Volunteers at Star Dance Center help students backstage during recitals. (courtesy of Erin Sanfelippo)

Volunteers can be a big help around your busy studio, from lining up students backstage during recitals to leading fundraising efforts to even painting your building. These five studio owners share their tips for recruiting and effectively utilizing volunteer staff.

Maygan Wurzer

All That Dance

(1,400 students)

Seattle, WA

At All That Dance, parent volunteers are involved in almost every aspect of putting recitals together, including handing out costumes and hair and makeup information, passing out tickets and selling tights, says studio director Maygan Wurzer. As the show nears, volunteers work in shifts during class hours, Monday through Saturday. Wurzer recruits more than 150 helpers by mailing recital information packets that invite parents to serve on one of five committees: sewing/accessories, backstage, ushers, refreshment and costume handout/information. She handpicks veteran parents to lead each group and a (paid) studio performance director  manages all helpers. “It’s great to be able to trust parents who have been in the studio for a long time and know what we’re about,” she says.

Becky Seamster

Becky Seamster Dance Studio

(200 students)

Kokomo, IN

Becky Seamster recruits around 50 parent helpers during her studio’s annual recital. They are responsible for behind-the-scenes jobs, like supervising backstage and ushering attendees. The self-proclaimed “control freak” oversees the entire event, from meeting with volunteers and assigning jobs (based on strengths and weaknesses) to supervising the support team. To avoid recruiting parents who only want to gain favors for their children, Seamster tells them up front, “You’re not going to get anything out of it.” She equips every parent with a set of guidelines, and she will reassign a volunteer’s position if they aren’t being productive.

Erin Sanfelippo

Star Dance Center

(450 students)

Santa Clarita, CA

When Erin and Joe Sanfelippo opened their studio five years ago, they were reluctant to ask for assistance. “We wanted clients to think that we had everything under control,” says Erin. But they later realized that the parents wanted to pitch in to feel like part of a studio family. Now parents assist students backstage during the studio’s holiday show and end-of-year recital, as well as relay information from teachers to each competition team member’s family. Sometimes too many parents sign up for certain jobs, like staying backstage with the younger students during shows, so staff members monitor who signs up for what and will move certain parents to other jobs if problems are anticipated.

Roberta Humphrey

Dance For Joy

(400 students)

Mohegan Lake, NY

Parents whose children are in Dance For Joy’s annual Nutcracker are expected to work behind the production’s scenes in some capacity. “The problem is finding enough people who are really able to handle the responsibility and take charge,” says studio director Roberta Humphrey. She selects about 70 to 80 people she knows will be good for the job. (One tip: Schoolteachers tend to be best for dressing room duty.) Those who prove less skilled for certain tasks are moved to other jobs, like handing out programs. And showing reliable parents full trust will encourage them to willingly take on more responsibilities. For instance, one studio mother volunteered to head Dance For Joy’s fundraising efforts to help send 32 company dancers to London to perform during the 2012 Olympics. “We have to raise about $1,600 per dancer, so that’s a big job, but I know this mom will get things done,” says Humphrey.

Michelle Adams-Meeker

Broadway South Dance

(400 students)

Mobile, AL

In her five years running Broadway South Dance, director Michelle Adams-Meeker has established an incentive program, called Broadway Bucks, to entice volunteers to lend a helping hand. “They’re worth money off of everything from students’ tuition to dance apparel,” she says. “It’s how we say thank you and it seems to work very well.” The studio gets a third of its volunteers through e-mails sent to each student’s parents. Other helpers consist of alumni, relatives of current and former students and Adams-Meeker’s local contacts. Together, they assist with everything from working backstage during dance shows to painting her building and classrooms. DT

Karyn D. Collins is a New Jersey–based writer and dance teacher at the King Centre for the Performing Arts in Wanaque, NJ.

 

 

 

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
Sponsored by Harlequin Floors
Burklyn Ballet, Courtesy Harlequin

Whether you're putting on a pair of pointe shoes, buckling your ballroom stilettos or lacing up your favorite high tops, the floor you're on can make or break your dancing. But with issues like sticking or slipping and a variety of frictions suitable to different dance steps and styles, it can be confusing to know which floor will work best for you.

No matter what your needs are, Harlequin Floors has your back, or rather, your feet. With 11 different marley vinyl floors available in a range of colors, Harlequin has options for every setting and dance style. We rounded up six of their most popular and versatile floors:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Photo courtesy of Koelliker

Sick of doing the same old stuff in technique class? Needing some across-the-floor combo inspiration? We caught up with three teachers from different areas of the country to bring you some of their favorite material for their day-to-day classes.

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
Dancer Health
Thinkstock

Q: I have a very flexible spine and torso. My teachers tell me to use this flexibility during cambrés and port de bras, but when I do, I feel pain—mostly in my lower back. What should I change so I don't end up with back problems?

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
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
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
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

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox