Q: I just lost the Nutcracker venue that I’ve booked eight years in a row. What do I do? 



A: This is a problem that’s happening more and more. For 15 years, I [held my recitals] at a performing arts high school, and then the board of education voted four years ago that you had to be from the township of the venue that you were renting. It was the scariest time of my life—what are you going to tell the parents? I picked up the phone book and began calling different boards of education. I also asked all my dance teacher friends who had studios where they rent in the hopes that there would be a free weekend.


    I was looking at high schools and colleges, any theater with a raked floor. But we’re a nuisance to the schools, because they don’t see the money we’re spending; it goes to the general board of education and is divvied among all the schools. Privately owned theaters, on the other hand, are few and far between. Also, most are union houses, so you’re talking about a major investment. You don’t have control of the ticket sales, and you can’t move sets without union workers. And when you have a [limited] budget, little kids and fathers who want to volunteer backstage, that doesn’t work. The performing arts high school is the best of both worlds because you have the professional as well as the [lower-cost] aspect.


The high school theater I ended up getting actually turned out to be a better venue than our original space. The stage is a lot, but the parents are even happier because it’s closer to the studio. Also, the old place had only 800 seats, so I had to have five shows. The new place has 1,200 seats, so I have four.


Hedy Perna is the director of Perna Dance Center in Jazlet, New Jersey.



Q: My former studio manager was a nightmare. She had a sloppy work ethic and poor attitude. It was awful, seeing her everyday and wondering how to let her go. Thankfully, she quit, but now I need to hire someone else and I’m nervous about it. How do I prevent this from happening again, and if it does, how can I protect myself?



A: You’ve got good reason to be nervous. According to a recent National Small Business Poll conducted by the NFIB Research Foundation, more than 14 percent of business owners sued in liability cases within the last five years were sued by an employee. And more than 18 percent of businesses threatened with lawsuits received the threat from an employee.


Unlike large corporations, which have defined hierarchies, human resource departments and well-documented procedures, small-business owners often don’t have the resources in place to deal with problem employees effectively. So what can you do? The best solution is nipping poor performance in the bud.


Explain the obvious. Employees must understand what is expected of them, so outline what is acceptable—and what is not. You can use that as a framework to evaluate on-the-job performance (or provide discipline, if necessary). Also, provide a documented discipline policy and code of conduct, and make sure you and your managers follow procedures.


Evaluate your employees regularly. Written documentation of specific misbehavior (like absence or tardiness) is the best defense against discrimination claims. Include employees’ feedback as part of the evaluation, and use the process as an opportunity to set goals and specify deadlines for improvement.


Don’t wait to address problems; intervene early to give the employee a chance to improve. Not only does this help protect you against potentially costly litigation, you may see enhanced performance and increased employee morale. Then, if termination becomes necessary, it won’t come as a surprise; rather, it will be a culmination of progressive discipline that was clearly necessitated by the employee’s failure to meet the stated expectations.


Elizabeth Gaudio is a senior executive counsel for the national Federation of independent Business Legal Foundation (www.nfib.com/legaloundation). The NFIB Legal Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization created to protect the rights of America's small-business owners by providing advisory material on legal issues and by ensuring that the voice of small business is heard in the nation's courts. NFIB represents the consensus views of its 600,000 members in Washington and all 50 state capitals.



Q: My classes are huge this year. The smallest class has 35 students, the largest has 43, and I teach five classes a day. Trying to learn their names is getting really tricky, since they’re all in gym uniforms with their hair in ponytails. Do you have any tips? 



A: Learning the names of the hundreds of students in your dance program can be quite a challenge, but here are a few tried and true ideas:


Take attendance at the beginning of each class. While you’re learning names, the students will have a chance to get focused, quiet and ready to learn.


Play a “name game” in which each student makes up a move or pose and then says their name as they strike it. After a few rounds, you’ll be able to associate the dancer with his or her individual move.


Having students end the class with a solo jump or freeze center stage while shouting their name is another helpful strategy.


Enlist the aid of a digital camera. Take group shots and label them, then do your homework! You can also make “contact sheets” of your classes for your records.


The folks at New York City-based Rosie’s Broadway Kids, who work with almost 600 students each week in different schools, do. It’s an investment, but you’ll use them for years to come. Plastic pin-style badges with thick paper inserts can be found at most office supply stores like Staples and Office Max.


Ask students to help out by telling you their names when they see you around the building or in the schoolyard.



Remind everyone that their names are really important to you, but since you have so many to remember, it might take a little time. Just like dancing, it takes practice, practice, practice!



Lorelei Coutts is a public school teacher in New York City.

The Conversation
Dance Teachers Trending
Photo courtesy of Hightower

The beloved "So You Think You Can Dance" alum and former Emmy-nominated "Dancing with the Stars" pro Chelsie Hightower discovered her passion for ballroom at a young age. She showed a natural ability for the Latin style, but she mastered the necessary versatility by studying jazz, ballet and other forms of dance. "Every style of dance builds on each other," she says, "and the more music you're exposed to, the more your rhythm and coordination is built."

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Harlequin Floors
Burklyn Ballet, Courtesy Harlequin

Whether you're putting on a pair of pointe shoes, buckling your ballroom stilettos or lacing up your favorite high tops, the floor you're on can make or break your dancing. But with issues like sticking or slipping and a variety of frictions suitable to different dance steps and styles, it can be confusing to know which floor will work best for you.

No matter what your needs are, Harlequin Floors has your back, or rather, your feet. With 11 different marley vinyl floors available in a range of colors, Harlequin has options for every setting and dance style. We rounded up six of their most popular and versatile floors:

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
Getty Images

Dance teachers have a lot of strengths (communicating corrections, choreographing gorgeous movement, planning excellent recitals, cleaning technique—just to name a few) but when it comes to interior design—talent isn't exactly a given. So when studio owners remodel or build, worrying about the decor can feel a little overwhelming (you've got just a few too many other things to worry about, don't you?).

No need to fear! In 2019 we have Pinterest, which shows us all the latest trends we should know about. To help you make the best design decisions for your studio, we've compiled a list of public Pinterest pins we think you'll love.

You're welcome!

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Insure Fitness
AdobeStock, Courtesy Insure Fitness Group

As a teacher at a studio, you've more than likely developed long-lasting relationships with some of your students and parents. The idea that you could be sued by one of them might seem impossible to imagine, but Insure Fitness Group's Gianna Michalsen warns against relaxing into that mindset. "People say, 'Why do I need insurance? I've been working with these people for 10 years—we're friends,'" she says. "But no one ever takes into account how bad an injury can be. Despite how good your relationship is, people will sue you because of the toll an injury takes on their life."

You'll benefit most from an insurance policy that caters to the specifics of teaching dance at one or several studios. Here's what to look for:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Vanessa Zahorian. Photo by Erik Larson, courtesy of Pennsylvania Ballet Academy

At the LINES Ballet Dance Center in San Francisco, faculty member Erik Wagner leads his class through an adagio combination in center. He encourages dancers to root their standing legs, using imagery of a seed germinating, so that they feel more grounded. "Our studios are on the fifth floor, so I'll often tell them to push down to Market Street," says Wagner. "They know that they should push their energy down to the street level." By using this oppositional force, he says, dancers can lengthen their bodies to create any desired shape.

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Success with Just for Kix
Bill Johnson, Courtesy Just for Kix

Running a dance studio is a feat in itself. But adding a competition team into the mix brings a whole new set of challenges. Not only are you focusing on giving your dancers the best training possible, but you're navigating the fast-paced competition and convention circuit. Winning is one goal, but you also want to create an environment that's fun, educational and inspiring for young artists. We asked Cindy Clough, executive director of Just For Kix and a studio owner with over 40 years of experience, for her advice on building a healthy dance team culture:

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

After years of throwing summer parties at your studio, you're likely fatigued by coming up with themes and event details. You want your students to have a good time, but you're also up to your eyeballs in choreography and costume decisions.

Never fear! We've come up with party themes and activities to do during the event. Delegate tasks to your teachers and office managers, and voilà! You have a stress-free party ready to go.

Have a blast, people!

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by World Class Vacations
David Galindo Photography

New York City is a dream destination for many dancers. However aspiring Broadway stars don't have to wait until they're pros to experience all the city has to offer. With Dance the World Broadway, students can get a taste of the Big Apple—plus hone their dance skills and make lasting memories.

Here's why Dance the World Broadway is the best way for students to experience NYC:

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer Health

Q: I recently returned to a modern dance class after a long absence. While I didn't feel any acute pain at the end of class, the next morning I could barely walk from the soreness in both my Achilles. What can I do to fix this?

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
Getty Images

Q: I'm trying to think of ways to maximize studio space and revenue during the summer. What has worked for you?

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
Getty Images

In 2019, dance parents are more eager than ever to observe their child's progress, and stay up-to-date with the ins and outs of what's happening in the classroom. That means yearly recitals aren't always enough to keep them satisfied—especially if you have rules against visitors observing class from week to week. The solution? Visitor observation weeks. Trust us, the guardians and loved ones of your students will love you for it!

We caught up with Suzanne Blake Gerety, vice president of Kathy Blake Dance Studios and regular contributor to Dance Teacher's "Ask The Experts" column, to hear her tips on how to have a successful visitor observation week.

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer Health
Adequate dorsiflexion mobility is needed to find a supple demi-plié needed to bound into the air and land safely. Getty Images

Dancers are trained to think often about the range of motion, stability and power of their extended lines: the point of the foot, the reach of the penché, the explosion of the sauté in the air. But finding that same mix of flexibility and strength in the flexed foot is just as integral to technique and injury prevention. Without adequate dorsiflexion mobility, it is nearly impossible to find the kind of supple demi-plié needed to bound into the air and land safely.

Keep reading... Show less


Get DanceTeacher in your inbox