Melanie Rios Glaser is nothing if not bold. Bold enough, in fact, to say, “Dance can help end poverty in this country.” She points to the successes she’s seen and instigated at The Wooden Floor, an organization where dance remains at the foundation—the floor, so to speak.
It was 10am on a Tuesday. My project for the day was to work on ideas for growing enrollment, but with evenings and Saturday mornings booked, where could I put new classes?
Recreational dancers make up a huge part of many dance studios’ enrollments, and they often bring in the top dollar per class in tuition. Most teachers see these dancers only once a week, for an hour or less at a time. Since we’re trying to give them as much instruction as possible over the course of a school year, that’s a very limited amount of time.
Combo classes. The words are enough to strike fear into the heart of many a studio owner. For students and parents, the idea can be tantalizing, fun, and affordable—a little bit of everything, like an appetizer sampler.
The studio owners and teachers filling The Gold School studio had a million questions—about marketing techniques, dealing with problem personalities, balancing work and family, providing quality education, and making money.
Got an aching back? You’re not alone. It’s estimated that 80 percent of people will experience low back pain at some point in their lives, and why wouldn’t dancers be included? They endure long hours standing in classes and even longer hours delegating, directing rehearsals, and doing grunt work during performance crunch times. Most teachers have reveled in their back flexibility, perfect pull-up, and posture, but how long can those nobly acquired attributes hold up? Here are some tips to help tame those aches and pains.
Eleven-year-old Bernice Miller stood on a chair to teach her first ballet class to neighborhood kids with as much authority as she could muster. It was the fall of 1929, and her “studio” was her parents’ two-level garage in Pensacola, Florida. Eighty years later, Bernice’s daughter, Starr Burlingame, carries on her legacy as director of Bernice’s Starrstep Dance Studio. Starr chalks up the longevity of the school to her mother’s zeal for her work and treatment of her students with respect and acceptance.
Some teachers complain that they’re sick of answering the same questions year after year. Forget about it and realize that to them it’s a new question and you’re the expert. It should be easy to give a clear and informative answer; after all, you probably don’t even have to think about your response because you’re so familiar with the question.
Often, we’re comfortable within the classroom but we tend to feel a little “on-edge” when it comes to collecting tuition or other fees owed by our clientele. Some school owners don’t want to create “waves” that could result in losing a student.
I am one of the lucky dance teachers with a husband who supports what I do. He has dinner waiting on the table when I come home and he takes on as much responsibility with our three children as I do . . . Together we have been saving for three years to come up with a down payment for a piece of land that we know is a fantastic location for the dance school of our dreams.
I’ve discovered a trend. It’s a growing disconnect between what’s said and what’s done. The frustration that arises among teachers and school owners stems from students and parents who feel that they don’t have to abide by the policies or rules set forth by their dance school, that they, or their situations, are exceptions to the rules
Although there are some well-educated dance parents out there, they are certainly the minority. When enrolling children in dance class; most parents are in the novice category in the search for quality dance training. A huge majority understand a once-a-week dance lesson and a recital at the end of the year. They don’t know a whole lot about strong technique or turn-out, nor do they grasp the concept that their child could someday become a ballerina, professional dancer or a high score winner.
A dress code lends a professional look to classes and sends the message to students and observers that the school’s staff takes the training they provide seriously. A dress code creates an added sense of discipline in the classroom and equality among the students. The focus stays on taking a good class rather than comparing dance wardrobes.
Ever wonder why the kids of America are rushing to the nearest dance school to sign up for classes? The answer is hip-hop, and it’s a genre that poses a particular set of challenges for school owners and teachers. It can make older teachers feel out of touch and uncomfortable. Sometimes the students are undisciplined. Sometimes the lyrics are dirty—profanities aside, the words can be a minefield of innuendo. Much of the content is sexual, and some of it is demeaning to women. The lyrics can be hard to decipher, and it doesn’t help that the slang and the catchphrases change at a dizzying rate. It can make you doubt yourself: Am I being prudish here?