We're counting down to January 1st with great ideas for your studio and teaching practice in the new year.

The side hip suspension is a basic lift, common in contemporary dance, that requires both partners to use their weight efficiently—the key to effortless and dynamic partnering. Let Talli Jackson, a member of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company and the recipient of a Princess Grace Award, show you how it's done.

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Photo by Kyle Froman

We’re counting down to January 1st with great ideas for your studio and teaching practice in the new year. Check back each day for a new tip!

Yoga classes that incorporate all aspects of the practice, from philosophy and breath work to poses and meditation, have the most to offer. A good class will balance internal and external rotation in the hips and shoulders, stability with mobility in the torso and even the exhale of breath with the inhale. Perhaps most helpful of all, yoga draws us into the present moment, settling our attention so that the mind can begin to quiet. Students are encouraged to work from the inside out; to let go of attachment to specific shapes and tune in to the felt experience of each pose. By freeing dancers from fixating on the mirror, yoga can deepen a dancer’s kinesthetic intelligence and depth as a performer.

In the practice of tadasana (mountain pose), the simple act of standing still opens up layers of awareness and experience. It can be a great way to begin or end the standing portion of a dance technique class. Try a mini practice with yoga instructor Susan Kraft guiding you.

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We’re counting down to January 1st with great ideas for your studio and teaching practice in the new year. Check back each day for a new tip!

No specific classroom etiquette is categorically right or wrong for every studio. But clarifying what your rules are and how they’ll be implemented—to students, parents and staff—ensures a consistent, effective learning environment for your dancers.

The problem: “My minis won’t stop talking, no matter how many times I ask them to be quiet.”

The solution: Change the way you respond to their misbehavior. Instead of simply reprimanding your students, help them understand why talking detracts from their learning. Maria Konrad, assistant director at the Florida School for Dance Education, wipes out classroom conversation by involving her dancers in the solution. “If everyone is talking, I have the students go outside,” she says. “Then, as they enter one at a time, I ask if they will sit quietly. That gives them investment in the process.”

She also notes that oftentimes, the most talkative students are simply smart children needing more challenges. “I have to find ways to make my class move at a faster pace for them,” she says. “I also find a moment when the kid is behaving exactly the way they should be, and I praise them for it right then and there in front of everyone.”

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We’re counting down to January 1st with great ideas for your studio and teaching practice in the new year. Check back each day for a new tip!

Well-placed turns enhance choreography and dazzle the audience. When teaching pirouettes, Kathryn Warakomsky has her Texas Ballet Theater School students watch videos of legendary ballerinas Maya Plisetskaya, Alicia Alonso and Galina Ulanova. “They spun like tops,” says Warakomsky, the Fort Worth school’s principal. “The public wants to see that excitement.”

It's All About That Prep ('Bout That Prep, 'Bout That Prep, No Trouble) 

A pirouette en dehors from fourth position typically starts with a plié, with more weight over the front foot (see photo 1). “This style is very RAD,” says Warakomsky, “where everything comes from a good soft plié that sets you up for your balance. You use the plié to push from both legs, so it’s a movement and not a static position.” She encourages students to keep their heels down and use the whole foot on the floor, rather than rolling forward on the arches or letting the front foot slide into the turn first: “You want to go down into the floor and push from the back foot to go up.”

 

Balanchine changed the traditional preparation by having dancers take a wide lunge in fourth position with a straight back knee and outstretched arms (see photo 2). “He wanted it to be a surprise—he disguised the preparation so the audience wasn’t sitting there waiting for you to do a pirouette,” says Gloria Govrin, artistic director of Eastern Connecticut Ballet. When using this deep, elongated preparation, dancers should keep their weight far over the front foot and use their back toes to push into passé.

 

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Photos by Bridget Lujan, courtesy of Juneau Dance Theatre 

We’re counting down to January 1st with great ideas for your studio and teaching practice in the new year. Check back each day for a new tip!

Fundraising for your studio—whether it’s to raise money for your competition team dancers, fund a much-needed renovation or offer a family in need a scholarship—can feel like pulling teeth. You’ve done the bake sales, the car washes, the candy bars. Why not try something new?

Hailey Doyle

Elevate Dance Center

Vacaville, California

110 students

Taking advantage of a recent trend, Hailey Doyle organized a Paint Nite last fall for adults. She contacted a local organizer in Sacramento, and the company set up everything day-of—she only needed to provide tables and chairs. She sold tickets that could be used to purchase beer and wine, plus desserts (provided by her comp team parents) and held a raffle for gift baskets she and parents put together. Local businesses donated items for the baskets—a kitchen-themed basket included a crockpot, cookbooks and cooking utensils. She assembled a studio basket, with an Elevate Dance Center T-shirt and tank top and two tickets to an upcoming show.

The paint night company required a minimum of 35 attendees, so promotion was key. She posted on the studio’s Facebook page and handed out flyers for her students to take home. The evening was so successful and easy to pull off that she’s planning to do another one this fall.

Costs and materials $30 per person to professional organizer; beer and wine; gift baskets to raffle off; tables and chairs

Fees $45 per ticket; $1 per raffle ticket or six tickets for $5

Net proceeds $1,280 in one night/$43 for each dancer

Word to the wise “I was nervous about selling alcohol, so I talked to some business owners who I knew did a wine-and-yoga night once a month,” says Doyle. “As long as it’s something you’re doing in your venue, you’re not advertising that there will be wine and beer, and your guests are 21—we advertised that the event was 21-and-over—it’s fine.”

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Photo courtesy of Doyle

We’re counting down to January 1st with great ideas for your studio and teaching practice in the new year. Check back each day for a new tip!

Shuffle your faculty. Studying with a different teacher can inspire a new approach to movement and help students learn more about themselves. Tanji Harper, artistic director of The Happiness Club in Chicago, encourages students to take classes from many teachers, in many styles of dance, to become versatile and well-rounded. “They need to work with other people to gain confidence and build their vocabulary,” she says. “It will help them find their individual swag, star quality and way of doing what they’re doing.”

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We’re counting down to January 1st with great ideas for your studio and teaching practice in the new year. Check back each day for a new tip!

Although there may not be one perfect way to run a dance studio, smart directors gravitate to certain practices that make life better for the whole community—owners, teachers and students. We spoke to several savvy owners to find out what's in their registration packets.

 

Your Registration Packet Must-Haves:

An overview of the studio

Calendar of events

Tuition rates and discount opportunities

Photo and liability

waivers

Concise handbook with dress code and etiquette 

Costume ordering information for the entire season

Class descriptions

Teacher bios

Weather cancellation policies

Sign-up instructions for Remind texting service for emergency news

Remind is a free app that allows you to send one-way texts to students, parents, faculty and staff. Send competition team schedule changes, weather-related updates about studio closure or photos of what hair and makeup should look like. With Remind, you can attach photos, documents, PDFs, presentations and even recorded voice messages.

TIP: Make sure everything in your packet is also available online.

Avoid TMI New dance parents can be easily overwhelmed with your three-pound package of forms and information. Consider sharing information in small doses, as needed, to let them get used to the dance studio culture on their own time. For example, dress code for class is an immediate need; recital costume ordering can wait.

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  1. We’re counting down to January 1st with great ideas for your studio and teaching practice in the new year. Check back each day for a new tip!

As a teacher, going to class yourself isn’t always an option. If you’re devoting your full attention to students during class, it’s important to make time to warm yourself up beforehand. No warm-up fits all bodies, so you have to do what works for you, getting your muscles limber and your blood flowing. The most important thing is that you do it. (And the warm-up with students is not enough.)

Here, Amy Chavasse, who teaches at the University of Michigan, shares her personal warm-up practices. Use it to inspire your own routine.

"The first thing I do when I get up is go for an hour-long dog walk. I think about my day ahead and what I’ve been doing in my classes. It gets me intellectually and physically prepared for the day.

I would love to have 45 minutes to warm up before class, but I don’t always get it. If I can get into the studio, I’ll improvise for a bit, going through different ranges of motion. I usually do a few sun salutations, some warrior poses and side angle bends to feel spaciousness inside and resistance to the floor. Sometimes I’ll use a foam roller to actively roll out my quads.

If I’m not feeling particularly creative, I’ll use the elliptical machine in our performance lab. It’s a remarkably good way to get my blood flowing for half an hour."

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Photo by Carlos Funn, courtesy of Chavasse

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