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How Dance Teachers Find Work-Life Balance

Dance Teacher Talk: How do you balance work & life? on DanceKellyStyle.net
Between music, choreography and actually teaching, it seems a dance teachers work is never done. And if you’re a studio owner, add all the business side of things to that. Not to mention weekend rehearsals, performances, competitions and more. It sometimes seems that you can’t get a break.

It seems most major news sources and publications are talking about work-life balance these days, I figure it’s time us dance teachers start talking about it too. So I asked some of my fellow dance teachers,

How do you balance being a studio owner/teacher and making time for your personal life?

Here’s what they had to say. Spoiler alert, I don’t think we have it all figured out, but there’s a few little tips here that will go a long way in helping free up some of your precious time.

I don’t have too much of a problem because I don’t have kids and my friends are on similar schedules to mine. The only problem I have is trying to find time for dinner!
Elise H. 

It’s a very hard balance… if there even is a balance. I believe that most dedicated dance teachers and studio owners give up a huge portion of their personal lives for their jobs. With that said, budgeting the free time you do have is key. When you can consolidate certain things in your normal every day activities, you can create more time in your personal life.
Mr. Brian 

Owning a business is much different than just being an instructor. I’m learning slowly to not book myself every weekend so I can actually have time with my husband. Planning ahead for events and keeping templates from previous years on my computer has also helped cut down my work time at home. Nothing eats up your time like the first year of owning a studio and having to create every single piece of information from scratch. I’ve also had to learn to delegate….I can’t do it all, and asking for help is necessary if I want to have any personal life.
Eva M. 

So, here are eight tips*, for a better work-life balance as a dance teacher:

1. Budget your free time.
2. Don’t book yourself every weekend.
3. And don’t overbook yourself.
4. Play your weekend (whether that’s Saturday & Sunday, or Sunday only) in advance, sometime during the week.
5. Ask for help
6. And delegate.
7. Use the internet to find resources — you’re not the only one doing this, and we’re all in it together.
8. Take a break. A real break. Not an extra day at the hotel after dance convention. You work hard, so play hard. No one will tell you to take a vacation, so be sure to schedule one for yourself.

As a dance teacher, how do you balance work & life? Add your tips in the comments.

* Because we dance teachers can only count in fours or eights.
** Are you a dance teacher with a question? Get in touch. Know a dance teacher with something to say? Submit their name

Is clean or challenging choreography more important?

 

Dance Teacher Talk : Clean vs Challenging Choreography on DanceKellyStyle.netYou’ve been there. The step is hard. A few of your dancers get it. And they get it right away. But sometimes, it feels like the back line isn’t quite big enough. So what side do you fall on — clean choreography or challenging choreography? Do you split the difference? Of course, it always depends on the class. Here’s what a few fellow dance teachers had to say when asked,

What’s more important, being clean or having challenging choreography?

Clean, clean, clean!
Miss Kathy 

This is a tough question! In the end I believe being clean is ultimately going to help your dancers score higher. However, the choreographing should be a challenge for your dancers when they first start their routine so they have something to push for. I’m never afraid to give them a challenge, but then edit things that don’t work out before heading to our first competition.
Eva M. 

I err on the side of challenging choreography although I try to hit that sweet spot in the middle! I want the students to have some new challenges but also to show what they are great at so they can have confident performances.
Elise H. 

I think what determines how difficult of choreography the dancers need is simply what level they currently are. Keeping them challenged always is essential, but reinforcing cleanliness and precision is equally as important. In terms of competition, I believe clean, less difficult choreography tends to score better than super difficult choreography that isn’t clean.
Mr. Brian 

How do you juggle clean vs. challenging choreography? When do you draw the line? Share your tips in the comments.

** Got a question? Get in touch. Know someone who should be featured on our panel? Nominate them. **

How to be an effective leader in the dance studio

EffectiveLeadership_DanceKellyStyle

As dance teachers, we’re called upon to be the ultimate leaders. Leading students, parents, other teachers and audiences. There are plenty articles written about the skills effective leaders possess. But how can you be an effective leader in the dance studio?

Learn to say, “no.” Then, actually say “no.”
It’s crucial to you and your students that you enforce the “no.” Your time in the studio is valuable. Protect it by setting limits and enforcing them with that all-powerful word. “No” also helps you mange the expectations of parents and employees. It’s only one little word, but it can also be an important tool against lazy dancing, tardiness, absences, missed payments (the list goes on…)

Delegate. Delegate. Delegate.
You don’t have to be the one rhinestone-ing costumes, typing up announcements, picking up the t-shirts, editing everyone else’s music and teaching all your classes. Learn to give parents, employees and office managers some of these tasks. Bonus, by delegating, you’re also teaching others to be leaders.

Adapt.
As a dancer, you know how to adapt — no lights? No problem. Music cuts out? No problem. Now, take that adaptability and apply it to your business. Whether that’s a studio you run or a handful of classes you teach around town. A teacher no-show? Combine classes. Customers paying late? Give them an incentive to pay early. Take a look at the situation and make it work.

Communicate.
Do you ever think your students aren’t listening to you? (Does a cat, meow?) Dance teachers know how to break steps down in a million ways until every student gets it. Do the same with your newsletter for parents, your emails to prospective customers and your employees. Clear communication creates a strong base of trust and an open dialogue between everyone will foster a sense of community in your dance world.

It all comes back to this — you make money when you’re teaching. So say “no”, delegate, adapt and communicate. But above all, get in that studio, teach and make the money.

Finding new music for dance class

Overlay.001It’s one of the most mindless and most mindful tasks dance professionals have — finding music for class, for performances, for everything in between. There is an overabundance to choose from. Long, short. Slow, fast. Clean, not-so-clean. Oldies, new. Where to begin? Here’s a look at where to find new music for dance class.

Depending on the age of the dancers, their proficiency and your audience, you might begin with the choreography before even choosing music. For the point of this exercise, and these answers, let’s assume you’re starting with the music and going from there. Here’s what a few teachers said when asked,

Where do you find music ideas for class? 

Sometimes I just sit on iTunes for hours and hours, browsing artists that I like. Then that usually leads me to other artists that I have never heard of. YouTube is also a great way to find great music. There are tons of covers of popular songs.
Mr. Brian 

I teach a variety of ages and styles of dance. My teacher friends have helped me find some music, and I sometimes find ideas on dance.net. For my littlest ones I use Al Gilbert and Becca Retter music among other things for class.
Elise H. 

I use iTunes or I “Shazam” at competition or convention. 

Best find this year — Electro Swing Volume #4. 23 songs… enough for everything!
Miss Kathy 

I find music everywhere! I’m constantly listening to different radio stations, using iTunes genius, Spotify, pandora, paying attention to background music in movie or television…you name it.

For class I like to find songs the kids love. (Competition is a different ballgame. Nothing on the radio is allowed!)

For jazz I’ll often take a popular song from the radio but then find a cardio workout mix to use. I’ve also had good luck downloading mp3s from mashup artists like DJ Earworm.

The best album I’ve found for ballet so far is Ballet Goes Pop from iTunes. Every track is a popular song….the kids love trying to figure out what each song really is.
Eva M. 

 

Thanks, teachers! Great tips, all around. I am a Spotify user when it comes to finding new music, especially performances. There’s a similar artists feature that will help you discover new artists that sound like those you like.

I’m curious. Where do you find new music for class? We can all always use another place to find great tunes.

** Got a question? Get in touch. Know someone who should be featured on our panel? Nominate them. **

How to Deal with Dancers Feeling Inadequate

How to Deal with your dancers feeling inadequate at competitionWe’ve all been there. In the studio, at convention, or in our own heads. We’ve all felt a little bit out of league sometimes. So, I asked some of my favorite fellow teachers,

How do you deal with dancers feeling inadequate at dance competitions against other studios with a great reputation?

The had some great ways of dealing with, and preventing, the pain, frustration and overwhelming feelings that can come along with that “not good enough” attitude that gets stuck in our own and our dancers’ heads.

I emphasize the importance of focusing on their individual performances and not on overalls. They can only control what they do on the stage and what they do in preparation (technique class!!).
Elise H. 

Remind students they are competing against a score, not another dancer. Also teachers should make sure they place students in correct categories. Don’t play dancers off one another.
Miss Kathy
 

 

I try to focus my students on personal progress. Have you put in your best efforts in rehearsal? If so then your best is all you can do. We celebrate the little victories like moving up in their adjudications or not being corrected by a judge for something they’ve been working on. Also, I make sure to point out really great performers from other studios and encourage my dancers to watch and learn from how they command the stage.
Eva M. 

I think it’s important to prepare the dancers in the rehearsal process to not be intimidated by other studios. Reinforcing that their confidence in what they are bringing to the stage should be their focus is important to me. At the same time, being inspired by other great dancers is always encouraged.
Mr. Brian 

How else can we get out of our own heads and use more advanced dancers to inspire us and our students? Share your thoughts in the comments.

** Got a question? Get in touch. Know someone who should be featured on our panel? Nominate them. **

How to Write Your Teacher Bio

Let’s talk about something every teacher needs to do at some point: write your teacher bio. It’s probably going on your studio’s website, but it also might need to end up in program booklets, on brochures or even on your own website. Here’s a look at what to do in six simple steps.TeacherBioHowTo

Easy enough, right? Let’s try it together. Here’s each step with some examples.

1. INTRODUCE YOURSELF & SAY WHAT YOU DO.

Kelly is the owner and director of The Dance Studio.
Kelly is a tap and jazz instructor.
Kelly is artistic director of The Dance Company.

2. SUMMARIZE YOUR EXPERIENCE

For 14 years, she has trained dancers of all levels in ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical and more.
For 14 years, she has taught all ages and levels at various studios.
For 14 years, she has managed the creative vision of the group.

3. MENTION YOUR EDUCATION. BOTH FORMAL AND DANCE TRAINING.

Kelly received a BA from Oklahoma City University and a MS from Boston University. Her dance training began at a young age and over the past years she has studied from such notable dancers as Mallory Graham, Kit Andreé, Scott Benson, Frank Hatchett and more.

4. HIGHLIGHT ANY MEMBERSHIPS YOU HOLD.

Kelly is a member of DEA and DMA as well as the local BBB.

5. ADD ANY KEY ACCOMPLISHMENTS, HONORS OR TITLES.

Additionally, her choreography has won accolades throughout the tri-state area. Kelly also sits on the local arts council and participates in the annual town parade.

6. SUMMARIZE YOUR DANCE AND/OR TEACHING PHILOSOPHY.

Above all, Kelly believes that dance should be fun for and accessible to all. 

Then just put it all together and that’s it. Feel free to embellish, leave anything out that’s not applicable or change the order to better fit your position. Want more examples? Here’s my latest bio for the Colleges of The Fenway Dance Project.

 

How to Dance in Sync for Teachers


So, this video has been making it’s way through social media and I wanted to share it with you, in case you hadn’t seen it yet. It comes from Vibe Dance competition. And if you haven’t looked at the title yet, it’s the second place winner. Yes. Second.

So, how do you get your dancers to be this together? Well, there’s a lot to take into consideration, like the dancers’ ages, years danced together and the style of dance. But one thing is for sure. Your dancers cannot be this in sync if they are not practicing together and with you, their choreographer, teacher or leader.

I can’t say with certainty how this group came together so well, but I can share some of my tips for making your dancers dance as one.

Teach your choreography to counts.
I know that it’s not everyone’s style to choreograph to counts—some like words, others beats—but it can help dancers hit movements at the same time. Even if you don’t choreograph to counts, it can be helpful for you to go back and count out the choreography. Then, when teaching, be sure to use those counts to accent your movements.

Break it down, then speed it up. (“The Game”)
I play “the game” with students of all ages. It goes like this. Teach a step slowly, to counts (see above), then repeat, this time counting slightly faster. Continue this process gradually until the dancers are performing the step full speed.

Use the mirrors.
This seems like an obvious one, but use the mirrors you (or your studio owner) have invested so much in. Break down combinations piece by piece, having dancers check their arm placement and head movements in the mirror. 

Use your hands.
If a dancer isn’t getting their arm or head or body placement just right, physically (gently) put them in the correct position so they can feel what the correct position is. Some students learn by doing and won’t get there until they can feel it.

Turn it over to the dancers.
This works best with older dancers. Pull dancers out one or two at a time and have them watch the group perform the combination or routine. If they can see the mistakes others are making as well as watch others do steps they may be doing incorrectly, they can then self-correct.

Tell me, how do you get your dancers to get together? Any crucial tips I’ve left out? Let me know in the comments.

And, in case you’re wondering who won first at Vibe Dance Competition, here’s the winners. Warning, the music has some questionable language in it.

Teachers Sound Off: The Homework Dancers Should Do

TeacherSoundOffDancers, you know at the end of class when your teacher puts one final step on your plate, another move, another eight counts of choreography? Yeah you know. And then, they tell you to “work on that.” And, of course, you totally practice all week, right?

Well, whether you realize it or not, your teachers can tell if you’ve been diligently mastering last week’s challenges. To see what they want you spending your time on, we asked them:

What’s the homework you wish your students would do?

Knowing their dance history. As educators, we work hard to expose them to different aspects of the art of dance and urge them to explore and learn about the wonderful artists and history that came before them.  However, it’s always nice when you have that one student who takes it upon themselves to do some extra homework.
Jake P.

Besides stretching, I wish they would practice their dances—I provide them with a CD of class music.
Miss Sharon 

Stretching; Lines are everything. You don’t have to be the most flexible kid in the world, but you do need to be able to create a clean line.
Eva M. 

Be in the know and expose yourself to as many styles as possible. I taught a master class recently and not a single dancer in the room knew who Cyd Charisse was! It’s not only important that we honor the dancers who came before us, but by watching them we can gain a lot of insight on where to place our bodies and how to create a style that works time and time again. Today’s dancers seem to dance alike. This wasn’t the case 60 years ago. Find a unique voice by exploring the history of dance and creating a movement quality that is a melting pot of the greats.
Chip A.

I strongly encourage every student to go home and review every correction that has been given, not only to that particular dancer, but corrections that have been given to all dancers.
Mr. Brian 

Practicing (of course)…but more specifically, reviewing corrections so that they are not lost the next time we are in the studio.
Elise H. 

Remembering where they stand in a dance from week to week.
Miss Kathy 

Alright class, looks like our teachers want us to remember our dances, stretch and bone up on our dance history. Sounds easy enough, don’t you think? Teachers, what else did we leave off this list? What homework do we still need to check off our lists?

** Each week our panel of teachers will answer a different question. Got a question? Get in touch. Know someone who should be featured on our panel? Nominate them. **

Teachers Sound Off: Dealing with Excessive Absences

TeacherSoundOff

We all get sick. We all miss a day here or there. But what does our teacher panel say about those students missing rehearsal after rehearsal. This week, we wanted to know,

How do you deal with excessive absences when prepping for a performance?

My rule is, if they’re not there, they’re not in the choreography they miss.
Miss Kathy 

If it’s due to an injury, obviously we want to be as smart and cautious as possible so they can get back. However if it’s just not being present for rehearsals before a show that’s a different situation. I think the key is having a clear attendance policy and sticking to it. None of my students can participate in the performance if they haven’t been to the dress/tech rehearsals. If it’s a dance company situation with excessive absences, that student may either be pulled from that number or excused entirely. We try to always drive home to our students that you are part of a team and one person missing affects the entire group. It’s no different than missing practice and expecting to play in the game. The place for it to be all about you is in a solo, not when you’re in a group.
Jake P. 

They could be removed from the number.
Miss Sharon 

It depends on the student. I try my best to stay flexible with my recreational dancers. Honestly you have to in order to keep a full studio. The competitive students are different though, they know that their attendance will directly affect their placements for next year.
Eva M. 

So cut and dry. If you aren’t in class or rehearsal I cut you from the number  There is a commitment that you have made to your team and to me. If I am only in town setting a piece for three days, I expect the dancers to be there. In my professional life I would be fired for excessive absences. If you aren’t there, I choreograph you out of that section. It doesn’t help me to save a spot for someone who doesn’t care enough to show up. I would rather reward another dancer for showing up and working hard. I couldn’t care less if they were more or less talented than the absent dancer and it is teaching them a lesson about this industry. You get hired by being present, putting in good work, and being first in the heads of any given casting director or choreographer.
Chip A.

I have a very strict policy for absences. I primarily work with the more serious company kids, so attendance is so important. Of course there are always extenuating circumstances, but I reiterate constantly that a dancer’s absence only hurts the dancer’s ability to advance and holds back the group.
Mr. Brian
 

It depends on if it is a recreational or a competitive class. Company members are only allowed so many absences until they are taken out of the dance. I stress the importance of attendance with recreational students, but if they don’t know the dance as well as the other kids it’s on them. I don’t expect recreational dances to be perfect, rather to show what the students have been learning over the year.
Elise H. 

Teachers, share how you deal with excessive absences. Dancers, do you think the teachers are fair?Time for you to sound off, in the comments!

** Each week our panel of teachers will answer a different question. Got a question? Get in touch. Know someone who should be featured on our panel? Nominate them. **

Teachers Sound Off: When it’s just not Clicking

TeacherSoundOff
We’ve all been there. In the studio, at convention, or in our living rooms. Where you just feel like you cannot make your body perform the step that is in your brain. And if we as teachers have been there, then we know our students share the same frustrations. So this week we asked our panel how they deal with “stuck students.”

What do you do when your students aren’t “getting it?”
When it’s just not clicking?

I will sometimes take a video of them so I can show them where the problem is. If it still isn’t clicking after weeks of attempts I will make the necessary changes to choreography and put whatever it was on the list for next time.
Elise H. 

Move on for now or move those students to back to pose for that piece of the choreography.
Miss Kathy 

I try to remember that ultimately it falls on me as their teacher to help guide them to “getting it”. Every student is different and each of their journeys is unique, so it’s important to keep that in mind when faced with the frustration of them not getting something. I am always reminded of something one of my teachers/mentors told me when I started teaching: “The best teachers are the ones who find the same thing to say a million different ways.”
Jake P. 

Try a different approach or explanation. Or slow it down.
Miss Sharon 

I sometimes teach entire hours with no music. We’ll slow down and try different things like really focusing into the mirror on what we’re doing, using partners to critique one another, or I often pull out a student who is “getting it” to show off for the class. It’s like magic, all of the sudden a lot of kids will step up to make sure they’re even with their classmate.
Eva M. 

This usually means some sort of communication error or boundary on my behalf. I rework the approach in as many ways possible. Some people are visual learners, some need counts, some need rhythm, and some need the physics behind the step. Finding a way to break down a step from a different angle will almost always work.
Chip A.

I believe in order to be a successful teacher, you must have at least 3 different approaches to teaching something. I have to constantly remind myself that each dancer is different, and paying attention to how each dancer learns the best is key.
Mr. Brian 

Surprised? Not surprised? Do you have a different pet peeve? Time for you to sound off, in the comments!

** Each week our panel of teachers will answer a different question. Got a question? Get in touch. Know someone who should be featured on our panel? Nominate them. **