Successful studios are providing students with broader travel opportunities—not only to competitions, but also to master workshops, festivals and intensives. Here are eight tips that can help turn a potentially maddening experience into an enjoyable memory. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and keep in mind there’s no such thing as too much planning. Finally, remember that taking care of yourself in order to stay healthy and relaxed will help studio trips run smoothly for everyone.
Before You Go
1. Recruit the Parents
While many teachers prefer to keep parents at bay, strategically including them in your travel planning can help take the pressure off you. At the beginning of each year, Cookie Maly, owner of Stagelight Centre of Performing Arts in Pequannock, New Jersey, assigns a mother for each age group who distributes info to the other moms for that group. “I send them everything about fees, competition travel, recitals and hotels,” explains Maly, who has taken students to perform in London and China. “They send an e-mail to the rest of the mothers. It’s a lot easier than typing up notes and giving them to the kids to put in their dance bags.”
Yoko Young, owner of Yoko’s Dance and Performing Arts Academy in Fremont, California, involves moms and dads even further. Young, who regularly travels with students to Japan, created a parents’ guild complete with an elected president, treasurer and secretary. The guild, which meets monthly, raises funds for student activities and sponsors social events designed to help students and parents get to know each other better.
“For competition trips, I tell them where I want to go and why, and they suggest others. We agree on three, and then they arrange everything after that,” Young explains. “Questions and complaints about the trips go to the guild and by the time they get to me they’ve usually already been taken care of.”
If you’re traveling to a competition, be sure to hand out guidelines to parents at the beginning of the year. This may stop persistent moms and dads from calling and pestering the competition company before an event for a schedule or other details—which might earn your studio a troublesome reputation. “I make it known that we get the schedule about a week prior to a competition,” explains Maly. “I make sure the parents do not harass the competition.”
2. Use a Travel Agent
Booking airfare and hotels on the internet may sound like the most convenient option, but paying all those costs upfront may be daunting. To help your pocketbook, try hiring a travel agent who allows you to pay in installments rather than all at once.
“It’s nice because they don’t take the whole amount right off the bat,” explains Diane Rosenbaum, owner of Heart & Soul Dance Studio in Spanish Fork, Utah, who has traveled with students to New York City. “You give them a deposit, and if my parents need to collect or raise more money, they can do that.”
3. Monitor Costume Packing
What do you do if you’ve traveled all the way to an out-of-town engagement only to discover that one of your dancers has forgotten a costume accessory for an ensemble piece at home? Young actually forbids students from performing if they forget a piece. Faced with such an extreme consequence, her dancers rarely forget to pack everything they need. A more easy-going approach is to host a packing party at your studio, and ask travelers to bring in their costumes and lay them out on the floor while you crosscheck your master list of items. You can also call students’ homes the night before leaving and ask their moms to check their bags.
As an extra precaution, plan on arriving at your destination at least three days before a scheduled event and immediately do a costume check. This gives you enough time to call home and have someone overnight items accidentally left behind.
4. Bring a First-Aid Kit
Medical emergencies can occur anytime, any place. Don’t assume the event you’re attending is equipped with a first-aid kit—always bring your own. Maly says that her team travels with a bag stocked with bandages, wraps, ointments, pain relievers and even air casts.
5. Maintain Strict Behavior Rules
To prevent students from acting unruly while on the road, use the classroom to groom the behavior you expect. Stick by the rules you establish, and make it known that dancers who don’t adhere to them will not be invited to faraway festivals and competitions. Young’s in-studio code includes requiring students to be timely, have their hair in a bun, wear the correct leotard color for their class and act politely. If they break any of these rules, they can’t take class that day. But be sure you balance strictness with praise. Even though she’s demanding, Young insists she’s fair. “I’m the first one to recognize when they are doing something great,” she says.
On the Road
6. Utilize Costume Organizers
To keep things running smoothly backstage, invest in portable clothing racks to set up at performances or competitions, and hang costumes in order of performance. Also make sure students keep the accessories for each costume in separate plastic bags pinned to the corresponding ensemble.
7. Dress Alike
Keeping track of dozens of students while on the road can be an intimidating prospect, but matching outerwear or warm-ups bearing your school logo can help. Young requires members of her traveling teams to wear identical hot pink coats and their hair in buns while on trips. Not only does this uniform look help her keep track of the group in busy places, but the unity helps with team bonding and has proven to be great marketing. “The second time we went to the San Francisco airport the people who worked there remembered us,” says Young. “They asked if we were models, which made the girls feel special.”
8. Make Lists
With all the information you need to keep track of, it’s easy to feel frazzled. Calm your nerves by making lists—you can never have too many when traveling with kids. Start with the cell phone numbers of everyone in your party, including students, teachers, parents and other chaperones, then research all the emergency contact info you need for the city you’re going to. If you’re traveling abroad, be sure you know the locations of the nearest hospital and U.S. embassy. Once you arrive at the hotel, make another list with everybody’s room number. DT
Know Before You Go
Before setting out for the airport, make sure you’re familiar with the Transportation Security Administration’s latest guidelines as of presstime.
Items you can pack in your carry-on luggage:
* Liquids, gels, supplements and aerosols in containers three ounces or smaller and inside one quart-size, zip-top, clear plastic bag (be prepared to remove this bag from your luggage when going through security)
* Camcorders, camera equipment, laptops, cell phones, pagers and PDAs
Items you can’t pack in your carry-on luggage:
* Containers larger than three ounces that are half full
* Rolled-up toothpaste tubes
* Gel-type candles, gel shoe inserts (though shoes with gel heels are okay), snow globes or similar decorations with liquid inside
* Beverages brought from home
Sara Jarrett is a freelance writer in New York City.
Illustration by Emily Giacalone