Studio Owners

4 Ways Alumni Dancers Can Give Back to Their Home Studios

Who said you can't go home? Certainly none of these dance directors and alumni dancers. Thinkstock

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."

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