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Sherry Graves

Sherry has been a part of the TutuTix team since day one, and currently takes care of our family members on the West Coast, from Cali to Kansas and everywhere in between. Folks say that she is hip, cool, a musical muse, loyal, confident and has a wicked good sense of humor. In other words: Chuck Norris wants to be Sherry Graves.
Browsing All Posts By Sherry Graves

Health and Safety in a Dance Studio: Handling Flu Season

Health and Safety in a Dance Studio

The influx of chilly winter weather can also bring along particularly tricky illnesses like the seasonal flu. To promote health and safety in a dance studio, it’s important to proactive in keeping the space clean and germ-free.

Think Ahead and Change Studio Habits

When the season changes, it’s hard for everyone to adapt at the same pace. As a studio owner, the best you can do is to broadcast best practices and habits for your dancers: how to eat, how to dress, and how to deal with sickness (more on that later).

Immune systems often face a challenge when it comes to changing weather, so it’s important to remind dancers to eat well and get plenty of sleep. Don’t wait until you’re already sick to be eating chicken soup and other nutritious meals!

As far as dress goes, the sooner dancers start carrying some warmer clothes around, the better. All it takes is a day or two of lower-than-expected temperatures to give your dancers a chill and a case of the sniffles.

Remind Parents of Your Sickness Policies

You probably explained your studio’s sickness policies at the beginning of the season, but now is a good time to reiterate them to your students and instructors. Explain to everyone that if they feel too ill to perform, you’d prefer they stay at home and rest.

Sometimes, dedicated dancers will want to push through their sniffles, but it’s in their best interest to take time to recover. Simply ask that anyone who misses class give you adequate notice via your preferred method of communication and that you’ll make exceptions to your studio’s attendance policies in the case of illness.

By staying home and getting better, they accelerate their recovery AND keep germs out of the studio.

Dance Studio Life noted that it’s generally a good idea to encourage students and teachers to take a full week to recover from the flu, while they will usually be able to return in a few days if it is just a cold.

Be Diligent About Disinfecting

The second important step in combating seasonal sickness is to keep your studio as clean as possible. Seattle Yoga News explained that you should amp up your disinfecting procedures to 110 percent if you have sick students. This means wiping down equipment with disinfectant after every use.

It might be easiest to take a few minutes at the end of each class to have students wipe down whatever barre or mats they used.

Have your office staff help disinfect high traffic areas and objects, like door handles, bathrooms and the front desk. You can also have bottles of hand sanitizer in strategic places around your studio to encourage parents and students to keep their hands germ free.

Follow Your Own Rules

Finally, keep in mind that you’re just as susceptible to sickness as your students are! It’s equally important that you follow the studio rules should you fall ill.

Even if you have a to-do list a mile long, you won’t be helping anyone if you come into class sick. Take time off to recover and delegate as many tasks as you can. Your instructors and support staff will be more than willing to help out if you extend the same courtesy when they’re feeling under the weather.

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Late Payment: How to Handle Tuition Tardiness

late payment for dance studios

Anyone ever have to deal with the problem of late payment and tuition tardiness? Something along the lines of:

  • The season just started and already families have missed their first payment
  • The season is well underway and a family has a big sum owed plus their continued monthly tuition
  • A family never finished paying for last year, has started classes this year but still owes you

Sound familiar? What do you do to eventually get that money?

Get Some Perspective

Let’s get some context and establish a few things about your studio and your options. Answer these quick questions:

  1. How many students do you teach, and how important are timely payments? (and by timely we mean the doors to your business open or close based on that income, as opposed to having some financial cushion and being able to keep teaching while figuring out this late payment)
  2. Are you a newer studio? Open 0-3 years, 3-5 years, 5-10 years?
  3. How strong are your relationships with your dance parents, and is your tuition problem one rogue family or a developing trend?
  4. Does late tuition affect your ability to pay your teachers, if applicable?

These questions might seem a little scary to answer, but they’ll give you important insight into your (immediate) financial needs.

Having a Financial Cushion to Handle a Late Payment

Is hard! Especially for smaller or newer studios who rely heavily on timely tuition payments or are just getting their feet on the ground and need to spend money on additional growth.

The problem is, in both scenarios, you also need to maintain your dance parents’ trust and have a positive reputation, which can get hurt (big time) if you enforce collection on a family. Classic Catch 22: you either lose money from tuition or you put your future money and students at risk by alienating one or several families.

So it has to be a judgment call! Unfortunately there’s no one simple answer.

Being flexible should always be your first approach, First Impressions Still Matterso you can try to resolve both the tuition problem and keep (or strengthen) good relationships with parents. Do you have the ability to set up a payment plan and spread out the past dues over several months?

There are plenty of examples of families who are going through tougher financial times but their kids LOVE dance and you can see the positive effect it has on them. It’s worth it to try and figure out solutions for these families!

Some ideas for financial flexibility could be:

  • Providing scholarships in exchange for office work
  • Providing scholarships in exchange for event planning (recital…..)
  • Crediting tuition for in-kind services
  • A referral program, where if a family can bring an additional student to the studio, they receive discounted tuition

Your ability to use a payment plan depends on the size of your studio and how you manage your expenses: can you keep the doors open if you don’t receive this full amount of money for a few more months? If so, and your budget can handle that extra strain, this is a pretty good start for handling this late payment problem.

Maintaining Strong Relationships

In most studios we talk to, the great parents outnumber the bad by a landslide. It’s always the few who cause problems one way or another. Is that the case at your studio?

If you’ve got one tough family with a consistent late payment problem, especially if it’s coupled with behavior or drama problems, you should seriously consider letting that family go. Many veterans studio owners will say the same thing: you’ll notice the stress relief so fast you’ll wish you had done it sooner.

Woman working in home office hand on keyboard close upYes, it’s important to keep in mind that letting a parent go might affect your other parents. BUT, if in the long run it is easier to run your business, and the business feels like it’s operating on a more positive note, that cut is a no-brainer. Plus, if this one family has been causing you problems, it’s very likely other parents have noticed and might not miss the troublemakers that much.

Now, what do you do if late payment problems seem to be a developing pattern among your dance families?

Time to nip that problem in the bud. Schedule a parent meeting, send out an email reinforcing the penalties of late payment, bring it up during parent-teacher conferences. There are a number of ways to send a direct message that consistent late payment is unacceptable, and that there will be consequences for families not fulfilling their responsibilities to your studio.

You Have the Power

No matter what decision you end up making remember this: if a parent has signed a contract agreeing to providing you with a sum of money in exchange for your services (teaching them or their children dance), you have the ability to send them to collections and enforce the contract.

The big (and TRICKY) question is: would it be worth it for you and your studio’s reputation to pull that card and get that money?

It’s a hard problem to deal with, because studio owners are people who love their art, love teaching, and aren’t in the business of causing confrontation. You’re in the business of DANCE.

But at the end of the day, you are a business, and some veteran dance teachers will tell you that sometimes it takes that call to collections in order to get the money that you need to keep your doors open.

Your Responsibilities as a Teacher, and Your Responsibilities TO Your Teachers

“If I enforce a tuition penalty and have to cut a student from the studio, or prohibit them from performing in the recital, then it’s the student who suffers because of their parents. And the student’s dance experience is the whole point of running my studio!”

We all want dancers to have the best experience possible. To learn the value of practicing, taking criticism, coming out of their shell, and having the confidence to own the stage.

But your studio CAN’T EXIST if you’re not making money.

The combined tuition from all of your students goes Dance Progress Report: How to Share Progresstowards supporting an entire community of people: you, maybe your family, your teachers, maybe your teachers’ families, and then all of the dancers and their families who get to have a dance experience thanks to your studio. Everyone’s contributions count!

So sometimes you have to think about the bigger picture when it comes to enforcing penalties for late payment. You can’t not pay your teachers because you haven’t received tuition! That’s an unacceptable situation, and not one that you should have to deal with.

If your teachers’ salaries are at risk, it’s time to take some action.

Get Ready for Next Season

Maybe your studio is at a point where you just can’t take the risk of sending a parent to collections, or you really want to try to find a different solution to the late payment problem and will bite the bullet this season.

What’s the move? Start rewriting and preparing next year’s studio policies NOW. Sometimes policies aren’t clear enough or aren’t easily enforced, so parents feel like they have some leeway on their payment schedules.

NOPE. They shouldn’t! You’re providing a valuable service, and should expect to be compensated for your time and effort (and patience haha). Chart out new policies like:

  • Instead of monthly payments, 3 larger payments over the course of the season
  • Incentives for paying for the full season all at once (like a discount, or an extra private lesson)
  • Checkpoints for tuition payments and clearly defined penalties for missing checkpoints, like not dancing in a community event or not being able to attend class after a certain amount of time

Does this route hurt a little more than the more direct routes? Yes. Is it still a valid option? Yes! Every studio’s situation is different, and we can’t know what factors are influencing your personal business decisions.

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What’s Trending for Dance Costumes 2017?

dance costumes 2017

We’re fresh off our UDMA experience, and can’t get over how many amazing costume options are in style this year. Are you ready to make the move and start choosing recital costumes for next year? Check out this list of trending styles and costume ordering strategies for Dance Costumes 2017.

 

 

We heard from The Line Up that they’ve seen 5 big trends so far this year:

  1. Graphic Branding: printing logos or other text onto fabric
  2. Printed Lace Designs on Mesh: for the illusion of a lace “tattoo” over the primary fabric
  3. The “Jersey” Look: mirroring athletics, sports jerseys, and cheer
  4. Sparkling Designs: printing flowers or other designs over sparkling fabric
  5. The “Romantic” Look: lace, fabric layers, rhinestones

A big part of several these design ideas is the use of a new printing technique, sublimation (The Line Up describes it as the ability to essentially design your own fabric at an affordable cost).

What other costume styles are on your radar? We’d love to update this article with feedback from studios!

Profitable Recital Costumes Start Now

Misty Lown of “More Than Just Great Dancing” wrote an amazing article for us with 5 of the best solutions she’s found to make the studio costume experience a positive one, and a profitable one! And it starts with:

  1. Ordering EARLY (like, think Thanksgiving)
  2. Measuring and ordering ACCURATELY (having one person do the measurements and being consistent)

You can read Misty’s full article for the rest of her strategies here!

A Quick Note on Reusing Costumes

Before you even get started shopping around online for potential costumes for sale that fit your ideas, take a look at last year’s costumes and see what you’ve got to work with. With some creativity and the right tools, studios hoping to save on costumes this year can get to work repurposing old costumes in a way that gives new life to great pieces.

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Getting Patrons to Invest in Your Studio

invest in your studio

As a dance studio owner, you’re always looking for more opportunities to bring in some extra money and to invest in your studio. That investment might be new equipment, new staff, or the resources to host a second recital performance. Most studios rely on classes, costumes, recitals, and possibly studio rentals for their major income. But what if you could get patrons from the community to invest in your studio?

Let’s Use the Right Vocabulary

When you think of the word “invest,” you might think of people giving you money and expecting something in return. In the case of investing in a business, those people are expecting money in return. They will invest capital, and expect you to use that capital to make more money than you could before. Having invested capital, they buy equity in your business, and effectively own a piece of your business. Thinking of it simply, when your business value grows, their wealth grows.

invest in your studioFor a dance studio, traditional “investments” are not necessarily the best situation for finding some extra resources. You as a small business owner probably want to keep full ownership of your company, and might only consider a major investment like we mention above in the case of something BIG, like opening an additional studio or something along those lines.

For businesses related to the fine arts, what you’re looking for is patronage from your community. That is, donations or contributions from members of the community who don’t expect something directly in return, but do expect you to use the money to build your fine arts organization.

A great comparison are city or regional ballet companies or symphony orchestras, who receive donations from patrons in the community. Those patrons donate to support the continuation and growth of the arts, and expect the organizations to handle and spend their donations responsibly.

So? Where Does My Studio Come into the Picture?

Dance is powerful. Dance as a fine art exists on every invest in your studiocontinent, and in the United States there are national and state-based organizations working every day to promote dance.

So, you as a studio owner have a culturally impactful organization at your disposal. Your company teaches young people (or people of all ages) about professionally recognized dance techniques. And, it allows those students to express themselves in a meaningful way.

THAT’S where your value has the potential to extend into the community and provide a valuable resource for the fine arts where it might not exist otherwise.

The Nitty-Gritty

Here, we do need to take a step back and think about the scope of the project you’re undertaking. If you want to request patronage from the community (donations), you need to be very careful about how you ask for that money, and how you report it on your taxes at the end of the year.

Right now, chances are your company is a for-profit business. As in, you run your company and provide services to customers. They pay your business directly, and that money is reported as income from the year. You aren’t a charity, so people usually don’t donate money outside of their fees.

If you’re going to stay as a for-profit business and ask for donations, there’s two BIG points to be made:

  1. Patrons will NOT be able to deduct these donations from their taxes, since you won’t be changing your company to a 501(c)(3).
  2. You’ll need to report these donations as income on your tax return next year.

Having mentioned these two points, now is the time to talk to your lawyer and/or accountant and discuss the idea before moving forward. Tax law is tricky, and it varies state-by-state.

What did they say? Did you get the green light?

Showing Your Commitment to the Community

Let’s say you’ve gotten the go-ahead from the professionals who manage your company’s finances and legal affairs. They’ve said “Yes, with careful preparation and reporting of this income, you’ll be able to receive donations from the community as long as you are clear about your use of the money and follow through with your commitment.”

That commitment needs to be impactful, and extend beyond the short-term donation that you’re hoping patrons will make.

invest in your studio

For example, maybe you ask patrons to donate in order to purchase a new barre for your studio. How will you make that purchase translate into a resource for the community?

That’s where this project needs to become bigger than your studio. If you’re asking for extra money, you need to provide extra services to the community. Maybe that means a monthly free ballet basics class for the community, or use of the space for something like physical therapy through dance. Be creative! If you show love to your community, they’ll return the love with donations and support for your organization.

Back to the Nitty Gritty

You’ve got your great idea, you’re out to save the world one dancer at a time, and you’ve got volunteers who like your idea and want to make it happen. What next?

Time to go back to your professionals for a quick meeting. You’ll want to create an easy way for patrons to give you money, and clear language that tells everyone why and how you’ll spend the money you receive.

Some companies, like GoFundMe, exist to provide people an option for crowd-sourcing. Other options might include creating a PayPal account that people can access directly from your studio’s website.

Either way, be sure to have clear descriptions of what any money collected will buy, and a timeframe for the purchase. The last thing you want is confusion about your motives, and possible legal problems down the road.

Let’s go back to our barre purchase, and create some example language:

“My studio is raising money to purchase and install a new barre, in an effort to update the studio and create additional value for the community. As thanks for the community’s support for this equipment, my studio will begin to host monthly classes free to the general public.

In addition, we will make the space available for medical professionals to use for the purposes of physical therapy through dance during non-class hours, to build appreciation for dance in the community and investment in the people of our community.

This fundraiser will last until after our studio’s final recital in May, and we will make a purchasing decision by July 1 of next year. At that time, we’ll let patrons know about the purchase and installation details.

If we have not received enough funding to purchase the barre at that time, we will have a patron meeting about alternate purchases that could fulfill similar goals as the barre. Should we not find a solution at that time, the studio will return the donations to patrons.”

Your accountant should advise you on setting up the donations side of the project, and your lawyer should advise you on the language that you’ll use to describe your project. Don’t make assumptions and take off running: be sure and have your bases covered by professionals who have your best interest in mind!!

And have FUN! This kind of project can introduce you to really great people in the community who are looking to make a difference, and your studio might have the potential to BE that positive influence.

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Dance Studio Marketing Strategies: 5 Recruitment Tips for Attracting New Dancers

Dance Studio Marketing Strategies

Several popular dance shows and movies and the development of a more health-conscious population have driven growth for the dance industry. In fact, according to the IBISWorld Dance Studios Market Research Report, the dance industry has had an annual growth of 2.9 percent between 2010 and 2015, totaling 8,569 businesses with 50,266 people employed. And there is more good news: The industry is predicted to continue its growth over the next five years as the economy improves and consumers have larger budgets for recreational activities. How are you going to recruit these new dancers to your studio, you ask? Check out these dance studio marketing strategies to kickstart your fall recruitment.

1. Appeal to the Younger Generation

The past decade has been marked by an increased awareness of health and fitness in the United States. Campaigns and initiatives have set out to fight childhood obesity and create an overall healthier youth. Statistics show that Generation Z, people under age 20, are certainly more health and fitness-conscious than previous generations.

According to the Nielsen Global Health and Wellness Survey, 41 percent of Generation Z are cognizant of GMOs, ingredients and organic products and are willing to pay more for healthier foods. This compares to 32 percent of millennials and 21 percent of baby boomers. Such consumer trends toward improved health are also supported by IBISWorld’s report on Gym, Health and Fitness Clubs, which showed an annual growth of 2.5 percent between 2011 and 2016.

The youth population is concerned about fitness and health, and dance studio owners should appeal to those interests. Recruit new youth by advertising the great health benefits of dance and offering high-energy, fitness-oriented classes.

2. Have a Strong Social Media Presence

Social media is where we get our news, where we shop, where we socialize. Search Engine Journal reported that in 2014, 72 percent of all internet users were active on social media, and that number has increased since. This provides the perfect platform for businesses to engage in marketing, including dance studios.

Owners can post videos of performances, advertise promotions and create a key network. According to Nielsen, 83 percent of consumers trust recommendations from friends and family more than advertisements, meaning that when an existing dancer or parent engages with a studio’s social media page, others will then be drawn to engage. Their networks will become the studio’s, creating a broader and more probable community from which to recruit.

3. Offer Classes For Senior Adults

On the topic of generations, the baby boomers are rapidly retiring. The Pew Research Center estimated that 10,000 baby boomers will turn 65 each day until 2030. That creates an abundance of people who will be retiring and looking for new hobbies to fill their days. Recruit these potential new dancers by offering a variety of senior classes. And the great part is, you can offer the classes during the morning or afternoon so that they will not conflict with your existing schedule.

4. Maintain an Easy, Up-to-Date Website

As a service-based business, a dance studio must provide a pleasant experience for its consumers. In today’s world, that means having an easy to use website that allows new recruits to sign up quickly and effortlessly. Entrepreneur suggested having clear website copy, a strong call to action for users to sign up and proof of your studio’s presence on social platforms as the best three ways for businesses to convert website visits to purchases, or in this case, to new sign-ups.

5. Educate Your Community

As a dance studio owner, you may not only be competing with other studios for new dancers. Instead, you may be up against with other sports, other commitments and families’ lack of time. Educate your community and explain the importance of dance! Besides a medium of self-expression and art education, dancing builds physical health and personal confidence.

Dancing can and should replace some of the other extracurricular activities that students have during the school year, so be sure to show off the benefits of dancing at your studio. But, it takes careful planning and a variety of dance studio marketing strategies to reach that community. Making some great performance videos or other multimedia can go a long way in showing (not telling) potential customers about the amazing experiences they might have at your studio.

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Helping Students Apply Dance Critique

Dance instructors must apply constructive dance critique to help their students excel.

There’s nothing quite like that moment when students finally master a new skill and you can see the excitement and pride in their eyes, knowing that you helped them reach this incredible achievement. You know all too well, however, that these moments don’t just come out of thin air. They require a lot of work from both you and your students to inspire them to be their best and to make measurable improvements following dance critique.

While some dancers will have a natural knack for picking up new moves, others will require much more coaching and critique to get them where they need to be. Providing the feedback is only a small part of instructing dancers. You need to help them apply dance critique so they can modify their movements. Otherwise, they’ll just become discouraged at receiving constant feedback without knowing how to actually implement the changes you’re expecting from them.

Providing Constructive Criticism

The first step in getting a student to apply dance critique is to deliver your feedback in a constructive way. This is especially the case for young dancers who may not be used to these opportunities for improvement. If feedback is framed in a negative way, dancers can end up too discouraged to keep trying. They’ll think there’s no point in working at it because they just aren’t any good, which is definitely not the mindset you’re trying to foster.

The dance blog Boundless recommended that constructive criticism should be specific, objective and concise. Approach the student positively and don’t belabor the point. If you act too apologetic or over explain, it may signal to the dancer that what’s being said is a negative thing. If you’re practical and to the point you can provide feedback without a dancer even feeling criticized.

It’s also important that you offer guidance for how to improve. Telling a student what she’s doing wrong won’t do her any good if she’s not sure what changes need to be made to make it right. Likewise, vague feedback that just tells her something isn’t working doesn’t let her know which area he or she needs to focus on. Is it foot positioning, or is the problem starting in the hips? A student needs to know where the mistakes are to then make adjustments. Changes are that if a student already knew what wasn’t going right, he or she wouldn’t be doing it.

One way to make a student more receptive to dance critique is to lead with a genuine compliment. If she’s starting a routine well, point out how strong her introduction is. Follow up by telling her it could be even stronger if she does x, y, z in specific areas of improvement. If a student has been struggling with a certain move but has been slowly improving, tell her that she’s gotten much better and that you think she can go even further.

Learning Centered Teaching suggested that instructors focus on the future and not the past. Don’t dwell on what has be going wrong. Direct your conversation to what can be done to get even better going forward.

Motivating Students to Take Action

While giving feedback correctly will be enough for many students to start making adjustments, others will need an extra push. You could be the very best there is at providing constructive criticism, but some students still won’t be able to apply what you’re telling them.

If you have a student who just can’t seem to make the changes you’re asking for, you may want to discreetly pull them aside for a more direct conversation. Don’t assume you know what the problem is. Go into the conversation with an open mind and remember that your goal is to help the student improve, not to chastise her for imperfection.

For students who don’t understand: Dance Advantage reported that instructors should try to ask students questions to help find the source of their difficulties. Ask her if she feels like she needs help with anything specific and see if she’s aware of what’s not quite working. You can then ask more pointed questions specific to the issue at hand. Does she feel any pain when she tries the move? Is she confused about any part of a routine? Inquiries along those lines can help you uncover the source of the problem so you can give more specific feedback.

For students who resist feedback: You may run into students who are just not receptive to any kind of criticism, however. These students will insist they are doing everything correctly. They may even get so combative that they tell you that you are the one who’s wrong!

Try not to take this personally. Chances are good that these students have a hard time feeling vulnerable. They may have high expectations for themselves, or low self esteem. Be understanding and try to relate to them with your own early dance experiences. Say it’s easy and understandable to feel it’s going perfectly because they can’t see it from the outside, but that you think there’s room to be even better. Don’t frame feedback as a lecture on what they’re doing wrong, but rather present it as an opportunity to get even better.

The most important thing for you to do is go into every dance critique interaction with good intentions and the goal of helping students improve. With that mindset, you’ll be much more effective in helping them grow.

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Careers in Dance: What Can I Do With My Dance Degree?

With the right planning, dancers can turn their passions into a successful career. Check out these tips to help create a plan for your dance degree!

Students today receive a lot of conflicting advice about their educational paths and their career goals. Idealists urge students to find what makes them happy and pursue that, no matter what the obstacles. Others take a more practical stance and tell students to look at the job market and just focus on earning a degree for any in-demand field to guarantee job security. Each side just wants today’s youth to make good decisions that will lead them to successful lives, but they believe there are drastically different methods for achieving them. So the question becomes: should you get a dance degree?

In reality, the options don’t need to be so black and white. It’s entirely possible for students to follow their passions to create a meaningful career while still considering the realities of the job market. With the right plan, today’s dance enthusiasts can earn their dance degree in the arts and create successful careers for themselves.

Creating a Plan for Your Dance Degree

A person who loves dance so deeply that she wants to dedicate her career to it needs to start by knowing what her options are. According to Career Igniter, a good place to start in the world of dance is by examining all the roles that go into making a ballet production. Dancers who are drawn to designing movements and routines may enjoy becoming a choreographer, which the source said can sometimes offer greater job security than being a dancer. The ability to be both expands a student’s chances of landing a job after graduation.

Some entrepreneurial types may want to forge their own place in the dance industry by creating and running a new studio or production on their own. These students will want to also take business classes or even earn a separate business degree to understand how to get their company off the ground and keep it operational. Dance administrators are crucial members of the industry, and the role of administrator can make an excellent careers for the dancers very interested in business.

Every dance student should take the time to consider where they would really fit in and enjoy their role in the industry. You know that you love dance, but ask yourself why you love it and which aspects of it in particular make you the happiest. Realizing this while you’re still in school allows you to supplement your dance degree with other classes or certifications that you’ll need to make your desired career a reality. The more well-rounded a dancer you are, the more marketable you’ll be when you graduate.

Working in Dance Education

It takes a great teacher to make a great performer. Talent needs to be trained, energy tempered, form polished before a performer can rise to his/her full potential. As a teacher, many dancers have a unique opportunity to practice their art while also sharing their passion for dance with others.

Shape America reported that dance teachers may be able to enter the field without separate teaching credentials. That means that professional performers retiring from the stage can find ways to begin teaching without needing an additional professional degree. That being said, there are a number of national and international dance organizations that offer additional training and certifications, and many in the dance community recommend or expect teachers to have some level of higher education before teaching classes on their own. Information about three of the larger organizations is available below:

National Dance Educators Associations

Dance Educators of America

Dance Masters of America

Teaching at a studio often requires professional understanding of a variety of dance styles (or, as an owner, hiring teachers who have different areas of expertise). To teach in a public school setting (K-12), additional certification is required a state-by-state level.

Knowing early that a career as a teacher might be an option can help young dancers to take beneficial classes or volunteer at their studio for extra teaching experience.

Combining Dance With Other Industries

Some students may decide that though they love dance, they may want a career that combines elements of other industries. For those with a wide range of artistic skills, becoming a dance critic or reporter can keep them close to the dancing action as they build their jobs around the written word. Most professional writers have a particular area of interest that they focus their pieces on. Dance writers are able to use the knowledge they gained with their dance degree to publish and share their thoughts on the industry.

The dance therapy industry is another sector that combines dance with other disciplines. Growing in popularity, dance therapy is used to treat physical and mental conditions in the same way as traditional psychotherapy. The American Dance Therapy Association frequently cites studies that support the practice’s role in treating anxiety and depression, among other ailments.

Whatever path you decide, you should know that there are plenty of ways to turn your love of dance and your dance degree into a realistic and enjoyable career, especially if you can start planning for it early.

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Dance Choreography Ideas: Choreography with a Strong Story

dance choreography ideas

Maybe you need to come up with dance choreography ideas that showcase your students’ newly learned skills, or are a dancer yourself struggling to put together a new composition. You might have the perfect music picked out and have filled the choreography with impressive technical skills, however you just feel that the whole piece needs just a little something more. What you’re probably lacking is a story, emotional and narrative threads weaved throughout the choreography that make the performance complete and connect the audience to the dance.

If you’ve typically been of the camp that puts innovative movement and technical skill ahead of storytelling in ballet choreography, now is the perfect time to flex those narrative muscles. Story ballets have been making a comeback, according to Pointe magazine. Abstract performances that focus solely on movement are making space on the stage for ballets that tell a rich story through dance.

Sometimes, creative inspiration quickly strikes and you know exactly what story you’ll be telling through your choreography. Other times, it’s a little more difficult, and you might feel that that inspiration tap has gone and dried up. However, there are some tips that will help you tell a stronger story in your choreography.

Absorb the Atmosphere

Once you have a piece of music selected for the dance, sit listening to the music in uninterrupted peace – a creative brainstorming session. As you listen to the music, don’t just think about the skills and movements that would perfect fit the highs and lows of the piece, but also think about what kind of atmosphere or ambiance the work creates. What emotions does the music conjure? What kind of environment does the piece transport you to?

Identifying atmosphere is a major part of choreographer Miro Magloire’s process, according to his interview with Backstage. Magloire is the artistic director and founder of New Chamber Ballet in New York, and told the source that his past experiences as a composer caused him to create his choreography primarily from the technical structure of the music.

“But over time I grew more interested in trying to respond to the atmosphere or spirit of the music, the emotion maybe,” he told Backstage. “I’ve seen dances that had no apparent structural relation to the music and yet I felt they completely ‘matched’ the music – and vice versa.”

Shift your focus from the technical elements of the musical piece and instead try to identify its emotional and transformative aspects to create a starting point from which to develop the story of the dance.

Look In Creative Places for Inspiration

Truly great artists – choreographers and otherwise – create great works because they are always open to inspiration, anywhere and anytime. This may be because for works of art that have emotional relevance, that have to be based in true human experiences, and the only way to learn about these experiences is by going out into the world. Watching ballet performances online can help give you ideas, but for fresh inspiration that can help you create dynamic, story-based choreography, it’s helpful to get out there and soak up some inspiration from non-ballet sources.

Choreographer Chloé Arnold of the Syncopated Ladies dance company told Dance magazine that when she feels choreographer’s block, she seeks out experiences where she can see someone else being creative, or can watch someone that inspires her. She said she when to a Beyonce concert and felt creatively rejuvenated, and stayed up all night choreographing.

And if inspiration does strike outside the studio, don’t be afraid to embrace it. Arnold told the magazine of one experience she had while she was stuck working on a performance.

“Inspiration came to me on the plane. I went to the bathroom area and made the movement right there. People thought I was crazy. But it became Syncopated Ladies’ staple dance when we were on “So You Think You Can Dance.”

So, if you’re stuck on story and need some fresh dance choreography ideas, seek out new experiences and don’t be afraid to let the music move you. New perspectives can help jumpstart your creativity so you can put together fresh, dynamic choreography that truly connects with the audience.

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Is Competitive Dance a Sport?

is competitive dance a sport

The dance world is full of debates, and one of the fiercest surrounds the question: is competitive dance a sport? There’s few questions like this one that will get such a spirited discussion going. Read on to dive into the arguments for and against this divisive question.

Is Competitive Dance a Sport? Yes, Competitive Dance Is a Sport

Proponents of considering competitive dance a sport believe that dance’s athleticism and its harsh physical demands of the body put it on equal ground with recognized sports like football, soccer and field hockey. A first point pro-sporters might mention is that dance is similar to other disciplines that share dance’s artistic spirit yet are still considered sports, such as gymnastics and ice skating. Others take this point to the next level by arguing that competitive dance, by its very nature, could be classified as an Olympic sport.

Alonni Reid, a dancer herself, lays out this very argument in an article for the Buffalo News. She wrote that according to the International Olympic Committee, to be considered as an official Olympic sport, the activity needs to fit the following criteria:

  • Demonstrate clear emphasis on youth and development
  • Have a judging system that ensures objectivity, fairness and transparency
  • Be practiced by both men and women
  • Have long-term development and viability

Competitive dance meets all these requirements, and Reid argued that it should therefore be considered a sport by the public.

The rise in popularity of competitive dance has also exposed millions more Americans to the hard work, sacrifice and physical skill that it takes to be a dancer. Dancers need stamina, flexibility and endurance and must to be in peak physical shape to excel, just like a football player or a long-distance runner. These intense demands on the human body – and the sacrifices dancers make to train and improve – are another major argument why competitive dance should be considered a sport.

In an article on the increasing popularity of competitive dance, the New York Times interviewed Dennis Spitzer, a physical therapist whose daughter had begun dancing competitively.

“I played sports all my life, and I’ve never seen anyone work as hard as they do,” Sptizer said. “They are going out there to win. If they don’t win, they feel as badly as we do when we lose. It’s not dance. It’s a sport.”

Is Competitive Dance a Sport? No, Competitive Dance Is Not a Sport

“It’s not dance. It’s a sport,” might be an incendiary statement to those firmly in the camp that dance is indeed not a sport. The argument against considering competitive dance a sport largely boils down to the firm conviction that dance is an art form above all else. And according to this group, the rise of competitive dance has, in fact, taken dance even further away from its true essence.

Dance’s purpose is to enchant the audience, express emotion and tell an affecting story, argued Brittanly Kottler in an article for the Huffington Post. It’s not the impressive physical skills and “tricks” that are the focal point of ballet, rather, it’s the artistry and creative expression.

“The choreographed routines [showcased on competitive dance TV shows] strive for the “wow!” factor while simultaneously removing basic ballet technique and artistic freedom that has been taught to dancers around the world for centuries,” Kottler wrote. “The true “wow!” factor of ballet comes from the entire performance as a whole.”

Those who believe dance is a sport frequently cite dancers’ fierce competitiveness as evidence, however, Kottler refuted this idea as well, writing that “ballerinas are competitive with each other in the same way artists, musicians and actors are.”

Where proponents of dance as a sport state that gymnastics and ice skating are “artistic disciplines” that are classified as sports, others refute this by pointing to the fact that competitive dance has a more subjective scoring system compared to these two sports. Unlike in gymnastics and ice skating, there are no specific moves that dancers are required to include in their routines.

“Although dancers must be as strong as athletes, they should never substitute tricks for art,” responded Joan Robinson Borchers to a poll by Dance Spirit Magazine on whether dance should be in the Olympics. “We see far too much of that at various competitions how many fouettés can you pull off, instead of what story you can tell us through your dance. Skating and gymnastics can be beautiful to watch, but are hamstrung by having to do all those tricks. A dancer can and should be above all, an artist.”

And the Verdict Is …

There’s no denying competitive dancers are athletes, and there’s a long list of benefits of being a competitive dancer, such as expressing yourself through movement, keeping your body in top physical shape and having the opportunity to become one of the best in your discipline. There’s no easy answer, since many of the characteristics of competitive dance blur the line between art and sport. It’s possible, then, that the debate may just have to rage on. What do you think – is competitive dance a sport? Let us know in the comments.

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Event Safety: Dance Recital Safety Tips

event safety

Recital season is an exciting time, but it can also be a cause of worry for parents. Recitals are typically, frenzied and fast-paced experiences, and parents may be a little weary of dropping their child in a chaotic situation. Here are some smart event safety tips to keep in mind this recital season:

Pack an Event Safety First Aid Kit

In addition to having a bag full of extra performance essentials, like bobby pins, hair spray and a spare pair of tights, you should also safety items, like Band-aids, Neosporin and wet wipes. Make sure you have a comprehensive first-aid kit on hand at the recital venue, too.

Make Sure Emergency Contact Info Is Up to Date

Emergency contact info is often a line parents quickly fill out without a second thought, but in the worst case that there ever is an actual emergency, this information will need to be up-to-date. In the weeks leading up to the recital, verify parent or guardian contact info and make sure it’s stored somewhere that’s easily and quickly accessible.

Do a Risk Assessment of the Venue

While you already have an overflowing to-do list to prepare for the recital, you must make time to do a risk assessment of the venue, noted the resource Safe Dance Practice. Tour the venue and note fire exits. You should also familiarize yourself with the venue’s emergency procedures, and alter them to fit the recital set-up if necessary. Record this information and make sure to share it with dancers, parents and all volunteers and studio staff members prior to the event.

Practice Safe Drop-off and Pick-Up Procedures

The nerves are flying before the curtain rises, but some of the most stressful times of a recital are when parents are dropping off and picking up their dancers. When you have a dizzying swarm of dancers coming and going or when you’re distracted by a million things all at once, it can be easy to lose sight of a dancer or not notice who came to get them.

There is software that you can purchase for checking in dancers, if you feel that it would help you organize the process better. Capterra noted that many check-in systems allow multiple ways to identify who is checking in, such as using the last name or phone number, or even a bar code. While software is not necessary, and may be beyond your resources, make sure you get the full name and contact info of the person who is checking in the dancer.

Think about what the best option is for check-out, too. You can have parents come directly to the dressing room during intermission or at the end of the show, or you can have a separate table staffed with volunteers to take the info of the family members picking up. Whatever you choose, make sure you fully brief the parents, dancers and volunteers on the event safety procedures.

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Event Volunteers: Recruiting and Managing Help for Your Dance Recital

event volunteers

Your dancers could be able to perform their choreography perfectly in their sleep, but without volunteers, a recital just won’t be a success. There are so many moving parts involved with putting on a dance recital, from selling tickets to managing dancers backstage. The dancers, of course, are the stars of the show, but the event volunteers are the vital gears that turn to make the recital a true showstopper.

However, the combination of recruiting, organizing and handling volunteers during recital season is no easy matter. Maybe you have a hard time finding people interested in helping out, or conversely, maybe you have too many people lending a hand and don’t know how to effectively manage them all. And how do you make sure you make the experience enjoyable enough for volunteers that they’ll be eager to help out next year? Read on for some tips that will help you have success with recital volunteers this spring and beyond.

Who Makes the Best Event Volunteers?

Your first instinct might be to ask parents to work as volunteers at the recital. However, this approach can ultimately make the volunteer recruitment process more difficult for you. Parents already spend a large amount of money and time sending their students to your studio, noted studio owner Kathy Blake for DanceTeacher magazine, so it’s important to shift your idea of how parents can lend a hand.

The magazine suggested that you instead ask parents to be “parent helpers,” instead of traditional volunteers. Ask parents to help out with duties that involve helping get the kids ready for the show, since the fact that they get to watch their own children dance from the best seats in the house can be a big incentive for volunteering their time. Great jobs for parents include escorting the dancers to and from the stage or helping out with makeup and costumes.

For the rest of the volunteers that you’ll need, check in with community service organizers at local schools and community groups. Alumni of your dance studio also make great volunteers, since they already know the ins and outs of putting on a recital and are usually eager to return to the studio and see some friendly faces.

Recruit Strategically

For all types of volunteers, the best recruitment approach is to spread the word that you need volunteers through multiple channels. Create an online form that parents and other individuals can fill out that includes what tasks they would be interested in doing, what hours they would be available and their contact information. Link to this form on your studio’s website, and send it to parents, alumni and other people who you think may be interested via email.

Also, be sure to take advantage of social media to spread the word that you are looking for volunteers for the upcoming recital. Create posts about how you’re looking for volunteers and encourage your followers to share them, recommended VolunteerSpot. And, as the recital approaches, make sure you send out reminders via email or even mobile to volunteers about their commitments.

Emphasize the Benefits

Recital season is incredibly stressful, but don’t forget that parents, friends and alumni are all dealing with their own busy lives. To successfully recruit – and retain – volunteers, it’s important to keep a positive, upbeat attitude. It makes the experience better for everyone! Begging for volunteers or saying negative statements like volunteering “isn’t really that bad” or that “it’s hard to get help” sends out bad vibes and may turn off some individuals from helping out, noted PTO Today.

Instead, make sure you emphasize the benefits of volunteering to help with the recital, like the fact that parents can have a larger role in the action and can watch their kids and that you’re all working together to help the hard-working dancers shine in the spotlight.

Recognize Your Event Volunteers

In addition to highlighting the positive aspects of volunteering, providing perks for helping out goes a long way. Blake suggested that studio owners give volunteers a small gift like a 10 percent discount off purchases in the dance shop or a free ticket to the recital. You could also offer discounts on photos or flowers, or gift cards to local restaurants, cafes or day spas. During the recital, make sure you have snacks, water and coffee available for volunteers and check in with them throughout the event.

And above all, make sure you thank them. Your event volunteers are doing you a huge favor by helping run your recital, so make sure you acknowledge that you appreciate their time and effort. After your dancers are done performing, you could call up the volunteers onto the stage to thank them, or consider sending out handwritten thank you cards as soon as possible after the event.

Taking the time to thank volunteers reinforces strong relationships and makes them feel more inclined to help out again at next year’s recital and other studio events.

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How to Become a Dancer

how to become a dancer

Being a dancer is about so much more than just learning choreography and proper technique. It’s also about what’s happening on the inside, in a dancer’s soul. Dancers are artists who use movement to express themselves and connect with others, creating something beautiful with every jeté or plié. Becoming a dancer requires hard work, sacrifice and a willingness to make yourself vulnerable, but the rewards of a life devoted to dance make it all worthwhile. Take a look at these tips for how to become a dancer.

Why Dance?

Dancing is not only healthy for your body, but it’s also good for your spirit and sense of self. Identifying the ways that dancing attracts and affects you on a personal level can help you become a better dancer and persevere through difficult times. The Huffington Post asked professional dancers why they dance, and the answers were both touching and thought-provoking.

Kayla Rowser, a dancer with the Nashville Ballet, said, “I dance because I love sharing a piece of my soul with the world through movement.”

“I dance because I enjoy expressing my feeling and emotion in many ways. And it makes me happy,” responded Ballet San Jose dancer Maykel Solas.

Other respondents answered that they dance because it helps them get in touch with their emotions, makes them smile and helps them express themselves without using words. Others dance because they have to, and many echoed dance teacher Amanda Trusty who said “I dance because sometimes it’s the only way I know how to speak.” Part of becoming a dancer is recognizing what drives your passion and what draws you to dance.

The Beauty of a Life Devoted to Dance

There are many amazing advantages to devoting your life to dance. The hard work and determination required to overcome challenges in your dancing can teach you how to deal with obstacles and setbacks in other areas of your life. You become fluent in a beautiful, powerful language that many people never get to learn, and the close attention to detail and eye for aesthetics that you develop as a dancer helps you see and appreciate beauty in all other aspects of life. You become more confident in not only your skills and talents as a dancer, but in your ability to truly and fearlessly be yourself.

As Dance Advantage noted, “There’s not much you need to know in life that you haven’t already learned in a dance class.”

Dancing also contributes to the wellness of both your body and mind. Dancing strengthens your core and keeps your heart healthy, eases depression and anxiety and promotes mindfulness, according to Berkley Wellness. All of these benefits add up to a healthy body and a positive outlook on life.

The Costs of a Life Devoted to Dance

But being a dancer is no easy role to take on. You will be pushed to the limit of what you think you can achieve physically and mentally. You will face imposing challenges, intense nerves and harsh disappointment, and will have to make certain sacrifices along the way. While your friends are able to spend time hanging out on the weekends, you may need to head to class or travel to a performance. You might need to devote years to intense training to learn proper technique and improve as a dancer, especially for classical forms.

But the beauty of these trials and tribulations is that you come out the other side even stronger than before.

Achieving Your Dreams

If the costs don’t faze you and the advantages excite you, then don’t wait another minute to pursue your goal of becoming a dancer. Sign up for introductory classes at a studio in your area and begin your dance journey. ArtsAlive recommended expanding your knowledge about dance by attending as many performances as you can and learning about dance online and in books and magazines. Try taking a few classes in different styles of dance to learn which bests suits your talents and personality. Seek out summer programs and workshops, which can be great opportunities to hone your craft.

Remember that you can still be a dancer even if you have a day job. If dance adds meaning to your life, make it a part of your life in whatever way you can, whether that means taking a beginner class, buying a barre for home use or volunteering to help organize local performances.

Constantly challenge yourself, too. As Rebecca Brightly wrote on her blog Dance World Takeover: “Practice is not “the thing.” Do The Thing you actually want to do! Perform, enter comps, choreograph, teach, film dance videos—whatever calls to you. Go do lots of that, then do lots more.”

When you’re practicing and challenging yourself, think about what devoting your life to dance means to you. For some, that means joining a company as a professional dancer, for others, it means teaching or choreographing dance. The important thing is to think about what excites your soul.

Fall in love with dance, and when hard times come, remind yourself why you love it all over again. Training and practice are the building blocks, but it takes passion to truly become a dancer.

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Improvisation Dance: Can Improv Lead to Better Choreography?

improvisation dance

The thought of improvising dance may make you nervous, but improvisation dance could be the secret to better choreography.

Just like taking a walk around the block helps clear a stressed mind, an hour of so of improv can spark creative ideas. In an interview with KQED News, Deana Criess, director of ImprovBoston’s National Touring Company, espoused the benefits of making things up as you go along. And even though her organization focuses on comedy, the inspiring power of improv is applicable across artistic and athletic disciplines.

Criess told the source that improv boosts quick thinking, helps clear away distracting thoughts that take us out of the moment and strengthens our communication skills and self-expression. Instead of constantly judging yourself for missing a step or being offbeat, improv dancing allows you to be spontaneous and tune in to your inner self.

Personal Identity

Every dancer and choreographer is different, possessing a unique set of beliefs, values, talents and dreams, and the greatest joy of dancing comes from being able to be the best version of yourself. However, it’s easy for these one-of-a-kind attributes to become a little muddled when you’re constantly doing the same dances or formulating choreography with a repetitive, static approach.

By not worrying about directions and simply letting your body move the way you want it to, you’re able to identify certain motions that particularly connect with you, DanceSpirit Magazine noted. Connecting with your own preferences also helps you to better identify the unique styles of other dancers. You can then use this inspiration to breathe new life into your choreography and craft dances that respond to people’s strengths or challenge their weaknesses to improve.

Creating a “Toolkit”

Sometimes, choreographers fall into ruts where they use the same combinations of positions and skills over and over again. Improv can help you build a collection of new movements that you can then have at your disposal to keep your choreography fresh and exciting.

An article on Backstage.com profiled Helen Pickett, a dancer who teaches classes based on innovative choreographer William Forsythe’s improvisational technique. Forsythe would break improvisation into around 30 smaller, individual movements, which he called “modalities,” the site explained. These smaller movements, like collapsing and folding, then served as building blocks to create new dances.

“It opens up avenues that allow you to expand your ideas of what you thought you body could do,” said Pickett of the Forsythe method.

New Paths

The thought of improv makes many people self-conscious, but the very act of exposing our unguarded selves to others helps improve creative thinking and problem-solving skills. You learn that taking unexpected or approaches to problems can yield beautiful solutions, and let go of fear and self-doubt. Becoming more comfortable with thinking outside the box will help you expand the scope of what you believe you can achieve through your choreography. You also learn to trust yourself and to have faith in your unconventional ideas.

Tips for Improv

The first step to productive improvisation is casting all doubt, anxiety and self-consciousness aside. Don’t worry about what others will think of you, since improv is about getting in tune with your inner thoughts and artistic expression, not about others’ perceptions of your movement.

While you can simply turn on some music and start moving, a little structure can help guide your improv dance. Human Kinetics recommended following simple rules that force you to move creatively. For example, move in a circle on the floor, but only begin steps or movements with your left foot, or, go from one corner of the room to the other starting low to the floor and ending up as high above the floor as possible by the time you make it to the other side.

Inspiration can come from anywhere, not just music, and the site also suggested picking an art object or image that speaks to you and mimicking the patterns of shapes of the piece through movement, and then repeating your motions, observing how your movement changes in its reflection of the shapes. You can also pair each movement with an emotion that the artwork provokes in you, and move through each feeling as you mimic the patterns or shapes.

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Tips for Dancers: Be the Best You

tips for dancers

With all the hours you spend striving to make your technique perfect and the hundreds of videos you watch of your favorite dancers, it can be easy to lose sight of what makes you unique. Every dancer, whether she’s a veteran or total beginner, has characteristics that make her special and set her apart from every other dancer. Truly fantastic dancers aren’t great because they’re technically perfect, but are great because they embrace their strengths and one-of-a-kind personality. They bring passion to the stage, capitalize on what they’re good at and, by doing so, remain in the minds of their audiences long after the show is over. Use these tips for dancers to help you achieve your full potential as a dancer, and while it may seem difficult to do so at first, a little soul-searching, honesty and reflection will help you soar to new heights.

Create a Personal Mission Statement

You may have an idea in your mind about why you love to dance or what you hope to achieve through ballet, but spending the time to sit down and put these sentiments into words will help you identify what makes you unique and will guide your dance journey. Think about what your dreams are, what you most want to accomplish and where you want to be in the future. In her book, “Career Coach: Managing Your Career in Theater and the Performing Arts,” Shelly Field provided the example mission statement, “My mission statement is to use my skills and talent to create a career dancing as a principal in the New York City Ballet.” The mission statement can be whatever resonates with your heart, but it’s important to keep it short, focused and clear. Once you’ve created your mission statement, make copies of it and stick it where you’ll constantly see it, like on your mirror, in your bag or on your laptop.

Play to Your Strengths

Everyone’s body is different and is better adapted to certain skills and movements than others. To be the best you, you should recognize what you excel at and are uniquely talented at, and then devote yourself to getting even better at them. There’s always someone who is going to be better than you, and it’s okay to admire them for their abilities, but beating yourself up for not being as good builds harmful, negative energy. Instead, recognize your unique gifts! For example, Pointe Magazine Online profiled Kathi Martuza, a dancer with hyperextension in her legs. While her condition gives her beautiful long lines, it also causes her knee pain and muscle issues and makes turns difficult. Instead of dwelling on the challenges she faces, she appreciates the things she’s good at.

“Everybody has strengths and weaknesses,” she said in an interview with magazine. “Play up your strengths and show them off. Then work on your weaknesses.”

Embrace your Style

Of course, there are times when you have little control over the choreography or costume, but part of becoming the best you as a dancer is figuring out your unique style and then not being afraid to show it. Create your own choreography for performances and competitions that showcase your spirit as a dancer, whether that means you do a routine full of sky-high leaps and acrobatic moves to powerful music, embrace the classical style with elegant lines and a refined costume or incorporate moves and rhythms from your cultural heritage. Confidently expressing yourself and what makes you unique will help you achieve your full potential as a dancer.

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How to Be a Good Dance Teacher

How to be a Good Dance Teacher

Learning how to be a good dance teacher is about much more than simply correcting form and demonstrating the right techniques. Good dance teachers transcend from being just an instructor to becoming a role model, to making a lasting impression on students and to being a positive force in both their personal and dance development.

Great dance teachers are not soon forgotten. Writer and Life Counselor Jesua shared a powerful memory of her dance teacher with the Huffington Post. Jesua had neurological damage and injured legs as a result of meningitis contracted when she was a child. In college, she bravely decided to take a dance class in order to help improve her control over her body. She felt incredibly self-conscious as she stumbled through her routines, watching the other students completing them perfectly. But one day, an interaction with her dance teacher changed her outlook not just on dance, but on life:

“In front of the entire class, she yelled at me, scolding me, with so much intense love and conviction and passion I have perhaps never recovered since. She said: ‘Look at you, shame on you! Holding these long, beautiful limbs so close, so tight to your sides?’ Then she got in my face: ‘How generous are you willing to be? How generous are you willing to be with your whole life? Will you share yourself with us? With the world? Do you dare? Or are you just going to hold yourself tightly in … just keep yourself to yourself for the rest of your life? In case you fall? In case you fail? Or: are you going to choose to just be generous anyway? To just take up as much space as you actually take up? To be as big, as graceful, as long, as gorgeous, as enormous as you actually are?”

She stopped, out of breath from her spontaneous explosion, and stood there, staring up at me, tears of wisdom’s fierce love glistening in her eyes. Stunned tears came to my eyes as well, and I met her gaze, with what must have been the light of humbled gratitude.

Good dance teachers inspire their students, help them grow and enable them to be the best they can be. Read on to learn about the most important qualities for good dance teachers and ways that you can improve them:

Empathy

The most effective teachers are the ones that truly try to see things from their students’ perspectives and are understanding about their unique concerns, fears and struggles. Think back to the time before you became a teacher: There were certainly moments in class when you were frustrated or grappling with issues that you felt like no one else understood. A good teacher levels with their students. As Dance Advantage stated, a good dance teacher “responds to his students with understanding and, when appropriate, compassion. He reaches people where they are, not where he wants them to be.” To practice more empathy, remember that all of your students are going through stresses and anxieties just like you did as a young dancer, and recognize the unique perspectives of each student in your class.

Open Communication

How can teachers connect with students if they’re not actively listening to their needs, or creating an atmosphere that encourages free expression? Listening skills and open communication are essential to being a good dance teacher. “The goal of a dance educator is to understand why each student has come to the class and what they hope to achieve,” stated Inspire2Dance. Your job is to guide students on their dance journey, and this can only be achieved by fostering a class environment that encourages students to share their thoughts and concerns with you. Open communication, however, is not a one way street. To build an atmosphere of open communication, Inspire2Dance recommended that teachers frequently check in with students, ask them questions about their dance practice and gather feedback. Show your students that you value their thoughts and opinions and remind them that you are here to help them succeed.

Self-awareness

Whether students spend just one or five days a week in class, they are influenced by the behavior of their teachers, and often see them as mentors. To be a good dance teacher requires constant self-awareness of how you are being perceived and the lessons that you teach beyond dance skills and techniques. “In the students’ minds, the teacher brings not only personal perspective to the environment, but represents the broader knowledge of the field, and all the teachers that have come before this individual,” stated an article in the Journal of Dance Education. The article advised that instead of shying away from this role, teachers should embrace it. Pay attention to the language you use, your attitude and your behavior to make sure you are being the best role model you can be for your students.

Work on these qualities to improve as a dance teacher. With time, care and dedication, you won’t just be a good teacher, but you’ll be a great one.

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