With all the buzz surrounding the release of Disney’s High School Musical 3 next month, it’s a great time to create your own high school–themed production.

While copyright laws make it difficult to adapt HSM for a dance recital, you can still capture the spirit of the series—Diana Gebhardt, owner of Step By Step in Millstone Township, New Jersey, did. Her show, titled “Our High School Musical,” had 42 numbers that all related to school and learning. She also put notes in the program to explain how each piece fit the theme. “I love High School Musical, and the kids love it,” says Gebhardt. “I wanted something to draw more people into the studio—the marketing perspective made me choose the theme.” Don’t miss the bus on this one! Read on to get ideas for developing your own school-themed show.

In the Hallways

Song: “School Days” by Chuck Berry

Genre: jazz

Start the show with a dance that takes place in the hallways. This upbeat tune lends itself to battements, jumps and swing dancing. Choreograph stereotypical high school dynamics into the dance—the star of the football team and cheerleader flirtatiously dancing together, the goth art student pining for the bad-boy loner and the gym teacher urging students to behave decorously. During the chorus have everyone dance in unison, and save the verses for dancers to break off into their own tableaux.

Math

Song: “The Song of the Count” from “Sesame Street”

Genre: tap

Dressed as Count Draculas with capes and vampire teeth, have your little ones lie inside cardboard coffins placed upstage. Play up the counting theme by having one dancer pop out of a coffin at a time. Once they’re all out and moving, repeat a movement theme during the chorus—as the song speeds up, challenge dancers to keep up. (Check out “The Song of the Count” on YouTube for a better idea.)

Drama

Song: “Romeo and Juliet” by Sergei Prokofiev

Genre: ballet

Dress a few students as drama geeks in full Elizabethan regalia—jerkins (tight-fitting sleeveless jackets), breeches, tights and caps with feathers for the boys, and Juliet-style dresses for girls. Raise the houselights and set the scene for a mock rehearsal of Romeo and Juliet. Have dancers stroll down the aisles, carrying backpacks and textbooks while chatting (Omigod, I totally failed that chem test!). As they find their way to the stage to casually stretch and warm up, a dancer cast as a teacher wearing a headset and carrying a clipboard walks onstage to announce, “Boys and girls, let’s make Shakespeare proud! Places, everyone!” Dim the houselights and continue with a performance of the Montague ball from Act I of Romeo and Juliet.

Physics

Songs: “Gravity” by Sara Bareilles

Genre: lyrical

For physics class, costume your lyrical dancers in bright red or orange costumes to represent the sun or Mars. As the group moves around the stage like planets in orbit (rotating, in elliptical patterns), have two dancers “gravitate” toward one another until they finally collide and partner. Project a solar system gobo onto the backdrop and use red lighting.

Chemistry

Song: “Chemistry” from the musical One Night to Live: Prom Night—The Musical

Genre: musical theater dance

For a number about attraction in chemistry class, outfit dancers in white lab coats and goggles, with props such as Bunsen burners, beakers and test tubes. Project the periodic table onto a scrim, and play up the idea of experiments gone awry with a fog machine and strobe lights. Movements can be small and introverted while the scientists are hard at work, and then large and explosive when something’s gone wrong.Anatomy

Song: “Those Bones”

by The Backyardigans

Genre: creative movement

Outfit your tiniest tots in skeleton costumes for an anatomy-inspired number. Look for a skeleton backdrop or gobo and ask a local high school to lend you life-size skeleton models to decorate the back of the stage. As the dancers demonstrate basic movements like passé, chassé, pas de bourrée and chaînés, they can point to the corresponding bone mentioned in the lyrics.

Lunch

Song: “Be True to Your School” by The Beach Boys

Genre: production

End the first act with a high-energy lunch dance. See if you can talk a dancer’s dad into donning lipstick and a wig to act as the lunch lady. Dress him in a white shirt and pants, cat-eye glasses and hairnet, and have him hold a giant ladle. Place tables onstage that students can (carefully!) tap on. At the beginning, the lunch lady dishes “slop” onto trays. As the song picks up, she and students dance together. For props, use Velcro to attach milk cartons, apples and other faux food items onto trays. Students should incorporate the chairs as well: Have them sit and kick their legs in sync or toss props back and forth for added visual interest.

Halftime Show

Song: “The Buckeye Battlecry” by Ohio State University Marching Band

Genres: jazz, tap

Look for a football game backdrop for a spectacle dance comprising the marching band, baton team and flag or ribbon-waving color guard. Intersperse five cheerleaders executing kicks, side jumps, partnering stunts, flips, aerials and basket tosses—if space permits. Brownie points for enlisting a local marching band to play the song live! Create drama by having the captain of the cheerleading squad secretly pine for a band nerd when her friends aren’t looking.

Gym

Song: “Dance at the Gym” from West Side Story

Genre: boys’ jazz

Use a locker-room backdrop for a dance about gym class. Dressed in different-colored jerseys, have two groups battle back and forth over who can do the most push-ups, pirouettes or other technical feats. The star jock’s team should always win. Place an actual locker onstage and have a student dressed as a nerdy math whiz make a cameo: He can pop out, only to be stuffed back in by the boys.

Prom

Song medley: “Teach Me Tonight” by Chaka Khan, “School Spirit” by Kanye West, “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes from Dirty Dancing

Genres: lyrical, hip hop, jazz

End your show with the quintessential end to a school year: prom! This medley can incorporate as many dancers as possible. Decorate the stage with balloons and set pieces from a prom supply company. Students can even wear their real prom dresses. Dim the lights, project a starry night gobo and cast your faculty as teachers and chaperones. If your advanced dancers have worked on partnering and lifts, incorporate them as much as possible.  DT

Kristin Lewis is a writer in New York City.

Dance Teachers Trending
Roshe (center) teaching at Steps on Broadway in New York City. Photo by Jacob Hiss, courtesy of Roshe

Although Debbie Roshe's class doesn't demand perfect technique or mastering complicated tricks, her intricate musicality is what really challenges students. "Holding weird counts to obscure music is harder," she says of her Fosse-influenced jazz style, "but it's more interesting."

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Dean College
Amanda Donahue, ATC, working with a student in her clinic in the Palladino School of Dance at Dean College. Courtesy Dean College

The Joan Phelps Palladino School of Dance at Dean College is one of just 10 college programs in the U.S. with a full-time athletic trainer devoted solely to its dancers. But what makes the school even more unique is that certified athletic trainer Amanda Donahue isn't just available to the students for appointments and backstage coverage—she's in the studio with them and collaborating with dance faculty to prevent injuries and build stronger dancers.

"Gone are the days when people would say, 'Don't go to the gym, you'll bulk up,'" says Kristina Berger, who teaches Horton and Hawkins technique as an assistant professor of dance. "We understand now that cross-training is actually vital, and how we've embraced that at Dean is extremely rare. For one thing, we're not sharing an athletic trainer with the football players, who require a totally different skillset." For another, she says, the faculty and Donahue are focused on giving students tools to prolong their careers.

After six years of this approach, here are the benefits they've seen:

Keep reading... Show less
To Share With Students
Photo via Claudia Dean World on YouTube

Most parents start off pretty clueless when it comes to doing their dancer's hair. If you don't want your students coming in with elastic-wrapped bird's nests on their heads, you may want to give them some guidance. But who has time to teach each individual parent how to do their child's hair? Not you! So, we have a solution: YouTube hair tutorials.

These three classical hairdo vids are exactly what your dancers need to look fabulous and ready to work every time they step in your studio.

Enjoy!

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Alternative Balance
Courtesy Alternative Balance

As a dance teacher, you know more than anyone that things can go wrong—students blank on choreography onstage, costumes don't fit and dancers quit the competition team unexpectedly. Why not apply that same mindset to your status as an independent contractor at a studio or as a studio owner?

Insurance is there to give you peace of mind, even when the unexpected happens. (Especially since attorney fees can be expensive, even when you've done nothing wrong as a teacher.) Taking a preemptive approach to your career—insuring yourself—can save you money, time and stress in the long run.

We talked to expert Miriam Ball of Alternative Balance Professional Group about five scenarios in which having insurance would be key.

Keep reading... Show less
To Share With Students
Via @madisongoodman_ on Instagram

Nationals season is behind us, but we just aren't quite over it yet. We've been thinking a lot about the freakishly talented winners of these competitions, and want to know a bit more about the people who got them to where they are. So, we asked three current national title holders to tell us the most powerful piece of advice their dance teacher ever gave them. What they have to say will melt your heart.

Way to go, dance teachers! Your'e doing amazing things for the rising generation!

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
Getty Images

Enrollment is an issue that plagues brand-new and veteran studio owners alike. Without a steady stream of revenue from new students coming through your doors, your studio won't survive—no matter how crisp your dancers' technique is or how well-produced your recitals are.

Enrollment—in biz speak, customer acquisition and retention—depends on your business' investment in marketing. How effectively you get the word out about your studio will directly influence the number of people who register. Successful businesses typically use certain tried-and-true marketing strategies to recruit and retain clients or customers. These four studio owners' tricks for kicking enrollment into high gear are modeled after classic marketing techniques.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Turn It Up Dance Challenge
Courtesy Turn It Up

With back-to-back classes, early-morning stage calls and remembering to pack countless costume accessories, competition and convention weekends can feel like a whirlwind for even the most seasoned of studios. Take the advice of Turn It Up Dance Challenge master teachers Alex Wong and Maud Arnold and president Melissa Burns on how to make the experience feel meaningful and successful for your dancers:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Thinkstock

Dance teachers are just as apt to fall into the trap of perfectionism and self-criticism as the students they teach. The high-pressure environment that is the dance world today makes it difficult to endure while keeping a healthy perspective on who we truly are.

To help you quiet your inner critic, and by extension set an example of self-love for your students, we caught up with sports psychologist Caroline Silby. Here she shares strategies for managing what she calls "neurotic perfectionism." "Self-attacking puts teachers and athletes in a constant state of stress, often making them rigid, inflexible and ultimately fueling high anxiety rather than high levels of performance," Silby says. "Perfectionistic teachers, dancers and athletes can learn to set emotional boundaries. They can use doubt, frustration and worry about missing expectations as cues to take actions that align with what they do when teaching/performing well and feeling in-control. Being relentless about applying a solution-oriented approach can help the perfectionist move through intense emotional states more efficiently."

Check out those strategies below!

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by The Studio Director

As a studio owner, you're probably pretty used to juggling. Running a business is demanding, with new questions and challenges pulling your attention in a million different directions each day.

But there's a solution that could be saving you time and money (and sanity!). Studio management systems are easy-to-use software programs designed for the particular needs of studio owners, offering tools like billing, enrollment, inventory and emails, all in one place. The right studio management system can help you handle the day-to-day tasks that bog you down as a business owner, leaving you more time for the most important work—like connecting with students and planning creative curriculums for them. Plus, these systems can keep you from spending extra money on hiring multiple specialists or using multiple platforms to meet your administrative needs.

So how do you make sure you're choosing a studio management system that offers the same quality that your studio does? We talked to The Studio Director—whose studio management system provides a whole host of streamlined features—about the must-haves for any system, and the bonuses that make an excellent product stand out:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Thinkstock

Since the dawn of time, performers have had to deal with annoying, constant blisters. As every dance teacher knows (and every student is sure to find out), blisters are a fact of life, and we all need to figure out a plan of action for how to deal with them.

Instead of bleeding through pointe shoes and begging you to let them sit out, your students should know these tricks for how to prevent/deal with their skin when it starts to sting.

You're welcome!

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
Photo by Brian Guilliaux, courtesy of Coudron

Eric Coudron understands firsthand the hurdles competition dancers face when falling in love with ballet. Now the director of ballet at Prodigy Dance and Performing Arts Centre in Frisco, Texas, Coudron trained as a competition dancer when he was growing up. "It's such a structured form of dance that when they come back to it after all of the other styles they are training in, they don't feel at home at the barre," he says.

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox