The line to get into Galen Hooks' Night of Dance master class in New York City stretched far down 31st Street outside of Adelante Studios. Women and men, dressed in a variety of torn jeans, leggings, crop-tops and vibrant lipsticks, lined up for over an hour to learn from one of the commercial dance industry's living legends. By the end of the night, 300 people had experienced the four combinations that turned her choreography into an internet sensation.

Hooks, 31, has worked with more than 60 artists, including Janet Jackson, Britney Spears, Ne-Yo and Rihanna. She has successfully stepped into the roles of choreographer, director, actress and teacher. This year alone she's had four class videos go viral, with one reaching more than 6.3 million views on YouTube. She's even garnered the respect of New York City Ballet principal Tiler Peck, who made a guest appearance at this evening's event. It's not Hooks' resumé alone that attracted such a large crowd on this unusually warm night in October, but her genuine concern for the futures of young performers and her uncanny ability to successfully impart her hard-earned knowledge to them.

Joining the dancers clad in heals high enough to break necks, I ventured into the first class of Hooks' Night of Dance, eager to learn the choreography I'd been binge-watching for months. Here are my five biggest takeaways.


1. Class is not about the teacher.

When Hooks demonstrated "River" for the class, the entire room erupted with cheers and whoops. To the outside eye, this performance might have seemed like a moment of self-indulgence, but the dancers in the room knew she was actually giving them the opportunity to watch and learn. This is what a working professional looks like.

"Class is never about me," she says. "Some choreographers use class to promote their own career, but for me, it's all about the student. Every detail of class is for them. I want each of them to feel that they are cared about and looked after. I'm rooting for their success, and I am teaching them with the goal of helping them achieve their dreams."

2. Teach holistically.

According to Hooks, 80 percent of the dancers who take her classes can execute her choreography well enough to book a job. Looking around at the lineup of stellar performers, I had to agree. Nearly everyone has the details of the movement down. She says she is hoping to teach these students how to tap into artistry, personalization, musicality and individuality.

"The tiniest adjustment in a person's facial expression will change everything for them," she says. "Teaching them to think about these small details, as well as who they are performing for and the story they are telling, is what they need, to take their dancing to the next level. That is my teaching philosophy right now—to teach holistically."

New York City Ballet principal Tiler Peck came to observe Hooks' class. Photo by Haley Hilton

3. The way you give a correction is more important than the actual words you use.

"Tall girl with the long legs," Hooks calls out. "You're beautiful. I love what you are doing, but I'm going to give you a correction that 90 percent of the class needs to hear, so listen up everyone..." This is how Hooks begins most of her corrections. A positive sentiment that lets the students know she genuinely appreciates their effort, followed by a critique that will take their dancing to the next level.

"I don't have a pocket full of sound bites that I plan on giving to my students each class I teach," she says. "Because each class has different students with different needs, I customize my corrections to the people in the classroom once I get there. In the end, the way I communicate is what is most important. If I focus on encouraging my dancers and letting them know that I am invested in their success, it doesn't necessarily matter what I say to them. It will come out the right way, and I will help them improve."

Night of Dance included four of Hooks' most popular combos of the year, including "River," "Human," "Kiwi" and "Love on the Brain." Photo by Haley Hilton

4. Stop wasting time chasing virality—it can't be manufactured.

Despite the massive success of her four videos online, Hooks didn't choreograph them with the intent of going viral.

"If people knew what was needed to create viral videos, everyone would have a viral video," she says. "None of the components of these four pieces equal virality. They aren't set to particularly popular songs, and there is nothing gratuitously sexy about them. I have no idea what caught the eye of the world."

Instead of worrying about digital success, Hooks says she choreographs exclusively to the needs of the students who will be in the classroom with her. She plays with stillness, subtlety and weight changes, as she strives to challenge whoever will take her class that day.

Dancers prepare for Hooks' class. Photo by Haley Hilton

5. Provide opportunities for your dancers to learn from working professionals.

While Hooks recognizes all the good that studio owners and teachers are doing, she says there is one thing they could do to better prepare their dancers for professional careers.

"I think it's important that teachers bring in more working professionals to teach their students how to perform in a commercial environment," she says. "Bring in as many people as you know who have been through the fire, people who know what it's like to dance off of Janet Jackson's right shoulder. Don't just do generalized mock auditions. Actually bring in a dancer who books all the time, and let the students ask them, "Why do you think you book all the time?"

Dancers line up for Night of Dance outside of Adelante Studios. Photo by Haley Hilton

Hooks' class was amazing. She teaches in a way that elevates the morale and performance of her students. She's an artist who has experienced and excelled at every element of this industry. It was a pleasure to be a part of this exciting night.

Check out the recap video of the evening.👇

Dance Teachers Trending
Photo by Mitchell Button, courtesy of the artist

Dusty Button prefers music with a range. "There needs to be a beginning, a climax and a strong ending. Like a movie," she says. The award-winning dancer, who joined American Ballet Theatre's second company, ABT II, at 18, has always been drawn to lyric-free tracks filled with dynamic phrasing, rhythms and composition. "Whether it's the violin, piano or cello, instrumental music gives me more inspiration. I want the dancers and the audience to feel something new," she adds.

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Success with Just for Kix
Courtesy Just for Kix

As a teacher or studio owner, customer service is a major part of the job. It's easy to dread the difficult sides of it, like being questioned or criticized by an unhappy parent. "In the early years, parent issues could have been the one thing that got me to give up teaching," says Cindy Clough, executive director of Just For Kix and a teacher and studio owner with over 43 years of experience. "Hang in there—it does get easier."

We asked Clough her top tips for dealing with difficult parents:

Keep reading... Show less
Site Network

When the news broke that Prince George, currently third in line for the British throne, would be continuing ballet classes as part of his school curriculum this year, we were as excited as anyone. (OK, maybe more excited.)

This was not, it seems, a sentiment shared by "Good Morning America" host Lara Spencer.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Dean College
Amanda Donahue, ATC, working with a student in her clinic in the Palladino School of Dance at Dean College. Courtesy Dean College

The Joan Phelps Palladino School of Dance at Dean College is one of just 10 college programs in the U.S. with a full-time athletic trainer devoted solely to its dancers. But what makes the school even more unique is that certified athletic trainer Amanda Donahue isn't just available to the students for appointments and backstage coverage—she's in the studio with them and collaborating with dance faculty to prevent injuries and build stronger dancers.

"Gone are the days when people would say, 'Don't go to the gym, you'll bulk up,'" says Kristina Berger, who teaches Horton and Hawkins technique as an assistant professor of dance. "We understand now that cross-training is actually vital, and how we've embraced that at Dean is extremely rare. For one thing, we're not sharing an athletic trainer with the football players, who require a totally different skillset." For another, she says, the faculty and Donahue are focused on giving students tools to prolong their careers.

After six years of this approach, here are the benefits they've seen:

Keep reading... Show less
To Share With Students
Photo via Claudia Dean World on YouTube

Most parents start off pretty clueless when it comes to doing their dancer's hair. If you don't want your students coming in with elastic-wrapped bird's nests on their heads, you may want to give them some guidance. But who has time to teach each individual parent how to do their child's hair? Not you! So, we have a solution: YouTube hair tutorials.

These three classical hairdo vids are exactly what your dancers need to look fabulous and ready to work every time they step in your studio.

Enjoy!

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Alternative Balance
Courtesy Alternative Balance

As a dance teacher, you know more than anyone that things can go wrong—students blank on choreography onstage, costumes don't fit and dancers quit the competition team unexpectedly. Why not apply that same mindset to your status as an independent contractor at a studio or as a studio owner?

Insurance is there to give you peace of mind, even when the unexpected happens. (Especially since attorney fees can be expensive, even when you've done nothing wrong as a teacher.) Taking a preemptive approach to your career—insuring yourself—can save you money, time and stress in the long run.

We talked to expert Miriam Ball of Alternative Balance Professional Group about five scenarios in which having insurance would be key.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
Roshe (center) teaching at Steps on Broadway in New York City. Photo by Jacob Hiss, courtesy of Roshe

Although Debbie Roshe's class doesn't demand perfect technique or mastering complicated tricks, her intricate musicality is what really challenges students. "Holding weird counts to obscure music is harder," she says of her Fosse-influenced jazz style, "but it's more interesting."

Keep reading... Show less
To Share With Students
Via @madisongoodman_ on Instagram

Nationals season is behind us, but we just aren't quite over it yet. We've been thinking a lot about the freakishly talented winners of these competitions, and want to know a bit more about the people who got them to where they are. So, we asked three current national title holders to tell us the most powerful piece of advice their dance teacher ever gave them. What they have to say will melt your heart.

Way to go, dance teachers! Your'e doing amazing things for the rising generation!

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Turn It Up Dance Challenge
Courtesy Turn It Up

With back-to-back classes, early-morning stage calls and remembering to pack countless costume accessories, competition and convention weekends can feel like a whirlwind for even the most seasoned of studios. Take the advice of Turn It Up Dance Challenge master teachers Alex Wong and Maud Arnold and president Melissa Burns on how to make the experience feel meaningful and successful for your dancers:

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
Getty Images

Enrollment is an issue that plagues brand-new and veteran studio owners alike. Without a steady stream of revenue from new students coming through your doors, your studio won't survive—no matter how crisp your dancers' technique is or how well-produced your recitals are.

Enrollment—in biz speak, customer acquisition and retention—depends on your business' investment in marketing. How effectively you get the word out about your studio will directly influence the number of people who register. Successful businesses typically use certain tried-and-true marketing strategies to recruit and retain clients or customers. These four studio owners' tricks for kicking enrollment into high gear are modeled after classic marketing techniques.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by The Studio Director

As a studio owner, you're probably pretty used to juggling. Running a business is demanding, with new questions and challenges pulling your attention in a million different directions each day.

But there's a solution that could be saving you time and money (and sanity!). Studio management systems are easy-to-use software programs designed for the particular needs of studio owners, offering tools like billing, enrollment, inventory and emails, all in one place. The right studio management system can help you handle the day-to-day tasks that bog you down as a business owner, leaving you more time for the most important work—like connecting with students and planning creative curriculums for them. Plus, these systems can keep you from spending extra money on hiring multiple specialists or using multiple platforms to meet your administrative needs.

So how do you make sure you're choosing a studio management system that offers the same quality that your studio does? We talked to The Studio Director—whose studio management system provides a whole host of streamlined features—about the must-haves for any system, and the bonuses that make an excellent product stand out:

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox