High Five with Rebecca Tingle and Melissa Verzino

The Dance Centre company members

The Dance Centre

Tuscaloosa, AL

In business since: 1990, when original founder (1947) Martha Jamison retired.

Number of students enrolled: 350

How do you keep your dancers motivated throughout the year?

Rebecca Tingle: We involve our students in productions throughout the season, in addition to preparing for competition. The quick pace of moving from one project to the next requires the dancers to stay focused. Our year-end recital is a full-blown event with five performances in three days. We also bring in guest teachers and choreographers to shake up the normal routine and bring fresh perspective and excitement.

What are some traditions you have with your competition team?

RT: We have an annual lock-in every spring that is run by our senior company members, who make up dances and plan craft projects for the younger dancers. Everyone performs the dances they learned for each other and we have a midnight pizza party. Then we roll out the sleeping bags and watch movies. If we are lucky, we get to bed around 3 or 4 am. It is definitely something the young students look forward to.

Our newest tradition is adopting families during the holidays through The Salvation Army. In lieu of giving presents to the teachers, we ask that the parents donate to a family in need. On the last day of classes, the company holds a “Wrap Fest” where we wrap gifts the studio families have donated.  

What is the most important thing to tell dancers before they head to competition?

Melissa Verzino: We talk a lot about the magic of Broadway and how those performers, no matter how many times they have done the same show, find it in themselves to perform as if it were the first time. We want the dancers to see themselves through the eyes of the audience, so they can dig deep and bring the excitement.

What are the biggest challenges and rewards that come with being a studio owner?

MV: Most days I find myself juggling the roles of administrator, creative director, choreographer, teacher and parent liaison. Then there’s the ultimate job of wife and mother. The days can be long but are very fulfilling when you learn to switch gears and be productive in each area.

The greatest rewards come in the day-to-day, when the studio runs like a well-oiled machine—the dancers bound through the doors after school with smiles on their faces, the teachers crank up the music and you can walk through the halls seeing the excitement and learning happening in the classrooms.

What is your advice for first-time competition teachers?

MV: Spend time observing the competition process. Attend competitions as an audience member—soak up the atmosphere and check out the backstage activity. Start small and gradually grow with the number of pieces you bring to competition. Most importantly, surround yourself with good people who share your goals. No one person can do it alone.

Photo by Michael J. Moore

Teachers Trending
Maks and Val Chmerkovskiy. Photo courtesy Dance With Me

Listening to Maks and Val Chmerkovskiy riff together makes it crystal-clear why each has mastered the art of partnering in the ballroom—they've long been doing this dance in real life as brothers and business partners.

Along with their "Dancing with the Stars" pedigree (and a combined three mirror-ball trophies between them), Maks and Val (and their father, Sasha) also run Dance With Me, a dance company hosting six ProAm Dancesport competitions annually and running 14 brick-and-mortar studio locations across the U.S.

Last year, the pair launched an online component, Dance & Co. The online video platform offers beginner through advanced instruction in not only ballroom but an array of other styles, as well as dance fitness classes from HIIT to yoga to strength training. "DWTS" fans will recognize such familiar faces as Peta Murgatroyd, Jenna Johnson, Sharna Burgess and Emma Slater, along with Maks and Val themselves.

Keep reading... Show less
Teaching Tips
@jayplayimagery, courtesy Kerollis

In the spring of 2012, Barry Kerollis was abruptly forced into treating his career as a small business. Having just moved cross-country to join BalletX, he got injured and was soon let go.

"I'd only ever danced with big companies before," the now-freelance dance-teacher-choreographer-podcaster recalls. "That desperation factor drove me to approach freelancing with a business model and a business plan."

As Kerollis acknowledges, getting the business of you off the ground ("you" as a freelance dance educator, that is) can be filled with unexpected challenges—even for the most seasoned of gigging dancers. But becoming your own CEO can make your work–life balance more sustainable, help you make more money, keep you organized, and get potential employers to offer you more respect and improved working conditions. Here's how to get smart now about branding, finances and other crucial ways to tell the dance world that you mean business.

Keep reading... Show less
Teachers Trending
Courtesy Oleson

American dance educator Shannon Oleson was teaching recreational ballet and street-dance classes in London when the pandemic hit. As she watched many of her fellow U.S. friends pack up and return home from their international adventures, she made the difficult choice to stick with her students (as well as her own training—she was midway through her MFA at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance).

Despite shutdowns and shelter-in-place orders, she was able to maintain a teaching schedule that kept her working with her dancers through Zoom, as well as lead some private, in-home acro classes following government guidelines. But keeping rec students interested in the face of pandemic fatigue hasn't been easy.

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.