On My Mind

February 2016 | On My Mind

There are many ways to evaluate a dance school. We might first think of the merit of the faculty or training. Or we might consider the awards won; the number of students who move on to the professional world; the quality of the customer service, organization, and professionalism; or other factors.

To me, though, quality is reflected most in the atmosphere and spirit of the community created within the school, especially among the intensive dancers. Instinctively, at a performance or in the classroom, I can feel whether (or not) the kids get along with and respect each other. Competitiveness or jealousy aren’t simply inward emotions felt by those who possess them—the actions, emotions, or distractions that they can create usually seep out to affect the classroom and sometimes an entire school.

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January 2016 | On My Mind

It’s a new year, and I’ll bet you have some sort of self-improvement goals for 2016. If one of them is to become a better teacher, try this: imagine that each time you enter your school you are walking in the stage door, prepared to give the best performance possible.

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December 2015 | On My Mind

As we prepare to head into 2016, I am thrilled to launch a concept that has been dancing around in my mind for more than five years: an international business conference and association for dance school owners. This dream will become a reality with the first I.D.E.A. (International Dance Educators Association) conference, held July 30 through August 1, 2016, at The Phoenician, a luxurious resort in Scottsdale, Arizona. With many respected dance teacher organizations offering high-quality dance conventions, master classes, teacher training, and competition or performance opportunities, I.D.E.A. will take a different tack, focusing on the development and implementation of high business and ethical standards.

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November 2015 | On My Mind

We all have opinions. And sometimes, when they’re on topics that have the potential to affect large groups of people, our perspective can be controversial. When I know that’s the case, I try to convey mine in a non-judgmental way, hoping to stir up thoughtful debate rather than offend people who disagree with me. Recently I stood strong on an issue, and I made some enemies.

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September 2015 | On My Mind

I’m writing this two days after the 2015 DanceLife Teacher Conference, our biggest and best yet. Each time we produce this event I’m overwhelmed by the amount of work that goes into it—and each time, as it concludes, I forget about the work because I’m overwhelmed by the enthusiasm, spirit, and generosity of the hundreds of dance teachers and studio owners who spend those four or five days with us, immersed in dance.

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August 2015 | On My Mind

For most dance teachers, this time of year—the beginning of a new dance season—marks a fresh start. You’ll welcome back students who are growing up before your eyes, and you’ll see many new faces, students who will experience the excitement of dance for the first time.

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July 2015 | On My Mind

In this issue’s “Ask Rhee Gold” column, I advise a school owner on how to approach a delicate situation. You’ve all encountered complex issues among your students’ families—divorces, deaths, substance abuse, and so on. But as our world changes, so do its complexities. The question this woman asked isn’t one that any of us would have heard even five years ago, but it’s likely to become more common.

The advice sought was about how to respond to—and how to explain to other students and their parentsa young transgender student’s request to be recognized as Jessica rather than as Josh.

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May-June 2015 | On My Mind

Honest. Trustworthy. We all label ourselves with those words, and that’s a good start. Next up: having the integrity to prove them true.

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March-April 2015 | On My Mind

I’ve been in the dance education field for a long time, and over the years I’ve noticed some changes, particularly in regard to student performances. Long before the current generation started dancing for awards, generations of young dancers performed for something quite simple: applause.

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February 2015 | On My Mind

Being a school owner requires a certain amount of resilience and optimism. Being optimistic doesn’t mean ignoring the tough stuff; it means focusing on what’s good as much as possible.

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January 2015 | On My Mind

Heading into 2015, I’m consumed with the logistics and planning for the next DanceLife Teacher Conference, coming up in late July/early August. To judge by this year’s roster of faculty and speakers, the theme for the 2015 DLTC should be “over the top.” In the two years between these events I run into many impressive people whose knowledge and skills would be perfect for the conference, and this time I went a little overboard. While creating the conference’s schedule (a daunting month-long project), I realized that accommodating a faculty of 38 and more than 125 classes, seminars, and special events meant expanding to four ballrooms. “Over the top” we go!

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December 2014 | On My Mind

Running a business requires many skills. It also requires good instincts and a willingness to act on them. Take the case of Maura, a successful school owner. Her weaknesses are a fear of confrontation and a tendency to be too trusting—and too willing to squelch her intuition.

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November 2014 | On My Mind

Those of you who have attended my seminars for dance teachers and school owners know that I rant about the “grab-the-foot-and-yank-the-leg-to-the-ear” move we all see at every dance competition and on TV. “It’s the way to show a good extension,” a teacher once told me. I don’t agree.

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October 2014 | On My Mind

In today’s business world, there’s plenty of talk about mission statements and branding and logos, and most of us accept that those are desirable and necessary components of a business’ identity—and even of its success. Sometimes, instead of a formal mission statement, a tag line suffices—a succinct, often catchy description of what’s most essential about the business. It might not be in print anywhere, but it’s in the business owner’s head; in the case of a school owner, it usually sums up why that person has chosen dance education for a career. Dance Studio Life has a tag line too: “dedicated to quality dance education.” If you asked me to tell you what that means to me, you’d probably get quite a speech.

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September 2014 | On My Mind

I understand that teachers need to work on technically challenging feats with their students, but if those are all they’re working on, I start to wonder if they forgot—or never understood—that dance can be stunning, touching, and beautiful even when it doesn’t include a single jump, turn, or “grab the leg and yank it up.”

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August 2014 | On My Mind

Beautiful technique, gorgeous feet, and a whole lot of desire for excellence—that’s how I would describe the world-class ballet dancers I saw at the 2014 USA International Ballet Competition in Jackson, Mississippi. From classes to performances to teacher workshops, everything about the event was a class act.

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July 2014 | On My Mind

Ten years. It’s quite a milestone to be celebrating, especially for a supposedly doomed publication. What is the secret to our success? A combination of factors: a humble passion for education and the art of dance, the commitment of editors and writers who understand the soul of the dance community, and a constant desire to be on top of an evolving dance education field.

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May-June 2014 | On My Mind

Most of you know the routine: three days in an auditorium at a dance competition. That’s what Jocelyn, a school owner, is doing on this particular weekend, along with her students and their parents. By the second day, she knows her dancers aren’t scoring as well as she had predicted they would. Her confidence is shot, and her first thought is to strategize a defense plan to explain to everyone why the dancers are not up to par. In politics, it’s called spin mode.

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March-April 2014 | On My Mind

Recently I met Amanda (not her real name), a dance teacher who broke down while she explained that she had once loved teaching. Now it was nothing but stress. When she started teaching, she said, things were simpler: “All I had were toddlers; they loved class and so did I.” Now, she said, “I have students of all ages who are jealous of each other, and the parents question every move I make. They call or text me because they do not like my choreography or to blast me because they think tuition costs are too high. Almost everything I do is wrong!”

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February 2014 | On My Mind

Today I learned of the passing of Frank Hatchett, whom I admired for many reasons. Thinking about him takes me back to my childhood, and to my early career as a dancer and teacher.

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January 2014 | On My Mind

It’s the beginning of a new year, and I’m feeling thankful for each new day ahead of me, and the possibilities each one holds.

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December 2013 | On My Mind

Recently on Facebook, someone with a college degree referred to me as a high school dropout. They claimed to be “outing me” and insinuated that I should not be allowed to run my seminars because of my lack of formal education.

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September 2013 | On My Mind

Nothing in the dance education field provokes as much passionate debate as the pros and cons of dance competition. Some teachers live for competitions, while others enjoy the experience but consider it only a part of what they offer their students. Others are disgusted by it.

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