There are countless intangible benefits to being a dance teacher, including being a mentor, having a positive influence on students, creating, expressing yourself through movement, and introducing children to the joy of dance. But there are practical issues to contend with when choosing this path—a traditionally low-paying one that offers few full-time, benefited opportunities—as a career.
It feels good to read about other young women who have chosen this path [“What They Do for Love,” July 2012]. I took over my mother’s business at age 23 and I have had so many moments of doubt about myself and my abilities to succeed at such a young age. When you surround yourself with people who believe in you, and when you trust that you have been living this life since you were born (for all us studio babies), it becomes clear that there is no better person than you to carry the torch.
Transitions, staging, and visuals will enhance your choreography in a big way. Don’t be afraid to get beginner dancers transitioning and moving in their routines instead of standing in one spot for an entire song.
A typical dance school year provides a feast of opportunities for images that you can use to convey the personality and professionalism of your school. And who’s better positioned to record them than yourself? Because you’re a familiar face, your young subjects may be less self-conscious than if they were being photographed by an outsider. Also, you’re there every day, which improves your chances of recording the kind of wonderful, unscripted events that arise around the studio or the beauty captured in a formal photo shot.
My children have learned to embrace dance and how to put it to use in their everyday life. The studio is their second home. I am happy knowing that is where they want to be in their free time; that is all because of her. She is dramatic—aren’t all dance teachers?—but at the same time she recognizes when a child needs to be given a hug because maybe her day did not go so well. She knows each and every child and all of their quirks.”
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.
Challenge the core. To build students’ core strength in each class, have them do the yoga “plank” with weight on the forearms. Tell them to hollow the abdomen (exhaling to bring the navel closer to the spine) and maintain this form for at least 30 seconds. As they become stronger, encourage them to place one hand at a time behind the back and then to lengthen one leg at a time until the foot leaves the floor. Incorporating these into longer movement phrases with music allows students to experience them as dancing rather than exercises.
Auditions can be harrowing, whether dancers are trying to get into professional companies, pre-professional training programs, shows, or colleges. But my years of experience teaching in the University at Buffalo Theater and Dance Department—and conducting auditions for prospective students—have shown me that teachers can help prepare students to put their best selves forward when auditioning.
When something goes wrong with your recital venue, it doesn’t just seem like a problem; it seems like a nightmare. In addition to the usual recital stress, you may find yourself with no access to the wings, no lights, or locked dressing rooms. Sometimes, because of scheduling snafus or disasters like floods, fires, or auto accidents, your venue suddenly isn’t available at all. Still, the show must go on.
We’ve all experienced it: feeling exhausted and overwhelmed to the point where we can hardly bring ourselves to care anymore. Burnout.
Studios use guest teachers for a dance bag’s worth of reasons.
By Karen White
The five wild turkeys were in no rush, scratching their way methodically across the DanceLife Retreat Center lawn, looking up and loping into the woods when a car crunched across the gravel drive.
I teach for an amazing woman who built a big school with the help of her mother, who worked in the office until she died over a year ago, at a young age. It was stunning to all of us involved in the school because she really was the one who prepared and had everything organized for everything that happens outside of the classes. She died in the spring, so all the teachers and friends jumped in to help get through the rest of the year. It worked out fine and everyone bonded, feeling like they were part of the team. It was very rewarding. When the next season started my boss had hired a new studio manager to replace her mother.
For many people, the word “marketing” drums up colorful images of advertising: print and television ads, brochures and flyers, websites and blogs. But that’s not all marketing can be. For dance teachers—and studio owners in particular—marketing must go above and beyond common, passive forms of advertising to showcase the value of our skills and services and build and sustain positive relationships.
Please trust your students. If you are clear about what you expect from them and they understand and know their dances, there is no need to stand in the wings and vigorously perform the dances. This distracts the dancers and makes it hard for them to concentrate, which prevents them from performing at their best.
NOMINATED BY: Paula Showman Bridges, daughter: “I would like to nominate Thelma Showman. An extraordinary woman and teacher, she has touched thousands of lives. She officially retired two years ago but, at 96, still teaches her Showman Showoffs class for adult ladies and classes in tap and ballet.”
How do dance teachers stay sound and healthy enough to demonstrate safely after they stop dancing full time? It’s tricky business. We take for granted the flexibility and strength acquired throughout our performing and early teaching days. But all too often our bodies let us know that after all those years, they need more attention.
If you want to be successful, says Chade-Meng Tan, retrain your brain. It’s as simple as this: if we let our emotions rule us, we are, Meng (as he’s called) says, letting the horse drag us instead of being in command. Meng, an engineer and the author of Search Inside Yourself, is now Google’s official “Jolly Good Fellow,” and the book is an evolution of a course he taught there. (Look for him on YouTube, giving talks at Google and TED on this topic.)
Henry Ford once said, “If there is one thing which I would banish from the earth it is fear.”
Homework! Understand the history and the styles. Studying old films is a great way to pick up moves and understand where they came from. Wild Style, a movie about hip-hop pioneers, is a must. Beat Street motivated me to breakdance and battle. Breakin’ is more of a commercial film but has some great popping—Turbo and Ozone rocked it out! The Freshest Kids, one of my favorites on hip-hop history, is an essential hip-hop tool.
Yield and Push. By studying developmental movement patterns, which take place in utero and during the early months of life, we have discovered the necessity of yielding to and bonding with gravity and then pushing through every point of contact to the earth. Yielding establishes an active give-and-take relationship with gravity and a readiness to move. Pushing sends energy from the earth along open pathways of flow through the joint centers to the body’s core.
Tip 1 When dancers reach the advanced level, it is always helpful to introduce a “show and tell” exercise that gets them used to adding 8 counts of their own steps to small pieces of choreography. For example, one student might do flap flap cram proll, shuffle step heel stomp, shuffle step heel stomp; another might add riff back flap heel tap heel stamp, stomp back flap, stomp back flap stomp. Keep this going in a group with four or five kids and they will have made a dance in no time.
The results are preliminary, but they’re a no-brainer to anyone involved in arts education. A study has found that “children that partake in music activity in a group setting are more prone to developing one of humankind’s noblest traits: empathy.”
I don’t want my students or their parents to believe that I am not offering them the best training I can, but I know they are getting from my school what they need. And I know this girl should move on. Are my teachers right?
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.
It’s no secret that dance teachers often have long, grueling hours. Handling your own fatigue when you’re faced with a barrage of personalities, minor emergencies, and classroom challenges isn’t easy.
To introduce students to the advanced level, give combinations that involve intricate footwork and coordination skills. I often use a combo that is tricky yet fun for the kids to figure out.
Muscular strength is not the same thing as stability; flexibility is not the same as mobility. Clarity of form without resilience leads to rigidity; flexibility without grounding creates formlessness . . .
Tell your students not to wait for the 5-6-7-8 to move. I always encourage my students to freestyle or groove to the music before a combination begins.
Ballet vocabulary is often neglected. It helps to have young dancers understand the meaning of the French words because it gives them an image of what the step should be; for example, glissade (to glide), jeté (to throw), and assemblé (to assemble or bring together).
Observing students with a critical eye and responding with thoughtful feedback is something dance educators do in every class. You can let your students practice these skills as well by using So You Think You Can Dance as a format for a role-playing exercise for 10- to 13-year-olds.
Businesses create boards that educate and inspire, attracting new customers and keeping current ones talking.
COLUMNS Ask Rhee Gold Advice for Dance Teachers 2 Tips for Ballet Teachers by Mignon Furman 2Tips for Hip Hop Teachers by Geo Hubela 2Tips for Modern Teachers by Bill Evans 2 Tips for Tap Teachers by Stacy Eastman A Better You | Fighting Fatigue by Suzanne Martin, PT, DPT . . .
My mom has owned and operated her studio for 40 years. She has shared her passion for the art of dance with thousands of students and has always gone the extra mile for everyone.
While working a full-time job she managed to teach 12 classes a week as well as run the studio. Twelve classes soon became 15, and then 19, and so on.
I am consistently amazed at the enthusiasm and determination Katie brings to every goal she envisions for the dance program. Her approach is student-centered, but with a keen understanding of the importance of the entire school community with regard to advancement of the arts.
Who was Tony Stevens? Many things, not the least of which were a Broadway and film director/choreographer. But this man, who passed away on July 12, 2011, at age 63 of Hodgkin’s lymphoma, was much more than that to me, and to many others.
Ms. Donna is a great teacher because she inspires my daughter to dance even when she’s no longer in her class. Ms. Donna makes children see her as a friend as well as someone whom they must listen to if they want to perform the moves correctly.
GeBauer discovered dance as a young teen when his doctor suggested it as a way to help him recover from rheumatic fever. GeBauer, however, saw it as a path to confidence.
Yet when I see dancers with disabilities or a group of senior-citizens tappers- and of course that 3-year-old pretending to be a ballerina- I am reminded that anyone who touches the heart of an observer is a real dancer.
be the dance teacher he’ll never forget
I am thankful for the opportunity to express the emotions of life through the art of dance.
I am a dance teacher….. her future is my passion!
She’s disheveled, hides in the back of the classroom because she feels different from the other kids.
Her leotard is always dirty, her bun is a mess, and she never smiles.
Know the craft. Like ballet, tap, and jazz, hip-hop has a foundation. Popping, locking, tutting, waving, isolations, and break dance are all elements and styles within hip-hop.
Cricket is dedicated to the arts and does whatever is needed for the students, whether it is finding scholarships, housing them, helping them find jobs, fund-raising, making their costumes, or helping them with their performance.
Teachers are the lifeblood of any dance studio, no matter what the size or styles taught. The quality of their instruction, combined with their people skills, can make or break a studio.
“Great! Welcome!” It’s the first thing you should say if a deaf or hearing-impaired child wants to take dance classes.
If you give a dance teacher some music, she’ll want to count it. In fact, even if she doesn’t want to count it, she will anyway, because that’s what dance teachers do.