Designing workshops for students who stay home

Pamela Hayes Classical Ballet’s summer intensive offers classes in additional genres, as well as performance opportunities.

Summer is usually the time when a studio’s best students leave home to attend intensive programs. But what about those who don’t go away? Perhaps they are too young, or they didn’t get scholarships and can’t afford the tuition, room and board. Maybe they were rejected at auditions, or simply want to stay home and dance for fun.

Creating an in-house summer program can be a great way to cater to these students, enabling them to dance more, improve faster and not feel left out. If you’re thinking about holding your own intensive, consider the following strategies to make it a successful venture for both you and your dancers.

Dance All Day

During the academic year, dancers have a limited amount of time during the week to train at the studio. The summer break is an opportunity for these students to immerse themselves in dance. At Northwest Florida Ballet in Fort Walton Beach, a portion of students enrolled in the school need financial assistance, which makes going away to a large summer intensive unfeasible. In response, when NFB started its own workshop, it worked to make it affordable. “We don’t want them to be left out,” says Todd Eric Allen, NFB’s artistic director and CEO. The school offers a four-week program in which dancers can work from 9 am to 7:30 pm, with breaks for lunch and dinner. “It’s a very intense schedule for them,” says Allen. In addition to technique, pointe, variations and men’s classes, the session includes Pilates, stretch class and foot-care seminars, among others. “We try to balance the schedule so they’re not killing themselves all day,” Allen says. “They have some brain work to do.”

The Marjorie Kovich School of Ballet in Norman, Oklahoma, offers a two-week, two-hour-a-day intensive for intermediate students. Advanced dancers attend a four-week session that meets for four and a half hours each day, taking technique, pointe, variations and modern classes. They also have Pilates, nutrition lessons, museum trips and flamenco dancing. “They’re used to just having ballet during the year, so we come up with something that’s going to be enriching and informative for them,” says Kovich. Last year, her students learned the history of modern dance through video and film and then worked on different modern styles in the studio. “They get a lot out of these extra classes,” says Kovich. “Even though I have some students who are interested in working toward a professional career, most of my students want to do it for fun, because they love it.”

Guest Teachers 

Guest teachers can help generate interest and boost enrollment by offering students new perspectives. Allen prefers to hire guest teachers still dancing professionally, such as Atlanta Ballet’s Brandon Nguyen and Ajkun Ballet Theatre’s Billy Blanken, to work with students and then perform at the end of the intensive. “A lot of the instructors are also choreographers, and they’ll teach their own rep to the students,” says Allen, giving dancers a unique collaborative experience and exposing them to a variety of styles.

Pamela Hayes, director of Pamela Hayes Classical Ballet in El Dorado Hills, California, uses her summer session as an opportunity to introduce students to genres that they don’t focus on throughout the year, like musical theater. Choosing whom to bring in also allows her to oversee her students’ training and provide them with a consistent philosophy. “Not sending them away means I don’t have to worry about other people’s ideas confusing them,” she says. On the other hand, it can be a challenge to balance guest-teaching fees and travel expenses with summertime’s typical low enrollment. “You’re taking a gamble with how many students are going to attend the intensive,” Hayes says. “It’s a struggle to make it affordable; there’s no doubt about it.” (See sidebar.)

Performance Opportunities

NFB students who attend the entire four-week program have the opportunity to be part of two beach performances, danced on a portable stage with lights. But every Friday, parents are also invited into the studio for an informal showing. “Students get to do what they’ve learned that week in variations and repertoire classes,” says Allen, “little bits of ballets or some modern work.” The dancers can show their progress and gain performance experience in an intimate and supportive atmosphere.

Pamela Hayes Classical Ballet students are welcome to participate in a summer performance held in a theater during the last week of their workshop. Students spend the end of each day in rehearsals if they choose. But they’re also inspired to get moving independently, often convening in a free studio to work during their breaks. “They’ll put on music and improvise, practice choreography, dance to their heart’s content,” says Hayes. “The benefit of staying during the summer is that they literally get to live at the studio and dance all day.”

Perhaps the best thing about the summer is that dancers get to spend time together doing what they love. They improve faster, build friendships and gain more confidence. “When it comes time to perform, their bond shows onstage,” says Kovich. “They work hard and support each other, and the summer just reinforces all that.” DT

Julie Diana is a principal dancer with the Pennsylvania Ballet. She has a BA in English from the University of Pennsylvania.

 

Studio Summer Programs: How to Make Them Profitable

If you’re paying guest-teacher fees and losing some tuition due to low enrollment, your summer intensive might be costing you money. Consider the following ideas to address these issues, remodel your workshop and actually make a profit.

Schedule the program early in the summer, before most other intensives begin. Northwest Florida Ballet runs its workshop from early June to early July, before its dancers leave for outside intensives. “The only downside is that some school districts are still in session,” says Todd Eric Allen, artistic director/CEO. These students might miss the first week, but they are still able to attend the rest of the program (at a prorated tuition).

Ask students what they want to study. One year they might want to try flamenco dancing, the next year jazz or hip hop. “I set a schedule and see what the response is,” says Marjorie Kovich of the Marjorie Kovich School of Ballet. If the students don’t show interest, or enrollment is too low to support the cost of a particular class, she will substitute something different. “I adjust to what fits for me and for them.”

Split the session into parts. Kovich sometimes offers a two-week intensive before many of her students go away, and then another two-week program when they return.

 

Photo by Karina Minteer, courtesy of Pamela Hayes Classical Ballet

Dance News
Getty Images

Dancers are resilient by nature. As our community responds to COVID-19, that spirit is being tested. Dance Teacher acknowledges the tremendous challenges you face for your teaching practice and for your schools as you bring your offerings online, and the resulting financial impact on your businesses.

Perhaps we can take hope from the knowledge of how we've managed adversity in the past. I'm thinking of the dance community in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. I'm thinking of 9/11 and how that changed the world. I'm thinking of the courageous Jarrah Myles who kept her students safe when the Paradise wildfire destroyed their homes. I'm thinking of Jana Monson who rebuilt her studio after a devastating fire. I'm thinking of Gina Gibney who stepped in to save space for dance in New York City when the beloved Dance New Amsterdam closed.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Dance Teacher Web
Courtesy Dance Teacher Web

While summer usually sparks dreams of warm vacations in the sun, many dance teachers don't have the luxury of taking a week off to lounge by the pool. But what if a stellar educational opportunity for dance instructors just happened to take place in sunny Las Vegas?

The Dance Teacher Web Conference and Expo, happening August 4–7 and founded and directed by longtime successful studio owners and master teachers Steve Sirico and Angela D'Valda Sirico, gives dance teachers and administrators a chance to learn, network and recharge during a one-of-a-kind working vacation. Here, attendees can rub shoulders with esteemed industry professionals, get inspired by a variety of workshops and even walk away with a new certification or two:

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
Misty Lown delivers a seminar in Austin. Photo courtesy of More Than Just Great Dancing

Business leader Misty Lown convened (remotely) more than 700 dance studio owners to create an action plan in response to COVID-19 studio closures. ICYMI, here are the takeaways:

  • Studios can deliver value to customers with online content.
  • Owners can preserve enrollment with caring communication.
  • The federal stimulus package is a strong short-term safety net.
Keep reading... Show less
Site Network
Photo by Jason Hill, courtesy of Disenhof

When dancer Katherine Disenhof found out her company, NW Dance Project, would be shutting down indefinitely due to the coronavirus pandemic (on Friday the 13th, no less), she immediately went in search of ways to stay connected and in shape.

At that point, a few virtual class opportunities had emerged, so Disenhof decided to aggregate them on an Instagram account called Dancing Alone Together.

She launched the account that Monday, and by mid-week she'd also created a website. Now, just a few weeks later, Dancing Alone Together has 22K followers—and virtual classes are more than just a growing trend, but a phenomenon that has reshaped the dance world at an unprecedented speed.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance News
Photo by Kyle Froman
Update March 31, 2020: This article was first published in Dance Teacher, February 2009.

One of today's leading ballet masters, German-born Wilhelm Burmann exerts a magnetic attraction on the professional students he teaches five days a week at Steps on Broadway in New York City. “Taking Willie's class" has become a tradition for many top dancers of both New York–based companies and those simply passing through town.

Standing ramrod straight at age 69, Burmann embodies the authority and skills he acquired during an extensive global career. He was a corps member of the Pennsylvania Ballet and New York City Ballet, a Frankfurt Ballet principal dancer, Stuttgart and Geneva company principal and ballet master, and ballet master for The Washington Ballet and Le Ballet du Nord, among others. After he retired from dancing in 1977, Burmann took up guest teaching and is still in great demand at prestigious American and European companies and schools: This year he will teach in Florence and Milan, Italy.

Keep reading... Show less
Photo courtesy of Courtesy Ahearn

Elizabeth Ahearn never imagined that she'd teach her first online ballet class in her kitchen. Adding to the surreality of the situation: Rather than give her corrections, her student, the director of distance learning at Goucher College, had tips for Ahearn: Turn the volume up, and move a little to the left.

Ahearn, chair of the dance department at Goucher, is among thousands of dance professors learning to teach online in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. The internet may be exploding with resources for virtual classes, from top dancers teaching barre to free warm-ups courtesy of the Merce Cunningham Foundation, but in academia, teachers face many restraints. Copyright laws, federal privacy regulations, varying tech platforms and grading rubrics all make teaching dance online a challenge.

Keep reading... Show less
Site Network
Talia Bailes leads a Ballet & Books class. Lindsay France, Courtesy Ballet & Books.

Talia Bailes never imagined that her ballet training and her interest in early learning would collide. But Bailes, a senior studying global and public health sciences at Cornell University, now runs a successful non-profit called Ballet & Books, which combines dancing with the important but sometimes laborious activity of learning to read. And she has a trip to South America to thank.

In 2015, before starting at Cornell, Bailes took a gap year and headed to Ecuador with the organization Global Citizen Year to teach English to more than 750 students. But Bailes, who grew up training at a dance school outside Cincinnati, Ohio, also spent time teaching them ballet and learning their indigenous dances. "The culture in Ecuador was much more rooted in dance and music rather than literacy," she recalls. Bailes was struck by the difference in education and the way that children were able to develop and grow socially through dance. "It left me thinking, what if dance could be truly integrated into the way that we approach education?"

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Choreographer Molly Heller with musician Michael Wall. Photo by Duhaime Movement Project

Love electronic music? Calming notes of a piano? Smooth, rich trumpet? Want music in clear meters of 3, or in 7? This week is the ideal time to check out musician Michael Wall's abundant website soundformovement.com. I myself have enjoyed getting to experience his music over the past five years—whether to use in a teen class, older-movers class or for my own MFA thesis choreography.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Getty Images

On Wednesday, March 18, I was supposed to return to Juilliard and teach Pilates after a two-week spring break. Instead, I rolled a mat onto my bedroom floor, logged in to Zoom and was greeted by a gallery of 50 small-screen images of young ambitious dancers, trying to make the best of a strange situation. As I began class, I applied our new catchphrase: "Please mute yourself," then asked students to use various hand gestures to let me know how they are coping and how much space they have for movement. I asked dancers to write one or two things they wanted to address in the sidebar, and then we began to move.

This is our new normal. In the midst of grave Covid-19 concerns, dance professors across the country faced university closures and requirements to relocate their courses to the virtual sphere. Online education poses very specific and substantial challenges to dance faculty, but they are finding ways to persist by learning new methods of communication, discovering untapped pedagogical tools, expanding their professional networks, developing helpful new resources and unearthing old ones.

Keep reading... Show less
Site Network
Getty Images

As Broadway goes dark and performances are canceled across the country, the financial repercussions of a global pandemic have gone from hypothetical to very real. This is especially true in the dance community, where many institutions are nonprofits or small businesses operating on thin margins, and performers rely on gigs that are being canceled. It's a scary and uncertain time.

Keep reading... Show less
Site Network
Courtesy of Wroth

The effects of COVID-19 on college dancers might have been devastating. Performances were canceled, seniors trying to savor every last moment together were left without a graduation ceremony, students were encouraged to go home, and at each moment, a question has sounded: How can a student learn how to become a better performer when they are not allowed to perform?

Here at Indiana University's Jacobs School of Music, the ballet department rallied quickly and adapted its programming, choosing to see this hiatus as an opportunity to encourage reflection and self-improvement.

Keep reading... Show less
Getty Images

Q: We always seem to lose the most students after our recitals. How do I prevent post-show fallout?

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox