Since July is pretty much considered summer-intensive season all over the country, it would seem a little odd, maybe even a little disloyal, to write about something other than dance this month.

And not only because I dance. Dance studios provide something everyone wants: confidence. Underneath all the classes, costumes, and rehearsals, that's what a studio is, basically. A place to practice confidence.

Though for some of us, it's less of a place and more of a temple.


And I thought I knew what I wanted to say about dance before I sat down, it was only once I began that I could see who, and not what, lies at the heart of my story: Lisa.

Lisa always did know how to get me talking.

I remember the day Lisa found her way to my beginning adult class. After it was over, she looked at me and said, "You don't recognize me do you?"

I looked at her more closely, studied her eyes, and there she was: the Lisa I knew in college! I knew no one at our private girls' college in Boston then and Lisa felt like a safety net, a way to identify with the school and the city and with myself within both. But time passed and we lost track of each other. Neither of us bailed, nothing like that. But we, being young, accepted the truth of friendship for what it was, impermanent. We never told each other we were sorry, we just moved on. Some of us to Facebook comings and goings. Some of us privately. All of us eager to get to our futures pounding at the door.

"I figure I can talk about losing weight all I want, but maybe it's time to actually do something about it," Lisa said. "But I was afraid to come to your class. Because, well, look at me."

"You just need to get back in shape, it won't take long," I said.

"I don't know," she rolled her eyes. "You have the quintessential dancer body and poise. I hate you."

That's when I knew we'd be friends again.

My next thought was how no one had ever called me a quintessential anything before. And that I must be doing a pretty good job at hiding all of my quintessential imperfections and insecurities.

I did sneak a sidelong glance of her body, and something I hadn't seen in class came into focus, a dancer's body, rusty, yes, but visible beneath the Lycra. I imagined her concentration narrowing before executing, absolutely killing, a pirouette. I wanted to say as much. But I decided to wait a few classes, see if she stuck it out.

Wait! My insides protested. Why hold back? My mother was skimpy with compliments. If someone gave me one she'd say something like, "that's going to swell her head to the size of a watermelon."

But I know how one sincere compliment can do wonders for a student's self-confidence.

Lisa looked down at her legs and frowned. "I don't think wearing black hides the pounds as much as people think."

"Do you mind if I ask you something? Did you keep dancing after college?"

"How can you tell? I mean, by the looks of me now."

"I can see it, it's there."

She scooted in a little closer, "I took ballet for nine years before I became a veterinarian."

I pictured her in her a white scrubs top and matching pants, hair pulled back in a ponytail, stethoscope around her neck, a few pounds plumper than she liked in her thirties and then, over time, the pounds adding up because, after a ten hour work day, there is no time left to take class. I instantly feel sympathetic. I know that struggle. I remember those months, then years, of writing under media deadlines, as one of those stages of my life when I was trying to accomplish so much. I'd arrive at the studio dog-tired after nearly talking myself out of class. And I remembered how I had once fallen asleep in the dressing room.

The other students had gathered near me to watch. "Is she asleep?" said the one closest beside me. And I realized, yes, yes I am asleep! And it wasn't long after that that I quit writing journalism. I thought there must be something wrong with me if I wanted out of my mental space so badly I had to fall asleep to find peace, like a soldier in the trenches of war, and how my poet friend said, "well, of course, you want out of that world, you're an artist." And how, after that, I began to know and trust myself in a way I hadn't before. I learned about the need to take good care of my inner life. But I can honestly say now that it could have gone the other way. The exhausted side might have won out if my mantra hadn't been "energy begets energy." The first time I heard the saying was from my old friend Marcelle. She was talking herself into going for a bike ride after a long day of single-parenting and working as a masseuse. After that, I added on to the saying: "Energy begets energy, Mary Lou, it's all up to you."

"I knew it!" I said.

"But I've gained, like, a hundred pounds since then. It's going to be an upward battle," said Lisa.

"It's a battle you can win."

She stood up, stretched her arms over her head, and I noticed that she'd appeared taller to me than she really was. Maybe because she is one of those people who always make you feel like only your best, most sincere, self will do.

I thought how her work had become helping animals and mine helping people to dance, and how we both must have learned at a young age how much easier getting through life would be if we tried to make things better for others along the way.

She didn't say anything for a moment. I didn't either.

But we were both clearly, forwardly, openly there.

The Conversation
Dance Teachers Trending
Photo courtesy of Hightower

The beloved "So You Think You Can Dance" alum and former Emmy-nominated "Dancing with the Stars" pro Chelsie Hightower discovered her passion for ballroom at a young age. She showed a natural ability for the Latin style, but she mastered the necessary versatility by studying jazz, ballet and other forms of dance. "Every style of dance builds on each other," she says, "and the more music you're exposed to, the more your rhythm and coordination is built."

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

Running a dance studio is a feat in itself. But adding a competition team into the mix brings a whole new set of challenges. Not only are you focusing on giving your dancers the best training possible, but you're navigating the fast-paced competition and convention circuit. Winning is one goal, but you also want to create an environment that's fun, educational and inspiring for young artists. We asked Cindy Clough, executive director of Just For Kix and a studio owner with over 40 years of experience, for her advice on building a healthy dance team culture:

Keep reading... Show less
Just for fun
Via Instagram

Happy Father's Day to all of the dance dads in the world! Whether you're professional dancers, dance teachers, dance directors or simply just dance supporters, you are a key ingredient to what makes the dance world such a happy, thriving place, and we love you!

To celebrate, here are our four favorite Instagram dance dads. Prepare to say "Awwwwwwwweeeeeee!!!!!!"

You're welcome!

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Insure Fitness
AdobeStock, Courtesy Insure Fitness Group

As a teacher at a studio, you've more than likely developed long-lasting relationships with some of your students and parents. The idea that you could be sued by one of them might seem impossible to imagine, but Insure Fitness Group's Gianna Michalsen warns against relaxing into that mindset. "People say, 'Why do I need insurance? I've been working with these people for 10 years—we're friends,'" she says. "But no one ever takes into account how bad an injury can be. Despite how good your relationship is, people will sue you because of the toll an injury takes on their life."

You'll benefit most from an insurance policy that caters to the specifics of teaching dance at one or several studios. Here's what to look for:

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
Getty Images

If you're a studio owner, the thought of raising your rates most likely makes you cringe. Despite ever-increasing overhead expenses you can't avoid—rent, salaries, insurance—you're probably wary of alienating your customers, losing students or inviting confrontation if you increase the price of your tuition or registration and recital fees. DT spoke with three veteran studio owners who suggest it's time to get past that. Here's how to give your business the revenue boost it needs and the value justification it (and you) deserve.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by World Class Vacations
David Galindo Photography

New York City is a dream destination for many dancers. However aspiring Broadway stars don't have to wait until they're pros to experience all the city has to offer. With Dance the World Broadway, students can get a taste of the Big Apple—plus hone their dance skills and make lasting memories.

Here's why Dance the World Broadway is the best way for students to experience NYC:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
Margie Gillis (left); photo by Kyle Froman

Margie Gillis dances the human experience. Undulating naked in a field of billowing grass in Lessons from Nature 4, or whirling in a sweep of lilac fabric in her signature work Slipstream, her movement is free of flashy technique and tricks, but driven and defined by emotion. "There's a central philosophy in my work about what the experience of being human is," says Gillis, whose movement style is an alchemy of Isadora Duncan's uninhibited self-expression and Paul Taylor's musicality, blended with elements of dance theater into something utterly unique and immediately accessible. "I want an authenticity," she says. "I want to touch my audiences profoundly and deeply."

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Getty Images

Teaching arabesque can be a challenge for educators and students alike. Differences in body types, flexibility and strength can leave dancers feeling dejected about the possibility of improving this essential position.

To help each of us in our quest for establishing beautiful arabesques in our students without bringing them to tears, we caught up with University of Utah ballet teacher Jennie Creer-King. After her professional career dancing with Ballet West and Oregon Ballet Theater and her years of teaching at the studio and college levels, she's become a bit of an arabesque expert.

Here she shares five important tips for increasing the height of your students' arabesques.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Photo by Jennifer Kleinman, courtesy of Danell Hathaway

It's high school dance concert season, which means a lot of you K–12 teachers are likely feeling a bit overwhelmed. The long nights of editing music, rounding up costumes and printing programs are upon you, and we salute you. You do great work, and if you just hang on a little while longer, you'll be able to bathe in the applause that comes after the final Saturday night curtain.

To give you a bit of inspiration for your upcoming performances, we talked with Olympus High School dance teacher Danell Hathaway, who just wrapped her school's latest dance company concert. The Salt Lake City–based K–12 teacher shares her six pieces of advice for knocking your show out of the park.

Keep reading... Show less
Getty Images

Q: I'm looking to create some summer rituals and traditions at my studio. What are some of the things you do?

A: Creating fun and engaging moments for your students, staff and families can have a positive impact on your studio culture. Whether it's a big event or a small gesture, we've found that traditions build connection, boost morale and create strong bonds. I reached out to a variety of studio owners to gather some ideas for you to try this summer. Here's what they had to say.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Sam Williams and Jaxon Willard after competition at RADIX. Photo courtesy of Williams

Self-choreographed solos are becoming increasingly popular on the competition circuit these days, leading dance teachers to incorporate more creative mentoring into their rehearsal and class schedules. In this new world of developing both technical training and choreographic prowess, finding the right balance of assisting without totally hijacking a student's choreographic process can be difficult.

To help, we caught up with a teacher who's already braved these waters by assisting "World of Dance" phenom Jaxon Willard with his viral audition solos. Center Stage Performing Arts Studio company director Sam Williams from Orem, Utah, shares her sage wisdom below.

Check it out!

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
Getty Images

Dance studios are run by creative people with busy schedules, who have a love-hate relationship with props and sequins. The results of all this glitter and glam? General mass chaos in every drawer, costume closet and prop corner of the studio. Let's be honest, not many dance teachers are particularly known for their tidiness. The ability to get 21 dancers to spot in total synchronization? Absolutely! The stamina to run 10 solos, 5 group numbers, 2 ballet classes and 1 jazz class in one day? Of course! The emotional maturity to navigate a minefield of angry parents and hormonal teenagers? You know it!

Keeping the studio tidy? Well...that's another story.

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox