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Backstage Management Tools for Dance Recitals

Backstage Management Tools for Dance Recitals

As a studio owner, I have three lists running in my brain at all times. I’m always asking myself the following three questions:

What needs to be done today?
What needs to be done in the next 2-6 months?
What can I make for dinner without going to the store?

(Not kidding on that last one. Anyone whose business is open almost exclusively nights and weekends is sure to have some challenges in the getting-dinner-on-the-table department!)

But, back to practical things. It’s the second week of March, so while our bodies are busy distributing recital costumes and getting ready for competition, our minds are on RECITAL. And, a great show from the audience perspective is dependent on having an awesome act backstage.

Are you gearing up for recital? Keep reading for 5 Backstage Management Tools to make your backstage flow smoothly this year for all ages!


  1. Entertainment reigns supreme for little ones.  
    At our recital, we run different types of activities to keep little kids entertained backstage. First are the quiet hands-on activities such as drawing, reading and making crafts. When the attention for crafting wanes, we watch a bit of a movie. Nothing lasts more than 20 minutes, so we rotate activities often.
  2. Manage quick changes for really little ones by using “shape cards.”  
    It was a real “a-ha” moment for me as a teacher when I realized that the reason our little kids couldn’t keep track of their things backstage was because they couldn’t read yet. Now we line up their shoes, accessories and costume changes on easy to identify “shape cards.” Three- and four-year-olds may not be able to read name labels, but they won’t forget their items are on the card shaped like a sunshine! Other shapes include rainbows, stars, clouds, animals and more. Get creative. Kids love picking out their “shape cards!”
  3. Have a backstage “show.” 
    Our younger dancers wait for their turn in the show in a large room just off the true backstage area. We take advantage of the generous space by having older girls practice their dances in front of the little ones backstage before they hit the big stage. This serves two purposes: First of all, you don’t want the first time that your older students run their choreography that day to be on the stage. The backstage “show” takes care of this. Second, the little kids don’t ever really get a sense of how amazing it is to be in your studio’s production if they only see the stage for a few minutes during the entire show. Sharing dances helps the little ones see a mini-version of recital and increases their understanding of the bigger picture.
  1. Have a code word, hand signal or rhythm clap for getting attention.  
    All of our students know that when they hear the iconic “clap, clap, clap clap clap,” it’s time to listen. The students repeat the clap pattern in a call-and-response fashion followed by silence. If your waiting area is too close to the stage for rhythm claps, consider having a hand signal for silence. We use the “quiet fox,” which is a hand signal where the third and fourth finger touch the thumb and the pinky and pointer go up for the fox’s ears. If a teacher puts up her fox, it’s a race to see how quickly the kids can put up their foxes as well. The “quiet fox” was intended for little ones, but I think the older ones get more of a kick out of it than the little ones do.
  2. Keep performers moving “stations and checkpoints.”  
    Another go-to that we use backstage with all age groups is “stations and checkpoints.” Students stay in their dressing room until called by the stage manager. From that point they go to a costume checking station where everyone is checked for accessories, correct shoes, clean tights and tidy hairstyles. If anything needs attention it is taken care of before hitting the true backstage area. Next, they are “in the hole,” which is the area just outside the backstage followed by “on deck,” which is true backstage or side stage. And then, it’s time to dance on stage! The whole process is both very orderly and anticipation-building for the dancers.

Do you have a great tool for backstage management? I’d love to hear  from you in the comments below.

Merde! 

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Making Creative Movement Lesson Plans

creative movement lesson plans

As any dance teacher who’s worked with young children knows, kids have a boundless supply of energy. Attempts to teach them technique or choreography often end in vain, with aggravated children and an even more frustrated teacher. Young preschool- and kindergarten-age children generally don’t have the attention span or discipline to do barre work or learn correct technique, but this young and energetic age group is perfectly suited to succeed at creative movement. You can take advantage of their energy with creative movement lesson plans.

Creative movement is offered as a class at many dance studios and is designed to introduce children to the idea of expressing themselves through movement. The creative movement lesson plans work with young children’s natural enthusiasm, short attention spans and high energy levels to explore basic concepts of dance and creativity.

There are many benefits of creative movement. According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children, creative movement aids children’s physical development, teaching them body awareness and control and how to move around in a space. It also encourages them to use their imaginations and become comfortable with expressing themselves.

It helps them grow socially and emotionally, since they must learn to share space with others, and expressing themselves in a myriad of ways – for example, pretending to be a certain animal or acting like a type of weather – helps them recognize that they have a wide range of feelings. Additionally, creative movement classes teach children to be respectful in a class-setting and effectively listen to teachers.

Areas to Cover When Making Creative Movement Lesson Plans

A creative movement class is much more than simply telling students to pretend they are butterflies for 45 minutes and sitting back as they run around the room. The class needs structure and purpose to allow creativity to flourish. Let’s Talk Creative Dance Conversation recommended not staying with one activity for too long, so break up the class into smaller units.

Don’t cluster your activities in one space, either – move around the room. Use visual aids and props to inspire movement, and form your activities so that the kids have choices in the way they move and respond. A dynamic lesson plan will keep kids engaged.

“When you keep it moving, keep it structured, and use student demonstrators, kids stay focused and on task,” wrote Anne Greene Gilbert in a post for the site. “The teacher has control because the students have self-control since they are interested in what is happening.”

NAEYC suggested playing the game “Telephone” but with movement instead of words. Think of a theme for the day or week, and create activities related to that theme – the source gave the example that if your theme is “Spring,” you can have children “dance the making of a garden,” basing their motions off digging holes, watering plants, etc. Give children a prop like scarves and ask them to make their scarves flap like a flag, swim like a fish or float to the floor like a snowflake, suggested Childhood101.

You can also put on a song and ask the kids to move in a way that follows the rhythm and style of the song – for example, put on a fast song and ask them to hop like bunnies, or a slow song and ask them to crawl like cats. This helps them learn how to move with different types of music.

There are countless creative movement resources online. The National Dance Education Organization, ASCD, NAEYC and other associations link materials that will help you craft lesson plans, and creative movement activity ideas are also a popular topic on dance forums.

Teacher Tips

For teachers that are worried their creative movement classes will be more like creative chaos, preparing a structured lesson plan ahead of time reduces this anxiety. ASCD recommended establishing routines that guide your class, for example, doing a warm-up and cool-down and doing individual movement activities first and then moving to partner and group ones. Also, having a recognizable item or sound to signify switches between activities or that the students need to listen, such as a bell or drum, are also very useful.

Exceptional Considerations

Many creative movement activities can be adapted to fit any student, noted NAEYC. For children with special needs, you can modify the activity to accommodate the student’s abilities. For example, a jumping activity can include kids in wheelchairs by having them move their arms or shoulders instead. Or, in an activity where students make a certain letter with their body, special needs students can use a body part like their fingers to form the letter. The source noted that activities where students express the story of a song or book through movement are especially accommodating to children of all skill and needs levels.

Creative movement classes also don’t require expansive studio spaces. If you have a small space, you can do activities where the children stand in one place but jump up and down or wiggle their arms and legs in special ways, and if there are poles or shelves that break up an open space, you can incorporate moving around these obstacles into your activities.

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Improvisation Dance: Can Improv Lead to Better Choreography?

improvisation dance

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

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

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

Personal Identity

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

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

Creating a “Toolkit”

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

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

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

New Paths

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

Tips for Improv

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

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

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

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Tips for Dancers: Be the Best You

tips for dancers

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

Create a Personal Mission Statement

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

Play to Your Strengths

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

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

Embrace your Style

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

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How to Become a Dance Teacher

how to become a dance teacher

If you are a dancer searching for the next step in your career, consider becoming a dance teacher. Switching from student to teacher is one of the biggest leaps you’ll ever make in your dance journey, but it’s also one of the most rewarding. Being a dance teacher requires lots of hard work, passion and resiliency, but if you can commit to making yourself the best teacher you can be, all the inevitable ups and downs you’ll face along the way will be well worth it. Read on for some strategies on how to become a dance teacher.

Benefits of Being a Dance Teacher

Not many people get to do what they love for a living. Granted that living may be small – dance teacher’s salaries are typically modest – but being able to constantly share the love of dance with others is priceless. You won’t have to whittle away the hours at a desk job while your heart yearns to dance, instead, you’ll be dancing and choreographing every day. And one of the few things that makes you feel better than following your own passion is inspiring others to follow theirs, too.

One of the most rewarding aspects of being a dance teacher is seeing your dancers improve. It’s that a-ha moment when a light bulb goes off and a student is finally able to perform a certain skill after months of practice. This rewarding feeling isn’t just limited to skills, though.

Another benefit of being a dance teacher is seeing your students grow personally. You’ll feel joy when you see insecure students gain confidence and shy students make friends. Dance is many things – an art form that inspires, a physical activity that keeps the body healthy and a provider of life lessons – and as a dance teacher, you’re responsible for making it all happen.

Qualities of Good Dance Teachers

Good dance teachers are those that not only have technical expertise but those are able to effectively communicate with students.

“Dancing ability and teaching ability do not go hand in hand,” wrote Rebecca King in a post for her blog, Tendus Under a Palm Tree.

You need to be able to teach just as well as you can dance. Dance teachers must possess a great deal of patience and the ability to stay calm under pressure or in the face of frustration. A certain skill might be second nature to you, but students may need to go over it again and again. They need to be able to pinpoint a specific issue that a student has and then offer constructive criticism that will help them improve.

They must be conscious of the tones they take when criticizing, too. You’ve likely been there before – a few harsh words of criticism that stuck in your memory or caused you to feel defensive. Even though criticism is necessary, we’re only human, so sensitivity is just as important.

Good teachers must also be able to empathize with their students and understand different learning styles and personality types. The stronger teachers can connect with their students, the more powerfully they can nurture a love of dance.

Teachers also have a responsibility to be role models for their students, noted UnityDance.org. Be conscious of your behavior, words and attitude in class, because your students aren’t just looking to you for advice on becoming better dancers – they’re looking to you for advice on what type of person they should be.

Realties to Be Prepared For as a Dance Teacher

With all the rewarding benefits of being a dance teacher, you’re going to face some stressful moments right alongside them. Students, particularly younger ones, will be antsy, distracted and unmotivated some days in class, and you’ll feel like everything you say goes in one ear and out the other. You’ll have to teach multiple age groups, body types and abilities, noted the blog Dance in Real Life, and it’s also physically demanding, with some teachers instructing four or more classes a day.

There will be days you want to stay home and have a break, or times when you wish you had a little more income. But those moments when you see your students’ faces light up as they learn a new skill or finish their first recital will make you forget about all the tough times.

Paths to a Career as a Dance Teacher

There are different ways of becoming a dance teacher, but no matter which path you take, it’s important to gain both teaching expertise and real-world experience. If you are a young student, enrolling in a college degree program in dance education is a great way to get started on your path to becoming a dance teacher, and you should also consider a dual degree in education and dance.

Research the regulations in the area you would like to work in, since many states require that teachers are certified, and even if it’s not required, education certifications will make you a stronger candidate. There are also graduate programs and training workshops that will help prepare you to be a dance teacher.

Look for opportunities to gain real-world teaching experience wherever you can. If you currently dance, ask the studio owner or your teacher if you can work as an assistant, volunteer teacher or intern. Helping out at a studio will give you valuable insight into what being a dance teacher is really like.

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What Is Classical Ballet?

classical ballet

Imagine for a moment that you are at Paris’ glittering grand opera house in 1832 to see the new ballet everyone’s talking about, “La Sylphide.” The red velvet curtain rises and to your amazement you watch dancers in ethereal white dresses gracefully twirl across the stage. They seem to defy gravity as they leap and float through the air. For the first time ever, you see a woman center stage, leading the group. And what’s that – they’re dancing on the tips of their toes! You’ve never seen anything like it, but one thing’s for certain – you’re witnessing the dawn of classical ballet.

Modern ballerinas are following in the footsteps of a long and time-honored tradition. Every position they assume, every jeté and rond de jambe they make has been honed over centuries. Today, we perform the same ballets in exactly the same way as they were performed hundreds of years ago.

Early Stages

We could go all the way back to the beginning of dance, but that’s a story for another time. Let’s jump ahead a bit to the 17th century, when “court ballets” held for royalty and the aristocracy were all the rage. As ballet grew in popularity, operas began incorporating it into their productions, to the delight of audiences. But, bigger things were on the horizon. In the 18th century, ballets began being performed on their own, with choreography and music that told dramatic stories.

The next century ushered in the Romantic Era. This saw the creation of ballets like “La Sylphide” that featured enthralling stories about the supernatural. This era was also when the tutu and dancing en pointe were introduced. The skills were harder, the choreography was more demanding and the ballerinas were finally being taken seriously as professionals.

Russian Contribution

Classical ballet really came into its own in the late 19th century in Russia. The two main reasons for the emergence of the classical style were that a new version of the pointe shoe was created, which enabled ballerinas to perform faster and more difficult moves, and that the rise of complex narrative music spurred choreographers to try to make dances that went along with them, “A Dance Through the Ages” explained. As the source stated:

“During this era of ballet, there was more collaboration between the musicians and the choreographers. The choreographers created the libretto which is the story or narrative idea and they choreographed the dance to go along with it. They then shared this with the musicians who wrote the score to go along with the story. A lot of classical dances were composed of four main parts: the adage, the female variation, the male variation and the grand allegro. Each part gave everyone involved in the production a chance to really show off their talent and skills.”

Petipa

Most responsible for the rise of classical ballet as a genre was Marius Petipa, “the father of classical ballet” and possibly the most influential ballet teacher in history, as A Dance Through the Ages asserted. He put together choreography that was more intricate and performances that were more dramatic than audiences had ever seen before. He created “The Nutcracker” (or rather, the libretto), “Swan Lake” and “Sleeping Beauty”, and some versions of these ballets are still performed in the same way they were put on centuries ago. Tutus also became shorter around this time so that audiences could better see the ballerina’s impressive footwork and leg movements, the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre explained.

Characteristics

Classical ballet emphasizes fluid, graceful movements and long lines, along with strict adherence to correct form and technique, especially turn-out of the legs. There’s also a focus on narrative and storytelling achieved through dramatic visuals and complex choreography.

pointeClassical ballet emphasizes long, graceful lines. 

Classical ballet may be best represented by Swan Lake. While it’s likely the most well-known and beloved ballet in the world, it was actually a bit too avant-garde for audiences back when it premiered in 1877. According to the Gelsey Kirkland Academy of Classical Ballet, Swan Lake was “not well received with near unanimous criticism concerning the dancers, orchestra, and décor.” Audiences even disliked Tchaikovsky’s now-classic score, calling it too complex. So, with the help of Imperial Ballet master Lev Ivanov, Petipa retooled the ballet and things began looking up. Audiences were particularly charmed by Italian ballerina Pierina Legnani, who played Odette between 1894 and 1895. She turned 32 fouettes in the final scene of the ballet – the most ever performed at the time! Critics and audiences warmed up to the ballet, and well, the rest is history.

Remarkably, we’re still performing the same skills, choreography and productions as ballerinas did a couple hundred years ago. So the next time you step into class or take to the stage, think about how exciting it is to play your part in bringing the tradition of classical ballet into the future.

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How to Create Great Dance Registration Forms

How to Create Great Dance Registration Forms

Clear and concise dance registration forms make things easier for both dance parents and studio owners. Before drawing up a form or downloading a template off of the Internet, it’s important to give a little consideration to what will be included. Well-designed dance registration forms that contains only the most pertinent information will make it a snap for parents to register their children and for studio owners to organize and reference student information.

Paper or Online?

A primary consideration when designing a dance studio registration form is whether it will be in print, online or both. A paper form makes it easy for parents to sign their children up for classes on the spot, and can be handed out when owners are away from the studio, for example when running a table at a fair or after a performance. Additionally, a physical form makes sure that those without Internet access can still sign up for classes.

However, an online form provides convenience and accessibility from almost anywhere, especially as more and more people own smartphones and conduct their business online. Parents are already using their phones to take care of everyday tasks, like booking medical appointments and paying bills. A study by the Federal Reserve found that 52 percent of smartphone owners have used mobile banking in the last year, and research by Accenture estimated that two-thirds of patients will book their medical appointments online by the end of 2019.

By adapting to these digital habits, studio owners make registering for classes as easy as possible for parents. One studio owner started online registration through her studio’s website and offered a limited-time offer of 50 percent off the registration fee for parents that registered online, and saw great results. Another owner advertised online registration on her website and then received 80 registrations in addition to the 120 she got through her open house. Handling registration online also gives studio owners the extra benefit of being able to post registration reminders on Facebook and via email. Creating an online form is easy and cheap, since no printer is required! There are several easy and free ways to create online registration forms, like Google Forms and Wufoo.

Depending on a studio’s clientele and website budget, providing both paper forms and online registration may be the best option.

Sections to Include

The first section of your dance registration forms should be the student’s information, including his/her name, date of birth, home address and home telephone number. Then include the contact information of her parents, including the parents’ names, email addresses, cell phone numbers and emergency contact information. A line that asks parents to note whether they would prefer to communicate via email or phone is also helpful. Beneath the contact information, ask parents to list whether their children have any allergies or other medical concerns.

The next section should cover legal issues and policy acceptance. These affirm that the parent and student understand the rules of the studio, the risks associated with dance and their responsibilities for attendance and payment. DanceStudioOwner.com provides a sample legal agreement:

I understand that dance classes may include, without limitation, dancing with props, stretching, barre work, across the floor combinations, dance routines in the center, and other related activities. I further understand that all of the activities of the dance class involve some degree of risk of strain or bodily injury. XYZ Dance Studio is not responsible for personal property.

I have received the student handbook and agree to adhere to all the content stated therein including: Studio Policies,Tuition & Payment Information, Dress Code, Traffic Pattern, Visitor Weeks and Calendar

I agree to be responsible for reading studio correspondence and respecting deadlines, if applicable.

I hereby acknowledge that I have read the statements above and agree to participate accordingly.

Signature: _____________________________________ Date: ________________________

Next, include a section for listing which classes the student is signing up for. One way to do this is by creating a table with columns for the class name, scheduled date/time and tuition. Beneath the table, include a line for the registration fee and any additional expenses, like a recital fee or costume fee, followed by a line for the total balance due.

Some studio owners attach their class schedule and a condensed version of their policies to the dance registration forms so parents can easily reference them. Try to keep the whole document to as few pages as possible, though, since handing parents a stack of papers – or forcing them to click “Next Page” 50 times online – will only overwhelm them!

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Home Dance Studio: Building a Ballet Studio

home dance studio

Pirouetting around the kitchen or using a countertop as a barre might be fun, but it’s not safe or practical. A better place to practice is in a home ballet studio. Although building a home studio from scratch may sound overwhelming, there are simple and creative ways to create a home dance studio suitable for every household and wallet.

It’s not enough to just throw down a mat and prop up a mirror, however. To build a home ballet studio that will be truly beneficial, and not detrimental, to a dancer’s development, serious consideration should be given to the location of the studio, the materials used and what the studio will be primarily used for. Dancers might want a home studio to practice their skills in between classes, to put in extra preparation before a performance or to simply stretch and do conditioning exercises. Dedicated dancers looking for a quiet space to practice choreography and skills should build a larger studio, while those simply looking for a comfortable place to stretch can get away with a smaller space or portable studio.

Location, Location, Location

One of the most important aspects of building a home studio is determining its location. The main thing to consider is the floor type. Home studios should not be built in rooms and areas with concrete floors, like the basement or garage, since the hard and unforgiving surface can damage the joints. A room with a wood floor is the best option, as it is more forgiving. The space you select should be away from busy areas, be well-ventilated, and have a free wall where mirrors and a barre can be hung. If the only available space for building the studio is the basement or garage, you should build a padded wooden floor over the concrete.

Start From the Bottom

Even in rooms with hardwood floors, a thin layer of padding or laminate is necessary to provide comfort and proper support and decrease slipperiness. If you have a large budget, you can spring for marley floors, the standard floor type in ballet studios, however, rolls of the vinyl flooring, are very expensive. ISport suggested using PVS shower pan liner instead, which feels similar to marley but can be bought for a bargain, at around $4 to $8 per linear foot. The source also recommended installing an underlay of foam-lined subflooring or cushioned laminate to hardwood floors for further support.

Use gaffer’s tape to attach the PVC or other top layer, making sure to smooth it out completely to get rid of any air bubbles. The source also suggested applying a layer of rosin on top to provide greater traction and cut down on the risk of falls and slips. If you’re installing a wooden floor in a garage, basement or other concrete area, varnished ACX plywood is relatively inexpensive and makes for a great base.

Install a Barre

A wall-mounted barre will maximize space in small rooms. While you can order a barre from a studio equipment company, there are cheaper alternatives that you can use to make your own barre. Wooden dowels with a diameter between one and three inches work well, are inexpensive and can be easily found at a hardware store. Basic handrails can also be used to create an inexpensive barre, though you should make sure that they are thick and sturdy and won’t easily break.

Add in Mirrors

Mirrors are essential to the home studio. Dancers need to be able to easily see their form, especially since their instructors will not be there to correct them. If dancers consistently perform a skill poorly, their bad form can become a habit without them even realizing it. You can find large mirrors at a hardware or home furnishing store, but a cheaper option is putting a bunch of small mirror tiles together to form one large mirror. ISport suggested using 12 x 12 inch mirrored tiles, which typically cost only $1 per square foot. Use extra strong sticky tabs or tape to securely adhere the tiles to the wall.

“A wall-mounted barre will maximize space in small rooms.”

Make it Portable

If you can’t permanently designate a room as a home dance studio, you can create a portable studio that can be hidden away when not in use. Although marley is expensive, it is available in smaller, padded versions, like a 4 x 6 feet piece. Purchase a free-standing barre instead of mounting one to the wall, and use a long mirror that’s set on wheels. With these portable pieces, it will take just seconds to put together your home ballet studio.

Creating a home studio gives dancers a quiet space to focus and practice their skills. It only takes a few components, all of which have cheap alternatives, to put together a studio that will serve as a valuable supplement to a dancer’s regular classes and routines.

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Best Barre Exercises to Keep Dancers Fit

Best Barre Exercises to Keep Dancers Fit Off Stage

Many people would consider dance a workout in itself. However, in order to be at your best as a dancer, there’s some preparation required off the stage as well. Some dancers appreciate a good workout to help keep them in shape but also to keep their muscles limber and strong. While everyone has a different workout they prefer, some moves are classic, especially barre exercises.

While there are several different types of barre classes dancers can take to keep in shape, Physique 57 is currently one of the best in the business. Several celebrities have tested out this class, including Chrissy Teigen. The classes are modeled off of the Lotte Berk Method, a tried-and-true method created in the ’50s and used by dancers all over the world. If you’re looking to stay toned and lean off stage, use these moves from Physique 57 to help you stay in shape, according to Dance Spirit magazine.

Have you tested out these barre exercises?

1. The Curtsy

This exercise helps work your thighs, improves your balance and tones your core and back. If you’ve ever done ballet, you know this move pretty well. For this exercise you will need a sturdy chair to use for balance. Begin in plie form in first position. Make sure you feel comfortable, not awkward or strained.

Place your hands on the back of the chair and lean the top part of your body forward, keeping your back straight, until you reach a 45-degree angle. Once you’re in this position, lift your right heel off the floor and slide it to your left side behind your body, so that it aligns with your left shoulder.

Slowly begin to lower yourself to the ground, making sure to keep your hips and your shoulders aligned. Begin to do 30 to 60 pulses in this position, and then switch to the other leg. If you really want to test your strength and your muscles, try this position even lower to the ground.

“Barre classes are modeled off the Lotte Berk Method, used by dancers all over the world.”

2. The Deli Slicer

Even though this workout has a funny name, these moves help tone and strengthen the obliques, gluteus maximus and hamstring muscles. Begin lying down on your right side with your arm stretched upward beneath your head.

Place your left palm on the ground near your chest to help keep yourself balanced. Pull your knees toward your chest until you reach a 90-degree angle. Keeping your legs together, lift your feet off the ground with your knees staying on the floor.

From this position, push your left leg outward until it’s straight. Try to reach as far as you can go without straining yourself. Then bring your leg back in, returning to the initial position. Complete this move 15 times slowly, followed by 20 times quickly. Then switch sides. If you think about the motion of your legs, it should look like a deli slicer.

3. The Superwoman

This exercise is great for the core and can help tone your abdominal muscles. You will need a cushion and a ball to perform this move. Begin sitting on the ground. Place some type of cushion – whether it’s a yoga mat or a pillow – behind your lower back for support.

Once it’s in place, start to lower yourself onto it, making sure to keep your arms, head and neck upright. Place your feet on the ball, keeping your toes pointed forward. Make sure your knees are bent at a 90-degree angle and your arms are outstretched forward.

Inhale inward and place your arms overhead so that your body is entirely on top of the cushion and your legs are completely straight, with your feet still resting on the ball. Return to the initial position.

Repeat this process between 30 and 60 times, depending on your strength. Make sure you don’t sit all the way up on the return, as that won’t work your muscles as strongly.

4. The Pretzel

This exercise helps stretch your hips, strengthen your waistline and tone your gluteus maximus. Start this exercise sitting on the ground, with your left leg at a 90-degree angle in front of you and your right leg at a 90-degree angle behind your back. Try to push your right thigh as far back as it’s willing to go. Place your hands on the floor on either side of your left leg to improve stability.

Tighten your core, point your toes and lift your right leg off the floor and move it up and down between 20 and 30 times, keeping the leg bent at 90 degrees.

Then, repeat the position but extend your leg and keep your foot flat for another 20 to 30 repetitions.

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What Not to Do When Choreographing Your First Dance

What no to do when choreographing your first dance

Congratulations! You finally are given the chance to choreograph your own dance. However, choreographing isn’t as easy as it looks. While you may have watched your dance teacher choreograph your performances with ease for several years, it can be scary to get started on your own. Many dancers experience the same pitfalls when choreographing their first dances. Consider these tips to avoid those issues.

Don’t Over-Choreograph!

When dancers think of beginning to choreograph something, they may get worried about walking into a room full of people who are looking at them for guidance. As a result, they plan out every single step and movement to a tee before even entering the room. While this might seem like a good idea, usually it’s not. When dancers aren’t following your direct lead and mastering every move and breath right away, you may get angry and become over controlling. This could lead to disarray among the group instead of making the practice about having a fun time, which is most important.

Many dancers forget how critical it is to go with the flow when choreographing a dance. As this is such a creative act, people need to listen to their changing thoughts and alter the dance as they go. Otherwise, it might not be as great of a collaboration as it could be.

Don’t Forget About the Audience

Some choreographers tend to be a little narrow-minded when starting out. They might be eager to start and choreograph, but only have interest to create a dance that pleases them, not anyone else. This is a seriously faulty mistake. When crafting a dance, it’s important to think of the audience along every step of the way. What do they want to see? What music would excite them and cause them to really pay attention? How can you draw them in?

Understanding and answering these questions before you begin creating your dance is critical. If you go into the dance only looking to please yourself, you may create a dance that isn’t interesting to anyone and essentially wastes the audience’s time when they’re watching it.

Don’t Forget About the Learning Curve

You might be the kind of dancer who can pick up a new dance within a day. However, not every dancer is like you. Others need a few practices before they can really nail down a whole song, and even then it might not be perfect. As a choreographer, it’s important to understand the learning curve that comes with dancing.

Even if you’re working with a group of advanced, experienced dancers, not everyone will pick up the moves as easily as you created them. Have patience with your dancers and help them along the way to allow them to understand certain moves better. Don’t get frustrated or upset with your dancers, which can only make the whole process worse for everyone.

Don’t Copy Someone Else’s Dance

Of course, as a dancer there were most likely some dances you watched that you loved, and probably some others that you hated. However, when you look for inspiration, it’s important not to mimic those beloved dances to a tee. While you can pull some moves from them, use your creative spirit to come up with a few new moves or reframe them in a new, refreshing way. You don’t want your audience to see the dance and believe that they’ve seen this routine before.

Instead, you want to wow them with pizzaz and originality and think a little bit outside the box. Look at several dances you like and pull from those to make sure you don’t end up reverting back to one performance you love. If you’re having a creative block, ask your dancers what they think. They might have a favorite dance too that they want to pull from or will suggest a new move they saw that helps take the dance in a new direction, instead of a familiar one.

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Can’t-Miss December Dance Performances of 2016

dance performances

The stockings have been hung with care, the presents placed under the tree and every last card mailed. You’ve made your list and checked it twice, but there’s one more thing you need to do this month: See a show! December is packed with exciting dance events from coast to coast that are fun ways to celebrate the spirit of the season. We’ve picked out two dance performances going on this winter season that you just can’t miss.

1. The San Francisco Ballet “Nutcracker”

Recorded for PBS’ “Great Performances” series and called one of the best “Nutcracker” performances in the country by critics, seeing this legendary show at the majestic War Memorial Opera House has been the Christmas wish of young and old alike since the ballet premiered there for the first time in the U.S. in 1944.

SFB puts a local spin on the classic story, setting the tale in the romantic streets of historic San Francisco. Come to watch in wonder as toy soldiers march out of larger-than-life presents, sparkling snow begins to fall and the company’s athletic dancers leap to jaw-dropping heights. Leave with visions of sugarplum fairies dancing in your head. See “Nutcracker” Dec. 20-29 at the War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco, CA.

2. Wonderbound “Snow”

Wonderbound, an innovative and boundary-breaking dance company in Denver, presents “Snow”, an original fable about a dark and magical night. The one-of-a-kind show immerses audiences in the story by using their five senses, incorporating sense, projections and food created by local restaurants into the performance, along with audience participation. See “Winter” Dec. 13-22 at Wonderbound Studio, 1075 Park Avenue West, Denver, CO.

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Top 5 Ways to Improve Your Improv Dance Moves

Top 5 Ways to Improve Your Improv Dance Moves

Dance improvising can be a tricky art to master, especially when dancers are starting out. However, once you’ve got certain skills down pat, it will be easy for you to break out improvised moves pretty much anywhere, whether you’re in a street competition or looking to impress people during a dance audition. Have you ever improvised a few dance moves before? If you haven’t, don’t worry. Use these five starter tips to help you improve your improv dance moves anywhere you go.

1. Don’t Be Scared

Most dancers starting improvised dance moves may not know where to begin, especially if they’ve been given complete guidance and structure on how to dance until now. Dancers might be worried that they will look foolish or weird in front of their colleagues. However, it’s just the opposite! Most dancers don’t realize they have natural rhythm and beat from years of practicing choreography. Have fun with it and have confidence. Improvised dancing can be challenging, but it’s a way that allows people to let loose and express themselves. Regardless of what move you come up with, it will have some structure and flow.

Beginning improvised dance is also a great time to get to know your body and find out what kind of dance you really like. You’ll learn how your body naturally moves and what types of dancing you appreciate most, whether it’s modern or old school. If you’ve already done a little choreographing, improv dance will help you become a better teacher. You might come up with a few moves you really like and learn how to be more creative on the fly, allowing for more original dances.

2. Begin With a Frame

When you’re starting out, it’s good to have a little structure in your improvising. If you’re taking a dance improvisation class, it might be focused on one part of dancing, such as fluid movement, dancing gleefully or even working on space. Regardless of what the prompt is, don’t watch others around you. Instead, watch the instructor and listen to yourself. What do you think of when you picture fluidity? How do you express glee? Starting with your own emotions and feelings is a great way to help guide yourself through the process.

3. Go In With An Open Mind

If you enter an improvisation class and feel embarrassed or judgmental from the get-go, it’s not going to go well. You’ll constantly be judging your moves in the mirror or might be too focused on what others in the class are doing instead of what you are expressing. If you act this way, you won’t allow for any creative energy to develop. Only practice improvisation with an open mind and remember that it’s all about having fun.

If you look a little silly, so what? Every move helps guide you toward a better rhythm and motion. Going in with an open mind helps you stay in the moment and move freely instead of thinking about what’s coming next. Once you’re doing this, you’re improvising dance moves! Then you can work on which moves you like and can perfect them.

4. Follow Others, But Not Too Much

If you’re taking a dance improvisation class, your teacher might ask your class to show each other your moves. When this happens, look at other peers in your class and see what moves they’re creating that make their dances interesting and original. Of course, don’t copy these moves yourself, but notice what works within a dance piece and what doesn’t.

Watching others dance may open your mind to new types of dance that you didn’t initially consider in your own set of moves. If you’re really struggling and finding it difficult to create your own segment, perform in front of a few friends and see what they think. You can also watch tutorials and how-to videos on the best ways for improv dance to help inspire you.

5. Go Outside Of Your Comfort Zone

Improv dance is all about exploring new things. If you have a couple of regular moves you always go to, or there’s a certain type of dance you like, leave it at the door. Instead, go outside of your comfort zone and try new types of dance, even if you’re not familiar with them.

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Dance Photography: 4 Photography Tips

Dance Photography: 4 Tips

When many people think of dance, they think of the beauty of its motion, its grace and its uniformity. Those qualities, though beautiful, are ephemeral. If you’re a photographer, or simply a parent who’s taken an interest in dance photography, you want to capture the fleeting magic of dance in your photos. Consider these four suggestions on how to do it.

“Photographers need to understand this movement and how to capture it.”

1. Understand Movement

During all performances, whether dancers are beginners or advanced, they’re going to be on the move. For dance photography, you need to understand this movement and how to capture it without ending up with a bunch of blurry photos.

The main way to capture this movement correctly is by focusing the camera. During dance performances, some photographers will use auto focus instead of manual focus, which can take too long and cause you to lose desirable shots. If your camera has the capability, use continuous auto focus so it will stay focused while you move around to capture different angles.

Having a fast lens with a high frame rate is also beneficial. This way, you can continually shoot without having to refocus every single time, and you’ll get more frames out of it. This technique gives you a better chance of capturing that one breathtaking photo. Lastly, consider getting a monopod or tripod, as this equipment can help steady your shot as you move.

2. Get to Know Lighting

Lighting is a critical part of dance photography. However, during dance performances, capturing the right lighting is hard. Many performances will take place in low lighting in dark rooms. Sometimes the lighting will be colored to help set the scene for a performance. As a photographer, this can throw off your images if you don’t know how to handle this dark and colored lighting.

Many theaters and venues also will not allow any flash to go off during the performance, meaning you need to get creative if you’re looking to create the right photo. Moreover, if you are taking pictures at a live event, you must respect the event’s photo policies, as well as the viewing experience of other attendees.

Lighting plays a large part in whether your photos come out great or poor. Lighting plays a large part in whether your photos come out great or poor.

First, photographers need to determine the color temperature of the stage. Every type of artificial lighting has a color. For instance, most household lighting is orange, and fluorescent lights are green. Once you’re familiar with reading color temperature, you can easily figure out how to get your best photo.

Go into your white balance settings in your camera and adjust your color temperature which is usually set off by numbers. The lower numbers are for orange and red light, the high numbers are for white and blue lights. If you’re attempting to take photos during a performance with colored light, turn your saturation down as far as it will go. Otherwise, your photos will be oversaturated, which can affect the shape of your figures.

3. Look at Your Setting

Before you start shooting, look at the setting your pictures will be taken in. Are you capturing photos of a single dancer with a backdrop, or are you capturing one dancer with others in the background? Looking at your background and foreground before you start shooting, and planning your shots, will allow you to take the best photos possible.

If you’re taking photos of a solo performance, try to get decorations and other items within the frame to make the photo more captivating and interesting. You can shoot past dancers in the front of the photo or capture the dancers in the front and avoid those in the back.

4. Move With Your Shot

In order to capture the most captivating shots, you may need to move with your subject. Move around to capture different angles and lighting with your dancers. Moving around can be helpful in dance photography whether you are taking photos of one dancer or of a whole group. Even if you decide to stay to the left or right of the stage, changing angles and distance can give you a more dynamic set of photos.

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Dance Studio Registration Tips – The Final PUSH

Dance Studio Registration Tips 2015-16 – The Final PUSH

When I started my business, I started dance studio registration in June of each year and closed it in early November because that was when we measured students and ordered recital costumes. After that time we were technically closed to new students until summer brochures came out in March of the following year—a registration flow that left me unable to accept new students for three months out of the year.

Considering that my regular season was only nine months long, and that we were only open for classes five hours out of any given weekday, losing three months of enrollment opportunity was not a sustainable plan. So I made one of the best decisions of my business career and extended my enrollment period until Jan. 31. Last year alone, we enrolled an additional 80+ students in the months of November, December and January; 46 of whom were registered in the month of January alone.

If you are interested in expanding YOUR enrollment season, keep reading for 4 Final Push for Dance Studio Registration Tips:

  1. Prepare your Teachers
    A longer enrollment season allows you to serve more students each year. Which is wonderful for you and the students! However, mid-season enrollment can pose a real challenge for teachers if not managed well. If you are planning to expand your registration season, let your teachers know early and work with them to develop strategies for integrating latecomers into the classroom. The focus should be on getting new students up to speed quickly with as little disruption to the regular class as possible. You may even consider offering a complimentary private lesson for new students during this time to give them some movement vocabulary and context of how class will run before their first day. Parents appreciate this extra touch point as well.
  2. Minimize the Roadblocks to Mid-Season Enrollment
    Regular registration happens in June of each year at my studio and requires payment of the first and last month’s tuition along with a $25 registration fee. Dancewear is purchased in August and costume fees take place in November, which allows families to break up the cost of getting started in dance. A mid-season enrollment, however, typically has to cover all of the registration, dancewear and recital costume fees at one time in order to get started. Make it easier for families to get going with classes by breaking up those fees if possible. Even spacing registration and costume fees two weeks apart, or waiving the registration fee, will go a long way towards breaking down the barriers to mid-season enrollment, especially if families are feeling the stress of holiday spending.
  1. The Late Costume Issue
    We do the bulk of our costume ordering over Thanksgiving Break and a “catch up order” at the end of January to cover latecomers. To that end, it’s really important for parents of last minute enrollments to know that their recital costume will NOT be arriving at the same time as rest of the class. I recommend having parents sign a special statement on their registration form acknowledging that enrollments made after Dec. 1 will not receive their recital costume with the class order. It’s also a good idea to call parents of latecomers before the regular shipment comes in to give them the ability to opt of class that day if they feel their dancer will have a hard time seeing everyone else get a costume when theirs hasn’t arrived yet.
  2. Take Advantage of New Year Mojo
    The New Year is a very motivational time for adults. Between looking at getting back into shape and making resolutions, they are also looking for new activities for their children. Take advantage of this natural pattern by ramping up your second semester offerings. Consider offering new sections of class or advertising specials on specific classes (ones with lower enrollment). This is also the perfect time to promote an 8-week Adult Dance Sampler or a second semester day care class. With a little effort and organization the last months of your enrollment season may be your best of the year! Go get it!

Looking for more great dance studio enrollment tips? Check out 5 Ways to Get Last Minute Dance Students in the Door, Three Ways to Evaluate Your Dance Studio Enrollment and 6 Spring Dance Studio Enrollment Boosters.

Trouble viewing the article? Email us at info@tututix.com.

The “Expert Advice from Misty Lown” series is brought to you by More Than Just Great Dancing™ and TutuTix.

More Than Just Great Dancing

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DIY Dance Studio Decor on a Budget

DIY Dance Studio Decor, On a Budget

If you’re a new studio owner looking for some ideas on decorating your new space or just looking to refresh your current space, you might be seeking out a DIY way to create dance studio decor that won’t break the bank! Decorating can be so stressful, time consuming and expensive—especially when you’re doing DIY projects on the floors, walls and furniture. However, with some good tutorials and a long weekend you can transform your space in no time!

Cubby Revamp Project

Cubby Shelf

When starting up a new studio some of the essential items can be the most expensive to buy. A large cubby or shelving unit can be very expensive to buy brand new. This DIY project from a blogger on “My Love 2 Create” suggests a way to take a cubby shelving unit from the dumpster to a dance studio! This blogger found her cubby unit abandoned by the side of a dumpster, but you could also check various re-stores or the local dump. Once you have your unit, let the fixing begin!! She shows you how easy it is to transform a piece of furniture from shab to fab!

Top Hat Lighting

Top Hat Light Fixtures

Lighting can be one of the hardest projects to do on a tight budget! Especially something as fancy as a ceiling fixture. However, this DIY tutorial on top hat light fixtures shows you how to brighten up your studio or lobby space (with a twist!). The best part is that you only need 3 simple (and cheap) materials to get the project done! If you have more room and want to create some additional desk lamps to match your fixtures for your studio or lobby, all you have to do is use a lamp base and screw top with the hat as a shade. The linked blog has the details of the project, including a step by step tutorial on creating both the ceiling and the desk top hat fixtures.

Polka Dot Wall

Polka Dot Wall

Tackling a wall decoration project can seem like one of the most overwhelming and expensive projects to tackle from the kind of paint, to all of the professional supplies involved to make your wall a work of art. But what could be easier, cuter and more fun than a polka dot wall, made with sweet potatoes!? This tutorial shows you how to create your own fun and colorful polka dot wall with acrylic paint, sweet potatoes, and materials that you can find around the house. It’s an easy project to do by yourself, or you can grab a friend or even the kids! The best part is that this project saves you a day full of headaches and frustration at the home improvement store looking at paint chips and the tutorial writer even suggests mixing some of your own colors with the acrylic paints. The blog post linked gives you the step-by-step instructions to creating this fun work of art!

Paper Bag Lobby Floors

Paper Bag Lobby Floors

Flooring in the lobby can be such a hassle to figure out! There is constantly traffic coming in and out, moms with their coffee, little siblings with snacks, and not to mention those rainy days where keeping the floor clean can seem impossible. This tutorial shows you how to transform your wood or concrete lobby floors into a durable floor that will take a little bit of a beating, with a few simple supplies. The feature of this project is that the look of the floors is so rustic and simple, it’s easy to clean and it hardly shows the wear and tear! The blogger that posted this DIY idea, even made a post linked to a year later to show how well the floors held up after much use.

 

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