Q: I have a few students who spend almost all their extra time after school and on weekends at the studio, and I’ve naturally formed a tight bond with them. I don’t want to appear like I’m favoring them in classes over other students, but I do want to keep them as passionate, eager and involved as they want to be. Sometimes I feel like I’m neglecting them just to avoid favoring them. Please help!

A: First, acknowledge that every student is special and may require a different amount of attention at various times during their training. For instance, a student who spends so much time at the studio might really need a little extra attention. With this in mind, it is counterproductive to avoid students for fear of showing favoritism. Rather, it’s best to come up with ways to praise or acknowledge every student and develop a system to interact with students both on and off the dance floor.

In rehearsals, make a conscious effort to balance the amount of coaching, correcting and praising across all students. Outside of class, you can recognize all students on their birthdays, for example, or for regular attendance or years of participation. Consider creating a student-of-the-month program that honors a student’s teamwork and school spirit. For the eager students who are always at the studio, you could develop an assistant teacher-training program, or an extra performance or competition team. This will allow you to maintain professionalism in your interactions while giving them a constructive outlet for their energy and focus.

Kathy Blake is the owner of Kathy Blake Dance Studios in Amherst, New Hampshire. She and Suzanne Blake Gerety are the co-founders of DanceStudioOwner.com.

Q: I’m struggling to make ends meet when it comes to my studio’s competitive division. The choreographers and travel are expensive, and unlike in the recreational division, there’s no recital to generate extra revenue. How can I keep my comp division running?

A: It’s a challenge, to say the least, to make competitive teams financially viable. One of the ways to do this is to fill all your classes. We encourage our families to enroll even their youngest dancers in multiple dance classes. By the time dancers are 6 years old, we make it compulsory for them to enroll in a jazz class if they’re in a tap or acro class, and as they get older, we require them to take a ballet class if they’re in a jazz class. Our junior company dancers are required to take one jazz, tap, hip-hop, lyrical or contemporary, and two ballet classes per week—and they’re allowed to sign up for more. Your dancers know that with more classes they will improve faster, and if you offer a multiclass discount, they’ll often choose to do more than the minimum. It’s a win for all—your students become more well-rounded, your classes are full and many of the competition expenses will be covered.

We also ask some of our competition faculty members to teach a few recreational classes. Although they often teach at higher rates, we find that this encourages some of the recreational dancers to enroll in more classes. To balance the higher cost, a number of junior teachers (who are at least 17 years old) teach recreational classes at a lower pay scale. These junior teachers are usually former competitive students who are in college. Though they teach as a part-time job, we hold them to the same standard of quality as the competitive teachers. Since your recreational program is your moneymaker, it’s imperative to maintain enrollment and show recreational parents that their children are receiving the best training possible.

Joanne Chapman is the owner of the award-winning Joanne Chapman School of Dance in Ontario, Canada.

Q: I know there are programs like Audacity that allow you to alter a song’s tempo. But to do so, I have to open the song, choose the tempo, convert it and then play it. It takes way too long. Is there a program that will let me do it instantly?

A: Neutrino is a music-player program for Macs that has an easy-to-use interface. It pulls your music directly from iTunes, so your music will stay organized in the playlists you’ve created. The program lets you modify tempo on the spot, or you can save a song (and burn it to CD) at a different tempo. I use this feature in my tap classes if my students are working up to a particular speed. If they don’t make it to the actual tempo by performance time, I can make a copy of the version they’ve been practicing to and use that. Another feature I like is the looping function. When I’m working on a combination for class, I can focus on just a few bars of music and play it over and over until I’ve figured out the phrase.

Neutrino isn’t free, but before purchasing it for $29.95, you can download it from the internet for a 30-day free trial. And here’s a little secret: You can still use the software once the trial expires. The program will lose most of the functions, but the tempo-change ability will remain.

Windows Media Player has the ability to change the tempo while playing the song. Look under the menu “Enhancements,” and choose “Play Speed Settings.” This opens a slider that allows you to control tempo.

As for apps for portable devices, there are a few that work. I’m a fan of the iPhone app, Tempo Magic Pro. It is $4.99, but the app is worth the money because its slider interface is easy to use and you can create a playlist and then lock the tempo, so that all songs in the list play at the same tempo. Tempo SloMo is a great free option, and this app allows you to add markers so you can go back to specific points in the song. For Android users, Music Tempo and Audio Speed Change are apps that are highly rated and free.

Barry Blumenfeld teaches at The Friends Seminary School in New York City. He is an adjunct professor at New York University and on the faculty of the Dance Education Laboratory of the 92nd Street Y.

 Photos from top: by B Hansen Photography, courtesy of Suzanne Blake Gerety; courtesy DT Sumit; courtesy Barry Blumenfeld

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
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
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
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
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 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

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
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 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
Dance Teachers Trending
Kendra Portier. Photo by Scott Shaw, courtesy of Gibney Dance

As an artist in residence at the University of Maryland in College Park, Kendra Portier is in a unique position. After almost a decade of performing with David Dorfman Dance and three years earning her MFA from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, she's using her two-year gig at UMD (through spring 2020) to "see how teaching in academia really feels," she says. It's also given her the rare opportunity to feel grounded. "I'm going to be here for two years," she says, which offers her the chance to figure out the answers to some hard questions. "What does it mean to not dance for somebody else?" she asks. "What does it mean to take my work more seriously? To realize I really like making work, and figuring out how that can happen in an academic place."

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox