More than 1,000 dancers ages 4 to 18, hailing from 18 Utah dance studios, took part in the “Will Dance for Food” competition held at Taylorsville High School Saturday. The event raised $40,000 for the Utah Food Bank’s Kid’s Cafe and BackPack programs.
The Deseret News said Penny Broussard started the Will Dance for Kids Project three years ago, after retiring from more than two decades working with the dance community. She said she chose the Utah Food Bank as the beneficiary of the event’s proceeds because 98 cents of every dollar donated goes to food, and because it allows kids to help kids of the same age who are less fortunate.
“The statistics on childhood hunger are staggering,” Broussard said. “One in five Utah kids doesn’t know where the next meal is coming from.”
This was the event’s third year and fundraising efforts began in October. The first year, $15,000 was raised. Last year, it was $35,000. “I never thought we would make it above $35,000 and here we are at $40,000. . . . It almost makes me cry every time I say it out loud,” Broussard said, noting that it takes the help of many, including sponsors and volunteers, to make the event happen. “Everyone is working together to make a difference. It’s just amazing.”
To see the original story, visit http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865598256/Dancing-for-Food-Dance-event-raises-40K-for-Utah-Food-Bank.html.
The Pointe Dance Studio team had been preparing the production number they presented last weekend at Nexstar National Talent Competition long before October 11, 2013. But on that day—when Tiffany Mogenson, the studio’s founder, was killed in a car wreck just a few blocks from her Prairie Village, Kansas, home—the idea that The Pointe could pull together a “production act” featuring nearly the entire competition team was anything but apparent.
Tiffany used to tell her students to dance like no one was watching. On Saturday, they decided that phrase wouldn’t do anymore. “Dance like Tiffany is watching!” they yelled, and headed to the stage.
The Prairie Village Post said that in the weeks following Tiffany’s death, her husband Mike, her mother Terri Platania, and sister Stacey Chaloux stepped in to take over operations of the Blue Springs, Missouri, studio Tiffany started in 2008 with just a dozen students. Steady growth led Tiffany to create competition teams three years ago, and in June she felt The Pointe was ready for the challenge of a production number.
At the time of the accident, choreography had been started; costumes were picked out. Members of the local dance community—choreographers Anna Lahey and Brigitte Bartola—stepped forward to help studio teachers drill the dancers. On Saturday, The Pointe’s production took second place in its category and received the judges’ “Powerhouse Award.”
It was a challenging weekend for Mike, Terri, Stacey, and the dancers, who “were able to focus onstage,” Terri said, “but when they got off, there was a lot of crying. The other studios must have been wondering, ‘What is wrong with these girls? They cry at every number.’ ”
Still, Terri said, there was comfort in seeing her daughter’s dream come to fruition.
“It was emotional to watch,” she said. “It was very satisfying to see that particular number come to life, because for Tiffany, that act was what was going to show that her studio had made it.”
A prestigious ballet school that has taught thousands of dancers in Riverside, California, for half a century is scrambling to find a new home or face eviction from the historic downtown landmark it helped save, reported The Press-Enterprise.
The Freeman family, which owns the 87-year-old Aurea Vista Building, gave Riverside Ballet Arts a two-month notice to leave the premises. The school—which opened on Central Avenue in 1961 as the House of Dance, moved to the former Aurea Vista Hotel in 1969, and was renamed Riverside Ballet Arts in 1984—launched the careers of countless dancers, including Darci Kistler of New York City Ballet.
The move comes after owners of the nearby bar Pixels applied for a liquor license to open a restaurant and nightclub on the ground floor of the Aurea Vista Building at University Avenue and Lemon Street. The pending application has led to concerns voiced by dance students’ parents about alcohol sales, nighttime safety, drunken patrons harassing girls, noise, and traffic problems.
The school’s artistic director Glenda Carhart said she can’t understand why the community would give a bar and restaurant priority over a dance school. “I think the thing that bothers me most is, ‘How can we throw our children under the bus?’ ” she told more than 75 parents, students, and long-time supporters who gathered at the school March 4 to launch a petition drive in protest.
The dance school is in danger of closing at least temporarily because there’s not enough time to find a new space and build dance studios, said Carhart, who led 200 people to City Hall in 1989 to protest city plans to tear down the building for a commercial project and helped the building win local landmark status.
The school will petition the Riverside City Council to intervene. Carhart prefers to remain there with a lease. Unless something is worked out, they plan to ask the council for help getting a one-year extension, finding a new space, and ensuring the building is preserved.
An updated report by IBISWorld announced that the dance studio industry is expected to grow by 2.4 percent in 2014, an estimate that would result in the generation of $2.2 billion in revenue.
This represents average annual revenue growth of 2.3 percent over the past five years. “The popularization of dance-inspired television shows and rising interest in dance as an alternative form of exercise have positively impacted the industry over the past five years,” says IBISWorld industry analyst Stephen Morea in a PRWeb release.
In particular, dance studios offering Latin-inspired, fusion, and ballroom dance classes have benefited from rising consumer demand. For instance, there was a 30 percent spike in the number of people taking ballroom lessons and attending ballroom events during the first decade of this century, according to USA Dance Inc.
The industry has not been without its challenges: during the recession, enrollment in dance classes declined and clients shifted away from private classes to more inexpensive group classes. The dance studio industry, however, was quick to rebound. Shifting consumer preferences towards niche and fitness-inspired dance classes mitigated industry revenue declines. As the economy improved and employment and discretionary income expanded, consumers shuffled back into dance studies, and industry revenue gradually improved.
“Fueled by rising consumer interest in dance over the past five years, the number of dance studios is expected to increase at an average annual rate of 2.1 percent, to total an estimated 8,455 studios in 2014,” says Morea.
To see the full release, visit http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/03/prweb11634866.htm.
Advice for dance teachers
A few years ago I became the director of a dance studio where I had taught for years. The first year our enrollment flourished, and the second year it held steady. This year has been very difficult and enrollment has dropped. However, the students who no longer dance here did not leave on a bad note; they graduated or wanted to try new activities. Those families said they loved our classes and teachers but did not want to overextend their children with activities.
In the past, we dealt with the stigma of negativity regarding the former director and the studio’s name, which was changed immediately after I took over. I think we are still proving ourselves to the community.
I am trying everything to bring up our enrollment—advertisements, direct mailers, parades, community events, contacting past students (even from years ago), YouTube, Facebook. I am wracking my brain about how to improve the enrollment, especially of young children. I have even tried contacting local daycare centers offering programs and free classes to get the word out, but no one seems interested. I would be so thankful if you could give me tips on how to grow. —Frustrated
Sometimes it takes a while to eliminate the negativity surrounding a previous owner. I would continue the marketing you are doing. I would also add that it should be the goal of every faculty and staff person, and you, to ensure that every child (and parent) at your school can only rave about the experience. Give them excellent customer service, mature teachers who care for every child, and the most professionally run school in the area. To help attract parents of young children, go overboard with the little ones who are already enrolled by giving them great choreography for the annual recital. If you make them (and their parents) feel special, word will get around.
You say some students have dropped dance because they are overwhelmed with activities, but I have encountered many students who gave up other activities because they loved their dance teachers and classes. If you offer the best customer service possible and show dedication to every child, the negativity will diminish. Then you will be on your own to develop the best reputation possible. Good luck! —Rhee
I would love your thoughts on a situation. Two dancers (siblings) have missed two and a half months of rehearsals for our studio production number. Their mother felt that six hours with a video of the dance was adequate rehearsal, but I disagreed and removed them from one part (of three) of the production dance. I explained to these dancers that they could continue to work on the choreography for part one, and if it was up to the level of the rest of the group, I would gladly add them into it at a later date. I have 15 dancers who did come for those two and a half months and busted their butts to work on the choreography and staging.
This family also has decided to opt out of mandatory company events, workshops, and trainings.
The studio owner is not backing me up, which hurts, but I know I did the right thing for the 15 dedicated dancers and my colleague. The whole time, I was thinking, “teacher, leader, mentor,” and how the situation is unfair to the dancers who have worked hard. It’s also unfair to give these two girls false expectations and let them slide by with a poor work ethic. The owner has disappointed me by not supporting my choice as a professional. It’s been a very disheartening experience. —Raquel
I agree that these dancers should not be included in the choreography taught during the rehearsals they missed. Unless a dancer has a family emergency, a mandatory rehearsal must be exactly that, without exception. Too many kids and parents believe it’s OK to disappoint the dancers who do make the required commitment. For whatever reason, the families of dancers who miss classes and rehearsals believe they are different from the others.
When teachers or school owners go against their own policies, their credibility is diminished. Eventually everyone starts to miss rehearsals and take advantage of the fact that people at the school don’t stand up for what they think is right for the students, including instilling discipline, commitment, and respect for classmates.
You don’t mention why these kids missed so many rehearsals, or if there was any prior discussion regarding how the situation would be handled if they were absent. My best advice is to have a friendly talk with the studio owner to discuss why she isn’t backing you up and find out if there is more to the story than you know. I wish you the best. —Rhee
I have two questions I hope you can answer. I teach at the studio where my two daughters take class and are on the competition team. What is a reasonable discount on tuition for employees?
Also, my oldest decided to drop tap for the competition team and take it as a rec class. I teach that class. The owner gave me an adjusted statement showing the change in class, and now it costs more than when she did tap with the team. Should I be charged more for my child to be in my class versus another teacher’s class? The enrollment period was over, so she was not taking a spot another child could have occupied. —Teacher-Mom
There is a lot of diversity among school owners regarding discount policies for employees’ children, from 10 percent to a full scholarship. The variables might include the number of hours worked by the parent or the number of classes the child takes. In most cases, the expense of costumes, entry fees, or other non-classroom-related fees are not covered by the scholarships or included in any discounts.
Your second question is hard to answer because the school owner has the right to charge whatever she thinks is appropriate. I am not convinced that the fact that it is your daughter who is taking your class is relevant. And although initial enrollment is over, many schools accept new students on an ongoing basis. If another child with no relationship to the school registered for the class, she would pay tuition.
That said, I have no idea how much of a discount you receive already. In most cases, competition team classes are less expensive because of the number of classes required by the program policies. We also need to factor in the cost to the studio to run your class, including wages for you and office employees, utilities, and so on.
It might be better to think less about the cost of the tuition and focus on making yourself invaluable to the school owner. Then you can have a conversation about the amount of the discount she offers. I wish you the best. —Rhee
By Meghan Seaman
School owners are always looking for new and exciting ways to market their businesses. But for most of us, many opportunities already exist in our studios’ perks, programs, and other offerings. In marketing our current studio offerings as something special, we save money as well as time and creative energy.
Your facility is a great place to begin. Do you have sprung floors? High ceilings? Be sure to mention them as desirable safety features in your marketing materials. Make note of viewing windows, free wi-fi access, or quiet homework areas in brochures and on your website.
It’s likely that you spent quite a bit of money building or equipping your studio space, designing the dance rooms, and hiring quality instructors. While these things may seem like minimal requirements to seasoned dancers, for new customers they can be presented as perks. For example, Lori Laumann Weil, owner of Creative Dance & Music Studio in Harvey, Louisiana, has attracted and retained more than 200 dancers by such practical policies as accepting credit cards, keeping class sizes small, and offering only well-trained, adult instructors—all things she says set her studio apart from others in her area.
School owner Hedy Perna offers a raffle—the first 100 returning students who pre-register are entered into a drawing for a free dance class for the entire upcoming season. “It really works!” Perna says.
On a similar note, don’t underestimate the selling power of your location. I use the convenient downtown location of my studio, On Stage Dance Studio in Stratford, Ontario, Canada, as a selling feature. Its central location means that after school many students can take a city bus or walk to the studio together. Parents love the fact that they have one fewer trip to the studio to make, and older dancers help out by walking the younger students from their schools to the studio. When parents do need to make the drive into town, they can take advantage of the many nearby shopping centers to run errands or enjoy some quiet time in a coffee shop.
Registration is a great time to add some perks that might entice current students to return for another dance season. At Perna Dance Center in Hazlet, New Jersey, owner Hedy Perna offers a raffle for all returning students. The first 100 returning students who pre-register are entered into a drawing for a free dance class for the entire upcoming season. “You’d better believe that when they bring in their pre-registration forms, they all ask, ‘Did I make it into the first 100?’ It really works!” Perna says.
Another registration bonus offer might be a gift to the first registrants or all who register before a certain date. Things like car decals, water bottles, and T-shirts with the studio’s logo on them are low-cost options for freebies, and they work double duty— not only can they persuade families to register more quickly, but they serve as free advertising.
Marketing to current students works as well as marketing to new clients. Melanie Boniszewski offers a “Customer Appreciation Week” at her Tonawanda Dance Arts in Tonawanda, New York. During this week, all students may try any class in any dance genre, for free. Not only do the families feel appreciated and rewarded, but the trial classes often convince students to add a new style of dance to their weekly schedule. It’s a win–win.
Teffany Comeaux-Ibarra, owner of Teffany’s Dance Studio in Corpus Christi, Texas, has implemented a creative—and very successful—program for her preschool dancers: upon registration, they receive a free “Class of 20XX” T-shirt. She says this plants the idea in parents’ minds that “they are committing to the entire 12-plus years.” Since beginning this program, she says, only six preschool students have dropped out.
New marketing plans are always desirable, but first, don’t forget to look around at what’s already in place. Anything that sets your business apart can be advertised as a reason to choose it over others, and these existing selling points have the advantage of involving little time or cost.
What a turn-of-the-20th-century principle of economics means to you
By Misty Lown
True or false? The work of an Italian economist from more than 100 years ago is having a large impact on your dance studio business today. True!
In 1906, Vilfredo Pareto made a simple observation that changed the course of business management forever—he noticed that 80 percent of the peas in his garden came from 20 percent of the plants. He then observed that 80 percent of the land in Italy was owned by 20 percent of the people. Years later, in 1941, Joseph Juran expanded the Pareto principle from economics to quality issues. Have you ever heard the saying, “Twenty percent of the people cause 80 percent of the problems”? You can thank Juran for making that observation common knowledge.
Have you ever heard the saying, “Twenty percent of the people cause 80 percent of the problems”? From marketing to customers to choreography, you can count on approximately 80 percent of your results coming from approximately 20 percent of the causes.
Fast forward to 2014. Pareto’s principle is still being proved true in businesses today, and dance studios are no exception. From marketing to revenue, from customers to teachers, from exercises to choreography, you can count on approximately 80 percent of your results coming from approximately 20 percent of the causes. Let’s do some digging into your business and see what can be mined from “the law of the vital few,” as Pareto’s principle is also called.
Marketing and revenue
I’m starting in the same place Pareto did—economics. Six years ago, after learning about Pareto’s principle, I decided to give it a road test. I’ve always been a numbers gal. I like to know where my school’s enrollment is, how high payroll is running, which accounts are past due. Even so, I had never looked beyond the stats to see what was driving the numbers I liked to track. I began to dig deeper, tearing through every layer of my business in search of the vital few things that were making the biggest impact on its financial performance.
The biggest shock was discovering that my children’s classes (ages 2 to 8) were outperforming my advanced classes (ages 14 to 18). And not by a small amount—by 400 percent. That’s right. Those little once-a-week, 30-minute classes for kids were generating four times the revenue my senior-level classes were. I had found my vital few.
It seemed counterintuitive at first. The advanced students are the largest accounts; they take the most classes and buy the most costumes. However, the senior-level students also take class at the most deeply discounted multi-class rates; study with the most experienced and highest paid teachers; and require the greatest amount of administrative time.
This led me to two important conclusions. One, I needed to put even more time and energy into developing, marketing, growing, and staffing our children’s program. Second, the pricing for the senior-level dancers needed to be adjusted to more closely reflect the value of the training and support they received. Both decisions have had a positive impact on the business health of my studio, allowing me to expand it twice and update the lobby to serve families better.
Customers and teachers
After I tackled the economic side of Pareto’s equation, it was time to follow Juran’s lead and apply the concept to quality issues. I wasn’t sure how I would measure this factor and stumbled across the answer by accident, going through my emails one day. As I stared at a complaint from a parent, the third one that week, I was reminded of that person’s complaint from the week before and the week before that. You get the idea. With an excitement that can only be fueled by discovery, I looked at her thread of complaints with new eyes.
This lady and her daughter were not only proving Pareto true, they were beating the odds. The duo represented 10 percent of this particular class by enrollment, but caused 90 percent of the problems within that group. Complaints about placement, multiple exchanges of costumes, disruptions in class, disrespect shown to teachers, issues in the dressing room, and negative online behavior—you name it, it was a problem.
I called a conference with the woman and her daughter, which resulted in their withdrawing from the studio. Although I was sad to see the student go, I did breathe a sigh of relief when my inbox was no longer barking at me.
Perhaps you’ve been there, or are there right now. A quick survey of your messages and to-do list could reveal a handful of people who are causing you the greatest grief in your job.
Don’t get me wrong. I am all for listening to people’s concerns. Listening gives me a chance to course-correct if the school or I have missed the mark somehow, or to explain why, after 16 years in business, we do things the way we do. Listening is always a win. But I cannot allow a handful of people to hijack my time and energy with complaints on a regular basis. I am too busy serving the families who value our mission.
The same qualitative question could be applied to your teaching staff. Start tracking the comments you hear about teachers from parents and students. It won’t be too long before you notice a pattern. There will be one or two teachers who get a steady stream of complaints, and a few “rock stars” who get raves.
Put your time, attention, and resources into building on the success of your most capable teachers. They may be available for additional classes or responsibilities. Arrange for them to mentor younger teachers. Offer space for private lessons or have them lead an all-staff workshop in their area of expertise. Certainly, offer the struggling teachers as much support as possible to get through the season, but seriously consider whether to rehire them for the next season. In my experience, people who are not meeting standards during the school year do not magically turn around over the summer.
Exercises and choreography
This third, and perhaps most subjective category—exercises and choreography—is also governed by the 80/20 principle. Nowhere in your business is the impact of a few great (or awful) things more visibly felt than in your final product.
Consider recital and competition. There is always one piece that stands out. It’s the routine everyone talks about and buys a video of. On the other hand, there can also be that one number that doesn’t live up to your expectations. The choreography isn’t up to par, the kids aren’t well rehearsed, or the costumes don’t quite work. As many times as I’ve walked away from a performance ecstatic about the one piece that was amazing, I’ve also walked away haunted by one that missed the mark.
Classroom exercises and training don’t play out as publicly as recitals and competitions, but they are no exception to the law of the vital few. For all the hours spent in the classroom, it can be one correction, singular insight, or observation that will transform a student’s turns, placement, or alignment, affecting their long-term development as a dancer. Conversely, poor instruction in a few foundational concepts, such as spotting, alignment, or turnout, can put a student behind the curve for years to come.
In the case of classroom exercises and choreography, the importance of teacher training and ongoing mentorship cannot be overstated. Equip your teachers with instructional priorities, curriculums, and resources on the front side, but be prepared to observe, assess, and provide timely feedback once things get going. This is where most studio owners fall short. Preparing teachers to enter the classroom by giving them handbooks, lessons plans, attendance sheets, and music is only the beginning. A great finish is made through ongoing feedback, course correction, and mentorship.
Finding the “big rocks”
You’re probably familiar with the story of the college professor who showed his class the importance of the “big rocks” in life—another way of naming the few things in your work or life that are vital to you. To demonstrate his point, he filled a mason jar with big rocks. Although the jar looked full, he proved it wasn’t by adding pebbles, then sand to the jar, shaking the jar to make room for each addition. In a second demonstration, he put the items into the jar in reverse order—the sand and pebbles took up so much space that there was no room for the big rocks.
Consider the big rocks the 20 percent and the sand and pebbles the 80 percent. His point? If you prioritize the “big rock” issues—those vital few—there will be room in the crevices and corners for the non-essentials. However, if you allow your day to be filled with non-essential issues, low-priority projects, or drama (i.e., sand and pebbles), there will be no room left for what matters to you.
It sounds like a lesson Pareto would have liked, and it’s a great example of why prioritizing—paying attention to the “big rocks” first—anchors your work and personal life with what you value most.
What are the big rocks in your business, the vital few things that only you can do to move your business forward? Mine are creating programs, marketing, coaching teachers, and building strategic relationships in the community. I have the ability to do other things, such as bookkeeping, checking messages, cleaning, and ordering costumes, but so does my staff. And, for the most part, they do a better job. My time is better spent working in the areas that have the greatest positive impact on my business and that are things only I can do.
Finally, then there is the matter of you. Pareto discovered the 80/20 principle and related it to economics; Juran applied the concept to management. And now I am challenging you to apply it to your life as an entrepreneur. What are the vital few things in your life that, when you get them “right,” make you feel like all is well with the world? Name them. Write them down today and tape them to your computer screen. And then every time you open an email or look at your to-do list, filter those smaller concerns through your “big rocks” first.
Before Patrick Swayze hit the Catskill Mountains as Johnny Castle in Dirty Dancing, he learned to dance right here in Houston. And it was the good fortune of Jennifer Wood, Heights resident and Suchu Dance founder and artistic director, to end up in the studio where the magic began.
According to the Leader, Wood owned and managed a large studio and theater but, seeking to simplify things, moved her nonprofit company into a space at Ella Plaza, 3480 Ella Boulevard. It was only when Wood and managing director Vipul Divecha were doing paperwork that they saw that Patsy Swayze’s Houston JazzBallet Company was registered to their address. “It was intriguing,” said Wood. “Then we read in Patrick Swayze’s biography that he would walk across the street to Ella Plaza to take dance classes after school.”
The definitive proof came from a choreographer who had danced with Patsy Swayze and from other former students who sent her pictures of the building. Suchu Dance was in the exact same spot as the Swayze School of Dance—a fantastic marketing tool.
While Suchu is gaining momentum in its new home—the company just finished its first show, Nothing, in February—it was slow going at first. The building, for which Wood signed a three-year lease in October, had been abandoned for some time and needed a lot of sweat equity. “The floor wasn’t level and the walls were very purple,” said Wood.
To read the full story, visit http://www.theleadernews.com/?p=16247.
Stars of Tomorrow, a dance invitational for studios from New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut held at Purchase College, will be holding two events this season due to increased interest from local studios.
Stars of Tomorrow, produced by Dancers Responding to AIDS as a benefit for that organization, has planned “evenings of dance” for March 2 and April 13 at The Concert Hall Performing Arts Center, 735 Anderson Hill Road, Purchase, New York. Last year, more than $47,000 was raised to assist men, women, and children across the country affected by HIV/AIDS and other life-threatening illnesses.
Twenty-six studios will be participating in this year’s event. Dancers perform and take master classes with world-renowned teachers. All participating schools commit to selling tickets based on the number of dances they perform.
Dancers Responding to AIDS, founded in 1991 by former Paul Taylor Dance Company members Denise Roberts Hurlin and Hernando Cortez, is a program of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, one of the nation’s leading industry-based, nonprofit AIDS fundraising and grant-making organizations.
To see a list of participating studios, visit https://www.dradance.org/Stars_Of_Tomorrow.
Former American Ballet Theatre and New York City Ballet principal Robert La Fosse has been passing down his expertise to students of the Scarsdale Ballet Studio in Westchester, New York, as the studio prepares to present Coppélia on March 29 and 30 at the Dance Lab at SUNY Purchase College.
Coppélia will be the first full-length ballet to be presented since the school opened its doors in 1992. Studio director Diana White and La Fosse have been coaching the students and sharing memories of their experiences dancing together at NYCB.
White said the ballet not only offers great opportunity to aspiring dancers to perform an abundance of solo roles and explore eccentric characterizations and work, but also provides the opportunity to perform with La Fosse, who will appear as Dr. Coppelius. La Fosse will reprise this same role later this month with NYCB at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center.
Coppélia will be performed March 29 at 6:30pm and March 30th at 1:30pm at the Dance Lab at SUNY Purchase, 735 Anderson Hill Road in Purchase, New York. Tickets are $25 for adults, $20 for children under the age of 12 and can be purchased in person at the Scarsdale Ballet Studio, located at 696R White Plains Road in Scarsdale, or by calling 914.725.8754.
Advice for dance teachers
What would you do about a student’s monthly tuition if she was injured (in athletics, not dance, and it required surgery) and out for a couple of months to recover? She is part of a team and her mom wants me to hold her place in the choreography. I’m on the fence about this since she cannot dance; the problem is that she was supposed to be in eight dances, and all of the teachers will need to remember to factor her in. I’m not opposed to waiving her tuition while she is out, but I want to make sure I don’t start something that snowballs with all the other “ouchies” in the studio. Thanks for your help! —Shelly
This is an opportunity for this child, her mom, and the rest of your dancers to learn more than movement. It’s where you teach respect, dedication, teamwork, and more. When young dancers and their parents are truly committed, an injury doesn’t prevent them from going to the studio. I believe injured students should observe all the classes they can’t physically take, and it is imperative that they attend all choreography rehearsals. Injury does not prevent a dancer from using his/her brain; observation can be as educational as taking a class.
As for the choreography, the dancer must know that it is her obligation to be prepared to step back into the piece as soon as she is ready. And she should be able to do this without the choreographer having to spend hours re-teaching the movement. Learning her part while injured is an example of having respect for her classmates and her teachers.
In this case, no refund is applicable. It is the dancer’s and parent’s choice whether to take advantage of the opportunity to be part of what they are paying for. Good luck! —Rhee
You helped me through a very bad time years ago when two of my students who grew up in my school took almost my entire dance troupe and opened a school down the street. I was heartbroken. Now once again I am getting calls from people dropping out right and left. I have tried having a meeting and no one will share what is going on. But we now have only six kids left in one troupe and eight in another. If we keep this number of students, we will lose money paying a teacher, but if we get rid of the dance troupes altogether, then we will lose the students who want to compete. What do we do? —Cathy
I am sorry you are dealing with this situation, but in all honesty I find it hard to understand why your instinct isn’t helping you figure out why these dancers are leaving. How was the previous season? Did the dancers and their parents have any issues? Were you on top of your game when it came to customer service, organization, faculty, choreography, and so on? There must be something you know in your gut that would explain this exodus.
I would like you to think about this: if these departing students or their parents are not offering you any clues about why they made the decisions they did, or if they are not giving you what I might call the typical reasons (“My daughter has decided to do another activity,” or “My child doesn’t have the time to commit,” etc.), then my guess is there is something wrong and they believe you should know what it is. Apparently they are uncomfortable being truthful with you. Work harder to get honest feedback, and if you get it, don’t take offense; instead think about what you could do to avoid doing whatever it is in the future.
With the two groups of students who remain, give them and their parents the best dance year possible, both educationally and in terms of customer service. Though I know situations like this are hard, you’ve been through something similar and you survived quite well. Make it your goal to figure out the reality of the situation, and then get to work making yourself better by learning from of all of these lessons you’re experiencing. —Rhee
I have been teaching for two decades at the same school. I feel like I am at home, and everyone there is an important part of my extended family. The owner and I have had a wonderful working and personal relationship, but it has been more than 10 years since she has offered me a raise. Almost 10 years had passed before I received the only raise I have ever gotten. That happened because I was getting married and I told my boss that I had to cut back my teaching hours in order to get a real job so that my new husband and I could afford our mortgage. She was very generous at that time, increasing my hourly wage from $12 to $22. I appreciated it very much, but the school and the number of students that I teach has doubled since then. Not more classes, but more students in the classes.
My dance family means so much to me and I don’t want to lose it or my relationship with my boss, but my own family thinks that I am being taken advantage of. We are struggling financially. How do I ask for a raise, and if I do will I lose the career I love? I am so scared and I don’t know what to do. Thanks. —Valerie
You should be commended for your appreciation for your dance family and your loyalty to your boss. I would love to have you as an employee. You need to speak up just like you did 10 years ago. If your boss is your “family,” and your relationship is strong, she can’t take offense at your asking for a raise. And if she does, then you must realize that the relationship may not be the same for her as it is for you.
A hint: this time when you speak to her, you should also ask her to agree to discuss wages on an every-other-year basis. You need to establish some sort of boundaries in the relationship. She may know how much your dance family means to you, so it’s possible she doesn’t bring up money because she’s confident that you would never quit. I am not saying it’s right, but it might be how it is in your situation. I wish you all the best. —Rhee
Note to our readers: In this column you often read my responses to studio owners who say their former students or employees open a competing school nearby. Often, when teachers leave, they take their students along with them, and the war begins. Sometimes the circumstances that create the problem in the first place are similar to Valerie’s. She wants to be loyal, and she wants to be part of the “family,” but she can no longer deal with the financial price of her loyalty to her boss.
Words from our readers
Thank you for the wonderful article about NBS’ Assemblée Internationale festival [“Assemblée Internationale 2013: Canada’s international festival proves there are no borders, nationally or technologically, in ballet,” by Joseph Carman] in the September issue of DSL. It looked great! Hopefully you’ll be able to join us for the next AI!
Senior Communications Officer
Canada’s National Ballet School
Thank you for including us in your October issue [“Showtime Styles: A look at who does what for recitals across the U.S.,” by Maureen Janson]!
Andrea In Motion/AIM Studio
Staten Island, NY
Social media’s popularity has given studio owners a bonanza of (free!) marketing opportunities. But because social-media platforms are so easy to use and because they feel informal, it’s also easy to forget that your studio’s reputation is on the line with each word you type and each photo you post. Don’t let missteps get in the way of your efforts. Keep your online integrity intact with these tips.
Before posting photos and videos of classes and performances, make sure you have permission from your students’ parents. Including a photo/video release statement with registration materials is best; if it’s too late for that, direct parents to a release form on your website or in your email newsletter.
To avoid having an “all about me” image, intersperse some inspirational quotes and images, or post links to relevant dance news stories or online articles.
The release should state that the parent allows your school to use photos or videos of their child in marketing materials, including on social media. If any clients are unwilling to sign the release, make a note in their account not to use images of those children.
When you do post photos and videos, make sure you don’t show favoritism toward a certain student, class, or performing group.
No disruptive opinions
Whether you’re posting a status update, commenting on a post, or tweeting, always pause before issuing a strong opinion. Avoid remarks that could be construed as sexist, racist, or politically divisive. If you know what you’re about to post is controversial and you still want to do it, preface it with “I understand this may be a hot topic, but I think . . .” or “This may be a point of contention, but my thoughts about it are . . .” Be prepared for a backlash, however.
Even when you opt for maximum privacy settings on your accounts, your posts can be traced back to you. On Facebook, for example, even if your profile is private, others may be able to see comments you make on friends’ posts.
It’s natural, and expected, that you’ll plug your studio’s events and brag about your faculty and students on your Facebook page or Twitter account. Showcase your school mindfully, by limiting the number of self-promotional posts, especially in a short period of time. To avoid having an “all about me” image, intersperse some inspirational quotes and images, or post links to relevant dance news stories or online articles. Celebrate the dance world as a whole along with marketing your school.
Watch those words
Don’t underestimate good spelling and grammar. Those who follow you on social media will be more likely to take you seriously and respect your opinions if they can clearly understand what you are saying. Always re-read your remarks before posting or tweeting, and check any spelling or grammar you aren’t sure about.
For example, it’s common to mistake your for you’re, or to mix up there, their, and they’re. Know the difference, and use them correctly so you don’t look careless. Do not overuse punctuation or emoticons; multiple exclamation points, slipshod apostrophes, and excessive use of smiley faces can look unintentionally juvenile.
Also be careful with abbreviations, like typing 2 in place of to, too, or two, or u for you. Although these shortcuts are commonplace on social media (especially on Twitter, where tweets are limited to 140 characters) abbreviations make it appear like you didn’t put time or thought into what you wrote. Save them for tweets or don’t use them at all.
Resist the urge to badmouth any person or business on social media, or to jump on someone else’s badmouthing bandwagon. If you had a personal misunderstanding or a terrible customer-service experience, say something constructive or say nothing at all. Don’t indulge in a rant that you might later regret.
The moral of the story on social media? Integrity and presentation are important! The way you communicate online should accurately reflect your level of professionalism.
Co-owner/director, Motion N’ Dance, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
NOMINATED BY: Jessica Gibson, co-owner and daughter: “My mother and I have been working together for seven years. She was given the chance to buy an existing studio whose owner had only 57 dancers left. My mother made the decision to rebuild and open Motion N’ Dance. We built the studio around the belief that there is more to dance than competitions, trophies, and medals. We provide students with proper dance education and performance opportunities that will help them grow as dancers. My mother has added more than 300 students to the number enrolled when we took over the school.”
YEARS TEACHING: 19
AGES TAUGHT: 3 to 18
GENRES TAUGHT: Ballet, lyrical, and jazz
WHY SHE CHOSE TEACHING DANCE AS A CAREER: It allows me to educate and mentor my students as well as provide a second home to them. I have danced my entire life—it is who I am. Growing up with a learning disability, I found that dance provided me with a purpose. It was the one thing I could do that made me feel confident and secure. I wanted to share my passion for the art, so I chose to teach.
HER GREATEST INSPIRATIONS: My inspiration comes from watching my students grow as dancers and individuals. My husband and family believe in me and allow me to follow my dream. My mother was also an inspiration; she was able to see me realize my dream before she passed away. However, my greatest inspiration is my daughter—with whom I am now able to share my dance life—as I watch her grow into the business.
TEACHING PHILOSOPHY: My philosophy stems from a quote I learned in childhood: “There is no such word as ‘cannot.’ ” I push my students to strive and reach for their own dreams and to understand that if they believe in their dreams, they will come true. Hard work and dedication do pay off!
WHAT MAKES HER A GOOD TEACHER: I constantly educate myself. One is never too old to take a class, read a book, or attend a seminar. More important, I know my students. I know how to fix their weaknesses and use their strengths. Furthermore, I understand that some may need a high five while others may need a hug at the end of class.
FONDEST TEACHING MEMORY: The Christmas performance for the patients of Sacred Heart Home, for cancer patients. I love watching the dancers interact with the patients, as well as the patients trying to dance along. Seeing the smiles on their faces is moving and rewarding. The dancers and I enjoy spending Christmas Eve at the home every year.
ADVICE TO DANCERS AND TEACHERS: To dancers: believe in yourself. To teachers: believe in your dancers.
IF SHE COULDN’T BE A DANCE TEACHER: I would open a home for children and take the time to mentor them.
ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: Dance saved me—it changed my life. I am thankful and blessed for all that I have. Because of dance, I have fight in me to push myself to want more and make things happen. I know to never give up. You will get knocked down, but if you believe in yourself no one can make you feel that you cannot accomplish your dreams.
DO YOU KNOW A DANCE TEACHER WHO DESERVES TO BE IN THE SPOTLIGHT? Email your nominations to Arisa@rheegold.com or mail them to Arisa White, Dance Studio Life, P.O. Box 2150, Norton, MA 02766. Please include why you think this teacher should be featured, along with his or her contact information.
Cooperation is key in merger of two studios
By Mary Ellen Hunt
Neighboring dance studio owners go toe-to-toe all the time, about everything from dance competitions to capturing students to booking recital space. For Kathryn Barnett and Cathy Stucko, however, the unconventional and mutually beneficial solution to their separate problems lay in joining forces. Far from seeing each other as a threat, they merged their two studios into the singular Kathryn Barnett School of Dance and Allegro Dance Academy.
For some 30 years, Barnett owned a studio in Red Bank, New Jersey, where she built an enrollment of 200 students and founded a competition team, all housed in a building she’d owned since the school opened. In August 2012, however, Barnett was distressed when the county began a construction project on the street in front of her studio.
One day we were complaining about her issues and my issues. And then suddenly we said, ‘Why don’t we [team up] and have our issues together?’ —Kathryn Barnett
“People could not get in my door, and it lasted until December,” she says. “The students and parents, the teachers, everybody was frustrated. There was no parking. It really had an impact on my business.”
Meanwhile, Barnett’s friend Cathy Stucko faced a different challenge: searching for a new artistic director for her school, Allegro Dance Academy in Middletown, only seven minutes away from Barnett’s school. The mother of a dancer, Stucko purchased Allegro Dance Academy four years ago, to make sure, she says, it would still be there for the kids and families. But as a full-time nurse, she needed someone to help her with the business.
“I had to learn along the way,” Stucko says. “I was a dance mom—not like the TV show, of course, but I was always involved at the studio. Being a director as well as having a full-time job was hard. Someone worked the front desk at the studio until I could get there, but every day I picked the teachers up from the train station, drove them to the studio, took care of things at the studio, then took the teachers back again at the end of the night. And then I had to get up the next day and go to work myself.”
Stucko and Barnett were good friends, “and we used to get together all the time,” says Barnett. “One day we were complaining about her issues and my issues. And then suddenly we said, ‘Why don’t we [team up] and have our issues together?’ ”
The two women had known each other for years and have much in common. Not only were they both busy working moms who ran dance studios—Stucko’s daughter Lauren had danced in pieces choreographed by Barnett’s daughter Gabrielle—they discovered that they had similar philosophies about educating dance students. Allegro Dance Academy held classes only four days a week, and when KBSD’s performing troupe was looking for weekend rehearsal space in late 2012, Barnett rented Allegro’s studios.
As they discussed the idea of merging their studios, it began to make more and more sense. Barnett, a 30-year veteran teacher, would become executive director of the new venture and make artistic decisions, while Stucko would be program director and take care of administrative matters. When the proprietors of a cupcake shop next to the Red Bank building, which Barnett owned, revealed that they hoped to expand, it seemed like the moment was perfect to lease the space to them and move the studio.
“I wanted to teach more, and Cathy is a fantastic administrator,” says Barnett. “We have the same sensibilities—our goals, even our mission statements were very similar. Together we would have a nice healthy enrollment. She has a much bigger space—she even has air conditioning, which my school didn’t have.”
“We both believe in the same thing,” says Stucko. “That it’s all about the kids, teaching them how to dance, teaching them to love the arts, and giving back to the community.”
The Middletown studios are in Union Square Mall, an easily accessible, safe, kid-friendly location with plenty of parking. Before or after classes, students can get food and walk around, and parents feel comfortable dropping their children off early, knowing that the studio’s staff members are never far away.
Stucko notes that Allegro’s students mainly dance recreationally, and while Barnett trains Barnett Traveling Troupe—which this year will be split into competition and performance groups, the latter of which will dance for community events—her philosophy is to nurture in all of her students qualities that will serve them for a lifetime, in or out of the profession.
“Fewer than one percent of students will become professional dancers, but what’s important is that we give them the best possible dance experience,” says Barnett. “We are interested in building their self-confidence one class at a time, one performance at a time.”
Melding the students from the two schools took some careful planning. In spring 2013, Barnett and Stucko sent out a joint letter to parents announcing the merger, unsure of their reaction. Stucko says her students’ parents were happy for her, but Barnett got mixed responses.
“People don’t like change, even if it’s for the better,” Barnett says. “And it’s not easy. Some people have said, ‘I’m not going to come back because the new studio is too far away,’ even though it’s only seven minutes from the old studio. Parents were worried—would their daughter have this teacher next year for her classes? How would it work? We really worked to answer their concerns and said, ‘Of course it’s different, but we will get you set. Is it going to be the same? No, it’s going to be better!’ ”
As a precursor to the merge, Stucko and Barnett planned to do their end-of-year recital together in early June. “Talk about getting everyone on the same page real fast!” says Barnett. “Everyone was very positive, and we had two shows that were very polished, so it was a huge success. We got to see what they were about and they saw what we were about” in terms of how each woman organized and ran her show.
With those performances under their belt, they made the move official at the end of June with joint summer camp sessions: a two-week Blue Fairy Dance Camp for preschoolers, plus three weeks of classes and workshops for dancers ages 6 and older that included ballet, tap, jazz, acrobatics, hip-hop, conditioning, and yoga, and a special musical-theater master class with Broadway coach Janine Molinari.
Barnett made sure the students would feel at home. She posted a sign that the Blue Fairy, who was known to give sweet treats to the kids at the end of classes and for whom the tot camp is named, was moving with them. “The Red Bank studio is where I grew up,” she says. “When I was a little girl, the Blue Fairy came to live at the dance studio and was there for over 30 years. Magic is really important to me.”
Behind the scenes, Stucko and Barnett say they left most of the business details of the merger up to lawyers.
“A lot of it was just step-by-step,” says Stucko, referring to making the decision, informing parents, and making legal and staffing decisions. She emphasizes that she and Barnett try to communicate not only with each other but also with parents, so that everyone is comfortable with the joint venture.
The names of both studios, as well as the logos, are there in the new identity for the business, and Barnett’s PR person has helped them get word out. The directors work together on everything from picking recital and competition dates to choosing staff—most of Barnett’s staff will come with her, and at least one of Stucko’s teachers will remain, with the possibility that more will come in to conduct master classes.
“Cathy handles the business administration side, which she is brilliant at because she’s highly organized,” says Barnett. “She takes care of the registration and makes sure everything is put into the computer correctly, while I make sure we put the right kids in the right classes.”
Stucko says she has enormous respect for Barnett’s skills and vision. “Kathryn has been in business for 30 years, which is a phenomenal amount of time to be in this business. She has so much energy and a world of knowledge.”
The two directors had to make decisions about how to balance the recreational approach to classes, while also making sure the competition-level offerings remained vibrant. Combined, the school now serves preschool to adult levels, with classes in ballet and pointe, tap, jazz, musical theater, acrobatics, and Irish step dancing. The new curriculum, Stucko says, also includes the conditioning and strengthening classes and nutrition instruction Allegro offered, as well as more classes for teens, including hip-hop and contemporary.
“This year we have more levels and more opportunities to take class,” Stucko says. “Whereas in the past maybe we would have had a class on just Saturday, now we can have it on both Tuesday and Saturday.”
Any of the students ages 10 and older can benefit, she says, from Barnett’s free monthly choreography class. Students can bring a friend to a free hour-and-a-half session in which they watch classic dance films featuring Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire, for example, enjoy a snack, learn a little dance history, and learn routines re-created from the movies.
For the first fall session as a joint studio, Barnett and Stucko hoped to enroll some 200 students—by late August, they were well on their way with some 100 students registered.
“It’s been a leap of faith,” says Barnett about the merger. “But if you get with somebody you like and trust, I say leap and a net will appear.”
“We enjoy what we do,” adds Stucko. “The kids feel comfortable coming here, and the teachers are so much fun. After having a long day at work I love hearing laughter in the classroom. It makes everything else disappear. This doesn’t feel like work, it feels fun.”
Dozens of girls in the Girl Scouts’ Daisy and Brownie ranks from Dexter and elsewhere in Washtenaw County, Michigan, attended an annual one-day course and exhibition at Dancer’s Edge Studio D last weekend that allowed them to sew a brand new merit badge on their uniforms.
“We provide them with all of the requirements to earn the badge,” Valerie Stead, Dancer’s Edge owner and head coach of the University of Michigan Dance Team, told the Dexter Leader. “We talk about healthy eating, healthy living, and healthy lifestyles, and how great it is to dance—as well as the different styles of dance.”
Stead said this year’s turnout was impressive. “It’s a great way to give back to the community,” she said. “They learn a proper warm-up, which is important since it’s cold outside. They’re learning their skills across the floor, and then when they learn those combinations they put together a dance at the end that they can show their parents.”
The girls are also learning how to build self-esteem and confidence, which Stead says is important for any little girl to learn early on. Saturday was the first time Daisy Maddie Mcguire had taken a dance class. Her dad, Brian, said he would consider letting her taking more classes after she finishes up her karate class this season.
To see the original story, visit http://www.heritage.com/articles/2014/02/11/dexter_leader/news/doc52f97c4ace458161665092.txt?viewmode=default.
It started as a humble newsletter: Goldrush, created and published by Rhee Gold, was filled with articles written by dance teachers for dance teachers. It was an instant hit, and Gold—encouraged by the obvious interest of his friends and colleagues in a publication all about dance education—decided to launch a full-fledged, glossy magazine version of his little-newsletter-that-could in July of 2004.
Since that day, Dance Studio Life has grown into the top publication in the dance education industry, printing 10 high-quality magazines a year chock-full of informative, inspirational, and fun features.
In honor of this year’s 10th anniversary, Dance Studio Life staffers have been scouring the archives for favorite articles. Starting this week, three of those articles will be featured each week on the Dance Studio Life Facebook page: human interest features on Tuesdays, business-oriented stories on Wednesdays, and classroom success stories on Thursdays.
So, peruse at your leisure, and enjoy this DSL blast from the past!
Everything Old is New Again: Stories from Past Issues of Dance Studio Life to be Resurrected on Facebook
It started as a humble newsletter: Goldrush, created and published by Rhee Gold, was filled with articles written by dance teachers for dance teachers. It was an instant hit, and Gold—encouraged by the obvious interest of his friends and colleagues in a publication all about dance education—decided to launch a full-fledged, glossy magazine version of his little-newsletter-that-could in July of 2004.
Since that day, Dance Studio Life has grown into the top publication in the dance education industry, printing 10 high-quality magazines a year chock-full of informative, inspirational, and fun features.
In honor of this year’s 10th anniversary, Dance Studio Life staffers have been scouring the archives for favorite articles. Starting this week, three of those articles will be featured each week on the Dance Studio Life Facebook page: human interest features on Tuesdays, business-oriented stories on Wednesdays, and classroom success stories on Thursdays.
So, peruse at your leisure, and enjoy this DSL blast from the past!
Julie Mack lived to dance and to share her love of the craft by teaching others. Owner of Julie’s Studio of Dance in West Bridgewater, Massachusetts, Mack died this week at the age of 39.
She had been battling cancer since she was 2.
The Enterprise reported that even as she battled cancer for a fourth time, Mack came to her dance studio daily to share her expertise—thin, and with a cap covering her head, she was still teaching children days before being hospitalized about two weeks ago.
“She battled cancer heroically and with such grace for so long,” said Julie’s husband, Jonathan Mack, of Bridgewater. “Take comfort that she’s no longer in pain and that she’s dancing again. She has touched so many lives and is loved by so, so, so many.”
Mack said her passion for dance is what helped her endure repeated cancer treatments. “Cancer or no cancer, we all just keep swimming,” she told the newspaper just a week before Christmas, as she conducted classes for two dozen children.
She opened her first dance studio in 2005 at the former Joppa Grille site in East Bridgewater, and opened another studio in Bridgewater shortly afterward, before moving her studio, finally, to West Bridgewater last fall.
“Julie had two very important sentences that inspired her,” said her father-in-law, Ray Mack. “One was, ‘It is what it is,’ and, ‘This is not the life I would choose, but this is it,’ and that guided her so many times.”
She also had a wooden plaque on her wall that read, “We can do hard things.”
“That was her motto,” said Ray Mack.
Mack’s studio will remain closed for the remainder of the week and will re-open for dance classes on January 20. To see the original story, visit
American Ballet Theatre’s Studio Company will make its inaugural appearance at the 92nd Street Y Harkness Dance Center in New York City with four performances February 7 to 9.
In 1935, what became 92nd Street Y’s Harkness Dance Center provided a home to the fledgling American modern dance movement. In the decades that followed, every great American dancer and choreographer—visionaries including Martha Graham, Alvin Ailey, Merce Cunningham, Jerome Robbins, Agnes de Mille, Robert Joffrey and Donald McKayle—spent time at 92Y.
The ABT Studio Company is comprised of 14 dancers-in-training ages 16 to 20 who gain performance experience through residencies, cultural exchanges, and local performances. The works scheduled to be performed include a world premiere choreographed by Larry Keigwin, Martine van Hamel’s Trio a Deux, excerpts from Lynne Taylor-Corbett’s Great Galloping Gottschalk, Antony Tudor’s Continuo, and the pas de sept from Raymonda.
Tickets, priced at $25, are available at www.92y.org/dance. The 92nd Street Y is located at 1395 Lexington Avenue in New York City.
Whether in the dance studio or on a film set, John Virciglio has always considered himself an “outside-the-box thinker.”
Besides his position as an adjunct dance faculty member at The University of Alabama, Virciglio also owns and operates a film production company. Virciglio said the idea behind Sharkbite Productions, based in Birmingham, was rooted in his childhood experiences as a dancer.
“I always enjoyed the energy of dance,” Virciglio told The Crimson White. “My aunt ran a studio in Florida, and my older sister danced, so I was able to meet a lot of people who I had a lot in common with. That’s where I learned a lot about discipline and coordination, and those are two things that have helped me to this day.”
Virciglio said the idea for his film production company, Sharkbite Productions, stemmed from his collegiate experience. “When I was teaching during my collegiate years, I got bored of teaching the same kind of class all the time,” Virciglio said. “So I came up with a class where students would learn how to make a music video. The videos turned out to be MTV-quality, so I figured it was time to start thinking about this as a career.”
Cornelius Carter, a professor of dance and director of the dance program at the University, said Virciglio’s incorporation of technology and dance proves that he has an eye for what the future holds for dance. And technology skills are vital to aspiring dancers in the industry.
“Most companies these days ask for websites and video reels,” Carter said. “If you don’t have a solid, clear online presence for yourself, you can’t get a job. Your presence determines future, and you have to be clear on how you present yourself.”
To read the full story, visit http://cw.ua.edu/2014/01/14/dance-faculty-member-branches-into-film/.
Two business partners are shaking up downtown Riverside, California, with their new two-dance-studios-in-one: Room to Dance, World to Dance, reported The Press-Enterprise.
April MacLean, 33, and Julie Simon, 44 have created one of the fastest-growing small businesses in Riverside, carving a niche for adults only in an industry which generated more than $2 billion in revenue nationwide last year.
MacLean and Simon have doubled enrollment to 2,000. Nineteen teachers lead 39 weekly classes and workshops in 29 genres, including Zumba, ballroom, Bollywood, hot hula, belly dance, ballroom, Rio samba, and Latin jazz.
In July 2011, MacLean opened Room to Dance, Riverside’s first studio exclusively for grownups, at 3579 University Avenue. In 2013, she and Simon launched their satellite studio, World to Dance, a block away at 3485 University, with a smorgasbord of diverse, international dance styles.
On Saturday, the merged Room and World opened its doors under one roof at 3737 Main Street in the city-owned California Tower building. Through an online social networking campaign, MacLean and Simon raised $5,000 to cover the first month’s rent. “We knew we needed a bigger building for synergy and growth,” said MacLean.
In 2012, teaching a block apart from one another, Simon and MacLean met serendipitously in the downtown Life Arts Building where both had booked the same reception hall at the same time. Despite very different personalities, the women clicked and couldn’t stop talking, sharing their stories and ambitions. MacLean hired Simon as a teacher and then they became business partners.
To read the full story, visit http://www.pe.com/business/business-headlines/20140112-retail-new-dance-studio-hopes-to-rock-downtown-riverside.ece.
Lower Manhattan’s arts scene took a hit when Dance New Amsterdam vacated its TriBeCa home this fall. But last week a new tenant with equal dance-world credibility signed a 20-year lease for the 36,000-square-foot space at 280 Broadway: choreographer Gina Gibney, founder of Gibney Dance.
The Wall Street Journal says her nonprofit contemporary dance company and rehearsal center currently leases a floor of 890 Broadway, a Flatiron-area building with a long history as a creative hub. Gibney Dance has seven studios stretching over 15,000 square feet that it rents out to dance companies, Broadway shows, or anyone in need of arts-related space. (A story on Gibney and 890 Broadway appeared in the August 2012 Dance Studio Life.)
By adding the downtown facility, Gibney Dance will more than double its operations—and it’s not just empire-building. “The primary reason we want to expand is to save the space for the dance community,” said Gibney. “I think we had to do it.”
Affordable, convenient rehearsal space is one of the most pressing performing-arts needs in New York. The shuttering of DNA after it filed for Chapter 11 protection threatened a further reduction: it could have easily been leased and renovated into something other than a center for dance.
Although her plans for the downtown space are yet to be finalized, Gibney expects to renovate 280 Broadway in a way that will make it a resource for emerging artists, while 890 Broadway will be more focused on the needs of those in midcareer.
To see the original story, visit http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303848104579310853484787882.
Advice for dance teachers
As an owner of a dance studio for many years, I wonder if it’s necessary to be at the studio every day. I’ve attended many of your conferences and I know your philosophy about how the owner sets the mood of the studio. I agree with that. But personal life has its ups and downs. I love the studio but feel burned out from time to time. I watch my customers take vacations as I work on the next project. Summer is a busy time preparing for the next season, so I feel like I don’t get a break.
I want the studio to have a good atmosphere, and I’m afraid my being stressed and feeling sad or overwhelmed will permeate the studio. I wonder if it’s OK to give myself a break from the studio and allow my staff to set the tone. Any suggestions? —Lisa
No, I don’t think you have to be at the school all day, every day. And certainly you can give yourself a break or take a real vacation. You will be a better leader if you give yourself what you need in order to stay fresh and able to appreciate what you have built. If you are feeling stressed and sad, you need to step away for a bit. Also, you need to know that you are not alone. The dance-education field is not as easy as most think it is, and many times teachers arrive at a place where they need to put themselves first without feeling guilty.
As for keeping the atmosphere positive, it won’t self-destruct if you are there less often; in fact, it might improve for everyone if you give yourself what you need. It’s obvious that you have worked hard to get your business to where it is today; it’s OK to take a vacation. I wish you the best. —Rhee
I need a morale booster about how to get more business. After 24 years my studio took a huge hit, and I don’t know why. I work so hard! I am hanging on by a thread, super-full of anxiety, and this has sent me into a depression. I’ve been hanging on to your positivity! —Tanya
I think you need to figure out why your clients left. Contact a couple of them (in the friendliest way) to discuss their motives for not returning to your school. It is important to know what their perception is so that you can move forward to eliminate the issues that caused them to leave. Also, it’s time to focus on bringing in a new crop of young students who will grow up to replace those you lost. Go nuts promoting the preschool and young children’s classes.
We sometimes get a kick in the butt that tells us we need to make changes. The catch is being able to recognize what those changes need to be. You can do this! Let go of the anxiety so that you can make good things happen for you and your school. —Rhee
Six dancers on my competition team were in a short video posted on Vine. They were twerking, and they made the video at my dance studio. They did not tag the studio or attach the studio to the video in any way, but they used their first and last names on it and have received a lot of attention (positive and negative) because of it. The video has tens of thousands of hits.
I have made it perfectly clear to them that I never want to see my studio used in such a video again. Some of the girls were remorseful and some are still proud of their popularity. I am so disappointed and frustrated by their choice to post themselves doing a questionable dance move when I constantly tell them to use proper judgment on social media. They have told me their parents see nothing wrong with it, which stuns me.
My dilemma: do I leave it where it stands, having discussed it with the girls? Or do I make an example of them and issue a consequence of some kind? I want the rest of my team and studio to understand that I do not condone what they did. Any advice would be appreciated. —Robert
I would sit down with the kids involved and their parents to explain that you are uncomfortable with them having used the studio to make the video. Whether or not they understand, you need to explain that reputation is the most important ingredient for success, in both the dance and non-dance worlds. If they choose to create something like this outside of the school and their parents don’t care, that is their prerogative. But if they choose to continue to represent your school, they must understand that you have the right to ensure that they do not tarnish your reputation.
Make it clear that if they do anything like this again, they will have to find another place to dance. It’s a new world out there, and we adults must keep trying to teach the next generation how important good judgment is to their success. I wish you all the best. —Rhee
This past summer brought lots of heartbreak and confusion to the studio I work at. A girl opened a studio right after high school, and a few girls went with her. Other girls went to other studios or quit altogether. Now my employer feels frustrated and I don’t know how to help.
The dancers who went to the new studio now realize it’s not what they want. A couple of them have been in contact, saying they want to come back, and one returned. However, another dancer I’m close to wants to leave the new studio but doesn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. Her mother has already let the studio owner know that she wants to switch, and so now we are all expecting her back. Yet the young girl feels torn.
This dancer is in contact with me, and I keep telling her she needs to be happy and that we will love her no matter what she and her parents decide. She appreciates that but now says she is going to quit dancing because she doesn’t want to upset anyone. I don’t want this to happen. I encouraged her to keep dancing, but I don’t know what else to do. I have been there for her every step of the way, but it’s starting to become irritating.
Is there anything else I can do to help? Or should I just back away from the situation? I’m confused! —Darlene
I think you need to step back a bit and not let this situation frustrate you. You can offer your best advice, but in the end the decision is up to the dancer and her parents. I would be sure to let any students who leave the school know that the door is always open if they change their mind, or if they just want to come back to visit. That is how school owners can make it less uncomfortable for young people to return if they discover they made the wrong decision.
My guess is that the school owner should evaluate why the students left. It might not be her fault, or it could be a sign that she needs to make changes that will boost her students’ loyalty to the school. Sometimes the hardest situations are the best learning experiences, but it can take a while to figure out what the lesson is.
I can tell how concerned you are about your students’ well-being, and I commend you for that. Now you need to get back to your classroom to inspire the kids who love to take your class. The rest will work itself out in the long run. Good luck! —Rhee
Words from the publisher
No, parents don’t tell us when their children should do a solo. We decide when.
No, parents don’t tell us what should be in the choreography. We decide that. The music and costume choices are ours, too.
We are the experts, and we are confident in what we know is right and when it’s right. If a parent wants to be in control, then we have no problem telling her our school isn’t the right place for her. Certainly we will explain our philosophy and do our best to educate the parent about why her child isn’t ready for that solo, but the parent can’t talk us out of what we know.
On the same note, we believe that “mandatory” really does mean mandatory. If a dancer doesn’t show up for a mandatory rehearsal, she cannot be in the piece. End of discussion. But we aren’t cruel—when there’s a death in the family or a legitimate emergency, we’ll excuse the dancer. But we can’t excuse her because she has a soccer game or because Aunt Susie is visiting. Commitment doesn’t work that way.
We have learned that in most cases the child knows what is right when it comes to commitment; the problem is the parents who believe their child is more special than the other kids. But since we know a dance education includes teaching life skills like commitment, respect, and dedication, we know we must stick to our policies.
The first time we make an exception to what we know is right, we open the door to allowing ourselves to be taken advantage of. We are no longer in control of what happens in our schools and classrooms. That loss of control makes us more stressed and less focused on what we need to accomplish; consequently, we’ll probably feel burned out sooner than we might have if we’d had the confidence to stick to our policies and beliefs.
Standing up for ourselves and what we believe in is liberating. When we do, we ensure that our students and their parents come to us for dance training because they believe in our philosophy and trust our judgment. In that kind of atmosphere, everyone thrives.
Words from our readers
I read the July issue with the story of the Christmas Butterfly [“Tempting Twists on Tradition”]. I enjoyed it greatly, but was wondering if there was a CD of all the songs from the story.
Editor’s note: We’re glad you liked it! There is no CD, but the songs are available individually on iTunes.
I was deeply moved by the thoughtful and detailed work that went into presenting Manatee School for the Arts and my life in the dance studio [“Ballet Scene: Ballroom to Ballet,” July 2013]. Joseph [Carman] wrote every detail in a thorough and compelling manner. The students, the principal, and I were delighted with the generous spread that you so artistically created. Even my dance teacher wrote to thank me for mentioning her in the article, and I thank Joseph for letting me do that publicly. It meant so much to me.
I was honored to be a subject that was promoted by the many talents of your staff. Thank you for sharing my love and representing MSA and me in expressing our studio life story.
Dance Co-Chair, Manatee School for the Arts
By Lori Shecter
If you’re like me, everything you “have” to do with social media makes your head spin. Between Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube, Tumblr, Vine, and Instagram, it’s impossible to keep up with posting, responding, and evaluating how each positively impacts your studio’s image and enrollment.
Social-media management tools help you manage your accounts in one place, without visiting each site.
However, sustaining an effective social-media presence is important for every studio’s digital footprint now that search engines include it as part of their algorithm and people spend the majority of their online time on social sites. Social-media management tools could be the time and sanity saver you’ve been looking for.
Management tools defined
Social-media management tools help you manage your accounts in one place, without visiting each site. Functions include posting, “liking,” sharing, replying, and re-tweeting across multiple outlets, in addition to measuring and analyzing results. They also help you monitor what people are saying about your studio and allow you to respond instantly. You won’t be able to do everything you’re able to do from each individual social media platform, but according to smallbiztrends.com, up to 90 percent of day-to-day social activities can be handled, including replying to others, retweeting, “liking,” sharing, and responding to private messages, and otherwise carrying out activity on your social accounts as well as scheduling updates.
Dozens of social media management tools are available. Not all are created equal; some are free, while others offer basic and pro accounts. All experts have their favorites, but the tool most frequently mentioned is HootSuite.
HootSuite: the pros
Multiple-platform management: You can manage up to five social-media platforms for free; you might choose to integrate such platforms as Facebook, Foursquare, LinkedIn, Google+ pages (not your profiles), MySpace, or WordPress. Equally tantalizing is that HootSuite has an App Directory of about 65 apps (52 free, 12 premium, $1.99–$4.99/month) for other social-networking sites, including YouTube, Flickr, Instagram, Tumblr, and Mail Chimp. The complete list of apps can be found on HootSuite’s site.
Analytics: HootSuite aggregates analytics from Facebook Insights, Google Analytics, Twitter stats, and so on, which enable you to analyze the impact of your efforts on followers, fans, and site traffic. This information helps you understand the best times to post and the best topics to include.
Scheduling: Once you identify your highest-impact messaging, you can use HootSuite’s scheduler to automate posts across multiple platforms to go live at specific times. For example, if you want to post to your Facebook page and tweet about the amazing performance of your competition team, on Saturday you can schedule it to go live on Monday, because you know that’s when most of your followers are online.
Security: You can have someone on your staff help with your social-media empire without giving away passwords. In addition, your staff can help respond to Twitter and Facebook page comments through the HootSuite dashboard.
It’s affordable: Most studios can easily manage with a free account. However, the added features of the Pro account are well worth it. The extras include up to 100 profiles, enhanced analytics, HootSuite University, and message archiving.
HootSuite: the cons
Facebook penalty: A hotly contested debate (still under investigation) is that Facebook penalizes you if you use a third party (i.e. HootSuite) to publish. Several studios I interviewed noticed up to 60 percent fewer likes, comments, and clicks when they used HootSuite versus direct posting. Supposedly, HootSuite is working on a solution for this.
Learning curve: As with all technology, you can’t hope to use HootSuite effectively without spending 5 to 10 hours training yourself to use it. The HootSuite University tools will help you get started and are, I believe, a necessity.
Different messaging: Facebook fans are different from Twitter followers, and Facebook allows for more details than Twitter. Hence what might be good for one social-media site might not translate or perform in the same way as it would on another.
And the answer is . . .
In the end, how you integrate your social-media options comes down to personal preference. HootSuite can save you time in the long run. But the only way to know for sure if it’s right for you is to experiment. If you want to optimize your social-media presence, you’ll be glad you did.
By Jennings Smith
Depression is not pretty and it is not fun. But it is shared by many, often creative and gifted people.
Almost everyone, at some point, suffers from depression, either circumstantial or clinical. Circumstantial depression is triggered by events like losing a loved one; clinical depression results from chemical imbalances in the brain.
Being a studio owner or dance teacher is demanding and can put tremendous strain on even the healthiest and most balanced of people. Couple this with life in general, and those of us in the arts are in a prime situation to encounter much mental and emotional pain.
Many of us would rather die a slow death of despair than show any weakness. We fear we will not be supported, but judged.
When stress factors are high, the numbers of those who suffer from depression escalate. Sometimes you aren’t merely having a bad day. People say, “Take a few days off,” or “Lighten up. It’s all in your head.” It is in your head, but also in every fiber of your being. Resting for a few days, or even a few weeks, is not a cure; it’s only a start.
So what to do when the person in the mirror is beyond “normal” blue? What’s most important is to set pride aside and seek help. Many of us would rather die a slow death of despair than show any weakness. We fear we will not be supported, but judged. We fear we will lose performance opportunities or students.
In 1987, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. That certainly explained much about my life for the previous 20 years. The manic side was awesome. The recitals I put on were truly something to behold in small-town U.S.A. When I was depressed, I hid it well, still producing wonderful performances, but at the cost of hundreds of sleepless nights and uncountable tears.
It took me 25 years of medication- and doctor-jumping until finally, in 2004, I hit the floor face down. For nine months I struggled to get out of bed. But I pushed on, refusing to listen to those who loved me. I tell people now if I could have muttered, “I need a sabbatical,” I might have caught myself before the biggest fall of all.
But I was prideful. I couldn’t say, “I am sorry, but I can’t be everyone’s ‘Miss Jeni’ for a while.” I don’t even remember the year 2005. My only daughter was pregnant with her first child. I am told my husband and I helped paint the nursery for her. I don’t remember. I hear my dance recitals in 2005 were great. I look at the DVDs and see my smiling face, but I don’t remember how I got to the auditorium or how any of the rehearsals went.
Every day, all I could see was Roy Scheider’s face in All That Jazz, when he smiled at the mirror and said, “It’s showtime, folks,” then faked through his day. I knew if I worked harder, like the character Roy played, everything would come together.
I spent 2005 in a severe clinical depression and January 2006 in a psychiatric ward. I was very ill. My school had no 2006 recital. But with the help of therapy and proper medication, by July I was on my feet and planning the new dance year. I have not looked back. I am committed to my medicines and therapy, and for the first time in my life, I sleep. Sleep is such a healer.
Now, in the 42nd year of running a dance studio, I have struck a balance. I know when to rest, even though the demands of running a large dance studio are stressful. Pride will never make me fall down again. I will be the first to say, “I am slipping. I need help.”
If you find yourself in a depressive state, do not sell your studio or change your profession. Do not hide behind a fake smile and tears you never show. Seek medical help. Stay on the medications you are given and stay in therapy, and there will be a brighter day, I promise.
That brighter day is impossible to see when you are beyond normal blue. But it is there. There is hope, and no shame, in saying, “I need a sabbatical.” Your art will be waiting for you when the sun comes out again. And it will.
Hope Stone Kids shouts out for diversity and individuality in art
By Neil Ellis Orts
In the fall of 2012, I was given a HopeWerks Residency, a space grant for developing new performance work administered by Houston-based Hope Stone Inc. Before this, I had been aware of Hope Stone Kids but knew little about it. Entering a rehearsal studio as more than a half-dozen teens were finishing a guitar lesson made me want to find out more about what these and the other kids there were so engaged in.
Jane Weiner is president and CEO of Hope Stone, Inc. and artistic director of Hope Stone Dance Company in Houston, Texas. Her first ambition was to be an elementary school teacher. At Bowling Green State University, she received a degree in elementary and deaf education. It was her minor in dance, however, that steered her toward a 10-year stint performing with Doug Elkins Dance Company, performing with Elkins even before he officially formed his company in 1988.
Theater teacher Amy Garner Buchanan believes that students who, in the rest of their lives, might have social problems like bullying or anger control behave differently in her classes as the result of the HSK ethos of respect for the students.
“It ended up,” she says, “that my voice works best through the art.” These days, one way her voice—and her dedication to arts education—is expressed is through Hope Stone Kids.
Roots and branches
Named for the smooth pebbles (sometimes also called “worry stones”) some people carry in their pockets for stress relief or inspiration—and in part after Weiner’s sister, whose middle name is Hope—Hope Stone was founded in 1997 as a dance company. But Weiner had already been involved in arts education. In the mid-1990s, she founded the summer Youth Arts Program at Bates Dance Festival in Maine. This experience directly influences Hope Stone Kids (HSK).
One fundamental way the Bates experience echoes in the current work is the fact that HSK is not exclusively a dance program. Just as the Youth Arts Program at Bates incorporates music instruction with dance instruction, Weiner founded HSK to be a multi-arts educational program. With locations in Houston and New Orleans, HSK serves about 500 kids, ages 18 months to high school, in public schools, community centers, and at their own Hope Stone Studio.
Weiner recounts the story of a Bates student who was particularly uncooperative. She simply wouldn’t participate—until the teachers decided to make her the tech person for the performance, which she took to more readily. “That was when I recognized that an artist is an artist in many different ways,” Weiner says. “I absolutely can’t wait to dance every day, but not everybody is that way.”
So when Weiner began building an arts education program, originally called Kid’s Play, it was with the thought of expanding on the dance and music inclusive Bates model. Weiner added theater, and Hope Stone’s arts program was off and running, giving its first youth performances in 2002.
The youngest children are exposed to the full range of art forms taught at HSK, but they start to specialize as they get into high school. Each discipline is taught separately by teachers and artists who specialize in the discipline. “Early on, I think it’s good to keep it a well-rounded experience,” Weiner says. “But after a while they get to choose which [discipline] feeds their soul.”
Also growing out of the Bates experience was the 2010 expansion into New Orleans of Hope Stone Kids (then still called Kid’s Play, and initially located only in Houston). The director of the New Orleans program, Dana M. Reed, attended Bates as a student dancer in 2001. While there she was impressed by the Youth Arts Program’s final performance and sought out Weiner to learn how she could be a part of that experience and how Weiner taught. The next summer, Reed was back as Weiner’s intern; she returned in successive years. When Weiner was ready to leave Bates, she recommended Reed as her successor, and Reed has returned to Maine each summer to direct the youth program ever since.
Then Reed moved to New Orleans. Weiner approached her this time, asking if Reed would be interested in starting a program under the Hope Stone banner. Reed said yes, and the New Orleans branch has been in operation since 2010.
Nourishment and growth
Hope Stone, Inc. operates as a nonprofit organization, covering both the dance company and its educational programs. Bonnie Collins, the development director for Hope Stone, Inc., in Houston, works full time to keep the programs funded.
Collins has developed a diverse portfolio of funders. Hope Stone’s unusually high percentage of private foundation funding—40 percent—can be attributed to Collins’ success in researching and securing funding from an array of foundations that support the arts. This is in stark contrast to recent statistics that show that the average funding from private foundations for nonprofit arts groups is just under 10 percent of their budget. The rest of the funding comes from individual donations, corporations, and from city, state, and federal agencies (primarily the Houston Arts Alliance and the Texas Commission on the Arts, the latter funneling money from the National Endowment for the Arts via the TCA’s Arts Respond program).
Having a branch in another state complicates the government-agencies piece of the puzzle. For this reason, the New Orleans program now has its own development director and is applying for nonprofit status in Louisiana, even though it will remain part of Hope Stone, Inc.Strategy is also important. Collins notes that while HSK has a core group of foundations that support them yearly, other foundations will fund an organization only once, or for a limited number of years, or only once every two or three years.
These circumstances all factor into the complex considerations involved in keeping the program heavily scholarship-based.
The HSK programs that meet in schools and community centers are tuition-free and serve mostly lower-income students who otherwise would not have access to dance, music, theater, or other arts education. By contrast, students who enroll in the program at the Hope Stone Studio are socioeconomically diverse. With this in mind, HSK has instituted a somewhat unusual tuition system. With an annual operating budget of about $288,000 and with current tuition for one class set at $175 per semester, HSK has “decided to implement tuition on an honor-system basis, giving families the ability to determine the percentage of tuition they can afford or giving them the option to request a full scholarship,” Collins says.
This allows children of all means to participate in a program that builds bridges and nurtures compassion and understanding. The income stream also enables the program to expand to new partner sites to offer arts education to at-risk students in the community.
HSK will be unable to grow without more paying students, and for that reason, over the next few years the organization will be giving fewer scholarships. But, Weiner says, “we will always have scholarships,” citing the HSK motto: “Art for All.” She continues, “Art levels the playing field, so it’s not fair that just those with means can have it.”
Vision and values
The program started with short residencies in schools, with a small number of children being served. Weiner says she felt pressure from some quarters to increase the number of children served; however, part of HSK’s success might be found in the deliberate ways she and her staff set about developing their curriculum. Weiner was adamant about the pace of building her program. She remembers saying, “Give me time with the quality before we go for the numbers.”
Weiner wanted more than to simply teach art technique. “We have a vision and values at Hope Stone that are big in our teacher training,” she says. Although the teacher training offers guidance in lesson planning, the training aims to help teachers do more than offer instruction in their respective forms. “I want to be sure they project the vision, values, and positive discipline that we call ‘redirecting,’ [a method that shifts problematic behavior toward a positive direction rather than quelling the energy],” Weiner says. “This is something I want the [teachers] to do in unison.”
“We believe, especially with children, that the process is the biggest vehicle for learning,” says Collins. “Each child may have a different process, and in our program, different is not a bad thing. We work with children considered ‘normal,’ homeless children, children living with AIDS, and autistic children. We celebrate their differences and as a result, ours is a community filled with diversity, compassion, artistry, and education.”
After 10 years, HSK remains a program that is primarily based in schools (only about 70 students meet in the Hope Stone Studios) and therefore runs during the nine months of the school year. Although the program ends in May with a performance that showcases all age groups and all art forms, Weiner and education director (and dance teacher) Lydia Hance are adamant that the performance not be the focus of the program.
The exact dance form or musical classes offered may vary from year to year, based on the availability of teachers; the frequency and length of a class also vary according to whether the site is a school, a community center, or Hope Stone Studio.
The first half of the year is focused on technique, along with the etiquette of being in an art class. “The child gets the full expression of theater, the full feeling of what a music class is like, the full feeling of a dance class that is not just a warm-up, and ‘Now we have to work on the recital piece,’ ” Weiner says.
Hance elaborates. “The reason we do have a performance at the end is the confidence the kids gain from it, but it’s not necessarily the product we’re producing.”
By the time the performance happens, the kids are well grounded not only in technique, but also in taking responsibility for themselves. Phrases like “We’re not making artists, we’re making citizens,” and “not only in this circle, but in the world,” are often-stated program principles. “As a teacher,” Hance says, “I’m teaching the form, but I’m also teaching being in a classroom, being in a community, and relating to others.”
“At Hope Stone,” says Weiner, “we know and believe we are creating skilled problem solvers and critical thinkers.”
Reed too believes the skills HSK teaches are applicable to whatever a child grows up to be. A student’s experience in the arts might lead to a career in the sciences, she says, “because you know how to think outside the box. Or you get the skills to become a manager because you learned to manage the theater,” she says. “We’re creating the thinkers of tomorrow. We’re giving these children skills so they can go out into the workforce and be successful.”
Respect and expectations
High-school-age–theater teacher Amy Garner Buchanan tells of students who, in the rest of their lives, might have social problems, such as bullying or anger control, but behave differently in her classes. She believes this is the result of the HSK ethos of respect for the students. Buchanan articulates the prevailing perspective: “I happen to be older than you and I happen to have more experience in theater than you, but other than that, I can learn from you and we can talk to each other as equals.”
As a result of this emphasis on the value of mutual learning, Buchanan believes the students are motivated to return that respect and will feel bad when they violate that relationship.
“We expect a lot of our kids,” Weiner says. For example, at the year-end program, all but the smallest children make their entrances and exits without teachers or parents in the wings to cue them. “Yes, they’re children,” Weiner says, “and we never forget that. But at the same time, we know what they’re capable of. When they find we have that belief in them, they rise to the occasion.”
For art and by art
Weiner’s rising profile as an advocate for art education includes a well-received 2012 TED Talk (which can be found on YouTube). In a society in which most legislators see the arts as extracurricular, Weiner fights to make it core curriculum for the students she reaches. She tells the story of a luncheon where someone opined that the great thing about art is that it can be mixed with other subjects—to teach math, for example.
Weiner responded, “What about art with art? What about that? What if we just had art with art?”
Hope Stone kids get to answer that question.
Words and dance unite in a creative program for Baltimore students
By Jennifer Kaplan
Writing is a solitary pursuit. The tools, spare: pen and paper or a computer, one’s imagination, and a story to tell or idea to convey. Choreography, too, can frequently be a singular occupation: there’s the dancemaker alone in the studio; the score he or she has chosen; and an idea, a message, a story to impart.
Writing taxes the mental and intellectual capacity, while choreography challenges the physical need to create with one’s body. But words and movement—as dancers, dance teachers, and choreographers innately understand—go together like a key into its designated lock. The descriptive vocabulary of the writer can help dancers achieve a finer, more authentic performance through the use of guided and specific imagery.
Words and movement—as dancers, dance teachers, and choreographers innately understand—go together like a key into its designated lock.
Full Circle Dance Company, a multiethnic Baltimore-based contemporary troupe of dancers, many graduates of local college dance programs, spent last year mining both these creative pursuits—writing and choreography—in a multifaceted program called Moving Passages. Each year the company, which is in residence at Morton Street Dance Studio, selects a theme to explore. The outcomes are presented in full-evening performances, community workshops at Morton Street, and in selected public schools and other community-based venues.
Moving Passages challenges the choreographer/dancers of Full Circle to incorporate literature—everything from Shakespeare and the Bible to Jill Scott and Twitter feeds, as well as personal writing—into their creative process. Among the questions asked are: How do we find words to describe something as fleeting and physical as dance? Do dancers think in words while they are dancing, or in some other language? How do writers create a sense of movement with immobile words on a page? How does writing inspire dancers and choreographers, and how can they share that inspiration with their audience?
Company and studio founder Donna Jacobs says she sees real results in her students at Morton Street as well as in local afterschool and residency programs in public schools. The students are better behaved, demonstrate higher-level thinking skills, and improve their grades. “Combining words and movement is a fascinating way to impart to young people how to communicate,” she says.
Jacobs, Full Circle’s artistic director, is a one-woman powerhouse. She divides her time between Morton Street (which she founded in 1992) and her work as a top lobbyist for a major medical school in Annapolis, Maryland, serving as senior vice president at the University of Maryland Medical System.
The studio serves approximately 150 students with a range of classes from creative movement to ballet, pointe, modern, tap, jazz, traditional African, and Afro-fusion, as well as adult classes and a summer dance intensive. Jacobs notes that as the resident company, Full Circle plays an important role in Morton Street’s Baltimore neighborhood by reaching out to underserved youngsters at some of the area’s public schools.
One of Full Circle’s dancers, Massachusetts native Liz Pelton, helped forge Moving Passages, which combines literary and writing techniques with movement exploration and invention, billed as choreography inspired by writing and writers. “I like to see how we partner with writers and blend our two mediums together,” she says.
A graduate of Georgetown University, Pelton notes how exciting it is, when embarking on a new piece, to sit down with a group of professional writers and dancers and “just brainstorm” as they begin exploring. Topics they’ve investigated in dance and words have included motherhood, race, religion, the environment, and folklore and legends.
With Full Circle’s longstanding commitment to broaden the audience for dance in Baltimore, Moving Passages draws from diverse pools: those interested in dance and choreography, of course, but also those who have an interest in the subject matter, author, or literary genre.
Pelton points out that Baltimore is richly populated with writers, past and present, from H.L. Mencken and Edgar Allan Poe to Laura Lippmann, Anne Tyler, and Jessica Anya Blau to film auteur Barry Levinson and iconoclast John Waters. “I wanted to bring these two very separate worlds together,” she says.
Full Circle does that in several ways: inviting writers in to watch, comment, and write during rehearsals, then share what they have written with the choreographer and dancers; providing workshops, both in the community and at Morton Street, to help youths and teenagers build their word and movement vocabulary; giving pencil and paper to each person in the audience and asking them to write something—an inspiration, a question, a comment, an observation—about what they saw in the dance.
Jacobs, an educator at heart, finds the most joy in working with teens and youngsters. She believes that kinesthetic learning can often boost the confidence and skills of students who struggle in a traditional desk-and-blackboard classroom setting. That’s why she offers Moving Passages workshops.
“I wanted to give teens and young people some vocabulary about dance,” she says. “We performed some movement, some choreography we had created, perhaps on a broad theme or concept.” Then her facilitators—dancers and teachers from the company and studio—asked the children and teens in the audience to put pencil to paper and write what they saw, what they thought, what they felt. “One person might write, ‘Her movements were spidery, like weaving a web.’ ” Another might note the geometric patterns, or an idea or theme she saw in the relationships among the dancers. Or they might see a story and retell it on the page.
“They draw not on a dance vocabulary,” Jacobs says, “but on what they see, maybe in nature, maybe in metaphors, and we encourage them to look to verbs and to the emotion they feel when watching.”
The result? Armed with some tools—and told to feel free to see what they choose in the choreography—Jacobs says, “they were gratified by the freedom of expression that’s integral to all arts.”
Moving Passages has been offered on weekends to the studio’s students and others interested in taking part, and Morton Street has forged a partnership with Roland Park Elementary/Middle School and other Baltimore area schools to bring in dancers to enhance students’ writing and communication skills.
Pelton describes other activities, including allowing students to create movement to go with words they are given—words that can induce interesting textural and physical experiences, like “jellyfish,” “popcorn,” or “explosive.” Pelton then groups participants in teams of three; each has to watch and guess the words the other teams present.
Sometimes, too, Jacobs, Pelton, or other Full Circle and Morton Street dance teachers let small groups collaborate on a choreographic score to go with the story in a familiar book. One such example, Dr. Seuss’s beloved Green Eggs and Ham, was a hit with students in an elementary afterschool program.
Sixteen-year-old Willis Brandon started dancing at Morton Street Dance Center at age 9. These days he focuses on ballet and modern but also takes some tap and jazz. The tenth-grader has great praise for Moving Passages and sometimes helps out as an aide for younger students.
“In elementary and middle school I always liked poems and learning how to read,” Brandon says, “but reading was not my strong point. I always wanted to learn how to make my reading better. I decided to go to the Moving Passages program, and they taught me everything I needed.” He added that it even helped him with math, which he says is his best subject, by making him think differently about lines and angles and spatial relationships in geometry, for example.
Other program tie-ins that have helped boost the studio’s and company’s visibility have included partnering with a local bookstore to promote a reading and literacy angle through dance, and highlighting specific published works and their connection to the upcoming dance concert.
Jacobs also points out that many choreographic methods, from repetition to retrograde to developing an eye for good editing, are similar to the tools writers use in crafting a piece. She believes their experiences in the studio enhance their writing and communication skills. She says, “We need to figure out how to speak children’s language so we can meet them where they are, on their level of skill and in their community.”
That’s why the Full Circle dancers prefer working in a school or other familiar setting—because students are more comfortable experimenting on their own turf.
Moving Passages has become a signature program of Full Circle, integrating the company into the Morton Street studio in deeper ways than before. It also bridges a creative gap by having the company members draw from diverse sources for their choreographic output.
“We always like to look beyond our own circle for different perspectives” on dance, Jacobs says. What better place to look for inspiration than in the words of novelists, writers, and poets?
“Dance Chance,” a monthly showcase of works by local choreographers chosen through a random drawing, will move to a new home at the Lou Conte Dance Studio in the Hubbard Street Dance Center, 1147 West Jackson Boulevard in Chicago’s West Loop, beginning January 31.
Launched in March 2008 by DanceWorks Chicago, “Dance Chance” has encouraged dialogue between artists and audiences, and prompted the creation of more than 100 original works in diverse forms and techniques. Programs are run on the last Friday of each month from 7 to 8pm.
Previously held at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, each showcase features three 15-minute pieces by local choreographers, followed by discussion and audience response, and the random choosing of the next month’s three choreographers from names submitted by choreographers in attendance. There are no fees or prerequisites to enter the drawings.
“The Hubbard Street Dance Center is a place where new choreography is constantly being made, by dancers from so many different disciplines,” says Lou Conte Dance Studio director Claire Bataille, also a founding member of the center’s resident company. “It makes perfect sense for ‘Dance Chance’ to move into our facility. I look forward to watching this program continue to build community and creative exchange among the talented and unique artists we have here in Chicago.”
DanceWorks Chicago artistic director Julie Nakagawa said “Dance Chance” was started “to encourage creativity and a sense of adventure in artists and audiences, and bring communities together to learn more about one another.”
A new ballet school opened in Virginia after getting a financial lift from a crowdfunding site. Karin Tucker, a former professional dancer, used GoFundMe.com to supplement the family savings she’s sunk into launching The Courthouse School of Ballet in Spotsylvania, reported the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg.com.“I had a former classmate who is a filmmaker and friend on Facebook who posted a link to one of the (crowdfunding) sites when she was raising money for a documentary,” said Tucker. “I said, ‘Let’s try it and see what happens.’”
Tucker said she picked GoFundMe.com because it was easy to create a site on the platform. Then she uploaded a photo and “started writing from the heart.” The first donation for Tucker’s venture arrived in an hour, the speed of which surprised her so much that she said she nearly fell out of bed. She eventually raised more than $2,500 from 22 people.
Tuition for The Courthouse School of Ballet starts at $40 a month, but reduced rates are available for families who qualify for such things as free and reduced school lunches. Tucker said she’s going to keep her site on GoFundMe.com until the end of January to raise funds to buy tights and shoes for those students who can’t afford them.
To read the full story, visit http://news.fredericksburg.com/business/2013/12/20/thornburg-dance-school-is-in-spotlight/. To see her GoFundMe site, visit http://www.gofundme.com/3626jg.
When Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on Manhattan’s East Side, East Village Dance Project on Avenue C was largely spared. The studio wasn’t flooded like many of its neighbors, but there was no power for a week and no heat for several.
But according to Town & Village Blog, artistic director Martha Tornay invested in space heaters and invited back her students, who arrived with storm-related stories of being displaced from homes or schools. Dancing to the “Waltz of the Flowers” from The Nutcracker cheered them up, and the school went on to produce a 35-minute Sandy-inspired version of the holiday classic that featured Drosselmeyer as a female war veteran, and plot points that dealt with issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder.
This January, East Village Dance Studio will present a revised, full-length version of that show, The Shell-Shocked Nut, featuring a cast of 25 students and created with the help of 25 professionals, from performers to choreographers to composers. The veteran character takes the lead character, a young girl, to spots in the East Village like a community garden and a theater, traveling via hot air balloon and meeting all kinds of local characters.
“It’s quite powerful,” said Tornay, adding that the neighborhood elements were inspired by Sandy, since it was a time when people were forced to focus on their surroundings. “I really opened my eyes more to the community, so even though it was work, it was still about being a community project.”
The Shell-Shocked Nut will run January 3 at 7pm and January 4 and 5 at 3pm at the Ellen Stewart Theatre, 66 East 4th Street between Second Avenue and the Bowery. Tickets ($20, $15 seniors, students and children 12 and under) are available by calling 212.475.7710 or by visiting www.lamama.org.
To see the original story, visit http://town-village.com/2013/12/30/ave-c-dance-studio-presents-nutcracker-set-in-neighborhood/.
Variations, a dance studio in Auburn, Alabama, made a special Christmas donation of more than 300 new ballet costumes to Children’s Hospital in Birmingham, reported WSFA Channel 12.
The dancers personalized their contributions by writing “get well” notes to accompany the costumes, signing the note cards as their characters’ names or titles that they recently portrayed in a performance of The Nutcracker.
“We love the fact that our studio is able to provide our young students with such a wonderful opportunity to learn the value of giving back to our community,” a statement from Variations said.
To see the original story, visit http://www.wsfa.com/story/24239440/dance-studio-donates-ballet-costumes-to-childrens-hospital.
A downtown Albuquerque flamenco studio and conservatory are both “total losses” after a blaze erupted Wednesday afternoon, sending massive plumes of smoke throughout the city and shooting flames as high as 40 feet, reported the Albuquerque Journal.
Firefighters and spectators gathered around the 200 block of Gold SW and flames could be seen leaping from the National Institute of Flamenco building. Both the dance studio at 212 Gold Avenue and the conservatory next door were lost in the blaze, an Albuquerque Fire Department spokeswoman said, after the roof collapsed and the building was engulfed in flames.
No injuries were reported and the fire’s cause is under investigation.
Eva Encinias Sandoval, the institute’s founder, told KOAT-TV that she and a co-worker were finishing up some end-of-semester office work when they smelled smoke. They rushed out to see smoke rising from the rooftop. “We just got everybody out of the building as soon as we could,” she told the news station. “And by the time we got out, the roof was just on fire. It’s incredible how quickly it spread.”
Encinias Sandoval said she’s very grateful that no students were in the building at the time, but she’s deeply saddened that the center, a national landmark for flamenco, is no more.
“It’s just been a very, very frightening experience,” she told KOAT-TV. “I’m just so glad we didn’t have students in the building, but everything that we have as an organization for our various programs is all in that building.”
Directors at the National Institute of Flamenco also posted on Facebook to acknowledge the loss of their conservatory, drawing dozens of well-wishes from fans of the institute. To see the full story, visit http://www.abqjournal.com/322759/news/fire-erupts-at-building-at-second-and-gold.html.
Collins Avenue Productions and Bryan Stinson Casting are looking for dance studios that need assistance with everyday business stresses of hiring the right staff, scheduling classes, managing money, paying bills, and putting together a winning team, and would like to be featured in a new reality series, Dance Studio Revamp.
Studios chosen to participate will receive expert advice on areas of management such as dealing with staff and clients, maximizing the visual impact of the studio, improving revenue streams, and eliminating chaos. There is no charge to participating studios.
To submit an application, visit http://www.dancestudiorevamp.com/.
This month marks the ninth production of The Nutcracker by the Brindusa-Moore Ballet Academy of Pocatello, Idaho, and for the first time, owner and artistic director Sergiu Brindusa will be presenting the ballet as a U.S. citizen.
Brindusa became a citizen on September 12. He came to the country 22 years ago, first as a student, then as a performer and instructor, before securing resident alien status.
“I took my time, and I made a conscious effort to get the maximum flavor of America,” Brindusa, a native of Romania, told the Idaho State Journal. He and his wife, Beth Moore, are former Orlando Ballet dancers. The couple, plus their 7-year-old son Ian Michael, will all perform in The Nutcracker.
His family was the biggest reason that Brindusa eventually sought citizenship. “I wanted to feel like I was united with my family,” he said. “I am very proud to be an American. It’s what I’ve always wanted. This has been an awesome year for me, one I will always remember.”
The Nutcracker opens tonight at Frazier Auditorium on the Idaho State University campus, featuring 144 dancers from the Brindusa-Moore Academy and the Pocatello community.
For the past eight years, the annual holiday event has been sponsored by the Rotary Club of Pocatello and all proceeds go back to the community through the club’s service and charity programs, which include arts and education grants. Rotary Club of Pocatello also sponsors two condensed, free performances for area fifth-graders.
Advice for dance teachers
The wife of one of the teachers who works for me was arrested several months ago. She received four years of probation for running a drug operation out of their house. The teacher hasn’t been implicated at all, but I feel like he is, in a way, because of their marriage. He and their child are staying with her, hoping to work things out.
I am torn about how to handle the situation. This teacher plays a major role at the studio and has helped to build my business; he has been my right-hand man. However, in a business in which people’s perception is everything, I don’t know what I’d say if someone confronted me about it. I feel as though this woman’s mistake places a black mark on her husband’s character. He stays with her and he assumes the black mark; I employ him and I assume the black mark. I would appreciate your input. —Confused
I think I would go for the benefit of the doubt on this one. None of us want to be judged because of the bad decisions of someone else. And most people know someone or have a family member they love who doesn’t possess the greatest character. Unless this situation is somehow brought into your school or business, I would let it go. If you’re asked about it, stand up for the character of your teacher and move on. I wish you all the best. —Rhee
How do we handle teachers who talk behind other teachers’ backs at the studio? It’s because of jealousy, of course. Thank you! —Melissa
From my experience, the best solution is to bring the teachers together for a pep talk. It’s time for you to express how valuable each of them is to your school’s success. Point out what each person has to offer and why his or her role is important. Explain that your objective is to create an atmosphere of respect among the faculty and staff as well as the students and their parents. Tell your employees that you won’t accept anything less.
Next, open the floor to discussion. Ask your faculty and staff whether they know of any issues that go against your philosophy or if they have comments or suggestions. The teachers who have been gossiping will know why you’ve brought up these topics. This is their opportunity to lay out their cards or say nothing, and change their attitudes.
If the badmouthing continues, you must address it directly with the guilty parties, and it could mean someone has to go. Good luck! —Rhee
Recently I have been experiencing a little bit of “misrepresentation.” A student of mine went to a summer acro camp at another school. The teacher then posted pictures of my student’s accomplishments on social media, claiming they were the result of her studio’s summer camp. Also, a new studio is claiming to be a satellite location of my school. (The owner took lessons from me for five years in her adolescence before she hopped to another school.) I discovered this because parents contacted me with this assertion.
I am flattered, but I think studio owners need to earn their reputation, not “coat-tail” on the success of others. Any advice on how to handle this situation in a respectful manner? —Kimberly
I would ignore the summer camp’s social-media post. However, I certainly would speak up about the “satellite” school. Consider having an attorney send a letter to the owner. Another option is to call the owner or write to her to say you believe her claim is untrue and that it is creating confusion within the community. Tell her you are asking her to cease and desist from associating her school with yours. Then wish her luck.
If you do decide to contact the school owner yourself, be kind. Choose words that show respect and indicate that you know she will agree with you. If the claims don’t stop, then you need legal advice. I wish you the best. —Rhee
A few new high school boys started dance at my school this session. Their classes are late in the evening, and they don’t seem to understand they should shower before coming to the studio. When they take their sneakers off, the smell is overpowering. The body odor of these young men is already strong before warm-up has started. Do you give your young male students information regarding etiquette and hygiene that you could share? Thank you! —Amanda
My approach would be to create an educational flyer about good hygiene to give to all studio dancers over a certain age. It is appropriate to do that, and the guys won’t know you are directing it at them. If you feel comfortable, you could lead a discussion about diet, health, and hygiene with your teenage students. Good luck! —Rhee
I recently let a teacher go who had been with me for seven years—someone I thought was a friend. The firing was due to several years of being late, not completing choreography for recital and competition, and talking about other teachers and (even worse) students. A group of senior dancers came to me with their grievances, and that was the last straw.
I let the teacher go, but unfortunately, it was four weeks after his mother passed away. He claims I am cold and questions how I could do this to him at this time. I told him I did indeed care about him as a friend but this was business, not personal. He insists a friend would not fire a friend.
I do care for him as a friend, but I feel very used and taken advantage of. I need to take responsibility for the years of manipulation, since I allowed him to get away with things I wouldn’t allow the other instructors to do. I have never had to fire a teacher before, but I knew the other teachers and staff were losing respect for me; they could see that I wasn’t holding him to the same standard as I did them. Do you have any advice? —Sandra
You have a kind heart, but you need to be confident that you did the right thing for your students and your business. I think you did.
It’s sad that the teacher lost his mom, but that has nothing to do with the actions that provoked your decision to fire him. If you can help him as a friend, do it. This is one of those times when you need to separate the emotional and business sides of your life. Let the guilt go; you are not guilty of anything. I wish you the best. —Rhee
How do most studios that have a competition team pay employees for attending competitions? Thank you! —Curious
From bonuses to covering future continuing education expenses, there are many options for compensating teachers for their efforts at dance competitions. My preferred option is to establish an administrative hourly wage for your faculty; for example, $12 or $15 per hour with a per-day cap of $100. That rate can be applied to any times when faculty members must work in a non-teaching capacity. When applicable, I think school owners should partially or fully reimburse the staff for hotel accommodations. I hope this helps. —Rhee
Maintaining a healthy teaching voice
Vocal hygiene is not just for professional speakers, singers, or triple threats. Dance teachers and studio owners too need to take care of their voices. Vocal quality is important—it can be an asset or an off-putting liability.
Take the case of a teacher client who came to me one day complaining of jaw and neck pain accompanied by throat tightness. Having recently completed her annual rehearsal and performance run, she asked whether I thought she was merely tired. I asked how many years she had been running her studio. “Twelve,” she said in a hoarse whisper. It was clearly time for her to learn about vocal hygiene if she wanted to be there for another 12.
Teachers and school owners talk constantly, in classes (often loudly enough to be heard above music), rehearsals, meetings, fundraisers, speeches, and countless interactions. All that vocalizing is achieved by using the laryngeal muscles. In order to use these, you have to stabilize the neck. When the sound-making muscles get tight, so does the surrounding musculature. Additionally, people who haven’t been trained to use their voices efficiently often use the muscles of the neck rather than the diaphragm to project.
A few years ago, the Performing Arts Medicine Association presented a weekend workshop on vocal health at its annual conference. Here are some tips I took home that will help ensure the health of your vocal anatomy and longevity of your voice.
First and foremost, water is essential. Drinking plenty of water keeps the vocal cords moist, and well-hydrated vocal cords are less likely to be damaged during use. If you like to have a caffeinated beverage before you speak or teach to help you stay alert, be careful not to overdo it, since both tea and coffee are dehydrating. Energy drinks are worse, prolonging the caffeinated effect and possibly making your voice more tense and jittery.
Alcohol is also dehydrating. Fundraising and gala events where alcohol is served are also functions that may require you to do a good deal of talking. Go easy on alcoholic beverages to save your voice during these events.
Sleep helps to regenerate tissues, including vocal cord tissues. To maintain hydration during the night, drink a full cup of water before going to sleep. Drinking a full glass upon rising is also a habit worth acquiring.
At noisy parties or in places with harsh acoustics, you might strain your voice to be heard. To avoid having to talk loudly, find a wall to stand close to, or pull people aside for important conversations so you’re not trying to project. Enunciate your words well to avoid having to repeat yourself.
Stage fright can cause vocal tension, and it’s made worse by caffeine. To feel energized, try taking an Emergen-C vitamin C formula instead of gulping coffee before you speak.
Class and rehearsal
Spare your voice when you can. Don’t count over loud music for hours on end; instead, train your students to follow your hand gestures or body cues. Save detailed notes for breaks in the music.
Proper posture is also an important factor in maintaining vocal health. Keep the head over the pelvis, being careful not to jut the head forward to address the class.
Acoustics in the classroom are critical. Teaching in cement-block studios or other echoing environments will require you to speak more loudly to be heard. You can mitigate this by installing fabric-wrapped acoustical panels, curtains, or other sound-baffling materials. (See “Say What? Putting a halt to hearing loss,” January 2013.)
To help stretch the face, neck, and throat, try a version of the yoga pose called “the lion.” Press your tongue against the inside of the lower teeth. Smile and raise the eyebrows. Push the jaw in a forward motion, then bow the tongue outward. Breathe several times, then relax. Repeat.
Swallowing is a good exercise for the throat, as is making the sound “gah,” using the muscles of the diaphragm to push out the sound. Try to avoid repetitive clearing of the throat. If it becomes dry, try to swallow, sip some water, or yawn discreetly.
Be smart. Your voice is a terrific asset, whether you’re teaching, conducting business, or engaging in everyday social life.
I have faith in you.
Words from our readers
Commenting on “Micromanaging Moms” [by Karen White, EditorSpeak] in the August  issue: One of the first topics I cover in DANC 216: Creative Dance for Children is choosing age-appropriate themes, music, and costumes. I show my class a half-dozen YouTube videos of little girls wiggling self-consciously onstage to “Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” in studio recitals. (I stop at six because it gets ridiculous at that point, though there are a bazillion recital dances to this same tired old song out there.) We have a discussion of why teaching young girls to be ashamed of their bodies might not be a positive way to build confidence and a positive body image.
What would teachers do if they had a boy in class—and why present inherently sexist dances such as this that reinforce our culture’s view of dance as a non-masculine activity? Why on earth would any teacher choose this topic? We discuss themes, music, and costumes that are age-appropriate. Then I ask my students to promise me to never, ever choreograph a dance for anyone, much less 3- to 5-year-olds, to “ . . . Yellow Polka Dot Bikini.” I hope they all follow through with this promise.
Dr. Elizabeth Gibbons
Dance Program Director
East Stroudsburg University
East Stroudsburg, PA
You [Rhee Gold] are a light in the dance world and I look forward to every new issue of Dance Studio Life. Thank you for your motivational magazine that gives us directors and dance teachers a connection with each other in the world of dance. We realize that we all deal with basically the same issues, whether it is students, parents, income, etc., and it brings us together. Thank you again for your inspiration!
Director, Culture Shock Performing Arts Center
I read the July issue with the story of the Christmas Butterfly [“Tempting Twists on Tradition”]. I enjoyed it greatly, but was wondering if there was a CD of all the songs from the story.
Editor’s note: There is no CD, but the songs are available individually on iTunes. And we’re glad you liked it!
By Misty Lown
Most studio owners say they use social media. But there is a big difference between being on social media and using it as an effective marketing strategy. The idea is to get your audience involved, share value-added content, and get friends and followers to share your message.
With more than one billion users, Facebook is one of the biggest social media platforms. If you are not using it to showcase students, promote events, and make important announcements, you are missing out on powerful, free marketing.
For a good example of how to go beyond typical posts and promos, follow Emily Weber of Yorkville Performing Arts Center in Yorkville, Illinois. Among many unique posts, she gave a $5 credit to studio parents if they posted on Facebook that they had registered for classes (and sent her a screen shot as proof).
It’s one thing to make a post that will be seen by my studio “friends”; having the post seen by thousands of my clients’ friends takes it to the next level.
I adapted Emily’s idea by asking our parents and students to post: “I just registered for fall classes at Misty’s Dance Unlimited! Have you? www.mistysdance.com/registration” in exchange for the credit. This got posting traffic going and allowed viewers to register from the link.
The best part about this kind of promotion is the compound effect it has on visibility. It’s one thing to make a post that will be seen by my studio “friends”; having the post seen by thousands of my clients’ friends takes it to the next level. And it has social credibility because the post comes from them, not me. You can run similar promotions with students.
Finding the “you” in YouTube
Video is an excellent way to get prospects to “see” your students without stepping inside your studio.
Use videos you already have—recitals, community performances, and competitions—to set up a YouTube page. Then expand your presence by developing content: alumni interviews, news coverage, clips from events, or instructional videos (on how to make a bun, for example).
To make parents smile, try doing something similar to what Katie Owings of Inspiration Performing Arts Center in Mahtomedi, Minnesota, did. She posted a video of preschoolers running across the studio floor, throwing their hands up, and saying, “I am wonderful!” at the end of class.
Instagram: where the students are
With square cropping, vintage-looking filters, and easy mobile posting, Instagram is a popular photo-sharing platform. In fact, according to the Huffington Post, Instagram is growing at almost twice the rate of its parent company, Facebook. That’s some serious traffic!
Take advantage of the interest by running a contest. Invite students to post pictures of themselves in their favorite costume or best tilt pose and hashtag it to your studio (#yourstudioname). Even better, run a contest in which students take “selfies” while wearing your studio gear to school; the post with the most “likes” wins.
Get in the action yourself by posting a picture of children hugging in class; hashtag it with #loveteachingdance and #yourstudioname. Or post a picture from a community performance and hashtag the venue. Don’t forget about master classes, team nights, and dress rehearsals. You can also use hashtags to evoke an emotion: “We’re offering modern next year! #soexcited #yourstudioname.”
Words to the wise
Make sure the release on your registration materials covers using images and videos of students for social media. If you don’t have a release, ask before you post.
Stay focused. It is better to be active and well represented on two or three social media platforms than to sign up for many sites and not do much.
Balance your posts. I find the highest degree of interaction comes with two to three posts per week. Posting too much becomes white noise to an overstimulated audience. With too few posts, you’ll lose momentum.
For every post that asks for registrations, do nine posts that are fun, conversational, or informational. Your audience will leave if you sell too much.
Consider assigning weekly posts to an assistant. You don’t have to do all the work, but it’s important that you, and your studio, are represented.
Less than a full day after being lauded in a packed Opera House as one of the Kennedy Center’s annual honorees, hometown girl Shirley MacLaine, 79, appeared Monday at a modest Northwest Washington D.C. dance studio where her path to fame began.
The Oscar-winning actress, singer, dancer, and author visited The Washington School of Ballet, a warren of rehearsal halls she once attended daily, starting at age 11, reported The Washingtonian. The trip to the studio from her Arlington home—made via a series of buses and streetcars—took about an hour and a half. After that it was rehearsal, and then home again. She said it was the early development of a work ethic that she’s never given up.
MacLaine’s visit to the school and Washington Ballet headquarters was something of a surprise, cooked up Sunday night at the gala honors event, and therefore many of the ballet dancers—who were having a day off—were not at the school. Word got out, though, and slowly they began to drift in through the glass doors of the building and into the lobby where MacLaine stood reminiscing about her teachers and mentors, Lisa Gardiner and Mary Day, who founded the school in 1944.
At The Washington School of Ballet, her mentors told the young Shirley Beaty she should pursue a career in acting rather than ballet. “They said, ‘You think too much, you should go into acting.’ ” She followed their advice, went to New York, got cast in the chorus of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!, and was on her way to global fame.
Banish the recital blues by saying goodbye to the tried-and-true
By Julie Holt Lucia
The annual recital is unquestionably one of the most important events on a dance school’s calendar. It’s a rite of passage for dancers and a choreography showcase for teachers—and it is one of the biggest and best ways for studio owners to market their schools.
Most of us school owners, I would venture to guess, know our recital planning like the backs of our hands; not much changes from year to year. We rely on what’s routine and comfortable, which is understandable when we’re dealing with a large production. But wouldn’t it be fun to jazz things up? Here are some ideas to stretch your creativity beyond mere dance steps. Think of them as a booster shot for your business!
Do you have a group of super-creative students who love making up dances? Consider letting them create choreography that they’ll perform in the recital (subject to your approval, of course). This could be accomplished with a dedicated dance composition class that teaches the basics of choreography, or it could be more informal, like a side project outside of classes.
Multimedia effects can present your dancers with a performance challenge and offer your audience a new perspective on how dance can be viewed.
The dancers can work together to create movement, or each one can be responsible for choreographing one section of music. Another possibility is to have these students set choreography on a group of younger students, either a class (chosen by you) or a group of volunteer dancers who are willing to commit to extra rehearsal time.
Give the student choreographers parameters to work within, such as a dance genre or pre-selected music, and have an instructor supervise and guide them to ensure the results comply with your expectations. Keeping the costuming and lighting simple will let the students focus on making movement.
Multimedia in the mix
Multimedia effects can present your dancers with a performance challenge and offer your audience a new perspective on how dance can be viewed. Multimedia in dance typically involves projecting something—video footage, photos, or text—onto a screen behind or alongside the dancers. The dancers can react to or interact with the images or text, or the projections can serve as part of the setting. Some venues include projectors in the rental package; if yours doesn’t, consider purchasing a projector if you plan to use multimedia effects often.
Ideas abound for using multimedia. A class or small group could dance alongside video footage of themselves from class or performance, performing complementary choreography. Or you could project images or photos that inspired the movement, illustrate it, or expand on an idea. Try depicting a history of dance using images of famous choreographers, or project a poem that a narrator reads aloud while the dancers perform to the rhythm of the words. With so many possibilities, you could incorporate something new with multimedia each year.
If you have a small school and want to approach your recital from a less traditional angle, holding it in an unconventional venue can add a spark. Art and science museums, park amphitheaters, sculpture gardens, and arboretums offer unique performance spaces. Choose a recital theme that fits the site, such as “Visual Art + Dance” or “The Elements of Life,” and let the surrounding space inspire your choreography. Visit the site well in advance to take note of assets or limitations or photograph the environment, and make sure to relay that information to your staff. It may be possible to hold one or more rehearsals in the space.
With site-specific performances, make sure the logistics are well planned and communicated to staff and customers ahead of time, including details about parking, tickets, programs, and volunteers. If you go with an outdoor space, arrange for an alternative site in case of bad weather.
If your school’s large enrollment makes a site-specific performance difficult, another option is to host a variety of small site-specific performances throughout the year. Make videos of those performances and integrate them into the full-scale recital, either as accompaniment to other dances (perhaps using some of the same choreography) or as pre- and post-show entertainment in the lobby.
Live music for a dance performance doesn’t have to mean hiring an orchestra, or even using an orchestra pit. A solo musician or ensemble playing onstage or in another part of the theater can add an exciting element to any performance. Ask a college music department or local music school if some of their students would be interested in playing for a dance performance (and are willing to commit to the rehearsal and performance schedule). Determine how many dance routines they’ll accompany, and discuss appropriate music selections. If you’re able to plan well in advance, consider asking if anyone would like to compose original music for the recital. (Be sure to get samples of their work, and interview any likely candidates to determine whether they can write to your specifications regarding length, tempo, tone, and style.)
Even if you face limitations (maybe your only option for live music is percussion, or the only available dancers are beginners), play to the musicians’ and dancers’ strengths as best you can, and get creative. Don’t be afraid to shake things up. For example, instead of setting a traditional ballet suite to piano or strings, choreograph a classical-music–based modern dance instead. Or try contemporary ballet or a traditional jazz routine accompanied by drums. Don’t forget to credit the musicians and/or music school in the recital program and include them in curtain calls.
Dance and theater go hand in hand, so why not invite a local children’s theater troupe to share performance space (and expenses) with your school during recital time? With a broad theme like “That’s Entertainment!” or “Once Upon a Time,” you could easily incorporate a variety of short monologues, scenes, or songs by the young actors—perhaps a theater segment after every four or five dance routines. (This would also give your busiest dancers more time to change costumes.)
You could also take the idea a step further with a theme called “On Broadway,” keeping the acting, singing, and dancing within the boundaries of kid-friendly Broadway musicals. If you already have a rapport with the theater director, collaborate with the troupe on a big opening or closing number as well.
Set similar time limits for theater scenes and dance numbers (three to five minutes), and use simple sets to avoid lag time between routines. If you think a collaborative show might be too long, consider breaking up the recital into two or three shorter shows instead.
Regardless of how many shows you present, plan enough time for tech and dress rehearsals so the dancers and actors know exactly what to expect regarding cues for everyone’s entrances, exits, lights, and sound.
Remember Choose Your Own Adventure books? At critical junctures, the reader could decide which angle of the story to pursue. Your recital audiences might like to have the same option, even in a small way. This requires good planning but could result in a surprise showstopper.
To start, have a group (or more than one) of intermediate to advanced dancers prepared to perform two very different routines. With the tickets or programs, include a voting card listing the two options. Ask audience members to turn in their votes during intermission, during which time a designated stagehand or volunteer tallies them. A quick method is to have the tickets pre-printed with, for example, A and B on a perforated end, and they could tear off their choice. And voilà! By the end of intermission the dancers will know which routine they are performing, and the audience will be eagerly waiting to see if their choice won the vote. (Use the other routine elsewhere in the show or for a future community performance or competition.)
Another way to engage the audience is to extend the reach of the recital theme to include them. Call the show “Summer Fun” and ask the audience to wear their luau best, or call it “Inspiration” and ask them to bring clothing or food donations for a local shelter. Instead of doing a traditional finale, keep the theme going by inviting the audience to participate in a student-led dance jam. Bring most of the dancers onstage and send a handful of them into the aisles to get the audience dancing.
Take a leap!
If none of these ideas excites you, try exploring stage technology for inspiration—even small changes to lights and sound or music can make a difference—or brainstorm ideas with your staff. When you find something that feels right, take a leap! A fresh approach does more than entertain—it keeps your clients and audiences wondering what you’ll do next and eager to go along for the ride.
A city council committee has approved a $5.46-million funding request for a proposed $17.9-million dance facility in Calgary’s Beltline, reported the Calgary Herald.
At 3,250 square meters, the Decidedly Jazz Danceworks Dance Centre would be the largest facility of its kind in the city. It would house several dance studios, performance venues, a recreational school, and community space.
“We moved into our current facility in 1993 . . . and we paid $35,000 a year in rent,” said Kathi Sundstrom, executive director for Decidedly Jazz Danceworks. “We now pay in excess of $250,000, so we can’t afford to operate where we are because we can’t expand our revenue because there are only so many studios.”
DJD is partnering with the Kahanoff Centre for Charitable Activities to build a $40-million, 12-story building at Centre Street and 12th Avenue S.E. DJD, which is kicking in $17.9 million for the project, would occupy the first five floors of the building through a 49-year lease.
The $5.46 million, which still needs council approval, is through the Municipal Sustainability Initiative Culture-Related Infrastructure Fund. The provincial and federal governments have already approved $5 million and $1.9 million, respectively, for the project. DJD has also received $1.5 million from the Calgary Foundation and $3.5 million in private donations.
Sundstrom said the new performing arts facility should open in November 2015 and will provide the community with additional arts space. “Our objective was to bring dance to the street and make it accessible,” said Sundstrom.
To read the full story, visit http://www.calgaryherald.com/entertainment/Proposed+dance+facility+Beltline+receives+million+boost
A New York City neighborhood dance studio is bringing young football players into their studio for a six-week ballet workshop that’s designed for athletes.
FOOTBALLet at Cora Dance, located on Richards Street in Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood, focuses on footwork, balance, and strength-building exercises by using movements from ballet and the field.
A parent approached dance instructor Courtney Cooke with an idea for the workshop. “I immediately saw things that were practiced in football drills . . . that could be translated to ballet,” said Cooke, 28, who first taught the class last year.
Cooke, who will lead the workshop for 9- to 13-year-olds beginning December 7, starts each class with ballet fundamentals and then teaches exercises like petit allegro jumps and graceful adagio movements, she said.
But since her young students are more interested in becoming better football players, not ballerinas, she created challenges that combine ballet skills with sports drills. In one exercise, each student, football in hand, must chasse across the room, end with a grand jeté over a three-foot barrier, then quickly turn and throw the football to the next student.
To see the original story, visit http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20131204/red-hook/football-inspired-ballet-classes-combine-dance-with-drills-red-hook.
The director of the Deirdre O’Mara School of Irish Dance in Yonkers, New York, used an in-studio camera and social media to find a thief who broke into her studio in November.
According to The Irish Voice, O’Mara had installed a camera in order to keep an eye on her students when she was teaching, but in the early morning hours of November 12, caught eight minutes of footage showing a male ransacking the studio.
Once a picture of the suspect was released by the police, O’Mara turned to social media to spread the image in hopes of an arrest, sharing the photo on Facebook pages of community groups such as the McLean Avenue Merchants Association and the McLean Avenue St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
The community response was enormous, she said, with the wanted poster being shared on Facebook pages hundreds of times. The very evening the posters were shared, a 30-year-old resident of the Bronx turned himself in. He was placed under arrest and charged with third degree burglary. (Among the stolen items were a laptop, an iPod player, and petty cash.)
O’Mara expressed her gratitude to the community and the Yonkers Police Department, and hopes the enormous community response will prevent something like this from happening again.
“I hope it makes people think twice about breaking and entering in this area,” she said. “It’s community watch at its best.” To read the full story, visit http://www.irishcentral.com/IrishVoice/Yonkers-Irish-dance-teacher-uses-social-media-to-catch-a-thief-233664281.html.
In the moments between classes, half a dozen young ladies gathered around a knee-high fence at the edge of their dance floor, watching and petting six puppies as Michelle Holmes-Bello responded to their inquiries and observations.
To Holmes-Bello, co-founder and artistic director at USA Ballet, the moment was proof that starting an animal rescue group, My Loveable Angels, earlier this year in the USA Ballet’s Bloomington, Illinois, facilities was the right thing to do. The animals have an opportunity for socialization while young dancers learn about animals’ needs.
She told The Pantagraph that the organization was created in memory of her recently deceased sister, Leslie Holmes, and has saved more than 80 creatures, mostly dogs on “death row,” by placing them with loving foster families until they find them homes.
“The [dancers] look so forward to meeting a new one and hearing its story,” she said, explaining the rescued animals are contained, and students must have their parents’ permission before interacting with them. “Just reaching them when they’re younger to help educate; that’s going to affect them as adults to help the cycle of what we’re trying to prevent.”
While last week’s canine visitors were a 3-month-old litter of dogs from Kentucky, Holmes-Bello said My Loveable Angels draws animals, mostly dogs, of all ages and in all health conditions from all over the Midwest.
Seventy-three dancers from Nancy Chippendale’s Dance Studios, North Andover, Massachusetts, will soon travel to Riesa, Germany, to represent the United States at the World Tap Championships, according to Wicked Local/North Andover.
The International Dance Organization’s World Tap Championships will run from November 30 to December 8 and host dancers ages 10 to 31 from 31 countries.
During their trip overseas, the United States team is scheduled to travel to Dresden, Meissen, Leipzig, Berlin, and Prague. “I am extremely proud of all of their hard work and can’t wait to see them perform on stage,” said studio founder Nancy Chippendale. “Go USA!”
To read the original story, visit http://www.wickedlocal.com/northandover/newsnow/x348810670/Dance-studio-to-compete-internationally.
Antioch, Illinois, resident Robin Parfitt has opened a dance studio in loving memory of her daughter, Nicole, a member of her school’s dance team who was killed last year in a plane crash.
“I opened the studio in her memory. She was fun and beautiful and had a passion for dancing,” Parfitt told the Lake County News-Sun.
On November 18, 2012, Nicole, 14, a freshman at Antioch High School, was taking a joy flight with her father, Todd, in a plane he had flown for many years, when the Grumman two-seater nose-dived shortly after taking off and crashed, killing both. Todd, 50, married to Robin for 20 years, was a dispatcher for United Airlines who had served in the U.S. Air Force and loved to fly.
The 4,500-square-foot studio at 942 Tiffany Road was named the Shine Bright Dance Studio because, in Parfitt’s memory, her daughter “shines like a diamond.” A grand opening was held Friday night.
Calling herself “a mom on a mission,” Parfitt said she is leasing the space for the facility, formerly part of a Ford dealership. It has been extensively remodeled based on Parfitt’s own design, and painted purple, Nicole’s favorite color. On the wall is a huge picture of her daughter from her first solo at age 11. So far, four instructors from Chicago have been hired, and 30 students have enrolled.
With no former business experience, Parfitt said, “I’m learning, moving forward one day at a time.” To see the full story, visit http://newssun.suntimes.com/business/23780179-420/mom-opens-dance-studio-in-antioch-in-memory-of-her-daughter.html.
Eight studios in the Denver and Colorado Springs area will be joining together in “Hope for Conner,” on December 8 at 1pm at Wasson High School, Colorado Springs, a performance to help support Make-A-Wish Colorado and grant one little boy’s wish.
At the show, more than 225 dancers and 50 Palmer High School student council members will present 35 routines for an anticipated audience of 1100.
Lyndzi Barnes, director of Danceworks of Colorado Springs and her husband, Doug Barnes decided to host this show, the studio’s first annual Project Benefit Show. “Young dancers deal with so much pressure and hard times in the competitive world and professional dance community that sometimes it is nice to just see dancers do what they love and know it is making a difference,” Lyndzi said. “They get to feel good about their art and love for dance and it makes them realize that they can help people by sharing that passion with other people for a good cause.”