Your Studio
Thanks to guidance from visiting professors, Shannon Crites School of Dance seniors went on to perform in college, Photo courtesy of LADance Magic

"I've told my students to keep their shoulders down countless times," says Shannon Crites, owner of Shannon Crites School of Dance in Ardmore, OK. “Then, a guest teacher will come in and say, 'You should really release those shoulders,' and they finally do it!" Guest teachers and choreographers offer a fresh perspective to your students' education, and they'll expose them to exciting new styles and create winning choreography for competitions. But balancing your budget and timing can be tricky. Here, four experienced studio owners share how they make the most of every guest who walks through their studio doors.

Ardell Stone

Ardell Stone School of Dancing

Roanoke, VA

About three or four times a year, Ardell Stone invites a guest artist to her studio to teach a master class and choreograph a piece for students on the competition team. But one of her main goals is making sure that as many students as possible get to take advantage. She allows noncompeting students to sign up for classes with the master teacher, offering at least one extra class for about $20 per student. Stone often finds potential guest teachers or choreographers by networking at competitions or teacher workshops. She estimates that she spends upwards of $3,500 for a teacher she really likes, which includes plane tickets (often from California), rental cars and hotel fees. She charges each of about 20 performing students an extra $150 to $200 for a master-class-plus-choreography session. “I don't like my students' families to spend too much money on one choreographer, especially since all the competition kids are required to take part," she says. “But we are in a relatively high socioeconomic area. And, though they charge an arm and a leg, it's well worth every cent."

Shannon Crites

Shannon Crites School of Dance

Ardmore, OK

“We are in a very small community, and doing the same thing all the time can become mundane," says Shannon Crites, who brings master class teachers to her studio two to three times per year. “Guest teachers make our students work at a different level. They keep them in check." To save on costs, Crites often chooses professors from local universities, like University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma City University, who have the added benefit of exposing her students to the importance of higher education.

While teachers on the master-class circuit charge up to $500 an hour for a minimum of four classes, those from universities sometimes consider it a promotional visit for their school, so they'll charge less. Crites estimates an average of $350 per class. And costs go down dramatically for local teachers, without the price of airfare or hotel rooms. Crites charges students approximately $150, for a weekend of master classes, usually in the fall, when company students aren't constantly traveling to conventions and competitions.

If she has a university teacher in mind, she'll contact them directly or call the dance department to ask who they would suggest. College teachers have tight schedules, she says, so it's best to check in as early as possible. Crites starts planning in the spring of the school year before.

When she called OCU last year, the school suggested sending a professor and a dean to talk to students and their parents about college. The event transformed into a weekend-long workshop. “I was thrilled," Crites says. “It was a perfect way to promote the importance of education." She plans to hold a similar workshop this year since she saw dramatic results—out of five senior company members who graduated in 2010, four are now dancing in college, she says. “They understand how important it is to have a degree."

Rhoda Burns

Burns Dance Studio

Aiken, SC

When guest choreographers come to Burns Dance Studio, students need to be prepared for an entire weekend of intensive training. Usually in September, a guest artist will set three routines on the studio's performance company.

“This exposes kids to different styles or choreography that's a little bit more current," says owner Rhoda Burns. “They look forward to it, but they know that it's going to be hard work." And missing these all-important weekends is not an option. “If they're a company kid, they know that not only do they have to be here, they have to pay for it," says Burns. “And if they're not here, they have to pay for it anyway."

Burns charges students approximately $150 each (in addition to annual tuition) to cover a choreographer's fee for the weekend, usually about $4,000 for 10 to 15 rehearsal hours. And when enrollment isn't high enough to break even, each dancer pays a little extra. “Most choreographers we bring in are willing to stay with me at my house, and not be in a hotel," says Burns. “That's a big save."

To add some extra fun to choreography weekends, they end with a pool party. On the following Monday, the company performs the routines that they've learned for their parents. And these works will be danced about 8 to 10 times throughout the year in competitions, community shows and during halftime at local high school or college games.

JoJean Retrum

Monona Academy of Dance

Monona, WI

JoJean Retrum, director of Monona Academy of Dance, likes to hire former students as guest teachers, many of whom are currently dancing with nearby Milwaukee Ballet. “Young people can see that getting a job performing is not an unrealistic goal," she says. When alumni teach, Retrum pays them between $50 and $100 per class, and fees for guest teachers are included in students' tuition.

Convincing alumni to return is never difficult, says Retrum, “They enjoy helping the studio out." She stays in touch via Facebook, reaching out often.

She also invites alumni to perform with the school's nonprofit dance company, paying them between $500 and $1,000 per performance. But Retrum says budget is not a primary concern when hiring guests. “I decide what I want the kids to learn, and I do it," she says. “I don't make a lot of money, but I'm rewarded by the feeling I get when I see my current and former students' work."

Teachers & Role Models
"Things rooted in the black community tend to be confiscated or diminished," says the founder of Joel Hall Dancers & Center. "I'm not going to let that happen as long as I'm around." Photo by Dean Paul, courtesy of Joel Hall Dance Center

When Joel Hall enters a studio, students fall silent and rise in respect. He can command a room from its corner with merely a facial expression, but more often, he takes charge by getting into the thick of the dance, letting the beat of the house music move him and pulling meaning and emotion from each dancer. A well-timed "yes!" can thrust a penché to 180 degrees. A snapped finger and a "work!" can bring out the inner diva in even the shyest student. And an ecstatic "oh!" can move hips like mountains.

"I instill in my dancers the discipline of proper training, but I also let them know they have a voice—a voice that shows where they came from—and I want to hear it," Hall says. "My class is tough, and I get fabulous people out of it."

Towering over his students, with unparalleled stature and grace, Hall may appear intimidating. But those lucky enough to have been part of his story know that he is much more than a fierce commander of the studio—he is made up almost entirely of heart.

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popular
Luigi teaching in Budapest in the 1990s. Photo by Mezey Bela.

If you offer jazz in your studio, the style is most likely rooted in theatrical jazz dance, influenced by the 1940s and '50s Broadway choreography of Jack Cole, Jerome Robbins and Matt Mattox, and later, by innovators like Gus Giordano, Bob Fosse, Luigi and Frank Hatchett. But what is the state of jazz today? Where does it fit amid the explosive popularity of the elusively defined, highly televised juggernaut known as contemporary? Is jazz dying out, or is it simply evolving?

Let's ask these professionals for some perspective and the role of dance educators in shaping its future.

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Business

When Misty Lown founded Misty’s Dance Unlimited in Onalaska, Wisconsin, purchasing her space was not an option. “I was fresh out of college, and I didn’t want to be tied to a permanent situation,” she says. Instead, she decided to lease with an option to buy after five years. Nineteen years later, she not only owns her own location (a different, bigger space than her original rental), but she offers consulting services to studios through her company, More Than Just Great Dancing. Transitioning to ownership made sense for Lown, but it’s not right for every studio owner. Here are factors to consider when weighing your options.

When to Rent

As a first step. Buying space usually requires a substantial financial commitment, so renting offers a better first step for new studio owners. It lets them test the market and location, grow their clientele and start to make a profit (which usually takes a few years).

For flexible growth. Tiffany Henderson, who rents the eight locations of Tiffany’s Dance Academy (seven studios in California, and one in Boise, Idaho), says renting gives her businesses the freedom to grow physically as they grow in popularity. “If you’re buying, you have to predict exactly how big you’ll get,” she says. “But if you lease, you can always start small and then move to a bigger space—or downsize if necessary.”

Having a landlord comes with trade-offs. While you cede some leeway in terms of changes you can make to the physical space, you also gain someone to turn to if something needs fixing or updating.

When to Buy

Buying guarantees more control over your space. “The biggest hurdle for me was coming up with that down payment,” says Lown, who extended her lease a couple of years until she had earned enough money. “But over time, I knew I could own for close to the same monthly price as renting, so it became a matter of, ‘Do I want my money to build somebody else’s future or my own?’”

Tax advantages. Purchasing a building is generally done via a commercial mortgage with monthly payments similar to rent. The initial down payment will generally be about 20 percent of the total building price. Lown warns that taking out a loan can be an expensive process in itself. Expect attorney fees, inspection fees and title search fees and closing costs like bank fees, processing fees or appraisal fees, which can vary a good deal. “There were also new costs once I got inside, like building insurance and the water bill, that I hadn’t accounted for,” Lown says. But owning has financial pluses as well, like tax deductions for mortgage interest, property depreciation and maintenance costs.

Building equity. Once the initial loan fees are paid, monthly costs should be comparable to renting. And as owners pay their mortgages, they build equity in their property—the amount of the building you truly own. “We see so many school owners who get to the end of an amazing, productive and meaningful career as teachers, and they don’t have an exit strategy,” says Lown. “Having a real estate component to your service business mitigates some of the risk. When you get to the end of your teaching days, if you’re not able to sell your business, at least you still have an asset with value.”

4 Considerations When Negotiating Your Lease

If you rent, read your lease carefully before signing—and discuss with an attorney any terms that concern you. You will have the greatest leverage to negotiate when you first sign the lease.

Beware of hidden costs. “Some commercial lessors will come up with a lower cost per square foot, but they’ll make you responsible for certain operating costs, like snowplowing,” says small-business consultant Thomas Gray.

Check maintenance details. Be sure you know exactly what utilities are included, like heat and water. Plus, confirm that regular maintenance and improvements will not only be done, but will be done in a timely manner without extra cost. For example, Gray says he’ll often stipulate that roof leaks need to be fixed quickly to avoid damage to studio floors.

Avoid competition. If you’re in a strip mall or retail complex, you may also want to negotiate an exclusive-use clause, a provision that can prohibit your landlord from leasing to another tenant who offers dance classes.

Provide for an early release, just in case. Most landlords ask that you commit for several years, so review the sublease policy closely in case you want to move sooner, a lesson Henderson learned the hard way. When she opened her business, she signed on to rent a one-room studio for three years—and quickly outgrew the space. She decided to switch locations and sublet the original. “I thought, ‘What’s the worst that can happen?’” she says. “What happened was that for the next three years, my landlord said no to every person I brought to him, and we paid $3,500 a month for a space that just sat there. I wish I’d known to make sure the lease was written in a way that I could have more control.”

Location, Location, Location

Renting or buying, location remains the most important decision when choosing a studio space. Parking availability and public transportation factor in, as does whether to pay more for space in a high-traffic area. A location off the beaten path may cost less but require a bigger investment in marketing. Small-business consultant Thomas Gray recommends scoping out neighboring businesses to judge whether the trade-off is worthwhile. “If you’re in a strip center, you want the stores nearby to attract your target market. Toys “R” Us is a great neighbor if you’re teaching kids.”

Follow the crowd. Certain businesses, like grocery stores, dental offices or daycare centers, scout demographics systematically before moving in. “KinderCare, for example, is a national daycare franchise that has very specific criteria for where they’ll put their centers—a certain population density, median income or distance from schools,” says studio owner and consultant Misty Lown. “They’ve already done that research, and you can take advantage of that.”

Make a tomorrow decision. Lown also advises studio owners to call their school districts and ask, “Where are you planning to build elementary schools in the next 10 years?” “Their answer might be counterintuitive, maybe on the outskirts of town where the next 500 homes are going to be built. But who’s going to live there? Young families looking for a dance studio,” she says. “You’re not making a today decision; you’re making a tomorrow decision. And finding that new blue sky takes some digging.”

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In the Magazine

Music to inspire creativity

Billy Bell’s dance career revolves around creation—crafting new opportunities for himself, inventing new movement and inspiring new dancers. After his remarkable technique and ethereal movement quality got him to the Top 5 on “So You Think You Can Dance” Season 7, he founded his own company, Lunge Dance Collective; performed for two and a half years with the recently disbanded Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet; and, in February, joined the cast of the interactive show Sleep No More in New York City. Despite his performance schedule, Bell still finds time to teach improvisation—the ultimate incubator for creation.

As a faculty member for several popular conventions, Bell is an expert at adjusting his class to challenge whoever’s in the room. “If I see that students have a gap in their knowledge, I’ll dive more heavily into that—so I guess I sort of improv my improv class,” says Bell, who carefully selects tracks for movement, but often leaves the order of the music to chance, as well. “Sometimes I’ll just click shuffle on my iPod. That way, my students never get to adapt, since they can’t predict what’s coming next. Something completely atmospheric could lead into something like Justin Timberlake.” DT

Artist: Fleetwood Mac

Song: “Albatross”

“I use this for deep inhales and exhales at the beginning of a warm-up. It’s short, and it just makes you want to breathe for a second. It’s the perfect song to start class with positive energy.”

 

 

Artist: Edit

Song: “Jazz Night”

“If I do a more structured warm-up, I’ll use this for abs, arms and upper-body strength conditioning. It’s great for increasing stamina and getting blood flowing.”

 

 

Artist: Pixel

Album: The Drive

“This is an album of buzzing tones. I’ll use this kind of music when I choreograph, since working in a silent room feels stifling. Having an ambient buzz playing low in the background during a rehearsal opens up my headspace.”

 

 

Artist: Byetone

Song: “Heart”

“This song is also pretty much just buzzing. My improv classes are typically built into two sections—the ‘thought’ section, which is about making conscious choices, and the ‘drive’ section, which is about instinct. For the ‘thought’ section, I like using ambient tones like this.”

 

 

Artist: Murcof

Song: “Mir”

“I like this as a transitional song between sections of class. It’s somewhere between a song that’s ambient and one that pushes you. It gets students from that completely cerebral land to a more physical one.”

 

 

Artist: Parov Stelar

Song: “Chambermaid Swing”

“Parov Stelar is a really fun electro-swing artist who I like to use for the ‘drive’ section of class, which is more about impulses. I’ll give certain tasks, like ‘spoking,’ in which you’re not allowed to bend your elbows or knees as you travel across the floor. Limiting choices can help kids learn to improvise. This song pushes them across the floor, but it’s not so fast that they don’t have time to process.”

 

 

Photo (top) by Erin Baiano for Dance Spirit

Business

Studio owners share social-media policies that work.

Take the time to create a social-media policy that works for your students and staff—you’ll thank us later.

Keeping up with the constant changes in social media may seem impossible. Even if you could remember the differences between pinning, snapping, tweeting and vining, you can’t possibly monitor every single post studio employees, students and parents make.

So what’s a busy studio owner to do? As burdensome as it may seem, the key is to take the time to create a social-media policy that protects your students and teachers from the worst of social media while still allowing for all the good things it has to offer. To help you create up-to-date and legally sound guidelines that fit your studio’s needs, DT spoke to three studio owners who have implemented successful policies.

Friends Without Benefits

Rejecting a friend request on Facebook or a follow request on Twitter can seem like a digital slap in the face—but it’s also something that Michelle Dawson encourages her staff to make a regular habit. “Our policy says that no staff member should be contacting any student under age 18 via social media,” says Dawson, who co-directs The Academy of Dance by Lori in Pittsburgh. “We ask them to direct their students to the studio’s Facebook page that everyone can friend.”

Dawson sets an example by not friending students or their parents on her personal Facebook page, even those she’s friendly with outside of the studio. “As close as I feel to these kids, I still have to remind myself that this is a professional relationship,” she says.

Sue Sampson-Dalena, owner of The Dance Studio of Fresno in California, has a similar policy, and for teachers who are reluctant, she says it’s helpful to compare the situation to high school, where students would never expect to be Facebook friends with their teachers. “I know some of my younger faculty think I’m old-fashioned, but there just has to be a line there,” she says. “If they step back and remember that we are educators just like a math teacher or school principal, they’ll realize it’s the right thing to do.”

One of the inherent problems with social media, however, is that it’s nearly impossible to keep tabs on, so it’s easy for staff (especially those with private accounts) to bend the rules. Even if you wanted to, employers are not legally able to fire employees based on whom they contact on social media, regardless of in-studio policy.

Staff members are more likely to follow the policy when they truly understand why it’s in place, and when their employer is flexible and open. Dawson says keeping an open dialogue makes teachers more willing to come to her when they have an issue with the policy. “When teachers approach us about specific situations, we’ll think about it,” she says. “For example, I have staff members who are Facebook friends with their young kid’s friends to monitor their own child. And I also have a teacher who’s good friends with some studio families, so she’s made a separate ‘teacher’ page for those parents who want to friend her, which is separate from her personal page.”

To Post or Not to Post

As far as what employees post on personal pages, the law, enforced by the National Labor Relations Board, says you may ask employees to be courteous and reflect your business in a positive light, but breaking these rules may not necessarily be grounds for lawful termination. Focus on helping your staff realize that they’re representing both your studio and themselves. And, of course, it helps to hire a staff that you trust to keep an open dialogue.

Sampson-Dalena worries more about what her students are posting, so she has her teams sign a code of ethics at the start of their season. “It says they will not post anything inappropriate, demeaning or provocative online, especially if they’re wearing Dance Studio of Fresno swag,” she says. “I’ve only had to call in a dancer once to ask if she was prepared for me to show her parents what she’d posted. It became a teaching moment about how the outside world, including future employers, will see her.”

Perhaps the biggest downside of social media comes when posts from students (or even the occasional parent) involve nasty comments, unflattering images or brutal private messages. Studio owners agree—a no-tolerance policy for bullying is absolutely essential. David Ahmad of Port Perry Dance Academy in Ontario, Canada, recalls an incident of improper social media use: “That child lost her solo and membership in a group routine for one year,” he says. He’s had no incidents since.

For Ahmad, students or staff posting video of studio choreography is another big no-no. “We make it clear that’s material owned by the studio,” he says. Studio owners may also want to remind students—and their smartphone-wielding parents—to ask permission of those being photographed or recorded before posting online. While not technically illegal, posting without permission can cause unnecessary upset. Dawson sets a privacy-keeping example by leaving students’ last names off any posts by the studio. DT

Rachel Zar is a frequent contributor to Dance Teacher.

Social-Media Cheat Sheet

You’re probably familiar with Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, but do you know the difference between a pin and a vine? Where can you find a subreddit or create a tumblelog? If all this social-media jargon has you confused, here are some of the hottest sites today—and what you should know about them.

1. Instagram This photo-sharing site allows users to create profiles and post images and videos that are either shared with approved followers or public and searchable. Hashtags (#), used to group similar content, are huge on Instagram—as are unfiltered and often inappropriate comments.

 

 

 

2. Snapchat: Users message, or snap, each other directly and put a time limit on how long their pictures or videos last after they’re opened. But even after the message disappears, know that the recipient may have a screen shot of it—so this is not a risk-free way of sending something private.

 

 

 

3. Vine: Users post six-second video clips, called vines. By default, these (and comments on others’ videos) are public but can be made private. Many of the public videos are inappropriate for young eyes.

 

 

 

4. Pinterest: Users create digital bulletin boards, organized by interest, where they post or pin their favorite content. It’s a great place to find dance images.

 

 

 

5. Tumblr: It’s a cross between a blog and Twitter. On custom-designed pages, or tumblelogs, users post text, photos, videos or audio clips. Posts on Tumblr are often reblogged—copied and shared to other tumble-logs—so even private posts can become public.

 

 

 

6. WhatsApp: WhatsApp allows users to send text or audio messages, videos or photos to each other with no message limits or fees (making it a great way to stay in touch when out of the country). WhatsApp is restricted to users 16 and older, although many younger teens find loopholes to join.

 

 

 

7. Reddit: Users submit links or text, which are voted up or down by other users. Highly ranked content appears on the front page. All posts are organized into categories, or subreddits. Reddit can be a fun way to find the latest news in a specific interest area or have your voice heard by like-minded users.

 

 

 

8. Yik Yak: Posts only show within a 10-mile radius, and since there are no profiles or followers, messages are anonymous, making it a possible haven for cyber-bullying. (Some schools have banned it.) —RZ

 

 

 

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How-To

Studio directors share viewing policies that work.

Viewing windows let young students watch older dancers in action. But parents constantly peering in can cause a distraction.

 

Crafting a class observation policy that makes students, teachers and parents happy is no easy feat. After all, shows like “Dance Moms” make it seem normal for parents to watch—and often interrupt—every class. But depending on your studio’s layout and your parents’ behavior, this is often infeasible. How can you keep parents abreast of students’ progress without distracting your dancers? Dance Teacher got the inside scoop from six studios with methods that work.

Watch all you want, but do not disturb

At Prestige Dance Studio in Federal Way, Washington, director Stephanie Cox has found more visibility is better. Parents are always welcome to watch class through viewing windows, plus, on three to four scheduled observation days, they can sit inside the classroom. Cox explains that the windows have mesh curtains in case of an extremely distracting family member, but that they’re still thin enough for parents to see through. “I like the curtains to be open, because the little kids love watching the big kids,” she adds. “They get to know the older dancers, and it gives them inspiration for when they’re in class.”

Kim Semmel, director of Dance With Kim in Lehighton, Pennsylvania, gives parents the option to see without being seen. She equips her studio with closed-circuit TVs in the waiting room in addition to viewing windows. “If little ones are distracted, their parents can step over to the monitors and watch there,” says Semmel, who focuses on keeping her students so busy that they don’t feel the need to look over at their parents in the window. “I like that parents can see what their child is doing in the classroom,” she says. “I want them to see the progress we’re making.”

Sneak a peek, within reason

Sometimes, giving parents permission to watch is enough to make them not need to. The Cypress Elite Dance Studio website states that, although parents are allowed to watch through viewing windows, teachers “encourage parents not to watch their child every week.” Owner Kimberley Davis says most parents at her Tomball, Texas, studio like to watch their kids at the beginning of the year, but that over time, they’d usually rather read or run errands. And, since she’s installed one-way glass in her viewing windows, she doesn’t worry about kids getting distracted during those first weeks when crowds of parents form. “The parents can see the dancers, but the dancers can’t see their parents,” she says. “As a mom myself, I like to be able to check in on my kid. These parents are paying me money, so they deserve to keep track of what their kids are doing if they want to.”

Michelle Bernard, director at Jill Listi Dance Studio in Lafayette, Louisiana, faces a traffic issue in her studio. Though she appreciates that parents want to watch their children, she says their four-studio space, which usually has four classes going on at once, just doesn’t hold that many people. So she makes class observations a carefully scheduled occasion. The school has developed a rotating system so that only one studio’s windows are open to parents for viewing each week. Teachers hand out schedules to parents at the beginning of the year, and Bernard posts them in the studio lobby and online, as well. “Logistically, if we have every student’s parent watching at the same time, it’s a nightmare, both in the parking lot and in the lobby,” she says. “We also feel that parents see more improvement if they’re not watching every week. It’s like watching a child grow. When you’re with them every day, you don’t notice it, but if you see them after a month, they look so much taller.”

The studio also uses one-way mirrors to lessen student distraction—although Bernard says it doesn’t stop some parents from trying to communicate with their kids. “We’ve had the occasional parent knock on the window to try to make their kids pay attention if they see that they’re distracted,” says Bernard. “Of course, that just distracts them more.” In these cases, it’s the individual teacher’s responsibility to take the parent aside and assure them that the teacher is the only authority figure needed in the room.

Closed-circuit TVs in the lobby mean zero distractions for little ones in the studio.

No parents allowed

Your studio parents may not be as bad as the “Dance Moms” crew, but that doesn’t mean you want them lingering, critiquing your teaching or distracting your dancers. That’s why some studio owners, like Dena Kay Botticelli, forbid parents from viewing almost entirely. At her DK Dance Studio in Webster, New York, studio doors for younger dancers are closed, unless a dancer is having a hard time transitioning to taking class independently. Parents are invited to watch twice a year. “We want the kids to develop independence, and we know they don’t act the same when Mom or Dad is watching,” she says. “I explain to parents that we don’t have them watch, because we want their kids to focus on the task at hand instead of focusing on what Mom’s doing.” Botticelli stresses that the most important step in getting parents to understand her policy is implementing it from the start of the year, so parents know what to expect.

Xpressions Dance Academy in Nampa, Idaho, also discourages parents from watching classes. Office manager Chantal Bleier says that scheduling “Watch Weeks” three times a year gets parents excited about the privilege instead of upset over the policy. “We make it a big deal. We have cookies in the lobby, and we really showcase what the kids have learned in the last two months,” Bleier says. “The parents love it, and the kids can’t wait for Mom, Dad, Grandma and Grandpa to come watch.”

Of course, telling a stubborn mom that she can’t do something can get you some pushback. But Bleier says she only hears concerns from the occasional nervous mother of a very young child who has never been left alone. To quell her fears, Xpressions will allow the mother to come back about 10 minutes before the end of class, once the child is already settled, and watch through the darkly tinted window on the studio door. “She’ll just be able to see a little bit, but it’s enough to see that her child is doing just fine,” Bleier says. “I think a lot of parents worry that their kid won’t participate in class if they’re not there, but actually the exact opposite happens, since they can focus 100 percent of their attention on learning.” DT

Rachel Zar is a frequent contributor to Dance Teacher.

 

Photo (top) courtesy of The Cypress Elite Dance Studio; courtesy of Kim Semmel

How-To

Collaboration is the name of the game at this year’s national conference.

 

This year at its annual conference held in Chicago, the National Dance Education Organization preaches collaboration inside and outside the classroom.

“The world of dance couldn’t exist and expand without collaborations,” says Helene Scheff, conference coordinator. “Each time choreographers incorporate a piece of music, that’s a collaboration. Each time dance teachers work with another department within a school system or use technology in the classroom, that’s collaboration. A little cooperation can make all the difference.”

Conference attendees are invited to tour Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s studios.

To make the most of what Chicago has to offer, NDEO has enlisted Susan Lee, founding director of the dance program in the theater department at Northwestern University, as chair of the site committee. Her role is to connect NDEO with the Windy City’s dance scene. “Chicago has a long legacy in dance—in jazz, tap and ballet,” she says. “There’s such a history here and a wide breadth of work that’s represented.”

“We’ve wanted to come to Chicago for a long time,” adds Scheff. “It’s a hub, and we’re determined to incorporate that local flavor.”

Organizations involved include: Giordano Dance Chicago, Jump Rhythm Jazz Project, New Trier High School and May I Have This Dance. Both the Joffrey Ballet and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago will host conference attendees for studio tours. And Hubbard Street is offering an additional workshop on its program for Parkinson’s disease patients. Choreographer Heidi Latsky will present several courses at the conference and will offer discounted tickets to her company’s Friday evening performance at Columbia College Chicago.

Other highlights among the conference’s more than 200 course offerings include a session with 96-year-old Ann Hutchinson Guest, who will share her process of reconstructing Afternoon of a Faun from Vaslav Nijinsky’s original notes. There will also be a screening of the Martha Hill documentary, Miss Hill: Making Dance Matter, and panels on subjects including teaching internationally and the role of men in dance.

The American Dance Therapy Association’s annual conference takes place at the same time as NDEO’s, and the two organizations will share an opening reception with a “Taste of Chicago” menu. If attendees elect in advance, they can also take ADTA classes.

The conference takes place November 5–9. DT

For more: ndeo.org

Rachel Zar is a frequent contributor to Dance Teacher.

 

Thinkstock (top); photo by Quinn Wharton, courtesy of Dance Magazine

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