Dance Teacher Tips

How to Work Internationally As a Dance Educator

In Motion's senior company dancers and Candice after a showcase performance in Bermuda, (2016). Photo courtesy of Culmer-Smith

When I was 23, an e-mail circulated among my former college dance classmates at Towson University, regarding a teaching position as the jazz director at the In Motion School of Dance studio in Bermuda. I applied, and after a few e-mails, I got offered the job.

Four weeks later, I packed up my tiny little car in Denver, where I was a dancer for the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble, and drove across the country to my hometown in Maryland, before flying out for my new life in Bermuda.

Looking back now, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I didn't have time to think through how I should prepare and what I needed to do to officially apply for a work permit. I was mostly concerned with how I was going to pack all my clothes and belongings into two suitcases. If I could go back, I wish I would've had a more specific guide to what teaching in another country entailed.

In an effort to share my experience, here's what I wish I would've known before I left and what I learned over my 10 years living and working as a dance teacher abroad.


Before You Go

There are many things you can do to prepare yourself for the big move.

Disclaimer: I did none of these before I left. Thank goodness I had help when I arrived on the island.

Research the culture of where you are going. You want to learn about the people there, their holidays, their customs and values.

Learn about their economy. It is extremely important to budget and get a grasp of what is happening with their economy. What is the currency? Once your salary is set, what is an average apartment's rent? Do you need roommates? What types of transportation are available: public or will you need to invest in something more significant? What will utilities cost? How much will it cost for food? Can you use your cell phone there?

Luckily for me, during my time in Bermuda the currency stayed roughly equal to the U.S. dollar, so exchange rates were always very easy to figure out. I lived in everything from apartments alone to apartments with roommates, a townhouse on the ocean and a tiny studio in Smiths. I also bought a scooter, a cute little red one I named "Senorita."

Find out what documentation you need for work. To work in Bermuda, I had to apply for a work permit. This entailed compiling a series of documents: health certificate, finger prints, chest X-ray, criminal background check, copy of my passport and birth certificate. In some cases, you will need reference letters. This all takes time, so start this process ASAP! I would suggest doing this three to four months in advance. It takes time to book the appointment and receive paperwork back.

Also, make sure you complete all paperwork that is needed for your application. I had to have all the information on my previous jobs and the addresses of places I have lived. Additional information will be needed if you are bringing your family, spouse or kids with you.

Understand their travel policies. While this might be stating the obvious, make sure you have a passport, and make sure it does not expire anytime soon. There are policies and rules for traveling internationally, and certain countries will not allow you to travel with a passport that is about to expire.

Ask your employer questions. Learn about the studio or educational facility where you are about to work. What does the layout of their program look like? Do they have a syllabus? What are the ages of their students, and how often do they take class? What are the other types of classes offered? Do they do an annual recital? If so, ask to see one of their previous performances. How big is their staff and are they locals or expats? Search their website and social media to learn as much about them as possible. Read the staff bios and search for any videos that are online. These days you can learn a lot about a studio through some quick searching.

It is also important to be very clear with your employer about your move and who will be covering the costs. Do you get a moving allowance? Are they covering your transportation? When you arrive, how will you get picked up from the airport? Where will you stay once you first arrive?


Candice and In Motion Alumni dancers before a holiday performance in Bermuda. Photo courtesy of Culmer-Smith

Once You're There

You did it! You got on the plane, fully prepared as best as you could, and you've landed. What do you do now? For me, the easy part was planning my classes and teaching. The harder part was getting settled in.

Open a bank account. Do this right away. In Bermuda, I had to make sure I had my passport, employer letter and address or lease of some sort to open an account.

Buy a phone or phone plan. You can research this in advance. You may be able to purchase an international plan with your U.S. provider ahead of time, however, for me it was more economical to buy a phone plan once in Bermuda. I kept my U.S. phone service the entire time, because I traveled back and forth. Each person's experience is different, and I suggest weighing the pros and cons to what method will work best for you. Many cell phones nowadays can be unlocked, and when traveling I would switch out my sim cards.

Apartment hunt. As an expat in Bermuda, I can only rent and not purchase a place to live. Two things I suggest keeping in mind are price and location. It was important to stay within my budget, even if that meant having a roommate, while being in a location close to my work.


Candice with her dancers at the Santa Parade in Bermuda (2014). Photo courtesy of Culmer-Smith


Also, keep in mind when renting, many places will want a security deposit and/or one month's rent. Make sure you budget appropriately. Luckily, I had help from my employer, and they were able to provide housing for me until I found a place to live. This is also something you will want to discuss with your employer in advance.

Determine your transportation. How will you get to and from work? To the grocery store? Research the public transportation and compare it to purchasing a personal vehicle. In my case, I went the scooter route. They were affordable and so easy to get around on, except for those rainy days! This leads me to my next suggestion.

Get your ID/driver's license. Consider the country's driving regulations and see whether or not you need a local driver's license.

To ride my scooter, I had to get a Bermuda driver's license. I had to get a booklet, study it, take a written test and then take a riding test. While it sounds easy, it was not. In Bermuda, they drive on the opposite side of the road, and the signs, lights and traffic patterns are different from back home in the U.S.

In the Dance Classroom

You came to this country to work. Make this your priority and understand that as an international teacher you have so much more than dance to offer your students.


Thursday night Jazz class with Candice at In Motion (2016). Photo courtesy of Culmer-Smith

Understand how they learn. Do they have a similar educational system to those in the U.S.? What type of music do they enjoy? What does the layout of their calendar year look like, and how much time to do you have to train them vs. choreograph on them?

Bermuda being so close to the U.S., I found that they listen to the same popular music. The way I taught my classes in Bermuda vs. the U.S. was very similar. The biggest adjustment for me was preparing for their recital dances and their calendar year. I found that they take more breaks throughout the year than back home, so I had to be very strict with my time management.

Learn from your students. I think I learned the most about Bermuda through my dancers. Their stories from school, their adventures on social media and meeting their families allowed me to understand what it was like to grow up in Bermuda.

Teach your dancers more than just dance. While it is our job as dance educators to educate our students about dance, be a good role model, mentor and support system. As an expat, I felt it was also important to share my culture with them.

I wanted to open their eyes to dance in the U.S. and teach them about my home. Through my stories, educational practices used in the classroom, music and knowledge, I wanted to broaden and expand their knowledge of not only dance but the culture of the U.S.

I was very fortunate to have a boss who trusted me and allowed me the freedom to teach and bring forth new ideas or suggestions to the school. Over the years, I helped bring over several of my dance colleagues as guest teachers, as well as bringing my Bermudian students to the states for workshops, competitions, intensives and performances. Dancers I have trained are now continuing their education at universities all over the U.S. Most recently my hometown studio in Maryland and the studio in Bermuda have established a student exchange program, where students from each school get to participate in summer programs at the other studio.

What I Learned

Working internationally was one of the best decisions of my life. I have learned so much about myself, developed my craft and met some pretty amazing people along the way. (Bonus—I met my husband in Bermuda!) I've learned to make the most of my experience over the years and feel very grateful for this opportunity.


TJ Wainwright and Candice at a photoshoot in Bermuda, Photo by Ally Tatem, Two & Quarter Photography Ltd, courtesy of Culmer-Smith


To anyone thinking of making the move to another country, I highly recommend it. Do your research, weigh the pros and cons and if you do decide to go, embrace all it has to offer. Dance is known as the universal language, and no matter what country you are in, following your dreams and passion will be rewarding within itself.

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
Dancer Health
Adequate dorsiflexion mobility is needed to find a supple demi-plié needed to bound into the air and land safely. Getty Images

Dancers are trained to think often about the range of motion, stability and power of their extended lines: the point of the foot, the reach of the penché, the explosion of the sauté in the air. But finding that same mix of flexibility and strength in the flexed foot is just as integral to technique and injury prevention. Without adequate dorsiflexion mobility, it is nearly impossible to find the kind of supple demi-plié needed to bound into the air and land safely.

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
Dance Teachers Trending
Photo by The Fleet, courtesy of Lion's Jaw Festival

Growing up in New Jersey, Lisa Race trained with a memorable dance teacher: Fred Kelly, the younger brother of famous tapper Gene. "Fred would introduce our recitals," she says. "He would always cartwheel down the stairs." It wasn't until years later, when Race was pursuing her master's degree and chose to write a research paper on Kelly, that she realized there was a clear connection between her own movement style—improvisational and floor-based—and his. "In this television clip I watched, Fred jumps up to the piano, then jumps off it—he's going up and down and around," she says. "I thought, 'Oh, wow, all this time, I've thought of my dancing as my own, but that's where it started!' Moving upside-down and into the floor. There's a thread there. I rerouted it in different ways, but there's a connection."

Now, as a professor at Connecticut College, she concentrates on how to introduce her students to that love and freedom of upside-down work—and how to best prepare them for life after graduation, no matter what dance path they take.

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

It's summertime, which means we're all starting to feel HOT! HOT! HOT!

While a warm room is certainly better than a cold room when it comes to dancing, you don't want your students to get heat stroke at your studio. To help you survive this sweaty time of year, here are tips and tricks that will keep your classrooms comfortable for an excellent class.

Enjoy!

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
Studio Owners
Getty Images

If you're not prepared, studio picture day can be a real headache. But, if done right, it can provide you with gorgeous photos that will make your students and parents happy, while simultaneously providing you with marketing content you will be able to use for years to come.

Here are five tips that will help you pull off the day without a hitch.

Keep reading... Show less
Just for fun
Via YouTube

In its 14 years of existence, YouTube has been home to a world of competition dance videos that we have all consumed with heedless pleasure. Every battement, pirouette and trendy move has been archived somewhere, and we are all very thankful.

We decided it was time DT did a deep dive through those years of footage to show you the evolution of competition dance since the early days of YouTube.

From 2005 to 2019, styles have shifted a whole lot. Check them out, and let us know over on our Facebook page what you think the biggest differences are!

Enjoy!

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

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox