Teaching Tips

Help Students Overcome Stage Fright By Taking These Steps

Photo by Dan Boskovic, courtesy of Joanne Chapman

Q: What's the best way to help my students get over stage fright before competitions?

A: I think the best way to deal with stage fright is to take steps to minimize it. First, I make sure that my dancers are as prepared for competition as my staff and I can possibly make them. We rehearse often, encouraging them to always perform full-out, and even cover the mirrors so they get used to dancing without seeing their reflections. In class, my teachers tape out the stage dimensions on the floor so we know how much space we have. We always have other kids from the studio watching when we run a number, to encourage a performance atmosphere.

My studio rents a theater before we start competing, so the dancers can go through all of their routines onstage in front of their parents, staff and peers. We videotape this rehearsal, so students can later see for themselves any corrections we've given and any spacing issues. This goes a long way to calming nerves and building confidence.

On competition day, we encourage the students to warm up together, to help them bond and work as a team. We let them listen to their music and ask them to close their eyes and visualize themselves doing their routine perfectly. Finally, right before they go onstage, my teachers and I tell them how proud we are, how much they have improved and to go out there and have fun.

We try to make competing a good learning experience. We emphasize that judges' critiques help us grow and improve. My staff and I are always positive at competitions; we save all corrections for later on at the studio.

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Securing the correct music licensing for your studio is an important step in creating a financially sound business. "Music licensing is something studio owners seem to either embrace or ignore completely," says Clint Salter, CEO and founder of the Dance Studio Owners Association. While it may seem like it's a situation in which it's easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission—that is, to wait until you're approached by a music-rights organization before purchasing a license—Salter disagrees, citing Peloton, the exercise company that produces streaming at-home workouts. In February, Peloton settled a music-licensing suit with the National Music Publishers' Association out-of-court for an undisclosed amount. Originally, NMPA had sought $300 million in damages from Peloton. "It can get extremely expensive," says Salter. "It's not worth it for a studio to get caught up in that."

As you continue to explore a hybrid online/in-person version of your class schedule, it's crucial that your music licenses include coverage for livestreamed instruction—which comes with its own particular requirements. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about music licensing—in both normal times and COVID times—as well as some safe music bets that won't pose any issues.

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Teaching Tips
A 2019 Dancewave training. Photo by Effy Grey, courtesy Dancewave

By now, most dance educators hopefully understand that they have a responsibility to address racism in the studio. But knowing that you need to be actively cultivating racial equity isn't the same thing as knowing how to do so.

Of course, there's no easy answer, and no perfect approach. As social justice advocate David King emphasized at a recent interactive webinar, "Cultivating Racial Equity in the Classroom," this work is never-ending. The event, hosted by Dancewave (which just launched a new racial-equity curriculum) was a good starting point, though, and offered some helpful takeaways for dance educators committed to racial justice.

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Higher Ed
The author, Robyn Watson. Photo courtesy Watson

Recently, I posted a thread of tweets elucidating the lack of respect for tap dance in college dance programs, and arguing that it should be a requirement for dance majors.

According to onstageblog.com, out of the 30 top-ranked college dance programs in the U.S., tap dance is offered at 19 of them, but only one school requires majors to take more than a beginner course—Oklahoma City University. Many prestigious dance programs, like the ones at NYU Tisch School of the Arts and SUNY Purchase, don't offer a single course in tap dance.

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