Chasta is the artistic director and owner of Stage Door Dance Productions in Raleigh, North Carolina. She is also the founder of The Dance Exec, a website and organization that provided resources and training for dance studio owners. The resources from The Dance Exec have a new home on the TutuTix blog, giving dance studio owners an even more in-depth library of free tools and information with which to grow their business. Chasta contributes to the TutuTix blog from time to time, offering her perspective as a studio owner (and TutuTix client!).
It’s the most wonderful time of the year? If you feel like you’re crawling into 2021, you aren’t alone. Crisis leadership is exhausting, and we haven’t had a break since March. With holidays feeling unusual amidst an escalating pandemic, the heaviness may continue to weigh on you during this festive season. Now is the time to take a breath, inventory where you stand, and prepare for the push forward. You’ve made it this far, and you can make it to 2021 and beyond!
TAKE A BREATH
Give yourself space. When the adrenaline and/or fear kicks in, it can be easy to feel reactionary, stressed, angry, out of control, and /or frustrated. Using the tips below, monitor your self-awareness and give yourself permission to breathe.
Monitor your health: exercise, stay hydrated, eat healthily, and sleep!
Have non-professional hobbies: find a new project, skill, or activity, and dig in!
Seek inspiration: make sure you aren’t becoming paralyzed to the new reality, seek inspirational sources.
Monitor your time: do you find yourself doomscrolling or plunging into the wasteland of social media? Be mindful of how you’re spending your time.
Reach out: talk to friends, other businesses, and maintain your connections.
Self-advocate: skip the gathering, decorate for Christmas early, do whatever you need to do to protect your well-being.
INVENTORY WHERE YOU STAND
Now is a great time to review the months behind us while looking forward to the future. Make sure you aren’t only looking to the immediate future. Continue your long-term strategy, as well.
Continue to mitigate: keep your studios and classrooms as safe as possible through consistent messaging, cohesive leadership, and standardized enforcement. Remind your community that it is a shared responsibility to keep the community safe.
Recognize your accomplishments: celebrate your pivots and recognize the fact that you have worked really hard to get to where you are today. Take a minute to reflect on what worked, what didn’t, and how you can learn/grow from this experience in the future.
Do the numbers: this may feel painful, but it is necessary for your financial planning and projections. What’s your percentage compared to past years? How long can you sustain?
PREPARE FOR THE PUSH FORWARD
While you may want to stop, don’t. Keep going, keep planning, and keep dreaming. Never lose sight that YOU create and inspire magic!
Create contingencies: There’s no need for surprises or panic-inducing situations at this point. Create contingencies and work smartly, so you do not have to rework strategies or plans.
Think beyond the pandemic: When this subsides, what do you want your business to look like? How will you continue to grow, scale, and serve your community?
Involve others in the conversations: Lean into your team, a mentor, a therapist, and/or a leadership coach to help you navigate the now and the future.
Stay optimistic: optimism isn’t the same as always being positive. Keep your outlook in check and remind yourself that you have the power to influence others.
Looking for more great ideas from Chasta? Check out the following articles:
Whew, what a year it has been! As we cruise into the home stretch of 2020 (cheers!), now is the time to think about safe and seasonal ways to focus on your community and generate some additional revenue for your dance studio biz.
CUSTOM PARTIES & PLAYDATES
This is a great menu item to consider offering to your current clients. If you already have birthday party packages available for booking, consider adding custom parties and playdates themed for the season.If you haven’t added birthday parties to your offerings, consider launching this new revenue source with seasonal highlights.
Seasonal theme ideas are endless, but may include:
Sugar Plum Party
A Very Merry Holiday Jam
Nites and Lites Hanukkah Party
A Royal Christmas Affair
New Year’s Eve Disco Party
With people traveling less this season, it is the perfect time to focus on bringing joy to your dance community. Have you thought about the following ideas?
Trunk or Treat or Fall Fest
Nutcracker-Themed Camp or Mini Virtual Performance
Drive-Through Lights Display at Your Facility
Holiday Morning Mini Camps
New Year’s Parties
Remote Parent Observation or Parent Participation
Because CDC and state/local protocols must be followed and vary from place to place, plan ahead and communicate any adaptations and safety protocols and expectations in advance.
If your event doesn’t fill up immediately, don’t stress. People are waiting until the last minute to do things right now, and that’s okay! They will appreciate your effort, and in return, you’ll gain: client loyalty/buy-in, marketing exposure/impressions, and the satisfaction of bringing joy to others!
Now is the time to pull out of all of the stops! After a year of pivots and constant creativity, I know we are all ready for some “downtime”, but don’t lose sight of the momentum your brand has the potential to deliver. This season, people are eager to support local businesses, which includes dance studios! Here are a few additional revenue sources you can consider:
Private Lesson Packages
Holiday Merchandise Orders
Gift Wrapping Drop-Off/ Pick-Up
New Dancer Starter Kits (focus on recruiting January enrollment!)
Now’s the time to really get creative and get ready to start strong in 2021. Got any ideas you want to share with us? Send ’em to marketing (at) TutuTix (dot) com and let us know if we can share them in a future post!
Looking for more great ideas from Chasta? Check out the following articles:
Chasta Hamilton explains how to focus on opportunity over obstacles, the importance of leadership, as well as Gratitude Over Grump strategies you can share with your team members, students and families!
Recital Season is upon us! For most dance studios, this is “the big game” in our industry. It is an opportunity to build community over a shared interest, celebrate your students’ progress, and impress your clients. There’s no better marketing tool than an efficient, polished, and purposeful recital experience!
In order to make it happen, you have to (1) be prepared in your organization and leadership, (2) you have to communicate expectations and standards in advance, and (3) you have to follow through.
Below are 3 tips that have helped us immensely in curating an amazing Recital Weekend Experience!
THE RECITAL ROOKIE
For many in the dance industry, the concept of a dance recital is second nature. This likely is not the case for the majority of your clients. Often, they are new to the recital experience, or at the very least, they may be new to your studio’s systems and processes.
Your clients are also probably busy and juggling a million things. They may miss an email, feel overwhelmed at the thought of making a bun, or misinterpret the correct way to put on a recital costume. That’s okay!
It is easy to react with frustration, but this season, shift the perspective and approach your clients with empathy and understanding. It will go a long way in building client loyalty!
We’ve helped educate Recital Rookies in the following ways:
Personal posts that are counterintuitive to your professional/personal brand
Language that may seem degrading to another studio or program.
THE DIGITAL EVOLUTION
Outside of the strategies listed above, consider how you can use digital opportunities to create a more interactive, modern experience for your clients.
A few ideas include:
Make sure studio sound stations/equipment are appropriate for modern technology
Implementing easy ways for families to enroll and pay for programming.
Transition from printed program books to digital program books
Create marketing materials that showcase well in digital content
Revise/ modernize your Recital Photography + Videography Procedure
Create a studio-wide motto/hashtag that generates brand consistency between digital and actual platforms
Looking for more great ideas on how to Rock Your Dance Recital? Check out the following articles:
With increased consumer engagement rapidly expanding in the digital sphere, how do we create purposeful boundaries and opportunities for engagement in our dance studios? The line between the personal and professional can often be blurry in this sphere, and it’s caused a serious digital dilemma. If we embrace the strategic potential of the platform versus resisting change, it can result in exciting and meaningful growth for our businesses.
THE DIGITAL DILEMMA:
The ability for us to “be connected” all the time is certainly a recognized dilemma in our society. While it is amazing to have the ability to remotely check-in, it is also putting a strain on our mental health and emotional well-being. Purposeful boundaries are necessary in order for us to continue thriving in our businesses, our creativity, and our personal lives.
In the New Year, try the following:
Schedule Phone-Free Times Each Day
Schedule Email Checkpoints to Refrain from Constantly Refreshing Your Device
Make Your Time Spent Online Intentional: Try to Refrain from Mindless Scrolling.
Set Boundaries (and Enforce Them) re: Social Media Engagement. Business Questions should be handled via email or through the office.
Make Sure You Maintain and Enjoy Non-Digital Activities
Keep Dance Classes a Digital Distraction-Free Space (for students + instructors)
THE DIGITAL STRATEGY:
1-page intro to recital sheet in every student’s digital welcome packet at the start of each season
A detailed timeline of when to expect information, including specific dates/times for emails so they can easily search to reference materials
The dissemination of information by class, so families are not overwhelmed or confused by too much information at once
A digital, all you need to know recital guide for parents and students
Recital Q+A Events: In-Person and on Instagram
BUILD THE HYPE
The recital is something to celebrate, and we plan events to make the experience an inclusive conversation piece in our programming.
While we only work on choreography in classes during the months of March, April, and May, we start promoting the Recital and its surrounding events in January with our Theme + Costume Reveal.
Other ways we hype up the show include:
Conversation Components to involve the family outside of the studio. For example, if your show is based around books, create a family reading list. If your show features character concepts, consider age-appropriate worksheets for a series of monthly themes.
Shared Choreography Rehearsal Videos so families can rehearse their routine(s) at home. This increases the students’ accountability, involves the parent in the process, and generates respect for the rehearsal process, as well.
A Recital Pep Rally featuring photo booths, themed stations, merchandise sales and seminars (how to make a bun, packing your backstage bag, etc.)
Complimentary group photos that are taken at dress rehearsal and posted to social media prior to the performance days.
Studio Branded step and repeat for use on show days
“I Rocked Recital!” Buttons that are distributed to every student prior to the Recital Curtain Call at every performance.
CREATE YOUR RECITAL PLAYBOOK
In order for your clients to benefit from a smooth and easy recital experience, you have to enter the season calm and in control. The recital is a major undertaking, and with appropriate planning, you’ll be able to enjoy it as much as your students!
Set a timeline and stick to it. With our timeline, everything is finished a month prior to the show.
Train your staff on the general aesthetic of the show. Every routine and every recital should fit the overall brand of the studio.
Implement systems (e.g. hiring a stage manager to deal with the production components) and/or vendors (like TutuTix!) to make your life easier.
Delegate! Everyone should know their role and assignment and expected place/location- from paid studio staff to parent volunteers. Make sure they are trained and prepared for their assignments.
Create consistent workflows for check-in, pick-up, stage entrance, stage blocking, and stage exit.
Expect the unexpected. With live theatre, everything will not go according to plan. When the unexpected arises, creatively problem solve, stay calm, and keep your focus forward.
Looking for more great ideas to navigate the Digital Dilemma at your studio? Check out the following articles:
Recently, we did a small dance survey and asked for your thoughts about trends on the competitive circuit. Instead of small concerns or observations, the responses were overall negative and centered around:
Inappropriate Costuming & Movement
Too Many Props
An Abundance of Guest Choreographers
Lack of Technique
Level Confusion/ Inconsistency
As I thought about the feedback from the dance survey and shared it with my friends, it seems that some of these complaints could be improved or solved with greater accountability- on behalf of the studios and the competitions.
(1) Owners, Directors, and Teachers have to set the tone for appropriateness and take accountability for what they choose to put onstage. Is anyone going to argue with wanting to maintain a child’s class and innocence?
These same individuals must also strive to provide their dancers with a solid, technical foundation and artistic, creative, and original choreography. When it comes to levels, they also must be honest in registering their dancers for varying divisions.
(2) Competitions must stand by their rules and beliefs. If a routine can only have so many tricks in a particular category, it should be upheld. If the competition promotes appropriateness as a value, it should be upheld (even though it can be understandably subjective).
Regardless, in dealing with an unregulated industry (for the studios and competitions), it is important that we all do our part to make it a positive, beneficial experience for all dancers. Ultimately, we all want it be an educational tool that improves our dancing, our industry, and its artistry.
Are you looking for more articles to make this year’s competition season as productive as possible?
We go to great lengths to be as prepared and organized as possible at every single event, but there are a few items we ALWAYS forget for conventions. As you’re packing up, make sure you include these last-minute convention supplies!
Every time we arrive at a convention and are distributing wristbands, we always forget to have scissors on hand to cut the extra band. I have scissors in the spare sewing kit, but they will not work on most wristband materials.
Some conventions or competitions give out scissors as part of registration. Ask and see if the one you’re attending does! If not, make sure to grab that pair of scissors on the way out the door.
There is another item that is great to have on hand for travel and community/competitive performances: a SHARPIE!
This comes in handy for labeling music, forms, costumes, etc. Add it to your must-bring list!
(P.S. Make that TWO Sharpies. Someone will absolutely ask you to borrow one, and you will absolutely never get it back.)
On long weekends of competition, performance, and convention classes, it is really easy to drain the power on your device(s).
Recently, we purchased a portable battery. This device is amazing for charging on the go!
It eliminates the necessity of dragging cords, finding outlets, etc.
There are many different brands, styles, and price points available- but definitely look into it! It will make your life much more convenient!
You can also take a look at our more complete checklists and packing tips as you head to convention or competition:
After we return from each competition, we take the scores and feedback, transcribe the information into a document, and distribute it to our studio families. Many times, the results of the dance competition scoring reiterate information we’ve been communicating, and it serves as reinforcement for areas of improvement.
From the perspective of a teacher/competition judge, I’ve realized that critiques can be critical to dancers’ development. So, it’s important for studios to leave competitions with constructive feedback.
Sharing Dance Competition Scoring and Critiques
I have spoken to many Studio Directors, Owners, and Instructors that choose not to use their competition critiques in any way, shape, or form. If you’re selecting events with quality critiques (something that should be a critically important factor in competition selection), you should pass the information to your students and/or their parents.
Sharing this information increases the value of the competitive experience for your studio families. If you’re using competition as an educational experience, this reiterates your mission and stance. Your studio families will appreciate it!
How Judges Need to Offer Critiques
While using competition critiques back home is important, it is even more important that the critiques be thoughtful, informative, positive, encouraging, and constructive.
The standards for critiques has to be higher. How many times have we heard of feedback that consists of a judge singing the song lyrics? Or, what about the routine that doesn’t perform well that contains audio with no feedback and only a “good job” at the end? Unfortunately, this happens too often.
The process is multi-tiered:
(1) Competitions have to demand excellence of their judges.
(2) Studios have to expect a high standard when attending events.
(3) Studios have to use the materials provided by a competition.
This morning, I am traveling back from a judging weekend. As I was flying out on Friday morning, I committed myself to offering critiques that were meaningful and thoughtful. Those kinds of critiques can potentially make the difference in the life of a dancer.
The gestures are small, but maybe offering a student a tip on prepping for a turn sequence or expanding their movement on the stage could motivate a child to the next level.
As teachers and judges (and for many of us that serve as both), let’s continue working on increasing the value of the dance competition industry. We all know the experience is about more than a placement or a trophy; it is about personal success, improvement, and accomplishment.
Bullying seems so senseless and unnecessary. And yet, it still occurs in seemingly all environments. It happens at school, extracurricular activities, via social media, and, yes, even from members of the dance team at competitions. Social media outlets has removed accountability and personal connectivity from today’s youth, allowing them an impersonal way of criticizing and degrading others in a very passive manner.
I have heard stories of bullying occurring at dance competitions for the past few years. But, it wasn’t until recently that I actually observed negativity at an event.
Via social media, an older student from one studio’s dance team was blatantly criticizing much younger students from another studio. Using that message, the older student had other dancers joining in the conversation, and it felt so unnecessary and inappropriate.
What do you think made this student feel as though this was an okay choice?
Respect and Appreciation at Competition
As instructors, we have to instill values of respect in our students. These values should transcend the studio classroom and reach other studios, peers, and life endeavors. Our values become our lifestyle, and I would like to think that studios would never condone this kind of behavior.
Most competitions and conventions encourage appropriate behavior. I appreciate and applaud the steps they’ve taken to guarantee students are learning and growing in a nurturing, supportive environment. Studio owners, parents, instructors, students, and peers have to support and encourage that mission, too.
Ultimately, we are all in this together. And, personally, I know that I want every dance experience to be positive, meaningful, and productive for each and every one of our students.
Dance Spirit featured an article in 2011 entitled Beat Bullying, which discusses the issue from an in-studio perspective. It’s just as relevant to think about bullying in regards to outside events and encountering other studios.
At the end of the day, we have to lead by example. That way, we make sure our students are aware of their choices, actions, and consequences. We are all working hard, striving to do our best, and encouraging our students to grow. Each individual is on his/her own dance journey, and we have to be respectful and supportive of each dancer’s work and achievement.
As J.K. Rowling said: “It is our choices…that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
Let’s make the choice to be kind. After all, we’re all in this together.
Check out these wonderful classroom partner stretches and stretching exercises from Magical Kingdom of Dance! Our goal for February is to teach our students to build bridges instead of walls. The focus is Teamwork!
“Togetherness is learning to work, play and dance together, for it’s far more fun to share our satisfactions with others. Great things happen when there is TEAMWORK in dance class.”
Partner Exercises for Elementary and/or Pre-Ballet Classes:
Princess Rise – A teacher or “Prince Charming” can help each student rise by offering his or her hand to the “ballerina” princess sitting on the floor with straight backs and one knee up. Each student gracefully stands to execute a beautiful curtsey. (Pre-Ballet)
Hook elbows back to back and sit down together, pushing against partner’s back. Stand up by pushing against partner’s back. (This is good for 5 ages and up.)
See Saw – Face your partner holding hands and pull away from each other. Gently bend knees while gently pulling away from each other to sit on the floor. This is good for ages 5 and up.
Middle School/High School Partner Stretches
Sit back to back – #1 partner sits with the bottoms of feet together and lowers head over to feet. #2 Partner – presses her back with her own back letting her body weight gently hold the stretch. Also, you may use hands to gently press out the knees of #1. (#2’s chest is facing the ceiling) (For Middle school age and high school)
Partners sit facing each other with legs straight and the bottom of feet together. Hold hands. #1 leans back and pulls arms of the #2 partner and vise versa. On all stretches, remember to hold the stretch for 30 seconds. (For middle school age and high school)
Hold hands – facing your partner. Partner #1 puts R foot gently on Partner’s #2 shoulder. Partner #1 leans into a back bend while partner #2 holds her forearms firmly. Switch legs and then switch roles. (This is an advanced stretch)
The dance convention environment is an important component in building strong, confident, adaptable, and resilient dancers. The experience is unique, challenging, and, when approached (and presented) correctly, highly effective and beneficial as a supplemental training opportunity.
Here are 10 Tips for making each dance convention a successful experience for your dancers!
1. Dress to Flatter
Yes, it is important to stand out, but convention attire has become so over the top trendy, that the art of classic, flattering apparel is almost a rarity.
What looks best on you? Are you prepared with attire that matches every style of dance offered?
For hip-hop, do you look like a hip-hop dancer? For ballet, do you look like a ballet dancer? Know your styles and dress appropriately (and professionally).
2. Physically Perform, Mentally Engage
Dance convention classes require physical exertion for performance, but they also require an equal amount of mental engagement and focus.
3. Be Prepared
Arrive early, be well rested, hydrated, and have a plan in place for healthy meals and snacks throughout the workshop. Take care of your body!
4. Remove Yourself from Distraction
Remove yourself from your in-class friends and parents (if they are observing). Find your own spot in the room where you can focus and absorb the information. Leave your cell phones and iPods outside.
When you are in the dance room, you have to be in the zone.
When you are in class, be focused, engaged, and connected with the material being taught. If you disengage at any point, you will likely fall behind in the choreography/instruction.
If you fall behind, do not give up. Work hard to catch up, and keep trying! If you have a thoughtful, relevant question, do not be afraid to ask it.
6. Be Respectful & Kind
Treat ALL dancers, instructors, and attendees with the utmost amount of respect.
Think about how your words, actions, and gestures may be interpreted. Do not leave or sit down in the middle of a class. Stay throughout the entirety of a workshop.
7. Push Yourself Beyond Familiarity
Use the convention environment as an opportunity to explore and attempt new styles. Take EVERY class. Do not sit out.
You will strengthen yourself as a dancer and may realize a new interest or love for a particular style.
8. Thank Your Instructors
Take the time to thank your master teachers. It is a great showing of respect and a resourceful networking tool.
Also, take the time to thank your in-studio teachers and parents for providing you with this wonderful opportunity.
9. Do It for the Right Reasons
Attend workshops for the right reasons– i.e. receiving a scholarship should not be your motivation to attend. Go in with the mentality that you there to work hard, learn, and improve yourself as a dancer.
10. Apply the Lessons & Skills Beyond the Day
Retain the information, tips, and techniques shared at the workshop. Apply it to your everyday dancing and make the experience last far beyond the weekend.
The hair and make-up process for dancers, especially competitive dancers, can be daunting. To help parents and dancers understand the process of creating a particular hair and make-up “look”, host a hair and makeup seminar where parents and children can go through the process.
That way, they can go through the motions step-by-step, in a practice environment.
We host our seminar in mid-to-late January. Before the seminar, we email out a list that includes all of the supplies required for hair, make-up, tights, and shoes.
At the seminar, we go through the process of:
Styling Hair (detailed to the location of the part)
Applying Make-Up Properly (and using the proper colors, and in what order)
Applying False Eyelashes
Checking for Correct Colors of Tights/Shoes, to match with the rest of the costume
This makes EVERYONE feel more prepared for the dress rehearsal prior to the first competition, and, at competition, everyone feels more at ease and prepared.
For some help on explaining important makeup tips, check out our articles on dance competition makeup:
Many dance studios choose to have a performance or competition team of some variety. Having a competition team allows students with a greater interest in dance or the performing arts an opportunity to explore their passion in a variety of performance and educational settings.
If your studio is considering starting a competition team, TutuTix and The Dance Exec have put together a Dance Competition Team Guide to get you started!
If your studio already has a competition team, our guide also goes through topics like:
Managing the logistics of the team
It also includes some links to articles about nutrition, choreography, competition stress, and more.
The choreography is prepared, your technique is strong, and you have been rehearsing in preparation for your upcoming performance/competition. Go through this checklist and make sure you are applying the following ways to improve your dance routine(s).
Dance Routine Checklist
Perform! Have a backstory, and use your movement to convey a story.
Let your energy flow all the waythrough your fingers and toes. Don’t let your energy stop at your wrists or ankles.
Connect your transitions. Keep the “in-between” moments fluid and purposeful, as you transition from one important sequence to another.
Stretch, and elongate your lines to their fullest. Relax the shoulders, and don’t let yourself get tense!
Let your timing and musicality be second nature. Play your music on repeat until you know it by heart.
Keep the eyes up! Recognize when you have opportunities to connect with the audience, and use them to enhance your performance.
Strengthen your arms. Let them have as much purpose as your feet!
Confidently execute the movement. Know your weak sections and adjust/rehearse until they are no longer weak.
Perfect your turn preparation, execution, and landing.
Prior to competing or performing, dancers should understand the importance of fully warming up their bodies. We spend a lot of time discussing this with our dancers, and we provide a checklist of proper pre-performance dance warm up exercises (FYI, sitting in a straddle is not a proper warm-up!).
This way, if we are busy or unable to lead a warm-up onsite at a performance or competition, students (and, sometimes, knowledgeable parents) can independently guarantee that they are prepared for their stage performance.
Recommended dance warm up exercises
Cardiovascular Exercise (Ex: Jumping Jacks, Runs in Place)
Ballet Work (Ex: Plies, Tendus, Degages, Battements)
Standing Stretches (Ex: Lunges, Flat Back)
Sitting Stretches (Ex: Second Position/Straddle, Splits)
Back Stretches (Ex: Cobra Stretch, Back Lifts)
Wall Stretches (Ex: Resistance Flexibility)
Core Stabilization (Ex: Plank, Hold & Balance in Retire)
After the body is warm, dancers can review or execute certain skills within their routines.
It is important to reiterate that once the body is warm, it should stay warm until performance time. If a dancer is idle, it is important to repeat the entire warm-up.
Communicate this information with your dancers and their parents, and you will be impressed with the level of autonomy and focus it instills on performance days.
Also, don’t forget that it’s equally important for dancers to be eating healthy foods in the days and hours before a performance! Take a look at these articles and make sure dancers are eating well so they can get through a big performance: