’t tear a ligament. However, mild swelling and full control of the joint may just need a day of rest and some ibuprofen.
It’s important to respond to an injury in a correct and timely manner to ensure it will heal correctly. Knowing when to apply cold or heat to an injury is vital, and don’t avoid going to the doctor because you’re afraid of being told something you don’t want to hear.
Follow whatever instructions your medical team provides to you and don’t try to take any shortcuts on your road to recovery. If your physician tells you to wait three weeks before dancing again but you feel better after two, you should check in and get an official clearance before heading back to class.
If you have a serious dance injury that will take a long time to heal or you need a referral for a specialist, try to find a doctor who focuses on treating athletes, preferably one who knows about dance. It’s important to work with medical providers who understand your goals and the kind of stress you’ll be putting on your body when you’re fit enough to dance again.
Making Your Return to Dance
You’ll need to be patient with your recovery. Rushing back too soon or jumping right back in to your former activity level could just lead to a reinjury and more total down time. Once you’re cleared to go back to dancing you need to start off small and build your way back up.
Podiatry Today reported that athletes should begin with active rest – that is, resuming some level of moderate, low-impact activity before resuming their normal routine. Just because you have an ankle injury doesn’t mean you can’t still do upper body weight training, for example.
Your return to dance should be a slow build up. Start with simple moves and endurance exercises that restore your muscles before trying complicated steps. If anything feels wrong you should take a break for a few minutes and reassess. There’s nothing wrong with only completing half of your first class back if you think you’ve had enough for one day.
Don’t just examine how your former dance injury feels, either. If your overall activity level decreased while you were resting your injury, there’s a strong chance that other muscles groups lost some of their strength as well.
It’s common for athletes to pull different muscles when they start activity again because they didn’t recognize how much their downtime impacted their body. Pay attention to your whole body and be aware of anything that doesn’t feel right.
Dancing safely is all about listening to your body and training properly. Be sure your following safe workout habits and taking time off when you need to so you can give yourself a long and successful dance career.
Tap dance is a fun and unique art form. Unlike other dance styles that emphasize light feet and soft sounds on stage, tap dancers strive to make their feet heard. In fact, many of the moves in tap are based on intentionally creating different sound patterns. Picking the right tap dance music makes all the difference!
With the right accompaniment, tap shoes can complement the music and create a dazzling visual and audio display. The key is to find an upbeat and energetic soundtrack for your dance class that can keep your students amped up and moving!
The musical genres you choose can be tailored to your own tastes. Tap goes well with a wide range of musical styles, and has a history with each of them. Here are a few suggestions for finding the right tap dance music for your classes:
1. Jazz, Swing, Bebop
Good for: Dance history lessons
Tap dancing and jazz music have made a fantastic pairing for decades. Though tap has its roots in dances that date back centuries, Theater Dance reported that the modern notion of tap dance started to become a part of pop culture in the 1920s. This was around the same time that jazz music became more popular with mainstream crowds as well. The soulful rhythms of fast-paced jazz numbers complemented the movements and sounds of energetic tappers when they went out dancing. Dances that were all the rage at the time, like the Charleston, were often adapted for tap dancers. The era saw some overlap between tap dance music and swing, so this could also be an opportunity to incorporate some of those elements into your lessons.
By the 1940s, bebop emerged as a subgenre of jazz music. Bebop included a number of upbeat, iconic classics that are fun to tap along to.
Try: “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If it Ain’t Got That Swing)” by Duke Ellington, “Jumpin’ Jive” by Cab Calloway and the Nicholas Brothers
Good for: Life imitating art
Many musicals throughout the years in film and on the stage have featured legendary tap numbers. Teaching students some of the famous tap routines they may have seen on screen before (or modified versions of them) can be a fun project that keeps the whole class focus and engaged. Choose from your own favorite films and share the routines that you fell in love with, or pick from a published list of popular dance numbers, like this one from Buzzfeed.
Try: “Singing in the Rain” from Singing in the Rain, “It’s a Hard Knock Life” from Annie
3. Today’s Hits
Good for: Appealing to your audience
Sometimes, students get more excited about dance when they know and love the songs you play. Browse through some of the Top 40 hits and find something that you’d enjoy playing with your class, or take suggestions of the students’ favorite tracks. Chances are good the dancers sing along to these songs whenever the come on the radio and dance around their rooms in a more freeform fashion. Teach them to bring their craft and their favorite tunes together for a fun and upbeat lesson.
Try: “Run the World (Girls)” by Beyonce, “Happy” by Pharrell Williams
4. Traditional Dances From Around the World
Good for: Exploring new styles
Variations of tap dancing can be found in many cultures throughout history and across the globe. Pick a new style and discuss its origins with your class as you try new moves to international folk songs.
Try: Flamenco from Spain, Step dancing from Ireland
Finding the Right Song
You know that with the right choreography, you can dance to almost anything. The key to picking the right tap dance music for your class is finding something that you’ll enjoy dancing along to, and hoping that your students will enjoy it, too. It’s so much easier to create routines with songs you’re excited about and want to listen to, so share your joy with your students.
Other considerations for selecting tap dance music include the moves you want to incorporate into your lesson, the age of your students and their experience levels. Make sure that whatever song you choose has a rhythm they can keep up with and appropriate lyrics. You can try to create a more collaborative program by soliciting feedback from the student on the music that’s played in class.
Dancers use their craft to tell a story for the audience, projecting emotions, words and ideas with their movements. The ability to wordlessly translate their feelings for the crowd is a refined skill. Dancers need to use their whole bodies and the expressions on their faces to help convey the emotion of the moment. But with the bright, shining lights flooding the stage, it’s easy for dancers’ expressions to be washed out. That means the subtle nuances that are essential for setting the tone for their story to be over-looked. For younger dancers, having well-applied stage makeup for kids makes all the difference.
By highlighting dancers’ facial features, it makes it easier for the audience to see their expressions. It’s an important and long-standing tradition in the community for dancers to include stage makeup as a routine component of their costumes. This can be a little tricky when it comes to stage makeup for kids and young dancers, however.
Less Is More for Stage Makeup for Kids
While most young dancers haven’t yet mastered the proper expressiveness for their dance routines, stage makeup for kids and younger dancers is still usually required for performances. It makes them more visible for the audience and compliments the overall costumed look of a recital.
Though stage makeup still plays an important role in the presentation of young dancers, there are some differences in how their palettes should be applied. It’s not uncommon for moms and dads to have some reservations about putting a full adult-level application of makeup on their young children’s faces. As such, simplicity and minimalism are key strategies that many parents choose for their young dancers.
There’s no need to worry about intricate contours and layer upon layer of products for young dancers. The important step is to highlight their facial features so that they can be seen.
How to Apply Stage Makeup for Kids
Parents know their kids better than anyone else does, so they may be better equipped to gauge what their little ones can handle when for the patience and cautiousness that comes with a full face of makeup.
However, in most cases it’s better to wait until closer to showtime to apply makeup on young dancers. Since they aren’t used to having makeup on it may be easier for them to forget it’s there and inadvertently rub their faces, streaking mascara and lipstick as they go. While there’s no need to reach deep into the pockets to pay for top-shelf products for kids, some parents may want to invest in waterproof or smudge-proof cosmetics to prevent some of these accidents as well.
When applying makeup to a young dancer, it’s important to make sure they’re able to sit calmly and wait for the process to be over. Kids who fidget or are too excited for their show to sit still may need to have their makeup applied in stages so they can have a break to shake some of that energy out. It would be a good idea to have them wear an old shirt over their outfit during this process as well in case anything should spill.
After they are seated and ready to go, parents can begin to apply their stage makeup:
For foundation: Some parents may prefer to opt out of foundation. Check with the instructors to be sure, but most won’t require foundation for very young dancers. If you choose to go that route, however, that will be the first step.
Make sure the color matches your child’s skin tone. If she’s never worn makeup before, test the skin on the inside of her wrist to make sure she doesn’t have any allergies to the product. Use a makeup sponge to dab the foundation evenly across her face and neck once you’ve determined that it’s safe. Dance for Kids recommends going over a liquid foundation with a powder to help the foundation set and to avoid extra shininess under the stage lights.
For blush: Stage makeup for kids will be a little more dramatic than normal makeup, so the blush should be slightly more pronounced. Since kids tend to not have defined cheekbones, have your dancer smile the biggest, cheesiest smile she can, or else suck in her cheeks to make a fish face. This will help you find the apples of her cheeks. Swipe upwards toward the temples with a blush brush.
You’ll again want to verify with your child’s program to see how much eye makeup they prefer. Some will be fine with just a little eye shadow and mascara for young dancers. The most basic stage makeup for kids will include eyeliner.
For eye shadow: Choose a neutral color to highlight the brow bone first, or just focus on the lid. The lid color should be close to your dancer’s natural skin tone, just a few shades darker. For pale dancers that could mean either a tan or light grey, for example. Sweep a brush over the crease of her eyelid and blend down toward her lashes.
For eyeliner: The Champaign-Urbana Ballet recommends using eyeliner on the bottom and top lids to help emphasize the eye. Be aware that for young children a traditional pencil liner may be too hard for their delicate skin. Instead try a liquid or gel liner that has a soft applicator.
For mascara: Most mascara tubes have brushes that are too big for small eyelashes. Try finding a small sample- or travel-size mascara, or one that’s made for lower lashes. These will be smaller and more manageable on young faces. Many kids will be wary of having something so close their eyes. A good tip is to have them roll their eyes up at the ceiling while you apply the mascara, so they don’t see the wand so close to their eye.
To help keep lipstick from smudging, apply a primer or more foundation over her lips first.
For lipliner: Lipliner will help keep lipstick in place. Use a pencil liner that matches the lipstick shade to outline the edge of your dancers’ lips, then color in the rest of the lip.
For lipstick: Apply lipstick last and be sure your dancer blots with a tissue. Keep straws handy so she can sip on drinks without smudging her lipstick.
Ballet has a rich history that goes back hundreds of years and spans various continents and countries. As a result, the has undergone many modifications as dancers and teachers incorporated new styles of ballet and techniques into their practice.
Years of experimentation and artistic inspiration have established various ballet styles that each have special characteristics and trademarks. Here’s an overview of the major styles of ballet.
Classical ballet is the most well-known and popular style of ballet. Its origins go back to the Renaissance courts of Louis XIV, explained Les Grand Ballets, and still adheres to traditional ballet technique. Classical ballet emphasizes elegant, graceful lines, heavy turnout of the legs and fluid, smooth movements. Perhaps the most famous of all classical ballets is “Swan Lake.”
The Romantic ballet style prioritizes emotion, drama and strong story-telling. Romantic ballet is not just about the technical or athletic feats of movement that dancers can achieve, but how movement can be used to tell a compelling narrative and connect with the emotions of the audience. According to California Ballet:
“The basic subjects of the Romantic ballets came from the perceived conflicts between beauty and ugliness, good and evil, spirit and flesh realism and fantasy.”
Dance Magazine describes the contemporary ballet style as “anchored in the old, hungry for the new.” It’s all about experimentation and creativity, drawing freely from other dance styles like jazz and modern. The focus is not on narrative or telling a story, but on prompting the audience to think about the power of movement and what aesthetic the lines of the body can convey. As choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa told the magazine:
“With contemporary ballet, you turn the room. The audience is asked to look at what is happening between the dancers.”
Neoclassical ballet is synonymous with the work of George Balanchine, an incredibly influential choreographer who created the Balanchine method, which is the most widely taught ballet method in the U.S. It is a 20th-century creation, Pittsburgh Dance Theatre explained, and emphasizes athleticism, speed and impressive technical feats. This style largely rejects elaborate costumes, sets or intricate stories to for a simpler design that places the focus on the dancers themselves. Neoclassical ballet pushes boundaries while still prioritizing technical skill and perfection.
On stage during a recital, audiences see the result of months of hard work. They watch in awe as your students dance gracefully and perfectly hit their choreography – hopefully. But what they don’t see is all the choreographed backstage management going on behind the scenes.
As any dance teacher knows, managing your dancers backstage can be rather stressful. With nervous kids – and teachers – costume mishaps and other various issues, keeping kids in line and focused can be a real headache.
Follow these tips for better backstage management at your studio’s next recital.
1. Practice Quick Costume Changes Ahead of Time
With your dancers performing multiple routines for one recital, they’ll need to be pros at quickly changing in and out of their costumes, along with any makeup or hair alterations. In reality, though, this isn’t always the case. To help them become better at changing quickly, have them practice switching costumes at the studio.
“Our students have 90 seconds between classes to change their shoes and be ready for the next class,” said Brandon Rios, artistic director of Old Dominion Performance Arts Studio in Virginia, in an interview with Dance Studio Life. “If they can get in the habit of changing quickly at the studio, they will be able to do it come performance day.”
So grab a stopwatch and time your dancers in the weeks leading up to the recital – the extra effort is worth it to save you and your dancers stress come performance time.
2. Repeat After Me: Stay in Your Designated Area!
Young kids have trouble staying put in general – add pre-performance anxiety to the mix, and you’ve got yourself some antsy dancers. Your students might also want to wander off to the audience area to chat with friends, or sneak down to the vending machine for a snack. Big no-nos. It’s important that your dancers stay put backstage. As Dance Advantage noted, you have a lot to manage and keep track of during the performance, and students wandering off means that they might miss their entrances or interrupt someone else’s, along with being a safety issue. So, pre-performance, drill into your students’ heads: stay in place!
3. Assemble a Super Team
There’s way to much going backstage for only you to be in charge, so you need to assemble a super team. Gather volunteers or other teachers and assign specific roles to them for the most seamless operation.
Carol Zee, artistic director of The Gabriella Foundation, told dance Studio Life that she assigns the following jobs: stage manager, on-deck supervisor, quick-change supervisor, stage left headset, stage right headset and dressing room monitors.
Looking for more tips on creating a great day-of recital experience? Check out these articles from guest blogger Misty Lown:
You’ve probably been here before – hunched over your laptop late at night, playing the same four seconds of music over and over again on your editing software trying to get it exactly right. Maybe a transition is too clunky, a background instrument is too loud or the fade out is too sudden. No matter the issue, music editing is a recipe for stress and frustration. Music editing apps for your phone are designed to help reduce some of the stress so you can get back to focusing on your students. The apps have streamlined, easy-to-use interfaces that simplify the editing process and make it conveniently portable, so you can tackle any editing issues or make quick adjustments whenever and wherever you are.
Try any – or all – of these music editing apps for using on-the-go:
Audacity is one of the most popular music editing software programs that dance teachers use, and Audacity Portable, the mobile app, means that you can take advantage of all of its useful functionality anywhere. Audacity is an open source software program that means that any developer can use the code to create their own versions of the original program, which is how the mobile app was created. Its layout is easy to get a grasp on, allowing you to make basic adjustments to tracks or “zoom in” for more intricate editing, and best of all, it’s free!
One of the leading music production programs for Macs, also has an app version for iPhones and iPads. GarageBand allows you to create your own songs with a variety of realistic-sounding digital instruments, but you can also easily edit imported tracks and add effects in seconds. For those that are new to GarageBand, The Dance Buzz gave a great tutorial on using the program here.
Hokusai Audio Editor
While Audacity and GarageBand were originally created for desktops, Hokusai was designed with smartphones in mind. The interface is optimized for use on touchscreens, meaning you can make music edits with just a swipe. You can use tools to normalize volume levels and fade-in and fade-out, and can alter the resonance or echoes. The app also features a neat “scrubbing effect” that means you can hear what the music sounds like as you move your finger down a track. And you can edit without worrying about making mistakes, since any changes can be easily undone.
WavePad Audio Editor
WavePad is a free app that contains the basic features needed for editing music. You can record and edit your own sounds and songs, and the app also works with third-party tracks. Your tracks are clearly organized for easy access and it comes with tools like filters that will make sounds clearer. However, WavePad is best for short choreography, between 3-5 minutes, since it does not have a zoom function that allows you to make more minute edits.
Notetracks is not part of the collection of music editing apps, but it is incredibly useful for dance teachers working with choreography, and is recommended by Dance Teacher Connect. With the app, you can easily make notes anywhere in a song and can clearly see the notes marked on the track, making it very helpful for when you’re creating a new routine. Notetracks also makes it easy to share your notes and ideas with others.
Music editing tips
Your expertise is dance, not music mixing, though effective editing will help your dancers perform at their very best. Dance Advantage offered several helpful tips for great music editing. Make sure the volume level is consistent throughout the track, since any discrepancies – even subtle ones – are distracting to both the dancers and audience.
Cutting and pasting is a common way to edit tracks, but it’s not always suitable – the site noted that mixing tracks and adding effects are very noticeable in stripped-down musical pieces with few instruments, so the cut-and-paste method is most effective for acoustic songs.
A dance studio is a large, open space suitable for a variety of activities, so why not get the most out of it? Dance studio rental is a fantastic way to maximize revenue. But don’t hand over the keys just yet – read our guide below to get started.
Why Rent out Your Studio?
Renting out your dance studio is a great way to generate extra income, especially during the slower summer months. Once you secure trustworthy renters, the effort on your end is minimal – you make money simply from letting someone use your space. Renting is especially helpful if you need to travel to attend a conference, perform in a show or even just take that well-earned vacation you’ve been putting off for years – with other people using your space, you can rest easy knowing that the power won’t be shut off at your studio while you’re away.
Dance studio rental also generates additional income by exposing your classes and services to new clients. Everyone that attends events held by renters at your studio will see firsthand the programs you offer and the space’s atmosphere, which can lead to new students. This type of exposure can sometimes be more effective than traditional marketing methods.
Who Can You Rent To?
The versatile design of a dance studio makes it a great fit for a wide range of activities. You can rent out the space for children’s birthday parties, and, if you have the resources, parents can hire one of your instructors to lead the party. The wood floors, high ceilings, sound systems and mirrored walls make dance studios a great fit for hosting fitness classes, like pilates and yoga.
If there’s a gym located near your studio, ask if they need extra space to hold their classes. Community groups and children’s scout troops are always looking for open spaces where they can hold events and meetings, too, along with local small businesses searching for an open space for team-building activities, retreats and training seminars.
Another creative way you can rent out your studio is by using it as a theater. Hanging black curtains on rods, adding seat risers and installing a few extra lights on the ceiling can transform a practice space into one fitting for performance. Dance Studio Life interviewed one studio owner who made an area of her studio workable as both a teaching space and a theater on a budget.
“You don’t have to have a large pocketbook to do the things you want to do. You just have to have a mission and share it—if you build it, they will come,” said Jonna Maule of Company Ballet School and Performing Arts Center in Spokane, Washington, in an interview with the site.
Once you’ve equipped your space with the basic theater equipment, you can rent it out to local performance groups, schools, dance troupes and bands. An added bonus is that your dancers now have a performance space in their studio, too.
“Successful renting depends on preparation and research.”
Liabilities to Consider
Successful and profitable renting depends on adequate preparation and research. Your first step should be to check whether your lease agreement for your facility allows you to rent out the space to other people, according to Dance Teacher magazine.
Safety is also another important consideration. Read up on your existing insurance policies and what they cover for outside renters and create a rental agreement outlining the risks the renter is responsible for that you can share with each client. It’s also necessary for the renter to have their own liability insurance so that you are not held responsible if they injure themselves during their classes or events.
A dance studio sound system is an essential – the success of your dancers depends in part on whether they can practice and perform to music with a high sound quality. Unfortunately, many people are intimidated by the technical jargon associated with sound systems and may not be using the best one for their studios. Don’t let feeling overwhelmed stop you from getting the best sound system for your money. Instead, read through this simple guide to finding the right sound system for your dance studio.
Studio sound systems should include a music player, speakers and at least one amplifier. The music travels from the player and is amplified through the speakers to effectively fill the room. When possible, you should select equipment that is specially designed to work with the unique characteristics of a dance studio, recommended Kenleigh Industries, a sound equipment provider.
Studios have tricky acoustics because of their many hard surfaces, so general sound equipment may not be effective. The number of speakers and amplifiers you need for your studio depends on its square footage and ceiling height and on your class size, since the presence of people also affects how sound travels. The bigger your classroom space, the higher your speaker and amplifier power should be, advised Kenleigh.
According to Fitness AV, 80 to 200 watts is generally enough power for small studios, while bigger studios will need more.
Choosing a Music Player
If your studio is still playing music off of vinyl records, then it’s probably time for an upgrade. Your two main music format options are CDs and MP3s. A CD player is easy to use and connect to speakers, and ones with built-in recording and editing features will enable you to put compilations together or adjust songs to better fit with choreography.
Using MP3 files for your music saves a lot of space, and they won’t skip when dancers jump around, noted the Royal Academy of Dance. The source recommended purchasing a dual CD player and MP3 system for the most flexibility. You can play MP3 files without a docking station by directly connecting the player to the speakers via an auxiliary cord, however, you’ll miss out on remote capabilities, recording and other convenient features that come with a specially designed player.
It’s important to give some thought to how you install and set up your dance studio sound system to get the most out of it. The Royal Academy of Dance provided the following guidelines:
“Hi-fi separates should be wall-mounted at the front of your studio around 1.5m [4.9 feet] off the ground, away from the fingers of young children. Speakers should be wall-mounted around 2.5 metres [8.2 feet] from the ground on the front wall, at least 1m [3.3 feet] from each of the side walls. Basic loudspeaker cable is adequate for dance studios – make sure you get enough to run from the amplifier to both of your speakers. PA equipment can be mounted in a 19″ rack which can be portable (with wheels if possible) or attached to a wall. Be aware that powerful PA amplifiers can be extremely heavy and will require substantial support if wall-mounted.”
Depending on your prowess with tools, it can be wise to hire an AV specialist team to ensure your equipment is safely and correctly installed.
In addition to your music player, amplifier and speakers, there are other equipment and features that may be beneficial for your studio. One is pitch control, also known as varispeed, that is included with some CD players. According to the Royal Academy of Dance, pitch control is useful because it allows you to slow down or speed up songs.
However, the source noted that it may double or triple the cost of your music player. Another piece of equipment you might want to purchase is a wireless microphone so you can give instructions to the class over music without being restricted by cords. If you opt for a microphone, Kenleigh noted that you should also purchase a simple mixer, since it allows you to talk through the microphone while music is playing.
Additionally, it’s worth considering whether you want active speakers or passive speakers, according to the Royal Academy of Dance. Active speakers have built-in amplifiers, which make them heavier than passive speakers, so choose passive ones if you need your dance studio sound system to be easily transportable.
While music players are relatively inexpensive, amplifiers and speakers tend to come with a heftier price tag. However, consider amps and loudspeakers an investment. The Royal Academy of Dance stated that these two types of equipment “will often work perfectly well for 10 years or more if they’re not pushed beyond their limitations.”
While you’ll likely come across “integrated sound systems” in your search – music players, amplifiers and speakers that are sold together as a package – it’s more cost-effective to by the components individually, according to Fitness AV. This way, you can buy each piece of equipment and any add-ons over time, according to your budget, and can easily update or expand your dance studio sound system as your studio size or resources grow.
With the chilly temperatures and few hours of daylight, summer seems ages away. While it’s hard to imagine lazy days of sun during not-so-fun January, it’s a good time to start thinking about how you will generate revenue for your studio during the summer months. Since many families go on vacation, ensuring your dance studio has an income from May to September takes some creativity. There are many summer dance ideas that your studio can keep revenue up during the summer months, including camps, intensives and workshops, and by renting out your facility.
During the summer, we’re all guilty of spending a few too many minutes daydreaming about the beach while we’re supposed to be working. But keep in mind that kids are even more susceptible to laziness and distraction during these dog days. To remain profitable over the school break, dance studios need to offer creative programs that keep students engaged and entertained.
Here are some summer dance ideas your studio can generate income this summer:
Summer camps are a win-win for everyone: Kids get out of the house, parents get some more time for themselves and dance studios get increased visibility. Camps can take place over a few days, a week or even a full month. Whichever duration you choose, the important thing is that your attendance policy is flexible. Since families have vacations and other commitments during the summer, letting students drop in and avoiding scheduling camp on Fridays and weekends makes the program convenient for parents. Also, allowing parents to pay for a total number of days, as opposed to one set fee for the entire camp, accommodates summer plans and reduces stress, which ultimately means greater profits for your studio.
Camps are especially great for young children, who are typically at home during summer break with lots of energy to spare! While your camp should include some elements of dance, it’s important to keep in mind that kids are raring to let loose and have fun. A creative camp theme that combines movement with crafts and other activities will garner the most interest and keep kids engaged.
Here are some easy theme ideas:
Princess Party: Kids will love living out their fairy tale dreams with this theme. Have them wear their favorite costumes to camp and spend the day dancing to songs from princess movies. Kids can decorate crowns as a fun craft, and lunchtime can be transformed into a royal tea-time!
Fairy/Butterfly Garden: Have the kids don sparkly wings for a day of fluttering fun. After learning some simple choreography, campers can “fly” around the room, maneuvering their way past some easy obstacles. The fairies or butterflies can pair up and learn a dance routine together that they then present for their friends. For a craft, the fairies can decorate wands and the butterflies can draw or paint colorful butterfly friends.
Pirates: A great idea from Dance Studio Life is offering camps that are geared more toward boys at the same time as your other camps, since parents are then more likely to enroll siblings. Mini-mateys will love a swashbuckling pirate camp, where they can learn simple dance-inspired “sword fight” routines (with foam cutlasses, of course!) and watch scenes from their favorite pirate films.
Intensives appeal especially to teenage and young adult dancers and are a great chance for students to dive into subjects that they may not have a chance to learn about during the school year. Try to make them as creative and in-depth as possible to attract the most students. To give your intensive an extra draw, hire “guest teachers” from local universities or big city-studios. Another idea is to focus your intensives on unique specialty subjects that expand students’ experience with dance. For example, Juilliard’s three-week summer intensive includes classes in yoga and improvisation, and collaborates with the music program. Another creative idea is the Dance College Preparation Intensive offered by Cornish College of the Arts, which provides students with technique classes in several styles along with lectures in helpful areas like essay writing.
One-day workshops are flexible and low-commitment, which makes them perfect for the summer months. To attract the most students, keep the purpose of the workshop ultra-specific. Dedicate the day to improving a specific set of moves, or focus on other useful skills, like choreography or improvisation. Think about an area that’s important for a dancer to learn in order to improve and grow, but that isn’t usually offered in regular classes. For example, Skidmore College’s Summer Dance Workshop includes a course in Performance Techniques.
“Rent out your studio for birthday parties or town recreation programs.”
Rent Out Your Studio
In addition to offering the programs above, renting out your studio will help you garner a higher income during the summer. Rent out the studio for birthday parties and town recreation programs or to school teams and fitness instructors. Consider the demographics and specific needs of your community to generate the most revenue from renting out your facility. DanceTeacher magazine profiled the owners of Downtown Dance Factory in New York City, who began offering birthday parties after noticing that there was a space in the local market.
“We knew from our own experience as moms that there was a demand for interesting, well-run birthday parties, and in downtown Manhattan, hardly anyone has room for that type of party at home,” said Hanne Larsen, one of the owners, in an interview with the magazine.
Beyond creating additional income, renting out your facility introduces new dancers to your programs. The more people that come into your studio, the better, and many parents whose kids attend events or parties at your studio will enroll them for classes come autumn.
Keep your studio hot this summer with these creative income generators.
English, math and science classes are standard components of school curriculums, but dance deserves a spot in the schedule too. Whether students attend ballet classes at a local studio or shy away from dancing in front of others, teaching dance in schools has significant benefits for children’s personal development. For dance teachers who have only taught at studios, teaching dance in schools provides many rewarding opportunities to positively impact students and the rest of the community.
“If all children in every school from their entrance until their graduation … were given the opportunity to experience dance as a creative art, and if their dancing kept pace with their developing physical, mental, and spiritual needs, the enrichment of their adult life might reach beyond the results we can now contemplate.”
According to the National Dance Education Organization, there are an estimated 6,000 K-12 schools in the U.S. that include dance in the curriculum. Some 43 percent of children across the country receive some form of dance instruction in school, with 36 percent of them learning dance in physical education classes or in other classes that are taught by volunteers, parents and non-specialist teachers. Besides PE classes, dance is also sometimes included as part of a school’s general arts curriculum.
Why is Teaching Dance in Schools Important?
For many dance instructors, the ability to positively impact the community is one of the biggest reasons to teach dance in schools. Children learn to express their emotions through movement, and the focus that dance demands can help them find greater stability in their lives and form stronger self-identities. On a larger level, students create strong bonds with one another through dance, and parents and faculty are also connected through the dance activities of their children and students.
The community impact of teaching dance in schools was explored in a documentary, “PS DANCE!,” that spotlighted dance teachers and their students at public schools across New York City. Catherine Gallant, a dance teacher at a public school who also oversees two dance companies, was featured in the documentary. She didn’t intend to teach in schools – volunteering for her son’s class on a whim turned into a full-time position – and she’s now been teaching at the school for nearly two decades, according to Dance Teacher magazine.
“I think all children have a large appetite for movement,” said Gallant in an interview with the magazine. She crafts her lesson plans to improve students’ self-confidence, instill the importance of respect and trust and expand their vocabularies through movement.
There are also many personal benefits of teaching dance in schools. Teachers that also work at dance studios get their names out, which helps build their reputations and expand their client bases. In addition, dance teachers at schools can delve into their passion without the stress and costs that come with operating a studio.
Differences Between Studios and Schools
Dance instructors that want to begin working in schools should familiarize themselves with the differences between teaching in a studio setting and a school setting. While the aim of studio dance classes is to improve students’ technique, skill set and abilities as a dancer, school goals are much broader.
The guidebook “Teaching Dance as Art in Education” outlines several of these differences:
Studios stress technique and performance, while school classes are comprehensive and emphasize learning about a wide variety of dance styles
Private studios train committed dancers, while school classes introduce all students to dance in order to strengthen their bodies and minds
Private studios refine specialized skills, while school classes provide generalized instruction
School dance instructors should also think about the differences in class dynamics between the studio and school settings. Not all students in a school class will be interested in learning dance. Teachers have to have the skills necessary to deal with disruptive or unmotivated students. Dance Teacher emphasized that strong planning and organizational skills along with the ability to stay calm under stress are important attributes of successful school dance teachers. It’s also vital to constructively respond to students’ insecurities or concerns. As Lucy Vurusic Riner wrote in a post for 4dancers.org:
“Your advanced ballet student that competes at her studio is a very different person than the beginning dance student who is mortified to put on a leotard and tights. You have to be sensitive to your audience and know who you’re playing to. Otherwise you have the potential of losing some really amazing opportunities with new movers that you can mold into your program as the years progress.”
“It’s also vital to constructively respond to students’ insecurities or concerns.”
Certifications and Experience
According to Arts.org, around 60 percent of middle school students in dance and theater classes are taught by instructors who have either an education in their field or a certification to teach dance or theater. Only 20 percent of students are taught by instructors who have both an education in their field and a teaching certification. More and more states are requiring school dance teachers to have training or certification in education in addition to extensive dance experience and knowledge. Having an education certification will help make you more marketable to employers and prepare you for the challenges of teaching to a wide range of learning styles.
Some arts and humanities organizations maintain online directories of dance teacher vacancies at schools in their states, which are very useful for finding a position. If no dance teacher position exists at your local school, try volunteering to teach dance during a gym or art class – it’s a great way to make connections and get your foot in the door.
You’ve jumped and soared to incredible heights throughout your dance career, but now it’s time to make your biggest leap yet. With a love of dance and a passion for sharing it with others, you’ve decided to open your own brand new studio.
Editor’s Note: Since the publication of this article, TutuTix has created an even more in-depth resource for studio owners looking to take their studios to the next level. It even includes an example business plan for a new dance studio!
Starting a dance studio involves considering a wide variety of categories that concern everything from advertising methods to payment processing systems. It’s a lot to think about, but following a checklist will help make the process a little less stressful. We’ve outlined the major categories involved in how to start a dance studio, and the smaller tasks that they encompass:
Of course, after passion and determination, the most important thing you need to open a dance studio is money! While you can’t predict every expense, try to prevent surprises.
Hiring a financial advisor is a smart move to make sure that you have sufficient savings to not only start your dance studio but continue operating it for the long-term. An advisor can also help you determine if you need to take out loans to help finance your business.
The first category you need to consider when starting a dance studio is location. You need to reconcile your studio’s ideal location with the facility size and layout that best suits your needs.
A studio located in a populated, busy area that’s visible to passing traffic will get you noticed the most and draw in more customers. The location should also be in a neighborhood that’s safe for children. Research the demographics of the area and how many other dance studios are located in the proximity.
When looking at building layout, consider how many rooms you want the studio to have and the number of office spaces, storage rooms and bathrooms needed. Make sure the lobby and reception area is spacious enough to be comfortable.
Your studio will also need to have more than enough parking spots to accommodate not only the daily class load but the added influx of parents and students during performances and other special events.
A strong, well-developed brand communicates who you are and what you have to offer to clients. Branding involves a range of duties, including choosing the decor of the studio, deciding on a name and creating a unique logo and sign.
You should create a business plan early on, and in this plan outline your mission statement, values and goals. Think about what makes you and your teaching style unique and valuable to students. Make sure you dedicate ample resources to advertising, because you will have to rely on it as a new and unknown studio.
Create business cards, brochures, a company website and advertising campaigns on social media sites. Contact local schools and community groups to investigate opportunities for partnerships and collaboration, and see if you can participate set up a table at at town events like festivals and parades. Hold an open house day, and consider offering incentives for signing up for classes on the day, like studio-branded dance gear or a discounted tuition rate.
A strong brand helps customers recognize the value of your services, so don’t skimp on getting your name out there.
Starting any kind of business is a confusing and taxing process that gets even more complicated when you add in all the legal mumbo jumbo. Consider hiring a lawyer to help you deal with these complexities.
A lawyer can read over and advise you on the lease of your building, and can help you make sure that you register your business correctly. Take out an insurance policy and draw up waivers and other necessary forms to help protect and support your studio.
Enlist the help of other legal and business professionals to ensure that your studio complies with all health, safety and environmental standards and that you possess all necessary permits and music licenses.
Order and install the big pieces of your studio, like padded or marley floors, floor-to-ceiling mirrors and barres. Buy a sound system for the studio, and sound-proof each studio room as much as you can to cut down on excess noise and distraction.
Is there sufficient lighting in classrooms, throughout the building and in parking lots? Beyond dance equipment, you also need the basic equipment required for running a business, like a computer system, studio-management software and payment processing system.
In order to accept credit card payments, you’ll have to register merchant accounts with the major providers. Install locks and a security system in the studio to help ensure it is safe and protected. You’ll need to maintain your studio, too, so set up regular shipments of cleaning supplies and restroom products. And don’t forget WiFi!
“Establish your studio policies early on.”
Think about all the things that will be necessary for you to successfully run your new studio. Establish your studio policies early on, including tuition rates and attendance and discipline rules.
Create your schedule, deciding when the registration period for classes will be, how many and which types of classes you will offer each week and when and where performances will be held throughout the year. Create a document including your policies and calendar and make copies.
Determine how many instructors and staff you will need to cover all your classes and what experience and skills you require, and hire those that are a good fit with the culture and attitude of your studio.
For more in-depth information on starting a dance studio, take a look at our Studio Start-Up blog category, or choose from any of the articles below: