Teaching Tips

3 Tips for Staying Organized That All Dance Teachers Will Love

Let's be honest here, people. Dance teachers aren't necessarily known for having stellar organization skills. Don't get us wrong—you're super people who rule the world, but some details can get a little lost or muddy when you're drowning in classes, competitions, costumes and dance moms.

We thought we'd help you out with three tips for staying organized that are sure to free up the clutter and save your life this year.


1. Keep a planner

Say it with me, people: PLANNER!!!!!!

Whether you prefer an online calendar or a paper planner, you need a place to write down your schedule and obligations. Write down every private lesson, extra rehearsal and competition. Once you have your deadlines and main events in place, you can schedule in any preparation you need to do for said event. For example, if you have a competition in a month, you can schedule time to make sequin changes to costumes, or add an extra rehearsal to clean up that one messy formation. If you plan ahead, you will have much less last-minute stress and feel confident about what you can and cannot take on each month.

2. Set alerts for yourself

Sometimes you'll forget to check your calendar to see what's happening, and totally forget to do that VERY important thing you were supposed to do. To avoid the drama, set alerts in your phone for a half hour before you have something important to do, so you won't forget to do it. Trust us, this one is a life-saver.

3. Color coordinate your calendar/e-mail inbox

We know that dance teachers aren't just dance teachers. You each have a million different things going on in and outside of the studio that can get hard to manage. To help, we recommend you color coordinate elements of your life, whether in your calendar or e-mail. For example, you could make private lessons red, regular class schedules blue, parent obligations pink, staff meetings orange, free time purple, etc. Visualizing it all in color can help you compartmentalize and attack tasks with more peace of mind. (For color coordinating fierceness, look to Mark Kanemura for advice 😘. )

Nan Melville, courtesy Genn

Not so long ago, it seemed that ballet dancers were always encouraged to pull up away from the floor. Ideas evolved, and more recently it has become common to hear teachers saying "Push down to go up," and variations on that concept.

Charla Genn, a New York City–based coach and dance rehabilitation specialist who teaches company class for Dance Theatre of Harlem, American Ballet Theatre and Ballet Hispánico, says that this causes its own problems.

"Often when we tell dancers to go down, they physically push down, or think they have to plié more," she says. These are misconceptions that keep dancers from, among other things, jumping to their full potential.

To help dancers learn to efficiently use what she calls "Mother Marley," Genn has developed these clever techniques and teaching tools.

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"For three days I would experience relief from the fever—then, boom—it would come back worse than before," Alexis says. "I would go into a room and not know why I was there." Despite the remission of some symptoms, the fatigue and other debilitating side effects have endured to this day. Alexis is part of a tens-of-thousands-member club nobody wants to be part of—she is a COVID-19 long-hauler.

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When the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May catalyzed nationwide protests against systemic racism, the tap community resumed longstanding conversations about teaching a Black art form in the era of Black Lives Matter. As these dialogues unfolded on social media, veteran Dorrance Dance member Karida Griffith commented infrequently, finding it difficult to participate in a meaningful way.

"I had a hard time watching people have these conversations without historical context and knowledge," says Griffith, who now resides in her hometown of Portland, Oregon, after many years in New York City. "It was clear that there was so much information missing."

For example, she observed people discussing tap while demonstrating ignorance about Black culture. Or, posts that tried to impose upon tap the history or aesthetics of European dance forms.

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