On My Mind

February 2017 | On My Mind

by Rhee Gold

Creating choreography is an opportunity to be an artist, to make a statement, or to entertain. An audience, except perhaps for dance teachers or judges, isn’t generally impressed with spectacular feats; the average audience member doesn’t even know the difficulty of a given move. However, an audience always responds positively to performances that elicit an emotional response or provoke thought.

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January 2017 | On My Mind

by Rhee Gold

A new year is upon us, the time when we traditionally make resolutions about things we want to change about ourselves—lose a few pounds, read more, budget better, and so on. It’s a great opportunity for studio owners and dance teachers to resolve to change their professional lives for the better too. Here are my suggestions for you to adopt and share.

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December 2016 | On My Mind

Let’s imagine that one town has two very good schools, and let’s say that they are roughly equal in size and that each offers a quality dance education. What could make one school stand out above the other?

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November 2016 | On My Mind

Children depend on us to protect them from being exploited or sexualized. In a society that appears to accept and promote the sexualization of women and girls, it’s hard to stand strong and insist—as I’ve done for decades—that dance teachers must be advocates for their students. But I believe every dance teacher must stand firm against movement, music, and choreography that inappropriately sexualize young girls.

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October 2016 | On My Mind

After months of attending conferences and giving speeches across the United States and Canada, I’ve discovered that there is always more to appreciate about our dance education community.

We are witnessing a time in dance history when many school owners have become smart small business owners who offer quality dance education to every child—and they are being rewarded with financial success. For dance teachers, there have never been more opportunities to teach, not only at these schools but also in a new field that has evolved, in which master teachers travel throughout North America to teach and choreograph at small-town studios. And everywhere they go, they inspire young people to pursue their dance dreams.

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September 2016 | On My Mind

Today school owners want to learn to lead with confidence, both in their schools and as mentors, leaders, and teachers in their communities. They want to be part of a unified voice in dance education that stands for everything that is good for their students and the field. By working together, teachers and school owners can preserve the integrity of dance education—and, on a personal level, evolve in this exciting, ever-changing world of dance and dance studios.

I am proud to lead this call to unified action by founding the International Dance Entrepreneurs Association (I.D.E.A.), the first business association for dance school owners who are ready to stand up for a business model based on a code of ethics. In addition, I.D.E.A. focuses on cultivating new knowledge—the members’ website is loaded with management tools, e-learning courses, and webinars, along with such tools as customizable forms, correspondence, policies, coloring pages, and marketing materials. Regional professional development seminars will be held around the United States and, eventually, internationally.

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August 2016 | On My Mind

Not too long ago, marketing at most dance schools meant investing big bucks in printing, postage, and newspaper ads. Many school owners couldn’t pay for that kind of marketing, but nowadays, social media puts all schools on a level playing field. My motto is “Give it the time, and it will give you the return.” Where many school owners make mistakes, however—and squelch their social media success—is in moving beyond dance into hot-topic issues in their posts.

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July 2016 | On My Mind

In my seminars I often talk about change: I believe that accepting it is key to personal and professional success. Some change is hard to accept, but some feels like a natural evolution. Some can be a little of both. That’s the case for me as Cheryl A. Ossola, after nearly a decade at the helm of Dance Studio Life, has decided to transition into a new role here. Though Cheryl has stepped down as editor in chief, she continues to provide valuable expertise and support in her new and evolving position as senior editor.

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May-June 2016 | On My Mind

Sometimes when I tell people that I believe dance can change lives, I receive skeptical reactions, especially from non-dance people. Maybe they’d change their minds if they heard about Pierson Feeney, an 11-year-old who lives in D’Iberville, Mississippi, and takes dance classes at Gulf Coast School of Performing Arts. The Kansas City Star recently reprinted a story about him, and I want to share it with you.

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March-April 2016 | On My Mind

Winning (or not) is part of competition, but the process is what offers the most gain for the kids. It bothers me when teachers, dancers, and parents can’t see the life lessons because they are so focused on winning. The high level of commitment expected of today’s competitive dancers is an excellent teacher of how to balance demands (of academics and of dance), to understand sacrifice, to appreciate the results of hard work, and so much more.

During this competition season, then, let’s all recognize the process as much as we do the outcome.

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February 2016 | On My Mind

There are many ways to evaluate a dance school. We might first think of the merit of the faculty or training. Or we might consider the awards won; the number of students who move on to the professional world; the quality of the customer service, organization, and professionalism; or other factors.

To me, though, quality is reflected most in the atmosphere and spirit of the community created within the school, especially among the intensive dancers. Instinctively, at a performance or in the classroom, I can feel whether (or not) the kids get along with and respect each other. Competitiveness or jealousy aren’t simply inward emotions felt by those who possess them—the actions, emotions, or distractions that they can create usually seep out to affect the classroom and sometimes an entire school.

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January 2016 | On My Mind

It’s a new year, and I’ll bet you have some sort of self-improvement goals for 2016. If one of them is to become a better teacher, try this: imagine that each time you enter your school you are walking in the stage door, prepared to give the best performance possible.

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December 2015 | On My Mind

As we prepare to head into 2016, I am thrilled to launch a concept that has been dancing around in my mind for more than five years: an international business conference and association for dance school owners. This dream will become a reality with the first I.D.E.A. (International Dance Educators Association) conference, held July 30 through August 1, 2016, at The Phoenician, a luxurious resort in Scottsdale, Arizona. With many respected dance teacher organizations offering high-quality dance conventions, master classes, teacher training, and competition or performance opportunities, I.D.E.A. will take a different tack, focusing on the development and implementation of high business and ethical standards.

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November 2015 | On My Mind

We all have opinions. And sometimes, when they’re on topics that have the potential to affect large groups of people, our perspective can be controversial. When I know that’s the case, I try to convey mine in a non-judgmental way, hoping to stir up thoughtful debate rather than offend people who disagree with me. Recently I stood strong on an issue, and I made some enemies.

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September 2015 | On My Mind

I’m writing this two days after the 2015 DanceLife Teacher Conference, our biggest and best yet. Each time we produce this event I’m overwhelmed by the amount of work that goes into it—and each time, as it concludes, I forget about the work because I’m overwhelmed by the enthusiasm, spirit, and generosity of the hundreds of dance teachers and studio owners who spend those four or five days with us, immersed in dance.

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August 2015 | On My Mind

For most dance teachers, this time of year—the beginning of a new dance season—marks a fresh start. You’ll welcome back students who are growing up before your eyes, and you’ll see many new faces, students who will experience the excitement of dance for the first time.

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July 2015 | On My Mind

In this issue’s “Ask Rhee Gold” column, I advise a school owner on how to approach a delicate situation. You’ve all encountered complex issues among your students’ families—divorces, deaths, substance abuse, and so on. But as our world changes, so do its complexities. The question this woman asked isn’t one that any of us would have heard even five years ago, but it’s likely to become more common.

The advice sought was about how to respond to—and how to explain to other students and their parentsa young transgender student’s request to be recognized as Jessica rather than as Josh.

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May-June 2015 | On My Mind

Honest. Trustworthy. We all label ourselves with those words, and that’s a good start. Next up: having the integrity to prove them true.

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March-April 2015 | On My Mind

I’ve been in the dance education field for a long time, and over the years I’ve noticed some changes, particularly in regard to student performances. Long before the current generation started dancing for awards, generations of young dancers performed for something quite simple: applause.

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February 2015 | On My Mind

Being a school owner requires a certain amount of resilience and optimism. Being optimistic doesn’t mean ignoring the tough stuff; it means focusing on what’s good as much as possible.

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January 2015 | On My Mind

Heading into 2015, I’m consumed with the logistics and planning for the next DanceLife Teacher Conference, coming up in late July/early August. To judge by this year’s roster of faculty and speakers, the theme for the 2015 DLTC should be “over the top.” In the two years between these events I run into many impressive people whose knowledge and skills would be perfect for the conference, and this time I went a little overboard. While creating the conference’s schedule (a daunting month-long project), I realized that accommodating a faculty of 38 and more than 125 classes, seminars, and special events meant expanding to four ballrooms. “Over the top” we go!

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December 2014 | On My Mind

Running a business requires many skills. It also requires good instincts and a willingness to act on them. Take the case of Maura, a successful school owner. Her weaknesses are a fear of confrontation and a tendency to be too trusting—and too willing to squelch her intuition.

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November 2014 | On My Mind

Those of you who have attended my seminars for dance teachers and school owners know that I rant about the “grab-the-foot-and-yank-the-leg-to-the-ear” move we all see at every dance competition and on TV. “It’s the way to show a good extension,” a teacher once told me. I don’t agree.

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October 2014 | On My Mind

In today’s business world, there’s plenty of talk about mission statements and branding and logos, and most of us accept that those are desirable and necessary components of a business’ identity—and even of its success. Sometimes, instead of a formal mission statement, a tag line suffices—a succinct, often catchy description of what’s most essential about the business. It might not be in print anywhere, but it’s in the business owner’s head; in the case of a school owner, it usually sums up why that person has chosen dance education for a career. Dance Studio Life has a tag line too: “dedicated to quality dance education.” If you asked me to tell you what that means to me, you’d probably get quite a speech.

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September 2014 | On My Mind

I understand that teachers need to work on technically challenging feats with their students, but if those are all they’re working on, I start to wonder if they forgot—or never understood—that dance can be stunning, touching, and beautiful even when it doesn’t include a single jump, turn, or “grab the leg and yank it up.”

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August 2014 | On My Mind

Beautiful technique, gorgeous feet, and a whole lot of desire for excellence—that’s how I would describe the world-class ballet dancers I saw at the 2014 USA International Ballet Competition in Jackson, Mississippi. From classes to performances to teacher workshops, everything about the event was a class act.

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July 2014 | On My Mind

Ten years. It’s quite a milestone to be celebrating, especially for a supposedly doomed publication. What is the secret to our success? A combination of factors: a humble passion for education and the art of dance, the commitment of editors and writers who understand the soul of the dance community, and a constant desire to be on top of an evolving dance education field.

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May-June 2014 | On My Mind

Most of you know the routine: three days in an auditorium at a dance competition. That’s what Jocelyn, a school owner, is doing on this particular weekend, along with her students and their parents. By the second day, she knows her dancers aren’t scoring as well as she had predicted they would. Her confidence is shot, and her first thought is to strategize a defense plan to explain to everyone why the dancers are not up to par. In politics, it’s called spin mode.

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March-April 2014 | On My Mind

Recently I met Amanda (not her real name), a dance teacher who broke down while she explained that she had once loved teaching. Now it was nothing but stress. When she started teaching, she said, things were simpler: “All I had were toddlers; they loved class and so did I.” Now, she said, “I have students of all ages who are jealous of each other, and the parents question every move I make. They call or text me because they do not like my choreography or to blast me because they think tuition costs are too high. Almost everything I do is wrong!”

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February 2014 | On My Mind

Today I learned of the passing of Frank Hatchett, whom I admired for many reasons. Thinking about him takes me back to my childhood, and to my early career as a dancer and teacher.

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January 2014 | On My Mind

It’s the beginning of a new year, and I’m feeling thankful for each new day ahead of me, and the possibilities each one holds.

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December 2013 | On My Mind

Recently on Facebook, someone with a college degree referred to me as a high school dropout. They claimed to be “outing me” and insinuated that I should not be allowed to run my seminars because of my lack of formal education.

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September 2013 | On My Mind

Nothing in the dance education field provokes as much passionate debate as the pros and cons of dance competition. Some teachers live for competitions, while others enjoy the experience but consider it only a part of what they offer their students. Others are disgusted by it.

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August 2013 | On My Mind

I have always believed that attitude has everything to do with success. School owners who have a bad attitude—even when they have a huge marketing budget, the best faculty, and a school that offers excellent training—will not achieve the same level of success as do those whose love for dance shows in everything they do.

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July 2013 | On My Mind

This month we’re celebrating Dance Studio Life’s ninth anniversary. In a time when we constantly hear about the imminent death of print magazines, we are proudly bucking the trend with our largest July issue ever. We are always focused on creating content that will enhance the lives and careers of our loyal readers, and our subscription base is growing every day.

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May-June 2013 | On My Mind

Recently I got a phone call from a frantic school-owner friend looking for advice. She had started a business selling dancewear to her students and the community, and she was panicking because she was still losing money after four years. She told me how she had worked so hard to make the business a success. And then she said, “I can’t stand the thought of failure.” She was worried about what her family or friends would think of her if she couldn’t pull it off.

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March-April 2013 | On My Mind

When was the last time you took a vacation? How about a day off just to rest and refuel? If you’re like many of the dance teachers and school owners I talk to, you’ll say you don’t have the time or the money. If that sounds like you, then maybe it’s time to rethink your priorities.

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February 2013 | On My Mind

We are in conference mode here at the Rhee Gold Company and Dance Studio Life. What started as Project Motivate with 20 attendees in 1998 has morphed into the DanceLife Teacher Conference, which attracts more than 700 teachers, school owners, and studio managers from across the United States and Canada, and from as far away as Italy and Australia.

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January 2013 | On My Mind

I recently ran into a dancer for whom I had choreographed solos when she was a teenager. I had followed her successful performing career in New York and Los Angeles, and by anyone’s standards she would be considered a hardworking professional. Now in her mid-30s, she told me she’s ready to shift into the next phase of her career, which is to open a dance school. Her plan of action is to open a studio in a town that doesn’t already have any dance schools. She has saved an impressive chunk of money that will get her new small business off the ground.

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December 2012 | On My Mind

In this month’s issue we focus on jazz and hip-hop. As we were brainstorming about the content for the jazz section, I found my mind wandering back to the mid-1970s, when as teenagers, my twin brother, Rennie, and I would go with our mom to New York City to take classes from the jazz masters of the time. Many of those classes were with Luigi, who is featured in this issue.

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November 2012 | On My Mind

This month we zero in on creativity, which immediately brings to mind the artistic aspects of dance education. But creativity is a state of mind that can flow into all areas of life, including our attitudes toward our businesses. Being creative means being open to possibilities and exploring options. So let’s look at how that mind-set can play out in these imaginary scenarios involving two studio owners.

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September 2012 | On My Mind

As I’m writing this, I’m heading into my fifth week of seminars at the DanceLife Retreat Center. And what I’ve discovered is that not only can dreams come true, but they can exceed our expectations.

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August 2012 | On My Mind

Many of you are school owners on the cusp of a new year of dance. What will you do differently this year? What can you do to improve? Of course those questions are related to teaching, but they’re also about the business.

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July 2012 | On My Mind

What’s keeping you from doing what you know is right? Are you giving others that power? You are if you ask yourself questions like these: “I know I need more space, but I’m afraid my clients won’t follow me if I move my school.

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May-June 2012 | On My Mind

When I was a child, my parents took me to Paragon Park, an amusement park in Hull, Massachusetts, with an old, rickety roller coaster. I liked to watch that roller coaster more than I liked to ride it;

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March-April 2012 | On My Mind

These days, when I turn on the TV, I get frustrated. I’ve had it with the national television shows that, in my opinion, shine an unjust and negative light on the dance-teaching profession. Dance is such a positive experience for so many students, families, teachers, and studio owners, but what’s stealing the limelight is all the negativity.

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January 2012 | On My Mind

People write to me for advice on an enormous range of issues, and I usually feel that I can offer something useful because I’ve been in the dance field for a long time in a lot of different roles. But some letters, especially the ones that make me really feel someone’s pain, leave me asking myself: What do I say to this person?

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