Q: How do you attract students age 8 and up? Ours are mainly homegrown. A few trickle in from other studios, but it's just not enough.

A: Though some students will inevitably lose interest in dance over time, we've found that keeping parents informed, offering classes for complete beginners and including a performance team opportunity are key to keeping this age group inspired to make dance a priority. Here are our best ideas.

  • Since parents are the primary decision makers about extra activities, it's important to communicate the benefits of dance in your marketing. Show the spectrum of skills and traits dance develops, such as confidence, musicality, flexibility and teamwork.
  • Show that you welcome those who want to learn to dance at any age or ability level. Offer opportunities in your schedule for absolute beginners, ages 8–12, in ballet, tap, jazz and hip hop. Appeal to new students who may have dabbled in gymnastics, other sports or dance in years past to try a class for free, with no pressure to register but rather to see what your studio is all about.
  • Create a pre-competitive or recreational-style performance group with some minimum weekly requirements that are attainable for new-to-dance families. There is a real need to belong to a team or select group for students of this age, and performance opportunities afford them a chance to experience the joy of dancing on a stage.
  • Host regular informational events for parents interested in hearing what your beginner, competitive and performance dance tracks entail.
  • Offer a summer intensive program for beginner dancers, ages 8–12, which will boost this age group's confidence while encouraging them to add more classes to their schedule for the following season.

Kathy Blake is the owner of Kathy Blake Dance Studios in Amherst, New Hampshire. She and Suzanne Blake Gerety are the co-founders of DanceStudioOwner.com.

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Photos by Amy Kelkenberg

Whether a dancer has too much or too little, turnout can be one of the most frustrating aspects of technique. Students often feel they must achieve 180-degree rotation to become successful in the field. In reality, the average person only has 45 degrees of external rotation in each leg, meaning their first position should be no greater than 90 degrees.

Because range of motion in the hip is ultimately determined by the joint's structure, it is impossible for dancers to increase their structural turnout. Often, though, students do not use what they have to the greatest potential. By maximizing their mobility they will find greater ease within movement, improve lines and, most important, prevent injuries caused by forcing the joints.

Deborah Vogel, co-founder of the Center for Dance Medicine in New York City, says the best way to unlock external rotation is to balance out muscle strength and flexibility. “Dancers are working the turnout all the time. They're always engaged and focused so much on using it. The minute they learn how to release those muscles they bring everything into balance," she says. “That middle is where dancers last the longest."

Here, Vogel suggests exercises that stretch and strengthen the muscles that activate turnout:

Sitting Stretch: For Stretching Turnout Muscles at the Back of the Pelvis

Sit on the edge of a chair with knees at a 90-degree angle and feet flat on the floor. Cross the right ankle onto the left knee. Lace your hands together and nestle them under the right knee, lightly pressing energy into your hands and toward the floor (though the knee should not actually move). Sit up straight—some may already feel tension here.

With a flat back, bring the belly button toward your legs. Continue gently pressing the right knee into your clasped hands.

Experiment with turning the upper body toward the knee or the foot to stretch different muscles.

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Ashley Wheater, Joffrey Ballet

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Ingrid Lorentzen, Norwegian National Ballet

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We all know and love Mia Michaels. She's a fearless choreographer and teacher, who's inspired a generation of dancers with her unique style, grace and brilliance. What's not to love? And now we can't help but gush over a personal confession she recently shared on Instagram.

Bottom line: No matter your age, size or shape, don't wait to love your body or yourself.

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I recently started back in modern dance after a long hiatus—I stopped dancing at age 11 and went back two years ago at age 24. I've found that when I'm on the floor, I can't open to a very wide second. Also, if I'm sitting in butterfly on the floor with my feet together, my knees are some distance from the ground. What can I do to loosen my hips?

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When your students are onstage, every dance step matters, of course. But so does every non-dance step. The simple act of being onstage—whether standing still, walking to a position or running from one place to another—requires a constant presence. And as Kitty Carter, of Kitty Carter's Dance Factory in Dallas, Texas, points out, "walking and running are actually part of the dance. They act as transitions from step to step." So teaching your students to understand the importance of active stillness and pedestrian choreography is essential, and it will help them see the "big picture" of a performance. But it's not easy.

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