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Posts Tagged ‘DanceLife Teacher Conference’

South Dakota Studio Owners Celebrates 10th Anniversary with DLTC Trip

DLTC; photo courtesy DSL

DLTC; photo courtesy DSL

Shari Trujillo of On Your Toes School of Dancing in Rapid City, South Dakota, will be celebrating her studio’s 10th anniversary with a trip to Scottsdale, Arizona, to attend the DanceLife Teacher Conference—thanks to a video contest scholarship sponsored by Hollywood Connection Dance Convention and Competition.

“I am so thrilled and beyond thankful to Dance Studio Life magazine, Hollywood Connection, and to everyone who ‘liked’ my video to be able to have won this opportunity,” she said to DSL. “Living in South Dakota and being a smaller studio, I didn’t even think it would be possible to win. This couldn’t have come in a better year. I am celebrating my studio’s 10th year in August. So this is the cherry on top.”

Trujillo said when her senior competition team shows her the video they had created, “we all cried watching it because it was so touching and meaningful.” As a solo teacher/studio director handling more than 30 classes a week, she could never find the time to attend the DLTC convention and do “something just for me.”

“I think I am most excited to get to learn things to bring home to share with my studio, and also to talk to someone else who is in the field I’m in,” Trujillo said. “I don’t think everyone understands a dance teacher unless you are another dance teacher, and I’m excited to just be with ‘my kind.’ ”

The DLTC is set for August 1 to 4 in the luxurious, five-star Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona, and will include four ballroom/theater spaces running simultaneously with technique classes, business seminars, and motivational sessions. Visit for more information.


Get to Know Your DLTC Faculty: Derrick Yanford

Derrick Yanford; photo courtesy DLTC

Derrick Yanford; photo courtesy DLTC

In this installment of “Get to Know Your DLTC Faculty,” we continue our conversation with Derrick Yanford.

What has been your greatest accomplishment?
Derrick: I’m going to replace greatest with most memorable for I don’t wish to rate or compare them to each other—they are all great!

As an amateur: achieving my goal of winning the titles of Mr. Dance of America and America’s Dancer of the Year.

As a professional dancer: probably my first professional gig. I was so young and had only been dancing for a short while, so I’m pretty proud of that. Also, being chosen to dance with Ballet Hispanico. They were only looking for one male dancer. I was only 20 and a sophomore in college, and was in the audition with some really talented seniors from my school. But they chose me . . . that was cool!

As a choreographer: the last performance of my company, Bridge Dance Concepts. We performed at the EDANCO Dance Festival in Santo Domingo last September and were very well received. The show order changed for the second night to allow us to close the show and the festival. I love what I came up with, and my dancers performed beautifully. It was a really great experience.

As a teacher: the many offers I’ve been given to teach around the world. I have been fortunate to have been contacted by people whom I’ve never met, asking me to teach for them based on what they heard about my teaching style, or by either watching me teach, taking a class, or through word of mouth passed along by my students or colleagues. I feel very fortunate and blessed to have the respect of my contemporaries.

As a person: without a doubt my 15 soon-to-be 16-year relationship with the love of my life. I am so glad the universe brought us together, and I’m looking forward to the next 15.

To learn more about the DanceLife Teacher Conference scheduled for August 1 to 4 in Scottsdale, Arizona, visit


On My Mind

Words from the publisher

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.

As we celebrate our 15th anniversary as conference producers, we’ll offer more than ever—well over 100 classes and seminars in the first four days of August, presented at the five-diamond Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona. The diverse faculty includes some of the brightest minds in the field, coming from backgrounds in hip-hop, classical ballet, tap, contemporary, jazz, preschool education, and more.

It’s important, I believe, to get back to basics with dance classes. Although there are numerous conventions that offer advanced master classes, few provide the chance to learn new concepts for preschool, beginner, and intermediate students. Yet these classes are exactly what every school owner or teacher needs to do well, in order to maintain their school’s financial health.

A full track of business sessions for studio owners includes concepts and techniques for marketing, office organization, summer programs, websites and social media, building new profit centers, plus more. In addition, there will be special sessions for studio managers and closed “studio owner only” events.

Since communication is key in dance education, many schools have brought their entire faculty and staff to our last few conferences to ensure that everyone is learning and sharing with a singular mind-set. Often, while the teachers take classes, the studio managers and school owners attend the business seminars. Together they build camaraderie and bring a bounty of new ideas back to their home studios.

As the conference director, I have a goal of bringing the dance community together to share a love for the art of dance, while simultaneously providing opportunities to learn and grow as professionals—and thus improve as teachers and as business owners. I look at the conference as a way for attendees to rejuvenate their dance spirit, build confidence, and learn new teaching skills that will not only improve students technically but also inspire them to develop a lifelong passion for dance.

As I look back to the beginning of my journey as a conference producer, I remember the skeptics who told me that dance teachers and school owners were too competitive to want to share their knowledge. My instincts told me that wasn’t true. As the DanceLife Teacher Conference has proved over and over again, dance educators embrace the chance to communicate and to celebrate their common bond.


Click! | New DanceLife Teacher Conference website

 Online must-sees from the Rhee Gold Company

The next DanceLife Teacher Conference is coming up this summer, held August 1 through 4, at the Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona. And now you can see the most updated schedules and faculty roster at the brand-new DanceLife Teacher Conference website. Visit, and come back for updates! | | |


Get to Know Your DLTC Faculty: Bruce Marks


Bruce Marks; photo courtesy DLTC

In this installment of “Get to Know Your DLTC Faculty,” we continue our conversation with Bruce Marks.

What do you do for fun (other than dance)?
Bruce: Kayak, swim (especially when I fall out of my kayak).

What is your favorite movie/book/TV show?
Bruce: My movie choice has to be Casablanca. TV—Downton Abbey. Book . . . too many to name.

What do you see as the most-pressing challenge facing dance studio directors/teachers today?
Bruce: Bringing style and aesthetics to the stage.

What are you looking forward to the most about teaching at the DLTC?
Bruce: Looking forward to an honest exchange of ideas.

To learn more about the DanceLife Teacher Conference scheduled for August 1 to 4 in Scottsdale, Arizona, visit


Get to Know Your DLTC Faculty: Sandi Duncan

Sandi Duncan; photo courtesy DLTC

Sandi Duncan; photo courtesy DLTC

In this installment of “Get to Know Your DLTC Faculty,” we continue our conversation with Sandi Duncan.

When did you first start dancing and why?
Sandi: I started dancing when I was 2 years old because most of the girls in my neighborhood were dancers. I enjoyed class all year long, but once the recital came, I was that child who kicked and screamed before and during the performance. I wanted nothing to do with being onstage. My parents decided not to send me back to class the following fall and I became that child that once again kicked and screamed, but only because I couldn’t go to dance lessons. Needless to say, my parents quickly sent me back and I never missed another recital!

Did you ever seriously consider a career in another field? What was it?
Sandi: I am a dance educator, but also I work in the life coaching field on a part-time basis. I love to cook and would be happy traveling the world cooking for someone on their private yacht!

What has dance meant to you in your life?
Sandi: Dance has brought joy, freedom, love, friendship, struggle, creativity, peace, laughter, exploration, and most importantly, healing, to my life! I am so, so, so grateful!

To learn more about the DanceLife Teacher Conference scheduled for August 1 to 4 in Scottsdale, Arizona, visit



DLTC’s Joe Tremaine: Putting the Pizazz in Jazz

DLTC, dance, life, teacher, conference, jazz, Joe Tremaine

DLTC, dance, life, teacher, conference, jazz, Joe Tremaine

Joe Tremaine started dancing when he was 4, and hasn’t stopped since. Today, the charismatic, 6-foot-tall professional performer, master teacher, studio owner, friend of stars, and convention/competition owner can still pack a studio filled with eager students of all ages, and will certainly do so next summer at the DanceLife Teacher Conference.

Tremaine grew up in tiny Oak Ridge, Louisiana (population 250) where his mother would drive him 35 miles three times a week to dance class. He started teaching dance in high school, furthered his passion in college, got his first dance job in New Orleans, then swiftly began landing dance and summer stock jobs in New York City.



DLTC Speaker Lori Shecter an Expert in Web Educational Systems

Lori Shecter; photo courtesy Dance Studio Life

Lori Shecter; photo courtesy Dance Studio Life

Lori Shecter, DanceLife Teacher Conference speaker, can often be found in front of her computer, searching for the latest trends in schools, technology, branding, and creative design.

Shecter is the founding principal and creative director of School Empower, a web consultancy service that provides web and app solutions for clients both small and large. Two of School Empower’s first projects were for an art guild and a dance studio. “After working with these two clients, we realized there was a great need for fast-acting, intuitive, and flexible software that was affordable for any size school but did not cut back on features,” she says.

In the early 1990s, Shecter became vice president of sales for Lifetime Television, and during her 10-year tenure grew sales from $1 million to more than $100 million. She has spent the last decade in digital advertising, holding down national sales positions at startups and Fortune 500 companies alike, including (now owned by Disney) and

Most recently, Shecter created and ran North American ad sales for, where she increased sales to more than $40 million (from zero) during a four-year period.

To learn more about Shecter and other faculty members appearing at the 2013 DanceLife Teacher Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona, visit



DLTC Faculty: The Teacher’s Teacher, Madame Peff Modelski


Madame Peff Modelski; photo courtesy DLTC

“I think teachers get so little feedback about the quality of their teaching, except after the fact. And so they need to learn to recognize when they’ve been successful day to day.

“Teachers should take all the time they need. What a phenomenal responsibility it is to be a teacher! We take people out of their ordinary lives and give them a moment that is a little more beautiful to take with them for the rest of their lives.”

Those are words of wisdom from Madame Peff Modelski: master ballet teacher, developer of the PeffPointe Teacher Training workshop, and just one of the esteemed faculty members of next summer’s DanceLife Teacher Conference.

Modelski was born in New York City and trained with Margaret Craske, Alfredo Corvino, and at the Metropolitan Opera Ballet School and School of American Ballet. A professional ballet dancer for four decades, she was in the original company of Fiddler on the Roof and taught at Steps on Broadway for 29 years. She is a Guild Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner, a Master Registered Dance Educator, and a Sounder Sleep Specialist.

She conducts her trademarked three-day PeffPointe Teacher Training workshop each year, and maintains a private Feldenkrais practice

To learn more about Modelski and her philosophy for teaching ballet, read “Ballet Scene: Modelski’s Magic” in the July 2011 edition of Dance Studio Life magazine at

For more information on DLTC faculty, visit


2-Way Street for Studio Owners


A conference connection turns to mentorship, and more

By Misty Lown

One of the benefits of attending conferences is the opportunity to network—to make new professional contacts, share ideas, and develop new friendships. That’s what happened to me at the 2011 DanceLife Teacher Conference. It was my first time presenting a seminar at a major conference, and it was also when I met Melanie Gibbs, owner of Boca Dance Studio in Boca Raton, Florida. She and I have since formed a great mentoring relationship, and best of all, a friendship.

During my seminar I talked about employee benefits at my studio, Misty’s Dance Unlimited (MDU). As I outlined our policies on education allotments, maternity leave, and retirement contributions, a woman in the front row shouted, “Can I come work for you?” After a big laugh from the audience, I replied, “Sure! Let’s talk.”

The woman was Jo-D Meacham, co-owner of Boca Dance Studio and Melanie Gibbs’ business and life partner. She said Melanie was “the most amazing teacher and dancer” she knew, but that they were struggling with the business side of the studio. Jo-D told me she had taken the last year off from the studio to care for their young son, who was facing health challenges, and the task of keeping the studio going had fallen to an overwhelmed Melanie. Jo-D asked if I would be willing to meet with Melanie and offer her some perspective on how to move the business forward. I told her I would be happy to try to help.

Visiting Florida

Melanie and I began exchanging emails and looking for an opportunity to meet. The chance came five months later when I worked two side trips to Boca Raton into a family vacation to Florida. On my first visit, I met Melanie at Legacy Dance Championships and chatted with her about her studio while we watched her students compete. On my second visit, I went to Boca Dance Studio for a quick tour that turned into an all-day event. Melanie outlined her specific challenges regarding space, programming, and need for more staff. Her biggest question was “Can I make this all work?” I assured her she could.

The whole concept of creating an experience, rather than just teaching classes, was something I understood deep down, but I didn’t know how to put it into action. —Melanie Gibbs

Charged up by the interaction, we started looking for a time for Melanie to come to Wisconsin. She wanted to see our studio layout, front desk operations, and programs in action. We settled on my recital weekend as the kickoff for a three-day mentoring marathon. In addition to taking in our recital, Melanie toured my studio, checked out the curriculums and management tools, and met the teachers. She even made time to be a guest judge for Disco Frogs, one of my school’s newest performance companies. In the meantime, I reviewed Boca Dance Studio’s operating budget and hiring needs.

Six weeks later Melanie was back in Wisconsin for a 48-hour blitz of ideas, questions, and mutual encouragement. She had gone to Chicago to visit students of hers who were participating in the summer program at the Joffrey Academy of Dance. Although my school was a bit out of the way, as Melanie said, “When you fly all the way across the country to visit students, what’s another four hours in the car?”

Along with a LEGO set for my son Sam, who was having a birthday, Melanie brought a list of all the things she had accomplished since our last visit. She had taken at least one action step on each of the goals we had discussed, including setting up new books for accounting and hiring two new positions, an office manager and an event coordinator. When she went back to Florida, she had another to-do list in hand. I wasn’t surprised to receive a text the next day saying she had crossed two things off the list.

One was submitting a free half-page ad to the Boca Tribune, a business that had recently become a neighboring tenant; the other was initiating a goody-bag giveaway (of treats and promotions from nearby businesses) for registration day. More important than just a to-do list, however, Melanie went home with priorities to move her business forward.

Our next meeting is planned for Thanksgiving weekend, when she will be a guest judge at our seventh annual “Dancing With the La Crosse Stars” charity event. I am eager to see her next progress report.

A mentoring relationship involves give-and-take, so my perspective isn’t the only one. Here’s Melanie’s side of the experience.

What were you hoping to get out of the conference?

MG: I was attending strictly for the business sessions. I have attended hundreds of conventions and was not interested in taking more dance classes at that point, but I knew I was lacking in business training.

What inspired you about the business sessions?

MG: Your real-life solid examples, 10 strategies, and all your numbers. So many numbers! You made “scary business training” seem accessible. What a huge relief it was to hear that you were not coming from a business background! A big fear of mine was that I would never learn how to run my studio without committing a huge amount of time and money to returning to school, and you proved that wrong.

What motivated you to seek out mentorship?

MG: [Jo-D and I] felt like we had hit upon someone who could help us immediately—not giving us great ideas that we could possibly use down the line, but someone whose model would work for us now. I was in a very receptive mind-set and you were offering so much; there is no way we would have walked away without following through on that.

What is the most valuable piece of advice you’ve gotten through mentorship?

MG: That I am selling a message, not a service. The whole concept of creating an experience, rather than just teaching classes, was something I understood deep down, but I didn’t know how to put it into action.

What is the best part about having a mentor in the studio business?

MG: Just feeling like there’s a safety net under me. It can be wonderful to “go where no man has gone before” sometimes, but it’s a lot easier to have a model to follow. I constantly ask myself, “What would Misty do?”

What have you enjoyed about our cross-studio visits?

MG: Other than the brats and cheese curds? I’ve loved seeing another studio in another region, as well as showing you around our region a little bit. It reminds me that I don’t want Boca Dance Studio to be MDU 2, but I do want it to be the best it can be.

Have there been any surprises along the way?

MG: Without a doubt, the connections I’ve made through you: a new relationship with Jenny Hiltbrand, the owner of Kehl School of Dance in Madison; your photographer, Theresa Smerud; your ballet master, Kennet Oberly, who might do a workshop for us; your mother-in-law, Karen, who lets me stay at her house; and your mom, five amazing kids, and husband. When we first approached you in Arizona I never dreamed we’d be making a friend, as well as other friends along the way.

What are you most looking forward to for your school?

MG: Expanding the focus as my studio grows and becomes more financially self-sustaining—branching out into more community work and national exposure. Expanding my own role as a secondary mentor and being able to pass down what I’ve learned to people who are in the place I was in the summer of 2011.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to connect with another studio owner?

MG: Just do it! Quit thinking of all the reasons why it’s a bad idea—you’re not ready, it’s out of your reach, it won’t work out, you have nothing to offer or they have nothing to offer. There is no such thing as a bad connection.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

MG: My path has turned sharply in a new direction since that conference. That’s the beauty—and terror—of information: once you know something, you can’t “un-know” it. There was no way I was leaving the DanceLife Teacher Conference and going back to the same-old same-old. The proverbial fire had been lit under me, but it would have been easy to go home pumped up about the studio and then get distracted, lose the notes, or just start painting the walls and making new name labels for the lockers. You kept me on track. You told me what to do and how to do it.

I have since made the hard decision many times and forced myself to focus on promotion and programs instead of buying paper towels or organizing the office supplies. I have done so many scary things since our visit in May. I’m an owner now, not just a teacher, and there is a vast difference in decisions made, word choices, and actions taken when you are the owner and not just one of the girls. I think a lot of studio owners aren’t ready to be that person yet, or just don’t know how, but with someone’s help they’ll learn. I sure did!

What goes around, comes around

Melanie isn’t the only one who has benefited from our relationship. She has inspired me with her motivation to improve her business, her heart for kids, and her desire to create opportunities for young women to experience success. She is always looking ahead and not behind.

She shared a quote with me that I now keep by my computer: “Forget failures. Forget past mistakes. Forget everything except what you’re going to do now, and do it.” I couldn’t agree more.


Thinking Out Loud | Why I Walked

By Shalyn Barker

Last year I was awarded a scholarship sponsored by Backdrops Fantastic to the DanceLife Teacher Conference, and I wanted to pass on my good fortune by doing something to help others. That’s when I got involved in Relay for Life.

This nationwide fund-raiser for the American Cancer Society has the theme “Cancer Never Sleeps.” Teammates take turns walking a track (normally at a local high school) for a total of 18 hours.

For many years I had thought about joining Relay for Life, but it was always held on the weekend of our studio’s dress rehearsal. To my surprise, last year’s date had been moved, so I signed up a team and began raising money at the studio.

The first team fund-raiser was “Let Your Hair Down for Cancer.” For one week, students could pay $3 on the day of their classes and wear what they wanted without putting their hair in a bun. On short notice, my little rule-breakers raised $400.

I then offered various rewards to students who participated in individual fund-raising efforts. To start, students needed to pay $10 to be on the team. Those who raised $75 could have a free quarter-page advertisement in the recital program book. At $100, they also received a Relay for Life T-shirt. At $250, they received a short video about themselves that was played at the recital during intermissions. I made the videos myself using iMovie.

The only illumination came from small white bags placed around the track, each containing a votive candle and bearing the name of someone who had fought cancer.

Students began sending emails to family and friends asking for support. In one month my team raised more than $2,500.

The night of our relay couldn’t have been more magical. Thirty-five parents and students ages 5 to 18 set up our campsite. Relay for Life is a public event very much like a carnival with a cause, so all types of people attend to eat, play games, and purchase items, with everything raising money for the American Cancer Society.

During the event other teams sold food and drinks or orchestrated carnival games, but our team’s fund-raiser was a photo booth that made good use of costumes and props from the studio. Our students who participated visited other booths to get their faces painted or purchase playing time on video gaming devices. Many brought tents and sleeping bags to spend the night.

All the while, each team had at least one person walking the track, carrying a relay stick that gets passed from one walker to the next, just like in a relay race. We made ours out of an old pointe shoe that we decorated and painted purple.

One of my favorite moments was the luminaria ceremony. With all the lights shut off, the only illumination came from small white bags placed around the track, each containing a votive candle and bearing the name of someone who had fought cancer.

By morning we were tired but proud. Joining in Relay for Life was food for our souls and changed us all forever. We still talk about the event with fond memories—of hearing the stories of families who have fought cancer, seeing the survivors walk all night around the track, and working together in teams for this important cause.

At the final ceremony we won the “Rookie of the Year” Team Award and our fund-raising efforts came in third place overall. We also came in second for the Spirit Award, which is based on the amount of spirit points each team earns for participating in team games and contests held before and during the event.

Three months later, I attended the DanceLife Teacher Conference in Arizona, the inspiration for my participation, and heard the story of Rhee Gold’s mother, Sherry, and how she lost her battle with cancer.

It was then that I truly knew why I had “relayed” and who it was for.

This year, rather than being named after our studio, our Relay for Life team will be called “Dancers 4 Cancer.” As I write this, with our local relay one month away, we have raised more than $4,000.

This year we will sell boiled peanuts and lanyards. Our purple pointe shoe will again circle the track. And candles will burn bright for all the loved ones who have fought the battle against cancer.


Jivin’ With Joe


Tremaine tells all on jazz, teaching, and his own high-stepping life

By Karen White

Joe Tremaine is the quintessential jazz dance pro. Growing up in the New Orleans area, immersed in what he calls “the best music on Earth,” Tremaine danced his way to New York City and Europe, cruised through TV jobs and Vegas shows, and eventually landed in Los Angeles, where he ran a “studio for the stars” for almost 30 years. He combined that teaching experience with his insider’s knowledge of show biz to create his Tremaine Dance Conventions and Competitions, now heading into its fourth decade. Through it all, Tremaine has been an ambassador for his own brand of heart-pumping, high-kicking, funky-and-fun style of jazz dance that still thrills his students and fans today. We caught up with him this fall, fresh off his appearance at the DanceLife Teacher Conference.

At the DLTC, the teachers couldn’t get enough of your jazz classes. What’s your secret?

His teaching “secret,” Tremaine says, is to use great music to get a class excited and involved. (Photo courtesy Joe Tremaine)

I want everybody to have a great time, and I think number one is the music. Music is what jazz is all about. It’s the vernacular form of dance based on American popular music. My first trick is to have them dance to the hottest music possible. Get the class engaged in a few steps, then put the music on. The pacing of the class is extremely important, especially if you’re teaching younger kids. When I teach 6-, 7-, 8-year-olds, I’ll teach them an 8 or two 8s, and I’ll go, “Do you want to do it with music?” “Yes, yes, yes,” they’re screaming right away. As you progress from there, you can correct the technique and so forth.

How long have you been teaching?
I started teaching a little bit in high school. I didn’t want to, but I lived in the cotton fields of Louisiana. In that area I knew more about dance than most people, which is not saying a lot! People had to drive 35 miles to get to a dance studio, so they said, “You can teach us.”

Did you always gravitate toward jazz?
Jazz was always my favorite. I tapped at first, then modern jazz, as they called it, was beginning to evolve and I said, “Oh yeah, that’s what I want.” When I was 8 or 9, I was dancing to music on the radio in my dad’s grocery store, and I remember one of the workers said, “Man, you’re good! When you grow up, you’re gonna be an exotic dancer!” He didn’t know what an exotic dancer was, and neither did I. I felt it was a great compliment at the time.

 But I had that influence, considered back then the street influence. It wasn’t hip-hop obviously, but it was called freestyling. I got many jobs because I could tap dance, I could do ballet, and I could out-freestyle anybody. I’d go into nightclubs and clear the floor dancing if I wanted to. But again, it’s all about the music.

You worked in the early days of TV, on The Jackie Gleason Show, The Jerry Lewis Show.
I moved from the cotton fields into New Orleans and worked in the French Quarter in legit shows, then moved to New York on a one-way bus ticket and lived at the Y. I started getting jobs. June Taylor hired me for a show called Mardi Gras starring Louis Armstrong and Joel Grey, and we played at Jones Beach in New York. After eight weeks June took me and three other guys to Miami to do The Jackie Gleason Show.

Most TV shows in those days were done live. How did that help you grow as a dancer?
It’s either do it or die. Today they call a season 12 shows—we did a 32-week season, and I did two years of live TV with many, many stars. It was the best training ground ever. There were no second takes—you really had to know what you were doing.

And I never stopped taking class, ever. We finished a show or walked out after rehearsal, where would we go? We would go to class. It was the best thing I ever did. You can never stop working on your instrument, on your body.

How did that all lead to teaching?
I was very lucky because I met so many stars on The Jerry Lewis Show—Jane Powell to Bobby Darin to everyone imaginable, and they would be like, “You’re really good—would you work for me?” That’s when I started choreographing. Eugene Loring had a school in Hollywood [Loring was director of the American School of Dance] and he said, “I want you to teach for me.” I opened my own dance center in 1971.

What was your studio like?
It was almost all adults. When I first opened I don’t think I let in anyone under 14, and then eventually dropped it to 12. But they were stars. Choreographers would take my class. Even Cyd Charisse took my class.

That was before people were going to gyms to get physically fit, so everybody would come to dance class. I’m not being egotistical, but my beginner and intro jazz classes would be huge—50, 60, 70, 100 people in a room that should only have 35 or 40. So I’d teach class harder and weed out the people who couldn’t keep up. Every secretary, every waiter, everybody out here wanted to be actors. That’s how my studio mushroomed—because they came to class.

How did you develop your style of jazz?
Every night I would go out dancing in the discos—not just to dance for my pleasure, but to hear the music, see all the street stuff. I’d say, “Boy—that could make a great step.” I would make it mine. I’d put it in a jazz form, and that’s how I developed my style.

What was best about running your own dance studio?
The freedom to do what I wanted to do, and do it the way I wanted to do it. I’m kind of strong-headed in the things I believe in. I like to teach fast and challenge people.

And worst?
I don’t know that there was a worst part. I feel selfish sometimes that I am able to do what I want to do, having the time of my life and meeting incredible people. I really don’t know how to do anything else, and I don’t care how to do anything else. I just want to dance. I always wanted to dance.

“When I was 8 or 9, I was dancing to music on the radio in my dad’s grocery store, and I remember one of the workers said, ‘Man, you’re good! When you grow up, you’re gonna be an exotic dancer!’ He didn’t know what an exotic dancer was, and neither did I.”

How do you see jazz dance changing?
Jazz encompasses so much, from lyrical to boogie-woogie to basic jazz to Broadway-style jazz. The most popular form now is probably contemporary. Everyone wants to do contemporary, even the 6-year-olds. My one concern is they don’t know why they’re doing it. I don’t think kids who lack emotional maturity should be doing it in competition. But in studios across the country they’re all trying to emulate the TV dance shows to some degree.

Teachers say they’re confused about what jazz is and that at competitions, different styles end up in the same category.
Jazz is open-ended. If you’ve got five people, you’ve got five opinions. There’s basic old regular jazz, funky jazz, then all the others. Obviously there is a Broadway-style jazz, but what is the fine line between that and musical theater? It depends on the competition and the way the judges define those genres. I think teachers have to define for themselves what it is and enter their numbers accordingly.

So jazz is connected to popular music, and since the music has changed, the movement has changed.
Jazz has no boundaries. Everybody is still going to dance to “Hit the Road, Jack,” or “R-E-S-P-E-C-T,” and that’s the old kind of jazz stuff. The great thing about jazz is that it’s an amalgamation. It’s a big stew. You throw in anything and stir it up with some good music and that’s jazz.

Is hip-hop jazz?
I said that jazz dance is an American form of dance which comes from the vernacular. It’s the same with hip-hop. It’s picking up on the trends in the music, and that’s street stuff and the kind of jazz I’ve always tried to incorporate. So I guess yes, hip-hop is a derivative of jazz.

Where is jazz going?
I think it’s going to continue just as it is with all kind of variations on the theme. The direction of popular music is what drives it. That’s what has driven it all along, all the way back to the cakewalk and the black bottom to jitterbug and boogie-woogie swing, Caribbean influences, everything. It’s so wonderful and it’s all interconnected.

What was your reaction to receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award at the DanceLife Teacher Conference?
I almost fainted dead away. I had no idea I was getting an award. I was sitting there, enjoying everybody else’s performances, then suddenly it’s all about me, which was just astonishing. I was almost speechless, which I’m usually not. It was great to be honored in such a way by your peers. It can’t get any better than that.

Do you have any advice for studio teachers?
Keep training the kids to the best of your ability and know that we all get frustrated. Teachers say, “I haven’t taught in four years and I want to start again,” and my first reaction is that they should have never stopped. You can slow down; you can change your pace. You don’t have to teach four million classes a week. Teachers have to remember we’re training bodies, minds, and souls, not just bodies to do hop shuffle ball change or boogie-woogie. I always say dance training is life training. I would tell them not to stop—don’t give up.

Any last thoughts?
Anybody who moves to music or without music, if they consider it dancing, I think it’s fabulous. Everybody should be moving all the time. Get out of the damn chair and lift your legs and roll your head and snap your fingers and sway to the music. It’s so important to our lives.


Inspiration in the Desert


Hot tips and straight talk at the 2011 DanceLife Teacher Conference

For four days in July and August, dozens of master teachers, business experts, inspirational speakers, and entrepreneurs shared their secrets for success with more than 700 attendees at the latest DanceLife Teacher Conference. In describing this year’s conference, perhaps master teacher and professional dancer Derrick Yanford said it best: “It’s all about inspiration.”

Hip-hop master teacher Geo Hubela says encouragement is the key. (Photo by Donner Photography)

Sweating and still breathing hard after teaching a packed-to-the-walls contemporary class, Yanford continued, “Here, we get people together who love what they do, all sharing that artist experience. It’s a powerful thing when you come out of class and people are thanking you, saying ‘I’m going to take this home to my students.’ I know I reached someone and changed their life, and they’ve changed my life, too. I’m getting gifts as well as giving gifts.”  

Held in the midst of a heat wave at the five-star Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona, the DLTC kept four ballrooms pumping with lectures, technique classes, and roundtable discussions. Attendees happily spoke of the difficulty of taking it all in. Vendors, from costume companies to competitions, flooring specialists to software sellers, enjoyed an almost-endless stream of visitors who stopped to learn more about their products.

Lessons even spilled out into the hallways, where master ballet teacher Roni Mahler seemed to be constantly surrounded by a small pack of teachers with notebooks in hand, furiously scribbling down her words of wisdom. “Passé is like an elevator on the outside of a building,” she said during a class on ballet for 6- to 8-year-olds. “Don’t lift the knee; lift the toes.”

Over yogurt parfaits and breakfast coffee, studio owners traded advice on how to keep team members in line, where to rent space (cheap), or who had the shortest recital. (At 45 minutes max, Fabulous Talent Center for Dance in Hamilton, Ohio, was the winner.)

The dance talk seemed never-ending. One night at about 11pm, DLTC speaker Misty Lown was relaxing in the resort’s hot tub when she was pounced on by teachers from several studios, eager to pick her brain about customer relations. She happily obliged—for almost an hour.

For the most part, seminar speakers presented strategies and solutions based on their own successful experiences in the dance studio world. At a marketing seminar offered by DLTC producer (and Dance Studio Life publisher) Rhee Gold, the audience packed into the grand ballroom was quiet and attentive, their pens moving quickly as Gold’s voice boomed out over the loudspeakers. “When it comes to marketing, wipe your ego out of it,” he said. In a later business seminar he elaborated on that idea, expressing the importance of “making decisions for your students that aren’t based on what will make you look good.”

Lown, owner and director of Misty’s Dance Unlimited in Onalaska, Wisconsin, described her definition of success “as having significance in your community.” Her “three-legged stool” formula of “people, profits, and positive programs” allows her not only to give away thousands each year in scholarships for students and teachers, but also to contribute to programs such as the American Red Cross that serve the greater community outside her dance studio.

Nancy Stone, vice president of Art Stone Theatrical, has owned and operated a dance studio since 1961. Her recital-theme session was a cornucopia of creative, age-appropriate ideas, including oodles of song titles and ideas to fit all the themes. For a recital with “A Day in the Park” theme, why not do a number about “Horseback Rides $5” to music from Gaîté Parisienne, and while you’re at it, why not walk a live pony across the stage? She once did. “Your show is your calling card, your brand, your image,” she said. “The idea is to always make your show exciting and different, give the audience something to talk about later.”

In one session, certified life coach and former studio owner Sandi Duncan instructed teachers on how to find inner peace and balance in their lives; the next day she answered questions about how to reach troubled kids and dispel negative energy in the classroom. “I like to check in with kids on a regular basis,” she said. “Teens especially need to know they’re being heard. Make eye contact. Let them know you care. Hugs, hugs, hugs, and energy.”

Geo Hubela, hip-hop master teacher and director of the ICONic Boyz, expressed a similar sentiment. Although he advocates challenging kids, it should always be in a positive way. “Encourage, encourage,” he said. That kind of positive approach can rub off on teachers too. “When I feel that I made a kid feel better about himself, it makes my day better.”

Tap teacher Mike Wittmers, teaching a call-and-response method of rhythm training, had an even more succinct take on Hubela’s and Duncan’s emphasis on positivity: “Tears, fail. Smiles, win.”

Master modern teachers Bill Evans and Don Halquist presented a slide show on modern dance pioneers Hanya Holm, Rudolf Laban, Martha Graham, Erick Hawkins, Doris Humphrey, Merce Cunningham, José Limón, and Alvin Ailey, among others. Evans presented poignant encapsulations of each, touching on their unique contributions to the development of modern dance. His lecture was dotted with personal memories of studying with these masters. For example: “Her mere presence onstage was enough to give me goose bumps,” he said of Pearl Primus.

Through a simple port de bras exercise, Evans proved to his seated audience the importance of breath in giving movement weight and meaning, a concept that he expounded on during a modern technique class the next day. “We study quality, a way of moving, not just putting bodies in motion,” he said, pointing out one dancer who, although she was just learning the unfamiliar combination, was “dancing from the heart.”

Halquist used breath to illustrate the feeling of his movement, sighing and brrr-ing his way across the floor. “I love to be gooey and elastic, so I’m not a good tap dancer,” he said. “I need to luxuriate in movement.”

A packed room listened as Beverly and Annie Spell, co-authors of the Leap ’N Learn early childhood dance syllabus, explained the importance of pretend play. They spoke of the various ways it can assist in skills development through the use of songs, words, verbal responses, and visual prompts. When teaching dancers ages 3 to 6, exercising the imagination through creative movement goes hand in hand with learning proper classroom behavior, they said, such as how to enter the studio and how to “sit and stand like a dancer.”

“The feeling you get on the inside from dance is a gift. Pass that gift on, and your students will pass it on, and it will impact more generations than you know.” —Rhee Gold

 Longtime studio owners generously shared their business knowledge in seminar after seminar. Paul and Tiffany Henderson of the seven-studio California behemoth Tiffany’s Dance Academy elaborated on the three components they feel have led to their success: a strong “babies” program; a fully invested, full-time teaching staff; and ample outsourcing of business services (which allows teachers to spend time doing what they do best—teaching).


Author and life coach Laurie Johnson did double duty, first teaching a killer tap class, then zipping into “motivational speaker” mode. Johnson, who left a corporate career to return to the dance world, caught the attendees’ attention with her opening statement: “My mother owned a dance studio for 20 years and never made a profit”—and kept them rapt as she explained that creating a brand is all about being yourself. “From that very first handshake, that first hello, you’re teaching people how to treat you,” she said. “Your brand is what people say about you. So what do you want to be known for?”

The incomparable Joe Tremaine led two high-energy jazz lessons jammed with his signature combos. At the luncheon gala, he and Georgia Deane, of Deane School of Dance in Mendon, Massachusetts, each accepted a Lifetime Achievement Award from Gold. At age 92, Deane happily took to the stage to sing “When You’re Smiling,” complete with an elegant soft shoe.

The four days ended, as the DLTC always does, with a heartfelt goodbye from Gold. He had spent hours of the conference onstage, leading Q&A sessions, sharing business advice, outlining handbook info, or chatting about summer camps. Now as the event came to a close, he urged the attendees to find a memento of the conference to bring home. “Put it on your fridge to remind yourself of the attitude you had when you left here today,” he said.

“The feeling you get on the inside from dance is a gift. Pass that gift on, and your students will pass it on, and it will impact more generations than you know. It’s not about kicking a high battement. Remind yourself of the difference you really are making in the lives of these kids.”

As ballet master teacher Madame Peff Modelski put it, “Everything counts, all the time.”

Karen White, Cheryl A. Ossola, and Arisa White contributed to this article. 




By Cheryl Ossola and Karen White

Are We Having Fun Yet?
This summer at the DanceLife Teacher Conference I was reminded of a good practice that’s easy to forget: if you want to engage people—in just about anything—make it fun. I can thank Dance Studio Life editorial assistant Arisa White for tuning in to that aspect of human nature since the example I’m talking about was her idea.

At each DanceLife Teacher Conference we hold a seminar about the magazine, usually pegged as a brainstorming session. We like to get people’s input, find out what they like and don’t like about the magazine, and collect their ideas about what would make it better. But in the past we’ve found that people seemed reluctant to talk. Whether they had no ideas or felt intimidated about speaking their minds, I don’t know. But when Arisa and I talked about how to do it this time, she went into creative mode and proposed a no-miss solution. We’d make the session a game, a team version of Family Feud in which we’d challenge the participants to come up with three great ideas for various topics—recitals, competitions, preschool dance, and so on. It’d be fun, and what better way to get a bunch of dance teachers talking than to ask them to outdo each other?

It worked. The room was full of chatter, laughter, and friendly disputes, with people jumping on each other’s ideas and sharing their experiences. Whereas in the past we’d had to deal with painful silences, this time we didn’t have enough time to talk about the flow of ideas. And everyone left with a smile.

So thanks, Arisa, for reminding me that whatever your goal, the approach really matters. After all, in today’s stressed-out world, who doesn’t grab any excuse possible to laugh? —Cheryl Ossola, Editor in Chief

Jazzed About—Well, Jazz
Just wait a minute, teachers lamenting the demise of real jazz—don’t give up yet! Kids think jazz is creaky, uncool, and so last century, you say? I say, “Give them Joe Tremaine!”

We all know Joe, that pied piper of pivot turns who has never grown tired of teaching good old-fashioned jazz dancing. For years he’s been crisscrossing the country, leading workshops jammed with dancers in love with his lindys, and this summer’s DanceLife Teacher Conference was no different.

With an energy that literally burst through the wall, Joe stepped out on the dance floor, showing a trademark combination of strong arms and sultry struts. There was nothing contemporary about it—chassé, kick ball change, chaîné, hit—but the crowd couldn’t get enough. They clapped as they waited to “Cotton Eye Joe” across the floor, laughed as they got caught up in complicated combos. And these dancers were no Studio 54 leftovers, either—many were 20-somethings who have never worn a French-cut leg or fluorescent fringe. Still, they pumped out Cuban hips and sugarfoots, shook their jazz hands, and begged for more.

Watching, I said, “Wow.” Why have so many teachers apparently forgotten what Joe knows so well? Jazz isn’t dead—and it isn’t out of style. It’s clean, dynamic dancing, done in unison to infectious music. It’s stylized steps, kicks and digs, kimbos and camels, cranked out at such a speed it makes your heart race. It’s energy, energy, energy, taught by a teacher who yells over the music and who remembers what it feels like to be 13 and crazy about calypsos.

So, you teachers out there who have written off jazz, take up those opposition arms! Give your students the jazz you loved, and when they stop panting, they’ll thank you. —Karen White, Associate Editor


ICONic Boyz to Perform at 2011 DanceLife Teacher Conference



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NORTON, MA, July 15, 2011

The ICONic Boyz, a hip-hop and street jazz dance crew of 11- to 13-year-old boys, will wow attendees at the 2011 DanceLife Teacher Conference during the Gala Luncheon performance on Monday, August 1.

ICONic Boyz

The ICONic Boyz—Nicholas Mara, Jason Smith, Mikey Fusco, Thomas Miceli, Louis Dipippa, and Madison Alamia—are proving to young men everywhere that their dance dreams are within reach. Led by artistic director GEO Hubela, who will teach at the DanceLife Teacher Conference, the ICONic Boyz crew has become a standout among the new talent in today’s pop culture.

From its home base at ICON Dance Complex in Englishtown, New Jersey, the crew has performed at Madison Square Garden and the Apollo Theater and on Paula Abdul’s Live to Dance. On MTV’s Randy Jackson Presents America’s Best Dance Crew, the boys made history as the youngest crew to ever compete—and become a runner-up—on the show.

ICONic Dance Crew founder Hubela serves as mentor and role model for the boys, giving them one-of-a-kind choreography, opportunities to perform, and positive values.


Maureen Gelchion and Anthony Corso to Offer Income Advice at 2011 DanceLife Teacher Conference



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NORTON, MA, May 02, 2011

Maureen Gelchion and her husband, Anthony Corso, directors of Astoria Dance Centre Inc. in Queens, New York, will lead a discussion of “Generating Income: Acting, Voice, and Music Programs” July 30 at the DanceLife Teacher Conference. This year’s nationwide gathering of dance teachers and school owners will be held July 30 through August 2 at the Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Maureen Gelchion has been teaching ballet at her own studio and throughout the New York City area for 34 years. She received her BA from Queens College. Her school has a full curriculum of dance styles, as well as an acting, music, and voice program. Gelchion is a certified member of Dance Educators of America and a longtime Project Motivate attendee.

Anthony Corso received his education at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, where he received his BA in theater arts. He is the acting instructor at Astoria Dance Centre.

For more information about the DanceLife Teacher Conference, visit

Maureen Gelchion


Art, Nancy, and Ashley Stone on the Faculty at 2011 DanceLife Teacher Conference



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NORTON, MA, April 26, 2011

Raise any issue in the dance field—about competitions, costumes, teaching, studio ownership, you name it—and someone in the Stone family is bound to have dealt with it. Attendees at the DanceLife Teacher Conference will share the hands-on expertise of Art and Nancy Stone and their daughter Ashley at this year’s nationwide gathering of dance teachers and school owners, to be held July 30 through August 2 at the Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Art Stone learned to dance in his father’s studio and later operated his own, while also teaching tap, jazz, and ballroom for most of the large U.S. dance organizations, such as DMA, DEA, and Boston Dance Teachers’ Club. At the same time, he launched Art Stone/The Competitor, one of the nation’s premier costume companies.

Stone is also the president of Dance Olympus, a dance convention company, and its related competition, Danceamerica. He also has started a separate dance competition, International Dance Challenge.

Though Stone stopped teaching at conventions in order to concentrate on his costume business, the popularity of Dancing With the Stars has led him to resume teaching ballroom at conventions. At the DanceLife Teacher Conference he’ll be sharing pointers for teachers in “Ballroom 101” July 30 and “Family Ballroom” August 1.

Nancy Stone has owned and operated a dance studio since 1961. When she married Art Stone in 1977, she was a natural to join him in his many dance enterprises. She’s vice president of Dance Olympus/Danceamerica and International Dance Challenge, creative and technical director for Art Stone/The Competitor, and vice president of Art Stone Theatrical. She also serves on the board of Dancers Responding to AIDS. She will lead a session on “Recital Themes” July 31 at the DanceLife Teacher Conference.

Ashley Stone is the vice president of operations for Art Stone Enterprises. After graduating from college, she joined a Washington, DC–based AmeriCorps program that did HIV/AIDS work, focusing on testing and counseling. She later worked for the Kaiser Family Foundation, editing a daily publication that summarizes HIV/AIDS-related news worldwide. After three years in Washington, DC, Stone decided to explore working in the dance industry with her parents and is now fully engrossed in all aspects of the business, from costumes to competitions, with a focus on improving the quality of costumes and the speed of their delivery. At the DanceLife Teacher Conference she will lead a session July 30 on “Young Success: Business Owners Age 30 and Under.”

In addition to their individual sessions, the Stones will team up July 31 for a discussion of “The Family Business.”

For more information about the DanceLife Teacher Conference, visit

Art Stone


Leap’n Learn Co-Creators Beverly F. Spell and Annie W. Spell, PH.D, Team up at 2011 Dancelife Teacher Conference


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NORTON, MA, April 25, 2011

Beverly Spell

Annie Spell

Beverly F. Spell and Annie W. Spell, PhD, co-authors of the popular Leap ’N Learn syllabus for early childhood dance education, will offer tips on teaching dance studios’ youngest customers at the DanceLife Teacher Conference. This year’s nationwide gathering of dance teachers and school owners will be held July 30 through August 2 at the Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona.

The Spells—Annie is Beverly’s daughter-in-law—will lead a session of “Teaching Dance to Ages 3 & 4” on August 1, followed by discussions of “Teaching Dance to Ages 5 & 6” and “Creative Movement for Children” on August 2.

Beverly Spell has taught ballet for more than 30 years, the last 12 as a studio owner. In addition to co-creating Leap ’N Learn, she has written several DANCEcamps for studios to use as income and enrollment boosters during slow seasons, designed dance coloring books, produced five training DVDs for dance teachers, collaborated with composer Scott Killian and producer Finis Jhung on two children’s dance class CDs based on the Leap ’N Learn syllabus, and developed many dance classroom teaching props.

She also has been a guest teacher for student master classes and ballet workshops throughout the United States. She has presented her teaching methods at past DanceLife Teacher Conferences, Jhung’s teacher training seminars, Ailey Extension teacher workshops, Oklahoma City University, and at numerous other institutions.

Dr. Annie Spell, PhD, graduated summa cum laude from the University of Louisiana in Lafayette in 2002 with a bachelor’s of science in psychology, with a focus on child development. She earned her master’s degree in clinical psychology, with specialization in children and adolescents, from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge in 2004 and completed her doctorate in child clinical psychology from LSU in 2007.

She followed her doctoral work with an intensive one-year internship with the Psychological Services Department of the Houston Independent School District. In 2010 Dr. Spell earned a master’s degree in psychopharmacology from the California School of Professional Psychology.

She now conducts a private practice as a licensed and board-certified clinical psychologist, specializing in children and adolescents. She also provides psychological consultation to schools and to the Louisiana Office of Juvenile Justice. Her scholarly research has been published in the Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology as well as in a book chapter regarding the parenting aspects of childhood adjustment following a trauma.

For more information about the DanceLife Teacher Conference, visit


Master Contemporary Teacher Derrick Yanford to Teach at 2011 DanceLife Teacher Conference



                                                                                    Rhee Gold Company 508.285.6650


NORTON, MA, April 11, 2011

Derrick Yanford

This year’s conference for dance teachers and school owners across the United States will be held July 30 through August 2 at the Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona. Yanford will teach intermediate and advanced contemporary warm-up and combo, as well as advanced contemporary, on July 30; jazz progressions, turns, and jumps and advanced contemporary work on July 31; and improvisation on August 1.

After attending New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, Yanford danced with Ballet Hispanico of New York, The Joffrey Concert Dancers, Northern Connecticut Ballet, Koresh Dance Company, and ASH Contemporary Dance.

He also performed on the first national tour of Footloose and European tours of Evita and West Side Story. He now teaches at the Performing Arts Academy in Pompton Lakes, New Jersey, and freelances as a choreographer, master class teacher, and adjudicator for major dance organizations throughout the United States and Canada.

For more information about the DanceLife Teacher Conference, visit


Hedy Perna Returns to Share her Business Savvy at the 2011 DanceLife Teacher Conference



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NORTON, MA, April 08, 2011

Longtime studio owner Hedy Perna returns this year to the DanceLife Teacher Conference faculty lineup. Dance teachers and school owners from across the United States can expect to hear her practical and to-the-point advice on studio business issues at the conference, held at the Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona from July 30 through August 2.

Hedy Perna

Perna will lead sessions on “Business” July 30 and “Performance Concepts and Props” July 31.

She and her husband, Patrick, are celebrating 23 years as directors of the Perna Dance Center, a family-owned and operated recreational dance studio in Hazlet, New Jersey.

She is vice president of Associated Dance Teachers of New Jersey.

Perna has been a presenter for Rhee Gold’s Project Motivate and DanceLife Teacher Conference and a contributing writer for Dance Studio Life magazine. She has developed a line of products and tools to aide studio owners in their business and the “business of performance,” including props, sets, and Performance Spacing Blocks.

For more information about the DanceLife Teacher Conference, visit


Laurie Johnson, a Corporate Executive Turned Tapper, to Teach at 2011 DanceLife Teacher Conference



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NORTON, MA, April 07, 2011

Laurie Johnson, a corporate executive who gave up a six-figure salary to pursue her love of tap dancing, will share advice drawn from both of her careers with dance teachers and school owners from across the United States at this year’s DanceLife Teacher Conference.

Johnson will lead sessions on “The Art of Creating and Teaching Compelling Tap Choreography” and “Branding: Creating a Winning Studio Image” at the conference, held July 30 through August 2 at the Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona.

After earning an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, Johnson launched a career that included stints on Capitol Hill and as an executive at various Fortune 500 companies before taking up tap in earnest. Today, she is a tap dancer, motivational speaker, life coach, and author of the book Rich By Choice, Poor By Habit, a guide to some powerful, life-enriching tools and principles.

For more information about the DanceLife Teacher Conference, visit

Laurie Johnson


Look to Misty Lown for Income-Generating Tips at 2011 DanceLife Teacher Conference



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NORTON, MA, April 06, 2011

Being the owner and director of a thriving Wisconsin dance studio is just one of the business skills Misty Lown brings to the table as a faculty member at this year’s DanceLife Teacher Conference.

Lown will lead sessions for dance teachers and school owners from across the United States on “10 Income-Generating Ideas” and “How Do You Handle That?” at the conference, held July 30 through August 2 at the Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona.

In addition to running Misty’s Dance Unlimited, which serves more than 700 students in Onalaska, Wisconsin, Lown is also the owner of a dancewear store and a managing partner of five daycare centers. Lown also writes for Dance Studio Life and tours as a dance teacher and business consultant with Dance Revolution.

For more information about the DanceLife Teacher Conference, visit

Misty Lown


Stacy Eastman to Teach Tap and Choreography at 2011 DanceLife Teacher Conference



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NORTON, MA, April 05, 2011

Stacy Eastman, a highly sought after master teacher and judge across the United States and Canada, will share her expertise in choreography and teaching tap at the DanceLife Teacher Conference. This year’s conference for dance teachers and school owners across the United States will be held July 30 through August 2 at the Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Eastman will conduct sessions on tap progressions, from beginner to advanced, on July 30 and 31 and on “7-10 Tap Work” and “Quick Tap Combo” on August 2, as well as a class on “Choreography: Formations and Patterns” on August 1.

Eastman is co-director of Gloria Jean’s Studio of Dance in North Haven and West Haven, Connecticut, where she began dancing at age 3. She was named Miss Dance of America for Dance Masters of America in 1995 and is a member of DMA’s Connecticut and New York City chapters. Eastman is also on faculty for The Gold School in Brockton, Massachusetts, and Amber Perkins School of the Arts in Vestal and Norwich, New York.

For more information about the DanceLife Teacher Conference, visit

Stacy Eastman


Beth Rigby brings her “Yoga Meets Dance” expertise to the 2011 DanceLife Teacher Conference



Rhee Gold Company 508.285.6650


NORTON, MA, April 04, 2011

Longtime yoga instructor Beth Rigby, founder of the Yoga Meets Dance™ program, brings her expertise in meditation and expressive dance to the faculty of this year’s DanceLife Teacher Conference.

Beth Rigby

The gathering of dance teachers and school owners from across the United States will be held at the Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona from July 30 through August 2. Rigby will teach “Yoga Meets Dance” and “Yoga Meets Dance II” sessions on August 1.

Rigby is a longtime student of Kripalu yoga, Soto Zen meditation, and the holistic healing arts. She has served as a program director and staff instructor at the renowned Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in Lenox, Massachusetts, where she was trained and certified to teach in 1995.

While teaching internationally the past 15 years, Rigby has trained dozens of instructors and shared the healing joy of movement with non-dancers and dancers alike in yoga and fitness centers, corporations, cruise ships, hospitals, and schools. She directs Yoga Meets Dance™ instructor trainings and wellness retreats in Sedona, Arizona.

For more information about the DanceLife Teacher Conference, visit


Competition Judge and Studio Owner Larraine Susa to Teach at 2011 DanceLife Teacher Conference



Rhee Gold Company 508.285.6650


NORTON, MA, April 1, 2011

Larraine Susa, who has taught and judged for all major dance organizations in the United States and Canada, will offer pointers on teaching jazz and lyrical dance to dance teachers from across the United States at this year’s DanceLife Teacher Conference, held at the Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona, July 30 through August 2.

Larraine Susa

Susa will lead sessions on jazz instruction for 7- to 9-year-olds and 10- to 12-year-olds on July 31, with classes on teaching lyrical to 10- to 12-year-olds and advanced lyrical work on August 2.

Susa is the owner and artistic director of Larraine Susa’s Dance Unlimited, a studio in Uniontown, Pennsylvania. She is also a faculty member of the Teacher Training School and Student Honors Intensive Program of Dance Masters of America and the author of DMA’s Jazz Manual. In 2008 she was named the DMA Member of the Year.

Her students have performed on cruise ships, music videos, the Nickelodeon channel, and the Academy Award and Tony Award shows, as well as in productions in Europe, South America, and Japan.

For more information about the DanceLife Teacher Conference, visit


Kathy Kozul, Teacher and Former Ballerina, Joins Faculty at 2011 DanceLife Teacher Conference



                                                                                     Rhee Gold Company 508.285.6650


NORTON, MA, March 31, 2011

Kathy Kozul, a former member of Boston Ballet and Boston Repertory Ballet, will pack a lot of teaching into a day’s classes for dance teachers and school owners from across the United States at this year’s DanceLife Teacher Conference.

She will lead sessions on “Floor Barre,” “Contemporary Ballet Variations,” and “Building a Strong Technical Foundation and Beautiful Feet” on the first day of the conference, held July 30 through August 2 at the Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Kozul has danced leading roles in Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, Concerto Barocco, Allegro Brillante, and Tarantella. She has worked with many distinguished choreographers, including Agnes de Mille, Merce Cunningham, and Choo-San Goh. She is currently on the faculty at Walnut Hill School for the Arts (where she also served as associate director for five years) and The Gold School, both in Massachusetts.

For more information about the DanceLife Teacher Conference, visit

Kathy Kozul


George ‘Geo’ Hubela to Share Hip-Hop Teaching Tips at 2011 DanceLife Teacher Conference



                                                                                     Rhee Gold Company 508.285.6650


NORTON, MA, March 30, 2011

George “Geo” Hubela, who has performed with such pop icons as Michael Jackson, Britney Spears, and Jennifer Lopez, will pass on his hip-hop expertise to dance teachers and school owners from across the United States at this year’s DanceLife Teacher Conference, held July 30 through August 2 at the Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Hubela, the owner and director of Icon Dance Complex in New Jersey, will conduct five sessions at the four-day conference, including “Beginner Hip-Hop Warm-Up and Combo,” “Intermediate Hip-Hop Progressions and Combo,” and “Family Hip-Hop.”

In a 20-year career as a dancer, choreographer, artistic director, teacher, and studio owner, Hubela has choreographed for stage and screen in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Taiwan. He was seen on Season 1 of MTV’s Randy Jackson Presents America’s Best Dance Crew and America’s Got Talent as director, choreographer, and dancer for the ICONic Dance Crew. Seven of his students perform with the kids’ dance teams of pro basketball’s New Jersey Nets and New York Knicks.

For more information about the DanceLife Teacher Conference, visit

Geo Hubela


Former ABT Principal and Boston Ballet Director Bruce Marks joins Faculty of 2011 DanceLife Teacher Conference



 Rhee Gold Company 508.285.6650


NORTON, MA, March 29, 2011

Bruce Marks brings a hard-to-match combination of balletic star power and arts-administration expertise to the faculty of this year’s DanceLife Teacher Conference, which will bring dance teachers and school owners from across the United States to the Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona from July 30 through August 2.

Bruce Marks

At the DanceLife Teacher Conference, Marks will lead these sessions: “Advanced Ballet Technique,” July 31; “Intermediate/Advanced Ballet Technique” and “Intimate Conversation,” August 1; and “Discussion of Épaulement and the Use of the Torso,” August 2.

Marks joined the corps de ballet at New York’s Metropolitan Opera in 1956, becoming premier danseur in 1958. He joined American Ballet Theatre in 1961 and was soon promoted to principal dancer. During his 10 years with ABT, Marks appeared as guest artist with the Royal Swedish Ballet and London Festival Ballet. In 1971, he became the first American principal dancer of the Royal Danish Ballet, where he remained for five years.

Marks has partnered some of the world’s great ballerinas, including Natalia Makarova, Cynthia Gregory, Eva Evdokimova, Maria Tallchief, Lupe Serrano, Violette Verdy, Melissa Hayden, and Toni Lander, whom he married in 1966.

In 1976, Marks became co-artistic director of Ballet West at the invitation of founder Willam Christensen. Following Christensen’s retirement, in 1978, he was named artistic director, adding to the repertory new works by August Bournonville and George Balanchine. In 1985 Marks became artistic director of Boston Ballet, where the company’s annual budget and attendance tripled during his 12-year tenure.

Marks was a founding member of Dance/USA, which he chaired from 1990 to 1992. In 1989, he became chairman of the international jury of the USA International Ballet Competition in Jackson, Mississippi, a position he still holds.

For more information about the DanceLife Teacher Conference, visit


Melissa Hoffman to offer Dollars-and-Cents Tips to Studios at 2011 DanceLife Teacher Conference



                                                                                     Rhee Gold Company 508.285.6650


NORTON, MA, March 28, 2011

School owner Melissa Hoffman will share some of the moneymaking skills she has learned in more than three decades of teaching dance with dance teachers and school owners from across the United States at this year’s DanceLife Teacher Conference, held July 30 through August 2 at the Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona.

She will conduct a seminar July 30 on “Mommy & Me: The Complete Package,” with basic curriculum and marketing tips, and another session on July 31 titled “Maximizing Your Space = Maximizing Your Income.”

Hoffman’s school, Melissa Hoffman Dance Center in Hudson, New Hampshire, is one of the largest in the state. Her school has been featured in Dance Studio Life and on, as well as in Dance Magazine. A frequent presenter at the DanceLife Teacher Conference, she is a contributing writer for Dance Studio Life.

For more information about the DanceLife Teacher Conference, visit

Melissa Hoffman


Ellen Ferreira, President of Costume Gallery, to Teach at 2011 DanceLife Teacher Conference



                                                                                     Rhee Gold Company 508.285.6650 


NORTON, MA, March 27, 2011

Ellen Ferreira, president of Costume Gallery, a leading manufacturer of dance recital costumes, will conduct a seminar on “The Studio Owner as CEO” for dance teachers and school owners across the United States at this year’s DanceLife Teacher Conference, held July 30 through August 2 at the Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Ferreira represents the third generation of her family to operate Costume Gallery. She and her husband, Rick, joined the company 12 years ago after relocating from Washington, DC. Ellen worked on Capitol Hill and at the U.S. Department of Agriculture for 18 years, helping to administer the food stamp program and the National School Lunch Program.

She is a nationally recognized public speaker and has served on the board of the Alice Paul Institute, which operates leadership programs for young girls.

For more information about the DanceLife Teacher Conference, visit

Ellen Ferreira


Competition Organizer and Jazz Expert Joe Tremaine to Teach at 2011 DanceLife Teacher Conference



Rhee Gold Company 508.285.6650



NORTON, MA, March 26, 2011

Joe Tremaine, internationally known as a choreographer, teacher, and producer of dance conventions and competitions, will share his jazz teaching skills with dance teachers from across the United States at this year’s DanceLife Teacher Conference, held at the Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona July 30 through August 2.

Joe Tremaine

Tremaine will lead classes in “Intermediate and Advanced Jazz Warm-Up and Progressions” on July 30 and “Intermediate Jazz Progressions, Jumps, and Turns” on July 31. Veterans of his past sessions at DanceLife Teacher Conferences will know that the pace is high-energy and that there’s no standing on the sidelines at a Joe Tremaine class.

After a performing career that ranged from Las Vegas reviews to television shows, Tremaine opened his Joe Tremaine Dance Center in California. In 1981 he launched Tremaine Dance Conventions and Competitions, which tours about 25 U.S. cities every year, bringing professional choreography and teaching to more than 50,000 dancers.

For more information about the DanceLife Teacher Conference, visit


Former ABT Ballerina Roni Mahler to Teach at 2011 DanceLife Teacher Conference



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                              CONTACT:
                                                                                                 Rhee Gold Company 508.285.6650


NORTON, MA, March 25, 2011

Roni Mahler, who performed principal roles with American Ballet Theatre and the National Ballet of Washington, DC, will share ballet-teaching tips with dance teachers and school owners from across the United States at this year’s DanceLife Teacher Conference.

Roni Mahler

She will lead sessions on ballet technique for ages 6 to 8 as well as ages 9 to 11, along with “Beginner Pointe Work” and “Intermediate/Advanced Ballet Technique” at the conference, held July 30 through August 2 at the Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Mahler, who began her career as a teenager with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, is currently the artistic associate of Dennis Nahat’s Ballet San Jose in California. She teaches open adult classes in her native New York City, where her credits also include The Ailey School, Ballet Tech, the Joffrey School, and The Juilliard School. A former director of dance at Kansas State University, she initiated the KSU dance degree program.

She also has created a “Ballet Movement for the Athlete” program and produced numerous ballet CDs, three ballet instruction DVDs, and a stretch DVD for flexibility and range of motion.

For more information about the DanceLife Teacher Conference, visit


Former “Tap Dogs” Performer Mike Wittmers Joins Faculty at 2011 DanceLife Teacher Conference



Rhee Gold Company 508.285.6650


NORTON, MA, March 24, 2011

Mike Wittmers, a former cast member of Tap Dogs, will bring his nearly three decades of tap dance expertise to this year’s DanceLife Teacher Conference. The gathering of dance teachers from across the United States will be held at the Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona July 30 through August 2.

Mike Whittmers

Wittmers will lead these classes: “The Djembe Made Me Do It!” (a djembe is a West African hand drum) on July 30; “Putting Balance and Rhythm Back in Tap,” August 1; and “Making Music With Your Feet,” August 2.

Wittmers, whose professional musical theater credits range from A Chorus Line to Crazy for You, has been a tap teacher in Los Angeles and on staff at the Edge Performing Arts Center, Millennium Dance Complex, and the Debbie Reynolds Studio.

His choreography has been seen everywhere from conventions across North America to Disney theme parks and dance competitions in Australia. Wittmers also is the owner and creator of Double Bass Productions, which has just released its second instructional tap DVD, The World Is My Drum Vol. 2.

For more information about the DanceLife Teacher Conference, visit


Sandi Duncan, Life Coach and Former Dance Studio Owner, to Teach at 2011 DanceLife Teacher Conference


                                                                        Rhee Gold Company 508.285.6650 


NORTON, MA, March 23, 2011

Sandi Duncan, a certified life coach and former dance studio owner, will share her insights on “Finding Balance, But Not on Relevé” and “Improving Your Dancers” in her seminars at the DanceLife Teacher Conference.

This year’s conference for dance teachers and school owners across the United States will be held July 30 through August 2 at the Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Duncan owned and directed her own studio for nine years before becoming a senior faculty member at the Melissa Hoffman Dance Center in Hudson, New Hampshire. She received her Life Coaching Certificate through Fowler Wainwright International Institute of Professional Coaching and continues to sharpen her skills through personal study, seminars, and further certification programs.

Her passion is to connect with her students on a deep, emotional level, challenging them to achieve personal success through goal setting, commitment, positive self-talk, and visualization.

For more information about the DanceLife Teacher Conference, visit

Sandi Duncan


Dr. Susan Biali, Life Coach, Author, and Wellness Expert, to Teach at 2011 Dancelife Teacher Conference


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                 

Rhee Gold Company 508.285.6650


NORTON, MA, March 22, 2011

“Trust Yourself, Love Your Life” will be Dr. Susan Biali’s theme as the celebrated health and wellness expert, author, life coach—and flamenco dancer—delivers the keynote address at the DanceLife Teacher Conference.

Susan Biali

This year’s conference for dance teachers and school owners across the United States will be held July 30 through August 2 at the Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona. In addition to her keynote address the morning of August 1, Dr. Biali will conduct a seminar, “Bring Out Their Best: Encouraging Authenticity, Courage, and Confidence in Dancers,” the afternoon of July 31.

Dr. Biali was a frustrated, unfulfilled emergency physician when she chucked it all and moved to Cuba and later Mexico, mastering salsa and flamenco along the way. Currently based in Vancouver, British Columbia, for four years she commuted between Canada and Los Cabos, Mexico, where she performed for and taught dance to celebrities in luxury hotels and private events.

Dr. Biali blogs for, and her expert opinions have appeared in Cosmopolitan, Self, Fitness, the Chicago Tribune and other publications. Her book Live a Life You Love: 7 Steps to a Healthier, Happier, More Passionate You was published last year. 

For more information about the DanceLife Teacher Conference, visit


From Grassroots to Big Time


On the sidelines or in class, DLTC attendees make the most of the conference experience. (Photo by Theresa Smerud)

An insider’s view of the DanceLife Teacher Conference

By Karen White

The DanceLife Teacher Conference grew out of an observation. As master teacher and convention owner Rhee Gold traveled the country in the late ’90s, he saw that dance teachers were feeling burned out and isolated in their field. That led him, in 1998, to create Project Motivate, a seminar for studio owners focusing on business, marketing, and motivation.

 Only about 20 owners attended that first seminar, but growing enthusiasm led Gold to plan more sessions of Project Motivate—and then, about five years ago, to expand that original idea into the DanceLife Teacher Conference. To date there have been three DLTCs (Boston in 2007, Scottsdale in 2008, and Orlando in 2009), with hundreds of attendees, top-notch teachers and business speakers, vendors, classes, and fun. The next conference will be held July 30 through August 2, 2011, at The Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona.

To find out how a simple idea grew into a powerhouse, we sat down with Gold and asked him about it.

What was the impetus for that first DLTC?
At Project Motivate, studio owners and office managers would come to me and say, “I wish my teachers could hear this.” We created something new so the business managers would get the business side, and we brought in faculty and added classes for teachers as well.

Traditionally, teachers attend dance conventions. Why a conference instead?
Believing that dance teachers are good at what they do and are doing a good thing, I felt I needed to do something to bring them together—not just to take class but to talk about the issues that affect them all: balancing family and business, commitment to dance, strategies to increase business.

What’s your overall goal with the DLTC?
To run an event that will have an impact on the entire school. Now attendees are coming in bigger groups, more than just owners and office managers—it’s faculty, too. I want them all to take that Project Motivate philosophy and bring it back to everybody in the school, so everyone is dancing to the same beat.

What is that Project Motivate philosophy?
It’s kind of earthy-crunchy. It’s to appreciate the gift you have as a dance teacher and to know you are passing that gift on to your students. If you truly are a dance teacher, success comes from when a student succeeds, no matter the skill level, whether it’s a shuffle ball change or getting into a professional dance company. In my mind, both are equal.

It seems simple, but dance teachers for a long time believed they had to produce phenomenal dancers to call themselves a success. A child can be a recreational dancer and get that passion and love of dance, and that’s a success for that teacher.

After that first DLTC, what was the response from attendees?
With almost everything I do I’m a little nervous about whether it’s the right thing. But there was such positive response that I knew I had something. It grew by word of mouth in the dance teaching community. I always say to people, “Please spread the word,” and it works. Attendance has grown from less than 20 [at the first Project Motivate] to 700 at the last conference.

Over subsequent conferences, what changes have been made?
As it evolves, we get deeper and deeper into things. We started with marketing and covered advertising and print ads. Now, because of the evolution of new opportunities, we talk about things like branding and marketing with Facebook. Each time we go in with a set curriculum, but then we get feedback from attendees and know where to go the next time.

Have you seen any changes in yourself?
When we started, we created a manual and sat in a circle and read the book. As a speaker, I have evolved and now I never use the book. I’m walking and pacing the room. I’m confident as a speaker. I have done this for so long, I can be in a city anywhere and I feel like I can answer any question. I have run several schools, plus I’m sure the topic has come up before, and I’ve heard two sides of the argument at least two times before.

How did you raise the bar for this latest conference?
We’re bringing in Bruce Marks, Roni Mahler—people who are true teaching masters. They will break their knowledge down for the teachers, so attendees can emulate some of the best masters around. We are going for a more intensive business track as well, with more guest speakers. Not just things like generating income; I’m finding lots of husband-and-wife teams, mother-and-daughter teams. I want to cover things especially geared toward the family business. We’ll also talk about assistant teaching programs, recital concepts, branding your business.

Bruce Marks is a really big catch.
Yes! At the conference, I’d like to sit down with him and 8 or 10 of these dance masters—we’ll call it “An Evening With the Big Guns.” We’ll talk about dance, who inspired them, what inspired them. The attendees can see a side of these faculty people they would never otherwise get an opportunity to see. And the “big guns” will have a blast doing it—nobody asks them these sorts of things!

“I grew up in a studio atmosphere—my mother owned a studio, my brother owns one. I’m sharing everything about dance that’s inside me.” —Rhee Gold

Tell me about the variety of classroom material.
The classes are not just your advanced master class. We have recreational material, preschool material, creative movement, floor barre, beginning to advanced, all the different levels. I wanted diversity in age and experience. So we have Bruce Marks doing advanced ballet tech, as well as Stacy Eastman, a master teacher on the faculty of The Gold School and Perkins School of the Arts and co-director of Gloria Jean’s School of Dance in Connecticut, presenting beginning, intermediate, and advanced tap and jazz. Geo Hubela is going to break down hip-hop so teachers will have a better understanding of it and can teach to all levels.

Why so much diversity?
That goes back to the original philosophy. You can bring your entire faculty, no matter what each teacher’s specialty is, and they will probably spend the majority of the day in classes geared to their specialty. We have three rooms of seminars and classes going on at once.

In what ways are the DLTC technique classes unique?
I say to all my conference faculty: I want you to teach not just your material, but how to teach it and when is the appropriate time to pass this material on. It’s about how to be better in the classroom and gain new concepts to pass on to your students. The concept of teaching a teacher is better than just a guy doing an advanced master class. That’s what a lot of conferences do—I go in an opposite direction.

Another important thing is that the motivational talks are completely unique to our event. We bring teachers together to build camaraderie and help them appreciate themselves and their field so much more. By the time it’s over, they’re confident in themselves and have a better understanding of the passion inside them they can’t describe.

You must have a lot of fun at these conferences.
When I was traveling the country as a master teacher, I thought I would hit 30 and be done with it. Now I feel like I have a second career. I grew up in a studio atmosphere—my mother owned a studio, my brother owns one. I’m sharing everything about dance that’s inside me, and it helps me connect with these teachers. I love being an example of what that passion is all about. There is no other place as good as up there, talking, doing my thing. If I could do it every day, I’d be a happy man.

What’s your greatest source of pride concerning the DLTC?
It’s having a teacher who comes because she’s burned out and thinks maybe this isn’t the right career. When she comes back for a second year, she tells me the only reason she’s still in business is because she keeps coming [to the conference], and her kids are happier and her enrollment has increased. I feel like this: I could be teaching in a studio, but by doing what I do—if I do it right—I’m affecting all those students in all those studios. If their teachers remember this stuff, I am reaching them all.

I heard you’re excited to be returning to the Phoenician.
Phoenician is one of the few 12-diamond resorts in the world. I never believed I could run an event there. I had a friend working in sales, so I called her up and explained what my group was about. I expected a $400 room rate, but they came back with $169.

The first year, the resort was as much an attraction, or more, than the seminars! There’s a view of the mountains, beautiful grounds—it creates the kind of atmosphere that is conducive to motivation, and it’s a luxury dance teachers don’t usually experience. We get to see how the rest of the world lives. I would say, “It’s the experience you deserve, at a price you can afford.”

Someone is going to steal that saying, you know.
I know.


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On My Mind


Dance Studio Life is on a roll as we enter the new year, with hundreds of new subscribers and many new advertisers. Then there’s DanceLifeTV—we’ve just launched a new website that makes searching for and viewing the 70-plus original DLTV episodes a snap. And preparation for the 2011 DanceLife Teacher Conference is in full swing, with more than 300 attendees from throughout North America (and as far away as Australia) already registered. How cool is that!

Looking back at the inception of Dance Studio Life and the entities now associated with it, including the conferences, seminars, and, I am humbled by the growth of these ventures and thankful for the support of so many dance people from throughout the world.

I plunged into Dance Studio Life with little knowledge of the publishing business, but I knew exactly what the magazine’s mission (and that of every division of my company) would be: to continually rejuvenate the spirit of dancers, teachers, and school owners. Each printed page, episode, seminar, and workshop must exude passion or it’s not worth doing. It’s that plain and simple, as far as I’m concerned.

Often people approach me with business ideas they believe could be mutually beneficial. Those meetings are usually productive whether or not the idea comes to fruition, because I have made long-lasting friendships and learned much that I could apply to my own business.

Now and then, though, I encounter a real doozy—someone who tells me he’s done a lot of research on my company or me and believes we are a perfect fit. Most of the time these people are eager to tell me I could be rich if I did whatever they were selling. And it might be true. But there’s a problem: their concepts don’t exude any passion; they’re about making dollars, not inspiring dancers. What really turns me off is that I can tell they didn’t really do the research they claimed to; if they had, they never would have come to me in the first place. They would have known before they asked what my response would be.

My business philosophy is all about tweaking things and being open to change within the company, but if those options don’t pass the passion test, then my clientele will know it. And that means those options aren’t the right ones for me.

I have discovered that there are quick roads to success, and then there are long, winding roads. A winding road takes a little longer, but the ride is so much nicer. And it gives me time to appreciate the knowledge that I’ve followed through with my mission.


Bright Biz Ideas | By the Book


How to put program books to work for you

By David Favrot

The scene was the DanceLife Teacher Conference in Orlando, Florida, where studio owners were batting around moneymaking ideas. One had done well by selling studio refrigerator magnets. Another had drummed up business by leaving her brochures in real estate offices where newcomers to town would find them. Good ideas, but nothing that would pay for that dream vacation in Cozumel.

Then Kim Oster Speziale spoke up. Within 30 seconds, her colleagues were sitting bolt upright and wide-eyed as she explained that the program book for her annual revue was yielding a profit of $10,000.

Speziale, 32, is the owner and artistic director of Pembo Cieutat Academy of Dance in Mandeville, Louisiana, a town of about 12,000 that sits on the opposite side of Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans. Speziale and two part-time teachers train 150 students in ballet, jazz, tap, hip-hop, lyrical, and acrobatics.

Kim Speziale makes a profitable recital program part of her school’s business plan. (Image courtesy Kim Speziale)

Even now, long after last year’s conference, Speziale is surprised by the reaction to her program-book spiel. “I don’t know another studio around here that doesn’t do it,” she says. (In fact, two other Louisiana studio owners who declined to be interviewed chimed in at the Orlando session that their recital program books were also cash cows.)

Speziale is from Metairie, Louisiana, where she started dance lessons at age 2 at a studio where she later taught. (Speziale has a sister who dances; no one else in her family does, she says.) The studio’s owner opened a second school in Mandeville and later closed the Metairie studio, so Speziale began to commute to Mandeville. When that studio was put up for sale nine years ago, she bought it.

The revue program book is her studio’s main revenue-raising tool, Speziale says. Program profits help cover the rent in the summertime and the costs of producing the revue. The 2010 program, with 170 pages in an 8 1/2-by-11-inch format, was 70 to 80 percent advertising, cost $8,000 to produce, and turned a $10,000 profit, Speziale says. In its lowest-earning year, she says, the program weighed in at 50 pages (70 percent of them ads), ran up $3,000 in production costs, and yielded a $3,000 profit.

One key to the program’s financial success is that students are given a sales quota: a student who doesn’t bring in at least $100 in ads doesn’t get his or her photo in the program for free. (For families with two children at the studio, the minimum is $140; for three kids, it’s $170; for four, $200.) The studio’s previous owner had a similar system, Speziale says, and she hasn’t had a problem with student or parental complaints about the quota.

This year, Kim Speziale’s 170-page recital program was 70 to 80 percent advertising, cost $8,000 to produce, and turned a $10,000 profit.

For an added incentive, the top student ad seller’s photo appears on the program’s cover. The photo’s in color; the rest of the book is black-and-white. This year’s winner was Ashton Spyridon, who sold $1,200 in ads. (The studio record is $3,000.)

Also, students whose pictures appear in the program get their copy for free; otherwise, it’s $5. This year between 100 and 150 people paid the $5, Speziale says. Either way, about 300 programs end up in families’ hands.

 Roughly half the ads are best-wishes announcements from students’ relatives and friends. Prices for these range from $10 for the smallest to $200 for a full page. The customer can add clip art to an ad without charge, but a photo of the honoree costs an extra $10. Ads from small businesses in Mandeville and environs account for the other half of the book’s total.

Ad solicitation starts in February and lasts until the end of March, when ad payments are due. Customers can submit camera-ready art or text by email or on printed forms that the studio supplies. “More and more of the ads—I’d say about 75 percent—are emailed ready to go in,” Speziale says, “but everyone turns them in using different file formats,” which requires production tweaking. For next year’s book, she says, she’s going to insist on uniform ad formatting.

At the end of April, ads and copy are due to the printer, which designs the cover and does some photo layout. Speziale and her husband, Wayne, use Adobe InDesign software to lay out ads, photo spreads on the studio’s competition team, and random shots of students taken throughout the year. (Faculty photos and what Speziale calls a “brag list” of students’ dance achievements account for the rest of the program’s non-ad pages.)

Wayne, who’s a full-time manager at a computer training company, does a lot of the heavy lifting on production, Speziale says, and this year a former student laid out some picture pages. Still, for a couple of weeks the assembling of the program book is “basically a full-time job” for her, she says—one that consumes evenings and weekends.

Pembo Cieutat stages its annual revue on the weekend following Memorial Day. Students are charged a revue fee—$90 for one child, $130 for two from the same family, and $170 for three—that includes six tickets and a T-shirt. Seating is all reserved at the venue, the Columbia Theatre for the Performing Arts in Hammond, Louisiana. Speziale says her contract with the theater doesn’t allow her to sell anything—including programs—on the premises.

The revue’s performance lineup appears in the program and isn’t available separately—one more reason for audience members to make sure in advance that they have those lucrative programs in hand.


Dance Teachers: Who We Are


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DanceLife Teacher Conference 2011
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Bruce Marks Joins DanceLife Teacher Conference Faculty


Rhee Gold is excited to welcome Bruce Marks, a former principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre and the Royal Danish Ballet who went on to lead Boston Ballet, to the faculty of the DanceLife Teacher Conference.

“We strive to bring the most respected dance educators available to those who attend the DanceLife Teacher Conference,” Gold says, “and Bruce Marks certainly fills that bill!”

Marks will be teaching ballet technique and variations and will take part in panel discussions at the conference, from July 30 to August 2 at the Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona.

The conference features motivational and business seminars, along with special classes for teachers in curriculum and teaching techniques. To learn more or to register, visit or call (508.285.6650).

About Bruce Marks
Bruce Marks, a native of New York City, was trained at the New York High School of Performing Arts, Brandeis University, and The Juilliard School. At 14, he began his performing career when he created the role of the young boy in Pearl Lang’s Rites. He continued his ballet training with Margaret Craske, Antony Tudor, and Mattlyn Gavers at the Metropolitan Opera School and joined the company’s corps de ballet in 1956, becoming premier danseur in 1958.

After appearing at the Spoleto Festival of Two Worlds in 1959, in a company organized by Herbert Ross and Nora Kaye, Marks joined American Ballet Theatre in 1961. He soon became one of the most respected and versatile of ABT’s male contingent, excelling in both modern and classical ballets. Shortly after his arrival, he was promoted to principal dancer. He created one of the two leading male roles in the American premiere of Harald Lander’s Études, as well as the leading role of Prince Siegfried in ABT’s first full-length production of Swan Lake. Marks was the first to be entrusted with the roles of José Limón when he danced The Moor’s Pavane and The Traitor for ABT.

During his ten years with ABT, Marks appeared as guest artist with the Royal Swedish Ballet (1963-64) and London Festival Ballet (1965). In 1971, he became the first American principal dancer of the Royal Danish Ballet. He remained with the company for five years, mastering the 19th-century works of August Bournonville.

Marks has partnered some of the world’s great ballerinas, including Natalia Makarova, Cynthia Gregory, Eva Evdokimova, Maria Tallchief, Lupe Serrano, Violette Verdy, Melissa Hayden, and Toni Lander, whom he married in 1966.

In 1976, Marks became co-artistic director of Ballet West at the invitation of founder Willam Christensen. Following Christensen’s retirement in 1978, he was named artistic director. The company flourished under Marks, who left his distinctive stamp with the addition to the repertory of works by Bournonville and George Balanchine, plus full-length 19th-century classics and modern dance.
In 1985 Marks and Toni Lander recreated and staged a “lost” 1855 Bournonville ballet, Abdallah. The production had its East Coast premiere at Washington’s Kennedy Center on May 1, 1985. The critics raved. “Abdallah is a triumph,” said the Boston Globe. The Wall Street Journal said, “That it communicates such broad meanings and does so, moreover, with such effortless charm, is the great achievement of Bruce Marks.” In 1986 Marks staged Abdallah for the Royal Danish Ballet, for which it was originally created.

In 1985, Marks assumed the position of artistic director of Boston Ballet. Under his dynamic leadership, the company achieved international acclaim, tripled its annual budget and attendance, and built a reputation for performing authentic versions of the classics and for encouraging daring modern works. In 1991, in Boston’s South End, the company opened a new facility that is one of the country’s leading centers for dance and dance education.

Among the many highlights of Marks’ time in Boston were an unprecedented American/Soviet production of Swan Lake, a 1991 five-city tour of Spain, and a highly acclaimed version of The Sleeping Beauty in 1993 to kick off its 30th season. Marks also brought to the repertory the oldest existing version of Coppélia from The Royal Danish Ballet and a traditional Russian production of Giselle, staged by Anna-Marie Holmes and coached by the legendary Natalia Dudinskaya of the Kirov Ballet.

The encouragement of American choreographers was one of Marks’ major efforts as director. He commissioned works by Danny Buraczeski, Merce Cunningham, Bill T. Jones, Ralph Lemon, Monica Levy, Susan Marshall, Bebe Miller, Mark Morris, Twyla Tharp, and Lila York.

In July of 1997 Marks stepped down from his post at Boston Ballet and became artistic director emeritus.
Marks was a founding member of Dance/USA, a national service organization that represents professional dance companies. From 1990-92, he was chairman of that organization. In 1989, Marks was chosen to succeed the late Robert Joffrey as chairman of the International Jury of the USA International Ballet Competition held in Jackson, Mississippi, a position he still holds. He has served as the American judge at the international competitions in Helsinki, Nagoya, Moscow, and Seoul and was the American judge at the 1994 Prix de Lausanne.

Until 1985, Marks was board chairman of the American Arts Alliance. He has been an Artist Fellow of the Aspen Institute and a member of the Inter-Arts Panel of the National Endowment for the Arts. Marks has been a member and chairman of the NEA Dance Panel and was a member of the NEA’s International Advisory Panel.

Marks has been a pioneer in innovative dance education and outreach programs, including Boston Ballet’s Citydance program. This tuition-free ballet training program reaches nearly 3,000 third-graders each year in Boston’s public schools.

Marks is a recipient of the 1995 Capezio Dance Award for achievement in dance and contributions toward public awareness of dance in America. He received the 1997 Dance Magazine Award. He was awarded the Dance/USA honors in 1998. He holds honorary doctoral degrees from Northeastern University, Franklin Pierce College, the University of Massachusetts, Wheaton College, Juilliard, and Boston Conservatory.

In 1998 Marks created ArtsVenture, Inc., a consulting firm dedicated to passing along his accumulated knowledge and insights as a consultant to ballet and modern dance companies in America and throughout the world. He has also created a landmark program for the training of artistic directors.
Marks is currently at work on an autobiography. He has three children by his late wife, Toni Lander—Erik, Adam and Kenneth—and lives in Boston, Florida, and New York City with his partner, the American artist Paolo Fiumedoro.


Rhee’s Quick Thoughts | Gifts


There is a passion that is deep in the soul of all dance people . . . it is a feeling that can’t be explained to those who do not dance. That is our gift and it is what we pass on to the next generation. How cool is that!!! Have a great day—Rhee


Rhee’s Blog | Conference Updates


DLTC Gala LuncheonLots of new info on the 2011 DanceLife Teacher Conference, including faculty booked to date and and curriculum planned to date. Looking forward to seeing many of you in Scottsdale July 30-August 2 2011!

Check it out . . .


DanceLife Teacher Conference Gears Up for 2011


The DanceLife Teacher Conference has announced faculty members and curriculum offerings for its sessions in Scottsdale, Arizona, from July 30 to August 2, 2011.

The Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona

The conference is produced by Rhee Gold, a well-known motivational speaker, former dance studio owner, and publisher of Dance Studio Life magazine. It was last held in 2009 in Orlando, Florida.

Faculty members booked thus far, in addition to Gold, include Susan Biali, Maureen and Tony Corso, Sandi Duncan, Bill Evans, Ellen Ferreira, Rennie Gold, Melissa Hoffman, Geo Hubela, Laurie Johnson, Kathy Kozul, Misty Lown, Roni Mahler, Hedy Perna, Art Stone, Ashley Stone, Nancy Stone, and Joe Tremaine.

The curriculum promises tips on maximizing studio income; marketing and packaging Mommy & Me programs; concepts for children’s summer camps; and the latest in online marketing.

In addition, technique classes will be offered in ballet, jazz, tap, modern, contemporary, and hip-hop, along with practical advice on working with male students and preschoolers and other teacher concerns.

The conference will be held at Scottsdale’s Phoenician Resort, where attendees will receive a sharply discounted room rate. For registration, call 888-i-dance-9.


No Gossip, Better World


We all share our passion in different ways; that’s what makes the dance community so cool. To judge or to gossip about other dance people is unbecoming of those who claim to know the passion. Life is short; no time for gossip . . . spend that time focused in on what you want to accomplish in your own life and the dance world is a better place. Guaranteed! Have a great day–Rhee


Attendee Details 2010 Project Motivate


Project Motivate 2010
Dear Project Motivate Attendees,
We are fast approaching Project Motivate, the Studio Edition and we’re so excited that you will be joining us! Attendees are coming from across the US and Canada from the following states and provinces, Alberta, Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Missouri, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ontario, Pennsylvania, Quebec, Rhode Island, Virginia, Wisconsin and West Virginia.
We are ready to present an experience that will rejuvenate your dance spirit!
Project Motivate, the Studio Edition Schedule (Subject to change)
July 23 (Fri)  
12:00 Registration | Coffee and Snacks
1:00-5:00 Business and/or Motivational Seminars
5:00-6:30 Dinner Break (on own)
6:30-8:00 Building a Strong Dance: Technique 101 with Kathy Kozul

July 24 (Sat)  
8:30-10:00 Coffee Talk—Intimate Q&A with Rennie and Rhee about anything. Continental Breakfast will be served
10:00-12:30 The Classroom Live!
12:30-1:30 Lunch Break (Complimentary)
1:30-3:30 Choreography Live!
3:30-6:00 Business and/or Motivational Seminars
6:00-7:30 Break
7:30 Buffet Dinner and Intimate Performance

July 25 (Sun)
8:00-9:00 Continental Breakfast
9:00-1:00 Business and/or Motivational Seminars
On-Site Registration
Project Motivate registration will begin at 12:00 Noon on July 23. Updated schedules, printed materials, conference badges, and more will be distributed at registration. The Gold School, 1154 North Montello Street, Brockton, MA
Complimentary Continental Breakfast
July 24 8:30,
and July 25, 8:00
Complimentary Lunch
July 24, 12:30-1:30
Complimentary Buffet Dinner and Performance
July 24, 7:30 Dinner and drinks will be served, followed by an casual performance by dancers from the Gold School.

Project Motivate 2010
Common Questions
What should I bring?
This entire event is casual, comfortable clothing will work for all 3 days and all events. Feel free to bring a notebook, laptop, audio or video recorders. Note: be sure to have battery power for your equipment (limited electrical outlets).

What else can I bring?
Often school owners bring their literature to share and exchange with other attendees. Feel free to bring copies of your brochures, newsletters, recital or concert programs, postcards, business cards . . . just about anything that you care to share is cool.

Tell me more about the “Classroom and Choreography Live” sessions
This concept will offer attendees the opportunity to view Rennie Gold in action with his students.  Two classroom demonstrations with different age groups (approximately 9-12 and 13-plus). His focus will be on building a dancer from the bottom up, both technically and emotionally. He’ll offer techniques for motivating students to be the best that they can be, while emphasizing that they can’t be satisfied with what they accomplished yesterday.
Rennie will also share various warm-ups, progressions, combinations, and more. He will create a piece of choreography for a group of young dancers, demonstrating how to involve students in the creative process and how to generate a teamwork attitude. He’ll share secrets related to utilizing formations and patterns and eliminating the tricks! All presentations will include a Q&A session.

What is the address and phone # for the Gold School?
Address: 1154 North Montello Street, Brockton, MA (Avon/Brockton line) Phone: 508-584-5499.

Who should we contact with questions?
Jackie Kitsis | | 508.285.6650 |
We will keep you updated as we move closer to the event. Looking forward to welcoming you to the Gold School! Have a great day–Rhee Gold


2010 Project Motivate Seminars


Rhee Gold Project Motivate
Summer and Early Fall Schedule
Rhee Gold will present Project Motivate in the following cities
Note: Please utilize contact information listed below to learn more about the event.
Seminars range from 1hr. to a full-day.

July 23-25
Project Motivate-The Home Edition
The Gold School, Brockton, MA

August 1
American Academy of Ballet 2010 Teachers Intensive
Purchase College SUNY, Purchase, NY
Contact: Mignon Furman | 212.787.9500 |

August 19
New Orleans Marriott, New Orleans, LA
Closed event

August 29
Dansco/Fina Costumes
Attleboro, MA
Contact: Liz Masterson | 800.326.7365 |

September 11 & 12
Weissman’s Designs for Dance
St. Louis, MO
Contact: Kristen Hart | 314.773.9000 x1382 |

September 18
Dance Masters of Michigan
Ginny’s Danceworks, Brighton, MI
Contact: Ginny Durow | 810.229.2743 | or
Suzanne Kirsch | 313.563.3291 |

September 25
Dance Masters of New England
Mendon, MA
Susan Montrond Larson | 508.880.5079  |

October 9
UDMA Costume Preview Show
Meadowlands Exposition Center
Secaucus, NJ
Contact: UDMA | 800.304.8362 |

October 16
UDMA Costume Preview Show
Renaissance Schaumburg Hotel
Schaumburg, IL
Contact: UDMA | 800.304.8362 |


Danspirations: The Greatest Profession in the World with Rhee Gold


See Rhee Gold share his passion for teaching dance in this special keynote address at the 2009 DanceLife Teacher Conference presented to more 600 dance teachers and school owners from across the world. His words are thought-provoking, humorous, and refreshing as he reinforces all the reasons we have chosen to become dance educators in the first place. Viewers will feel rejuvenated as they listen to Gold explain why we’ve chosen the “greatest profession in the world!”

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Announcing . . . Project Motivate w/ Rennie & Rhee Gold


 NEW! Studio Edition at The Gold School, Brockton, MA | July 23-25

 An intimate business and motivational seminar for dance school owners/teachers
Limited to 50 attendees (minimum age 18)

For the first time, Rennie and Rhee Gold join forces to bring the dance education field a unique inspirational experience. Rhee’s business and motivational seminars along with Rennie’s classroom and choreography concepts will bring attendees a continuing education experience like no other. Their passion for the art of dance and education is evident in all that they do.

Having grown up in a studio under the direction of their mom, Sherry Gold, and served as leaders in the dance community, Rennie and Rhee offer attendees unique perspectives about the business, the classroom, and the life!

Whether you want to generate more income, learn new strategies for 21st-century marketing, become better organized, learn new teaching and choreography concepts, or simply get the inspiration you need, this seminar will change the way you look at your business and the life of a dance teacher . . . guaranteed!

Who should attend?

Curriculum for this Project Motivate seminar will be very much focused on the school owner who is also working within the classroom. It is not a seminar for assistant teachers or teachers who want to take many classes. The curriculum for the classroom is presented as demonstrations. Note: Please no late arrival or early departure. 

Project Motivate Curriculum

The Business

OBJECTIVES: Improve your enrollment and help you to generate more income and become a smarter business person.

Innovative 21st-century marketing concepts include social networking, websites, e-zines, and a ton of sample print materials that will improve your studio’s image and your income.

You’ll discover new ways to improve student retention and organize your business, as well as the tools to analyze where YOU are really making a profit (and where you may not be).

Sample employee policies and contracts will be presented and discussed, along with tips to determine who on your staff is an employee and who is a subcontractor.

If it has to do with the business of owning a school, it will be touched on at this seminar.

Classroom & Choreography Live!

NEW! This concept will offer attendees the opportunity to view Rennie Gold in action with his students.

Two classroom demonstrations with different age groups (approximately 9-12 and 13-plus). His focus will be on building a dancer from the bottom up, both technically and emotionally. He’ll offer techniques for motivating students to be the best that they can be, while emphasizing that they can’t be satisfied with what they accomplished yesterday. Rennie will also share various warm-ups, progressions, combinations, and more.

Rennie will create a piece of choreography for a group of young dancers, demonstrating how to involve students in the creative process and how to generate a teamwork attitude. He’ll share secrets related to utilizing formations and patterns and eliminating the tricks!

All presentations will include a Q&A session.

Rhee Gold’s Motivational Seminars

Rhee Gold’s frank, revealing, and often humorous presentations have been inspiring dance educators worldwide for more than a decade. His presentations are designed to inspire you to become the best teacher, business person, and mentor you can be. Gold’s experience as the son of a school owner, student, teacher, choreographer, master teacher, industry leader, author, publisher, and the dance field’s first motivational speaker will leave you with a renewed sense of passion and confidence.

Area Hotels

Courtyard by Marriott, Stoughton, MA: 781.297.7000
Residence Inn by Marriott, Brockton, MA: 508.583.3600
Radisson-Brockton, Brockton, MA: 508.588.6300


Boston’s Logan International
T.F. Green Airport, Providence

Seminar Fee: $349.00

Includes: All three days, the Project Motivate manual, marketing samples, continental breakfast, lunch, and so much more! Note: The seminar is limited to the first 50 applicants on a first-come, first-served basis. We expect that it will sell out.

Registration (local: 508.285.6650), 9 to 5 EST weekdays.
Register today, space is limited!


Living the High Life


A note of apology and thanks to my cabana boy at the DanceLife Teacher Conference

By Diane Gudat

Last August I attended the DanceLife Teacher Conference at the five-star Phoenician resort in Scottsdale, AZ. For myself, and I am guessing for most of the hundreds of dance teachers there, this was my first experience with a life of complete luxury and bliss.

The culture shock began immediately. As I opened the door to my fabulous room, I broke into uncontrollable laughter. I have friends who live in apartments that are smaller than my enormous marble and glass powder room. I was at a total loss at how to behave and so I probably owe most of the staff, and especially my cabana boy, a few explanations.

First, I would like to sincerely thank you for selecting my deluxe, padded lounge chair, complete with umbrella, and for placing an oversized striped towel atop it to make the perfect private island on which I could perch and relax. The fresh pitcher of ice water was also very sweet. I saw you repeat this ritual over and over as dance teacher after dance teacher arrived at poolside.

I am saddened to admit that dance teachers really do not know how to relax; we have completely lost the ability. I noticed that the non-dance partners in attendance seemed to take to it like ducks to water, but we teachers simply gathered in small groups in the pool, bobbed up and down, and discussed our fall schedules. As our congregations grew in number and the late afternoon sun caused us to squint, you moved the umbrellas closer to the pool edge to shade our floating workshops. Thanks to your gentle encouragement, our attitudes did improve and we started to ease up as the weekend progressed.

By the way, I must apologize for the number of times you had to relate where you purchased your “darling” tropical shirt. You see, some of us are planning a “Trip to the Tropics” recital and need to get a jump on costuming.

Also, if we seemed a little desperate for cocktails, it’s because we do have a flair for drama. You did your level best to keep up and we are forever grateful. Your complete willingness to set my lunch next to my cocktail on the edge of the pool really touched me—I have many times dreamed of such a luxury, but it completely surpassed my imagination. I am now trying to train my husband to bring my bagel to the bathtub.

You must also realize that most of us have body-image problems. Eating french fries in our swimsuits with our torsos safely hidden below four feet of water was a dream come true.

Thank you for your kind and constant warnings about dancing on the wet pool deck. You see, for four full days we had to choose between three simultaneous classes, and most of us wanted to share what had gone on in the classes we had not been able to attend.

Please do me the favor of extending our apologies to the rest of the hotel staff.

The bell captains politely tried to assist with our luggage, but we are so used to hitting the door with our fannies to walk right through while carrying dance bags, purses, and oversized costumes boxes that we did not flinch at pulling our own rolling suitcases.

However, we were painfully aware that our luggage was infinitely heavier on departure than at arrival due to the enormous book of conference notes and the free catalogs and giveaways from the dozens of vendors.

If we looked confused or it took us too long to get off the elevators, it is simply because we are not used to arriving so quickly at our selected destination. You see, we usually have to ride elevators packed with young dancers who think it is hilarious to hit every button on the panel. Our stop is rarely the first!

Please explain to the wait staff that when we signed our bills to our room, we probably all wrote 5-6-7-8. We are hoping that the family staying in room 5678 found the humor in this situation. We have a really hard time stringing any other four numbers together. In addition, when someone suggested we tip the staff, we grabbed them at the waist and pitched them sideways. Blame it on the ballroom class!

I know only 8 or 10 of us were supposed to be seated at each table at the complimentary buffet breakfast, but as the week went on we needed to include our new friends. So we appreciate your staff’s help with moving the extra chairs. Plus, they never questioned my fifth cup of coffee or my extra yogurt parfait! They even looked the other way at the extra butter I used on my freshly toasted bagel. The lovely man who played the chimes to remind us to move along to class was probably shocked by the interpretive dance his tones inspired.

The room service staff was no doubt confused by the large amount of ice we required. Most of us had not danced since recital time, and our minds imagined that we were capable of more than our bodies were able to do. Hopefully your spa staff has recovered from the number of emergency massages booked that weekend. By the way, our insatiable need for chocolate as both energy source and comfort food explains the constant need to restock the $8.95 Snickers bars in the mini-bars.

I am sure that housekeeping needed to restock tissues quite often due to some of our more soul-searching seminars and the touching story of our honoree, Carol Crawford Smith, at the gala luncheon. There was not a dry eye in the ballroom for at least 20 minutes.

I should also explain that although we really did not need to wear either of the robes hanging in our rooms, as dance teachers we cannot resist a good costume. And yes, I did take my full-size shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and lotion home. I am hoping that the eucalyptus fragrance will bring my soul back to that amazing room after a long, trying day at the studio.

We also greatly appreciated the quiet way your staff went about their duties on Sunday morning. You see, we had a huge cocktail party on Saturday night and a few of us had not been out in quite a while. Picture 600 dance teachers and guests all in one room with a live band—really, The Phoenician is lucky to still have a ballroom at all. Have you ever seen a documentary on the feeding habits of piranhas? Ask your unfortunate friends who had to restock the hors d’ouevres at that event. I am sure your pool staff fished a few of us out of the hot tub that evening too!

I noticed the number of times you politely took our cameras from our hands to allow all of us to be in a picture. At the beginning of the conference, there were groupings of old friends and at the end groups of brand-new ones. Lending us paper and pen to write down email addresses and phone numbers was a nice touch.

Memories of what I learned about dance and myself at the conference will stay with me forever, and your smile was the icing on the cake. I know we were not your only conference this summer, but I am hoping that we have a special place in your heart as the best. On the wall next to my stereo I have placed a picture of you, my dear cabana boy, standing by your lovely yellow poolside haven, and I will remember you fondly as I begin my new dance season. Thanks again—and please warn your friends at next year’s resort!


Dance in the Desert


Notes on the 2008 DanceLife Teacher Conference

By Cheryl Ossola

An energetic vibe filled the air at the DanceLife Teacher Conference last August, with 585 attendees (mostly dance teachers, with a smattering of spouses and office managers) from the United States, Canada, Italy, and Mexico enjoying the luxe accommodations of The Phoenician in Scottsdale, AZ. Smiling faces were everywhere, along with a visible determination to make the most of the dozens of technique classes, business seminars, brainstorming sessions, and practical how-tos offered in four packed days.

Jo Rowan teaches an intermediate/advanced ballet class. (Photo by Theresa Smerud)

Everywhere I turned I met friendly people with fascinating stories, gung-ho attitudes, and tons of great teaching and business ideas. My fly-on-the-wall perspective (I was there to observe, schmooze, and ferret out story ideas for Dance Studio Life), revealed that dance teachers, or at least this bunch, are savvy, smart, eager to learn, and willing to help others by sharing their experiences.

The conference began with an inspirational speech by Rhee Gold, whose evangelistic fervor guaranteed that no slumbering souls missed out on his “sermon.” Attentive listeners filled every chair, many of them smiling and nodding as Gold’s welcoming message boomed out, at times interrupted by a feedback problem that sounded like an amplification of his pounding heartbeat. As the revved-up crowd surged by me en route to the first classes, I tagged along to sample as many as I could. Here’s a taste of what I encountered in my travels from room to room.

In the business and motivational seminars, people were as eager to talk as they were to listen, keeping the handheld mic runners hopping. That hyped-up level of enthusiasm permeated every class and discussion. One particularly lively seminar, called “Income: What a Good Idea,” generated dozens of moneymaking ideas as one attendee after another took the mic. School owners reported positive responses to such activities as Princess Camps for 4- to 10-year-olds, group guitar lessons for boys, renting space to a Pilates teacher, badge-fulfillment workshops for Girl Scout groups, themed tea parties, and birthday parties. How to choose? The creative thinking going on in that room was impressive—and infectious!

People left Hedy Perna’s packed seminar on props gushing about her creativity. Exclamations of “Wow!” and “Whoa!” peppered the air as slides of her homemade library set and stage-wide airplane filled huge projection screens. Perna has an obvious new career path as a prop-and-set consultant waiting for her when she’s had enough of school ownership.

During a lecture/demo on teaching preschool classes, attendees crowded around RoseMarie Boyden and her arsenal of props, and no one hesitated to play a 3-year-old when she asked for volunteers to be the “leaves” on her “oak tree.”

Joe Tremaine, always the entertainer, delivered practical advice combined with dry wit in his talk on teaching and choreographing for boys. I particularly liked his solution for guys with “funny hands”: Tape Popsicle sticks to their fingers until their bad habits are history.

Brian Foley filled his class on using class plans with great advice and common sense. Class plans are “for the future,” he said. “We teach for the future; work hard when they’re young and you’ll work less hard when they’re teens.” Putting thought into class structure pays off in more ways than one, since structure gives teachers the freedom to be creative. “There are no boring steps,” declared Foley, “only boring teachers.”

The technique classes were filled to capacity, with teachers crowding the portable floors and spilling over onto the surrounding carpet. Most participants approached the classes in one of three ways: by jumping in and dancing full-out; by marking the movement and then grabbing a notepad to jot down reminders and key points; by listening from behind video cameras, or pushing the “record” button and then joining in the class. Then there were those multitaskers who set up their video cameras in a lecture or discussion group and went to another room to take class.

In Tremaine’s high-energy jazz class, everyone from fresh young things to veteran teachers was working it out (and working off those pastries from the generous breakfast buffet). Diane Gudat’s humor and verve spiced up her tap class—her constant patter was as fun as her combinations. Laughter also filled Avi Miller and Ofer Ben’s classes on paddles and rolls and rhythm tap. With their vaudeville-style humor, they entertained as much as they taught—but underneath their smiles and jokes lies a serious approach to technique.

In Tremaine’s high-energy jazz class, everyone from fresh young things to veteran teachers was working it out (and working off those pastries from the generous breakfast buffet).

No slackers were tolerated in Gregg Russell’s hip-hop class: “I don’t start till you start, so get going,” he shouted, flashing that huge smile of his. “Like I tell my teens, this is not optional!” He ended his “Urban Tap” class with a killer shuffle scuff hop-and-click double-heel combo, laughing that “we look like Irish dancers on Red Bull!” Camaraderie was the name of the game in Russell’s “Husband Hip-Hop” class. The group of about 18 guys in baggy shorts and sneakers yelled and clapped for each other, laughed at their own mistakes, and cheerfully singled out the class champ. They never even missed a beat when I violated the “no women allowed” policy to peek in on the class.

In her intermediate/advanced ballet class, Jo Rowan made her personal flair a statement by costuming herself all in in red, topped with a turban-like head wrap. She showed me the sword she planned to use as a prop—clearly, this was not your average ballet class. People were scattered around the room, sprawled on the floor intently taking notes or using the backs of chairs as barres. These folks were serious. Margarita de Saá’s sweetness and love of ballet permeated her classes on teaching adult students and choreography/variations. Whether sitting quietly or taking class, the attendees hung on the words of this soft-spoken teacher. “I walk to work every day excited to teach,” de Saá said. “There is drama every day—you never know what you’ll encounter.” Heads nodded in agreement.

Finis Jhung’s popular ballet classes were filled with his on-the-money explanations and observations, like “Every leg needs a shoulder,” and (as he urged people to relax in a turn preparation) “Turns have no emotion; they’re very rational. Jumps have emotion.” My favorite: “Ballet is very simple—you either stand up or fall down.”

Joe Lanteri urged participants in his jazz and lyrical classes to give it their all—“This is for you!”—and offered as many words of wisdom as steps. The ballet foundation behind his style is obvious, and he drives that point home during class. “Technique comes from ballet class, not Wal-Mart, not Macy’s,” he said as he finessed a move. Later he cautioned the dancers to turn, not spin: “This is not the Tasmanian School of Turning.” Encouraging them to combine portions of combinations in infinitely variable ways, he emphasized the importance of including variety in class: “Wake ’em up; shake ’em up,” he said.

I was surprised at the amount of interest in the ballroom classes, taught by Art Stone—perhaps a welcome result of the popularity of TV’s Dancing With the Stars. Regardless of the reason, though, both sessions of “Ballroom Blitz” were overflowing, and the couples (most female/female due to the few men in attendance) were having an absolute blast. Enthusiasm was high as hips swiveled to a disco/Latin beat, and I saw more than a little improvising going on.

Outside of the classes, people never stopped talking. They shared ideas, made new friends, set up rendezvous times for poolside chats, and found new reasons to go on teaching. I chatted with one teacher who said she came to the conference ready to sell her school—but instead, she’s more fired up to keep going than ever. At least one brand-new school owner was there to soak up ideas and wisdom before opening her doors for the first time in September. When the attendees weren’t talking shop, they did some serious shopping at the 44 vendors’ booths, nabbed faculty members after class for photos (all of them with ear-to-ear grins), or enjoyed the resort’s five-star pampering.

Out of four long, intense days, here’s what stuck with me most: teachers connecting with teachers. One woman told me how frustrated she is with the social isolation in her community, where local dance teachers treat each other like competitors instead of colleagues. Others, who live in small towns in remote areas, experience the same kind of isolation for geographical reasons. But when dance teachers band together with a feeling of community, they find mentors and soul mates who can help them feel connected. And that, to me, is one of the conference’s most valuable benefits: networking. Teachers have so much to learn from one another.

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