Spotlight On: Ray Leeper

Seen & Heard At the Dance Teacher Summit

Leeper led an invigorating class at the 2012 DT Summit

Dance Teacher Summit faculty member Ray Leeper gives all of his energy when he teaches, and he expects the same from students. The 25-year convention circuit veteran is known for drawing powerful, full-out performances from hundreds of dancers at once during his jazz classes at NUVO, JUMP and Tremaine Dance Conventions. Leeper gave us a preview of what to expect in class at next month’s Dance Teacher Summit.

Dance Teacher: How do you get dancers to really attack their movement?

Ray Leeper: To be a dynamic teacher, you have to be not only consistent but also very vocal. You have to be persistent about asking for what you want. And when you see dancers executing with more attack, offer positive feedback and then ask for more. It’s about using your voice when you teach, and getting underneath their heels and chasing them around the room! You watch coaches in gymnastics or football, and it’s the same thing in dance. You have to have a lot of energy. It’s required. And the payoff is worth it. Your students expect you to be consistent with them. It’s just like parenting.

DT: How do you change your approach to cater to dance educators?

RL: You teach a student how to execute, but I show teachers how to teach the choreography as well as to execute. We stop and examine things more closely, so we spend much more time on eight-counts than I normally would. It’s more about exact details than anything else. There’s more breaking down and explaining, so they can take what they learn back to the studio.

DT: How do you approach a student who’s having an off day?

RL: When you’re not getting what you want from a student, don’t take it personally. Not every student is going to feel like dancing every single day. And if that’s the case, we as teachers have to try to dig them out of that negative place, instead of blaming them or getting angry that they’re not as on as they usually are.

I’ll say, “Hey, are you having a bad day?” I just try to be honest with the student. And if he says it hasn’t been the best, I tell him, “Let’s just try to get through it. Tomorrow’s a new day.” And usually, once you acknowledge it, the student ends up doing well, anyway. The space just kind of opens up and it ends up being OK.

Being resistant to a dancer who walks into the room isn’t healthy. As an adult leader and educator, I have to figure out what I can do to motivate them, despite what is going on in their lives outside of class. —Andrea Marks

Photos courtesy of Break the Floor Productions

Dance Teachers Trending
Photo by Jerome Capasso, courtesy of Man in Motion

Finding a male dance instructor who isn't booked solid can be a challenge, which is why a New York City dance educator was inspired to start a network of male dance professionals in 2012. Since then, he's tripled his roster of teachers and is actively hiring.

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
Getty Images

You've got the teaching talent, the years of experience, the space and the passion—now all you need are some students!

Here are six ideas for getting the word out about your fabulous, up-and-coming program! We simply can't wait to see all the talent you produce with it!

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
Photo by Todd Rosenberg, courtesy of HSDC

This fall Hubbard Street Dance Chicago initiates an innovative choreographic-study project to pair local Chicago teens with company member Rena Butler, who in 2018 was named the Hubbard Street Choreographic Fellow. The Dance Lab Choreographic Fellowship is the vision of Kathryn Humphreys, director of HSDC's education, youth and community programs. "I am really excited to see young people realize possibilities, and realize what they are capable of," she says. "I think that high school is such an interesting, transformative time. They are right on the edge of figuring themselves out."

Keep reading... Show less
Getty Images

Q: What policies do you put in place to encourage parents of competition dancers to pay their bills in a timely manner?

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Photo courtesy of Kim Black

For some children, the first day of dance is a magic time filled with make-believe, music, smiles and movement. For others, all the excitement can be a bit intimidating, resulting in tears and hesitation. This is perfectly natural, and after 32 years of experience, I've got a pretty good system for getting those timid tiny dancers to open up. It usually takes a few classes before some students are completely comfortable. But before you know it, those hesitant students will begin enjoying the magic of creative movement and dance.

Keep reading... Show less
Just for fun
Photo via @igor.pastor on Instagram

Listen up, dance teachers! October 7 is National Frappe Day (the drink), but as dance enthusiasts, we obviously like to celebrate a little differently. We've compiled four fun frappé combinations on Instagram for your perusal!

You're welcome! Now, you can thank us by sharing some of your own frappé favs on social media with the hashtag #nationalfrappeday.

We can't wait to see what you come up with!

Keep reading... Show less
Site Network
Original photos: Getty Images

We've been dying to hear more about "On Pointe," a docuseries following students at the School of American Ballet, since we first got wind of the project this spring. Now—finally!—we know where this can't-miss show is going to live: It was just announced that Disney+, the new streaming service set to launch November 12, has ordered the series.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Photo by Tony Nguyen, courtesy of Jill Randall

Recently I got to reflect on my 22-year-old self and the first modern technique classes I subbed for at Shawl-Anderson Dance Center in Berkeley, California. (Thank you to Dana Lawton for giving me the chance and opportunity to dive in.)

Today I wanted to share 10 ideas to consider as you embark upon subbing and teaching modern technique classes for the first time. These ideas can be helpful with adult classes and youth classes alike.

As I like to say, "Teaching takes teaching." I mean, teaching takes practice, trial and error and more practice. I myself am in my 23rd year of teaching now and am still learning and growing each and every class.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Misti Ridge teaches class at Center Stage Performing Arts Studio. Photo by Arlyn Lawrence , courtesy of Ridge

The dance teachers who work with kids ages 5–7 have earned themselves a special place in dance heaven. They give artists the foundation for their future with impossibly high energy and even higher voices. Enthusiasm is their game, and talent is their aim! Well, that, self-esteem, a love for dance, discipline and so much more!

These days, teachers often go a step beyond giving tiny dancers technical and performative bases and make them strong enough to actually compete at a national level—we're talking double-pirouettes-by-the-time-they're-5-years-old type of competitive.

We caught up with one such teacher, Misti Ridge from Center Stage Performing Arts Studio, The Dance Awards 2019 and 2012 Studio of The Year, to get the inside scoop on how she does it. The main takeaway? Don't underestimate your baby competition dancers—those 5- to 7-year-olds can work magic.

Keep reading... Show less
Site Network
Patrick Randak, Courtesy In The Lights PR

The ability to communicate clearly is something I've been consumed with for as long as I can remember. I was born in the Bronx and always loved city living. But when I was 9, a family crisis forced my mom to send me to Puerto Rico to live with my grandparents. I only knew one Spanish word: "hola." I remember the frustration and loneliness of having so many thoughts and feelings and not being able to express them.

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

As a teacher or studio owner, customer service is a major part of the job. It's easy to dread the difficult sides of it, like being questioned or criticized by an unhappy parent. "In the early years, parent issues could have been the one thing that got me to give up teaching," says Cindy Clough, executive director of Just For Kix and a teacher and studio owner with over 43 years of experience. "Hang in there—it does get easier."

We asked Clough her top tips for dealing with difficult parents:

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox