Butterflies and Beginnings
I have a confession to make: The last time I taught dance was many years ago, although the butterflies I felt before every class are still fresh in my mind.
My university’s dance department required its students to teach a semester-long dance class to preschoolers at the school’s childcare center. My first day, as I faced probably a dozen—it seemed like more—squirmy, chatty children looking at me expectantly, I broke into a sweat. This class was going to be a big responsibility and a lot of work.
Luckily, my advisor had handed me a great resource: a textbook that covered cognitive considerations for teaching dance to youngsters. The first exercise I tried involved having the kids lie on a length of butcher paper, forming shapes of their choosing (triangle, monster, the letter E). We traced the shapes with a Sharpie, taped the paper to a wall, and made a dance sequence based on those shapes, which we practiced and performed first with brow-furrowed concentration, later with giggles and a few cries of “Again!” Not everything I tried that term was a hit, of course. It took plenty of trial and error, reading, and discussion with my peers and professors to find my footing.
I gained a lot from that experience, including a renewed appreciation for good teachers and the importance of great resources. Which is why, so many years later, I’m thrilled to be serving as the new interim editor in chief at Dance Studio Life, a valuable teaching resource if there ever was one. Nearly all of us who love dance can point to a skilled and enthusiastic instructor who made studying the art a challenge and a joy. Here at Dance Studio Life, we’d like to return the favor by creating a must-have magazine and a website, dancestudiolife.com, designed to inform and inspire you.
Dance Studio Life celebrates its 13th anniversary with this issue, and we’re as determined as ever to keep evolving in step with the dance education field, so that we can bring you the freshest and most useful information available. With that in mind, we’re debuting several new departments this month that we hope will make your work easier, more productive—maybe even more enjoyable. Look for tips on teaching dance to preschoolers (wish I’d had that years ago) and students with special needs, columns on competitions and studio makeovers, and great advice from industry veterans on keeping your business running smoothly, whether you’re dealing with personnel issues or money matters.
This is also our Holiday/Seasonal and Career issue, so we’re sharing ideas on how to maximize your studio’s reach during the busy fall and winter months. Searching for fresh styles for your holiday show? We’ve got you covered. And we’re exploring the personal side of the profession with a new column on self-care and a feature on running a studio with your significant other without reaching for the kitchen knives.
As associate editor Karen White pointed out recently, teaching dance isn’t so much a job as a calling. Creating a magazine is a little like that, too, and my predecessor, Thom Watson, won’t be an easy act to follow. I’ve got those butterflies again, but I’m excited too. I hope to hear from you in the coming months about what you’re working on, what you think we’re doing well, and what we could be doing better. Email us, call us, or give us a shout on Facebook or Twitter. We want to be one of your most valuable resources; you are, and always have been, one of ours.
DSL interim editor in chief Heather Wisner is a former associate editor at Dance Magazine. She has written about dance for SF Weekly, Willamette Week, The Oregonian, and Portland Monthly, among other publications.