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.
You watched them don their first tutus, perfect those tricky steps and blossom into beautiful young dancers. Now, it’s time for them to spread their wings and leave your studio. It’s a bittersweet moment, isn’t it? However, there’s still one more thing you can help your students with. When dancers are considering how to best pursue a career in the arts, they’ll probably ask for your help choosing the right dance program. Pass on these nuggets of wisdom to your graduating performers to guide them down the path to success in a college dance program and elsewhere.
Dance Programs vs. Conservatories vs. Trainee Programs
One of the first steps in whittling down a dancer’s higher education options is to decide whether a conservatory is the right path. Dance Spirit magazine explained that at these intensive training programs, such as the one at Juilliard, dancers live and breathe the art. Students usually spend six to eight hours a day in dance classes, with a few other academic courses sprinkled in.
Tiffany can der Merwe, a teacher at the Ann Lacy School of American Dance and Arts Management at Oklahoma City University, explained to Dance magazine that students who enter conservatories are usually 100 percent certain that dance is what they want to do.
“There are programs where your commitment to dance is prime,” Merwe told the magazine. “Then there are other programs where you’ll be actively challenged in dance, but at the same time you’ll have to be excellent in your academics.”
This other common option for aspiring dancers is usually attained through a dance program at a college or university. This path is a great choice for students who want to explore other academic programs while earning a fine arts degree. Some dance students even choose to double-major or take a minor in another area of interest.
It is also possible that a dancer has the drive and talent to forego conservatory or university-program training, and go directly into a professional company’s trainee program. There are many factors that determine a student’s suitability for this path, and it’s crucial to be realistic about a student’s potential, as well as whether they have the mental toughness and maturity to pursue such an opportunity, should it arise.
It’s worth mentioning that, every year, a free event is held in New York City called “Dancing through College and Beyond.” It’s designed for high school students, and it’s a chance for them to meet one on one with college dance educators, alumni, and students from all over the country. It’s an incredible opportunity to network with many different schools all in one place, learn about their programs, and even apply for scholarships! If your student can make it to NYC, it’s a unique way to see what dance programs might be right for them.
As a studio owner or instructor, your dancers may very well look to you for advice on which path is better for them. And the truth is that you likely have some great insight for these aspiring performers. Give your students your honest opinion on what you think they would be best suited for. However, be sure to emphasize that they should take their own goals and desires into account as well!
Audition Processes as Peepholes
Once your students have a rough idea of which higher education path they want to take, it’s time to make a list of contending schools. Some dancers may have their hearts set on the big-name dance schools, such as Juilliard, Skidmore or the Boston Conservatory. However, this process gets tricky when students are looking for a more general college dance program – after all, these are hundreds to choose from!
If you’re working with dancers to narrow down their program options, Dance Advantage suggested that you take a close look at each contending school’s audition process. The requirements for applicants can provide you with a glimpse into what the school expects from its students and what life will be like within the program.
For example, a university that requires an audition tape, personal essay and in-person performance is likely looking for highly skilled dancers who are serious about their craft. This means that accepted students will be in classes with similarly skilled peers and held to higher standards of achievement.
On the other hand, schools with lax admissions processes may have classes with mixed-level students and provide a less specialized education to dancers.
At the end of the day, your dancers should take the same considerations into account that normal college applicants would. Are they looking for small intimate classes? Do they need one-on-one instruction? Will they be able to pursue extracurriculars? How far from home are they willing to move?
These factors will all contribute to a college dance educational/training experience, so it’s important that they don’t get overlooked. Just because a university has an amazing college dance program, that doesn’t mean it’s the right school for every aspiring professional.
Can you believe it’s that time of a year again? It seems like just yesterday students were worried about their first day of dance class, and now the seasonal recital is quickly approaching. Recitals are often the highlight of the dance year, so make a dance recital checklist and help students be adequately prepared for the big day. Here’s how dancers can get ready for their dance recitals.
“Luck favors the prepared, so start early!”
Get Ready Two Weeks Before the Show
Luck favors the prepared, so dancers should start getting ready for their big show with plenty of time before the performance date. This will ensure that you take the time to carefully pack all your supplies and can review your checklist a few times.
When you’re packing for a dance recital, you’ll want to bring many of the same things that you’d bring to a dance competition. Be sure you have proper undergarments, extra tights, all your different shoes and makeup supplies.
Do you have a schedule for the day planned out? While a recital might “start” at 6PM, dancers will be required to arrive early to check in, get prepared, potentially take pictures: there’s a lot going on! As a dance family, make sure you’ve looked through all of the emails and information your studio has sent you to be sure you know little details that can make a big difference, such as:
Parking for the recital (guest parking and dancer parking)
How to purchase tickets for the performance
Where to check in
Where to pick up any studio merchandise or flowers for dancers
Be Prepared for Unexpected Issues
Any experienced dancer will tell you that there are a lot of little things that can go wrong on recital day. Whether it’s something small like a bra strap breaking or makeup getting smudged, preparation is key to dealing with these issues.
Part of that is getting in the right mindset: attitude can truly make or break your recital experience. Some dancers are predisposed to stage fright, and that’s OK! Just be prepared with a few calming exercises that will help calm your mind and banish those jitters. Try taking a few slow, deep breaths or getting into a relaxing yoga pose.
When you’re waiting backstage, resist the urge to practice your steps. Chances are that you’ve got them down, so focus on getting excited for the performance. After all, it’s your time to shine! Take pictures with your friends, listen to pump-up music or simply visualize your success. Positivity will help you bring your natural radiance to the stage and dance your heart out!
Own Your Show
The recital is an opportunity for dancers to leave everything they have on the stage, and to truly enjoy doing what they love. Your entire dance community will be there, and they’re there to support you! So make the days before your recital count.
Show up to class and give it 100%. Ask questions and make sure you have everything you need to do the best job that you can. And finally, love the dancers who are next to you on stage, and be as supportive for them as you hope they can be for you!
With your seasonal dance recital coming up, you’re probably facing a lot of costs from venue rental, lighting, backgrounds, props and more. What if we told you that there’s a way you can get back some of that money and potentially make a profit from your recital? Many studio owners have found that dance recital program ads are an easy and effective way to earn extra money for their businesses. While it takes diligent planning to pull together a great program packed with advertisers, it might be a huge boost for your studio. Here are a few ways you can sell program ads more effectively.
Determine Reasonable Prices
If you’re going to become a selling machine, you have to make sure that your prices are just right. After all, you’ll end up pulling teeth if your cost per ad is too high, and if it’s too low, you won’t make any money. So don’t just pull a number out of the air! Do your research to determine what’s a fair yet lucrative price for your program ads.
The biggest factor in determining how much to charge for ad space is what you’re going to pay to have the programs printed. For this reason, you should get quotes from your printing vendor before you start selling ads. One studio owner on Dance.net explained that she takes the per-page price from the printer and doubles it for a full-page ad. For example, if it’s going to cost you $50 per page to print the programs, you may want to sell full-page ads for $100, half pages for $60 and quarter-pages for $40. This strategy will ensure that you make your money back and then some.
However, you may need to adjust your prices if you find that businesses are balking at the cost. Be sure to look at the big picture – with higher prices, you might sell two full-page ads at $100, but if you lowered that price to $80, you may very well sell five and make $400.
How to Target and Approach Advertisers
Many studios incentivize their students to sell ads. This strategy works for some, but while 5-year-olds are cute, they’re probably not the best salespeople. That said, if you go this route, there are ways that you can help your dancers target the right businesses and advertisers to optimize on your returns.
If you are going to ask students to sell ads, give your students guidance before setting them loose in the community. For example, the North Cambridge Family Opera Company recommended that you pitch to businesses whose target market will be attending your recital. Companies that cater to children, parents and families will likely see the value in your ad space. Similarly, if your students are selling, instruct them to try businesses where they are regular customers and ask self-employed individuals if they want to purchase ad space.
When it comes to sales tactics, it’s usually beneficial to create a fact sheet and some talking points to help close the deal. Give your sellers information on how many people attend the recital, what the general demographics are and how the money will benefit the children who attend the studio. Some businesses may not necessarily need the advertisement, but if they are community-oriented, they may be interested in supporting the local arts program. Don’t be afraid to take a unique angle while selling!
Offer Ads for In-Kind Services
You may want to consider pitching a deal to some of the local vendors that your studio frequently works with. You can offer them free ad space for in-kind services. For example, if an artist helps with your set design each year, offer him or her an advertisement in return for a discount on next season’s design. Not only will this give the entrepreneur a bit of marketing, but it will create an agreement that you’ll work with him or her in the future.
When you’re bartering for in-kind services, keep your ad valuation in mind. If you’re asking for a discount, it should roughly equate to the same value of the ad you’re giving the vendor.
An Essential Checklist of Materials from Advertisers
Once you’ve sold several pages worth of ad space, you’ll need to collect the advertisements from the businesses. If you’re not organized when it comes to this step, you may end up contacting the advertisers multiple times to get all the needed materials. It’s better to put together a comprehensive list of things you need for each ad to streamline the process. Use this checklist to guide your ad collection:
The company name
The best point of contact
Multiple contact methods, such as email, phone and fax
The ad in an easily accessible digital form, like .jpg or .png
Permission to crop or resize the image as needed.
Be clear about the deadline for these materials so you’re not scrambling to get the program together last minute.
Your competition team could be the most talented dancers in the world, but if they don’t trust each other, they’re going to struggle to achieve their goals. Trust, camaraderie and respect are all essential characteristics of a dance competition team.
If your dancers aren’t meshing quite as well as you’d like, a few team-building games might be in order. Use one of these activities to break down barriers between your students and help them grow and flourish as a cohesive unit.
1. Guess Who
This classic ice breaker is a go-to for the American Dance and Drill Team. It requires a little bit of preparation on your part, but will really help to get your dancers talking, laughing and working as a team. You’ll need a stack of index cards and some tape. Prepare by writing the names of famous people on each index card. You can use historical figures like George Washington, modern stars such as Lady Gaga or even fictional characters like Harry Potter.
Once you’re in rehearsal, ask your dancers to line up, then tape one index card onto each student’s back. Explain that they need to figure out who they are by asking teammates only yes-or-no questions, similar to how they would play 20 questions. Each player can only ask two questions to any given teammate. Your dancers will quickly discover that they must rely on each other to solve tricky problems.
2. Human Dragons
This activity from M.A. Dance will really get your dancers moving. Create a few lines of six to eight students. The leader of the line is the “head” of the dragon and the last person is the “tail.” The players must hold onto each other’s waists. The object of the game is for the head of a dragon to tag the tail of another. The dancers who make up each dragon will have to balance following the head and simultaneously protecting their tail. The last dragon standing wins!
3. Trust Walk
If you want to build some one-on-one relationships, this trust walk exercise is really helpful. Pair up your students and blindfold one person in each duo. Set up a series of obstacles in your practice space, such as a few stairs, a hula hoop to climb through or a bridge to walk over. Each pair must successfully navigate the course with the blindfolded member receiving only verbal directions from her partner. Once they make it through the obstacles, have the dancers switch places and traverse the course again.
Amid your other beginning-of-the-season tasks, you’ll probably be trying to learn the names of all your new students. If you’re lucky, a lot of the same dancers will be returning to your classes, but in some cases you may need to commit 50 or so new names to memory. This is a tricky task, especially if you’re not great with names to begin with or if there are five different Ashley’s to remember. Here are some ideas for dance teachers on how to quickly learn the names of your new dance students.
1. Study the Class Roster
If you know it’s going to be a challenge to learn the names of a new group of dancers, give yourself a head start. Duquesne University’s Center for Teaching Excellence explained that it is often helpful if you study the class roster before your first session. This way, you’ll be familiar with the names and will just need to associate them with the right faces. Take a few minutes to review the list after your first few classes and make notes of which names are giving you trouble.
2. Be Honest
You might not want to be the teacher that outwardly admits you struggle to remember names, but that type of honesty is often beneficial. Tell your students that you’re going to learn their names as quickly as you can and set an ideal date for yourself. Chances are that they’ll help you out if they see you’re floundering for someone’s name. This will speed the process along and help you start to build relationships with your students.
3. Make a Conscious Effort
Many times you may struggle to remember names simply because there’s too much going on around you. If you’re silently running through your lesson plan and distracted by kids messing around in the waiting room, you won’t be giving names your full attention. Forbes magazine recommended that you make a conscious decision to focus during roll call. This can really make a big difference in learning the names of all your dancers.
4. Start Classes with a Name Game
If you’re working with younger dancers, don’t be afraid to play fun ice-breaking name games during the first few classes.
“If you can’t remember their names, chances are they can’t remember each others names either,” explained one teacher on Dance.net. “For little ones, every few weeks we play some sort of ‘game’ where everyone says their name.”
With young students, you can ask them to say their names and demonstrate their favorite dance moves. Another option is to pair them up and have the duos share fun facts about each other. You can use similar games with older students, but try to make them a little more advanced or challenging.
5. Try Word Association or Alliteration
Another trick that many teachers use to learn names is to pair each student’s name with some sort of memorable identifier. For example, if you have a student who just moved to town from another state, try to come up with some way to remember that fact. It might lend itself nicely to some alliteration – like Jane from Jersey – or you may have to get a little more creative. Another method of assign identifiers is to pick up on students’ attire, makeup or overall appearance. You’re more likely to remember a cute quip, such as “redheaded Riley” or “sparkly Sarah.”
This tactic is particularly effective if you’re struggling to keep straight a few students with the same name. Maybe you’ll have Limber Liz, Loveable Liz and Lacey Liz – say that five times fast! Whatever nicknames you choose, just make sure they’re positive, in case you accidently use one out loud.
When you find a method of learning names that works for you, it will be much easier to identify your students within the first few classes. When you know their names by heart, it will help you to build personal relationships and give each individual the attention he or she deserves.
Teachers make a profound impact on the world. Whether you’re teaching math, science, music, art or dance, you’re helping children to find their passions, boost their skill sets and follow their dreams. While dance instructors might not be able to explain algebra and math teachers can’t demonstrate tombes, that doesn’t mean the different professions can’t borrow a note from each other’s books. Here are five dance teacher ideas that can be borrowed from from school teachers for application in the studio.
1. Listening to Instructions
It doesn’t matter what subject you’re teaching – if your students don’t listen to instructions, they won’t properly grasp the lesson. That’s why both school and dance instructors have to learn how to capture the attention of their students and deliver clear directions. Edutopia recommended that, from day one, teachers establish behavioral expectations when they’re talking to the class. Don’t begin giving instructions until there’s complete silence and you have the full attention of each and every student.
2. Varying Teaching Methods
School teachers quickly learn that all students have different learning styles. You’ll likely encounter similar challenges in the studio, so it’s a good idea to have a few strategies for teaching your dancers. When you keep things fresh, you’ll also make classes fun and interesting for everyone, and hopefully prevent boredom from turning into behavioral problems.
“The more a teacher varies his or her methods to get all types of students involved, the fewer behavior problems he or she will encounter,” Walker School psychologist Neal Clark, M.A., explained to Scholastic.
Even when you have a great lesson plan, it’s best to have a few alternative activities up your sleeve that teach the same skills in different ways. You never know what’s going to be a hit – or fall flat – with students.
3. Collaborating for Success
Another lesson that students need to learn is how to work as a team. Your dancers will have to be able to rely on and trust one another if they want to give amazing performances, so don’t skimp on collaboration activities. Explain to your students the role that teamwork plays in success – both in the studio and outside of it.
4. Getting Parents Involved
Parents shouldn’t just be the vessels that drop dancers off at the studio. Education World explained that parental support can really accelerate a student’s progress in the classroom. Not to mention that parents are amazingly helpful when it comes to fundraising, competition transportation, chaperoning field trips and helping out at recitals. Studio owners and dance instructors should work to build strong relationships with their students’ parents, as it will be beneficial to all parties.
5. Having Fun Along the Way
Any teacher will tell you that it’s just as important for you to have fun as it is to make class fun for the kids. When everyone enjoys time spent in the studio, it will make learning a positive, rewarding experience and keep dancers coming back for more.
Many dance competitions are all-day events. Your team might start getting ready at the crack of dawn and not receive their awards until the evening. However, your students won’t be dancing the whole time – there will likely be long breaks in between performances. Your team members might be content to lounge around during their downtime, but you can take advantage of the breaks and make them productive. Here are a few ways you can keep dancers busy during an all day dance comp.
Try Team-Building Activities
One way to pass the time is to get your dancers engaged in a team-building activity. Whether they’ve been dancing as a team for 10 years or are competing for the first time, there’s always more your students can learn about working together and supporting each other. The American Dance and Drill Team recommended using a “Circle of Friends” activity to help dancers bond. Have your team sit in a circle and give one of your leaders a bean bag or stuffed animal. Ask her to say what she loves most about dancing, then toss the object to another team member. Go around the circle and see how many unique answers your team comes up with. Make sure everyone gets a turn and don’t forget to join in yourself!
Watch Other Performances
There’s also a lot students can gain by watching other performances. It’s best not to linger when direct competitors are on stage, as that can get dancers nervous, but you can definitely watch other performance levels and categories. After each routine, ask your dancers how they think the group did, what the strengths and weaknesses were and how the group could improve. Athletes can often benefit from evaluating their peers and then applying the critiques to their own performances.
Allocate Ample Warm-Up Time
Even if your team has hours before their next performance, make sure they’re staying warm and limber. Pointe magazine explained that dancers should do regular light exercises, like ab work or yoga poses, throughout the day. This will help keep their muscles active and ready to jump on stage. An hour or so before your group performs, get them started with stretching and other pre-performance routines. Remember, it’s OK for dancers to push themselves during warm-up, but make sure they’re not overexerting. Otherwise, they could end up tired on stage or with a last-minute injury.
The unfortunate but honest truth is that girls make up the majority of students at dance studios across the country. Dance is too often viewed as a feminine pastime, and as a result, boys who may be interested in taking classes are sometimes hesitant to ask. So what should you do if you want to bring boys into the studio? Here are a few steps you can take to encourage dance for boys and make your school a welcoming place for males and females alike.
1. Consider Your Facilities
The first thing you should do if you’re trying to attract more boys to your studio is take a good look around the premises. Are the walls pink? Is the waiting room decorated with pictures of female ballerinas? Are your changing rooms for girls only? These design choices may be in line with your current clientele, but they will likely work against you when it comes to selling dance for boys in your studio. Dance Advantage explained that simple, vibrant decor in neutral colors is often a good choice when catering to both genders. You should also be sure to feature a variety of dancers and genres in your artwork.
2. Rethink Marketing Efforts
In the same way that your studio might be female-centric, your marketing efforts might give off feminine vibes as well. Revisit your website and consider whether it’s clear that you welcome and host dance for boys. You may want to consider adding a note that you offer classes for males on your advertisements and promotions as well. Don’t just assume that boys know they’re welcome – make it crystal clear in your marketing efforts. It may also help to rethink where you’re advertising. Consider putting up fliers in community centers that boys frequent or reaching out to male youth groups in your town.
3. Find a Male Representative
A strong male role model can go a long way toward increasing your male enrollment numbers. Dance Teacher magazine explained that a talented and dedicated instructor is often the reason that studios become a mecca for male dancers.
“You need to find someone who is committed, community-centered and not self-centered,” Erik Saradpon, director of hip-hop at Temecula Dance Company in California, told Dance Teacher magazine. “You want someone reliable and dependable who can see the program in terms of years and isn’t impatient.”
If you have a few male students already, it might be worthwhile to have them speak to potential students about their experiences at your studio. Boys likely want to know that they’re joining a facility that focuses on athleticism, and they may be more convinced if they hear about classes from a peer.
4. Be Prepared for Their Needs
When you finally get a few males to come in for a class, be sure your instructors are prepared to meet their needs. Boys may respond better to different teaching methods than their female counterparts, so it’s best to delegate the task to a teacher who’s worked with males before. Dance Magazine explained that guys often get bored during the same classes that females thrive in, so teachers should try to mix up activities to really engage the students.
“One time we brought a mini trampoline into the studio to work on entrechats,” Peter Boal, director of Pacific Northwest Ballet and the PNB School, explained to Dance Magazine. “The boys were so excited, it was as if had we had turned on the TV.”
For your first few male classes, be sure to have an arsenal of activities ready so you can find what resonates with the students. If you wow them during the first few sessions, you’ll likely retain more male students and be able to grow your enrollment.
Getting students in the door of your dance studio is only half the battle. Once dancers have signed up for classes and started learning at your school, the next crucial step is convincing the students and their parents that they should return next season. Unfortunately, this task isn’t as easy as advertising the perks of your studio. You have to deliver great classes and service if you want to boost retention rates. Here are five dance studio owner tips that can help ensure your dancers will stay with your studio for seasons to come.
1. Review Your Classes
The first way you can be sure that your students are happy and planning to re-enroll is to evaluate your class offerings. Dance Informa magazine recommended that you distribute electronic or written evaluations at the end of each season. Have students note what they liked about the class, how they felt about the instructor and what they thought could be improved. For preschool dance classes, you may want to poll the parents for insight. This will let students know that their feelings are being heard and allow you to note what classes aren’t working.
2. Be Stringent about Dancer Placement
One common reason that dancers switch schools is because they’re either struggling to keep up or not feeling challenged enough. This problem can be avoided by placing increased emphasis on level placement for new and returning dancers. It can be tempting to bump students up to a more advanced class so they can stay with their peers, but this decision can ultimately hurt your business. The same goes for holding students back based on age rather than skill level. Work with your instructors to ensure every dancer is in the appropriate level class so you’re not caught off guard by defectors.
3. Offer More Than Dance Information
Chances are that your recreational students take dance classes not just to learn arabesques and jazz splits, but also so they can stay healthy and fit. Dance Advantage noted that it is often beneficial for dance instructors and studio owners to be knowledgeable about different aspects of nutrition and fitness. This will allow your staff to provide advice on how students can improve their lifestyles outside of the studio. It’s a small step that can help set your school apart from the competition and convince dancers that they’re receiving the most bang for their buck.
4. Poll Exiting Students
It’s inevitable that you’ll lose students once in a while, but some good can come from these departures. Create an exit poll to help figure out why dancers are choosing not to enroll again. If you want honest results, it may be best to distribute the survey electronically and allow people to submit their responses anonymously. This will often result in extremely useful information on how your can better serve your students’ needs and what aspects of your studio need work.
5. Adjust Your Strategies as Needed
The most important step toward improving your student retention rate is to make the necessary changes when it comes to classes, scheduling and policies. There’s not much use in collecting dancer and parent feedback unless you put the suggestions into action! There may be big adjustments that simply aren’t possible, but you should make the changes you can and explain to your customers how you plan to address their needs and concerns going forward. This will help to assure students that you’re dedicated to providing the best experience possible and hopefully convince them to stick around for upcoming seasons.
Social media sites – especially Facebook – are useful tools for dance studios, as they can aid in marketing and communication with students. However, there have also been many instances where teenagers and sometimes parents abuse the sites, using them to hurt other people or businesses. Because of the potential harm that can be done on Facebook and other social platforms, many studio owners choose to create social media policies for their businesses. These guidelines can be beneficial, but there are a few considerations to take into account when creating dance studio policies that regulate social media use.
Focus Social Efforts Through a Main Page
The first factor that you’ll want to take into account is who will be authorized to post news and announcements on behalf of the studio. Sometimes businesses can get into sticky situations when instructors post unauthorized information on their personal pages regarding the studio. Dance Teacher magazine recommended that you establish expectations that all student and parent communications occur through the main studio page. If teachers have something they want to share, have them forward you the information before posting it live. This way you’ll be able to monitor and approve all posts.
Establish Criteria for Acceptable Posts
One of the benefits of social media is that your followers can chime into conversations with their own thoughts and ideas. This is a great way to get students and their parents engaged with the studio, but sometimes people will post mean or derogatory comments on a public page. To address this issue, you’ll want to explain to students your expectations for posts on the studio main page. Any remarks, photos or videos should be appropriate and reflect well on the studio. Be sure to explain that you reserve the right to delete any harmful or unnecessary comments.
Be Careful Regulating Personal Posts
While you can control what third-parties are posting on your studio’s social media pages, it’s important to realize that what gets said on private accounts is a different matter altogether. Some studios include stipulations in their dance studio policies that bar students from defaming the school on their personal social media accounts. However, Dance Studio Life explained that there have been lawsuits filed to keep businesses from enforcing these types of regulations, as they are often construed as limiting freedom of speech. Be careful how you word expectations about posts on personal accounts. It’s generally best to phrase these rules as suggestions instead of hard policies.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a dancer that never gets nervous before competitions. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a newbie or an Olympic gold medalist – nerves are a natural part of competition. As a dance teacher or studio owner, it will often fall to you to help alleviate those pre-competition butterflies that your dancers feel. This can be tough, as different dancers have different degrees of nerves, and might be calmed by different activities. Take a look at some dance competition tips and advice that can help your dancers remain confident and collected before they take the stage.
Banish Negative Thoughts
Positive thoughts are key when it comes to remaining confident before a competition. Hopefully your studio and classes already incorporate positive thinking and positive feedback throughout the year – make sure that your positivity extends from the studio to the stage!
Especially in a setting where dancers are comparing themselves to every other dancer as soon as they step through the dance competition doors, it’s important to keep a positive outlook. That goes for your dancers, and your entire dance staff! If you’re a studio owner or competition teacher who has a attended a competition and NEVER faced a challenge, email us and tell us how you managed to avoid any problems. Because everyone else needs to know how you did it!
“While you warm up, think about a time when you danced really well and felt very confident,” Cownie suggested to Dance Informa. “Visualize how you felt and use that feeling to pump yourself up.”
Practice Calming Rituals
In addition to thinking positive thoughts, dancers should find a calming ritual that helps them relax. How do you typically help dancers cool their nerves before recital? Performance is performance, though the dancers might feel like the stakes are higher at a competition.
Consistency can sometimes be very helpful – use what you know works back home at the studio, and have the dancers:
Listen to music
Practice breathing exercises
Visualize the choreography
If you have something that works, use it!
Also, as the teacher, you’re the expert on your dancers. By now, you’ve seen them in practice, outside of class, and probably in some performance setting. Just like people learn in different ways, everyone will have their own method of keeping nerves down and staying focused. Keep an eye on your dancers, certainly, but let them do what they need to do to get in the zone and be ready to nail the performance on stage.
Watching the Competition
And by competition, we mean other dance performances. This is a tricky one!
On the one hand, the larger point of a competition is to receive critique on your own skills, choreography, and preparation, but it’s also to celebrate and learn from other dancers who might be doing things differently. So it makes sense to watch other dances and learn!
On the other hand, you don’t want your dancers to get anxious by watching other dances, and (like we mentioned during the positivity portion) you don’t want them to be comparing themselves and shifting towards a negative outlook before their own performance.
No matter how you plan the day, and plan your class’ movements, chances are you’ll see some other dances. That’s fine! If you’re talking to your dancers about staying positive, worrying about their own performance, and taking inspiration from other dancers, you’ll minimize any anxiety about “our dance vs. their dance.”
And, if you’ve already performed your last dance for the day, encourage dancers to stick around and watch other performances for their own benefit (depending on what your post-performance plan is, obviously).
Between ripped tights, performance missteps and glitchy audio, there are lots of things that can go wrong at a dance competition. Some issues you might see coming, like if a dancer is overly nervous and forgets her steps, while others may catch everyone off guard. Because some crises can strike without warning, it’s best to give your dancers a pep talk ahead of time. Here are a few tips to prepare your students for common problems they might face at the next dance competition.
1. Costume Malfunctions
Perhaps the most notorious of performance crises is the wardrobe malfunction. It might be something as small as a run in someone’s tights, but it could also be a broken strap, a loose tap shoe or a drooping tutu. The first thing you should do to prepare for any costume problems is have your competition survival kit handy. You’ll want to have extra tights, shoelaces, bra straps and double-sided tape, as well as a multipurpose tool to tighten taps.
Hopefully you were able to sort out any mid-performance costume issues during your dress rehearsal, but it’s a good idea to let your dancers know how to handle any unexpected problems. ISport Ballet recommended that dancers continue performing if there’s a minor wardrobe malfunction. It’s more distracting to the audience if a dancer is scrambling to fix a slipping strap than if she simply lets it hang. If you have serious concerns about the integrity of a costume, it might be a good idea to have dancers wear nude leotards underneath.
2. Forgetting the Steps
Stage fright is an all-too-real problem. If you have some novice dancers who seem a little shaky before their performances, you might be nervous that they will forget the steps. There are few things more upsetting for dancers than blanking in front of a large audience, so have a pep talk prepared in case this happens.
If your performers express concerns that they can’t remember the steps, Dance Advantage suggested that you remind them that their muscle memory will likely kick in once they relax. Try to get them thinking positive thoughts and assure them that their bodies will remember what to do once the music starts. Confidence is key when it comes to performing, so encourage your dancers to visualize success.
3. Making a Mistake
An occasional wrong step is often inevitable, but once in a blue moon, there will be a dancer who makes a noticeable mistake. Dance Spirit magazine noted that this is a fear of many students, as no one wants to let the team down. If this happens to your performers, it’s important to encourage a spirit of camaraderie among your dancers.
“This will happen to everybody on a team at some point,” Anne Smith, co-director of Hollywood Vibe, explained to Dance Spirit. “Everyone does the best they can and it’s important to keep each other motivated, uplifted and positive.”
Encourage your dancers to keep performing, even if there’s a major blunder. Have students support one another and pick up teammates who fall – literally or figuratively.
4. Messed-Up Music
Ask any studio owner and she’ll likely tell you that the only guarantees in life are death, taxes and technology malfunctions. If you’ve ever experienced a music mess-up at a dance competition, you probably know that it can catch even the most experienced performers off guard. Most teachers and judges agree that it shows professionalism and confidence when a team continues performing through music glitches.
“I had a group of novice Irish dancers whose CD froze on them halfway through their dance a few years ago,” one teacher explained on Dance.net. “Not one of them stopped or even hesitated … The adjudicator sent a message backstage saying how impressed she was with their performance.”
Instruct your students to keep dancing, no matter what’s going on with the sound.
5. An Imperfect Stage
There’s a reason that sports teams always want home-field advantage, and that’s because it’s where they’re comfortable. At a dance competition, when you’re performing on a stage you’ve never seen before, there’s always a chance it will be too sticky or slippery.
If you have concerns about the stage, instruct your dancers to use rosin before going on, and tell them to remain confident in their performance. Dance Spirit magazine noted that the risk of injury or mistakes is greater when dancers are moving tentatively because they’re afraid of the floor.
There will be times in your career when parents don’t always agree with your choices or teaching methods. Even as an adult, it’s hard to deal with criticism from other people, especially when it’s said behind your back. If parents are unhappy during or after dance competitions, chances are that they will talk about it in the studio waiting room or even on social media. These instances can be hard to handle, so use these tips for dance competitions to make the most of an uncomfortable situation.
Set Expectations Beforehand
The first step toward dispelling negativity during or after competitions is to set up clear expectations for students, parents and teachers. DanceStudioOwner.com recommended that you explain to everyone that it’s necessary to stay professional and keep a positive attitude in person and on social media. No matter how well students perform, the experience shouldn’t be all about winning, but rather learning and having fun.
It may also be helpful to explain to parents that their words and behavior have a significant impact on dancers. Many young athletes, dancers included, will eventually give up competitive sports because they feel as though they’re under a lot of pressure to perform and the game is no longer fun. Encourage parents to do everything they can to make competitions fun for their children and alleviate the pressure to win.
One of the best things you can do to flesh out any discontent or complaints about competitions is to promote dialogue between parents and staff. If you notice that parents are only expressing their concerns to each other, it might be a good idea to host a town-hall style meeting or one-on-one conferences to get these thoughts out in the open. However, keep in mind that if you want parents to feel comfortable voicing their concerns and complaints to you, it’s essential to remain empathetic, understanding and professional. Chances are that parent grievances are not an attack on you as a business owner, even though they may initially come off that way.
Establish a Social Media Policy
While you can’t control what parents and students post on their own social media accounts, you can ask them to remain respectful and positive while posting on or about your studio’s page. Many studios choose to create a social media policy that outlines what content they encourage and what type of comments will be removed. For example, the New Zealand School of Dance states in its policy that they “welcome feedback, comments, reviews and ideas from all followers” but request that these contributions are respectful and appropriate for all viewers.
There’s a good chance that the parents of your dancers will want to see the class perform more than once per season. In fact, Dance Informa magazine explained that many parents actually take this factor into consideration when choosing a dance studio. For this reason, many schools hold parent observation classes once or twice each month. This gives your students a chance to show off and parents a peek into the action without anyone peering around corners. If you’re thinking about implementing a regular observation period, use these tips for dance teachers to establish best practices that will make the experience positive for all parties involved.
The first step toward having a successful parent observation class is to discuss the expectations of everyone involved. This means taking a few moments to talk with your teachers, students and, of course, the parents. The Dance Exec explained that you’ll want to discuss timing, introductions and demonstrations with your teachers well in advance so they have time to prepare. Talk to your dancers about what they can expect while their parents are in the room and the opportunities they’ll have to demonstrate their new skills. With parents, you’ll want to emphasize the importance of being on time and remaining respectful in the classroom.
Have a Game Plan
Some teachers might just want to wing it when it comes time for parent observations, but you’ll feel better going into these sessions if you have a plan. Figure out how long instructors should spend running drills, letting kids perform and answering parent questions. It’s often a good idea to run through pieces that dancers are comfortable and confident with, otherwise they may be nervous about forgetting the steps or missing their tricks. Whatever game plan you come up with, be sure it highlights the best that your dancers and teachers have to offer.
Don’t Rule Out Participation
If you really want to give parents an idea of what their kids are learning, consider taking observation opportunities to the next level. Dance Studio Life explained that a participation class can cultivate a sense of respect and closeness between students and their parents. It’s a great way to show adults just how hard their budding dancers work each class. Plus, it’s often a fun activity to break the ice with parents and get them comfortable with teachers and the studio in general.
When you begin planning the end-of-year showcase for your studio, one of your major tasks will be to choose a theme. There is quite literally a world of choices, and it’s tricky to be both fun and unique with your theme. But, it’s an important challenge to pick a theme that will can show off your creativity and can keep your dancers and their parents interested and engaged. The Dance Exec explains that the easiest dance recital themes are either based on a story or around a general topic. For example, “Fairytales” or “Broadway” are classic recital themes, but they can get old quickly. Here are a few ideas for dance recital themes to make this year’s showcase one to remember.
Things to Think About
There are a couple of factors you’ll need to take into account when you’re brainstorming themes and narrowing down your list.
First, it’s essential that there are enough music and costume options to fit the needs of your show. If you decide on “Arabian Nights” for your studio’s showcase, make sure that there’s a variety of cultural music covered under your music licensing agreement and that you’ll be able to purchase appropriate outfits for all your age groups.
There’s kind of a chicken-and-egg process to go through with costumes and recital themes – as you come up with a potential good idea for a theme, put in a quick 10 minutes and browse around costume websites to see what the availability is like. If in that time you don’t see ANYTHING you might use, you’ll know that your theme might be a tougher option to put together.
Another consideration is whether there are enough performance options to accommodate your different class levels, ages and genres. Studios that offer many different dance styles and have a large number of classes will generally need to pick a broader theme that is open to interpretation. However, if your showcase will feature just fix or six classes, it’s easier to pick a more specific theme to base performances around.
Think Outside the Box
Sometimes you might find yourself in a slump when it comes to brainstorming ideas. When this happens, try browsing Pinterest or your favorite dance forums for inspiration. Don’t just search for dance recital themes, either. Look at wedding and birthday party ideas too! Many are easy to translate into a dance showcase. Here are a few unique ideas to get your creative gears turning.
Choose one word to base your recital around. Many studios have gone this route with words like “dance” or “music,” but don’t be afraid to venture outside dance-related phrases. For example, if you choose to use “Sunshine” as your theme, you could use songs like “Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers, “Pocketful of Sunshine” by Natasha Bedingfield, “Sunshine on My Shoulders” by John Denver and any other music that fits with the concept. This particular theme would also lend itself to cheery stage decorations and cute brochures.
If your dancers like to use props in their performances, pick one particular item to be the unifying aspect of your recital. It can be classic props like umbrellas, hats or chairs. You can also get a little wild and use an item like clocks, ribbon wands or hula hoops. Work with your instructors to find unique ways to work the props into each performance. Don’t forget to come up with a witty or pun-based name for your showcase!
Why not make your recital an homage to some sort of collection? Maybe your dancers would like to depict certain career options. You can plan dances that involve lawyers, writers, travelers and more. As an added bonus, this type of theme allows you to get really creative with costumes. Another option might be to present a collection of important moments in history. Work with your dancers to create performances that highlight the discovery of electricity, the first plane ride, man walking on the moon and other noteworthy events. If those ideas don’t tickle your fancy, what about a theme based on the colors of the rainbow? The options for dance recital themes are endless, so don’t limit yourself to traditional ideas. The more creative your event is, the more memorable it will be for both students and parents.
Check out this list of possible themes, and let us know which are your favorites!