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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. **

Music for Tap: It’s You by Duck Sauce

Music for Tap: It's You by Duck Sauce on DanceKellyStyle.net

I’m always on the hunt for modern music to tap to. Sure, I love tapping to classics. Songs from musicals, rock and roll with a steady beat, etc. But since I typically teach college students, I like to have something a little fresher to keep them intrigued. This is one of those songs. “It’s You” by Duck Sauce. Take a listen.

Perhaps the best part of this Duck Sauce song is it’s clean. Or maybe that it doesn’t need edited because it’s nice and short. But me? I like that it combines that old quartet sound with a fresh dance track. It allows you to switch between classic tap moves and more rhythmic tap sounds. From Suzie Qs to Shiggy Bops. It all works together.

Get it now:
Amazon | iTunes | Spotify | GooglePlay

P.S. If you’re thinking this sounds familiar, it might be bringing to mind the also popular, “Barbara Streisand,” also by Duck Sauce.

How to be an effective leader in the dance studio


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.

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.

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.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.

Spotlight on: Colleges of the Fenway Dance Project

I know I’ve been a little off the grid these past few weeks, but as all dance teachers know, spring is a busy time of year. And even with only two classes, I still found myself busier than ever the past few weeks. Costumes, rehearsals, lighting, etc. And here’s the end result. My level 1/2 jazz group opened our spring show and my level 1/2 tap closed the show. (It gets a little blurry in jazz for a minute but it comes back, wait for it!)

I couldn’t be prouder. Thanks to all the students who gave it their all this semester.

And, for any prospective college students in the Boston area, if you want to find out more about the Colleges of the Fenway Dance Project, get in touch or check out the details.

Spring Break in New York City

nyforplay2What do dance teachers do for Spring Break? They don’t go to the beach. They head to New York City, of course. And that’s just what I, and my dancin’ mom, did a few weeks ago. We saw Newsies. We saw Kinky Boots. We shopping at Capezio. We danced down sidewalks. And while I could only make a weekend of it, she stayed a little longer for classes and more shopping for dance shoes. Here’s a few more snaps from our weekend.


The dancing in Newsies was to die for. Unbelievable. Talk about needing a foam roller at the end of the night. Those guys were jumping everywhere. And Kinky Boots delivered in its own right, of course. The vocals in this Tony-winner knocked us off our feet boots. Seats were at a premium, so some of the visual effects of the choreography were lost on us as we were in the balcony. But the singing. The singing, you guys.
nyforplay3nyforplay1We went to Ellen’s Stardust Diner after seeing Kinky Boots. If you’ve never been, this is the diner to go to for a unique NY experience. One where the waiters and waitresses are up singing the whole night. And, it’s open 24 hours, so it’s ever too busy for you, just come back in the morning.

And, though we didn’t have it, it’s worth noting that you can get a bowl of Gene Kelly’s Beef Stew. It’s no family recipe or anything, but always fun to see little tributes pop up in the least likely places.

Now Dancing to: Tightrope by Janelle Monae

One of the things we challenge our college-aged students to do when working on new choreography is to come up with an idea for their dance. A concept. A story. We challenge them to create more than dance moves, but movement with feeling behind it. And if we challenge them to do it, I think we should have to do the same. Do as I say, do as I do… right?

And this song, Tightrope by Janelle Monae is a song you can use to tell a story. The beat is great and the lyrics can be interpreted in different ways, it just depends on your reference point. And the beat is great for tap or a pop jazz. For guys or girls or both. Watch the video and get inspired by Janelle’s quirky dance moves. Then, find it at your favorite source:

Amazon | iTunes | Spotify | Google Play