Many dance studios choose to have a performance or competition team of some variety. Having a competition team allows students with a greater interest in dance or the performing arts an opportunity to explore their passion in a variety of performance and educational settings.
If your studio is considering starting a competition team, TutuTix and The Dance Exec have put together a Dance Competition Team Guide to get you started!
If your studio already has a competition team, our guide also goes through topics like:
Managing the logistics of the team
It also includes some links to articles about nutrition, choreography, competition stress, and more.
If you choose to hire a person, it is important to bring them back to your studio to review your expectations and discuss details in a staff orientation session. In the orientation, you should discuss three things:
Expectations for Professionalism
Accountability & Preparedness
Details of the Working Agreement
Expectations for Professionalism
You must never assume that people will understand your standards for professionalism. Rather, you must detail a code of behavior and work ethics that specifically addresses your expectations and consequences for non-compliance. Our society is constantly evolving, and you must ensure that your code of ethics and professionalism evolves with the trends of society.
Each year, The Dance Exec’s Studio takes time to review the values, policies, and guidelines for our entire staff. Topics addressed range from curriculum to dress to behavior to attendance and more. Your expectations should be explicit and detailed. Consequences for non-compliance of expectations should be discussed, too.
As time evolves, your expectations for professionalism may evolve. You should constantly evaluate and update your expectations to make sure your studio complies with the highest standards of the dance industry.
For example, in the middle of the 2011-2012 season, the studio saw a need to implement a new social media policy to alleviate grievances that were arising from student/staff online “friendships” and interactions (the grievances were petty, but based on conversations in the academic environment, it seemed that the issue could further spiral out of control and needed to be addressed).
The studio spent a couple of weeks determining the best course of action and took staff opinions and feelings into consideration, too.
Ultimately, an email was sent out to the staff to address our new social media policy (which states that instructors will not “friend” students on social media sites). This new, professional policy was complimented with a follow-up email to the studio parents.
Both emails were very similar and described the benefits of the evolved policy to the respective targeted audience. The studio did not receive one complaint regarding the new policy. If you are consistently on the cutting-edge of business developments and you approach your choices as bettering the business, you will never go wrong.
Set your standards for professionalism and do not feel ashamed for what you deem appropriate/inappropriate. Be clear and concise in your expectations and you will succeed.
Accountability & Preparedness / Details of Working Agreement
In addition to professionalism within the workplace, high standards of accountability and preparedness are essential to creating a staffing model that contributes to the culture of your studio. Again, your accountability and preparedness expectations should be set forth prior to hiring and consequences should be standardized in case a staff member chooses to not follow your requirements.
How can you make sure that your staff members are consistently maintaining the standards set forth by your studio? At The Dance Exec’s Studio, a detailed, written working agreement (this is not a contract) is provided to all of our employees at the beginning of each season. It is imperative that you constantly renew your written material since new issues arise, improvements are made, etc. Never become complacent in your standards.
In your dance studio employee handbook, you should include expectations of staff during their employment term, their terms of employment (at-will employee, contract employee, etc.), consequences of breaking the terms of employment, and their pay for their agreement period. The staff member and the studio owner(s) should sign off on the agreement, and the staff member should initial each clause in the agreement.
Topics in your dance studio employee handbook should include:
An Employee Handbook Acknowledgement
Terms & Conditions of Employment
Studio Curriculums & Confidentiality
Pay Agreement & Procedure
Class Structure & Preparation
Rewards Systems/ Behavioral Protocol
Zero Tolerance Items
Yearly Calendar (with pay information re: holidays, etc.)
Special Events (expectations and compensation for recitals, competitions, etc.)
Professionalism & Workplace Values
Appropriate On & Off-Site Studio Affiliated Behavior
Expectations for Evaluation & Sample Evaluation Form
Detailed Information Regarding Performance Review
Yearly Calendar/Curriculum Guide
The Dance Exec also recommends consulting an attorney to make sure your terms of employment and rules are legal within the laws of your state.
In regards to legal advice and staff, within the dance studio industry, there is a lot of conversation and debate regarding labeling dance studio instructors as independent contractors versus employees. At The Dance Exec’s Studio, the regular, in-studio staff are labeled as employees since we dictate their schedules, classes, etc. If the studio brings in a guest artist, then he/she is considered an independent contractor.
Whatever you choose to do at your studio, make sure it fits within the bounds of the law. (Incorrectly labeling employees as contractors can lead to an IRS audit and back payment of payroll taxes.)
Ultimately, you have to view yourself as a business entity and you must approach every decision from that same perspective. Be sure to consult an attorney to make sure you are handling your staff’s finances properly. Do not cut payroll corners. If you handle everything the correct way, then you are laying the foundation to protect yourself and your business for years to come.
Systemizing Staffing Conflicts
In a perfect world, staffing conflicts, mishaps, and broken rules would not occur. Unfortunately, the world is not perfect and neither is human nature. At some point in the time, an incident will occur that will concern or involve a staff member, and the way you choose to handle it will make all the difference in the world to you, your professional relationships, and your business.
Your consequential/disciplinary plan for your staff should be so detailed that there are no surprises. If a staff member is not conforming to your written expectations, they should be reprimanded in an appropriate way.
This is not to say that all reprimands should be negative. Joining a studio’s culture is a learning process, and often times, you can turn a conflict into a learning experience. Most staff members will appreciate your guidance and will learn and develop from your feedback.
For each incident that occurs, you should have levels of consequence, documentation forms, and staff file folders to track any disciplinary actions. Please note that all forms must be signed and dated by the staff member and the studio owner(s). Implementing a standardized system alleviates the emotions involved with disciplinary action, and better protects you and your business.
Ready for the next step? You can see the third part of the Dance Studio Management Guide here:
An important method of keeping your staff on track is evaluating their teaching methods in class via announced and unannounced observations. Using a systematic evaluation system, constructive critiques can be beneficial in the following ways:
Helping staff members grow as teachers
Creating consistency within the classroom, and
Providing tips for professional improvement
At The Dance Exec’s Studio, each staff member has a folder with an evaluation sheet for each pay period. Some topics addressed include:
If classes are starting/ending on time
If classes are following the curriculums and guidelines set forth by the studio
If in-class questions are being addressed in an appropriate manner
If instructors are showing equal treatment to all students in class
Any other policy issues and requested days off are documented, too.
Prior to receiving a check for the pay period, the staff member and owner sign off on the evaluations.
This tracking system is advantageous in several ways:
It holds staff members accountable for their actions.
It serves as a coaching system and notates improvement or regression in patterns of behavior.
It can be used to reward staff members that are on task.
It serves as documentation for potential cases of staff dismissal.
Every studio should maintain some regular system of documentation and evaluation. Your staff is integral to the success of your business, and employees that are committed to fulfilling your vision will be respectful, sensitive, and open to the constructive coaching. At the end of the day, it will ultimately improve your business and will eliminate staff members that are not invested in your culture and business.
In addition to evaluations, in-service opportunities are valuable to staff, too. You may choose to take staff to conventions, or you may go to conventions, offer the staff notes and have them take a brief quiz for a reward (gift card, etc.), or bring knowledgeable guest artists into your studio. With any career, continuing education is integral in maintaining current standards within a respective industry.
As a studio owner, you must ensure that you are on the cutting edge trends of the industry, and in turn, it is your responsibility to keep your staff informed while giving them opportunities to learn and grow.
Replacing a Dance Teacher
Please remember that everyone is replaceable. The idea has been reiterated numerous times, but it cannot be reiterated enough.
At The Dance Exec’s Studio, eight staff members were dismissed within the first three seasons. While that number may seem relatively high, the bottom line is that the studio has high expectations that are non-negotiable. Before opening the dance studio, it was decided that the studio would operate by the philosophy that “every single person is replaceable.” A person would only remain on staff if they bought into the culture the studio aimed to create.
Along the way, the studio has learned to spot red flags that indicate whether a person may or may not be a great candidate for the studio. The studio has also implemented standardized interviewing procedures and strategies that generally work in identifying employees that are optimal for the studio.
Based on prior experience in studios, the workplace atmosphere often becomes too friendly, too personal, and too casual. Often, this can result in hanging on to “dead weight”, or employees that are no longer interested or invested in your business. Studio owners refuse to fire the dead weight because of fear of repercussion or fear of detriment to the personal relationship, and the cycle becomes deadly to your business.
If you take nothing else away from these recommendations, please understand that keeping toxic employees as part of your staff is detrimental to your business. This vicious cycle can affect student retention, new student registration, and the overall well-being of your dance studio.
There is a lot of interest surrounding firings because it is never an ideal situation. Ultimately, every decision you make should be in the best interest of your business. Below are some case studies that detail The Dance Exec’s choice to let employees go:
Case Study #1
The Dance Exec’s Studio hired an instructor for the first summer session, and, as a result, the instructor was asked to teach at our Grand Opening celebration. The instructor arrived 30 minutes late to the Grand Opening (without any legitimate reason), and as a result, was dismissed. First impressions are a time when an employee is trying their hardest to impress you, and as demonstrated by the employee’s lack of regard to timeliness, it was evident that this employee would not be an optimal fit for the studio’s culture.
Case Study #2
The Dance Exec’s Studio had an instructor that over-shared personal details and announced inappropriate comments in the lobby. For example, she announced that our 6 and 7-year-old competitive team needed to be dressed in “sexier” costumes. This instructor also took choreography from conventions and competitions and claimed it as her own. Since this did not fit into the culture of the studio, she was not rehired for the following session.
Case Study #3
The Dance Exec’s Studio had an instructor that decided she finished teaching class ten minutes prior to the actual end of class (and, this was the last class of the night and the instructor had closing responsibilities). The instructor left the studio, leaving her students under the supervision of another instructor. Since negligence is a zero tolerance issue, the instructor was contacted for dismissal. The instructor said she was “over” teaching and quit.
Case Study #4
This case study was undoubtedly the most difficult dismissal because the employee was a personal friend. Over several months, the employee’s energy had dwindled. Her attitude was affecting the business and its clientele. Students were quitting because of this teacher. The first inclination was to fire her nine months before the actual firing occurred, but the Business Manager advocated her loyalty and kept encouraging additional chances.
As the months passed, the detriment of having her on staff was evident. The dismissal was difficult, but, ultimately, it was worth it. In the weeks following this dismissal, several parents came forward and stated their children’s love for dance had been rejuvenated; in fact, many of these parents mentioned that they were going to pull their students from the program because the students had lost their passion. Because of this experience, the importance of trusting your first instincts was learned; it is important to take action sooner rather than later.
Letting Staff Go
Of course, along the way, there have been many wonderful instructors that have chosen to venture on to other endeavors. (We also have some instructors that have been with us from the very beginning.) As a business, you have to respect and encourage people’s personal development and realize that if they do not want to be a part of your business (or cannot continue to be a part of your business), you should not force them.
You must reiterate and live by the philosophy that “everyone is replaceable.” At the end of the day, over reliance on one person or feeling inoperable without a person can lead to situations that will harm your business. This is your business, and you are the only person it needs to operate successfully. You must take every measure possible to protect yourself and your investment.
When a staff member is no longer an asset to your business, you must remove them from your staff roster. If you have a staffing conflict disciplinary system in place, you will likely see indicators that a staff member is no longer contributing to your business. When the time comes to release a staff member from his/her duties, it is important that you handle the process in a professional manner. Remember, at the end of day, this is your business and your livelihood and you must protect those interests before anything else.
Make sure that you call the staff into the studio for their dismissal (if permissible) and be prepared to present them with a letter stating their termination. For meetings like this, it is helpful to have a non-partisan witness in the room.
Thus far, firing has been discussed as fairly commonplace; however, it certainly is not meant to detract from the seriousness of the issue. Letting a staff member go is not easy, but once the “letting go” has occurred, there have repeatedly been noticeable, positive changes in the studio.
Of course, the other side of firing personnel, especially in the dance studio business, is being prepared to handle the backlash. You have to explain the change to students and parents and must be prepared for any negative publicity/stories that the disgruntled employee spreads. One suggestion to make the process easier is to have a qualified, likable replacement ready to step into the vacant role (preferably immediately).
In addition to staff members being replaceable, it is also important to remember that studios and studio owners are replaceable, too. A client can choose to leave for another studio or another extracurricular. It is your responsibility to make sure you are doing everything in your power to run the best business possible.
Need to Review?
You can find the other two parts of the Dance Staff Management Guide here:
One element of the dance studio that can make or break your business is your dance staff. From executive roles to administration to instructors, every piece of the dance staff puzzle must fit perfectly to implement a smooth operation that reflects your culture, mission, and brand. This begins with the hiring process and leads into detailing roles, responsibilities, and expectations.
In order to keep your studio running the way you would like, you must consistently:
Offer feedback and training sessions
Know when it is time for a staff member to move on to another venture.
Undoubtedly, staff management is one of the most challenging components of owning a business. You are bringing together an assortment of people with entirely different backgrounds. That group is then supposed to maintain and uphold the values and beliefs of your entire business environment.
Additionally, you are not dealing with employees in a competitive academic market (like, technology companies, for example). Most of the time, you are dealing with artists that may underestimate the underlying business strategies required for dance studios. Creating and maintaining a “dream team” staff takes time, energy, commitment, and frequently, mistakes, to ultimately create a team that pushes your business towards greater success.
STEP 1: Defining Leadership Roles
Within your business, it is absolutely essential that you have explicitly detailed and defined roles of who is in charge of each facet of the business. At The Dance Exec’s Studio, the executive role is broken down into two divisions: Business Manager & Artistic Director.
The breakdown of your executive duties may differ (as may task assignments), but the duties required will be similar for all studios. This insures completion of tasks and organizational efficiency.
The Business Manager oversees the logistical and financial operations of the business. This includes: accounting, payroll, building maintenance and repair, cleaning of the facility, registration and enrollment, and all financial transactions. If a particular item is beyond the Business Manager’s skill set, it is their responsibility to arrange and oversee its completion (i.e. tax preparation or serious repairs). The Business Manager is the only person at The Dance Exec’s Studio that handles money.
The Artistic Director oversees class scheduling and curriculums, staffing, parent and student issues, the competition team, the work-study program, recital planning, community partnerships, and marketing. The Artistic Director also oversees the Business Manager’s transactions.
In reading these descriptions, you can see that each role is detailed. If you attempt to manage all of these tasks independently, it is very likely that something will get “lost in the shuffle”. You should never let one area of your business suffer because it becomes “too much” work.
Running a dance studio is a very involved process, and you must guarantee that you have the help needed to make your business a true success. (Please note that help does not have to be employees. It can be an accountant, maintenance person, cleaning service, etc.)
Additionally, it is important to note that “too many hands in the pot” can be just as frustrating as not having enough hands. The executive roles and responsibilities are critical to the success of your business, and you should avoid carelessly distributing the roles to multiple staff that may not have accountability or investment in your brand. At the end of the day, studio owners cannot independently accomplish everything that is required of their business, so it is important to delegate tasks to people you trust.
STEP 2: Finding the Perfect Cast
When you are venturing into the hiring process, think of the procedure as casting a show. Each role needs just the right person. If you cast the tenth best person for a part, your ticket sales and show reviews will not soar. The same goes for your in-studio hiring considerations. If you miscast a role with the wrong instructor, it will lead to more headaches for you and your business.
Take the time to make the right choices, but do not be afraid to correct an incorrect choice. Everyone makes mistakes, and this is certainly a learning process.
How do you go about finding your instructors? Many studios rely on online postings, local college programs, or former students.
Whatever search techniques you utilize, it is imperative that your ad postings be reflective regarding the quality of instructor you are seeking for your business.
What character traits do you value? For The Dance Exec’s Studio, we reiterate that prospective employees must be motivated, enthusiastic, professional, punctual, and organized. We also value educational and instructional experience, especially with children.
In our posting, we ask that interested candidates provide a cover letter, resume, and headshot. This request alone will assist in weeding through candidates that are not detail oriented enough to be a part of our business.
In candidates’ responses to your posting, you should look for the following:
The prospective instructor should include a resume, headshot, and cover letter (per your request). If anything is missing from their response, you should immediately eliminate them from your search because it shows they cannot follow very basic instructions.
The resume should be properly formatted and condensed to one page. The experiences listed on each person’s resume should be checked for accuracy (internet searches greatly help with this process). If a person lies or exaggerates on their resume, you should eliminate them from your list of potential candidates.
In the cover letter and resume, check for use of proper grammar and formality as indicators of professionalism and attention to correctness. Since professionalism is a character trait valued at The Dance Exec, it is imperative in making it to the interview process. This also indicates levels of a candidate’s seriousness and shows a glimpse into their personality.
Use the candidate’s headshot to determine if the request was taken seriously. Is the photo a professional headshot, or is it a snapshot or something pulled from Facebook? If a candidate sends in a snapshot from Facebook of him/her partying, he/she is likely not a good candidate for your business.
Remember, whatever the prospective candidates have sent you, they are putting their best foot forward in their initial interaction.
If this does not appeal to what you want, then you should follow-up with a response that indicates that the candidate is not best suited for the position. If you find the applicant to be a decent but not great candidate, you can always state that your staff positions are currently filled. But, let them know that you will keep their resume on file for future openings.
If their resume is appealing to you, then you should promptly follow-up with an interview request. Offer a list of times that would work for you (obviously, offering a variety of times, if possible). If the candidate is interested, they will find time to meet with you. State in this email that if the interview goes well, the candidate may be asked to teach a demo class. Keep in mind that this is the candidate’s opportunity and attempt to put their best foot forward. Consider anything less than impressive as a red flag.
When the candidate attends their interview, there are several observations you should note:
How early does the interviewee arrive for the interview? Did he/she take the time to find your location in advance? If an interviewee arrives late, they should not be interviewed or considered for the position. This shows a less than exemplary work ethic and poor planning.
What is the interviewee wearing? Even though this is the dance industry, The Dance Exec’s Studio likes to see potential candidates taking the interview seriously. As such, expect candidates to dress in business casual attire.
How is the initial interaction with the candidate? Is the candidate gracious and mature? If the candidate’s behavior would not work in a corporate interview, then it should be noted as a “red flag”.
During the interview process, The Dance Exec’s Studio prefers to ask standardized interview questions. This allows all candidates an equal option to answer, but, often the questions will distinguish the higher qualified candidates from the mediocre or weaker candidates.
Some examples of questions include:
If you had a choice between seeking and avoiding challenges in the performance industry, where would you place yourself? Please give an example to support your choice.
This type of question asks the candidate to place him/herself on an industry-related spectrum while also showing levels of ambition and motivation. Ideally, the candidate will back-up their ranking with a legitimate example that supports his/her self-perception.
What is the name of one of your close friends? What did (your close friend) think you would grow up to be? Tell us what you may have done to make him/her feel this way.
This type of question allows the person to give a personal reference. The story he/she chooses will give you insight to his/her personality as well as a back story. If the candidate struggles to think of anyone, it could be indicative of a weaker candidate.
Please tell us about a time you dealt with a challenging child in the classroom environment. Justify your rationale for handling the situation in such a way.
This type of question allows insight into how the candidate would handle conflict. Through their answer, you will gain insight to their thought process, diplomacy, regard to instruction, etc. Based on their answer, you will know if their method of conflict management ties into your culture and brand.
Based on these questions and questions you create on your own, you should gain a lot of insight into the interviewee’s personality and thinking process. With open-ended questions, you are allowing the candidate the opportunity to tell stories and engage you via examples and observances throughout their life. Such questions can make some interviewees feel uncomfortable.
Use this exercise to observe a candidate’s communication skills, thinking strategies, and behavioral gestures. Through this process, you should be able to identify confident, well-spoken, thoughtful instructors that could be an asset to your business.
In your interview, avoid asking “yes” or “no” questions. Try to steer the candidate towards open-ended questions so that the candidate has time to provide more details. Questions that can be answered with “yes” or “no” are often the easy way out and do not give you a complete representation of a candidate’s personality.
In your interviewing, make sure that you never ask questions concerning protected classes as defined by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
If a candidate succeeds in the interview, invite him/her to teach a demo class with students. The Dance Exec’s Studio always pays teachers for instructing demo classes. The studio wants there to be an understanding from the beginning that this is a strictly professional work environment.
Ultimately, there is no greater way to judge a candidate’s qualifications than putting him/her directly in the classroom environment. During the demo class, make sure you observe the teacher’s preparedness, confidence, teaching style, charisma, and enthusiasm. After the class, ask for students’ opinions, and more importantly, value your instincts. After the demo, do not feel obligated to immediately let the instructor know your decision. Thank him/her for teaching the class and take the time to truly consider if this person is right for you and your business.
Whatever your decision, you must let the person know. A prompt response shows professionalism on your part, and people will have greater respect for you (even with a “no” answer) than they will if you neglect to respond. Through experience with dance studios, some owners do not place enough value on communication. With so many readily available communication devices (email, cell phones, etc.), there is no excuse for not responding to prospective candidates.
The experienced studio owner knows that putting on a great recital takes a lot of preparation, and a lot of quick thinking! Having the right supplies and tools on hand can make a tremendous difference for you and your staff. We’ve put together a list of (potentially) essential items that will help you have the best recital yet!
Oh before we get started, we’ll include a link to our Dance Competition Survival Kit. Reason being: think STORAGE. In the competition kit, we suggest bringing some kind of rolling container, bag, etc, that is easy to move around and easy to organize.
At the end of the night, you’ll want to be able to pick up all your supplies as quickly and neatly as possible. If you can opt for a few simple storage containers that are easy to move, it’ll save you so much time and energy at the end of an already-tiring evening.
Costume Fixes and Makeup Adjustments
It doesn’t get much more “last-minute” than backstage at the recital!! Having some tools to help you deal with last-minute makeup adjustment and costume fixes will help you do the best job you can before your dancers hit the stage.
Clean up kit (for any on-stage accidents…)
Body tape/butt glue
Nail polish remover
Hot glue gun
It’s so important to have clear communication with your studio staff, venue staff, and any volunteers who are helping to run the show. Clear signage, reliable ways to talk with one another, and lighting for a dark backstage are at the top of the list.
Headsets (instead of walkie talkies, so audience members don’t hear your chatter)
(Multiple) Printed Schedules
Signs for dressing rooms, age or class-specific rooms
Nametags / Buttons / Lanyards / Shirts for volunteers and staff to wear
There are a lot of moving parts (and moving people) at a dance recital. Thinking ahead and preparing to bring (or request that the venue provide) essential event items will keep you from those day-of “whoops” moments!
Fans (for a hot backstage full of moving people)
Extra Gaff tape (for when the first roll disappears somewhere)
Spike tape (to help dancers see their spots in the dark)
Fanny packs, aprons, or other extra-pocket items for your staff
Phone Charger (and outlet brick)
Extra Phone Charger (for when someone borrows the first and it never makes it back to you)
Backup sound system
Coloring books/crayons (for the little ones)
Binder clips (to close any curtains in a dressing area, etc)
Tables and tablecloths (for merchandise, studio marketing materials, admission)
Thank you list (so you don’t forget to thank anyone at the end of the night)
Everyone at the recital (yes, including yourself) needs to take care of themselves in the high-stress, fast-paced environment that is a dance recital. Snacks and beverages should be available for any dancers, as well as you and your staff. Plus, recognize that you and your staff will be moving around A LOT and should think about comfortable (but appropriate) attire for the night.
Presentation and speaking outfit
Water / Gatorade
Granola Bars* / Animal Crackers / Saltines
*Editor’s note: Several readers have mentioned their concern about bringing nuts due to possible peanut or tree nut allergies among the dancers. Be sure to consider any dancers or family members with nut allergies when deciding what to bring, and remember that some severe allergies can be triggered by contact with very small amounts of the allergen.
Are there any other items you’ve found that can really save the day at a dance recital? Let us know in the comments and we’ll add them to our list for other studio owners to see.
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It’s that time of year again: time for studios to showcase their students’ talent and put on a big show! And like any big event, there are bound to be a few (sometimes unwelcome) surprises. So it’s best to be prepared and in good spirits! Prepare your dancers for whatever situation might come up during a dance recital with the following tips.
1. Costume Issues
Whether it’s something relatively minor like a run in someone’s tights, or something more perilous like a broken strap, be prepared with a performance survival kit. You’ll want to have extra tights, shoelaces, bra straps and double-sided tape, a multipurpose tool to tighten taps, and any other items you need for potential repairs.
Hopefully you’ll be able to check the status of everyone’s costume during dress rehearsal, but it’s best to prepare your dancers in case a problem arises during their performance. For minor problems, coach them to keep performing – it will be more distracting if they try to fix the problem mid-dance. If you are truly concerned about how well a costume will hold up, have them wear a nude leotard as a base layer.
iSport’s Ballet section included a list of potential costume malfunctions that might come up, with some great solutions and tips to keep dancers dancing.
2. Stage Fright
Sometimes, dancers can get nervous – especially your youngest students! Make sure that everyone has had a chance to rehearse in the performance space. If you can simulate the performance experience by letting fellow dancers/staff act as an audience, even better. That way, you can encourage your dancers by reminding them that they CAN do their recital piece in front of a crowd – they already have!
Hand-in-hand with pre-show butterflies are those moments on stage where a dancer might draw a blank and forget the next step. Many of us have experienced this firsthand, and know how upsetting it can be!
Dance Advantage recommends reminding dancers that they have practiced the routine, and know them so well that muscle memory will kick in once they relax! Encourage them by reminding them that they have prepared for this day, and if they focus on the dance and enjoy the moment, they will be fine! If they do happen to miss a step, coach them to jump right back into the dance, and shake off the mistake – learning to recover from a misstep is an important part of being a performer.
4. Makeup Mishaps
Makeup is just as important as the rest of the costume! And applying dance recital makeup is tricky, no matter how many years a performer has been dancing.
For younger performers, it’s best to let a parent volunteer apply the makeup AND be ready to clean up a smudge or other problem that comes up. If they need help, you can refer those parents to our guide on applying dance makeup to younger dancers.
For older performers, who might do their own makeup or may need to quickly make an adjustment in-between pieces, emphasize that the dance is key. Their dance recital survival kit should equip them with the critical Q-tip or baby wipe to adjust a smudge. But if they have long lashes that are threatening to block vision or throw them off, lose them and make sure the piece takes precedence!
We found a few great ideas at Dance Spirit for some “recital rescues” like addressing stained quick change clothes, or fast makeup solutions.
5. Music Woes
Music malfunctions can catch even the most experienced performers off guard. For older performers who may be able to more easily recover from a music glitch, encourage them to continue to perform if a sound issue arises. For younger dancers, instruct them to pay attention to their teacher, who hopefully is stationed nearby and can guide them in the event of a technical problem in the performance hall.
6. Unfamiliar Environment
As we mentioned above, it’s critical that performers be given a chance to rehearse in the performance space. Letting dancers acclimate to the stage, lighting, sound, etc. can go a long way towards alleviating related issues.
There are other environment-related considerations, however. Especially for younger or less-experienced performers, the dance recital day can be overwhelming due to the sheer number people, level of noise and change in environment. Experienced studio owner Misty Lown has some great tips on managing your backstage area in a way that creates a positive environment conducive to the success of your dancers.
Need to know how to get ready for a dance competition? Check out these resources we’ve put together so that you and your stars are ready to hit the big stage!
Pre-Preparation: 2-3 Months Out
We say “pre-preparation” because competition season should be on your calendar WAY before the week of the big day(s). Your dance studio staff will be doing research, confirming details with the competition staff, and relaying information to you as they get it.
So, be sure to read any and all news updates as they get to you! That way you can be:
Also, make sure to reinforce good eating habits with your dancer(s). Dancers are athletes, so they should be eating well anyway, but it’s especially important to have them strong and healthy going into an important event where they represent their studio.
It’s ALWAYS better to be safe than sorry, and by digging in and figuring out the small details early, you’ll leave yourself some wiggle room for those last-minute emergencies.
One of the easiest ways to make sure you have everything you need for an upcoming competition is to:
Do your research (ask your dance teachers for suggestions, and check the internet for recommendations from other dance parents or guides)
Make your giant list of things, and maybe coordinate with other dance parents to buy items in bulk and split some costs of supplies
Find a way to put all your supplies into one easy, organized container
Our Dance Competition Survival Kit guide lays out some of the best ideas we’ve found for building your all-in-one dance competition station, and has been updated with suggestions from real dance teachers and parents who have been to competitions before and know their stuff.
More or less, the supplies you’ll need break down into:
Personal comfort items (coffee thermos, light jacket, phone charger, water)
The Day Of
On the day of competition, you and the rest of the studio’s dancers and parents will all be running around, trying to make sure you’re in the right place at the right time. There’s so much going on at a competition!
Before you get caught up in the commotion of the day, make sure that you as a parent have taken a step back and recognized that the day isn’t about you: it’s about your dancer!! And dancers, especially those who might be attending some of their first few competitions, are the ones who will suffer the most if they get stressed out and upset.
Plus, there’s a good chance that someone who hasn’t practiced may need a helping hand, so it’s a good idea to know what you’re doing so you can help out someone on your dance team.
Follow the Teacher/Leader
The teachers are the pros. They’ve done the competition thing many times, both as teachers and (very likely) as performers! Look to them and pay attention to their directions.
Like we mentioned earlier, the day of competition will be full of noise, distractions, and probably some complaining here and there. Have your schedule, have some kind of communication plan in place (some studios use a messaging app or group text), and follow your teachers’ leads.
Make A Checklist – For Things and To-Do’s
Your Daily Dance has a great printable checklist that fits onto a regular sheet of computer paper, and can definitely cover most if not all of your bases (depending on your particular dancer’s needs and the competition you’re going to).
Finally, take a deep breath. Taking your dancer to competition is a lot of work! But few things are as rewarding as seeing your dancer have the time of their life on stage and come home with a new sense of achievement.
The dressing room before a dance competition is a crazy scene – you and your fellow dancers are abuzz with excitement and your nerves are running high. There’s so much to think about – will you wow the judges and hit every measure of your choreography? With all this excitement going on, the last thing you want is to look in your makeup bag and discover that you left your most important competition makeup at home.
A confident dance performance begins with a confident face, and that starts with the right look. Dance makeup helps the judges and audience tune into the emotional aspects of your performance, whether they’re sitting in the front row or at the back of the theater – and a panicked look because you’re the only one that forgot their lipstick is not the emotion you’re trying to convey.
Instead, prevent cosmetic catastrophes and makeup meltdowns with this handy checklist. The night before your competition, pack all these items in your bag so they’re ready to go the next morning. It doesn’t hurt to run through the competition makeup checklist one last time before running out the door, either.
Dance Competition Makeup Checklist
A smooth, bright complexion starts with hydrated skin, so tote along a hydrating face lotion. Opt for a formula that’s non-greasy and fast-drying, since this means it’ll absorb quickly so you can get onto the next step in your makeup routine.
2. Face Primer
Moisturizer hydrates your face, but primer preps it for foundation, helping your makeup to last through multiple routines and a whole lot of sweat. If you don’t want to feel like your makeup is slowly sliding down your face as you dance, then you definitely need a primer.
3. Eye Primer
You don’t only need primer to help your foundation stay on – it also works wonders on your eyelids to help shadows and liners stay put. Choose a formula specially made for eyes, since the area is extra sensitive.
Foundation smooths any blemishes, dark marks or shadows on your skin and brightens your complexion so you can put your best face forward. As the Energetiks Blog noted, foundation creates an even and clear base under harsh stage lights. When packing foundation in your bag, double-check the bottle to make sure you have enough left for your competition – bring extra if you think you’ll run out!
Foundation creates a great base, but concealer is necessary to cover up any particularly pushy blemishes and dark circles under eyes. If you have red spots, you can use a green-colored concealer to counteract them.
5. Foam or Sponge Makeup Blenders
You can have the perfect foundation, but you need a way to apply it. The debate is out about whether it’s better to apply foundation with a brush, sponges or foam blenders – according to Daily Makeover, it’s a matter of personal preference and there are pros to each method. So experiment with what works for you! Just make sure you bring enough blenders along.
6. Contouring product
A powder or cream in a shade slightly darker than your skin color can help define your cheekbones, neck and shoulders and add extra dimension to your face. According to Energetiks, contouring is vital because it prevents your face from looking flat under the lights.
After defining your face with contouring powder or cream, you need to top it all off with blush. Choose a pink shade slightly brighter than what you would normally rock in your day to day life. Cream or powder blushes are both good picks.
To define your eyes, you’ll need several eyeshadows in a variety of shades. Rhiannon at A Dancer’s Days applies white eyeshadow to her lids first, since this makes the eye stand out. Then, you can top the white with darker browns, grays or purples in the creases and sweep it out toward the brow bone for definition. Since doing your eye makeup involves multiple shades of shadow, it’s worth it to invest in a large shadow palette.
9. Liquid or Gel Eyeliner in Black and White
Liquid or gel eyeliners last longer than their pencil counterparts. White eyeliner can be applied to the waterline to make eyes look bigger, will black eyeliner pressed into the upper and lower lashlines make your eyes and lashes stand out even more and set off your shadow.
10. False Eyelashes
False eyelashes are a must-have for the stage, making your peepers pop. Buy a pack containing extra lashes so you’re covered.
If you’re wearing fake lashes, you don’t really need mascara, but it can be useful to pack a tube just in case your fake lashes decide to be fussy and won’t stick.
12. Brow powder/pencil
Strong brows are an essential part of your stage look, since they set off the rest of your makeup and define your expressions to the audience. A powder or pencil product will help you fill in any sparseness in your natural brows.
Pack a long-wear lipstick product that will last throughout your competition without drying out your lips.
14. Lip Liner
Lipstick isn’t enough – a lip line in a matching shade will define your lips and act as a barrier that will prevent the lipstick from migrating from your lips – and showing up on your teeth when you smile for after-competition photos!
15. Finishing powder or setting spray
A finishing powder or setting spray is the cherry on top of your look that will help your makeup stay put, no matter how much you break a sweat.
16. Handy Extras
It’s smart to pack some useful extras in your makeup bag, too. Bring Q-tips, makeup remover, cotton pads and extra makeup brushes, so you’re prepared for anything.
You’ve spent the year planning a dance recital for your studio, and now, with one month left to go, everything is finally coming together. The next few weeks will bring a flurry of emails and phone calls and the time will pass by before you even realize it. It’s possible, however, to minimize stress and stay sane – the key is being organized and having a dance recital checklist.
One of the worst feelings is suddenly remembering that you forgot to pick up the costumes, enlist volunteers or take care of another vital task. The dance recital checklist below will help you make sure you stay on track with one month to go before the recital.
Check in With the Venue
If you are holding the recital at a venue other than your own studio, now is the time to check-in with them and confirm that the space will be yours for the recital and for any rehearsals. Verify the hours that you’ll need to use the venue, and make sure that you have secured sufficient space for dressing rooms and backstage areas and that there will be enough chairs for your audience and tables for selling flowers and other items.
You also should check that there is an easily accessible parking area for audience members, teachers, dancers and volunteers. Also, make a note of what you’ll need to bring with you for the performance, such as additional lighting and music systems.
Try on Costumes
The last things you want are uncomfortable dancers and curtain-call wardrobe surprises. Don’t wait until the recital gets closer – instead, have your dancers try on their costumes well before recital time to make sure they fit, recommended Crown Awards. Consider offering a “Costume Construction Day” for alterations or provide parents with the contact info of the seamstress so they can arrange any necessary alterations or tailoring if the fit should be improved before rehearsals. Also, check that each dancer has all the necessary accessories and a garment bag for transporting the costume to the dress rehearsal and recital.
Programs can be a hassle to put together, but if they include advertiser pages they can really help boost your business. One month before the recital, layout and print the programs. You can do this yourself on publishing software if you’re design-savvy, but otherwise, you can outsource the programs to an online company. When you receive the draft of the programs, triple-check for typos, misspelled names and other errors.
If you have money in your budget, hiring a professional designer to craft your recital programs is well worth the money, advised Dance Studio Life. This way, you can create custom ads for local businesses who want to be included in your program but don’t have an ad ready, and you can have a snazzy, high-quality program that you can sell as a keepsake.
Finalize Recital Add-ons
It’s important to figure out ahead of time what you will offer at the recital. Dance recital add-ons can be both a service to your dance families and a source of added income. The Dance Exec provided a helpful list of recital “extras” that you should consider: Logo t-shirts, posed and candid recital photos, flowers, trophies, stuffed animals and recital DVDs. If you haven’t already, decide whether you will hire a professional photographer and/or videographer to record the recital, and book them ASAP. Check out this post for tips on choosing the right photographer for your dance recital photos.
Distribute Recital Packets
There are so many details for dance families to remember – make it as easy as possible by providing a recital packet. Some of the information you might want to include is:
Posed/recital photo sessions/information
Recital day schedule/info, including drop-off/pickup information, parking, etc.
Cost of recital add-ons, and any related order forms
In addition to the packet itself, make use of email, text and social media reminders to keep your dance families informed. You may also want to hold a mandatory “recital meeting,” especially for new dance parents.
Want an easy template to start from? You can download our Sample Recital Detail Information template using the form below! It’s a Microsoft Word document, so you can edit the details according to your needs.
Take the time now to confirm that you have enough volunteers to help out with the recital – and recruit some if you discover you’re falling short. It’s easy to forget certain little jobs that need volunteers, so sit down and list out every aspect of the recital to make sure you’ve enlisted enough help. Do you have people to man the flower or recital DVD table? What about someone to help organize the dancers backstage? Someone to take tickets, give out the programs, or direct parking? Make sure you have all your bases covered!
Take Care of Yourself
With all the craziness that comes with recital season, you need to make sure you’re taking good care of yourself. Stay hydrated, get plenty of sleep and opt for convenient, healthy meals instead of fast food after late classes and client visits. You might think that feeling pulled in a million directions all at once is a normal feeling as the recital approaches, but neglecting your health only makes it more likely that you’ll wake up the morning of the recital with a throbbing migraine and a sore throat.
And if you’re feeling overwhelmed with stress, take a step back and remember – all the little details are fun, but the true value of planning a dance recital is that your dancers get to share their passion and hard work with loved ones and a community who cares.
Recital week can be an exciting time, but it can also be very stressful. Between the constant travel and hoping to look your best during every performance, things can get exhausting quickly. Luckily, there are a few simple ways to get through this stressful time of the year. These tips and tricks can help your dance recital week seem like a breeze, instead of an anxiety-ridden event. Consider these suggestions on how to survive dance recital week.
1) Plan Ahead
Plan, plan, plan ahead! Begin setting aside items that you’ll need for the recital, but won’t need to use the week before. That could be pieces of costumes, hair accessories, shoes, makeup and so on. Beginning to pack this far in advance means that you won’t be scrambling at the last minute trying to get things together for your show or series of shows. Instead, you can calmly grab your bags and head to the studio.
2) Label Everything
When you’re packing, you don’t want to get confused or mix things up. That’s why it’s critical to create categories and sections for all of the pieces you need for recital week. Once you’ve got your costumes and essential items organized, labeling them is just as important. Label each with your name and the purpose of the item. You may even want to go as far as listing the recital number as well as your personal phone number. This is a good idea in case you lose your bag or leave it somewhere and another person finds it. That way they can call you and hopefully you can get it before the show!
3) Make Copies of Your Rehearsal Schedule
Rehearsals are just as important as the recital themselves. After all, what’s more important than making sure you completely have the steps down for your routine? Once you get your rehearsal schedule from your teacher, look it over several times to make sure you know where and when you are rehearsing for the dance recital, and write down the schedule in your planner.
If you don’t know these details, you might get distracted and forgot or accidentally arrive at the wrong studio, causing you to be late for the rehearsal and potentially ill-prepared. Though these schedules can seem overwhelming, as you may have several practices in a row before the actual performances, they are critical to you doing well.
4) Bring Extras
It’s always wise to bring extras of things. That way, if you lose one item, you can quickly grab the backup. Also, recitals can be an exciting time, but they can also be unpredictable. You may not anticipate that your tights will rip or the straps to your dress will come loose, but they might. Keeping an extra pair of tights and some safety pins on hand can help alleviate these issues as they happen. Aside from those two items, have extra bobby pins, pain relievers, hairspray, makeup, baby wipes and band aids. That way you can be at your best no matter what happens.
Looking for a guide to help organize these extras? Check out our dance competition survival guide! Competitions and recitals have TONS of crossover materials needed, so you can use this guide be sure to have everything covered.
5) Create a Checklist
Thanks to DanceMom.com, who put together a checklist of lots of items you need to pack and things to keep in mind. Run through that list more than once to make sure everything is on there!
After packing, compare the list with your packed dance bag not once, but twice. Attention to the little details can make a big difference on recital day! Once you know everything is packed, you can head into the studio assured and confident instead of worried and concerned that you forgot something.
6) Eat Smart!
If you’re running from performance to performance, you’re bound to get thirsty fast. That’s why it’s so important that you pack plenty of food and water.
Make sure you bring along a resilient, large water bottle that you can refill and keep at the studio. The same goes for food and snacks. You don’t want to be running on empty during your favorite performances, so pack some healthy snacks to help keep you going.
Regardless of what age and level you are, it can be hard to be a student and a dancer. You want to be the best dancer you can be, but you also don’t want to fall behind on your schoolwork. Yet between homework, tests, practices and recitals, it can be hard to get it all done. So what are you to do? Consider these four tips on how to balance dance and school.
“Ask your dance studio owner or teacher for a estimated calendar of events.”
1. Get a Planner
Between school and dance, you may not have much free time. That’s why it’s important to stay organized. One of the best ways to do this is to get a planner. If a paper planner isn’t your thing, consider one of these great organizational apps. As soon as you get your syllabus from each class, log all quizzes, assignments and tests. That way, you can’t miss your assigned homework or a last-minute practice. Visually seeing these tasks a week ahead can also keep you organized. Sometimes you might not know about a performance or recital until a few weeks before. At the beginning of the year, ask your dance studio owner or teacher for a estimated calendar of events that you can log into your planner as well. Hopefully those dates will stay fairly accurate throughout the year so you can keep on top of it all.
2. It’s OK to Put School in Front of Dance
Some days, it may seem like dance is more important than school. You have more fun there anyway, right? However, at the end of the day, academics still matter. If there is a way to compromise, then make it happen. Otherwise, put school first. At the end of the day, dance may not be worth it if you’re failing classes. If you have a big test or presentation coming up, work on it during your free time at dance practice or a recital. However, if you know that you won’t have that free time at dance, it might be better to skip it.
3. Time it Right
As a dancer, you may tend to put a little too much on your plate. Aside from school and dance, you may also try to balance a job, friends and time with family. Be careful – this can lead to a fast burnout if you try to make it all work. Each week, plan out your timing. Look at how much time you plan to spend at dance, at school, on homework and so on. If you don’t have time for everything, it’s important to cut out activities that matter less. Though it could be hard to cancel on good friends, it might be necessary. Make sure you dedicate the most time in your day to dance and school. If you have extra time at the end of your day, great! If not, then it’s time to make some cancelations.
4. Think About Home School
If you’re looking to be a serious dancer, it might be time to think about home school. That way, you can plan your hours around practice and recitals. However, if you decide to do this, it’s important to talk to your teachers, parents and dance directors first. They may decide against the idea or note that it isn’t the smartest move for you. Your parents or guardians may also note that they don’t have the time to teach you at home. Sometimes, you may be able to compromise. Consider meeting halfway by going to class part of the time and then attending dance classes for the rest of the day. That way, your schoolwork is still partially structured while being able to focus on dance.
Between ripped tights, performance missteps and glitchy audio, there are lots of things that can go wrong at a dance competition. Some issues you might see coming, like if a dancer is overly nervous and forgets her steps, while others may catch everyone off guard. Because some crises can strike without warning, it’s best to give your dancers a pep talk ahead of time. Here are a few tips to prepare your students for common problems they might face at the next dance competition.
1. Costume Malfunctions
Perhaps the most notorious of performance crises is the wardrobe malfunction. It might be something as small as a run in someone’s tights, but it could also be a broken strap, a loose tap shoe or a drooping tutu. The first thing you should do to prepare for any costume problems is have your competition survival kit handy. You’ll want to have extra tights, shoelaces, bra straps and double-sided tape, as well as a multipurpose tool to tighten taps.
Hopefully you were able to sort out any mid-performance costume issues during your dress rehearsal, but it’s a good idea to let your dancers know how to handle any unexpected problems. ISport Ballet recommended that dancers continue performing if there’s a minor wardrobe malfunction. It’s more distracting to the audience if a dancer is scrambling to fix a slipping strap than if she simply lets it hang. If you have serious concerns about the integrity of a costume, it might be a good idea to have dancers wear nude leotards underneath.
2. Forgetting the Steps
Stage fright is an all-too-real problem. If you have some novice dancers who seem a little shaky before their performances, you might be nervous that they will forget the steps. There are few things more upsetting for dancers than blanking in front of a large audience, so have a pep talk prepared in case this happens.
If your performers express concerns that they can’t remember the steps, Dance Advantage suggested that you remind them that their muscle memory will likely kick in once they relax. Try to get them thinking positive thoughts and assure them that their bodies will remember what to do once the music starts. Confidence is key when it comes to performing, so encourage your dancers to visualize success.
3. Making a Mistake
An occasional wrong step is often inevitable, but once in a blue moon, there will be a dancer who makes a noticeable mistake. Dance Spirit magazine noted that this is a fear of many students, as no one wants to let the team down. If this happens to your performers, it’s important to encourage a spirit of camaraderie among your dancers.
“This will happen to everybody on a team at some point,” Anne Smith, co-director of Hollywood Vibe, explained to Dance Spirit. “Everyone does the best they can and it’s important to keep each other motivated, uplifted and positive.”
Encourage your dancers to keep performing, even if there’s a major blunder. Have students support one another and pick up teammates who fall – literally or figuratively.
4. Messed-Up Music
Ask any studio owner and she’ll likely tell you that the only guarantees in life are death, taxes and technology malfunctions. If you’ve ever experienced a music mess-up at a dance competition, you probably know that it can catch even the most experienced performers off guard. Most teachers and judges agree that it shows professionalism and confidence when a team continues performing through music glitches.
“I had a group of novice Irish dancers whose CD froze on them halfway through their dance a few years ago,” one teacher explained on Dance.net. “Not one of them stopped or even hesitated … The adjudicator sent a message backstage saying how impressed she was with their performance.”
Instruct your students to keep dancing, no matter what’s going on with the sound.
5. An Imperfect Stage
There’s a reason that sports teams always want home-field advantage, and that’s because it’s where they’re comfortable. At a dance competition, when you’re performing on a stage you’ve never seen before, there’s always a chance it will be too sticky or slippery.
If you have concerns about the stage, instruct your dancers to use rosin before going on, and tell them to remain confident in their performance. Dance Spirit magazine noted that the risk of injury or mistakes is greater when dancers are moving tentatively because they’re afraid of the floor.