Dance Teacher Tips

Go Team Go! Fresh Ideas to Help Your Competition Team Bond

All photos by Christina Bruce, courtesy of Bravo Dance Center

With choreography to rehearse and costumes to finalize, preparing for competition season can be hectic. Team bonding may not be the first thing on your mind, but as most studio owners would agree, building camaraderie among your dancers is just as important as winning the gold. Check out these easy, budget-friendly ideas from the directors of two innovative studios to help turn your students into a supportive team.


Customized Lawn Signs

Lindsay Keegan and Lauren Kulp, founders of Bravo Dance Center in Warminster, Pennsylvania, decided to kick off the season in style by announcing audition results through customized lawn signs. They ordered the signs from a local printer and customized each one with a permanent paint marker to let the girls know which numbers they would be performing in the upcoming season. “It took us almost five hours to deliver the signs," Keegan says. “We left around 8 pm and didn't get home until 1 am, but we wanted it to be a surprise."

“We wanted to do something different from the traditional acceptance letter," says Kulp. “And what better time to find out you made the team than when you're on your way to school in the morning? Our phones were ringing off the hook that day, and it warmed our hearts to know we had made such an impact on our girls and their families."

Big Sister Little Sister Program

At The Dancers Workshop in Wall Township, New Jersey, Barbara Parren has established a Big Sister Little Sister program, in which older students mentor younger ones for the duration of the season. She works hard to get the pairings just right. For example, she will match a shy, young student with a more outgoing older student to help build confidence.

“The older dancer guides the younger dancer through the season, showing them the ins and outs of the stages, educating them on hair and makeup and helping them make sure everything is in line before they go onstage. They're there for their younger sister both in and out of the studio."

Daylong Pep Rally

To get dancers excited about the start of the season, The Dancers Workshop also hosts a daylong pep rally the weekend before their first competition. Dancers run their routines one last time, but the only feedback they get is the sound of their teammates cheering.

Crafting is also a big part of the day. Parren purchases pizza and all the necessary supplies for the girls, including fabric paint, markers and rhinestones and an item for all the dancers to decorate. “It's become a tradition that is as exciting as Christmas for us!" she says. Everyone decorates the same thing, and depending on the year, dancers have adorned T-shirts, hats, socks, sweatpants and flip-flops, which they can then wear to competitions to show team spirit.

Caitlin Quinn Pittenger, Dancers Workshop instructor, says the dancers talk about their goals for the season and what they need to do, both as individuals and as a team to achieve these goals. No critiques, however, are given that day.

Student of the Month

Another great way to build confidence and positive feelings is to encourage dancers to celebrate one another's successes. Like many studios, Bravo Dance Center selects a “Student of the Month," but they go one step further by mounting a photograph of the student on a piece of large poster board. The board is displayed in the dancers' waiting room with a pen resting on a few extra thumbtacks. “Fellow students can write well wishes and congratulations," says Keegan. “This way, it's about recognizing someone else's achievements, instead of being jealous."

Booster Box

A few weeks before the start of competition season, students at Bravo Dance Center are encouraged to bring in shoe boxes from home to make a “Booster Box." Dancers can decorate them ahead of time, but studio owners provide materials for further embellishment.

“We avoid glitter in order to keep the dance floor clean," says Keegan, “but we provide the dancers with crayons and stickers." Boxes are stored in the studio on a small folding table with extra slips of paper and pens. Dancers write notes of encouragement and place them in the boxes, which are then opened just before the first competition.

According to Kulp, “The boxes help the entire school, even those who aren't dancing competitively, to get excited for the team. In a world full of social media, the little handwritten notes give a more personal touch, and it's become a pre-competition tradition that the entire team looks forward to."


Dance Teachers Trending
Photo courtesy of Tribune

Finding age-appropriate hip-hop music can be a struggle. Choreographer Afaliah Tribune addresses this common dilemma for hip-hop teachers by making her own original tracks on GarageBand. "I love experimenting with live music, and my students think it's fun, too," says Tribune, who is an adjunct professor of dance at New York University. "There are so many ways we can open up our work when we experiment with sound."

Keep reading...
Instagram
Karen Hildebrand (center) with 2019 DT Awardee Marisa Hamamoto and members of Infinite Flow. Photo by Joe Toreno

Every year in our summer issue, we honor four dance educators for their outstanding contributions to the field. Recipients have included studio owners, professors, program directors, K–12 teachers and more, whose specialties run the gamut of dance genres.

We need your help to identify this year's best in the profession. Do you have a colleague or mentor who deserves to be recognized as a leader and role model?

Send your nomination by March 1, 2020. You can e-mail us at danceteachereditors@dancemedia.com with the following details:

Keep reading...
Sponsored by Akada Software
Photo by Jenny Studios, courtesy of Utah Dance Artists

Running a dance school used to involve a seemingly endless stream of paperwork. But thanks to the advent of software tailored specifically for dance studios' needs, those hours formerly spent pushing papers can now be put to better use.

"Nobody opens a dance studio because they want to do administrative work," says Brett Stuckey, who leads Akada Software's support team. "It's our job to get you out of the office and back into your classroom."

We talked to Stuckey about how a studio software program can streamline operations, so you can put your energy toward your students.

Keep reading...
Studio Owners
Getty Images

It's easy to characterize parents as the perpetual thorn in the side of studio owners—they can be demanding, and annoyingly free with their opinions on dance education. But they're also your customers. They deserve not just excellent customer service but an exceptional customer experience, says Annette Franz, head of a customer-experience strategy firm. "What's the difference?" you might ask. "I define customer experience as the sum of all the interactions that a customer has with a brand over the life of their relationship with that brand—plus the feelings, emotions and perceptions about these interactions. Customer service is just one of those interactions," says Franz, author of Cus-tomer Understanding: Three Ways to Put the "Customer" in Customer Expe-rience (and at the Heart of the Business).

Keep reading...
Site Network

Hi there, dance friends. I'm the editor in chief of Dance Spirit and content director of The Dance Edit newsletter. And I'm here with a bit of news sure to excite dancers, dance enthusiasts, and other assorted dance obsessives: The Dance Edit is launching a podcast!

Join me and other editors from Dance Magazine, Dance Spirit, and Pointe for The Dance Edit Podcast, a weekly roundtable discussion of the top stories moving and shaking (not sorry) the dance world. Beginning March 5th, we'll get you up to tempo (also not sorry) in about 15 minutes every Thursday morning.

Keep reading...
Dance Teachers Trending
Barbara Bashaw in Thompson Hall of Columbia Teachers College. Photo by Kyle Froman

Barbara Bashaw has always been a pioneer. Since kicking off her career in education by building a dance program from the ground up at an elementary school in Brooklyn, she's gone on to become an inspiring force in teacher training. Now, as director of the new doctoral program in dance education at Columbia University's renowned Teachers College and as executive director of the even newer Arnhold Institute for Dance Education Research, Policy & Leadership, she's in a position to effect change nationwide.

"The study of dance education is a young field," Bashaw says. "Music and visual arts are far ahead of us, in terms of the research that has been done, as well as the foothold they have in education. Anywhere education is being discussed, we want to put dance on the table—and that means developing researchers and championing research that will push public policy." In a climate where arts education feels both more endangered and more necessary than ever, Bashaw is ready to blaze a trail.

Keep reading...
Site Network
Photo courtesy of Harkness Center for Dance Injuries

When orthopedic surgeon Dr. Donald Rose founded the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries at NYU Langone Orthopedic Hospital 30 years ago, the average salary for a dancer was about $8,000, he says.

"It was very hard for a dancer to get quality medical care," he remembers. What's more, he adds, "at the time, dance medicine was based on primarily anecdotal information rather than being based on studies." Seeing the incredible gaps, Rose set out to create a medical facility that was designed specifically to treat dancers and would provide care on a sliding scale.

Keep reading...
Dancer Health
Getty Images

It's time to talk seriously about safety in dance education. As the physical and psychological demands put on student dancers escalates—thanks to competitions, social media and ever-evolving choreography—there is a pressing need to consider how we can successfully safeguard young dancers.

Keep reading...
Dance News
Photo by Melissa Sherwood, courtesy of MGDC

Martha Graham Dance Company created The EVE Project to mark the upcoming 100th anniversary of U.S. women's right to vote. The female-focused initiative includes new works, as well as the company's classic repertoire highlighting Martha Graham's heroines and antiheroines. In April, the company is showing the newly reconstructed Circe, Graham's 1963 interpretation of the Greek myth, at New York City Center. Dancing the role of Circe is company member So Young An. Here, she shares thoughts on The EVE Project and how she's approaching her role in Circe, the 57-year-old work that invites audiences to consider pressing conversations about womanhood.

Keep reading...
Dance News
Instead of letting 1920s stereotypes of black dancers define her, Josephine Baker used her image to propel herself to stardom and eventually challenged social perceptions of black women. Photos courtesy of Dance Magazine archives

In honor of Black History Month, here are some of the most influential and inspiring black dancers who paved the way for future generations.

Keep reading...
Dance Teacher Tips
Getty Images

Q: I'm having such a love-hate relationship with mirrors right now. They can be distracting, as well as cause emotional distress for my students. At the same time, they're a really useful tool. I know some teachers remove theirs altogether. Is this something you recommend?

Keep reading...
Dance Teacher Tips

Susan Pilarre has been closely tied to the School of American Ballet for nearly her entire life.

From her first class there at age 11 through her 16-year career with its affiliated company, New York City Ballet, Pilarre learned directly from the great choreographer George Balanchine, absorbing the details of his unique style. Sensing her innate understanding of his principles, Balanchine encouraged her to teach; she joined SAB's permanent faculty in 1986. Since then, she has become recognized as an authority on Balanchine's teachings, instilling SAB and NYCB's distinctive speed, clarity and energy into generations of dancers.

Here, Pilarre shares how the specifics that Balanchine insisted upon in class contribute to the strength, beauty and musicality that define his style—and dispels common misconceptions.

Keep reading...

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox