Bullying seems so senseless and unnecessary. And yet, it still occurs in seemingly all environments. It happens at school, extracurricular activities, via social media, and, yes, even from members of the dance team at competitions. Social media outlets has removed accountability and personal connectivity from today’s youth, allowing them an impersonal way of criticizing and degrading others in a very passive manner.
I have heard stories of bullying occurring at dance competitions for the past few years. But, it wasn’t until recently that I actually observed negativity at an event.
Via social media, an older student from one studio’s dance team was blatantly criticizing much younger students from another studio. Using that message, the older student had other dancers joining in the conversation, and it felt so unnecessary and inappropriate.
What do you think made this student feel as though this was an okay choice?
Respect and Appreciation at Competition
As instructors, we have to instill values of respect in our students. These values should transcend the studio classroom and reach other studios, peers, and life endeavors. Our values become our lifestyle, and I would like to think that studios would never condone this kind of behavior.
Most competitions and conventions encourage appropriate behavior. I appreciate and applaud the steps they’ve taken to guarantee students are learning and growing in a nurturing, supportive environment. Studio owners, parents, instructors, students, and peers have to support and encourage that mission, too.
Ultimately, we are all in this together. And, personally, I know that I want every dance experience to be positive, meaningful, and productive for each and every one of our students.
Dance Spirit featured an article in 2011 entitled Beat Bullying, which discusses the issue from an in-studio perspective. It’s just as relevant to think about bullying in regards to outside events and encountering other studios.
At the end of the day, we have to lead by example. That way, we make sure our students are aware of their choices, actions, and consequences. We are all working hard, striving to do our best, and encouraging our students to grow. Each individual is on his/her own dance journey, and we have to be respectful and supportive of each dancer’s work and achievement.
As J.K. Rowling said: “It is our choices…that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
Let’s make the choice to be kind. After all, we’re all in this together.
Last year, we decided to adopt a “Studio Mascot” for our studio and competitive team. Since we were attending Nationals in New Orleans, we selected a fun-looking alligator, named her Louise, and dressed her in dance-like attire (yes, we actually went shopping for a stuffed alligator).
We introduced Louise to the studio with the following poem:
I am proud to say “Hi there,
my name is Louise.”
I am a pretty little dancer
from Stage Door, if you please.
I hail from a southern city.
You may know it as New Orleans,
A city with lots of culture
Known for its Mardi Gras scenes.
You may be thinking
You’ve seen me before in a bog
But you’re thinking of my brother
from Princess and the Frog
I was so busy dancing
While my brother played his trumpet
They wanted me in the movie,
But I had to dump it!
I love ballet, tap and jazz,
theatre, acro, and hip-hop!
I love every style of dance,
And I doubt I’ll ever stop!
I am thrilled to be a part
Of the family at Stage Door
I will be your mascot, your friend
and so much more!
I will travel to competitions
with the Stage Door Elite
I will cheer real loud,
and stamp my feet!
At the end of the season
In July of twenty thirteen,
My journey will continue at Nationals
down in New Orleans.
I’ll show you my stomping grounds
and we’ll have fun
Riding in swamp buggies
in the hot summer sun.
After the summer,
I might choose to stay
at the studio in Raleigh
to laugh, dance, sing, and play.
So let’s start this adventure
And become great friends
We’ll work hard, practice,
and be a team to the end!
Louise had such popularity that smaller mascots began popping up at competitions:
Our studio families and students LOVE Louise! The students enjoy seeing her at events, and they are always eager to sit beside her, hold her, and take pictures with her.
Louise even had a starring role in our Spring Recital:
So, how can you create dance studio mascots for your team/studio?
Select something that ties into the theme/mission/culture/events of your studio
Tailor the mascot’s presence to reflect your brand
Promote the dance studio mascots to your studio and students
Be imaginative! Creativity is what brings a mascot to life.
The mascot brought a great level of camaraderie to our team and studio last year, and we are excited to begin Louise’s adventures this year. Select your mascot, and join in on the fun! It will add a little magic to your season. 🙂
I often hear the debate of what age is acceptable for a child to begin performing. I firmly believe that the earlier young dancers can start performing, the more comfortable, self-confident, and present they will become as performers and artists.
At my studio, I am completely comfortable putting a 3-year old student onstage for the annual performance (taking show times and performance length into consideration, of course). I first performed at 3-years old, and I remember absolutely loving the experience. When I am feeling nostalgic, I will find the VHS (and the VHS player) and watch the playback (anyone remember toast shiny tights?).
Younger students are so capable and uninhibited, and I think too many instructors (and, perhaps, even some parents) underestimate their power to learn. If you instill disciplined habits and work ethics in students at a young age, they will really excel in their training dance training.
Obviously, there are proper teaching methods and philosophies for younger students that are developmentally in-line with their physical and psychological maturation. These students should be nurtured, loved, and taught in a way that will allow them to develop a proper passion for the art.
And, performing at a younger age can mean many different things. Obviously, the expectation is not that a young, 3-year old will perform double pirouettes, extensions, and aerials. Rather, the accomplishment lies in the completion of the task.
Some of a young student’s accomplishments may be: standing on stage and not crying, forming the circle in the routine, knowing where to stand, remembering to smile, finishing a routine, or feeling proud of themselves for accomplishing a goal.
With each opportunity, the child will feel more comfortable and progressive in his/her capabilities and performance. The growth is truly rewarding for everyone involved in the process.
Getting Older Students to Start Performing
As a counter observation, for students that begin performing in their pre-teen/adolescence, it is more difficult to instill performance qualities since they lack the extent of early exposure to the stage and performing. As students age, they become concerned about others’ opinions of their projection, which usually translates to being more nervous, apprehensive, and tense when asked to perform and project onstage.
Of course, students’ projections can be fostered and improved, regardless of age, but, for students that are truly interested in performing, the younger a student can start acquiring the culture of the performance environment, the better. Then, the act of performing becomes second nature.
Certainly, younger students’ performance capabilities are dependent upon maturity, personal readiness, and level of interest. This philosophy is not a blanket standard; rather, it is something to consider for students that are young and ready for the performance experience. Do not write off opportunities simply because of a child’s age; rather, see how you can further ignite their passion and interest in dance.
You have the power to offer students opportunities to grow and blossom, regardless of age, and that is a tremendous gift and reward of being a dance educator. Let’s use it!
(This is a recital picture in the dance scrapbook I created in high school. This pic is from my second recital; I was 4 years old.)
(This pic is of one of my students. He has been performing on stage since he was 2 years old. Now 6, he absolutely loves the performance experience. We are fortunate to have many students at our studio that feel the same way. Words cannot begin describe the pride we feel towards our young, tenacious, passionate performers!)
I truly believe dance is for everyone, and can move everyone in some capacity- as an observer, as a mover, or as a dancer. As dance educators, we have the opportunity to build programming that is accessible to everyone. Once students are a part of our programming, we have an obligation to serve them to the best of our ability.
When a studio culture transforms into statements of regularity such as “those kids aren’t good”, “he/she will never be an overall winner”, or “so-so refuses to dance with so-so”, it becomes a danger zone. It compromises our mission as educators to create a positive infrastructure that focuses on building the art of DANCE through technique, style, acceptance, and diversity.
As educators, we must take the lead. Our leadership is required to promote the accessibility of dance for everyone.
Our art is not elitist- it does not require Olympic level ability for success and impact. Rather, it requires time, patience, love, and nurturing.
Then, you create a dancer (in whatever capacity that may be), and you also build a relationship that will far outlast a student’s tenure at the dance studio. That’s impact.
Highly successful people choose to develop good habits and routines. They work consistently, with discipline, and do not allow excuses to overshadow their goals. It is rumored that a habit forms in 20-21 days; however, this Forbes’ article (a great read!) debunks the myth and elaborates on the formulating steps required to make an activity a way of life.
Examples of habits for our students may be:
Working Towards a Technical Goal
A Conditioning Plan
Time Management & Organization
Examples of habits for Instructors/Studio Owners may be:
Healthier Lifestyle Habits
Business/Work- Oriented Goals
Improved Time Management
Whatever you are working towards, commit to achieving the level of success that will positively impact your quality of life. It will make a difference!
It’s biggest day of the year for your families. If your students are like mine, they are raring to go! And it’s easy to see why when you consider all of the hard work they have put in over the past year preparing for recitals:
30+ weeks of lessons
2-3 minutes of choreography for each dance
Costume measurements, fittings, exchanges and alterations
Group photos, recital tickets and t-shirts, flower orders and more!
In fact, for every minute of a dance that appears on stage, an average of 100 HOURS of preparation has already been put in before one sequin ever hits the stage. But before you sign off on your dance recital prep, I want you to put ONE MORE HOUR to make sure your recital day is GREAT.
Keep reading for 8 last-minute dance recital prep tips that will ensure you have the best recital day yet!
Are you looking for some more recital tips and ideas? Check out these other articles and resources from Misty:
Of the many hats studio owners wear, one of the most important ones is that of a marketer for our business. In fact, if you think of all of the ways you have marketed your studio over the past year you will probably be surprised to find out just how much time is spent promoting your studio to the next generation of dancers. When I reflected on my studio’s marketing initiatives over the course of this school year I came up with a long list including: printed brochures, postcards, Facebook ads, free trial classes, free dance days, community performances, camps, workshops, master classes, birthday parties, field trips, print ads in the local parenting magazine and various community partnerships.
But if you are only marketing to the public you are missing one of the most powerful marketing tools of all: re-selling to your existing client. Various studies report that it costs anywhere between five to seven times more to attract a new client than to re-sell an existing client. And there is no greater opportunity to re-sell the value of being a part of your studio to your families than the upcoming annual studio dance recital.
Make the most of your annual studio dance recital by adding these 5 Easy WOWs to make a great day-of experience for both dancers and attendees:
Are you looking for some more recital tips and ideas? Check out these other articles and resources from Misty:
TutuTix is pleased to announce the addition of content from The Dance Exec into its content library. For several years, The Dance Exec (www.danceexec.com) has been an excellent source of training and knowledge for dance studio owners as they grow their business and strive to provide excellence in dance training. As Chasta Hamilton Calhoun, the founder of The Dance Exec, directs her focus to her thriving dance studios, the incredible studio owner resources that the site has offered through the years will find a new home as part of the TutuTix blog, which covers topics of interest to dance studio owners and teachers in particular, and the dance community in general. From time to time, Chasta will continue to contribute to the blog in her ongoing role as a studio owner (and TutuTix client!). The addition of these incredible resources is just one more way TutuTix can help dance studio owners build a successful business. Check out the first article from The Dance Exec archives today: 101 Marketing Ideas & Strategies for Dance Studios
As I travel the country talking to studio owners the question I hear exchanged more often than any other is some version of: “How big is your studio?” I understand the motivation behind the question and have asked it several times myself. I believe the enrollment size questions are motivated by a few things:
We are all just trying to figure out how our studio measures up with the rest of the world.
“Am I big?” “Am I small?” “Am I normal?” We really just want to know that we are doing okay.
We want to find other people like us. It makes sense that I might face the same challenges and benefit from the same solution as a studio of a similar size.
But the number of students you enroll is far from a complete picture of your actually enrollment.
If you are looking for a more complete picture of your enrollment, keep reading for 3 Ways to Measure Your Dance School Enrollment:
Attending the United Dance Merchants Association’s (UDMA) yearly costume shows can be a beneficial and fun experience for any studio dance owner. You’ll have the opportunity to learn about new costume trends and get to see the latest styles in person. You’ll also be able to learn about a number of studio-related products and services that can help make our life easier.
UDMA even offers educational opportunities with renowned dance professionals on a variety of topics. If this is your first time attending a UDMA event, check out the tips below to make your first experience a success!
When it comes to attending one of the large UDMA shows held each year, it’s important to be prepared. These events allow dance professionals to get insight on upcoming costume trends and do some groundwork for recitals and performances. The shows include information and vendors beyond costumes, too—be prepared so that you are ready to make the most of it!
Bring a big bag or, even better, a rolling suitcase. You’ll be happy you have it after receiving lots of catalogs, giveaways from vendors, and samples.
It’s important to dress smart. As you run around from vendor to vendor, you won’t have a lot of time to sit and take a break. Wear comfortable clothing and shoes to keep you on your feet. You don’t want to have to end your visit early because your feet are blistered and sore.
Bring cash for coffee, snacks and lunches. These events last the whole day, and if you’re enjoying yourself, you don’t want to have to go far to find food and drinks.
Print off a sheet of address label stickers with your name, studio name, address, phone and email. If you want to request more information from a company or enter one of the many giveaways offered by vendors you can simplify the entry process by using your stickers on the entry forms.
From the official UDMA website
Check Out the Seminars
During the four sessions this year, UDMA will be offering seminars on the Saturdays of the show that dance teachers and studio owners can attend. These sessions typically cover a range of topics, and are taught by well-known dance teachers and owners in the industry who have found years of success.
For 2016, the special seminar is called “Teaching Dance for Students with Disabilities.” You’ll receive great insight from industry leaders about good practices and proven strategies for incorporating special needs students into your classes.
Note that the seminars require a separate registration from the vendor/costume show, as well as an additional fee.
Come Visit Us at the TutuTix Booth!
This year, TutuTix will be visiting the various sessions of UDMA to talk costumes, recitals, and more. Look for our booth – it’s hard to miss!
We’ll even be hosting a surprise item giveaway: earlier this year we gave away iRobot Roomba’s to lucky guests! Stop by to pick up some goodies and sign up for our big giveaway.
Talk to People and Have Fun!
Before you get there, visit the UDMA website to find out what vendors will be attending your local event. Make a list of the booths that you’re really dying to see so you know where to go as soon as you arrive.
As you see dancers in the latest costumes, don’t be shy! Approach them and ask them to move around in their attire so you can better understand the look and feel of each costume.
Something to note: photography isn’t allowed at this event. So be sure to bring a notebook to help you jot down what you like to help you prepare for this year’s dance season.
Want to do some exploring? DanceInforma has some cool ideas for how to make the most out of your travel experience while at UDMA.
With competition season, you’re probably in a whirlwind of costumes, choreography and cosmetics. Hopefully you’ve coordinated all these different aspects of your team’s performances to really impress the judges, but don’t overlook one of the most crucial aspects: the dance competition music.
Sure, you could go with a classic like “All that Jazz” or “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend,” but you might see some peoples’ eyes glaze over when they’ve already heard it three times that day. There are certainly a number of overused songs that you’ll hear at competitions – here’s a handy list from the Dance Exec – so spruce up your routines this year with unique, infectious music that will have the crowds on their feet.
1. Consider Age Appropriateness
If you’ve been competing for a number of years, you’ve likely seen a great dance team get cringes from the audience because their music crossed a certain line. While “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke is certainly catchy and has a fun beat, the lyrics aren’t something that parents want to see young dancers connecting with.
Always take the age of your performers into account when choosing music for their performances. It’s best to steer clear of songs with overly suggestive or mature themes – there are plenty of clean options to choose from!
2. Stay Away From Top-40 Songs
Top-40 songs are a go-to for many choreographers, but you can bet that hundreds of other studios have the same idea.
Stand out from the pack by choosing tunes that will make your performances unique!
Whether you choose an “oldie” or a track that hasn’t made it to the radio yet, you’ll be putting your team in position to give a one-of-a-kind performance.
3. Make Sure Everyone Loves It
You may love a certain ’60s rock ballad, but if your dancers aren’t keen on the music, their performance may fall a little flat. Work to find music that both you and your performers enjoy. After all, you’ll probably be hearing it 500 times or so before the competition, so it’s better if everyone likes the tune.
4. Look for Must-Haves
Once you’ve whittled down your choices to a handful of appropriate, under-utilized options, you can rule songs out by looking for certain must-have characteristics. Your song should be easy to cut down to the right length, and it also needs to have a strong beat and proper tempo.
You’ll also want to consider how the music fits into the genre your kids are performing in. When you take these aspects into account, you’ll be able to pick the perfect song!
The school supply lists are posted at Target, the mailbox is filling up with registration paperwork for my children’s schools and Facebook is blowing up with pictures of kids in backpacks. It’s officially time for back-to-school and that means it’s time to get serious about back-to-dance!
As a studio owner, I’m a big fan of observing what the local schools do and taking my cues from their systems. For example, we do our registration for summer classes when the local school opens theirs. We offer parent teacher conferences just like the schools do and we follow their model for teacher training as well.
Most studio owners consider themselves to be in the business of training students, but the strongest studios I know understand that they are in the business of training teachers as well.
Here are 5 tips to step up your teacher training this year with Dance Studio Teacher Staff Meetings that ROCK:
The “Expert Advice from Misty Lown” series is brought to you by More Than Just Great Dancing™ and TutuTix.
In business we call it “first impressions.” Psychologists call it “thin slicing.” Regardless of what you call it, career experts say it takes just three seconds for someone to determine whether they like you and want to do business with you.
According to BusinessInsider.com (2015), you have even less time to make a good first impression. Research from Princeton, Loyola Marymount University and the University of Liverpool demonstrates that judgments people make regarding your trustworthiness, intelligence and competence as a business leader are based on first impressions—sometimes in as little as one-tenth of a second.
One-tenth of a second?
If you don’t think this is true, just measure your own reactions next time you walk into someone else’s business for the first time. If a friend recommends a new restaurant but it has a funny smell when I walk in the door, I immediately begin to question my decision to eat there. Once, when I was driving on vacation I stopped to check availability at a hotel, but walked out before I could get the answer—based on my first impression.
The situation doesn’t have to be extreme to leave a bad impression. Have you ever taken your children to another activity outside of dance and found yourself fighting the urge to jump in and help the coach manage the children? Or have you ever wanted to straighten up someone else’s lobby? That’s why the saying, “First impressions make lasting impressions” is true.
Keep reading to learn what first impressions you may be giving your dance families without even realizing it.
Check out Misty’s new book, One Small Yes, available on Amazon. This book is a must read for studio owners that are looking for ways to balance the dance of work and life.
“Amazing! One Small Yes is such a great book on finding your calling in life and how to navigate and work through living out the calling. Must have for all entrepreneurs!!” – Kristen, Absolute Dance
“Loved One Small Yes by Misty Lown. Outstanding book for anyone, especially the small business owner or entrepreneur. An inspirational book which helps the reader face challenges and give them the courage to continue to move forward and face what lies ahead. Loved it!” – Melanie, Tonawanda Dance Arts
“Reading Misty’s book was like opening my inbox and finding a personal email written just for me. She took my thoughts and feelings about being a small business owner, put them down on paper, and then step by step carefully explained what was holding me back from achieving more in life. Now I have no excuses to moving closer to my Yes.” – Nancy, Studio B Dance
The “Expert Advice from Misty Lown” series is brought to you by More Than Just Great Dancing™ and TutuTix.
Teaching dance is a fulfilling career that allows you to share your passion with others. A dance teacher education can be a combination of performance, formal training, and other experiences with dance. After dancing their entire lives, some dancers decide to devote their time to teaching. However, dance teachers lead busy, hectic lives ruled by demanding schedules, and that means that it can be difficult to continue fitting in personal dance practice or finding the time to stay in shape as a dancer.
For some teachers, especially younger ones, this can be a cause of distress. When your life was previously defined by dance – and your identity defined as a dancer – what happens when you no longer have the time to commit to your own dance practice? Or when you realize that your flexibility is not as impressive as it use to be, or that you can’t turn quite as many pirouettes as you could before you started teaching? This change is even more noticeable in the summer months, when teachers typically have more downtime.
This is a natural shift that comes with the territory, but don’t let it get you down. There are still so many ways you can continue being a dancer while you’re also a dance teacher.
The best teachers are the ones who continue learning and growing through their own dance practice. But this is easier said than done. For example, the last thing you may want to do after a long and grueling class with distracted kids is lace up your shoes and hit the barre. However, taking the time to fit dancing into your life is key to strengthening your identity as a dancer, and not just a teacher.
Block out an hour of time before or after your class to devote to your own practice. You could also schedule time to practice in the studio on days you don’t teach or on the weekend. If you freelance as a dance teacher, ask the studio owner if they would mind if you used a classroom on your own time – most will be fine with this.
Treat this solo time as if it was an actual class you registered for. Stick to the same time each week, and pencil in your personal practice days on your calendar.
Great Teachers Keep Learning
You’ll find that making a conscious effort to continue developing as a dancer also makes you a better teacher – and a more attractive instructor to prospective students and their parents. In an article on The Dancing Grapevine, continual learning and development is one of the top qualities that dancers and parents look for when selecting a new teacher. The article described “green lights” for teachers as including if they “innovate or take on new dance challenges,” cross-train in other dance styles and train with other teachers often.
A large part of being an effective teacher is empathy – and by being a “student” of your own dance practice, you can relate better to your students.
If you find yourself lamenting lost skills during the slower summer months, don’t despair. In addition to scheduling your own practice time at the studio, there are many other ways you can stay in shape as a teacher.
Dance Information recommended taking time to regularly stretch at home, joining open classes in other dance styles or signing up for a summer intensive. Seek out workshops, seminars and conferences on dance in cities near you. You can also volunteer and perform with a local dance studio or company. Another option is cross-training – check out our article here.