Teaching Tips

A Simple Checklist to Complete, Before You Take on Yet Another Teaching Gig

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It's a common scenario in dance. You currently have three part-time teaching gigs around town, plus rehearse a few days a week. You might even nanny, house sit and dog-walk here and there to bring in a little more income.

Another teaching opportunity just came your way this week—a pre-ballet class just added at the local studio or the college in town needs an intermediate modern teacher while the professor is on sabbatical. If you can resist saying an immediate "Yes!"—take 24 to 48 hours to weigh the pros and cons before committing to yet another thing right now. It truly is about time vs. money.


Short-term and long-term goals

How does this gig support your goals? If a short-term goal is simply trying to make $50 or $150 more a month, this opportunity might be just right for right now. If a longer-term goal might be an aspiration to teach more regularly at this particular studio, saying yes now might lead to more steady and robust work in the future.

Gut check

What excites you about the job? What are some immediate hesitations?

Pay

Just to be clear—is the figure the director quoted you an hourly rate or per class rate? (Don't get confused!) $50 per class for a 90-minute beginning teen ballet class is very different than $50/hour for this class. Will you be an independent contractor or on payroll? Do you need to submit an invoice? How often will you be paid? Do you need to regularly attend staff meetings, and what is the payment for those?

Prep time and repeating class plans

This is a big component to consider! If you would be teaching a beginning adult tap class, but you don't teach this anywhere else right now, how much more prep work will be necessary each week? Or are you saying yes to a class that you already teach somewhere else right now? Plus, in your estimation, how many times will you repeat the same lesson plan before preparing a new one?

Commute time

Another detail that can sneak up on you—the amount of time to get to and from this new job. By adding this new gig, how much more time will you be in the car each week, or paying for public transit?

Performances or open studios

Is there a final performance at the end of the semester or a week of open classes? Looking at your calendar, are you free those dates?

Music

You might currently be a teaching artist who loves streaming from Spotify. You have not purchased individual songs in more than two years. At this new site, can you stream? What are the Wi-Fi capabilities, and what is the stereo system?

Space to prep

Will the new gig offer you studio space free of charge to prepare? Don't assume that it is free, or readily available!

Perks

Sometimes very part-time teachers do not qualify, but it is always worth asking. Do you get free or reduced classes, rehearsal space or performance tickets?

Online research

Spend 15–30 minutes online on the potential employer's site and also searching online for reviews and articles about the program. What do you glean are the priorities and values of the program? Who else teaches there?

Talking it through with a colleague or mentor

A lifelong skill is practicing being in dialogue with colleagues and mentors about career opportunities, goals, sustainable teaching schedules and fair wages. Time to send your colleague a text or Facebook message right away!

Best wishes as you consider this new gig, and congrats about the new opportunities and new possibilities ahead!


News
Courtesy Russell

Gregg Russell, an Emmy-nominated choreographer known for his passionate and energetic teaching, passed away unexpectedly on Sunday, November 22, at the age of 48.

While perhaps most revered as a master tap instructor and performer, Russell also frequently taught hip-hop and musical theater classes, showcasing a versatility that secured him a successful career onstage and in film and television, both nationally and abroad.


His resumé reads like an encyclopedia of popular culture. Russell worked with celebrities such as Bette Midler and Gene Kelly; coached pop icon Michael Jackson and Family Guy creator Seth McFarlane; danced in the classic films Clueless and Newsies; performed on "Dancing with the Stars" and the Latin Grammy Awards; choreographed for Sprite and Carvel Ice Cream; appeared with music icons Reba McEntire and Jason Mraz; and graced stages from coast to coast, including Los Angeles' House of Blues and New York City's Madison Square Garden.

But it was as an educator that Russell arguably found his calling. His infectious humor, welcoming aura and inspirational pedagogy made him a favorite at studios, conventions and festivals across the U.S. and in such countries as Australia, France, Honduras and Guatemala. Even students with a predilection for classical styles who weren't always enthused about studying a percussive form would leave Russell's classes grinning from ear to ear.

"Gregg understood from a young age how to teach tap and hip hop with innovation, energy and confidence," says longtime dance educator and producer Rhee Gold, who frequently hired Russell for conferences and workshops. "He gave so much in every class. There was nothing I ever did that I didn't think Gregg would be perfect for."

Growing up in Wooster, Ohio, Russell was an avid tap dancer and long-distance runner who eventually told his mother, a dance teacher, that he wanted to exclusively pursue dance. She introduced him to master teachers Judy Ann Bassing, Debbi Dee and Henry LeTang, whom he credited as his three greatest influences.

"I was instantly smitten, though competitive with him," says longtime friend and fellow choreographer Shea Sullivan, a protégé of LeTang. "Over the years we developed a mutual respect and admiration for each other. He touched so many lives. This is a great loss."

After graduating from Wooster High School, Russell was a scholarship student at Edge Performing Arts Center in Los Angeles, where he lived for many years. He founded a company, Tap Sounds Underground, taught at California Dance Theatre and even returned to Edge as an instructor, all while maintaining a busy travel schedule.

A beloved member of the tap community, Russell not only spoke highly of his contemporaries, but earned his place among them as a celebrated performing artist and teacher. With friend Ryan Lohoff, with whom he appeared on CBS's "Live to Dance," he co-directed Tap Into The Network, a touring tap intensive founded in 2008.

"His humor, giant smile and energy in his eyes are the things I will remember most," says Lohoff. "He inspired audiences and multiple generations of dancers. I am grateful for our time together."

Russell was on the faculty of numerous dance conventions, such as Co. Dance and, more recently, Artists Simply Human. He was known as a "teacher's teacher," having discovered at the young age of 18 that he enjoyed passing on his knowledge to other dance educators. He wrote tap teaching tips for Dance Studio Life magazine and led classes for fellow instructors whenever he was on tour.

In 2018, he opened a dance studio, 3D Dance, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where he had been living most recently.

Russell leaves behind a wife, Tessa, and a 5-year-old daughter, Lucy.


"His success was his family and his daughter," says Gold. "They changed his entire being. He was a happy man."

GoFundMe campaigns to support Russell's family can be found here and here.

Teaching Tips
@jayplayimagery, courtesy Blackstone

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Betty Jones in The Moor's Pavane, shot for Dance Magazine's "Dancers You Should Know" series in 1955. Zachary Freyman, Courtesy Jacob's Pillow

An anchor of the Humphrey-Limón legacy for more than 70 years, Betty Jones died at her home in Honolulu on November 17, 2020. She remained active well into her 90s, most recently leading a New York workshop with her husband and partner, Fritz Ludin, in October 2019.

Betty May Jones was born on June 11, 1926 in Meadville, Pennsylvania, and moved with her family to the Albany, New York, area, where she began taking dance classes. Just after she turned 15 in 1941, she began serious ballet study at Jacob's Pillow, which was under the direction of Anton Dolin and Alicia Markova for the season. Over the next three summers as a scholarship student, Jones expanded her range and became an integral part of Jacob's Pillow. Among her duties was working in the kitchen, where her speedy efficiency earned her the nickname of "Lightning."

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