Flexibility is a building block of ballet – it allows for a wider range of motion, helps protect against injury and enables more elegant lines. And the crazy thing about flexibility is that no matter how far you can stretch already, there’s always more to be done! Stretching to improve flexibility is a critical part of your dance development.
If you’re sweating over a stubborn hamstring that won’t budge or a back that just refuses to arch, fret no more. The best way to improve your flexibility is to consistently stretch – every day if you can swing it – because just stretching once every other week just won’t cut it. And as always, don’t push your body further than it can go! If a stretch hurts, that’s not a sign you’re improving – it’s a sign you’re damaging your muscles and tendons, so move into deeper stretches gradually. Here are two stretches that are very effective for improving your flexibility.
The stretch, “The Superman,” comes from DanceTeacher Connect and is a great way to improve back flexibility. First, lay down on the ground flat on your stomach. Then, raise your upper body off the ground as high as possible without using your arms for support – your chest and back muscles should pull you up. Go as high as you can, then return to the start.
The blog recommends repeating this movement three times then resting to build the muscles around your spine, thereby improving your back flexibility.
Hip Flexor Stretch
DanceSpirit magazine has a great list of dynamic stretches that dancers can do. Brynn Jinnett, creator of Refine Method in New York City, told the magazine that dancers focus too much on static stretches and don’t do enough dynamic stretches that can improve their overall range of motion.
Try their hip flexor stretch for greater hip and hamstring flexibility and deeper splits. First, kneel on your right knee with your left leg in front of you and bend it perpendicular to the floor. Push forward gently with your hips, like you’re lunging, while squeezing your glutes. Hold for a second, then return to the starting position.
Stacey Nemour, a flexibility guru, reminded dancers that it’s important to stretch with correct form, to relax and never force the muscles or bounce during stretching. So be careful not to overwork your muscles and gradually up the intensity of your stretching routine.
Nearly all dance teachers will agree that the barre work is an integral part of ballet practice. However, what many teachers don’t agree on is whether it’s better to do the same set barre work every week or different combinations.
This very topic got lots of attention in the forum Ballet Talk For Dancers, where one user asked whether other members preferred a set barre with little variation, a few different set barres that are alternated or different combinations done in each class. Many members were vocal about their preferences – read on for a breakdown of the debate.
The set barre, or the repetition of the same barre movements in every class, is found in several major ballet teaching methods such as the Cecchetti, Paris Opera School and Bournonville methods, the book, “The Ballet Companion,” noted. The advantage of this old-school approach is that heavy repetition of the same movements helps dancers focus on improving technique, isolate problem areas and improve their muscle memory. As the book mentioned, it also saves time in class because the teacher does not need to use up time explaining a new combination. A set barre can also be especially helpful for beginner students, with one forum user noting that it helps her novice students gain a sense of mastery before moving on to more advanced movements.
In the Ballet Talk forum, though, a common complain against set barres was that it’s very easy for dancers to get bored doing the same movements over and over again. Which leads to the alternative …
Foregoing the repetition of set barres, some dance teachers adopt the combinations approach, in which they always teach a new series of movements at the barre each class. The major advantage of this method is that it helps dancers learn how to pick up new combinations quickly, making them better equipped to quickly grasp new choreography. As Dance Advantage noted in its article on memorizing ballet combinations, dancers need to be able to learn and perform ballet combinations practically at the same time, and a varied barre helps develop this skill.
Combination barre strengthens the “muscles of the mind,” according to “The Ballet Companion.” As author Eliza Gaynor Minden wrote:
“Picking up combinations quickly and adapting to different styles require versatility and overall mental agility, both of which develop better when challenged by variety and the occasional “brain twister” combination that moves in irregular patterns or rhythms.”
In the Ballet Talk forum, the consensus was that a mix of set barre and combination barre was the best option. Teaching a set barre but changing it every couple of weeks or so still helps students flex their quick-learning muscles while allowing them to focus on technique simultaneously. Dancers don’t get bored, their minds and muscles continue to be challenged and correct technique is still prioritized.
What do you think – is set barre, combination barre work or a mix the most effective teaching method? Let us know in the comments.
If you need to get a lively conversation going at a party full of dancers and dance teachers, ask them which ballet method they think is the best. Ballet methods are different teaching styles or schools of ballet that have developed around the world since ballet’s inception in the 15th century. Each method has unique characteristics that define it and special characteristics in the manner it’s taught to students.
Read on to learn about the main methods of ballet – and to make sure you can hold your own in that dinner party conversation.
The Balanchine method is also known as the American method. It was invented by George Balanchine, an esteemed choreographer who immigrated to the U.S. from Russia in the 1930s, Juliette Dupre of the blog Ballet Scoop explained. Together with Lincoln Kirstein, Balanchine opened the School of American Ballet in 1934.
Younger in age than the other main ballet methods, Balanchine’s style is full of energy and vitality. While Balanchine took initial inspiration from the traditional Russian method, he rejected classical stiffness for jazzy, athletic movements, breathtaking speed and dizzying height. Every movement is pointed, emphatic and performed with the utmost expression and force. As Dupre wrote:
“Even a simple port de corp devant was not to be considered a stretch but a fully artistic movement where the aesthetic of the body’s journey through space was the most important thing.”
Consequently, the Balanchine method is considered neoclassical ballet. The modern and fresh approach to movement in the Balanchine method is expressed in other aspects of ballet performance as well. It rejects flouncy and frilly costumes for clean leotards, and scrapped fancy sets for simple backgrounds so that the focus is on the dancers, Ballet In You explained.
The French School
Where the Balanchine method is modern, the French School goes back. Way back – to the courts of Louis XIV in the late 16th century. In 1713, the Ecole de Danse de l’Opera was opened and was the teaching grounds of some of ballet’s greatest masters, according to the American Ballet Theatre.
While the French school traces its influences back centuries, it came into its own under the leadership of Rudolf Nureyev, who was director of the Paris Opera Ballet in the 80s. The French School is a classical ballet style that emphasizes elegant lines, fluidity and graceful dancing along with technical precision. The French school’s true trademark is the petite batterie – a prime example of the method’s emphasis on quick, precise footwork, according to DanceSpirit magazine.
Created by Italian Enrico Cecchetti, the Cecchetti method was invented as a way to teach ballet to new generations, ABT explained. Cecchitti meant business – his teaching method involves eight intense stages of training and includes strict repetition and routines.
The rigid and regimented teaching style is a result of Cecchetti’s scientific attitude toward ballet and the idea that jetes and arabesques don’t just involve one part of the body, but the body as a whole, according to Ballet In You. Technical skill is tantamount, and Cecchetti dancers must practice the same movements over and over again daily. The goal is that heavy repetition, dedicated focus and steady discipline will create dancers that can withstand – and thrive in the face of – the harsh demands of ballet.
The English Style is also known as the Royal Academy of Dance. It was pioneered in 1920 and is a blend of the French, Italian, Danish and Russian methods, explained Dance Informa magazine. The Royal Academy of Dance is also an international dance examination standard. For English-Style-dancers, the focus is on the details and getting each and every movement exactly, with an emphasis on perfecting the basics. Progress is ultimately slow for dancers taught in the RAD method, and it takes countless hours of practicing even the smallest movement to be able to move on to the next stage.
“The most famous of all Russian styles is the Vaganova Method.”
Of course, no discussion of ballet methods would be complete without the Russians. This school was formed from a blend of influences. French dancer Jean-Baptiste Landé is credited as its creator, while ABT noted that Italian ballerina Virginia Zucchi had an incredible influence on the Russian School when she performed in St. Petersburg in the late 1800s, along with Enrico Cecchetti, who also spent some time in Russia. Other ballet masters also influenced the Russian Method, including the legendary Marius Petipa.
However, the most famous of all Russian styles is the Vaganova Method. It was developed by Agrippina Vaganova, a Russian ballet dancer with the Marinsky Ballet who retired early to devote her time to teaching, explained Dance Informa. Defining characteristics of the Vaganova method include precise, crisp and strong movements that are still artistic and expressive. The Vaganova method is one of the most popular methods used in Russia today.
Maybe you’ve just started dance classes or have danced for years and are thinking about your future – whatever the case, you’ve fallen in love with ballet and know there’s no way you’ll spend your life doing anything but dance. While this passion is essential to success, you’ll also need a practical mindset when it comes to crafting a dance career for yourself.
Having a career in dance is something that many people dream about, though it’s entirely possible with hard work, perseverance and some strategic planning. You’ll have to be resourceful, leave your comfort zone and really put yourself out there. But if you can do all that – and more – then you can have a rewarding career doing what you love and sharing it with others.
Read on to learn how you can start a dance career.
Dance Career: Finding Where You Fit
While the first dance career that most people probably think of is that of a professional dancer for a company, there are many different types of dance careers. Whatever your skill level or interests, there’s a profession that can suit you. The variety of careers includes dance teachers, choreographers, studio owners and college- and graduate-level professors of dance courses. The New York Film Academy also adds to this list dance medicine specialists, costume designers, dance photographers and arts administrators for dance companies.
If your heart is set on performing as a professional dancer, then you should consider the different ways that dance can fit into your life. Of course, there are opportunities to dance full-time, whether for a company, theater or opera show or other performing arts group. However, if you’re already set in one career path, you can incorporate dance into your life as a side job and work part-time teaching or performing. Teaching positions aren’t limited to just dance studios, either – you can find opportunities at public and private schools, universities, gyms and community centers.
The lesson to learn from this is that no matter your abilities, desires or schedule, you can find a dance career that works for you. The key to identifying a good match is being realistic about your strengths and skills – dance-related and otherwise – and thinking about how they can best be put to use so that you can thrive personally and professionally. Narrowing down which type of career you’d like to have will guide your journey and keep you on track.
Learn All You Can
To achieve the dance career of your dreams, you’ll need to be proactive. Don’t become complacent in your current classes or job – always be thinking about how you can learn more and make new connections.
Dance Informa magazine advised those aspiring toward a dance career to take initiative and be a leader. Other people are not responsible to getting you where you want to be – only you are! Whether you’re in school, on a summer break or handling a 9-5 job in another field, make sure you keep your skills sharp by enrolling in dance classes and taking fitness classes to stay in shape. Look for workshops and courses in areas and styles that you’re not familiar with to grow your skillset. If you’re interested in teaching as a career, ask around at local studios if they need assistant teachers or interns to help out. Seek out conventions, certification courses and other programs that will give you additional skills, knowledge and teaching or performance experience.
Landing a Contract
If a contract with a dance troupe or company is what you’re after, networking is key. Scouts and agents will frequently attend competitions, conventions and other events looking for new talent, so make sure you give every performance your all.
“I’ll keep my eye on dancers until they graduate high school if I’ve judged them in a competition,” said Steve Chetelat of talent agency Bloc in an interview with Dance Spirit Magazine.
Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and reach out to dance professionals, either. Terry Lindholm, co-owner of Go 2 Talent Agency, told the magazine that he recommends dancers thank the choreographer after convention classes and introduce themselves to assistants. Ask them about what they think is the most promising city for dancers to have a career performing or if they have recommendations for any fantastic agencies or programs you should connect with.
Dance programs at colleges and universities also provide valuable experience and connections, so if this is a course you’re considering, spend time researching which program is right for you. Once you’ve selected it, learn how to perfect your college dance audition.
While a dance career can be a reality, not just a dream, it’s important to have realistic expectations of the demands of this challenging profession. The Portland Ballet’s list of “15 Truths About Being a Professional Dancer” explains the sometimes harsh realities of a life devoted to dance. Remember that there’s always more to learn and that if you want to be successful, you need to prove that you are valuable by showing up early, working hard and knowing your routines inside and out. Don’t be afraid of working for free if you can gain valuable experience and connections. Know that you will make mistakes and fail sometimes, but be strong and pick yourself back up.
And above all, keep that passion for dance close to your heart – this is the one constant in the pursuit of a dance career. This love for dance will pick you up when you’re feeling down and help you bounce back after hard times. With a combination of practical preparation, strategy and passion, you can start a dance career.
When performed correctly, the développé is absolutely mesmerizing – just see how long you watch this gif of Maria Kochetkova. Many dancers, though, struggle with the développé, and instead of being a source of beauty and grace, the move is a source of constant frustration. Every dance teacher has likely heard some of their students complain about their dancer flexibility and the développé.
Kochetkova makes the move look easy, but the développé requires several complex muscle groups to work together in perfect harmony. If just one group is underdeveloped, then the movement is failed from the start. A dancer can be able to do the oversplits with ease but lack the core strength to hold her leg over her head, while a dancer with flexible hips that allow for a wide range of movement can have underdeveloped hamstrings that prevent them from holding her leg in a straight line.
The key to stunning développé extension is thoroughly conditioning all the muscle groups that are involved in the move. Here are four ways that dance teachers can help their students improve their développé extension.
1. Work the Iliopsoas
Everyone’s heard of the hamstrings and hip flexors, but not many people are familiar specifically with the iliopsoas. Which is a real shame, because it’s absolutely vital to sky-high développé.
As Nichelle explained in a very informative article for Dance Advantage, the iliopsoas is the group of muscles that enables the leg to move higher than 90 degrees. For many dancers that are incredibly flexible but unable to lift their legs to their heads, an underdeveloped iliopsoas may be to blame. However, they usually aren’t even aware that this is the problem.
Deb Vogel, a neuromuscular educator, shared several exercises for strengthening the iliopsoas that dance teachers should have their students do.
First, sit up straight on a chair, without your back touching, with both feet on the ground. Keeping your pelvis strong and centered, lift one knee up toward the ceiling, then lower it down so your toes touch the floor. Lift your knee back up, and repeat the movement 20 times for each leg.
Sounds easy, but isolating the iliopsoas like that is a real workout. When your students can do this exercise with ease, have them try this next movement:
Sit in a chair with your back leaning against the back of the chair, and bend one leg at the knee while holding the other leg straight. Keeping the extended leg a little turned out, raise it as high as possible and then lower it back down so it’s even with the other knee. Repeat this movement 20 times, then do it on the other leg.
Vogel advised that dancers follow these exercises, or any other ones that focus on the iliopsoas, with lunge stretches. With these two exercises, it won’t take long to strengthen this important muscle.
2. Strengthen the Core
Dancer flexibility gets much of the attention when it comes to working développés, but core strength is also very vital. A strong core supports all the movements of the développé and ensures that the leg can be held up high while the hips and standing leg are stable. Strong abdominals allow the leg to be held up, but as The Dance Training Project explained, they’re also necessary to keep your spine straight, centered and stable. If you spine is not in a neutral position, then the pelvic alignment will be off, which prevents maximum leg extension.
However, contrary to popular belief, crunches are not the answer for a stronger core, according to The Dance Training Project. Making repetitive concentric contractions – like sit-ups – aren’t effective for building the core strength that dancers need. Instead, dancers should focus on exercises that lengthen the abs and other core muscles – known as eccentric training – so that dancers can achieve a greater range of motion. Planks and abdominal roll-out exercises will provide an eccentric workout, but The Dance Training Project put together a PDF that includes great eccentric core exercises for dancers.
3. Embrace the Floor Barre
Practicing floor barre is also a fantastic way to improve développé extension. Dame Lucette Aldous, a ballerina in the Nureyev rendition of Don Quixote, told Dance Australia how she teaches the Boris Kniaseff method of floor barre to improve her students’ développé.
According to the source, floor barre helps increase overall strength, improve body positioning and posture and even boost circulation, which helps expand range of movement.
“When joints are moving, it sends synovial fluid into the joints – it’s like you’re lubricating those joints,” said Aldous in an interview with Dance Australia.
There are different floor bar techniques for dance teachers to explore. Dance Advantage put together a great guide to the different methods here, including the Boris Kniaseff and Maria Fay techniques.
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to correct the description of the iliopsoas.
A dancer relies on her feet, and it takes care and practice through foot stretches for dancers to make sure your feet are at the top of their game. Strong, flexible feet provide the foundation upon which other moves are done – weak feet, and you’re going to have a hard time dancing confidently and fluidly.
Whether you think you have flat feet or arches that need a little more oomph, there are lots of stretches you can do to strengthen your feet and make them more flexible. However, it’s important to be familiar with safe stretching practices and the movements that you should avoid. Stretching too much – or the wrong way – can backfire on you and cause serious damage.
Read on to learn more about stretching your feet.
Popular Foot Stretches for Dancers
There are several different ways that the feet can be stretched. One way is manually – the dancer herself uses her hands to bend her toes and arches to extend their stretch. Resistance bands, such as the Theraband, are also popular. Another way is to have your friend stretch your feet or – as you have probably heard before – to stretch your feet under a piano, door or couch. These last two methods – having a friend stretch you and using an object to stretch – are not recommended, as they can pose serious damage to your feet.
BalletHub explained that these two types of stretches put additional stress on the body. By putting your feet underneath a heavy object, you put extreme pressure on your knee, heel and leg muscles, making more prone to injury. For similar reasons, having a friend stretch out your foot is not recommended, either. Your friend isn’t you, so they don’t know how much pressure is too much – and if they do stretch your foot too far, by the time you notice the damage may already be done.
Stretching your feet yourself, without the use of heavy objects for leverage, and using a band are safer ways of stretching your feet. However, you should still take caution and gently stretch the feet, since it’s very easy to overwork them.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Stretching your feet once or twice a week is not going to get you anywhere. The key to effective foot stretching is consistency and a healthy dose of discipline. The author of the blog Ballet Heart described how she saw great improvement from stretching her feet three times a day, every day for four years. She writes that she can’t imagine how many hours have been spent stretching her feet, and that “It probably adds up to at least a week straight.”
Consistent stretching multiple times a day will garner the most results. Just be sure to gradually increase the intensity of your stretch, avoid stretching until it hurts and be careful not to overwork yourself.
Simple Foot Stretches for Dancers
There are plenty of simple stretches you can do to work your feet. The blog Live On Pointe recommended pointing and flexing your feet using a Theraband for resistance, along with doing relevés on each leg.
BalletHub advised doing the “Wrap n’ Push” to improve the feet. You sit on the floor, bend one leg over the other and stretch your feet through several movements using your hands. See their step-by-step guide to the stretch here.
Only two weeks left to go before the recital – can you believe it? Your dancers are probably starting to feel some nerves, not to mention the stress you’re likely feeling as you run over in your head the zillion things you have to do before showtime.
Before you drive yourself crazy running around, take a breather and look at this checklist of the things you need to do over the next two weeks.
Host a Makeup Rehearsal
Whether it’s this week or next (before the dress rehearsal) make sure you hold a makeup and hair rehearsal for your dancers, and their parents if they want to join. A beauty rehearsal is a great way for novice dancers and the parents of younger students to practice how the makeup will be applied and how their hair will be styled. This way, you save the time going over the hair and makeup at the dress rehearsal, and there’s (hopefully) few or no questions before the actual recital.
It’s not just the newbies that need a beauty rehearsal, though. According to Dance Informa, even the most experienced dancers should attend a makeup and hair rehearsal before the recital, since this helps the dancers make sure that their hair and makeup styles are uniform and coordinated with the rest of the dancers in the group.
Have Recital Programs Submitted to the Printer
Recital programs are pretty much an expectation for dance recitals, as they help inform parents and patrons about the order of dances and the general timeline for the evening. At two weeks out, you MUST have your finalized program designs submitted to your printer to make sure:
You have a timely delivery of the final product
Any emergency issues can be resolved
Collect Pre-Orders of DVDs and Other Items for Dance Recitals
If you have the resources and manpower, it can be profitable to have a table at the recital selling performance DVDs, photos and other collectible items. However, collecting pre-orders a couple weeks before the event helps maximize profits and make sure every parent or dancer who wants the extras gets them. Send out emails and social media posts reminding parents to pre-order DVDs and other souvenirs and set a deadline for orders at least a week before the recital. You can use physical forms for orders, but online forms make things easy for both you and the parents.
Give Parents Detailed Drop-off/Pick-up Instructions
Dance Exec noted that it’s important that parents have detailed logistical information for the recital ahead of time. It’s a good idea to hold a pre-dress rehearsal meeting in addition to sending a detailed letter – over email is most convenient for the parents – that describes the drop-off and pick-up process, along with any reminders about ticket and DVD sales, costumes and other important dates and times, in addition to thorough directions to the venue if the recital is not held at your studio.
Need a letter or dance recital information sheet template? We’ve made an example sheet you can download and customize in Microsoft Word for your studio’s needs below:
Have “Day Of” Plans Finalized and Supplies Prepared
Two weeks before the recital – and in the week leading up to it – reach out to your volunteers to confirm that they will be helping out. Make sure you have enough volunteers to cover all duties. If not, you have time to recruit some last-minute helpers.
For some backstage organization ideas, check out this quick video:
Along the lines of volunteers, have all of your signs and backstage planning items printed/laminated/explained/etc. If you plan to have clear signs backstage that point to “Stage,” “Lobby,” “restrooms,” or particular areas of the backstage, have them done and checked off your list.
Michelle Spezio, director of Spezio’s Dance Dynamics in Buffalo, New York, shared a great tip with Dance Studio Life. She puts together boxes of frequently forgotten and emergency items like bobby pins, lip stick, hairspray, sewing kits, nail polish remover, tape, scissors and safety pins, and then places these boxes on either side of the stage and in dressing rooms. You should still remind dancers and their parents to bring their own back-up kits, but these boxes are much-appreciated insurance.
You’ve spent the year planning a dance recital for your studio, and now, with one month left to go, everything is finally coming together. The next few weeks will bring a flurry of emails and phone calls and the time will pass by before you even realize it. It’s possible, however, to minimize stress and stay sane – the key is being organized and having a dance recital checklist.
One of the worst feelings is suddenly remembering that you forgot to pick up the costumes, enlist volunteers or take care of another vital task. The dance recital checklist below will help you make sure you stay on track with one month to go before the recital.
Check in With the Venue
If you are holding the recital at a venue other than your own studio, now is the time to check-in with them and confirm that the space will be yours for the recital and for any rehearsals. Verify the hours that you’ll need to use the venue, and make sure that you have secured sufficient space for dressing rooms and backstage areas and that there will be enough chairs for your audience and tables for selling flowers and other items.
You also should check that there is an easily accessible parking area for audience members, teachers, dancers and volunteers. Also, make a note of what you’ll need to bring with you for the performance, such as additional lighting and music systems.
Try on Costumes
The last things you want are uncomfortable dancers and curtain-call wardrobe surprises. Don’t wait until the recital gets closer – instead, have your dancers try on their costumes well before recital time to make sure they fit, recommended Crown Awards. Consider offering a “Costume Construction Day” for alterations or provide parents with the contact info of the seamstress so they can arrange any necessary alterations or tailoring if the fit should be improved before rehearsals. Also, check that each dancer has all the necessary accessories and a garment bag for transporting the costume to the dress rehearsal and recital.
Programs can be a hassle to put together, but if they include advertiser pages they can really help boost your business. One month before the recital, layout and print the programs. You can do this yourself on publishing software if you’re design-savvy, but otherwise, you can outsource the programs to an online company. When you receive the draft of the programs, triple-check for typos, misspelled names and other errors.
If you have money in your budget, hiring a professional designer to craft your recital programs is well worth the money, advised Dance Studio Life. This way, you can create custom ads for local businesses who want to be included in your program but don’t have an ad ready, and you can have a snazzy, high-quality program that you can sell as a keepsake.
Finalize Recital Add-ons
It’s important to figure out ahead of time what you will offer at the recital. Dance recital add-ons can be both a service to your dance families and a source of added income. The Dance Exec provided a helpful list of recital “extras” that you should consider: Logo t-shirts, posed and candid recital photos, flowers, trophies, stuffed animals and recital DVDs. If you haven’t already, decide whether you will hire a professional photographer and/or videographer to record the recital, and book them ASAP. Check out this post for tips on choosing the right photographer for your dance recital photos.
Distribute Recital Packets
There are so many details for dance families to remember – make it as easy as possible by providing a recital packet. Some of the information you might want to include is:
Posed/recital photo sessions/information
Recital day schedule/info, including drop-off/pickup information, parking, etc.
Cost of recital add-ons, and any related order forms
In addition to the packet itself, make use of email, text and social media reminders to keep your dance families informed. You may also want to hold a mandatory “recital meeting,” especially for new dance parents.
Want an easy template to start from? You can download our Sample Recital Detail Information template using the form below! It’s a Microsoft Word document, so you can edit the details according to your needs.
Take the time now to confirm that you have enough volunteers to help out with the recital – and recruit some if you discover you’re falling short. It’s easy to forget certain little jobs that need volunteers, so sit down and list out every aspect of the recital to make sure you’ve enlisted enough help. Do you have people to man the flower or recital DVD table? What about someone to help organize the dancers backstage? Someone to take tickets, give out the programs, or direct parking? Make sure you have all your bases covered!
Take Care of Yourself
With all the craziness that comes with recital season, you need to make sure you’re taking good care of yourself. Stay hydrated, get plenty of sleep and opt for convenient, healthy meals instead of fast food after late classes and client visits. You might think that feeling pulled in a million directions all at once is a normal feeling as the recital approaches, but neglecting your health only makes it more likely that you’ll wake up the morning of the recital with a throbbing migraine and a sore throat.
And if you’re feeling overwhelmed with stress, take a step back and remember – all the little details are fun, but the true value of planning a dance recital is that your dancers get to share their passion and hard work with loved ones and a community who cares.
It’s normal to feel a little overwhelmed going into your first ballet class. The plethora of poses and positions to learn might have your head spinning, especially since many of their names are in French. But with practice and time you’ll soon be fluent in the language of ballet. And it’s always helpful to have an easy guide with ballet terms for beginners.
To get you started with confidence, here’s an overview of some common terms first-time ballerinas will need to know:
The Five Basic Positions
Understanding the basic positions is a great place to start when beginning your practice, since they make up the building blocks of ballet. As BalletHub noted:
“The five basic positions are usually one of the first things taught in a beginner’s ballet class but are essential to the technique of classical ballet as practically every step begins and ends in one of the five basic positions.”
The basic positions concern the placement of the feet and are aptly named: first position, second position, third position, fourth position and fifth position.
First position: The heels are together with the toes of each foot pointed out toward either side, with legs straight and turned out, following the position of the feet.
Second position: Legs are straight and the feet are turned out to each side like in first position, but the difference is that the heels do not touch and are instead about hip-width apart.
Third position: This position is rarely used, since it can be mistaken for a sloppy first or fifth position, BalletHub noted, but it is still important to learn. Begin in first position, and then slide the heel of one foot so it lines up with the middle of the other foot, keeping both feet pointing out in opposite directions.
Fourth position: Stand with one foot about a foot’s length in front of your other foot. Each foot should be pointing in an opposite direction, and the toes of the back foot should line up with the heel of the front foot.
Fifth position: This position is the most difficult one. It’s like fourth position, but there is no gap between your feet. The toes of each foot should be directly in front of the heel of the other foot, and make sure your legs are turned out and straight.
Adagio is a series of fluid and focused exercises that are performed slowly in order to improve dancers’ balance, strength and lines. It also refers to the opening sequence of a two-person dance that includes one partner lifting the other.
Allégro means fast, brisk and energetic movements and is associated with jumps.
An arabesque is when the dancer stands on one leg with the other leg extended behind the body. The arms can be held in a variety of positions. Regardless, the goal of the arabesque is to create as smooth seamless a line as possible with the body, from the shoulders through the arms and down to the toes of the extended leg.
This is the wooden bar attached to the walls of the classroom, though some barres stand on their own. The dancer holds onto the barre for support, and a sequence of barre exercises is part of every ballet class.
This when the leg and foot are fluidly swept across the floor from one position to another. Typically, a “battement tendu” starts from first or fifth position, the leg is extended in the motion, and then it returns to the starting position. The leg should be straight and fully extended so that the foot only brushes the ground during the movement. BalletHub noted that many teachers refer to the move as just “tendu.”
When a dancer begins in fifth position, jumps up in place and then switches the position of their feet while in the air so that they land in fifth position with the opposite foot now in front.
“En pointe” is when you dance on the very tips of your toes. Pointe shoes, typically made of satin, are used to achieve this. Students begin dancing en pointe only after they have advanced to a higher skill level, Learntodance.com noted. However, on their way to dancing en pointe, students will practice moves and positions in demi-pointe, which is when a dancer stands on the balls of their feet.
Pas de Deux
Pas de deux means “a dance for two people,” and is sometimes shortened to “pas.”
A pirouette is a 360 degree spin made on one foot that is en pointe or demi-pointe, and is frequently begun from fourth position. The move requires strong core alignment and balance, and, as Balletdancersguide.com stated, “are the mastering ballet move which every dancer is undoubtedly always trying to figure out how to improve.”
Plié means “bent” or “bending,” and is when one or both knees are bent while legs and feet remain turned out, and are done in first, second, fourth and fifth positions. There are two main types of pliés, demi and grand, which George Mason University’s dance department defined as follows:
Demi: This is a small bend of the knees while heels are on the floor which creates a diamond shape.
Grand: A large bend of the knees during which heels are raised off the ground in a motion that mimics a “frog stretch.”
“There are two main types of pliés: demi and grand.”
Ronde de Jambe
Ronde de jambe means “round of the leg.” It is when the dancer rests on one leg and makes a circular movement with the other leg. It may be done “à terre,” which means the circle is made while the foot is touching the ground, or “en l’air,” which means the circle is made in the air.
Sauté means “jump,” and is frequently used in combination with other moves to signify that they should be done with a jump, Learntodance.com explained. The source gave the example of sauté arabesque, which would mean to jump in the arabesque position.
There are several options for those who want to share their love of dance with others – they can open a private, for-profit dance studio, teach at several different venues or host dance classes at local public schools. Another option to consider is running a non-profit dance studio. Depending on your goals, funding opportunities and community needs, operating a nonprofit dance studio may be the best choice for you.
What Is a Non-Profit Dance Studio?
A nonprofit is generally classified as a “charitable” or 501(c)(3) organization, according to IndependentSector.org. To be recognized by the Internal Revenue Service, nonprofits must demonstrate that they are not just operating for the financial gain of its owners, but instead exists to serve and improve the community.
Non-profit dance studios, like other charitable organizations, are different from for-profit studios in several ways. To register with the IRS, non-profit dance studios must submit a mission statement that guides their operation. All of the revenue generated by a non-profit dance studio goes back into the organization and is used to further the studio’s mission. As such, there is no “owner” of the studio but rather a founder or director. Non-profit studios do not have shareholders and instead are required to have a board of directors made up of community members that advise the studio on its direction, fundraising and budget, among other areas.
It is a common misconception that non-profits don’t make a profit. While it sounds counterintuitive, non-profits are still allowed to charge tuition. However, any profits must be put back toward the operation of the studio and the execution of its mission, and the board of directors has a sizeable control over how profits are used.
Why Should You Consider Being a Non-Profit Dance Studio?
Non-profit dance studios, like other charitable organizations, are exempt from many state and federal taxes, such as income, property and sales taxes. Non-profits also qualify for government funding and can apply for grants from arts foundations and other community organizations. These financial incentives can help ease some of the burdens that for-profit studios face.
Being a non-profit also allows you to focus on responding to a certain need in the community and give back. You may want to build a non-profit studio to help make sure that all children can dance, regardless of the income levels of their families, or to help teach troubled kids confidence and life skills through dance. With the revenue you earn through the studio, you can offer scholarships and other forms of financial assistance to students who can’t afford full tuition, shoes or costumes.
As Larisa Hall, owner of Tap Fever Studios in California, told Dance Studio Life why she decided to make her studio a non-profit:
“I didn’t want to have to say no to anybody. Anybody who wants to dance should be able to, even people with disabilities or who can’t afford it.”
Ways to Fund a Non-profit Studio
There are several funding methods available to non-profit studio owners, and they all benefit from a strong relationship between your studio and the local community. Research the wealth of grants available online – DanceUSA.org maintains a great list of current opportunities, and seek out grants from community and state-level arts foundations and non-profits, too.
Beyond grants, fundraising is very important for non-profits. Anyone who makes a donation, whether they’re parents or community members, can deduct their contribution when they file for their taxes. By staying dedicated to your mission and highlighting the ways that your studio benefits the community, you can strengthen your fundraising efforts and clearly demonstrate the value of donating and working together between students, parents, board members and the local community.
Volunteering is also vital to a non-profit dance studio. Involve parents as much as possible, and look for strategic partnerships in your community that will be mutually beneficial. For example, have your studio teach classes at a fitness center in exchange for free access to its programs.
Finally, be sure to take advantage of modern fundraising techniques enabled by the Internet. Crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter, GoFundMe and IndieGoGo can help fund some of the costs of building and running your non-profit studio. IndieGoGo cited the American Tap Dance Foundation, which exceeded their goal to raise $5,000 for a lighting system in a new facility it had recently moved to.
While building a non-profit studio can be a difficult process, there are many success stories. Just one is Dancing in the Streets AZ, a non-profit studio started in 2008 by Joseph Rodgers and his wife Soleste Lupu. They created their studio from money they had received at their wedding with the mission to provide dance education to high risk children and youth. The accessible dance education the studio provides steers children away from unhealthy situations and activities and instead gives them a place to make positive connections and learn the value of discipline and hard work.
Dance Studio Life profiled the success story of Nela Niemann, artistic director of Blue Ridge Studio for the Performing Arts in Virginia. She runs the studio herself and teaches 140 students along with a small number of part-time teachers. She started her non-profit studio to make dance affordable to every child, and in one season distributed nearly $20,000 in scholarship to children in need.
Imagine for a moment that you are at Paris’ glittering grand opera house in 1832 to see the new ballet everyone’s talking about, “La Sylphide.” The red velvet curtain rises and to your amazement you watch dancers in ethereal white dresses gracefully twirl across the stage. They seem to defy gravity as they leap and float through the air. For the first time ever, you see a woman center stage, leading the group. And what’s that – they’re dancing on the tips of their toes! You’ve never seen anything like it, but one thing’s for certain – you’re witnessing the dawn of classical ballet.
Modern ballerinas are following in the footsteps of a long and time-honored tradition. Every position they assume, every jeté and rond de jambe they make has been honed over centuries. Today, we perform the same ballets in exactly the same way as they were performed hundreds of years ago.
We could go all the way back to the beginning of dance, but that’s a story for another time. Let’s jump ahead a bit to the 17th century, when “court ballets” held for royalty and the aristocracy were all the rage. As ballet grew in popularity, operas began incorporating it into their productions, to the delight of audiences. But, bigger things were on the horizon. In the 18th century, ballets began being performed on their own, with choreography and music that told dramatic stories.
The next century ushered in the Romantic Era. This saw the creation of ballets like “La Sylphide” that featured enthralling stories about the supernatural. This era was also when the tutu and dancing en pointe were introduced. The skills were harder, the choreography was more demanding and the ballerinas were finally being taken seriously as professionals.
Classical ballet really came into its own in the late 19th century in Russia. The two main reasons for the emergence of the classical style were that a new version of the pointe shoe was created, which enabled ballerinas to perform faster and more difficult moves, and that the rise of complex narrative music spurred choreographers to try to make dances that went along with them, “A Dance Through the Ages” explained. As the source stated:
“During this era of ballet, there was more collaboration between the musicians and the choreographers. The choreographers created the libretto which is the story or narrative idea and they choreographed the dance to go along with it. They then shared this with the musicians who wrote the score to go along with the story. A lot of classical dances were composed of four main parts: the adage, the female variation, the male variation and the grand allegro. Each part gave everyone involved in the production a chance to really show off their talent and skills.”
Most responsible for the rise of classical ballet as a genre was Marius Petipa, “the father of classical ballet” and possibly the most influential ballet teacher in history, as A Dance Through the Ages asserted. He put together choreography that was more intricate and performances that were more dramatic than audiences had ever seen before. He created “The Nutcracker” (or rather, the libretto), “Swan Lake” and “Sleeping Beauty”, and some versions of these ballets are still performed in the same way they were put on centuries ago. Tutus also became shorter around this time so that audiences could better see the ballerina’s impressive footwork and leg movements, the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre explained.
Classical ballet emphasizes fluid, graceful movements and long lines, along with strict adherence to correct form and technique, especially turn-out of the legs. There’s also a focus on narrative and storytelling achieved through dramatic visuals and complex choreography.
Classical ballet may be best represented by Swan Lake. While it’s likely the most well-known and beloved ballet in the world, it was actually a bit too avant-garde for audiences back when it premiered in 1877. According to the Gelsey Kirkland Academy of Classical Ballet, Swan Lake was “not well received with near unanimous criticism concerning the dancers, orchestra, and décor.” Audiences even disliked Tchaikovsky’s now-classic score, calling it too complex. So, with the help of Imperial Ballet master Lev Ivanov, Petipa retooled the ballet and things began looking up. Audiences were particularly charmed by Italian ballerina Pierina Legnani, who played Odette between 1894 and 1895. She turned 32 fouettes in the final scene of the ballet – the most ever performed at the time! Critics and audiences warmed up to the ballet, and well, the rest is history.
Remarkably, we’re still performing the same skills, choreography and productions as ballerinas did a couple hundred years ago. So the next time you step into class or take to the stage, think about how exciting it is to play your part in bringing the tradition of classical ballet into the future.
Editor’s Note: Check out the results of our most recent annual dance studio management software survey here.
For the second year in a row, we are excited to present the survey results collected from our most recent survey. We asked dance studio owners to answer questions about their dance studio management software. This year we’ve definitely noticed some recurring trends about how studio owners choose their dance studio management software, how they utilize it, and what they like and dislike about it.
The percentage of studio owners that are using dance studio management software increased 8% last year, from 67% in 2014 to 75% in 2015.
The three most important features of studio management software are still billing and payment processing, class management, and email or text communication, and online registration is gaining in importance.
Studios that fully embrace credit card payments see a vast majority of student payments come in via that method, though studios across the country vary widely in their ability to process credit card payments.
Overall satisfaction with dance studio management software has increased by 7%, with 82% indicating that they were either “extremely satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied”.
Read the In-Depth Report on Survey Results
To see the full summary of the survey results here.
Building a dance studio from the ground up is an exciting endeavor, but it’s also an intimidating one. There’s a lot involved in transforming an empty lot into a gleaming dance studio. It’s important to spend time researching all the steps involved in the process so there are as few surprises along the way as possible. Failing to consider certain requirements or design standards can cause problems later down the road, and adding on components after your studio is already built is complicated, costly and time-consuming.
So, make sure to head into the building process confident and informed. Here’s a quick guide to building a dance studio the right way.
Before you break ground on building a dance studio, you need to familiarize yourself with local zoning and construction regulations and any operating permits you’ll need to acquire. Zoning laws dictate that certain types of businesses can only be built in specific areas, for example, commercial properties cannot be located within a certain distance from residential neighborhoods. Zoning laws vary by community, so the U.S. Small Business Administration recommended contacting your local planning agency to figure out the property laws in your area.
Your dance studio will likely also need a series of permits and certifications, including a “CO,” which is a certificate of occupancy. To receive a CO, your building will need to pass building inspections and receive fire safety and health permits, and the Houston Chronicle noted that some areas require dance studios to pass additional measures. So, make sure the design plans of your studio are compliant with the health and safety standards of your state and community.
You’ve probably danced in a studio that was too dark, had a floor that was too stiff or ceilings that didn’t seem quite tall enough. For your students to dance their best, they need to be in a comfortable and open environment that’s designed with them in mind, so it’s important to make sure every aspect of your studio is optimally designed. Consider these main components of a dance studio:
For the most effective practice, a dance studio space should be designed to mirror a performance venue, which means a wide, rectangular area. It may seem creative or cost-effective to design a rounded space, but irregular shapes like these make it difficult for dancers to easily determine the front of the room. A large area allowing for uninhibited diagonal movement is vital.
Think about how many students your studio space will need to accommodate at one time, as well. The British National Dance Teachers Association recommended providing a minimum of three square meters of space for every young dancer of preschool or elementary school age and five square meters for every older dancer. Specifically, it advised dance spaces for children to be at least 150 square meters and adult spaces to be a minimum of 10 x 9 meters. And think about your ceiling, too – it should be tall enough for dancers to lift one another without worrying about smacking their heads on a beam!
The wrong type of floor has serious consequences for dancers, and can damage joints and muscles. It’s important to consider your bottom floor layer and top it with ample padding and support. Wooden, sprung floors are the ideal type for a dance studio. Cement floors are always avoided, however if you’re building your studio from the ground up, it’s hard to avoid using cement as at least the bottom layer of the floor. Consider building a wooden, sprung dance floor slightly above the ground to ensure dancers are fully supported. Harlequin Floors provides a comprehensive, in-depth flooring guide that is a great resource for those building their own studios.
No dance studio is complete without mirrors, which are essential for perfecting form and technique. They should be installed seamlessly, so one single smooth image is presented, and dancers should be able to see their feet on the ground when looking into them. You can install barres in front of some of the mirrors, but make sure you have one wall with mirrors that are completely unobstructed.
Don’t leave figuring out your lighting until after your studio is built. As NDTA noted, the cost of installing wiring and sockets is much more expensive later on – after the studio is finished – than it is at the beginning of the construction process. Overhead lighting should be soft and florescent and evenly spread out across the room. Windows can be great for letting in bright, natural light, but make sure they are positioned higher up on the walls so as not to be distracting to the dancers.
Other necessary components for building a dance studio include lobby and office areas, ventilation and climate-control systems, sound insulation and security systems.
“It’s well worth spending the time to vet the best contractor to build your studio.”
Choosing a Contractor
With all the other things you have on your plate, you may be tempted to just hire the first contractor that pops up in a Google search. But it’s well worth spending the time to find the best contractor to build your studio. Make sure to thoroughly check the credentials of any contractor you’re considering hiring. G2 Builders recommended calling at least three previous clients as references for each company, asking for a copy of their licenses and making sure their insurance is comprehensive and at minimum includes liability and workers compensation.
Building a dance studio is a big undertaking, but with some research, planning and preparation you can have the studio of your dreams. A successful dance studio requires a strong foundation, so make sure you keep in mind the considerations above to build your studio the right way.
Well-developed studio policies are essential to keeping your dance studio running smoothly. Not only that, they also help keep your sanity intact! If your policies are poorly drawn up, or don’t cover what they need to, then your classes will be disorganized and inefficient, dealing with parent and student issues will be a headache and you may not even receive the tuition payments that you deserve.
Strong, clear-cut studio policies are the gears that make the dance studio machine turn. However, creating policies is not as simple as just jotting a few basic rules down. Read on to learn how you can create the best policies for your business.
The Bottom Line
Suzanne Blake Gerety of DanceStudioOwner.com told listeners in a recent webinar that studio policies are the terms of a business transaction. Keep this thought at the forefront of your mind when creating your rules.
“When someone becomes a student, it’s easy for us to get caught in the warm welcome, without realizing that you’re doing a business exchange: tuition for education,” said one of the hosts.
You can’t continue to operate your dance studio and share your passion with students if you can’t make a profit. While emphasizing payment requirements may seem uncouth or harsh, it’s absolutely necessary to make sure they’re clearly communicated in your policies. Your time and expertise is valuable, so don’t be afraid to strongly express payment requirements – and stick with them. If a parent has an issue with tuition or other financial expectations, you can then point to the policies that were agreed upon ahead of time.
Keep It Snappy
Another factor to keep in mind when drafting your dance studio’s policies is that, like it or not, people have short attention spans in this digital age. That doesn’t mean you should skimp on creating comprehensive policies or leave things out, however, it’s worth it to think about how you can most effectively communicate your policies. Parents deal with demanding schedules and a million different responsibilities, not to mention how they have many forms to sign and disclaimers to read over for their children on a daily basis.
“They have messages coming at them from 8 million different directions and it’s getting more and more challenging to deliver and get the message into their hand, not only get it to them, but make them clearly understand it,” said one of the webinar hosts.
Keep policies clear and concise, and use images wherever you can to dynamically convey information. Bullet point lists break up longer blocks of content so parents can digest it more quickly. Put the most important information at the top, and bold, use color font, use all capital letters – or do all three – to make important deadlines stick out, or otherwise they will be missed. Also, post your policies in as many places as possible, so it’s easily accessible and never more than a few clicks away. Upload them on your website and email them to parents, and make sure you’re constantly regularly reminding students and parents about them.
Topics to Include
DanceStudioOwner.com provided a helpful checklist of which topics should be covered in your policies. These include:
Tuition and fee general information
Tuition & fees due date
Releases, consent forms and privacy policies
Attendance expectations and minimum participation policy
Dress code, class attire, student/parent conduct, studio rules and regulations
The most well-crafted policies in the world, however, don’t matter if they can’t be enforced. As one of the hosts of the policies webinar said:
“This is the hard part: imposing the late fee, kicking the kid out of class, not letting them perform in the recital. We agonize over this. Let me tell you, your policies do not carry any weight if you’re not ready to enforce them.”
Making sure your policies are followed ensures that you can provide the best dance education and experience for your students.
You’ve put together your class schedule and written your studio policies, but one of the most important tasks still has to be done: deciding how you will process payments. As using cash and checks has fallen by the wayside, credit cards have become the preferred form of payment. Her are some tips for secure credit card processing for your dance studio!
Why you Should Accept Credit Cards
Accepting credit cards helps ensure your studio generates as much revenue as possible. One way it does this is by making it convenient for parents to pay tuition and other fees. Paying with a credit card takes just seconds and, depending on your system, can take place almost anywhere, whether online or from a mobile phone. Parents are already using credit cards for their children’s other activities and expenses, and by accepting credit cards you make sure parents can pay the way they prefer and don’t see your studio as that one difficult business they have to deal with.
As more and more dance studios accept credit cards, it’s important that your business remains competitive. Jon Koerber, software expert for dance studios and gymnastics classes, cited that online credit card transactions increased from $2.8 billion to $4.8 billion between 2006 and 2012, and they are only set to grow even more. Credit card processing is no longer weighed down to a clunky machine – they’ve been released online and in mobile applications. As Koerber wrote in a blog post for Capterra:
“You’ll also be losing business to your competitors if you not are doing business around the clock … And all the more so if [parents] can go ahead and sign up for classes from their living room after dinner. If your competitors have online registration and payment processing but you don’t, guess which dance studio will get the new customer after hours.”
Beyond providing convenience for your clients, accepting credit cards also makes everything easier for you. All the payment information will be stored in one place, which makes it simple to view or print revenue reports and quickly access the payment history of certain customers. All the complicated tasks involved with handling and depositing funds is left to the credit card service, which leaves you more time to run your studio.
What You Need to Get Started
You first need to identify which credit card providers you want to accept. Most business accept Visa and MasterCard, while some choose to also accept American Express. Then, you need to select a merchant account service. DanceExec explained a merchant account as “a kind of bank account designed to enable your business to accept payments by debit cards or credit cards. Your merchant account establishes an agreement between you the merchant and the merchant account bank on how to settle money you receive in the form of payment card transactions.”
Make sure the merchant account service you select enables you to accept credit card payments in multiple ways – ideally in-studio, online, over the phone and via smartphones. This way, parents can have a variety of payment methods available to them and can choose the one that’s most convenient for them, wherever they are.
Once you have chosen a merchant account and bank and have been verified, you can begin accepting credit card payments. While you can track and manage credit card payments on a separate system, most major dance studio management software companies enable credit card transactions in their overall system. This is a great option because the credit card transaction program is already fully integrated into the rest of your studio’s systems, which saves you time and headaches!
If you’re accepting credit card payments, you’re dealing with sensitive financial and personal information. So, you need to make sure you’re following the highest measures for security and privacy. Make sure the merchant account service you select has a strong record of PCI, or the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, compliance.
Another security consideration is where the credit card payment information is stored. The information should not be kept on your computer or on servers owned by credit card transaction software that you use – instead, the data should be stored securely on an independent server.
Costs to Be Aware Of
Accepting credit card payments comes with several fees. One is gateway fees, which are the fees that merchant accounts charge each month for verifying that the credit card used in each transaction is in good standing. Other merchant account fees include a monthly fixed management fee and PCI compliance fee.
Additionally, there are small fees placed on every individual credit card transaction. These include an interchange fee, which depends on the type of credit card used, discount fees and per-transaction fees. The specific fee amounts vary from provider to provider, so make sure you compare these figures when choosing a merchant account to get the best value for your money.
Though setting up secure credit card processing requires some initial research, the benefits for your dance studio make it well worth the time.