Between choreography, costuming and scheduling, you’ve got more than enough to stress you out during the competition and convention season. The last thing you need to worry about is your dancers—and their families—adding unnecessary pressure. Dance Teacher asked five studio owners to share their rules and expectations for dancers and parents, and how they keep everyone in line.

 

“I host a parent meeting prior to auditions and convey my expectations regarding commitment, behavior, fees, costumes, etc. I also try to explain my mindset about casting. There is always someone who is unhappy with my decisions after auditions, and it comes in handy if I can reference what I talked about in the meeting. Dancers and parents sign a code of conduct, and parents also sign a financial agreement covering fees and what happens if they quit or fail to follow through with their payments.” —Sue Sampson, The Dance Studio of Fresno, Fresno, California

 

“During the dress rehearsal before our first competition of the year, we sit down with all the parents and dancers. Our main focus is teaching the dancers respect—we want them to be respectful of the other studios and of the competition. They are told to sit together at awards wearing our studio sweatshirts, clap for everyone and behave onstage and backstage. It’s important that they’re kind and supportive so the competition world is a nice place to be, instead of a competitive one.” —Lisa Bunker, Vision Dance and Learning Center, Herriman, Utah

 

“Each year the dancers write down their goals, and we put them all in our ‘good luck charm.’ Before every performance, each dancer in the routine touches the charm before going onstage. At Nationals, we open the charm to see who achieved their goals. Of course I have my own goals for them and for my choreography, but it’s so important that they accomplish their own personal goals.” —Heather Soccio, Dance Arts Academy, Boonton, New Jersey

 

“We ask our dancers to sign a ‘three strikes’ contract. By being part of the Spotlight team, they are held to the highest standards when it comes to their behavior in and out of the studio. Dancers must respect their bodies—a lot of kids are peer-pressured into making bad decisions, and this contract gives them one more reason to be aware of their behavior. I want them to make the best decisions possible when it comes to their lives. —Liz Schmidt, Spotlight Dance Works, Chesterfield, Michigan

 

“Every year starts with a mandatory parent meeting. We’re very upfront about the rules. For example, for every routine, we have understudies who are ready to step in as needed. All of our dancers are required to attend every competition throughout the year. But if they can’t be there for some reason, that dancer still has to pay the entry fee for the routine. The understudy then steps in and gets to perform for free. —Sam Renzetti, Xtreme Dance Center, Naperville, Illinois

 

Photo: Sam Renzetti's Xtreme Dance Force (by 2sisphotos.com, courtesy of Xtreme Dance Force)

In Motion's senior company dancers and Candice after a showcase performance in Bermuda, (2016). Photo courtesy of Culmer-Smith

When I was 23, an e-mail circulated among my former college dance classmates at Towson University, regarding a teaching position as the jazz director at the In Motion School of Dance studio in Bermuda. I applied, and after a few e-mails, I got offered the job.

Four weeks later, I packed up my tiny little car in Denver, where I was a dancer for the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble, and drove across the country to my hometown in Maryland, before flying out for my new life in Bermuda.

Looking back now, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I didn't have time to think through how I should prepare and what I needed to do to officially apply for a work permit. I was mostly concerned with how I was going to pack all my clothes and belongings into two suitcases. If I could go back, I wish I would've had a more specific guide to what teaching in another country entailed.

In an effort to share my experience, here's what I wish I would've known before I left and what I learned over my 10 years living and working as a dance teacher abroad.

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At age 12, doctors advised Paige Fraser to stop dancing and have surgery. Instead, she chose physical therapy and team of chiropractors and massage specialists to help work through her condition. She has just begun her 5th season with Visceral Dance, based in Chicago.

Scoliosis is a condition in which the spine, when viewed from the back, has one or more curves. The vertebrae are abnormally rotated, which creates twisting and more prominent visibility of the rib cage on one side, and it is most commonly seen in adolescents ages 10 and older. Most cases cannot be reversed, but they can be controlled, for example dancer Paige Fraser who despite suffering from severe scoliosis, has thrived as a dancer. Dance teachers can play an essential role in spotting the condition at an early stage.

“Teachers can help to notice that scoliosis is there in the first place," says Sophia Fatouros, a New York City–based dance teacher and and former professional ballet dancer who has struggled with scoliosis since she was 12. “Parents do not always see their children in tight clothes, like leotards."

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Dancer Health
Sebastian Grubb (right) runs Sebastian's Functional Fitness in San Francisco. Photo courtesy of Grubb

From improved aerobic capacity to better reactivity, cross-training can to do wonders for dancers' health and performance. But with the abundance of exercise programs available, how do you get your dancers on the right routine?

Sebastian Grubb, a San Francisco–based fitness trainer and professional dancer, shares three questions to ask as you consider different cross-training options.

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Videos

When choreographer Cristian Faxola learned he had two days to create, develop and shoot a music video as an audition to choreograph for The Squared Division production house, he and his team embraced the challenge.

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Dancer Health
Thinkstock

I have heard you say that tight hamstrings prevent full extension of the knees and that you prefer hamstring stretches in a standing position, rather than on the floor. Can you explain why?

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Teachers & Role Models
Photo by Tim Trumble, courtesy of Arizona State University

Many parents discourage their teenagers from majoring in dance because of fear that their child will become a struggling artist in an unforgiving city, only to end their career in injury. But a dance degree can lead to other corners of the profession, such as marketing, physical therapy and arts administration. "Parents always say their children need something to fall back on," says Daniel Lewis, former dean of the dance division at New World School of the Arts. "They only see the stage time, applause and flowers. But there's choreographing, teaching, PR—the careers are endless."

Others are more concerned with disappointment. "Your daughter doesn't have to be a major ballerina with ABT to be successful," says Lewis. "If she wants to be a dancer, she'll find the work. There's a certain amount of training you have to achieve before you even get accepted into a good college, so if you have the talent, and the drive, you can make it."

As mentors, teachers can be monumentally influential on students' college decision processes. Read on to hear from three dance majors who feel grateful they chose this path—and share their words with your students!

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Teachers & Role Models
To show her support for local studios, Kelly Berick requires all her students to be enrolled in an after-school program. Photo by Stephanie Csejtey, courtesy of Akron School of the Arts

When Kelly Berick began teaching high school students at Ohio's Firestone Community Learning Center within Akron Public Schools 21 years ago, she was newly engaged, newly licensed to teach K–12 dance and thrilled to land what she considered the perfect job. Her enthusiasm quickly soured, however, when after two weeks of teaching she called a local studio to introduce herself. "The owner told me her students didn't like me, didn't like what I was doing and were going to quit my program," she says. Her class of seven became a class of three.

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