You know what unfortunately goes hand in hand with the greatest time of year? The dreaded cold and flu season. But, never fear—you can stay ahead of the curve this year by keeping your immune system working smoothly before the sniffles set in. We've rounded up our best tips and tricks to help you stay healthy (and dancing!) all season long.


First, Know the Difference Between a Cold vs. Fall Allergies

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Many people associate allergies with spring's pretty blooms, but fall allergies can wreak havoc on your body, too. "Fall is really a key point in the allergy season, mostly because of ragweed allergy, which affects most of North America," Dr. Nadim Bikhazi, an ear, nose and throat specialist in Ogden, UT, told Weather.com. According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), if your nose is running, check the color of your mucus. If it's clear, you could have allergies, but if it's yellow or green, it's probably a cold. Also, a fever is almost always a key giveaway that you have a cold or the flu—it's never a symptom of allergies.

Make Sure You're Getting Plenty of Sleep

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Because this is also the busiest time of year—thanks to school, holidays, and intense dance rehearsals and performances—it's super important to make sure you're getting plenty of quality sleep. (Emphasis on quality!) Did you know that catching up on sleep over the weekend isn't actually beneficial? "You wouldn't stop eating Monday through Friday, then gorge yourself over the weekend," says Dr. Rafael Pelayo, pediatrician and clinical professor at the Stanford Center for Sleep Sciences and Medicine. "Even if you skip sleep completely one night, you don't sleep 16 hours the next. Ten hours or so is the most your brain allows based on evolutionary needs."

Plus, an extra few hours of "catch-up" sleep won't fix the fact that you're not getting enough sleep when you should be. And sleep is our body's best defense against illness. Check out other common sleeping mistakes dancers make here and fix your zzz's for good!

Make Sure You're Eating the Rainbow

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Marie Scioscia, a registered dietitian with The Ailey School, says that most green, red, blue and purple, and yellow and orange produce all contain great doses of Vitamin C, which is key for supporting a healthy immune system. Make sure you're eating a wide color spectrum by consistently reaching for things like kiwis, kale, broccoli, strawberries, tomatoes, red peppers, blueberries, plums, cabbage, oranges, peaches, and sweet potatoes. "Less is more when it comes to immune support. It's all about having variety in your diet and not overdoing it on one particular food or vitamin supplement," Scioscia says.

Check out Scioscia's go-to smoothie recipe to fit lots of the above fruits and veggies into one snack. It's (very appropriately) dubbed The No-Sick-Day Slurp.

Destress with Plenty of #SelfCare

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We get it, stress is just an unavoidable fact of life for today's teenagers—especially teens who dance. But, "if you keep experiencing stress over and over again and you don't manage it properly, it can wear and tear on your body," says Lynda Mainwaring, PhD, a sports and performance psychologist and an associate professor at the University of Toronto. Chronic, long-term stress can weaken your immune system, making future illness all the more likely.

Make sure to fit time in your busy schedule for things that make you happy. Meditate, take a yoga class or a bubble bath, journal or color, bake, or just laugh with your friends. Anything that clears your mind can undo fight-or-flight responses triggered by stress and anxiety. If you're constantly agitated no matter what, though, check out this advice to know if you should talk with a doctor.

Make Sure You're Actually Eating Vitamin C

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When you feel a cold coming on, it's easy to reach for Emergen-C. But this popular supplement contains 1,000 milligrams of Vitamin C—more than 10 times the recommended daily amount! Vitamin C overload can cause stomach distress and kidney stones, so next time, Scioscia recommends grabbing an orange instead.

Stay Warm in the Studio


Photo by Jayme Thornton, modeled by Tillie Glatz

Drastic temperature changes can make our immune systems crash. Make sure you're bundled up during warm-up so your body doesn't go from freezing to boiling. And stay toasty when you're leaving the studio, too, even though putting on something snuggly may be the last thing your sweaty body wants. Check out our favorite cozy jumpsuits, that are just as cute as they are functional.

Make Sure Your Diet Includes Plenty of Garlic

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When it comes to boosting your immune system, nothing beats garlic. Emily Cook Harrison, a registered dietitian at Nutrition for Great Performances in Atlanta, GA, says,"Garlic isn't just anti-inflammatory. It's also shown to reduce cold symptoms." Chop up two or three cloves and add them to whatever you're cooking for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

And If You Do Get Sick...

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Stay home! We know, we know, the show must go on, but it's super important to let your body rest sufficiently so that you can recover quickly. And it's so not fun for anyone else around you...no one wants to be coughed or sneezed on! Sometimes, rest and recovery can even take your dancing to the next level.

The Conversation
Dancer Health
"We think as dancers, 'Oh my gosh, if this thing isn't working hard enough, I have to work it harder.' In order for these muscles to work, they have to have a chance to relax, too." –Kathryn Maykish

As deeply familiar as dancers are with their bodies, there's one muscle group that can remain mysterious. You can't see it, and it can be tough to access, but the pelvic floor serves a major role in your posture and body function. Dancers and other athletes are more prone than the general population to dysfunction of the pelvic floor, and this can have major ramifications in dance and life.

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Showstopper sees all types of different dancers from across the world at their dance competitions. Sometimes it can be hard to know how to stand out among the 100s of dancers that perform on their stages.

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Studio Owners
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The holidays are here, and as everyone knows, the real best way to spread Christmas cheer is serving your community and helping those in need. Luckily for dance teachers, dance studios are the perfect backdrop for the start of some seriously awesome service projects. Your dancers will learn the value of helping others, and you will all feel warm and fuzzy inside!

Check out these three service-project ideas, and try implementing them at your studio this season. Let us know over on our Facebook page, or in the comments below, what other projects you do at your studio that make a difference in your community!

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The holidays can make this time of year fly by. But successful studio directors know that December is not the time to rest on their laurels. Here are four projects to consider this month to give your business a year-end boost.

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Dance Teacher Tips
Eva Stone directs The Stone Dance Collective, shown here in Eve, reconsidered. Photo by Rex Tranter, courtesy of The Stone Dance Collective

Unlike the majority of my students and colleagues, my journey in dance has been unorthodox. At age 14, I enrolled in modern dance at my high school, and something about the large open studio with room to move thrilled me (and still does). I immediately set out to impress my dance teacher with my complete repertoire, a solo interpretation of "Bohemian Rhapsody" created in my living room, infused with several badly self-taught ice-skating moves. In that moment, an awareness of the power of movement, music, space and performance aligned, and I instinctively knew I was someplace special.

My high school dance teacher was smart. Knowing that she did not have the time to mold us into technically proficient dancers, she introduced us to the craft and skill of making dances. I spent four years opening the door to my creative voice, becoming a confident choreographer. As a dance major in college, however, I quickly realized I was lacking something very important: actual dance training. So I began an intense regimen of studying, analyzing, copying, stealing and emulating every movement language, quality and nuance with which I could connect. Later, I completed a master's degree in choreography and choreological studies, formed a small dance company and set out to fund my artist's life with teaching.

As a modern dancer, and having come to dance late, communication and imagery were significant in managing the demands of my training. I had to ask a lot of questions, because I had not yet developed a physical vocabulary of answers. I needed a sense of humor, to prevent me from quitting. I had to negotiate, rationalize, moderate and articulate, both verbally and physically, a pathway through much of what I was performing in or choreographing. This allowed me to solve problems more creatively, from a place separate from a perspective of pure technical ability. I now use these same methods for teaching students.

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Dancer Health
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According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. In 2017, 47,173 Americans died by suicide, and there were an estimated 1.3 million suicide attempts. While it's a myth that suicide rates are higher in December than any other time of year, the holidays give us an opportunity to consider the health and happiness of those we love. As dance teachers, we spend more time with our students than even their parents do, which means we are in a particular position to notice the pain and distress they're experiencing.

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Dance Teacher Tips
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Q: What do you do with parents who constantly complain about where their daughter is placed in choreography?

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Studio Owners
Photos courtesy of Google

Valentina Bagala and Rafael Savino held their studio's very first registration at a Subway. "We didn't even have an office," says Bagala, who heads the artistic side of Ascendance Studio in Doral, Florida. "This lady called us over the phone, and we said, 'OK, we can take your registration. Would you mind meeting us at the Subway that's downstairs from our studio?'"

Now, five years later, Ascendance is thriving, with a growing competitive team, a 5,000-square-foot space and 300 students—one of whom is the same dancer who was registered in that Subway. Today, registration mostly happens online, as do many of Ascendance's processes—attendance, billing, e-mail marketing campaigns—thanks to Savino, who heads the studio's marketing, finances and administration. To what do Bagala and Savino credit their impressive growth? Digital advertising. Despite working in an industry where many still rely on old-school methods of operation—manual registration, tuition paid in person by cash or check, fliers handed out in parking lots—they took the plunge to modernize their advertising strategy and found it a game changer for their studio.

Slow, but consistent

Bagala and Savino admit Ascendance got off to a rocky start. They rented space from a fitness studio for three months. "We didn't get the best schedule," says Bagala, who could only rent the space by the hour when it wasn't being used. Still, she managed to amass 25 students. Eventually, she found a small, 550-square-foot space of her own in a shopping center. "I remember for our first classes, we would have people who were supposed to show up but didn't," says Savino. "If we had one student in class, we had to teach to that student. That happened multiple times."

When two more spaces became available in the same shopping center, the couple grabbed them, despite the inconvenience of the units not being connected. "You had to step outside," says Bagala. "It wasn't very comfortable."

"The fliers weren't working."

With more space came more responsibility—to increase enrollment. They had been passing out fliers at nearby schools, but that approach, Savino says, "became unscalable. That's when I started looking at digital advertising." He didn't have much money to spend on it—his budget was $5/day—but he began looking into advertising on Google. He also enrolled in a local digital marketing course at nearby Miami-Dade College. "That gave me strategy," he says.

His most successful venture has been with Google's AdWords. With this advertising strategy, business owners create a search ad. (Search ads appear above Google search results when people look for local services the business offers.) The Ascendance search ad, for example, includes the studio website and phone number, plus: "Dance classes for kids. All ages and styles. Try a free class today." Then, you choose keywords—the words or phrases potential customers might type into their browser—and set a daily budget for how much you'd like to "bid" on each keyword. You're charged only if users click your link. During his first AdWords campaign, Savino often bid less than $1 on keywords like "ballet classes," "hip-hop classes," "jazz" and "dance studio."

How much you bid affects in what order your search ad appears among other businesses. But a business with more money to spend on keywords won't automatically see their ad pop up first. Multiple factors—keyword bidding price, how long a user stays on your website, your click-through rate—determine what's called your quality score. And it's your quality score, ultimately, that decides in what order your ad appears on Google.

"For example, let's say there's a huge competitor who's bidding $10 a keyword, while I'm only bidding $1," says Savino. "Google is tracking everything. If users stay on my website for a while and don't click the back button to get back to the search page, Google knows my website is relevant and a good experience." That increases his quality score and gives his search ad odds a boost.

Experimenting, wisely

Savino ran his initial AdWords campaign for about a month in 2013, starting in mid-September—prime back-to-school time. Each week, he wound up getting 10-plus interested customers. He offered each a free trial class. Of that weekly number, more than 80 percent enrolled in classes. By the time the campaign was over, Ascendance had 45 new students. And it all cost him less than $150. Though he risked spending more than his daily allotted $5, he knew it would pay off in increased enrollment.

As they became more comfortable with AdWords, the couple experimented. Bagala asked her mom what words she would use to search if, for example, she were looking for ballet classes for a 5-year-old. Her responses became part of their strategy: "ballet classes in Doral," "dance classes in Doral," "dance studio in Doral." They also interviewed parents of new students, asking 'How did you hear about us?' "If they said, 'Google,'" says Savino, "we'd ask if they remembered what they typed."

Now his daily budget is $20, though he's careful to time campaigns with high-enrollment periods. "During back-to-school season, August and September, I know a lot of people are going to be looking for classes," he says. "But I also know that January is another high-enrollment period—that's when we see an uptick in our baby program. Those moms are operating on a calendar year, not a studio year."

When Google came to town

Last spring, Google itself took an interest in Ascendance, and it featured Savino and Bagala in a national video campaign as a small-business case study. Of particular interest was the studio's dual advertising campaigns: one in English and one in Spanish. Savino and Bagala are bilingual, and their community is largely Spanish-speaking—so they capitalized on that. "Since we were advertising in Spanish," says Savino, "those people were sure that they were going to come through our door and someone would be here who would speak their language."

Of course, digital advertising can only take a studio so far. You have to follow through with a great product—and that, Savino says, is Valentina's greatest contribution to the business. "At the end of the day, if the product isn't good, people are simply going to leave," he says. "She's the heartbeat of the studio."

Dance Teacher Tips
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It's a dance teacher's job to prepare students for professional careers. As everyone knows, this means more than just giving them precise technique and exceptional performance capabilities. Perhaps more than ever, it's important that teachers prepare their students to know how to make smart and safe decisions when entering the workplace. It's important that we give them the skills to say "no" when a project doesn't fit with their personal values, puts them in a dangerous or toxic work environment, or is discriminatory to their race, gender, sexual orientation or religion. Teachers need to help their students advocate for themselves in order to create a career they can be proud of.

Here are four tips for helping your dancers make safe and smart professional decisions when they leave the warmth of your caring and supportive studio.

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Dancer Health
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Q: I've noticed a clicking or popping sound coming from my right hip joint when I raise it to the side, and I tend to be far more flexible on my left leg. Are these two things connected? Should I be worried?

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Q: I want to do a holiday performance and need some advice. How do you get parents on board? How do you keep it economical? What other money makers do you do at your holiday show other than ticket sales?

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Dance News
Genshaft in Ratmansky's From Foreign Lands. Photo by Erik Tomasson, courtesy of San Francisco Ballet

Dana Genshaft was a beloved dancer in the San Francisco Ballet for 15 years, rising to the rank of soloist. Some of her SFB career highlights include performing lead roles in Frederick Ashton's Monotones I and Wayne McGregor's Eden/Eden and originating roles in Val Caniparoli's Ibsen's House and Mark Morris' Joyride, as well as working with Christopher Wheeldon and William Forsythe.

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