The school supply lists are posted at Target, the mailbox is filling up with registration paperwork for my children’s schools and Facebook is blowing up with pictures of kids in backpacks. It’s officially time for back-to-school and that means it’s time to get serious about back-to-dance!
As a studio owner, I’m a big fan of observing what the local schools do and taking my cues from their systems. For example, we do our registration for summer classes when the local school opens theirs. We offer parent teacher conferences just like the schools do and we follow their model for teacher training as well.
Most studio owners consider themselves to be in the business of training students, but the strongest studios I know understand that they are in the business of training teachers as well.
Here are 5 tips to step up your teacher training this year with Dance Studio Teacher Staff Meetings that ROCK:
The “Expert Advice from Misty Lown” series is brought to you by More Than Just Great Dancing™ and TutuTix.
Your dancers could be able to perform their choreography perfectly in their sleep, but without volunteers, a recital just won’t be a success. There are so many moving parts involved with putting on a dance recital, from selling tickets to managing dancers backstage. The dancers, of course, are the stars of the show, but the event volunteers are the vital gears that turn to make the recital a true showstopper.
However, the combination of recruiting, organizing and handling volunteers during recital season is no easy matter. Maybe you have a hard time finding people interested in helping out, or conversely, maybe you have too many people lending a hand and don’t know how to effectively manage them all. And how do you make sure you make the experience enjoyable enough for volunteers that they’ll be eager to help out next year? Read on for some tips that will help you have success with recital volunteers this spring and beyond.
Who Makes the Best Event Volunteers?
Your first instinct might be to ask parents to work as volunteers at the recital. However, this approach can ultimately make the volunteer recruitment process more difficult for you. Parents already spend a large amount of money and time sending their students to your studio, noted studio owner Kathy Blake for DanceTeacher magazine, so it’s important to shift your idea of how parents can lend a hand.
The magazine suggested that you instead ask parents to be “parent helpers,” instead of traditional volunteers. Ask parents to help out with duties that involve helping get the kids ready for the show, since the fact that they get to watch their own children dance from the best seats in the house can be a big incentive for volunteering their time. Great jobs for parents include escorting the dancers to and from the stage or helping out with makeup and costumes.
For the rest of the volunteers that you’ll need, check in with community service organizers at local schools and community groups. Alumni of your dance studio also make great volunteers, since they already know the ins and outs of putting on a recital and are usually eager to return to the studio and see some friendly faces.
For all types of volunteers, the best recruitment approach is to spread the word that you need volunteers through multiple channels. Create an online form that parents and other individuals can fill out that includes what tasks they would be interested in doing, what hours they would be available and their contact information. Link to this form on your studio’s website, and send it to parents, alumni and other people who you think may be interested via email.
Also, be sure to take advantage of social media to spread the word that you are looking for volunteers for the upcoming recital. Create posts about how you’re looking for volunteers and encourage your followers to share them, recommended VolunteerSpot. And, as the recital approaches, make sure you send out reminders via email or even mobile to volunteers about their commitments.
Emphasize the Benefits
Recital season is incredibly stressful, but don’t forget that parents, friends and alumni are all dealing with their own busy lives. To successfully recruit – and retain – volunteers, it’s important to keep a positive, upbeat attitude. It makes the experience better for everyone! Begging for volunteers or saying negative statements like volunteering “isn’t really that bad” or that “it’s hard to get help” sends out bad vibes and may turn off some individuals from helping out, noted PTO Today.
Instead, make sure you emphasize the benefits of volunteering to help with the recital, like the fact that parents can have a larger role in the action and can watch their kids and that you’re all working together to help the hard-working dancers shine in the spotlight.
Recognize Your Event Volunteers
In addition to highlighting the positive aspects of volunteering, providing perks for helping out goes a long way. Blake suggested that studio owners give volunteers a small gift like a 10 percent discount off purchases in the dance shop or a free ticket to the recital. You could also offer discounts on photos or flowers, or gift cards to local restaurants, cafes or day spas. During the recital, make sure you have snacks, water and coffee available for volunteers and check in with them throughout the event.
And above all, make sure you thank them. Your event volunteers are doing you a huge favor by helping run your recital, so make sure you acknowledge that you appreciate their time and effort. After your dancers are done performing, you could call up the volunteers onto the stage to thank them, or consider sending out handwritten thank you cards as soon as possible after the event.
Taking the time to thank volunteers reinforces strong relationships and makes them feel more inclined to help out again at next year’s recital and other studio events.
Fitting 30 dancers on one stage might sound impossible. Even if you only have a group of 10 dancers, having them move together seamlessly during a performance can still be a logistical headache. Creating group choreography requires some advanced planning, careful consideration and keen spatial awareness.
You want the audience’s eyes to be on your dancers’ graceful movements and impressive skills – not on how they’re bumping elbows with each other. Follow these tips for creating effective group choreography that wows the crowd.
Identify the Strongest Areas of the Stage
To accommodate a large group of dancers on stage at one time, you need to understand the unique characteristics of each section of the stage itself. The center of the stage attracts the most attention, unsurprisingly, so place any soloists there. However, it’s important to not overuse the center, since the more you use the weaker its visible impact, noted Sandra Cerny Minton in her book, “Choreography: A Basic Approach Using Improvisation.”
Placing dancers downstage is good for intimate sections of group choreography or those that require dancers to be particularly emotional, because the area is closest to the audience. To create a sense of mystery, it’s effective to place dancers upstage. Cerny noted that the areas toward the right and left sides of the stage are comparably weak, though that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be used at all. The key is creatively and effectively using the entirety of the space available to you.
Think Outside the Box
Sometimes, you need to expand your idea of what constitutes the stage. DanceSpirit Magazine described the experiences of Suzi Taylor, choreographer of the New York City Dance Alliance Nationals Senior Outstanding Dancer performance. She had to fit a whopping 145 dancers onstage at one time, and understandably couldn’t do so without having them all constantly bump into each other.
She then came up with the idea to have some of the dancers on the floor in front of the stage. It turned out to be the perfect solution, and she used the space to create unique level changes. Don’t be afraid to get creative in your group choreography or the way that you use the space.
An article by Dance Advantage provided a list of tips for dance teachers who were tasked with choreographing a musical theater show, and while ballet and performance theater are very different, there are some tips that ballet choreographers can borrow to effectively choreograph large groups of dancers. One valuable tip is to build patterns of movement into your choreography.
According to the article, audiences enjoy watching recurring motifs, and repeating the same group of movements in different places throughout the piece helps keep the audience engaged. Incorporating patterns is also useful because it helps provide structure for the dancers, especially if the rest of the choreography is complex or difficult.
Utilize Creative Devices
When faced with the overwhelming task of choreographing a dance for a large group of students, you may be tempted to have all perform the same movements in synchronization. Unfortunately, though, this is dull for the audience and doesn’t do justice to your dancers’ skill sets. But on the other hand, having every dancer do completely different movements can be dizzying and doesn’t give the audience anything to focus on. A good trick for effectively choreographing a large group of dancers is to take advantage of the myriad of patterns, contrasts and other unique choreographic devices.
Break your dancers into small groups, and have them do complementary movements where they are all doing the same movement but in slightly different ways – for example, one group jetés toward the left while the other jetés toward the right. You can have your dancers do contrasting movements, for example having a few dancers move across the stage quickly while a couple other dancers make slow movements.
Another idea is to include successional movements where a certain skill or movement is quickly performed by each dancer one after another, creating a waterfall- or domino-like effect. You have the power to create a spectacular piece that is full of visional splendor, so don’t be afraid to experiment with different devices.
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.
Finding the best dance teacher jobs requires unwavering dedication, thick skin and a whole lot of passion. To secure a teaching position at a studio where you are not only able to pay the rent but can truly thrive and make the greatest use of your passions, you need to reflect on what you’re really looking for and how you can present the best version of yourself to potential employers.
Read on to learn how to find – and land – the best dance teacher jobs.
What to Look for in a Job
A job should be more than just a way to pay the bills – it should be a way to both learn and grow as a person and dancer and change students’ lives for the better through the power of dance and expression. Only positive work environments can allow this kind of growth. Environments that are too stressful, hurtful or exceedingly negative will only stifle expression and will foster ineffective teachers.
“Great employers must shift the focus from trying to get more out of people, to investing more in them by addressing their four core needs – physical, emotional, mental and spiritual – so they’re freed, fueled and inspired to bring the best of themselves to work every day,” stated the Harvard Business Review.
Dance studios should be no different in this pursuit. When searching for dance teacher jobs, zero in on dance studios that encourage their teachers to continue their own learning and encourage personal and professional development. A truly great dance studio will support its teachers to attend workshops and conferences and evolve in their practices, along with promoting a healthy work-life balance.
Work as an Assistant
No matter where you are in your dance teaching career, working as an assistant teacher is a great way to gain experience and make yourself a stronger candidate for any open dance teacher jobs at the studio. Working as an assistant allows you to receive detailed feedback about your methods and techniques, which helps you improve as a teacher, noted DancetoEvolve.com. Try to get an assistant teaching position at a studio you’d like to work at in a larger role, since many studios use the assistant position to train the next generation of their teachers. An added benefit of this is that you get to become familiar with the environment and unique characteristics of the studio, which makes you an even stronger job candidate.
Preparing for the Interview
Before your job interview, spend time researching the studio and reading its website. Showing that you spent the time learning about the studio will impress the interviewer. As Elizabeth Emery wrote in a post for DanceTeacherFinder.com:
“The bottom line to me was if they were interested in the job then they would take the time to look around the website; if they didn’t, it would make me wonder if they were serious about wanting the job and if they weren’t it would make me worry they would end up quitting in a few months.”
Also take the time to practice answering common interview questions. You’re likely be asked questions such as:
Why do you want to work at this studio in particular?
What is an example of a conflict that you had with a challenging student or parent, and how did you respond?
Why should we hire you for this position?
Where do you see yourself in five years?
What skills do you have to effectively teach different age groups?
Additionally, be prepared to answer questions about your passions. Reflect on why you love dancing, why you want to share it with others and what you hope to accomplish through teaching.
In dance, presentation is everything, and this is also true during the job application process. Arrive early to the interview and make sure you have copies of any materials you need, such as a headshot, resume, reference list and video reel. Also make sure you’re dressed to impress. Don’t wear a business suit, but dress stylish and professional. For instance, wear a pair of nice dress pants and a flattering top. It’s important to dress in a way that shows you have good taste and an eye for aesthetics, since the job interviewer may use your appearance to gauge which type of performances or costumes you would use in your classes.
After your interview, don’t forget to send a thank you note to the job interviewer, by email or a handwritten note. It’s a small gesture that will go a long way toward making a good impression with the employer. Let’s Talk Dance suggested writing this in your thank you note: “I appreciate you taking the time to interview me, I enjoyed meeting you, and I hope to have the opportunity to make a positive contribution to your organization in the near future.” And even if you don’t get the job, a thank you note is a great way to make yourself memorable and boost your chances of being considered for any dance teacher jobs that come up later on. Make sure you send the note within a few hours of your job interview.
Job Hunting Etiquette
When searching for a new position, always keep in mind proper etiquette. You owe your current opportunities and success to all the people that have helped you and hired you along the way, and the last thing you want to do is burn bridges. If you are currently working at another studio but accept a job offer elsewhere, don’t slack off. Instead, continue giving your current position your all, advised career site Ladders.
“Keep striving for top results and maintain your performance at work … This attitude fueled a more powerful, productive search,” stated the site.
Also, keep in mind that it’s generally poor taste to work at a studio that is a competitor of a place that you have previously trained at. Having a successful career teaching dance is as much about your skills as it is your relationships, and you don’t want to alienate the people who helped get you where you are today.
Learning how to be a good dance teacher is about much more than simply correcting form and demonstrating the right techniques. Good dance teachers transcend from being just an instructor to becoming a role model, to making a lasting impression on students and to being a positive force in both their personal and dance development.
Great dance teachers are not soon forgotten. Writer and Life Counselor Jesua shared a powerful memory of her dance teacher with the Huffington Post. Jesua had neurological damage and injured legs as a result of meningitis contracted when she was a child. In college, she bravely decided to take a dance class in order to help improve her control over her body. She felt incredibly self-conscious as she stumbled through her routines, watching the other students completing them perfectly. But one day, an interaction with her dance teacher changed her outlook not just on dance, but on life:
“In front of the entire class, she yelled at me, scolding me, with so much intense love and conviction and passion I have perhaps never recovered since. She said: ‘Look at you, shame on you! Holding these long, beautiful limbs so close, so tight to your sides?’ Then she got in my face: ‘How generous are you willing to be? How generous are you willing to be with your whole life? Will you share yourself with us? With the world? Do you dare? Or are you just going to hold yourself tightly in … just keep yourself to yourself for the rest of your life? In case you fall? In case you fail? Or: are you going to choose to just be generous anyway? To just take up as much space as you actually take up? To be as big, as graceful, as long, as gorgeous, as enormous as you actually are?”
She stopped, out of breath from her spontaneous explosion, and stood there, staring up at me, tears of wisdom’s fierce love glistening in her eyes. Stunned tears came to my eyes as well, and I met her gaze, with what must have been the light of humbled gratitude.
Good dance teachers inspire their students, help them grow and enable them to be the best they can be. Read on to learn about the most important qualities for good dance teachers and ways that you can improve them:
The most effective teachers are the ones that truly try to see things from their students’ perspectives and are understanding about their unique concerns, fears and struggles. Think back to the time before you became a teacher: There were certainly moments in class when you were frustrated or grappling with issues that you felt like no one else understood. A good teacher levels with their students. As Dance Advantage stated, a good dance teacher “responds to his students with understanding and, when appropriate, compassion. He reaches people where they are, not where he wants them to be.” To practice more empathy, remember that all of your students are going through stresses and anxieties just like you did as a young dancer, and recognize the unique perspectives of each student in your class.
How can teachers connect with students if they’re not actively listening to their needs, or creating an atmosphere that encourages free expression? Listening skills and open communication are essential to being a good dance teacher. “The goal of a dance educator is to understand why each student has come to the class and what they hope to achieve,” stated Inspire2Dance. Your job is to guide students on their dance journey, and this can only be achieved by fostering a class environment that encourages students to share their thoughts and concerns with you. Open communication, however, is not a one way street. To build an atmosphere of open communication, Inspire2Dance recommended that teachers frequently check in with students, ask them questions about their dance practice and gather feedback. Show your students that you value their thoughts and opinions and remind them that you are here to help them succeed.
Whether students spend just one or five days a week in class, they are influenced by the behavior of their teachers, and often see them as mentors. To be a good dance teacher requires constant self-awareness of how you are being perceived and the lessons that you teach beyond dance skills and techniques. “In the students’ minds, the teacher brings not only personal perspective to the environment, but represents the broader knowledge of the field, and all the teachers that have come before this individual,” stated an article in the Journal of Dance Education. The article advised that instead of shying away from this role, teachers should embrace it. Pay attention to the language you use, your attitude and your behavior to make sure you are being the best role model you can be for your students.
Work on these qualities to improve as a dance teacher. With time, care and dedication, you won’t just be a good teacher, but you’ll be a great one.
Though most of your time is probably spent inside the studio with your classes, stepping outside to explore your own learning experiences is integral to being a great dance teacher. Expanding your perspectives and skills improves your abilities as a teacher, and, by extension, creates a dynamic classroom environment that fosters growth for your students. By regularly attending dance teacher workshops, you are supporting your own growth and development.
Traveling to dance teacher workshops for a few days takes you out of your element so you can better focus on not only your identity as a teacher, but your artistic identity as a dancer, and this growth in turn benefits your studio.
There are a wide range of dance teacher workshops across the country, so whatever areas you would like to focus on, there’s a workshop for you. Check out our list of some exciting dance teacher workshops being offered in 2016:
Two four-day sessions of this popular workshop are held in New York City from July 11-22: Introductory/Beginner and Intermediate/Advanced. Attendees are immersed in the Horton dance technique and learn about how to train their students to better adapt to different dance styles and dance with correct body alignment. The workshops are taught by Ana Marie Forsythe, Chair of the Horton Department at the Ailey School and co-author of “The Dance Technique of Lester Horton.” Dance teachers can attend Horton classes at the Ailey School at this program, which emphasizes a hands-on approach to learning. The deadline for registration is June 30, 2016.
A two-week course held July 18-29 is offered at the Creative Dance Center in Seattle that delves into the philosophy of “brain-compatible teaching,” which explores the connection between cognition and movement. Attendees will learn best practices in dance education methods, improve their management methods and strengthen their understanding and application of the core dance standards. In addition, attendees can take evening classes at the Creative Dance Center free of charge. A discount is offered for registering before May 15.
The Pulse On Tour and Broadway Dance Teacher present this exciting workshop in New York City, now in its 16th year. The workshop, held July 28-30, provides dance teachers with a wealth of fun learning experiences. Teachers can participate in 55 classes in all dance styles and attend seminars on topics like public relations for the studio, business strategies, choreography labs and finding a unique voice. The workshops also feature industry experts and faculty from The Pulse – some of which have been on TV shows like So You Think You Can Dance and others who have worked at top dance companies.
Presented by Dance Teacher magazine, the Dance Teacher Summit will be offered on both the East and West coast for the first time ever – it will be held in New York City July 29-31 and Long Beach, CA August 5-7. Created for dance teachers, educators and studio owners, the summit aims to “re-energize [their] passion for the art and the business of teaching dance,” according to the website – and it delivers on this promise through a jam-packed schedule of exciting activities. Learn advanced teaching method and smarter business practices and check out cutting-edge vendors. There’s also a glitzy fashion show promoting the trendiest styles of recital costumes and a cocktail party, along with the A.C.E. Award Competition spotlighting up-and-coming choreographers and online access to educational materials and videos after the summit ends.
It’s halftime! No, I’m not talking about football (and I call the Packers’ mid-game break “intermission” anyway). I’m talking about halftime of the DANCE SEASON—the midway point for studio owners between the first days of class and the finish line of recital.
By now you are far enough into classes to be past the busyness of the season opener and into a routine of the season. Your time is likely stretched carefully between the behind the scenes work that keeps the business going during the day and the actual work of serving your clients in the evenings. Running a dance studio is a delicate balancing act of time management, often with no margin for error.
Time may be at a premium, but don’t let that be an excuse to overlook one of the most critical pieces of your business: meaningful communication with your teachers. As a studio owner, this is an ongoing challenge for me. I have five kids under the age of 14 and I am no longer in the classroom on a regular basis. I work on the studio every day, but because I’m not always at the studio when the teachers are, it’s really important to establish routines to keep communication flowing.
There are all sorts of tools that we use at the studio to keep in touch with teachers on a regular basis such as weekly emails, private Facebook groups for staff and quarterly meetings with the whole group.
For as great as all of those things are, nothing replaces the importance of meeting a teacher face to face in the middle of the season to give and receive feedback before recital and competition season kicks in.
If you are ready to step up your communication with your teachers, keep reading for 5 Ideas for Mid-Season Dance Teacher Reviews.
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.
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.
One critical piece of having a successful dance studio is your dance staff. Without a stand-out set of employees, your classes – and reputation – may suffer. Dancers may choose to go elsewhere if their skills aren’t developing, and you may feel burnt out from doing so much on your own. Yet developing a great set of employees isn’t easy. Consider these tips on what to do to create an exemplary dance staff.
“Figuring out your role first will help you determine what roles you need to fill.”
Determine your role first
Before considering what you want in a staff, you have to determine what you want from yourself. Are you a natural dancer who has a passion for teaching and constructing routines? Or would you rather take a managerial standpoint and work from behind the scenes, dealing with payments and other business demands? Of course, sometimes dance owners have to take on both responsibilities, especially when starting out. However, figuring out what role you want to take on will help you determine what roles you need to fill. If you don’t want to deal with billing and other financial aspects, hiring an administrative assistant can help you out. But if you don’t want to be responsible for picking songs and costumes and laying out routines, you may need a few dance teachers.
Do your research
Don’t just hire people for the sake of getting spots filled. DanceStudioOwner.com noted that it’s important to research the roles you’re looking to fill. Find out how much experience is required for each role and what the average salary is. You don’t want to have an overpaid staff that lacks essential experience. Instead, create the role before you begin the hiring process. While an administrative assistant may not need that much experience, a dance teacher does. When going through applications, be sure to be thorough. Ask tough questions and make sure applicants completely fit your experience credentials before hiring them for your studio. No employee should make less than $12 an hour, as only 10 percent of dance studios pay $10 or less. Of course, if you’re considering senior dance teachers and managers, they should be paid more.
Think about your location
Believe it or not, location has a lot to do with the hiring process. The size of your studio should determine how many employees you need. Obviously if you have a big space with several dance rooms, you may need a larger staff than if you have a smaller studio. It’s also important to consider the demographic of the area as well as the economic status. If your dance studio is located downtown in a major city, you’ll be expected to pay your staff more than if it’s located in the suburbs. Make sure you investigate your area’s average dance salaries before hiring, or you might end up coming up short on a great staff.
Be a responsible boss
Sometimes dance studio owners will get annoyed when staff doesn’t necessarily perform up to their standards. However, if those standards aren’t clear or visibly laid out, their lackluster performance makes sense. As the studio owner, it’s critical that you create a set of rules and procedures that every staff member is aware of and follows. Train your employees yourself so you know can set the bar and they know what is expected of them. If you simply sit back and expect it to all fall into place without your help, you may end up with a disorganized, poorly trained staff that causes dancers to go elsewhere. Always remember that the progress of the studio begins with you. Take the initiative to see improvement. After you’ve built an established, fully functioning staff, you can begin to delegate training tasks.
When beginning any new job, you’re bound to make a few mistakes. The same goes for new dance teachers. Even after years of dance practices, routines and recitals, being a teacher for other dancers isn’t easy, and it can definitely difficult at the beginning. If you’re a new dance teacher, you want to make the best impression possible for your new dance studio teacher and your students. While some mistakes are unavoidable, others can be easily stepped past. Here are some tips for dance teacher training and the lessons to be learned from your students!
1. Juggling Too Many Things at Once
When you first become a dance teacher, you may bite off more than you can chew, Discount Dance noted. In some instances, you want to impress your boss so you take on more classes than you can handle, leaving you tired, weary and mistake-prone. It’s important to realize that you can only volunteer for as many classes as you can realistically take on.
It may be smarter to only begin with one or two classes and then add on a few more as you get the hang of things. In other instances, you might be the studio owner and the dance teacher. You may also be the receptionist and the studio cleaner. Taking on too many roles can leave you overwhelmed and cause your business to crumble before it even gets off the ground. If you just opened a dance studio, look into hiring dance students from local colleges as teachers.
2. Short Attention Spans
Sure, there is a lot more to being a dance teacher than just dancing. Any talented dance teacher will tell you that you have to have a passion for teaching at heart. However, though you might have had lectures in school, it’s important to not bring those to dance classes.
Whether you’re teaching young students or an older, advanced class, all students will become bored if they’re listening to a teacher ramble on. After awhile, they might even stop listening, Adventure and Me stated. Though you want to impress your dance students and let them get to know you, talking too much isn’t the right move. Instead, let them get to know you through your dance style and instruction!
3. Different Tones for Different Students
When many dance teachers begin their careers, it can be hard to differentiate the dance levels of students. You may be asked to take on a beginner’s class for adults and an advanced class for children, and it can lead you to potentially talk down to a student. After taking years of dance courses yourself, you may have a hard time understanding what different levels need and what they already know.
From teaching an advanced dancer a commonly known move or expecting a beginner to pick up a routine with very little flaws, these actions can be discouraging for dancers and potentially cause them to leave the class. Every good dance teacher supports her students and knows their exact skill levels, so they never feel out of their league or underwhelmed, Dance Advantage stated.
4. Students Need Repetition
As a dance student, you may have been a skilled learner and had the ability to pick up routines very quickly. Without issue you could get the basic moves down and quickly execute them with precision and grace. As a result, that may be the only style of teaching you’re familiar with.
Some dance teachers tend to rush through a routine with dancers, causing them to be confused and unorganized. As a teacher, it’s important to realize that your dancers aren’t familiar with your style – and pace – of dancing. When going through a routine for the first time, take it slow – your dancers will appreciate it!
You probably have a system for planning classes for dance season. Maybe you have some tried-and-true methods that you’ll be repeating or perhaps you’re going to revamp your class structure to better your studio. Either way, you should make a point to create class syllabi for the different courses you’ll be offering in the coming season. Here are some of the benefits that studio owners can reap from a structured dance class syllabus and a few pointers for drafting these documents.
Benefits of an Established Syllabus
A carefully crafted syllabus can benefit not only the teachers, but the students as well. When you take the time to create these documents for your classes, you can ensure that everyone will have a better experience at your studio.
The perks for instructors include:
Syllabi help teachers prepare for classes.
The document helps teachers keep the course on track throughout the year.
Syllabi serve as a reminder of the skills teachers need to cover.
It helps staff enforce studio policies.
It clearly establishes behavioral expectations for students.
According to the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, the benefits of syllabi for students include:
The document can help students establish educational plans. In this case, it helps them to plan their growth as dancers.
It provides essential information, such as contact details, class times, rehearsal schedules and the like.
A syllabus serves as a remind of studio policies on behavior, dress code, attendance and more.
It informs students of what they’ll be learning, when they’ll be learning it and what they need to do to succeed in the class.
What to Include in a Syllabus
When you first sit down to create a syllabus, you may be tempted to simply jot down all your thoughts and goals for the class. This is a good way to get your thoughts down on paper, but you’ll want to create a document with a little more structure.
Start by writing the static parts of your syllabus – these sections will likely remain unchanged between courses and seasons. If you have a studio contract, you may even want to simply copy and paste the sections about classroom behavior, attendance, proper attire and other studio rules.
Next, you’ll want to create sections like:
Instructor info: Note who will be teaching the class and his or her contact information.
Class description: A general description of the course, genre and skill level.
Course goals: List the skills and techniques that students will ideally master over the course of the season.
Class timeline: Lay out the major events and lesson plans that will take place in the class. Include the topic for each class, as well as dates for performances and dress rehearsals if you know them.
Once you have these sections written, you may want to have the instructor look over the document and make changes or suggestions. This will ensure that the syllabus is a team effort and that everyone is on the same page when it comes to the class.
Don’t Forget to Revisit Old Syllabi
If you have syllabi that you’ve been using for years, it’s a good idea to revise them each season. After all, there are likely things that your studio could be doing better and you’ll want to reflect those changes in the document.
“We constantly reassess what we are doing, but it’s the team effort that makes it successful,” Peter Stark, dance department chair at the Patel Conservatory, explained to Dance Teacher magazine. “Star students come and go, star teachers come and go, but a methodology can maintain through that.”
Once you’ve written, revised and reviewed your syllabi, you’ll be ready to distribute them to the students, post them on your website and jump on into the new season of dance.
What makes a dance teacher great? Yes, knowledge of the art form and technical ability are important, but what sets the dancers apart from the teachers? Here are a few qualities that you may want to look for when you’re hiring dance teachers.
As is important in many other careers, passion is a necessary quality in a superior dance instructor. Not only will love of dance make even the toughest classes enjoyable, but a teacher with continually positive energy will pass that same joy on to young students.
Another important characteristic is flexibility. Dance teachers need to be able to go with the flow, and this is something that poses a struggle for some professional dancers. You never know when a lesson is going to fall flat with students or when a class will be particularly rowdy. A great teacher will adjust on the fly and make the most of each class, even when things don’t go according to plan.
Great dance teachers are often set apart from mediocre instructors by their dedication to the job at hand. Teachers who aren’t fully committed to explaining the necessary skills and molding young dancers often let little things slide in the studio. Maybe they aren’t willing to help out at dress rehearsal or won’t commit to extra hours with a struggling student. The once-in-a-lifetime teachers are the ones who are willing and ready to go the extra mile in the name of teaching.
Patience is a necessary virtue for all types of teachers. There will more than likely be difficult days with challenging students, and an awesome teacher will overcome these obstacles without losing her cool. Patience is doubly important for instructors who will be working with young or inexperienced dancers, as these students sometimes need a little extra time to grasp concepts.
Even great dancers with natural teaching ability will benefit from training geared specifically for dance education (as opposed to performance). While there are college programs in dance education, there are also other opportunities for instructors to hone their skills, like the teacher training schools offered by Dance Masters of America or Dance Educators of America. While there may be some positions, like assistant teachers, that may not necessitate a certification, requiring your teachers to have some more advanced credentials will greatly increase the quality and safety of instruction provided by your studio.
Finally, a truly top-notch teacher is one that you can count on to handle parents and students with the utmost grace and professionalism. When you have a great teacher on your staff, you won’t worry about him or her sullying the studio’s reputation by acting inappropriately.
Editor’s note: This article was updated to include additional information on dance education programs.
What would your studio be without your awesome dance instructors? They’re the ones working with students, helping put together recital pieces and fending parent questions. In many dance schools, instructors are an integral part of the business.
However, being a dance teacher isn’t all tutus and glitter. There are times when your instructors will be stressed and frustrated, and it’s in your best interest to help alleviate some of their problems to make their lives a little easier. Here are five common problems that studio owners can solve for the sake of their teachers.
1. Set Clear Studio Policies
You may not realize it, but if your studio has lax or unclear policies, it can end up affecting your teachers. On a Dance.net forum, a few instructors explained that when their studios do a poor job of communicating with parents, setting up dress codes or explaining expected class behaviors, it makes their lives a lot harder.
Setting up set policies for your school is a quick fix to this issues, and it not only will benefit your teachers, but it will likely help out you and your business as a whole.
2. Enforce Pickup and Dropoff Times
Your teachers likely love their charges, but that doesn’t mean they want to hang out with students for 20 minutes after class ends. Instructors have lives too, and many times, they’ll have places they need to be. It’s your job as the studio owner to enforce your pickup and dropoff times so that no one has to be babysitting after class is over.
3. Be a Parent Buffer
Mama drama is inevitable sometimes, and you should be there to help your instructors deal with unhappy parents. Establish clear guidelines for parent complaints and make sure you’re involved in the resolution process. It will take a whole lot of stress off the shoulders of your teachers.
4. Limit Parent Observation
Parents love to watch their little dancers perform, but it’s often distracting for the class and the instructor. Find a way to minimize distractions that come along with parent observation, whether it’s by setting up limited class time when parents can watch or installing a one-way mirror or TV monitoring system.
5.Offer Compensation for Any Extras
There may be times when you really need a teacher to stay after hours with a student or to help set up for a recital. However, it’s important that you realize what tasks aren’t in the usual scope of a dance instructor’s job description and offer additional compensation if necessary.