by Sandi Duncan
Once upon a time, we were the cool teachers. We created cutting-edge choreography and classes and felt on top of our game. But as time has passed and we’ve aged oh so gracefully, new trends have emerged in our field, leaving many of us scratching our heads and wondering how to keep up with the always-evolving art of dance.
Today’s dancers travel to conventions, master classes, competitions, and workshops, hoping to network and further their education; they have access to a range of opportunities and often begin intense training at a very young age. This competitive approach may cause older dance educators to fear we’re not doing enough to keep current—or to keep these thriving young artists within our studio walls.
What does keeping current mean to you? It may mean teaching the latest hip-hop or contemporary moves from TV, or using music from the Top 20 radio playlist. It may mean attending dance conventions and costume trade shows to see the latest choreography and costume trends. It may mean bringing in guest teachers and choreographers to provide new energy and opportunities for your dancers, or, for younger students, providing camps or classes inspired by new movies or TV shows. On the other hand, keeping current may not matter greatly to you; you may be completely happy and trust in the vision you’ve established for your studio.
If, however, you do feel the need to update your program, first ask yourself a few key questions:
- Are you open to continuing education for yourself and your students? If so, research local workshops, master classes, and conventions. Consider joining a national dance association such as Dance Masters of America (DMA) or Dance Educators of America (DEA) that provides ongoing training for teachers and students. Online training programs such as CLI Studios or Mia Michaels Live enable you to learn from working choreographers and teachers and experience classes and current commercial and company choreography in your studio or at home.
- Are you willing to consider what your dancers are looking for in their training? Many young students are immersed in YouTube dance videos and TV dance competitions and aspire to learn the latest styles and techniques. Tap into their excitement by giving them opportunities to work with outside choreographers who can provide this.
- Are you willing to work with the next generation of teachers and be open to exploration within your studio? Many teachers and choreographers will be eager to come to your studio and share their passion and ideas with you and your students. This influx of new ideas will help you grow, create new energy in your own teaching, and keep up with current trends.
Keeping current can seem daunting at times, but it can open your eyes to new training methods and techniques that can benefit your program—and you! Remember: you can stay open to change and still stay true to the vision you’ve established, confident that you are providing your students with the best possible training.
Sandi Duncan is a senior staffer at Melissa Hoffman Dance Center. A certified life coach, she conducts team-building seminars and workshops for studios nationwide.