Teaching Tips

Recital Magic: Vona Dance Studio

"The Greatest Show on Earth." Photo by Brenda Rueb, courtesy of Vona Dance

Your year-end recital is your studio's pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Not only is it the time for your dancers to celebrate what they've accomplished during the year, it's your opportunity to demonstrate to parents firsthand the value of a dance education. A successful recital can also grant your school an influential role in the local community. Whether a prominent conservatory or a small-town studio, and whether your dancers win competitions or take classes once a week, your year-end recital is the chance for your dancers—and your program—to shine.

Vona Dance Studio

Elizabeth McCullough

Vona, CO

In 2017, Elizabeth McCullough opened the first dance school the small town (population 100) had ever had. The nearest dance studio is located in Kansas, so many students come from neighboring communities. When McCullough and her 98 students produced their year-end recital, they brought in an audience of 500—five times the town's population.

Pro tip: "For me, the recital is all about putting on a show. I don't want people to feel like they are in Vona, Colorado, when they come. I want them to feel like they are going to be entertained by a big-city performance. My dad always made the sets for my recitals growing up, and he would get pretty elaborate. So when he and my mom moved out here to be near us, I asked him to make the sets for my shows again. Last year he made it look like a circus tent and built a sign that said 'The Greatest Show On Earth.' We sold popcorn and made it feel like you were coming into a circus."

On themes: "This year I let the students pick the theme. I think picking something your dancers are passionate about makes a big difference in the success of the performance."

Venue: "I do our recital in the same building where I teach. It's actually an old school that was halfway torn down. They left the gym, the auditorium and part of the building up. It was purchased by the church in town, and I rent from them. I turned the old preschool room into a studio where I teach, and we perform in the auditorium with the stage."

Logistics: "It's just me here. Some moms have helped me in the office when I need it, and I have an assistant acrobatics teacher, but other than that I do it all. It's hard to find dance teachers in a culture that's never had any dance."

Costume strategy: "I let the kids pick their own costumes. I set all of the books in a pile in the middle of the room and let them sift through. Once we make a decision, we then find a song to fit it. They love feeling like they had a part in the creative process."

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