When you’re preparing for recitals, you’ll probably start thinking about how your dancers will take their performances from the classroom to the big stage. An important part of transitioning dancers into a venue setting is teaching them stage directions like upstage, downstage and the like. This lesson can be tricky, especially if you’re working with young performers, but it’s important for students to learn if they plan to pursue dance in the future. Here are three tips you can use to make teaching stage directions easy and fun.
1. Explain the Terminology
The first step toward helping your students fully comprehend stage directions is to take a few minutes to go over the concept. The Scottish Ballet explained that modern stage directions are from the point of view of the dancer, which makes them easier to learn.
However, there are also the terms upstage and downstage, which may seem counterintuitive to some dancers. The origin of these directions comes from when stages were “raked,” or built on a tilt so the audience could see better. In those days, going upstage, or away from the audience, literally meant going up in elevation. Understanding where the terms came from may be beneficial for your students.
2. Use Directions in the Classroom
Another way to help your dancers get the hang of stage directions is to use them in the classroom. The Dance Exec recommended taping signs to your mirrors that detail stage left and right after you teach the lesson. Begin using the terms during classes and rehearsals so your dancers become accustomed to responding to the directions. You should be sure to use the terms when teaching recital choreography, as these performances will have to be moved out of the studio and onto a real stage.
3. Play Games to Check Knowledge
You can also use games to measure how effective a lesson has been at teaching stage directions. Take down any signs that you may have up, then call out a stage direction – downstage center, upstage right and so on. Have your students go to where they think the direction dictates. Dancers who go to the wrong zone are “out,” and you can continue playing until you have just a few students left. It’s a fun way to test your dancers’ knowledge between run-throughs and other activities.
As a studio owner, you probably hear one burning question each year during registration: “When is it too late to start dancing?” Because it’s such an important and prominent question in the dance industry, there are ample blog posts, forums and articles dedicated solely to the topic. The answer from experts and amateurs alike is that it’s never too late to start pursuing a passion for dance! That said, late starters should also have realistic expectations about how fast and far they can progress as dancers.
Too Little, Too Late?
Many dancers put on their leotards as soon as they begin to walk. Sometimes the calling is simply undeniable, and keen parents enroll these children in dance classes as early as preschool. The prowess of lifelong dancers often deters older students, who believe they would never be able to catch up to the same level of skill. However, this notion is extremely misguided, as you’re never too old to follow your dreams! Whether it’s a teenager or middle-aged adult asking about dance classes, let them know that there are notable physical benefits to taking up dance at any age, and with patience and dedication, they will likely achieve their goals. However, it’s important to be realistic about expectations. Pointe Perfect noted that while there’s no “cutoff age” for professional dancers, it’s unlikely that an adult who has limited time to practice will be able to catch up with students who have dedicated their lives to dancing. Explain to inquirers that even if they may never make it to the professional level, that doesn’t mean they can’t compete in national events, become an inspiration to others and have a whole lot of fun while dancing!
Success Knows No Age
While the odds of a late bloomer making it to a professional level are low, it does happen from time to time. Imagine if someone had told Misty Copeland that she was too old to start ballet class at 13? The world would have missed out on a trailblazing icon who serves as an inspiration to dancers around the world. There are a number of other unconventional success stories that demonstrate that you’re never too old to start dancing. Dance magazine pointed to David Zurak, a member of the Martha Graham Dance Company, who didn’t find his passion for dance until he was 23! There are also a lot of dancers who take up the art form without hopes of making it big, but are still amazed at how dance transforms their lives. The Guardian interviewed a 75-year-old man named Muhammad Yusuf who joined a weekly dance class at a local community center in hopes of staying active and socializing more. Yusuf explained that not only has the opportunity allowed him to reconnect with his passion for dance, but it has helped to keep his health problems under control as well. These stories show that success and ability isn’t determined by age, but rather by passion, dedication and desire!
Encouraging Students to Follow Their Dreams
Chances are that you decided to open a studio to share your love for dance with the next generation. That’s why it’s part of your responsibility to encourage students of all ages, shapes and sizes to do what they love. Be honest about what latecomers can expect – months or years of beginner-level classes and lots of extra practice time – but let them know that there’s no such thing as “too late.” Once students make the decision to step into their leotards, they’ll probably fall in love with the art form the same way you and so many others have.
If you have a defined vision of how you want your dance studio to look, that will make the task of decorating a lot easier. However, many new studio owners may have a lot of competing ideas or no clear path when it comes to interior design. One of the best ways to get inspiration for your dance studio’s design is to browse sites like Pinterest to see what other schools are doing. There are many creative individuals who are happy to share their ideas for others to use. Here are five inspired dance studio design concepts that you may want to incorporate into your new or existing dance studio.
1. Gallery Walls
One of the hottest interior dance studio design trends right now is the collage or gallery wall. This unique decor style can be used in just about any space, from a bedroom to a foyer or even a dance studio! If you have a blank wall in your studio space that you’re not sure how to decorate, a gallery wall will really showcase your personality while adding interest and dimension to the room.
What can you display in the collage? Anything you want! Some framed inspirational quotes may be a good place to start. If you have any ribbons or plaques from dance competitions, throw those into the mix as well. You can also include less conventional items like clocks, wooden initials or chalkboards.
2. Glittery Glamor
If your studio caters mostly to females, you may want to give the rooms a magical feel. What better way to do that than with everyone’s favorite crafting supply?
When you paint the walls of your studio, mix a packet of paint crystals into each gallon. You can pick up this inexpensive product at most home improvement stores, and they usually come in your choice of silver and gold. Then you just paint as usual, but your walls will be instantly glam with their sparkly sheen.
3. Strikingly Mod
A glittery pink wall may be good for your preschool ballerinas, but it’s not the best way to make your studio appealing to male dancers. If you’re trying to attract more boys to your school, make sure the design is “unisex,” so to speak. You can achieve an aesthetic that’s appealing to both boys and girls with a modern-inspired look.
Choose a few bold and vibrant colors, such as electric blue and lemon yellow, to paint the walls with. Make your signage, chairs and tables simple and in a plain color like black or white. The stark contrast will look elegant and sophisticated without being overly feminine.
4. Eclectic Decor
When you are torn between a few great dance studio design ideas, you don’t necessarily have to just pick one. Eclectic decor is especially popular with homeowners, but you can incorporate the premise into your studio. Gather up your favorite decorations and see which unlikely pairings look good together. Sometimes mixing a few sleek modern pieces with more rustic, unfinished elements creates a perfect balance that wouldn’t be possible if you just stuck to one theme.
5. Trophy Displays
If you’ve been teaching dance for a number of years, you’ll likely amassed an impressive collection of trophies. You could simply line them up on shelves for students to see, or you can get creative and think outside the box with your displays.
One fun option – if you have a little bit of money for a renovation – is to install recessed cavities where trophies can be arranged. This will keep them from taking up too much space and create a professional look for your studio. You could also install a narrow shelf around the top of your walls for prominent, yet out-of-the-way storage.
Can you imagine the following? A house builder works for nine months with clients to build a beautiful family home. The builder communicates and plans; hiring subcontractors, building walls, insuring the project, financing the materials and making the finishing touches just right. The builder takes draws from the clients for expenses along the way, but when it comes time to deliver the final product and hand over the keys, he takes a pass on getting paid for the last weeks of work.
This would never happen in the “real world,” but in “our world,” it happens all too often.
Studio owners put nine months of work into building a beautiful product and then fail to take it to the finish line from a business perspective.
If you are looking for dance recital ideas to produce a dance recital that pays you for your time and effort, keep reading!
The Biggest Expense – Producing a profitable program starts well before the show begins. When I ask studio owners what their biggest recital expense is, they will inevitably say “theater rental.” WRONG. Your biggest expense (and easiest expense to control) is most likely costume purchases. Control expenses by working with one trusted vendor. I moved 98% of my costume order to Curtain Call this year. By working with one costume house, I earned better volume discounts, consistent ships dates and a dedicated Customer Relationship Manager—which saved me time and costly returns.
Tickets – When was the last time you went to the movies for free? Oh, you didn’t? That’s because they’re not free and neither is renting a theater and putting on a recital.☺ Calculate your appropriate ticket price point by taking time to truly count the cost of all expenses associated with show production including, but not limited to, facility rental, dressing room rental, rehearsal space rental, lighting design, microphones, headsets, tech crew, sound crew, housemen, ushers, music editing, props, faculty time and insurance.
Keepsake Program Books – Part 1 – Are you producing a high quality recital program book? If not, you are missing out on a chance to not only elevate the professionalism of your show, but also to create an additional stream of revenue before the dry summer months hit. The first year I produced a Keepsake Program Book, I called the show “My Hometown.” We dedicated the dances to local businesses and then used the dedication as a reason to ask them to place a congratulatory ad for the dancers. We sold a little over 30 ads the first year and now sell 80-90 ads on a yearly basis
Keepsake Program Books – Part 2 – Businesses aren’t the only ones interested in placing ads in the program book. Take advantage of your professional publication to encourage families to celebrate the accomplishments of their dancers and graduating seniors by placing “Brava!” ads.
Commemorative Merchandise – The possibilities for commemorative merchandise are endless. We partner with a local florist to provide flowers. Our biggest seller is a branded recital t-shirt complete with every dancer’s name on the back. The students bring sharpies and sign each other’s shirts after the show. Many of our More Than Just Great DancingTM affiliate studios offer an even broader assortment of commemorative items at their shows including recital bears, bondi bands, sweatshirts, picture frames, bracelets, charms, water bottles, parent gear and more.
Memory Makers – Dance is the only art that disappears as soon as you create it. Make the celebration last by providing quality photography and videography opportunities for your families. Partner with local vendors to trade services or profit share. Or, take it a step further by investing in the equipment and training to provide the service yourself.
Most Importantly… Most importantly, a professional, positive recital experience for families is your best promotion for summer and fall enrollment—the lifeblood of your business. The time, energy and planning you put into your show will pay you dividends for months to come.
The “Expert Advice from Misty Lown” series is brought to you by More Than Just Great Dancing™ and TutuTix.
The unfortunate but honest truth is that girls make up the majority of students at dance studios across the country. Dance is too often viewed as a feminine pastime, and as a result, boys who may be interested in taking classes are sometimes hesitant to ask. So what should you do if you want to bring boys into the studio? Here are a few steps you can take to encourage dance for boys and make your school a welcoming place for males and females alike.
1. Consider Your Facilities
The first thing you should do if you’re trying to attract more boys to your studio is take a good look around the premises. Are the walls pink? Is the waiting room decorated with pictures of female ballerinas? Are your changing rooms for girls only? These design choices may be in line with your current clientele, but they will likely work against you when it comes to selling dance for boys in your studio. Dance Advantage explained that simple, vibrant decor in neutral colors is often a good choice when catering to both genders. You should also be sure to feature a variety of dancers and genres in your artwork.
2. Rethink Marketing Efforts
In the same way that your studio might be female-centric, your marketing efforts might give off feminine vibes as well. Revisit your website and consider whether it’s clear that you welcome and host dance for boys. You may want to consider adding a note that you offer classes for males on your advertisements and promotions as well. Don’t just assume that boys know they’re welcome – make it crystal clear in your marketing efforts. It may also help to rethink where you’re advertising. Consider putting up fliers in community centers that boys frequent or reaching out to male youth groups in your town.
3. Find a Male Representative
A strong male role model can go a long way toward increasing your male enrollment numbers. Dance Teacher magazine explained that a talented and dedicated instructor is often the reason that studios become a mecca for male dancers.
“You need to find someone who is committed, community-centered and not self-centered,” Erik Saradpon, director of hip-hop at Temecula Dance Company in California, told Dance Teacher magazine. “You want someone reliable and dependable who can see the program in terms of years and isn’t impatient.”
If you have a few male students already, it might be worthwhile to have them speak to potential students about their experiences at your studio. Boys likely want to know that they’re joining a facility that focuses on athleticism, and they may be more convinced if they hear about classes from a peer.
4. Be Prepared for Their Needs
When you finally get a few males to come in for a class, be sure your instructors are prepared to meet their needs. Boys may respond better to different teaching methods than their female counterparts, so it’s best to delegate the task to a teacher who’s worked with males before. Dance Magazine explained that guys often get bored during the same classes that females thrive in, so teachers should try to mix up activities to really engage the students.
“One time we brought a mini trampoline into the studio to work on entrechats,” Peter Boal, director of Pacific Northwest Ballet and the PNB School, explained to Dance Magazine. “The boys were so excited, it was as if had we had turned on the TV.”
For your first few male classes, be sure to have an arsenal of activities ready so you can find what resonates with the students. If you wow them during the first few sessions, you’ll likely retain more male students and be able to grow your enrollment.
Remember this Broadway song? “Summertime….and the livin’ is easy. Fish are jumping and the cotton is high.” Well, that may be true for Porgy and Bess, but in my world summer can be tough. If I were singing that song, the lyrics might go more like, “Summertime…and the livin’ ain’t easy. Students are jumping and the overhead’s high!”
Summer enrollment drop is a natural phenomenon as families try other activities, head out for vacation, or just plain take a break. As a mom, I totally get it. I have five kids and summer is the best time for us to decompress and get out the scheduling grind.
But, when I look at summer through the eyes of business ownership, there is no doubt about it—the show must go on!
If you are looking for ideas to take your summer from fizzle to sizzle, keep reading for Seven Summer Savers, including summer dance camp ideas and more!
Pre-Pay the Rent (or Mortgage) – Payroll and utilities may fluctuate by the season, but rent and mortgage obligations stay the same all year around. Save yourself summer stress by pre-paying all or part of your summer rental or mortgage over the course of the school year. By paying a little bit more each month when tuition is steady, you can step into summer with confidence even though cash flow may not be as strong.
Weekly Stay Strong Classes – Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best solutions, so read the following statement twice. “The best way to keep things going is to keep things going.” Sometimes we get so caught up in doing something “new” for the summer that we forget to work what already works. Weekly classes work for us all year long. To that end, we run a six week session of regular technique classes to keep our company kids in shape over the summer. No splash, no flash, just six weeks of solid technique classes. Last year we had over 100 kids participate in this program.
Themed Kid Camps – If you want to capture the hearts of kids, look no further than the toy aisle at Target. What are the hottest selling toys, movies and games for kids? Once you figure that out, you have a treasure trove of ideas for theme-based camps at your fingertips. We have had over 200 kids participate in Frozen-themed camps with no sign of slowing, and there are plenty more warm hugs with Olaf ahead on our summer roster.
Master Class Series – Once a month each summer we will bring in a master teacher for a series of classes. These two- to three-day workshops give students a chance to spread their wings technically and artistically without the expense of travel. Get more out of master classes by asking teachers to bring choreography selections that can be used for future community events or competitions.
Alumni Features – Summer is a time when graduates return home from college and are looking for work. Motivate your current students by letting them take class with alumni who are dancing in college or have established careers. Featuring alumni is also a great reminder to parents that dance lessons can add up to great things for students in the future.
Look Outside the Box – One of our best summer programs has been selling technique to local dance teams. These students may not have time to take weekly classes during the school year, but summer is a different story. Add value to your team class by bundling classes with choreography or complimentary cleaning sessions for competition later in the year.
Private Power – If you are looking for a way to not only strengthen your dancers, but to make use of studio space in the summer, nothing is more flexible than private lessons. Take the administrative hassle out of private lessons by using an app like SignUpGenius.com and put the power of private instruction to work for you this summer.
You probably have some big goals for your studio in 2015, whether it’s to increase enrollment, diversify your class offerings or stage a bigger and better recital. While you work toward these objectives, it’s also important to take note of a few big dance studio trends that are at work within the industry. Dance studios need to keep up with the latest trends if they want to remain competitive, so think about how you can incorporate these changes into your business.
1. Digital Here, There and Everywhere
If you’re still not quite computer savvy, now is the time to catch up. Unfortunately for the computer illiterate, the dance industry is quickly embracing all the wonders the Internet has to offer. Dancers and their parents like to keep up on studio news through emails, text messages and social media sites. It’s also a good idea to reassess your studio website and see if it needs to be updated or otherwise improved. Consumers frequently use digital devices to access websites, so be sure your site is optimized for mobile viewing. All these little steps will help to ensure students new and old can quickly and efficiently get the information they need.
2. Increased Emphasis on Culture
Another aspect of your studio that might need a facelift is your mission statement. If you’re located in a competitive area, it’s essential that you have clear goals and policies that set your school apart. DanceStudioOwner.com explained that students want to feel as though they’re part of the culture of your studio. Play up the atmosphere, morals and opportunities that your business offers in your advertising this year. It may very well help you achieve your other goals too!
3. Cultural Dance Trends
Sometimes it can be beneficial to switch up your class offerings in an unexpected way. If you want to give your students a unique learning opportunity but aren’t sure what direction to go in, you may want to consider offering some cultural dance classes. For several years, the Zumba craze has been introducing dancers to steps from around the world, and the Upstart Business Journal noted that Bollywood-inspired dance classes will likely be a hit this year. If you have the resources to offer this type of cultural dance, it can certainly bring in new students and help your current pupils expand their repertoires.
4. Biketards Take Center Stage
Tired of selling the same old sparkly leotards? If so, then you’re in luck. There’s a new dance costume movement that’s gaining steam, and it features the biketard. Dance Hub explained that these costumes offer a little more coverage than traditional leos while still allowing seamless movement. They come in a wide variety of colors and patterns, and you can choose skirted options as well. Biketards are especially popular for lyrical performances, so look into these costumes when you’re planning your 2015 recital.
5. Positive Reviews are Powerful
Finally, be sure to keep an eye on your studio’s ratings on sites like Yelp and Facebook. Forbes magazine noted that 75 percent of consumers look at online reviews before purchasing a product or service. If your ratings are a little lower than your competitors, it could hurt your business, so take steps to ethically improve your online reviews. This can be as simple as asking a few of your long-time parents to jot down their thoughts online. Even small steps can go a long way toward improving your studio’s online presence and capturing the attention of potential students.
Whether you’re collecting money to attend a dance competition or pay for a studio field trip, dance fundraising can certainly be hit or miss. Some years you might exceed your goals, while others you end up losing money. If you plan to do some dance fundraising at your studio this year, use these tricks to optimize your earnings and reduce headaches along the way.
Be Open about the Process
It’s best to keep your dance fundraising efforts pretty transparent, especially when it comes to how the money will be used. Dance Teacher magazine noted that many times conflict will arise because parents or dancers think it’s unfair that certain people do the brunt of the work but everyone reaps the benefits. If you can be forthcoming about what the benefits of participating in the fundraiser will be and how the money will be delegated, you may be able to mitigate conflict.
“Be sure to do preplanning and have it all lined up as to how it’s going to work and how the money will be divided, before you approach the parents,” Mary Myers, director of The Dance Connection in Oklahoma, told Dance Teacher magazine.
More Hands Are Better
If you have four or five volunteers trying to run a dance fundraising event for a hundred people, chances are that everyone will be frustrated and overworked. The more people that help out with your cause, the easier the process will be. However, many studio owners don’t like to make participation mandatory. If you can find a way to incentivize students and parents to volunteer, chances are that you’ll be able to host a more impressive event. One option is to let students earn credits for each hour they help out, and let them put credits toward different rewards like discounts on dance attire or private practice time.
Don’t Rely on Traditional Methods
On a Dance Mom forum, a number of individuals noted that traditional fundraising techniques, such as hosting special parties, holding raffles and selling knickknacks, don’t collect enough money to offset the costs and time. Instead of falling back on your usual fundraising method that garners average results, think outside the box and come up with a fun and engaging strategy. Scholastic recommended holding a garage sale, staging a dance-off or running a funny contest. It’s also helpful if there’s a way for people to donate money online, so they’re not limited to the cash they have on-hand during your event.
The Tolbert Yilmaz School of Dance in Roswell, Georgia, is entering its 35th year and still continues to grow and thrive under the leadership of Nancy Tolbert Yilmaz. If the school’s five start-of-the-art studios, changing rooms and closed-circuit monitoring weren’t impressive enough, the studio is planning to move to a new custom-designed facility in the coming years to offer the best possible experience to the young dancers it serves.
Starting Off with a Bang
The idea to open her own studio first came to Yilmaz when she was teaching and dancing professionally in Atlanta. She saw the lack of studios in Roswell, a town 30 miles north of downtown Atlanta, and jumped on the market opening. With the help of her now associate director, Yilmaz converted an old building into a dance studio, and the Tolbert Yilmaz School of Dance was off and running.
“I decided, along with our associate director, Mary Lynn Taylor, to offer a few classes,” Yilmaz explained. “So we put out the notice and anticipated maybe 75 kids tops on the day of the first open house. That day, 350 kids showed up.”
Since then, the school has only continued to grow as it teaches dancers of all ages the beautiful art form. Today, Yilmaz estimated that there are around 800 students in her open school, as well as 100 pre-professional dancers in the resident ballet company. The studio, which has moved to a larger location since its impressive kick off, caters to students ages 2 through adult and offers classes in ballet, tap, jazz, modern, hip hop, acrobatics, musical theater, Pilates and kinderdance. They also recently added an aerial silks course, which allows dancers to take their performances to new heights.
Staying ahead of the game
New dance studios have cropped up in Roswell over the course of 35 years, but Yilmaz has managed to keep her business ahead of the pack through a dedication to professionalism and quality instruction. The school’s resident performing dance company, the Roswell Dance Theatre, offers pre-professional instruction to young men and women ages 10 to 18.
“The kids in the ballet and modern companies are on a pre-professional track,” Yilmaz noted. “They’re looking not only to go to college for dance, but to go on a dance scholarship. I’ve got former students that are working all over the place: one with the New York City Ballet, one with Ballet Hispanico, a couple on Broadway.”
Over the years, the group has performed around the country and internationally, as well as in three Olympic ceremonies. However, among their various performances and competitions, the Roswell Theatre still finds time to give back to the community.
“We have an entire concert that’s held every year called ‘Hugs from Young Choreographers,’ which is a project conceived and run by Mary Lynn,” Yilmaz explained. “The oldest dancers from our company each choreograph a piece for the concert … All the money raised goes towards a charitable organization. [Over the years], we’ve given the funds to a shelter for homeless girls, a student here who needed a kidney transplant and an organization called Camp Sunshine.”
At the end of the day, Yilmaz realizes that to ensure the Tolbert Yilmaz School of Dance’s continued success, she has to always strive to provide new, exciting opportunities and keep up with industry trends.
Growing Sales with TutuTix
One of the ways that Yilmaz kept up with the growth of her studio is by switching to online ticketing. She looked into a number of different vendors, but ultimately decided that TutuTix would be the best fit for her business.
“What really brought me to TutuTix was the customer service,” Yilmaz said. “I’m not the Internet whiz that a lot of younger people are. I didn’t know how the service would work, and they were very patient. They took their time and answered all my crazy questions.”
The first year using the online ticketing service, the Tolbert Yilmaz School of Dance almost doubled their ticket sales. Increased profits from performances go a long way toward providing a better experience for students.
“It really helped our company get that much better overnight!” Yilmaz noted.
When you begin planning the end-of-year showcase for your studio, one of your major tasks will be to choose a theme. There is quite literally a world of choices, and it’s tricky to be both fun and unique with your theme. But, it’s an important challenge to pick a theme that will can show off your creativity and can keep your dancers and their parents interested and engaged. The Dance Exec explains that the easiest dance recital themes are either based on a story or around a general topic. For example, “Fairytales” or “Broadway” are classic recital themes, but they can get old quickly. Here are a few ideas for dance recital themes to make this year’s showcase one to remember.
Things to Think About
There are a couple of factors you’ll need to take into account when you’re brainstorming themes and narrowing down your list.
First, it’s essential that there are enough music and costume options to fit the needs of your show. If you decide on “Arabian Nights” for your studio’s showcase, make sure that there’s a variety of cultural music covered under your music licensing agreement and that you’ll be able to purchase appropriate outfits for all your age groups.
There’s kind of a chicken-and-egg process to go through with costumes and recital themes – as you come up with a potential good idea for a theme, put in a quick 10 minutes and browse around costume websites to see what the availability is like. If in that time you don’t see ANYTHING you might use, you’ll know that your theme might be a tougher option to put together.
Another consideration is whether there are enough performance options to accommodate your different class levels, ages and genres. Studios that offer many different dance styles and have a large number of classes will generally need to pick a broader theme that is open to interpretation. However, if your showcase will feature just fix or six classes, it’s easier to pick a more specific theme to base performances around.
Think Outside the Box
Sometimes you might find yourself in a slump when it comes to brainstorming ideas. When this happens, try browsing Pinterest or your favorite dance forums for inspiration. Don’t just search for dance recital themes, either. Look at wedding and birthday party ideas too! Many are easy to translate into a dance showcase. Here are a few unique ideas to get your creative gears turning.
Choose one word to base your recital around. Many studios have gone this route with words like “dance” or “music,” but don’t be afraid to venture outside dance-related phrases. For example, if you choose to use “Sunshine” as your theme, you could use songs like “Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers, “Pocketful of Sunshine” by Natasha Bedingfield, “Sunshine on My Shoulders” by John Denver and any other music that fits with the concept. This particular theme would also lend itself to cheery stage decorations and cute brochures.
If your dancers like to use props in their performances, pick one particular item to be the unifying aspect of your recital. It can be classic props like umbrellas, hats or chairs. You can also get a little wild and use an item like clocks, ribbon wands or hula hoops. Work with your instructors to find unique ways to work the props into each performance. Don’t forget to come up with a witty or pun-based name for your showcase!
Why not make your recital an homage to some sort of collection? Maybe your dancers would like to depict certain career options. You can plan dances that involve lawyers, writers, travelers and more. As an added bonus, this type of theme allows you to get really creative with costumes. Another option might be to present a collection of important moments in history. Work with your dancers to create performances that highlight the discovery of electricity, the first plane ride, man walking on the moon and other noteworthy events. If those ideas don’t tickle your fancy, what about a theme based on the colors of the rainbow? The options for dance recital themes are endless, so don’t limit yourself to traditional ideas. The more creative your event is, the more memorable it will be for both students and parents.
Check out this list of possible themes, and let us know which are your favorites!
Dance competitions are a great learning experience for students young and old, but they can also be stressful and very intense. National competitions bring together groups of amazing dancers in huge venues with large crowds. That type of setting, combined with the pressure to perform, can be intimidating for just about anyone, no matter their age or experience. If you’re bringing your dance students to a competition for the first time, use these tips to get everyone in the right state of mind and make it an experience they’ll never forget.
1. Know What to Expect
You can never be too prepared for dance competitions. Make sure you’ve crossed every “t” and dotted each “i,” and don’t forget to let your dancers know what to expect. It’s a good idea to look into how many other groups will be there, how long the competition is expected to last and what the stage will be like. The more information you, your teachers and the dancers have going into the competition, the less likely it is that you’ll hit a bump along the road.
2. Prepare a Schedule
Another essential step to a smooth and easy competition experience is a detailed schedule. In an article about competition life, the University of Texas at Dallas recommended planning to arrive early to give your students plenty of time to register, change, stretch, warm up and relax their nerves. If your group has time between performances, make sure you note when to start warming up again and set an alarm to remind yourself. You may also want to note other performances you want to watch, the best times to take food breaks and when the awards ceremony will be. When you have a schedule set, it’s easier to keep everyone on the same page and prevent any last-minute scrambles.
3. Stay in Tune with Student Needs
There’s so much going on at dance competitions that teachers sometimes get distracted by paperwork, costume glitches or other performances. However, you’re going to need to pay special attention to your dancers and anticipate their needs. Don’t forget to bring along your dance competition survival kit, packed with cosmetics, sewing kits and medicine. You’ll also want to have extra water bottles and snacks on hand. If you notice that your dancers are looking particularly jittery, take them aside for a short pep talk. It’s important to explain that there’s nothing to be nervous about and that everyone will be proud regardless of how they score.
4. Perform for the Right Reasons
In your pre-performance pep talks, explain to your dancers why you’re attending the competition. Many novice students may assume they need to win a trophy to have a positive experience, but that’s certainly not the case. Dance Spirit magazine explained that medal or no medal, competitions create better dancers and performers. They teach students how to handle pressure and work together to achieve a goal. At the end of the day, you want your dancers to have fun, so don’t make the competition all about their scores.
“People focused only on winning don’t have fun,” Adrienne Canterna, an experienced dancer who co-founded “ROCK the Ballet” and appeared in the movie “Step Up,” told Dance Spirit magazine.
5. Practice Good Sportsmanship
If you want your dancers to come away from the competition with smiles, make sure that you’re encouraging and modeling good sportsmanship. It’s tempting to focus so much on your performance that you neglect to interact with people around you, but your students will benefit from talking with and watching other dancers. Encourage your group to cheer for other performances and wish other dancers luck. Even if they don’t walk away with trophies, they’ll be happy to leave with new friends and a heightened feeling of camaraderie.
Chasta Hamilton Calhoun is the busy woman behind Stage Door Dance Productions in Raleigh, North Carolina. She oversees her studios and satellite programs, choreographs musical theater pieces and runs The Dance Exec blog and seminar series, yet still finds time to give back to the local community with the help of her students. Calhoun explained that her passion for the arts and dedication to service led her to where she is today.
The Story Behind Stage Door Dance Productions
When Calhoun was attending North Carolina State University, she planned to pursue a career as an attorney. Her aspirations were to become a successful businesswoman, and she thought that law was the way to go. However, throughout her time at school, she came to realize that it might be worthwhile to follow her true passion: dance.
“You can be a successful career person in the arts just as much as you can as an attorney, a doctor or an engineer – the other more ‘traditional’ paths,” Calhoun explained. “I stuck with my passion and it really paid off.”
With the help of her now husband, Calhoun opened the first Stage Door Dance Productions studio in 2009. Since then she’s expanded to a second location and also founded two satellite programs at the Carolina Country Club and the North Hills Club. Overall, she and her staff of 10 work with around 500 students between the ages of 2 and 18, teaching all genres of dance, from ballet to tap to acrobatics.
Becoming a Community Staple
Since day one, Calhoun has made community service an integral part of Stage Door Dance studios. In college, she founded the Sightless Rhythm Tap Project at The Governor Morehead School for the Blind. Calhoun tries to instill a spirit of giving in her students by organizing service projects at community events.
“It’s such an important part of a person’s character to recognize the value of service and giving back,” Calhoun explained. “That’s why we try to weave it into studio opportunities.”
Students from Stage Door Dance perform at community events such as the Relay For Life and the annual Raleigh Christmas Parade. They hold fundraisers and drives in the studio to support both local and national causes, as well as participate in numerous other outreach programs. Calhoun’s inspiring mission has caught the attention of a number of institutions, and she was awarded the Goodman Leadership Award for Excellence in the Arts in 2012 and the 40 Under 40 Award in 2014. She’s beyond grateful for the recognition, but even happier to see the arts take the spotlight.
“It was so exciting to see that kind of recognition being handed out in the area of the arts because a lot of times it gets pigeonholed to more ‘traditional’ career fields,” Calhoun said.
Working with TutuTix
One of Calhoun’s side projects – the Dance Exec blog – was the reason she discovered TutuTix’s online ticketing solutions. She originally used the service to sell seats for seminars hosted by The Dance Exec, but quickly decided it would be a worthwhile venture for Stage Door Dance’s recital ticketing as well.
“When we made that transition, I have to say that I would never in a million years go back to the way we were doing ticketing before,” Calhoun noted. “It’s progressive, it’s easy and their support is just unbelievable.”
Calhoun explained that when she uses TutuTix, it’s a serious burden off her shoulders when recital season arrives. She knows that her ticketing will be taken care of with TutuTix, so she can focus on the other aspects of planning and executing an amazing recital for her dancers.
I live in a place affectionately called the Frozen Tundra. It’s not exactly the Arctic, but Green Bay Packer fans claim the whole state is pretty close to that from about mid-December to mid-March.
No matter where you live, don’t let the colder weather or busyness of the season lull you into taking your foot off the gas in terms of seeking new enrollments. Don’t fall asleep at the wheel! Registration incentives, pre-planning for upcoming classes and events, and getting creative with marketing ideas are just a few of the tools you can use.
Winter is a GREAT time to plan for Spring dance studio enrollment boosters. Here are 6 ideas to get you started:
FB contest for tuition credit. Last week we started a unique FB contest that has gotten a lot of traction. The promotion is a picture of our “Give the Gift of Dance” basket. It’s basically a dance class starter set with a value of $130, but sells for $95. The contest component is that everyone who shares it and comments that they did so below the picture is entered to win a $100 studio tuition credit. We got 68 shares the first day! What’s better yet? Many people not only mentioned that they shared, but they commented what they loved about the studio.
“Summer in Winter”! Winter is the best time to plan for new summer classes. Tie up loose ends on guest artists now! Strong planning now means the ability to begin taking enrollment for summer by the end of February.
Line up Spring community performances now. Now is the time to line up community performances for the spring. Community performances are a great way to showcase what is great about your studio, pass out information and teach kids how to use their gifts and talents to serve others.
Call the local dance teams. High school dance team is a big deal around these parts. Instead of trying to compete, we partner with them several times a year. We offer free rehearsal space for teams as needed. We also offer a special “cleaning” session with one of our teachers that can be purchased. Once you establish a relationship with a team, it’s an easy transition to promote an audition workshop or classes in the dance team style.
Move your fall enrollment date up. Our registration date for fall used to always be June 1, however, when I had children of my own I realized that all of the good preschools held their registration for fall in February! While I haven’t quite been able to move our registration up that far, we have moved it to April, which has helped enrollment tremendously. The parents encourage enrollment in groups by talking about which classes they will take next year while they wait for classes to let out.
Keep taking students! Sounds simple, but the impact is powerful! There is NEVER a time at Misty’s Dance Unlimited where someone is not able to enroll. We take school year students until Jan. 31. Beginning Feb. 1, they can sign up for summer classes. Now imagine if I still cut off enrollment in December with the costume order (which I used to do!). Last year we took 20+ enrollments in January. Many will become long-term students. If I hadn’t accepted their enrollments, some might’ve waited for fall…but most would’ve kept looking for another studio.
Looking for more great dance studio enrollment tips? Check out:
It’s the holiday season and your dancers are surely excited for winter break. No matter what their backgrounds, kids are always glad to spend time with family and friends and take a break from school! If you want a way to bring some of the seasonal spirit into your studio, check out our tips on fun holiday warm-up music for dance. Dancers will love to sing along to their favorite festive tunes while they stretch and practice the moves for the upcoming show.
However, the issue becomes playing songs that are both appropriate for students and, if yours is not a faith-based arts organization, nondenominational. The Street explained that focusing too much on religious music or decorations in any business can rub certain customers the wrong way and, in extreme cases, end up in court. Here are a few tips on how to keep your holiday cheer appropriate for all your dancers and their families.
Upbeat Songs From Pop Favorites
Many classic holiday tunes express religious sentiments, so they’re not the best choice to play in the studio. Instead, check out some holiday albums from contemporary artists for some holiday songs. These types of tracks usually have lyrics that are relatable to everyone, as well as an upbeat tempo that’s perfect as warm-up music for dance. Women’s Health magazine recommended the following songs to accompany a workout:
“Underneath the Tree” by Kelly Clarkson
“All I Want for Christmas Is You” by Mariah Carey
“My Only Wish (This Year)” by Britney Spears
“Santa Tell Me” by Ariana Grande
Another option is to use instrumental tracks of songs like “Jingle Bells,” “Winter Wonderland” or “Deck the Halls.” However, be sure to respect the wishes of any parents or students if they ask you use different songs.
Don’t Forget about Licensing
It’s easy to get caught up in the holiday spirit, but don’t forget you need the proper licensing to play music in the classroom. You might have bought holiday songs through iTunes or another music site, but they’re not licensed for “public” use. Check the details of your blanket business license to see whether your favorite holiday tracks are included. If they’re not, you can always search through royalty free music databases for some comparable tunes. Either way, your dancers will appreciate the change of pace in the classroom, and everyone will get in the holiday spirit!
If you’re looking for a inspiring story to share with your dance students, look no further than that of Misty Copeland. The professional ballerina has gained a lot of attention in the past year, thanks to her lead role in “Swan Lake” and her powerful advertisement for Under Armour. Her story is one of determination and overcoming adversity and can be a fun teaching tool for young dancers.
‘I Will What I Want’
The world of professional dance, along with many other artistic and athletic professions, is brutally competitive and often harsh on young hopefuls. Copeland didn’t start training as a ballerina until she was 13 years old and faced a lot of rejection in her climb to the top. Her story is a great example for young athletes, as it shows that just because one coach or director tells you “no,” you can still be successful if you put your mind to it.
Copeland’s story became a viral sensation when Under Armour featured her in an advertisement. The video, which has been viewed more than 6 million times on YouTube, features Copeland dancing while a rejection letter she received as a young dancer is read out loud. Copeland believes that the ad resounded with so many viewers because it addresses common experiences of rejection and perseverance.
“I think so many people can relate to it – not just as a dancer within the ballet world, but just feeling different, feeling like you don’t fit in,” Copeland told the TODAY show.
According to Copeland’s website, she overcame the obstacles that stood in her way and made history in 2007 as the first African-American soloist for the American Ballet Theatre in two decades. Dance instructors can use the Under Armour video and information from Copeland’s website to start a conversation about goals, hard work and adversity with their students.
Copeland in Print
If you want to assign your dancers a little homework, Copeland has not one, but two books about her journey as an artist. Her memoir, “Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina,” is a great read for older students. In it, she talks about growing up with five siblings in a poor household, how she got into dance and what the different struggles have been throughout her career. She also describes her career-defining performances, like working with music artist Prince and as the first African-American woman to star in “Firebird.”
“[Playing the Firebird] was one of the first really big principal roles I was ever given an opportunity to dance with American Ballet Theatre,” Copeland told NPR. “It was a huge step for the African-American community.”
This role was the inspiration for Copeland’s new children’s book, “Firebird.” The story is filled with bright, colorful illustrations that make it perfect for a class of young dancers. It addresses common issues like confidence and self-doubt. The moral of the story is that with hard work and self-assurance, young dancers can achieve any goals they set. The picture book could easily be used to calm novice students before their first big performance!
Continuing Her Growth
While Copeland is performing in Australia as the the lead in “Swan Lake,” the people in Hollywood are planning to spread her message even further. Deadline reported that filmmakers at New Line Cinema are considering making a movie based on Copeland’s memoir. The film would focus on her early years as a dancer and the struggles she faced. Copeland is definitely a star that dance professionals should keep an eye on – her story and message are both powerful teaching tools that can inspire young dancers!