It’s the most wonderful time of the year? If you feel like you’re crawling into 2021, you aren’t alone. Crisis leadership is exhausting, and we haven’t had a break since March. With holidays feeling unusual amidst an escalating pandemic, the heaviness may continue to weigh on you during this festive season. Now is the time to take a breath, inventory where you stand, and prepare for the push forward. You’ve made it this far, and you can make it to 2021 and beyond!
TAKE A BREATH
Give yourself space. When the adrenaline and/or fear kicks in, it can be easy to feel reactionary, stressed, angry, out of control, and /or frustrated. Using the tips below, monitor your self-awareness and give yourself permission to breathe.
Monitor your health: exercise, stay hydrated, eat healthily, and sleep!
Have non-professional hobbies: find a new project, skill, or activity, and dig in!
Seek inspiration: make sure you aren’t becoming paralyzed to the new reality, seek inspirational sources.
Monitor your time: do you find yourself doomscrolling or plunging into the wasteland of social media? Be mindful of how you’re spending your time.
Reach out: talk to friends, other businesses, and maintain your connections.
Self-advocate: skip the gathering, decorate for Christmas early, do whatever you need to do to protect your well-being.
INVENTORY WHERE YOU STAND
Now is a great time to review the months behind us while looking forward to the future. Make sure you aren’t only looking to the immediate future. Continue your long-term strategy, as well.
Continue to mitigate: keep your studios and classrooms as safe as possible through consistent messaging, cohesive leadership, and standardized enforcement. Remind your community that it is a shared responsibility to keep the community safe.
Recognize your accomplishments: celebrate your pivots and recognize the fact that you have worked really hard to get to where you are today. Take a minute to reflect on what worked, what didn’t, and how you can learn/grow from this experience in the future.
Do the numbers: this may feel painful, but it is necessary for your financial planning and projections. What’s your percentage compared to past years? How long can you sustain?
PREPARE FOR THE PUSH FORWARD
While you may want to stop, don’t. Keep going, keep planning, and keep dreaming. Never lose sight that YOU create and inspire magic!
Create contingencies: There’s no need for surprises or panic-inducing situations at this point. Create contingencies and work smartly, so you do not have to rework strategies or plans.
Think beyond the pandemic: When this subsides, what do you want your business to look like? How will you continue to grow, scale, and serve your community?
Involve others in the conversations: Lean into your team, a mentor, a therapist, and/or a leadership coach to help you navigate the now and the future.
Stay optimistic: optimism isn’t the same as always being positive. Keep your outlook in check and remind yourself that you have the power to influence others.
Looking for more great ideas from Chasta? Check out the following articles:
When you are at a business seminar or dance event, it can feel completely natural to connect with other studio owners who aren’t in your community … you might not think twice about sharing policy ideas or a marketing plan, or commiserating over some your recent challenges.
But what about studio owners in your own marketplace?
Just because we consider someone’s business to be our competition, doesn’t mean they are personally “against” us. I believe we can develop friendly relationships with nearly anyone if we are intentionally positive and open to working together.
By default, we are all still human beings who want to cultivate friendships and who desire a sense of belonging. Other studio owners are our peers, and most of the time they want the same kinds of things we do: fulfillment, happiness, success, and of course, relationships!
I’m proud to say that within my organization More Than Just Great Dancing®, we have some pretty inspirational members who have established a proactive, professional rapport with other studio owners in their communities.
I think this is clear proof that with just the right mix of positivity, effort, and mutual respect, connections with one’s competitors are not only possible, they are achievable! Keep reading to learn how these ladies are Building Strong Relationships with Competing Studio Owners:
Here are some of my favorite inspirational examples of Building Relationships with Competing Studio Owners:
Melanie Gibbs, Co-Owner of Boca Dance Studio in Boca Raton, FL & ProAm Dance Studio in Pompano Beach, FL
Melanie became friendly with other studio owners in her South Florida community when they would see each other at competitions and other local dance events, and that camaraderie eventually turned into breakfast meetings a few times a year. As the group got to know each other, they would share business ideas, ask each other questions about their policies, and even recommend substitute teachers to one another. Modeling this level of friendship for their students has become a powerful force in their relationship-building over the years, and they continue to stay in touch in between meetings, advising each other and sharing opportunities.
Anekia Boatwright-McGhee, Artistic Director of Rebecca Padgett School of Performing Arts in Savannah, GA
In Anekia’s community, it was easy for her to feel isolated from other studio owners. But on a recent trip to Dance Teacher Summit in New York, she began having a conversation with a fellow studio owner, only to learn that they both have studios in the same area! It took a random conversation in a completely different city for the two owners to connect, but now they have plans to stay in touch locally and be the example in their community that competitors can coexist in a meaningful way. It’s a dramatic shift from what Anekia was used to in the past, but she now feels empowered to emulate what she tells her dancers about having confidence in themselves. She wants them to see loud and clear that competition is ultimately with oneself, not other people.
Melanie Boniszewski, Founder & Director of Tonawanda Dance Arts, Tonawanda, NY
It’s a pretty cool thing when you have an entire group of studio owners who consider themselves friends above and beyond anything else, not direct competition (even when they’re in the same area). That’s how Melanie describes her fellow local studio owners who meet up a few times a year and remain in weekly (sometimes daily) contact through Facebook and text messages. Through the group they are able to talk about all the normal dance studio talk: pricing, staffing, programming, costuming, policies, and everything else. Not only is their bond a special one, some of their students have even become friends with each other!
I hope you will be encouraged by these stories and choose to build strong connections within your own community. You just never know what opportunity may lie ahead. Share in the comments below your positive experiences with other studio owners—you just might inspire someone else!
Interested in more articles about building relationships? Check out these articles from the TutuTix archive:
When a dancer grows out of a pair of dance shoes, it’s time to ask an essential question: “What do we do with these shoes?” Dance parents, let’s talk about the various options for handling these “extra” shoes.
Saving Dance Shoes for Younger Siblings
If your dancer has a younger sibling or siblings, you can consider hanging on to the shoes, and seeing if they’ll fit. If they’re a perfect fit, you’ve saved yourself from needing to buy another pair of shoes!
If they’re not a perfect fit, then treat these extra shoes as backups. The reality is that dance shoes need to fit very well for dancers to stay healthy and avoid injury.
BUT sometimes it’s good to have that backup! Plus, if you have those extra shoes and they don’t fit, you can sell them to other dance parents in your child’s class who might need some.
Selling shoes can be a win-win solution, to help you make back some of your money and to help another dancer who can save some money instead of buying new.
If you decide to sell your dancer’s used shoes, make sure they’re in good enough shape for the next dancer. If you’re not sure about the shoes’ condition, go ahead and ask the dance teacher for their opinion. Yes, you want to be able to sell the shoes, but not at the expense of causing an injury to another dancer because of shoes that are too worn.
Donation Programs at Dance Studios
Maybe it turns out you have held on to some extra shoes and can’t sell them. Could your dance studio benefit from having a few extra shoes on hand?
We all know that sometimes dancers will forget their shoes at home, and there’s no time to go get them before class starts. If your studio has a collection of donated shoes, they’re in luck! Those extra shoes can help a student who needs to borrow a pair.
That keeps students in class, working on their technique, until next time when they bring their own pair. Studios win, and students win. If your studio doesn’t have a program like this already, maybe you and other dance parents can get it organized!
Once you complete your end-of-year show, you may have a few remaining souvenir merchandise items. If you are wondering what to do with them, here are some creative ways we make use of our leftover dance recital items!
Distribute A Copy to Advertisers
Save Copies to Promote Next Year’s Program
Place A Few In the Lobby for Reference
Frame the Cover for Display
Play in Your Lobby
Send to Prospective Clients for Reference
Recital-Specific T-Shirts or Clothing
Frame and Display in Your Lobby
Use As Summer Door Prizes
Replace the Show T-Shirt with a Logo T-Shirt and Include in Auction Baskets/Giveaways
Donate to children’s hospitals
Donate to preschools
Donate to elementary schools
Flowers or Flower Bouquets
Donate to a Nursing Home
Give extra flowers to your parent volunteers
Give flowers to any of the merchants you used for your recital (printers, caterers, venue management staff, etc)
Many educational institutions use bulletin boards to visually convey information. Dance studio bulletin boards can be used to convey relevant studio information, offer seasonal tips and fun, and increase the community vibe in the classroom.
In creating your boards, think about the following:
Ideas and Tips That May Be Fun and Exciting for Students
Ballet Vocabulary (to reinforce your teaching in the classroom)
Nearly all dance teachers will agree that the barre work is an integral part of ballet practice. However, what many teachers don’t agree on is whether it’s better to do the same set barre work every week or different combinations.
This very topic got lots of attention in the forum Ballet Talk For Dancers, where one user asked whether other members preferred a set barre with little variation, a few different set barres that are alternated or different combinations done in each class. Many members were vocal about their preferences – read on for a breakdown of the debate.
The set barre, or the repetition of the same barre movements in every class, is found in several major ballet teaching methods such as the Cecchetti, Paris Opera School and Bournonville methods, the book, “The Ballet Companion,” noted. The advantage of this old-school approach is that heavy repetition of the same movements helps dancers focus on improving technique, isolate problem areas and improve their muscle memory. As the book mentioned, it also saves time in class because the teacher does not need to use up time explaining a new combination. A set barre can also be especially helpful for beginner students, with one forum user noting that it helps her novice students gain a sense of mastery before moving on to more advanced movements.
In the Ballet Talk forum, though, a common complain against set barres was that it’s very easy for dancers to get bored doing the same movements over and over again. Which leads to the alternative …
Foregoing the repetition of set barres, some dance teachers adopt the combinations approach, in which they always teach a new series of movements at the barre each class. The major advantage of this method is that it helps dancers learn how to pick up new combinations quickly, making them better equipped to quickly grasp new choreography. As Dance Advantage noted in its article on memorizing ballet combinations, dancers need to be able to learn and perform ballet combinations practically at the same time, and a varied barre helps develop this skill.
Combination barre strengthens the “muscles of the mind,” according to “The Ballet Companion.” As author Eliza Gaynor Minden wrote:
“Picking up combinations quickly and adapting to different styles require versatility and overall mental agility, both of which develop better when challenged by variety and the occasional “brain twister” combination that moves in irregular patterns or rhythms.”
In the Ballet Talk forum, the consensus was that a mix of set barre and combination barre was the best option. Teaching a set barre but changing it every couple of weeks or so still helps students flex their quick-learning muscles while allowing them to focus on technique simultaneously. Dancers don’t get bored, their minds and muscles continue to be challenged and correct technique is still prioritized.
What do you think – is set barre, combination barre work or a mix the most effective teaching method? Let us know in the comments.
Ballet has a rich history that goes back hundreds of years and spans various continents and countries. As a result, the has undergone many modifications as dancers and teachers incorporated new styles of ballet and techniques into their practice.
Years of experimentation and artistic inspiration have established various ballet styles that each have special characteristics and trademarks. Here’s an overview of the major styles of ballet.
Classical ballet is the most well-known and popular style of ballet. Its origins go back to the Renaissance courts of Louis XIV, explained Les Grand Ballets, and still adheres to traditional ballet technique. Classical ballet emphasizes elegant, graceful lines, heavy turnout of the legs and fluid, smooth movements. Perhaps the most famous of all classical ballets is “Swan Lake.”
The Romantic ballet style prioritizes emotion, drama and strong story-telling. Romantic ballet is not just about the technical or athletic feats of movement that dancers can achieve, but how movement can be used to tell a compelling narrative and connect with the emotions of the audience. According to California Ballet:
“The basic subjects of the Romantic ballets came from the perceived conflicts between beauty and ugliness, good and evil, spirit and flesh realism and fantasy.”
Dance Magazine describes the contemporary ballet style as “anchored in the old, hungry for the new.” It’s all about experimentation and creativity, drawing freely from other dance styles like jazz and modern. The focus is not on narrative or telling a story, but on prompting the audience to think about the power of movement and what aesthetic the lines of the body can convey. As choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa told the magazine:
“With contemporary ballet, you turn the room. The audience is asked to look at what is happening between the dancers.”
Neoclassical ballet is synonymous with the work of George Balanchine, an incredibly influential choreographer who created the Balanchine method, which is the most widely taught ballet method in the U.S. It is a 20th-century creation, Pittsburgh Dance Theatre explained, and emphasizes athleticism, speed and impressive technical feats. This style largely rejects elaborate costumes, sets or intricate stories to for a simpler design that places the focus on the dancers themselves. Neoclassical ballet pushes boundaries while still prioritizing technical skill and perfection.
If you need to get a lively conversation going at a party full of dancers and dance teachers, ask them which ballet method they think is the best. Ballet methods are different teaching styles or schools of ballet that have developed around the world since ballet’s inception in the 15th century. Each method has unique characteristics that define it and special characteristics in the manner it’s taught to students.
Read on to learn about the main methods of ballet – and to make sure you can hold your own in that dinner party conversation.
The Balanchine method is also known as the American method. It was invented by George Balanchine, an esteemed choreographer who immigrated to the U.S. from Russia in the 1930s, Juliette Dupre of the blog Ballet Scoop explained. Together with Lincoln Kirstein, Balanchine opened the School of American Ballet in 1934.
Younger in age than the other main ballet methods, Balanchine’s style is full of energy and vitality. While Balanchine took initial inspiration from the traditional Russian method, he rejected classical stiffness for jazzy, athletic movements, breathtaking speed and dizzying height. Every movement is pointed, emphatic and performed with the utmost expression and force. As Dupre wrote:
“Even a simple port de corp devant was not to be considered a stretch but a fully artistic movement where the aesthetic of the body’s journey through space was the most important thing.”
Consequently, the Balanchine method is considered neoclassical ballet. The modern and fresh approach to movement in the Balanchine method is expressed in other aspects of ballet performance as well. It rejects flouncy and frilly costumes for clean leotards, and scrapped fancy sets for simple backgrounds so that the focus is on the dancers, Ballet In You explained.
The French School
Where the Balanchine method is modern, the French School goes back. Way back – to the courts of Louis XIV in the late 16th century. In 1713, the Ecole de Danse de l’Opera was opened and was the teaching grounds of some of ballet’s greatest masters, according to the American Ballet Theatre.
While the French school traces its influences back centuries, it came into its own under the leadership of Rudolf Nureyev, who was director of the Paris Opera Ballet in the 80s. The French School is a classical ballet style that emphasizes elegant lines, fluidity and graceful dancing along with technical precision. The French school’s true trademark is the petite batterie – a prime example of the method’s emphasis on quick, precise footwork, according to DanceSpirit magazine.
Created by Italian Enrico Cecchetti, the Cecchetti method was invented as a way to teach ballet to new generations, ABT explained. Cecchitti meant business – his teaching method involves eight intense stages of training and includes strict repetition and routines.
The rigid and regimented teaching style is a result of Cecchetti’s scientific attitude toward ballet and the idea that jetes and arabesques don’t just involve one part of the body, but the body as a whole, according to Ballet In You. Technical skill is tantamount, and Cecchetti dancers must practice the same movements over and over again daily. The goal is that heavy repetition, dedicated focus and steady discipline will create dancers that can withstand – and thrive in the face of – the harsh demands of ballet.
The English Style is also known as the Royal Academy of Dance. It was pioneered in 1920 and is a blend of the French, Italian, Danish and Russian methods, explained Dance Informa magazine. The Royal Academy of Dance is also an international dance examination standard. For English-Style-dancers, the focus is on the details and getting each and every movement exactly, with an emphasis on perfecting the basics. Progress is ultimately slow for dancers taught in the RAD method, and it takes countless hours of practicing even the smallest movement to be able to move on to the next stage.
“The most famous of all Russian styles is the Vaganova Method.”
Of course, no discussion of ballet methods would be complete without the Russians. This school was formed from a blend of influences. French dancer Jean-Baptiste Landé is credited as its creator, while ABT noted that Italian ballerina Virginia Zucchi had an incredible influence on the Russian School when she performed in St. Petersburg in the late 1800s, along with Enrico Cecchetti, who also spent some time in Russia. Other ballet masters also influenced the Russian Method, including the legendary Marius Petipa.
However, the most famous of all Russian styles is the Vaganova Method. It was developed by Agrippina Vaganova, a Russian ballet dancer with the Marinsky Ballet who retired early to devote her time to teaching, explained Dance Informa. Defining characteristics of the Vaganova method include precise, crisp and strong movements that are still artistic and expressive. The Vaganova method is one of the most popular methods used in Russia today.
Maybe you’ve just started dance classes or have danced for years and are thinking about your future – whatever the case, you’ve fallen in love with ballet and know there’s no way you’ll spend your life doing anything but dance. While this passion is essential to success, you’ll also need a practical mindset when it comes to crafting a dance career for yourself.
Having a career in dance is something that many people dream about, though it’s entirely possible with hard work, perseverance and some strategic planning. You’ll have to be resourceful, leave your comfort zone and really put yourself out there. But if you can do all that – and more – then you can have a rewarding career doing what you love and sharing it with others.
Read on to learn how you can start a dance career.
Dance Career: Finding Where You Fit
While the first dance career that most people probably think of is that of a professional dancer for a company, there are many different types of dance careers. Whatever your skill level or interests, there’s a profession that can suit you. The variety of careers includes dance teachers, choreographers, studio owners and college- and graduate-level professors of dance courses. The New York Film Academy also adds to this list dance medicine specialists, costume designers, dance photographers and arts administrators for dance companies.
If your heart is set on performing as a professional dancer, then you should consider the different ways that dance can fit into your life. Of course, there are opportunities to dance full-time, whether for a company, theater or opera show or other performing arts group. However, if you’re already set in one career path, you can incorporate dance into your life as a side job and work part-time teaching or performing. Teaching positions aren’t limited to just dance studios, either – you can find opportunities at public and private schools, universities, gyms and community centers.
The lesson to learn from this is that no matter your abilities, desires or schedule, you can find a dance career that works for you. The key to identifying a good match is being realistic about your strengths and skills – dance-related and otherwise – and thinking about how they can best be put to use so that you can thrive personally and professionally. Narrowing down which type of career you’d like to have will guide your journey and keep you on track.
Learn All You Can
To achieve the dance career of your dreams, you’ll need to be proactive. Don’t become complacent in your current classes or job – always be thinking about how you can learn more and make new connections.
Dance Informa magazine advised those aspiring toward a dance career to take initiative and be a leader. Other people are not responsible to getting you where you want to be – only you are! Whether you’re in school, on a summer break or handling a 9-5 job in another field, make sure you keep your skills sharp by enrolling in dance classes and taking fitness classes to stay in shape. Look for workshops and courses in areas and styles that you’re not familiar with to grow your skillset. If you’re interested in teaching as a career, ask around at local studios if they need assistant teachers or interns to help out. Seek out conventions, certification courses and other programs that will give you additional skills, knowledge and teaching or performance experience.
Landing a Contract
If a contract with a dance troupe or company is what you’re after, networking is key. Scouts and agents will frequently attend competitions, conventions and other events looking for new talent, so make sure you give every performance your all.
“I’ll keep my eye on dancers until they graduate high school if I’ve judged them in a competition,” said Steve Chetelat of talent agency Bloc in an interview with Dance Spirit Magazine.
Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and reach out to dance professionals, either. Terry Lindholm, co-owner of Go 2 Talent Agency, told the magazine that he recommends dancers thank the choreographer after convention classes and introduce themselves to assistants. Ask them about what they think is the most promising city for dancers to have a career performing or if they have recommendations for any fantastic agencies or programs you should connect with.
Dance programs at colleges and universities also provide valuable experience and connections, so if this is a course you’re considering, spend time researching which program is right for you. Once you’ve selected it, learn how to perfect your college dance audition.
While a dance career can be a reality, not just a dream, it’s important to have realistic expectations of the demands of this challenging profession. The Portland Ballet’s list of “15 Truths About Being a Professional Dancer” explains the sometimes harsh realities of a life devoted to dance. Remember that there’s always more to learn and that if you want to be successful, you need to prove that you are valuable by showing up early, working hard and knowing your routines inside and out. Don’t be afraid of working for free if you can gain valuable experience and connections. Know that you will make mistakes and fail sometimes, but be strong and pick yourself back up.
And above all, keep that passion for dance close to your heart – this is the one constant in the pursuit of a dance career. This love for dance will pick you up when you’re feeling down and help you bounce back after hard times. With a combination of practical preparation, strategy and passion, you can start a dance career.
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.
When performed correctly, the développé is absolutely mesmerizing – just see how long you watch this gif of Maria Kochetkova. Many dancers, though, struggle with the développé, and instead of being a source of beauty and grace, the move is a source of constant frustration. Every dance teacher has likely heard some of their students complain about their dancer flexibility and the développé.
Kochetkova makes the move look easy, but the développé requires several complex muscle groups to work together in perfect harmony. If just one group is underdeveloped, then the movement is failed from the start. A dancer can be able to do the oversplits with ease but lack the core strength to hold her leg over her head, while a dancer with flexible hips that allow for a wide range of movement can have underdeveloped hamstrings that prevent them from holding her leg in a straight line.
The key to stunning développé extension is thoroughly conditioning all the muscle groups that are involved in the move. Here are four ways that dance teachers can help their students improve their développé extension.
1. Work the Iliopsoas
Everyone’s heard of the hamstrings and hip flexors, but not many people are familiar specifically with the iliopsoas. Which is a real shame, because it’s absolutely vital to sky-high développé.
As Nichelle explained in a very informative article for Dance Advantage, the iliopsoas is the group of muscles that enables the leg to move higher than 90 degrees. For many dancers that are incredibly flexible but unable to lift their legs to their heads, an underdeveloped iliopsoas may be to blame. However, they usually aren’t even aware that this is the problem.
Deb Vogel, a neuromuscular educator, shared several exercises for strengthening the iliopsoas that dance teachers should have their students do.
First, sit up straight on a chair, without your back touching, with both feet on the ground. Keeping your pelvis strong and centered, lift one knee up toward the ceiling, then lower it down so your toes touch the floor. Lift your knee back up, and repeat the movement 20 times for each leg.
Sounds easy, but isolating the iliopsoas like that is a real workout. When your students can do this exercise with ease, have them try this next movement:
Sit in a chair with your back leaning against the back of the chair, and bend one leg at the knee while holding the other leg straight. Keeping the extended leg a little turned out, raise it as high as possible and then lower it back down so it’s even with the other knee. Repeat this movement 20 times, then do it on the other leg.
Vogel advised that dancers follow these exercises, or any other ones that focus on the iliopsoas, with lunge stretches. With these two exercises, it won’t take long to strengthen this important muscle.
2. Strengthen the Core
Dancer flexibility gets much of the attention when it comes to working développés, but core strength is also very vital. A strong core supports all the movements of the développé and ensures that the leg can be held up high while the hips and standing leg are stable. Strong abdominals allow the leg to be held up, but as The Dance Training Project explained, they’re also necessary to keep your spine straight, centered and stable. If you spine is not in a neutral position, then the pelvic alignment will be off, which prevents maximum leg extension.
However, contrary to popular belief, crunches are not the answer for a stronger core, according to The Dance Training Project. Making repetitive concentric contractions – like sit-ups – aren’t effective for building the core strength that dancers need. Instead, dancers should focus on exercises that lengthen the abs and other core muscles – known as eccentric training – so that dancers can achieve a greater range of motion. Planks and abdominal roll-out exercises will provide an eccentric workout, but The Dance Training Project put together a PDF that includes great eccentric core exercises for dancers.
3. Embrace the Floor Barre
Practicing floor barre is also a fantastic way to improve développé extension. Dame Lucette Aldous, a ballerina in the Nureyev rendition of Don Quixote, told Dance Australia how she teaches the Boris Kniaseff method of floor barre to improve her students’ développé.
According to the source, floor barre helps increase overall strength, improve body positioning and posture and even boost circulation, which helps expand range of movement.
“When joints are moving, it sends synovial fluid into the joints – it’s like you’re lubricating those joints,” said Aldous in an interview with Dance Australia.
There are different floor bar techniques for dance teachers to explore. Dance Advantage put together a great guide to the different methods here, including the Boris Kniaseff and Maria Fay techniques.
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to correct the description of the iliopsoas.
A dancer relies on her feet, and it takes care and practice through foot stretches for dancers to make sure your feet are at the top of their game. Strong, flexible feet provide the foundation upon which other moves are done – weak feet, and you’re going to have a hard time dancing confidently and fluidly.
Whether you think you have flat feet or arches that need a little more oomph, there are lots of stretches you can do to strengthen your feet and make them more flexible. However, it’s important to be familiar with safe stretching practices and the movements that you should avoid. Stretching too much – or the wrong way – can backfire on you and cause serious damage.
Read on to learn more about stretching your feet.
Popular Foot Stretches for Dancers
There are several different ways that the feet can be stretched. One way is manually – the dancer herself uses her hands to bend her toes and arches to extend their stretch. Resistance bands, such as the Theraband, are also popular. Another way is to have your friend stretch your feet or – as you have probably heard before – to stretch your feet under a piano, door or couch. These last two methods – having a friend stretch you and using an object to stretch – are not recommended, as they can pose serious damage to your feet.
BalletHub explained that these two types of stretches put additional stress on the body. By putting your feet underneath a heavy object, you put extreme pressure on your knee, heel and leg muscles, making more prone to injury. For similar reasons, having a friend stretch out your foot is not recommended, either. Your friend isn’t you, so they don’t know how much pressure is too much – and if they do stretch your foot too far, by the time you notice the damage may already be done.
Stretching your feet yourself, without the use of heavy objects for leverage, and using a band are safer ways of stretching your feet. However, you should still take caution and gently stretch the feet, since it’s very easy to overwork them.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Stretching your feet once or twice a week is not going to get you anywhere. The key to effective foot stretching is consistency and a healthy dose of discipline. The author of the blog Ballet Heart described how she saw great improvement from stretching her feet three times a day, every day for four years. She writes that she can’t imagine how many hours have been spent stretching her feet, and that “It probably adds up to at least a week straight.”
Consistent stretching multiple times a day will garner the most results. Just be sure to gradually increase the intensity of your stretch, avoid stretching until it hurts and be careful not to overwork yourself.
Simple Foot Stretches for Dancers
There are plenty of simple stretches you can do to work your feet. The blog Live On Pointe recommended pointing and flexing your feet using a Theraband for resistance, along with doing relevés on each leg.
BalletHub advised doing the “Wrap n’ Push” to improve the feet. You sit on the floor, bend one leg over the other and stretch your feet through several movements using your hands. See their step-by-step guide to the stretch here.
Only two weeks left to go before the recital – can you believe it? Your dancers are probably starting to feel some nerves, not to mention the stress you’re likely feeling as you run over in your head the zillion things you have to do before showtime.
Before you drive yourself crazy running around, take a breather and look at this checklist of the things you need to do over the next two weeks.
Host a Makeup Rehearsal
Whether it’s this week or next (before the dress rehearsal) make sure you hold a makeup and hair rehearsal for your dancers, and their parents if they want to join. A beauty rehearsal is a great way for novice dancers and the parents of younger students to practice how the makeup will be applied and how their hair will be styled. This way, you save the time going over the hair and makeup at the dress rehearsal, and there’s (hopefully) few or no questions before the actual recital.
It’s not just the newbies that need a beauty rehearsal, though. According to Dance Informa, even the most experienced dancers should attend a makeup and hair rehearsal before the recital, since this helps the dancers make sure that their hair and makeup styles are uniform and coordinated with the rest of the dancers in the group.
Have Recital Programs Submitted to the Printer
Recital programs are pretty much an expectation for dance recitals, as they help inform parents and patrons about the order of dances and the general timeline for the evening. At two weeks out, you MUST have your finalized program designs submitted to your printer to make sure:
You have a timely delivery of the final product
Any emergency issues can be resolved
Collect Pre-Orders of DVDs and Other Items for Dance Recitals
If you have the resources and manpower, it can be profitable to have a table at the recital selling performance DVDs, photos and other collectible items. However, collecting pre-orders a couple weeks before the event helps maximize profits and make sure every parent or dancer who wants the extras gets them. Send out emails and social media posts reminding parents to pre-order DVDs and other souvenirs and set a deadline for orders at least a week before the recital. You can use physical forms for orders, but online forms make things easy for both you and the parents.
Give Parents Detailed Drop-off/Pick-up Instructions
Dance Exec noted that it’s important that parents have detailed logistical information for the recital ahead of time. It’s a good idea to hold a pre-dress rehearsal meeting in addition to sending a detailed letter – over email is most convenient for the parents – that describes the drop-off and pick-up process, along with any reminders about ticket and DVD sales, costumes and other important dates and times, in addition to thorough directions to the venue if the recital is not held at your studio.
Need a letter or dance recital information sheet template? We’ve made an example sheet you can download and customize in Microsoft Word for your studio’s needs below:
Have “Day Of” Plans Finalized and Supplies Prepared
Two weeks before the recital – and in the week leading up to it – reach out to your volunteers to confirm that they will be helping out. Make sure you have enough volunteers to cover all duties. If not, you have time to recruit some last-minute helpers.
For some backstage organization ideas, check out this quick video:
Along the lines of volunteers, have all of your signs and backstage planning items printed/laminated/explained/etc. If you plan to have clear signs backstage that point to “Stage,” “Lobby,” “restrooms,” or particular areas of the backstage, have them done and checked off your list.
Michelle Spezio, director of Spezio’s Dance Dynamics in Buffalo, New York, shared a great tip with Dance Studio Life. She puts together boxes of frequently forgotten and emergency items like bobby pins, lip stick, hairspray, sewing kits, nail polish remover, tape, scissors and safety pins, and then places these boxes on either side of the stage and in dressing rooms. You should still remind dancers and their parents to bring their own back-up kits, but these boxes are much-appreciated insurance.
The dressing room before a dance competition is a crazy scene – you and your fellow dancers are abuzz with excitement and your nerves are running high. There’s so much to think about – will you wow the judges and hit every measure of your choreography? With all this excitement going on, the last thing you want is to look in your makeup bag and discover that you left your most important competition makeup at home.
A confident dance performance begins with a confident face, and that starts with the right look. Dance makeup helps the judges and audience tune into the emotional aspects of your performance, whether they’re sitting in the front row or at the back of the theater – and a panicked look because you’re the only one that forgot their lipstick is not the emotion you’re trying to convey.
Instead, prevent cosmetic catastrophes and makeup meltdowns with this handy checklist. The night before your competition, pack all these items in your bag so they’re ready to go the next morning. It doesn’t hurt to run through the competition makeup checklist one last time before running out the door, either.
Dance Competition Makeup Checklist
A smooth, bright complexion starts with hydrated skin, so tote along a hydrating face lotion. Opt for a formula that’s non-greasy and fast-drying, since this means it’ll absorb quickly so you can get onto the next step in your makeup routine.
2. Face Primer
Moisturizer hydrates your face, but primer preps it for foundation, helping your makeup to last through multiple routines and a whole lot of sweat. If you don’t want to feel like your makeup is slowly sliding down your face as you dance, then you definitely need a primer.
3. Eye Primer
You don’t only need primer to help your foundation stay on – it also works wonders on your eyelids to help shadows and liners stay put. Choose a formula specially made for eyes, since the area is extra sensitive.
Foundation smooths any blemishes, dark marks or shadows on your skin and brightens your complexion so you can put your best face forward. As the Energetiks Blog noted, foundation creates an even and clear base under harsh stage lights. When packing foundation in your bag, double-check the bottle to make sure you have enough left for your competition – bring extra if you think you’ll run out!
Foundation creates a great base, but concealer is necessary to cover up any particularly pushy blemishes and dark circles under eyes. If you have red spots, you can use a green-colored concealer to counteract them.
5. Foam or Sponge Makeup Blenders
You can have the perfect foundation, but you need a way to apply it. The debate is out about whether it’s better to apply foundation with a brush, sponges or foam blenders – according to Daily Makeover, it’s a matter of personal preference and there are pros to each method. So experiment with what works for you! Just make sure you bring enough blenders along.
6. Contouring product
A powder or cream in a shade slightly darker than your skin color can help define your cheekbones, neck and shoulders and add extra dimension to your face. According to Energetiks, contouring is vital because it prevents your face from looking flat under the lights.
After defining your face with contouring powder or cream, you need to top it all off with blush. Choose a pink shade slightly brighter than what you would normally rock in your day to day life. Cream or powder blushes are both good picks.
To define your eyes, you’ll need several eyeshadows in a variety of shades. Rhiannon at A Dancer’s Days applies white eyeshadow to her lids first, since this makes the eye stand out. Then, you can top the white with darker browns, grays or purples in the creases and sweep it out toward the brow bone for definition. Since doing your eye makeup involves multiple shades of shadow, it’s worth it to invest in a large shadow palette.
9. Liquid or Gel Eyeliner in Black and White
Liquid or gel eyeliners last longer than their pencil counterparts. White eyeliner can be applied to the waterline to make eyes look bigger, will black eyeliner pressed into the upper and lower lashlines make your eyes and lashes stand out even more and set off your shadow.
10. False Eyelashes
False eyelashes are a must-have for the stage, making your peepers pop. Buy a pack containing extra lashes so you’re covered.
If you’re wearing fake lashes, you don’t really need mascara, but it can be useful to pack a tube just in case your fake lashes decide to be fussy and won’t stick.
12. Brow powder/pencil
Strong brows are an essential part of your stage look, since they set off the rest of your makeup and define your expressions to the audience. A powder or pencil product will help you fill in any sparseness in your natural brows.
Pack a long-wear lipstick product that will last throughout your competition without drying out your lips.
14. Lip Liner
Lipstick isn’t enough – a lip line in a matching shade will define your lips and act as a barrier that will prevent the lipstick from migrating from your lips – and showing up on your teeth when you smile for after-competition photos!
15. Finishing powder or setting spray
A finishing powder or setting spray is the cherry on top of your look that will help your makeup stay put, no matter how much you break a sweat.
16. Handy Extras
It’s smart to pack some useful extras in your makeup bag, too. Bring Q-tips, makeup remover, cotton pads and extra makeup brushes, so you’re prepared for anything.
Dance competitions are a real test of endurance. You often have to drive a ways to the venue, spend time warming up, do multiple performances over several hours. Not to mention that you may have a few competitions packed into just one weekend! To dance at your best, you need to be in tip-top shape physically, and it starts with good nutrition and having some high-energy snacks on hand.
It’s vital that you give your body the energy it needs to dance in peak shape, and this means providing it with fuel throughout the day with healthy snacks designed to keep you on your toes – literally. Balanced snacking before and after your competition helps keep your muscles’ stores of glycogen at their highest levels, which improves your performance, and helps ward off the nasty effects of a low glycemic index, which can cause fatigue, dizziness, muscle weakness and blurred vision, according to Central Washington University’s Department of Sports Nutrition.
In an ideal world, chocolate bars would provide all the energy we need with none of the sugar, fat or calories! Until scientists engineer some miracle food like that, it’s important to be strategic when putting together your snacks. Avoid white starches and refined sugars, since these give you a quick boost but then make you crash, noted Harvard Medical School. Instead, opt for snacks that contain complex carbohydrates and a small amount of healthy unsaturated fats or protein. Also, steer clear of “power bars” in stores. While these products claim to have the perfect balance of nutrients to boost your energy, many of the claims are just marketing. An Ohio State University study revealed that power bars aren’t any better at giving you sustained energy than candy bars are.
5 Great Snack Ideas for Energy
Try the ideas below to make sure you don’t slack on the snacks.
1. 1/2 Whole Wheat Pita with 1 Tablespoon Peanut Butter
This snack idea from the Boston Ballet will help keep you full throughout your competition. Half a whole wheat pita provides you with energy-boosting complex carbohydrates, in addition to 6 grams of fiber, according to Livestrong.com, and pitas won’t make you feel bloated like regular bread might. The peanut butter contains protein and healthy fats, a winning combo that will help you have the energy to perform at your best. For another great-tasting twist on this snack, try swapping the peanut butter for 2 tablespoons of hummus and a hard-boiled egg.
2. 1/2 Cup Cottage Cheese with 1/2 Sliced Strawberries and 2 Mini Whole-Wheat Bagels
The cottage cheese contains protein and Vitamin D, which is a source of energy, noted Healthsomeness.com, and will keep you full for a long time. Strawberries add a little sweetness without unhealthy sugars and also give you a dose of antioxidants, while mini whole-wheat bagels provide some complex carbohydrates.
Your Daily Dance recommended that dancers pop a bag of popcorn before they leave the house and tote it with them to the competitions to snack on throughout the day. Popcorn is a fantastic source of whole grains that contains vitamins that help your muscles release and use energy. Mix in a handful of nuts or yogurt-covered raisins with your popcorn for a well-rounded snack.
“Popcorn is a great snack because you get a lot of volume and fiber (which makes you feel full), and it’s a whole grain, so it’s healthier than a snack like pretzels,” said Tara Gidus of the American Dietetic Association in an interview with Fitness magazine.
4. Trail Mix
A bag of trail mix is also great for munching on throughout the day at competitions. Many store-bought trail mixes contain loads of sugar, so it’s a better idea, and more cost-effective to make your own at home. One Green Planet recommended to follow this ratio when putting together your mix: 3 parts nuts to 1 part seeds to 1 part sweet ingredients like dried apricots or raisins. Nuts are a proven energy booster that also contain healthy fats and protein, so choose your favorite nut and get started making your own trail mix.*
5. Sliced Veggies with 1/4 Greek Yogurt Dip
Surprisingly, vegetables contain a high percentage of carbohydrates, according to Livestrong.com, so they’re a great choice for an energy-boosting snack. Pair sliced veggies like carrots, cucumbers, peppers or zucchini with Greek yogurt for a yummy low-fat dip. The Boston Ballet suggested adding a little chopped parsley or chives and lemon juice to the yogurt to spice up the dip.
The morning before a competition is always rushed, so don’t leave putting your snacks together to the last minute. If you’re scrambling and forget to bring along any snacks, you’re more likely to be tempted to hit up the vending machine or bake sale to ease your appetite later in the day. The night before the competition, package your snacks in plastic containers and baggies to have them ready to go in the morning, along with any ice packs to keep perishable foods cold. Try to avoid eating snacks that easily spill or stain while wearing your costume, but if you must, make sure you wear a sweatshirt or jacket over it just in case. And finally, remember that snacks don’t replace meals, so be sure to eat balanced meals throughout the day.
*Editor’s note: Be sensitive to the possibility of peanut or tree nut allergies among other dancers. Be sure to consider those with nut allergies when deciding what to bring, and remember that some severe allergies can be triggered by contact with very small amounts of the allergen.