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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!).
Browsing All Posts By Chasta Hamilton

Gifts for Dance Students: Holiday Marketing

gifts for dance students

Last year, our studio purchased lunch boxes with the studio logo to distribute as gifts for dance students. This began a tradition of distributing a logo-oriented item prior to the Winter Break. All of our students love receiving the gift, and it doubly serves as a marketing strategy and brand reinforcement technique.

Gifts for dance students could include:

  • Pencil Cases
  • Hair Ties
  • Drawstring Bags
  • Water Bottles
  • Pencils
  • Pens
  • Tote Bag
  • Car Magnets
  • T-Shirts
  • Shorts
  • Sweatpants
  • Hats
  • Socks
  • Hairbands
  • Sticker set
  • Bracelets / Wristbands
  • Towels
  • Sweatshirts
  • Picture frame
  • Cups

And any other items you think your dancers might like! Think of these gifts both as a “thank you” to your students for their hard work and for their commitment to your studio, and as an investment for keeping your class sizes high and hopefully attracting some new students.

gifts for dance students

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Choosing Gratitude Every Day

choosing gratitude

Thanksgiving Week is a time to celebrate our blessings. Over the past few years, I’ve really worked on choosing gratitude as a daily practice. With that being the case, this holiday becomes a celebration of the year-long practice.

An article in the New York Times perfectly summarized it:

“Be honest: When was the last time you were grateful for the spots on a trout? More seriously, think of the small, useless things you experience — the smell of fall in the air, the fragment of a song that reminds you of when you were a kid. Give thanks.

This Thanksgiving, don’t express gratitude only when you feel it. Give thanks especially when you don’t feel it. Rebel against the emotional “authenticity” that holds you back from your bliss. As for me, I am taking my own advice and updating my gratitude list. It includes my family, faith, friends and work.”

You can read the full article here: Choose To Be Grateful; It Will Make You Happier

Regardless of situation or circumstance, there are blessings present in our lives. If we focus on choosing gratitude, we open ourselves for greater happiness and opportunity!

Try it in your journey- and may you and your family have a blessed Thanksgiving!

snoopy thanksgiving

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How to Stay Warm as a Dancer: Winter is Coming!

how to stay warm as a dancer

There is no denying the chilly, winter weather! It is imperative that we teach our students how to stay warm as a dancer: by dressing smartly and warmly during the cold, extreme weather conditions.

One of my great friends, Nuala DeGeorge offered the following, great tips for how to stay warm to her students at Stage Door School of Dance in East Patchogue, New York. Please pass them on to your students, so that we can all have a happy and healthy winter dance season.

How to Wear Dance Clothes When it Is Freezing Outside

Nuala DeGeorge

Dance class in freezing weather presents its challenges. One of those challenges is wearing proper dance attire while still keeping your body warm enough to avoid injury. Take the time to warm up. When coming in from the cold, your muscles are contracted to assist in keeping your body warm, and they need to be loosened slowly before beginning to dance. In cold weather, Layering your apparel is essential for dancers.

Things You’ll Need
Leotard, Tights, Pants, Leg warmers,
Sweater, Socks, Dance shoes.

Getting Dressed …

Step 1
Start with the basic dance outfit, which is a leotard and tights.

Step 2
Put a long-sleeve dance sweater or Sweatshirt on over your leotard to keep your upper body warm. If you do not have a dance sweater, any form-fitting top or sweater that allows you to use your full range of motion will do.

Step 3
To keep your bottom half warm, put on a pair of leg warmers or dance pants. Pull your leg warmers all the way up so that they cover the majority of your leg.

Step 4
Footwear will depend on the type of dance class you are taking. If it is a class that does not require shoes for the warm up, wear socks for the beginning of the class and take them off to avoid sliding when the dancing begins.

Tips & Warnings
Do not allow your body to overheat. Once you are moving and start to warm up, shed your outer layer. You may find that by the end of the class you are down to your leotard and tights and still sweating; however, bundle up again before going back outside in the cold.

thermometer

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Self-Confidence and Dance Costume Choices

self-confidence

Last year, we featured a post titled “10 Appearance Related Distractions for Competitive Dancers.” While these 10 distractions are all accurate, it is also important to consider the dancers’ self-confidence, self-image, and self-esteem when you are making your costume selections.

  1. It is imperative that we costume our dancers in an appropriate way that makes them feel great, on and off stage.
  2. In a world that is so image-oriented, we need to positively uplift our dancers in their appearance and self-perception.

Think about it: as Teachers, Studio Owners, and Parents, we have the opportunity to positively influence the young dancers and girls of the future.

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Dance Lyrics: Be Sure to Listen to Your Song Choices!

dance lyrics

How many times have you wondered, “What did that song just say?” or  “What does this song really mean?” If you are unsure about the meaning of dance lyrics or the content of a song, it is likely that the song should not be played in your dance classes or used for a performance/competition routine (and, if something is questionable, research the answer).

Many popular songs that receive radio play are pushing the limits of appropriateness with insinuating, suggestive, or inappropriate dance lyrics that are not appropriate for children. In a similar vein, songs that are played in your high school classes may not be appropriate for six and seven year old dancers.

One resource we found was songmeanings.com, where you can search for songs and research what the content is actually talking about.

Take the time to find class music that is age appropriate for your class composition. Err on the side of caution and make choices that will positively influence your student base.

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Competitive Dance Appropriateness: Time to Class It Up!

competitive dance

For years, I have watched an uncountable amount of dances performed at dance competitions. There have been amazing dances, passionate performances, and, unfortunately, routines that felt uncomfortable to watch because of inappropriate content, music selection, costuming, and/or choreography. When an inappropriate routine performs, it shakes the room, leaving parents, studio owners, instructors, and the competitive dance infrastructure unsettled.

While most competitions have statements of appropriateness, it is rare for a routine to receive a disqualification. The lack of reinforcement is frustrating, but the bigger issue is: how do these dances make it to the competitive dance stage? In order for the routine to make it to this phase, the routine has to pass through an instructor/choreographer,the studio owner, and the performers’ parents. At some point, prior to competition, accountability and integrity should prevail.

For this season,  let’s commit to raising the standards of the competitive dance industry. Let’s take ownership of the routines we place on stage and recognize that every performance represents the values, culture, and brand of our studios, and as  a by-product, each and every one of our studio families.

In preparing for competition, consider the following:

1. LyricsListen to the Lyrics and know what they mean. Eliminate curse words, but also be aware of inappropriate and overly mature or suggestive content. If a song is from a show or a musical, know the context.

2. Themes: When you are conceiving a piece, it is important that themes are appropriate for your dancers’ ages and maturity levels. Could an audience member misinterpret your piece or perceive it as inappropriate? Is the piece too serious or too dark? How can your students relate to the story that is being told?

3. Costuming: Does your costuming match the theme of the routine? Will it be perceived as classy or trashy? We must take ownership and responsibility of how we costume our students. Sexy is not how we should describe our costuming choices.  Dress your dancers appropriately.

4. Choreography: The choreography should fit the theme of the routine.  Movement should be age appropriate and representative of the lyrics, costuming, and themes.

5. Your Dancers’ Ages: Make sure ALL of your choices are appropriate for your dancers’ ages. Having young dancers perform a mature song/routine may result in inappropriate costuming, choreography, and thematic choices.

Share your standards with your instructors and guest choreographers. Build parental trust that you will always have your dancers’ best interests at heart.

Set your standards high, and do not waiver or succumb to trends or peer pressure.

Via competitive dance, we have an opportunity to positively influence and motivate our dancers, but we need to safeguard our choices and commit to presenting classy material that is representative of the dancers’ age and maturity. That is something that everyone can appreciate, respect, and look forward to seeing on stage.

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Dance Recital Organization Tip: Laundry Baskets

dance recital organization

Recital and performance season is here! Looking for an inexpensive (and easy) dance recital organization tip? 🙂

When I was dancing, I always kept all of my belongings in a laundry basket which helped in transporting items to and fro. I encourage all of my students and backstage volunteers to follow suit- when everything is labeled and organized, this makes sorting and organization super easy!

Some things to label:

Shoes (by costume or by piece as needed)

Each individual prop or accessory for costumes (if dancers have every single piece labeled, there’s a great chance they won’t forget anything at home…)

Makeup kit

Healthy snacks in a ziplock bag

General dance accessories in a ziplock bag (hair ties, bobby pins, deodorant)

dance recital organization

What else do dancers bring with them backstage that could fit in your new dance recital organization invention?

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Teaching Tips: Know Your Classroom Audience

teaching tips

Need a few teaching tips? As dance educators, it is important to read your classroom audience. Before you dig into class, take a minute to assess how the students are behaving that day.

Look around the classroom.

What students are being attentive? What students seem distracted?

Who is feeling shy on any particular day? Who seems more tired or sluggish than usual?

Could a student benefit from a little extra love or encouragement?

Does a student need some more stern guidance to check some bad behavior today?

Is your material resonating with them? Or, are they checking out of the lesson?

Each day, I make it my mission to build a connection with my students. Being in tune to their behavior, level of responsiveness, and learning style will make the educational opportunity a better experience for everyone involved!

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Dance Studio Bulletin Boards: Building Community

dance studio bulletin boards

Many educational institutions use bulletin boards to visually convey information. Dance studio bulletin boards can be used to convey relevant studio information, offer seasonal tips and fun, and increase the community vibe in the classroom.

In creating your boards, think about the following:

Ideas and Tips That May Be Fun and Exciting for Students

  1. Ballet Vocabulary (to reinforce your teaching in the classroom)
  2. Bios of Inspirational Figures in Dance (to give the students context for professional achievement)
  3. Announcement of the Week (something fun or important for students to remember)

Information That Is Relevant to Your Overall Student Body

  1. Stretching Tips (promoting health and wellness)
  2. Calendar Reminders (as an extra resource for parents to see at every class)
  3. Healthy Snack Options (promoting health and wellness)

Conversation Pieces that Bring People Together

  1. What is your favorite ballet? (Have the students ever been to a ballet? Could you all go as a studio?)
  2. What is your favorite dance movie? (What style of dance was the movie focused on, or what was your favorite choreography from the movie?)
  3. Pictures of the last recital (everyone, parents and kids, will want to see the studio in costume and at their best)

Visual Components that are Crafty, Creative, and Cute

  1. Seasonal Decorations (makes a bulletin board super easy to adapt)
  2. DIY Dance Tips for Costumes, Dance Bags, Makeup (always a big hit!)
  3. Creative images that encourage your dance community to follow you on social media (easy marketing!!)

Material that Engages Students and Parents

  1. What is your dance goal for the year? (help students visualize where they want to be, and give the parents something to encourage their child towards)
  2. Printed picture of the “class of the week” or featured “student of the week” (be very clear with WHY a class or student is featured, though, to avoid any mama drama!)

bulletin-board

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10 Appearance-Related Distractions for Competitive Dancers

distractions for competitive dancers

Costumes and appearance issues can cause distractions for competitive dancers. Take the time to make your appearance a great part of your performance!

1. Costumes that fit inappropriately. Pulling, tugging, or adjusting a costume during a dance can be very distracting. The costume should fit comfortably and functionally for the entirety of a routine.

2. Costumes that do not flatter every member of an ensemble. Take every dancer into account when selecting costuming. The costume choice should make every ensemble member feel and look great.

3. Costumes lacking coverage. Costuming should be appropriate and should not make audience members uncomfortable. Keep it classy!

4. Noticeable undergarments. Undergarments (including nude leotards) should not be noticeable onstage. Pin the undergarments to hide them from view.

5. Nail polish. Unless there are uniform requirements for nails, nail polish and designs should be removed for performance.

6. Tights with Runs. Tights should look clean onstage. Tights with holes/runs are distracting. Pack extras and be prepared for emergencies.

7. Sloppy Hair. Hair should be styled and secured to last throughout the entire performance. 

8. Loose Accessories. From hairpieces to gloves to bootstraps to jewelry, it is important that any and all costume accessories be secure enough to last throughout the performance.

9. Dirty or Mismatched Shoes. Shoes should be the same style and should be wiped clean for performance. Dirty or mismatched shoes are very distracting.

10. One Shoe Look. Not Okay!

Take the time to make your appearance a great part of your performance! The look is like writing your name on a school paper– take care of the preparation portion before it is time to shine on stage. Then, the performance can fully focus on the representation of your talent!

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Dance Teacher Body Language in the Classroom

dance teacher body language

In The Little Mermaid, Ursula tells Ariel “don’t underestimate the importance of body language.” The line is true in real life, and it’s important to pay attention to dance teacher body language in the classroom!

Think about how your body language motivates and encourages your students (or, if the body language is negative, how it might deter your students). Your posture, engagement, confidence, and connectivity influences your class as much as your verbal language.

Do you find yourself standing in open or closed positions?

Do you allow yourself to roam around the classroom, engaging with students, or do you find yourself in a more stationary position?

How do your students react when you move around them?

Do you ever catch yourself with tight shoulders?

Try and monitor your facial expressions during the next dance class. Are you smiling more often than not? Frowning? Do those frowns come at appropriate moments?

If you make even slight adjustments to your dance teacher body language, you will be surprised at the difference it can make in the energy of your classroom!

urusla

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101 Marketing Ideas & Strategies for Dance Studios

101 Marketing Ideas & Strategies for Dance Studios

101 MARKETING IDEAS & STRATEGIES FOR DANCE STUDIOS

1. T-Shirts
2. Ink Pens
3. Lunch Boxes
4. Beach Towels
5. Leotards
6. Jackets
7. Personalized Folders
8. Dance Bags
9. Car Magnets
10. Water Bottles
11. Sweat Pants
12. Jazz Pants
13. Athletic Shorts
14. Demo Days at Preschools
15. Country Club Programs
16. In-Studio Rewards Program
17. Community Performances
18. Community Choreography
19. Brochures & Posters in the Community
20. Demo Classes to Mothers’ Groups
21. Yard Signs
22. Children’s Books with Studio Labels Donated to Your Local Pediatrics Facility & Doctors’ Offices
23. Cards on Cars
24. Cards on Mailboxes
25. Setting Up Tables at Craft Fairs/Festivals
26. Setting Up Tables at Community Events (5Ks, etc.)
27. Parade Participation
28. Lollipop Tree
29. Email Messaging Infrastructure
30. In-Studio Flyers/Information to Current Clients
31. Birthday Cards/Notes to Dancers
32. Cross-Promotional Opportunities (Theatres, Shopping Center Events)
33. Donate to Auctions/ Raffles
34. Place a Box Outside of Your Studio with Information
35. Promote Complimentary Trial Classes
36. Use a Cell Phone to Be More Accessible Outside of the Studio
37. Respond to Emails Within 24 Hours
38. Promptly Return Calls
39. Have a Website
40. Have a ‘Contact Us’ Form on Your Website
41. Utilize An Easy to Spell URL on Your Website
42. Place Pricing on Website
43. Place Easy to Read Schedules on Your Website
44. Regularly Check and Review Your Website for Current Information
45. Use Facebook Pages for Your Studio
46. Maintain a Twitter Account
47. Consider Instagram & Pinterest for Your Studio
48. Determine What Form of Social Media Engages Your Audience (Photos, Shared Posts, etc.)
49. Have A Personal LinkedIn Page
50. Have a Professional LinkedIn Page
51. Claim Your Google Place
52. Use Google AdWords
53. Maintain Awareness of Online Reviews
54. Respond to Negative Online Reviews
55. Send Press Releases to News Outlets for Accomplishments
56. Open Houses & Festivals
57. Competitive Performances
58. Step & Repeat
59. Donation Drives
60. Join a Dance Educators Organization
61. Join a Community Service/Business Organization
62. Costume Selection
63. Cleanliness and Appearance of Your Studio
64. Your In-Studio Organization and Strategies
65. Welcome Packets
66. Class Placements and Recommendations
67. Recital DVD
68. Recital Pictures
69. Recital Performance
70. Buttons & Bands
71. Registration Gifts
72. Sibling Discount
73. Brand & Logo Consistency
74. Connect with Local Arts Organizations
75. Flash Mobs
76. Wedding Lessons
77. Birthday Parties
78. Friendly, Helpful, Professional Office Staff
79. Creative Class Offerings
80. Guest Artists
81. Seminars (Nutrition, Businesses, etc.)
82. Partnership with Dance Retailers
83. Staff Logo Wear
84. Staff & Student Dress Code
85. Advance Information and Organization
86. Attend Reputable Quality Events
87. Set Exceptional Standards for Time Management
88. Never Cancel An Event or Class Except Under Extenuating Circumstances
89. Set Social Media Expectations for Your Staff
90. Set Social Media Expectations for Your Team
91. Set Social Media Expectations re: Photography & Videography
92. Be A Role Model
93. Constantly Commit Yourself to Evolving and Improving
94. Re-freshen Your Facility When It Needs It
95. Involve Your Studio In Schools
96. Involve Your Studio with Local Print Media
97. Involve Your Studio with Your Alumni
98. Set a Budget & Maximize Your Cost Per Impression
99. ASK How People Heard About You
100. Keep In Mind that Word of Mouth is HUGE!
101. EVERYTHING IS MARKETING!

101 image

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Brand Reputation Building: Focus On YOU

brand reputation

When thinking about building up your brand reputation and planning your studio’s marketing, focus on YOUR message and avoid comparative language that insinuates your facility is “better than” others.

In the dance education industry, comparative marketing does not speak as positively as true messaging. Via text, image, and graphics, communicate WHY your studio is a great choice. A great logo, strong social media presence, online testimonials: these are all marketing “musts” for you to express the strength of your brand.

You do not need to say why taking dance classes at “Studio A” is better than taking dance classes at “Studio B”.

When you define and commit to YOUR OWN vision and culture, success will follow. Stop comparing yourself to others and channel the energy into creating your own, unique version of AMAZING!

Want to get started using some creative marketing? Check out these articles on dance studio marketing to take your brand reputation to the next level:

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Parent Bullying: Rude, Demanding Dance Parents That Bully Schools

parent bullying

I discovered an article about parent bullying in The Dallas Morning News entitled The Rude, Demanding Parents Who Bully Schools by Robert Evans and Michael G. Thompson.

While I hope you haven’t encountered or experienced rude or bullying parents, there’s a chance they may cross your path at some point.

The linked article offers examples for identifying the 3 types/patterns of negative parental behavior and offers several scenarios for managing the behavior.

It is a must read, so please check it out. The next time an extreme parent problem arises, I guarantee you will feel more prepared.

Want some more ideas on how to deal with difficult parents or parent bullying? Check out the following articles with strategies to handle even the toughest parent situations:

angry parent

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Dance Choreography: The Power of Plagiarism and Student Impact

dance choreography

Earlier this year, I wrote a post about plagiarism in creating dances and dance material. Since then, I have received an outpouring of information regarding situations involving copied dance choreography material. It is intellectually difficult to comprehend the necessity of this vice, especially when it impacts our students.

Check out this story, submitted by a parent, about her daughter’s experience:

A couple of years ago, I had the unfortunate surprise of finding my daughter’s jazz dance on YouTube. It was the beginning of our dance year and after the second week, my dancer excitedly came home and wanted to show us what she had learned so far.

She loved the song, the dance – she was thrilled. Not being able to find the exact version on iTunes, I searched on YouTube – the name of the song and dance. I clicked one dance and she said, that song is different, try another one. So I play another video. “That’s it,” she said. Well, as she is dancing and I am glancing at my laptop, I realize she is doing the exact same dance. 

I waited another week and when my dancer came home continuing to do the dance from the internet, I knew there was a phone call I needed to make.  Calling the Studio Owner the next day, who happens to be someone I highly respect and like, was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. She was shocked and embarrassed, I felt sick to my stomach having to tell her.

I will never forget her apologizing and saying that it was a phone call no parent should ever have to make. She is the epitome of integrity. I did not share what had happened with my dancer or other parents because it would have created unnecessary drama.

I don’t know nor is it my business to know how the situation was handled, but the song and dance were completely changed. Unfortunately the group of 10 and 11 year olds did not understand why the dance they loved was being changed so it was a challenge to hear that and hear other parents question why as well.

It is so important for dance teachers to create their own work. It could
easily be a dancer who finds the dance on YouTube, a dance they have worked hard on all year. Even if the teacher thinks, my studio doesn’t post dances, I can get away with it. What if it performs well at a competition and is featured on a competitions Facebook Page or YouTube channel?

I think the above situation was a very big learning experience for a new and young teacher. Just wanted to share my perspective on what it is like when a parent discovers their daughter’s dance is not the teacher’s original choreography.

Should this be happening in our industry? Absolutely not. As leaders, we have to implement a standard of originality and creativity. While this is a specific example, it represents a common occurrence that happens too frequently. It is hard to comprehend that there are teachers using entire routines from YouTube, master instructors duplicating exact dance choreography for multiple dancers, and competition teams that are blatantly and specifically copying other studio’s concepts.

We have to be role models of integrity, originality, and creativity for our students, instructors, and peers to prevent situations like the one above. We have to separate and clearly define inspiration versus plagiarism.  When we incorporate such high standards in our studios and our students, we create a stronger culture, brand, and legacy. And, that is something everyone can respect.

plagiarism

In school, students are taught to be vigilant about citing sources and making sure that proper credit is given where it is due in regards to research. You would assume this heightened level of respect for others’ work would translate to the professional world; however, with advances in technology making creative content easily accessible, it seems that copying without credit has quickly become a frustrating fad.

From choreographic concepts to entire routines to business models to misrepresentation via falsely acquired photographic images, the possibilities of using materials that do not belong to you are endless. But, here’s the question: why would you choose to use content that does not belong to you? You have created a unique institution that should reflect your core values, mission, and beliefs– not someone else’s culture and beliefs.

The next time a creative block occurs, allow yourself the opportunity to find your own unique inspiration. The final product will be representative of your culture, and you will feel honest in projecting it to your students and clientele.

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