Seen and Heard at the Dance Teacher Summit: Donna Aravena
It’s official: We’re exactly one week away from the start of our Dance Teacher Summit! We spoke to Summit ambassador Donna Aravena about her favorite business seminars. Aravena and her daughter Nicole own and operate Seven Star School of Performing Arts in Brewster, New York.
Seven Star School of Performing Arts
Dance Teacher: Your school offers curriculum in dancing, acting and singing for students as young as 3. Why do you think it’s important for young dancers to be skilled in all of these fields?
Donna Aravena: There used to be calls for “dancers who could sing” or “singers who could move.” But now, it’s the trained triple-threat performers that are getting all the jobs because there are so many of them out there. So it’s very important to us that we offer vocal and dance training at a very young level. We put on a big musical theater production every year. Last year it was Beauty and the Beast, and this year’s show is Aladdin. To be involved, children must take five hours of acting, singing and dance classes, plus rehearsal, every Saturday. If they’re able to perform onstage now, they will be able to interview or speak in public later; they will be able to do anything.
DT: Has your studio added any new programs this year?
DA: We’ve added a class for adults with Prader-Willi syndrome [a rare genetic disorder]. A nearby organization called and asked if we would be willing to offer movement for them. We had to do some research on the syndrome, but now these people are loving it. They’re all buying sweatshirts and other merchandise from the school. Plus, they offer so much love and warmth, and our other students give it right back to them. It’s something that’s good for the studio, and I like that we’re giving them something that they would never get otherwise.
DT: What do you find most useful about the Dance Teacher Summit?
DA: The classes that focus on the business end of the dance industry are very rewarding to me, because that’s what I do. My middle daughter Nicole and I run our school together. I’m the office manager, and she handles the arts end. I was thrilled that one session was for studio owners/directors only. We could toss ideas around and know that only other owners were sitting in that room.
DT: Do you plan on implementing anything you heard at the Summit in your studio?
DA: Most studios have a “Bring a Friend to Dance Week,” but one studio owner mentioned that she gives out T-shirts that say, “I brought a friend to dance today.” It’s so simple, but you can use these T-shirts year after year. And I’m also looking into requiring that each parent purchase a recital packet at the beginning of each year, which would include a T-shirt, DVD and six tickets. I think it might make parents more committed to the end of the year. —Rachel Zar
Photo by Jennifer McCann Photography, courtesy of Seven Star School of Performing Arts