Whether you grew up dancing with the same teacher or you bounced around from class to class until it finally clicked, most dancers can agree that their home studio will always hold a special place in their hearts. Even if you didn't go on to dance professionally, have you ever considered going back?
Here are four ways dancers at any level can give back to their home studio long after they've performed at their final recital.
Dance It Out
It's natural for every dancer to toy with the idea of dancing professionally at some point. So when someone from your studio "makes it" and comes in to guest teach, it becomes a motivating and memorable experience for the current students enrolled.
"I do have alumni come back and teach master classes or guest teach. Jason Glover, who is on tour with Pink, has come back," says Sue Sampson-Dalena, owner of The Dance Studio of Fresno. "There's something about having professional dancers telling my students that the lessons I've taught them were helpful to their careers. Our alumni guest teachers have a way of getting through to them."
Molly Bierce, who's currently an executive marketing assistant, found a void to fill at her home dance school. While at the University of Massachusetts, she joined the dance team, but this was not a style of dance offered at her home studio. She remedied the problem by having a few members of her college dance team travel back to her home studio, West Side Dance Center in Randolph, New Jersey, to host workshops on the basics of college dance teams and using pom-poms.
"We realized that most dance studios don't teach anything about dance teams and only focus on the traditional types of classes, like jazz and ballet, so we knew nothing when we started doing it in college," says Bierce. "We really wanted to help fill in those gaps to ease that transition to college."
Talk It Out
When you've left your home studio and entered the real world sometimes, all you have is an hour to give. Columbia City Ballet dancer Ashley Concannon participated in the "Power Hour Talk" at her home studio, Princeton Dance and Theater Studio in Plainsboro, NJ. Concannon and another dancer spent an hour addressing concerns on how students can prepare for being in a dance company.
"PDT will always be home to me. I know how confusing it can be wondering how to make it to a company and what it's like to dance for a company, so it was nice to give current students some guidance," says Concannon.
Capture the Moments
In addition to giving helpful talks, Concannon used her photography skills to take memorable dance photos of the dancers at her home studio. "Whenever I can, I take photos of the dancers during the summer intensives and give the students some of the photos with my watermark on them," she says.
Not only do the dancers get something to remind them of their skill, they'll have something to see improvements and post to their social-media channels to promote themselves.
Be Part of a Show
Regardless of skill level, one of the most gratifying ways to return to the home studio is returning for an alumni performance. And gathering the old gang to put together a piece doesn't have to be that difficult.
"All I did was put it out there on Facebook, and the responses came flooding in," says Tara Faulkner-Catalina, assistant director at Jo-Ann's Dance Studio in South Plainfield, NJ. She was able to pull several former students, who had become dance teachers and occupational therapists, from posting the request for dancers for the 40th-anniversary alumni dance at the yearly recital.
"So far I've got over 50 people and counting," she says. "A lot of them are afraid because they haven't danced in a while. I'm gonna break them into decades and have them dance with their decade group. Nothing too technical."
While an alumni dance may not be directly giving back to the current students at the studio, it's a memorable way to give back to the studio staff.
"Teaching dance is a thankless job," says Faulkner-Catalina. "You teach people for years, they grow up and move on. But when you do these dances, you see the people who touched you and how you shaped them as they grew up. It reminds me why I do this. It keeps me going."