Co-owner/director of North Harris Performing Arts
In business since: 1994
Number of students enrolled: 325
How do you enforce your attendance policy with students?
Amy Cain: We require our competition dancers to take two ballet classes, two jazz classes and a leaps and turns class each week. We understand if they have to miss class for a school function, but when a dancer is repeatedly missing, we have a discussion with the dancer and his or her parents. We explain that it’s not fair to the rest of the team, because while those dancers are progressing, the missing dancer isn’t keeping up. It takes regular training and guidance to reach their full potential. We hope the dancer understands and trusts us, and in certain instances—thankfully not often—we have pulled a dancer out of an upcoming performance. If we see the dedication, commitment and work ethic improve, that dancer can return for the next performance.
What is the key to keeping your dancers engaged?
AC: We constantly change things up. To keep our classes and our choreography fresh, all faculty members continue to take classes, so we have our eyes on what’s new in the dance world. We always play new music in class and teach new choreography every two weeks in the technique classes. We also bring in guest teachers and have improvisation classes. When the dancers see themselves improve, it makes them happy.
What is the biggest mistake you see studios making at competitions?
AC: I see teachers giving their dancers choreography they’re not fully capable of executing correctly. Nearly every teacher includes fouettés in their competition choreography because they think that’s a big-winner move. But if the students aren’t ready technically, those moves shouldn’t be in the routine. As a teacher and choreographer, you have to design routines to show off your dancers’ best skills. One year I swore not to include a single fouetté in any routine. I wanted to prove that you don’t need those turn sequences to do well at competition.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
AC: My personal life is my work life! The seven studio co-owners and I are best friends, and in addition to running the studio, we’re also in a performing company together. We grew up dancing together, opened the studio together, go on vacation together—some of us are even roommates. When you run your own studio, it’s on your mind 24/7, but we’re a family and we do it together.
What is the secret to your success?
AC: We stress that dance is about finding a connection with your mind, body and soul. When you’re performing, your mind has to be in the right place. You have to be calm and focused, and you should trust that your hours of rehearsal will allow you the freedom to let go and perform. In the studio we talk to the dancers about connecting their bodies to the music and getting into the zone.
Photo courtesy of North Harris Performing Arts