Dance Teacher editors stand with the 2016 Dance Teacher Award winners at the Capezio A.C.E. Awards. From left to right: Rachel Caldwell, Rachel Rizzuto, Helen Rolfe, Joanne Chapman, Claudio Muñoz, Robert Battle, Karen Hildebrand, Kathleen Isaac and Pamela VanGilder

What a whirlwind weekend! It was my first-ever Dance Teacher Summit, and it was awesome! Throughout the weekend’s classes, seminars, workshops, Capezio A.C.E. Awards and the Closing Summit panel discussion, teachers from far and wide shared their wisdom and passion for teaching dance. Here are five things I learned at the Summit:

1.     Studio owners are superheroes. At the studio owners' session on Thursday, studio owners from across the country discussed the challenges they face. My takeaway? These women and men are amazing. Not only do they run a business, teach class, choreograph and manage staff, they deal with problematic parents, fundraising, the repercussions of a constantly changing economy, being a mentor to students and adapting their businesses to the digital age. And that’s not even half of it! I tip my hat to you, studio owners. You are superheroes.

2.     Dance really is for every child. Since seeing the documentary P.S. Dance! last year, I have thought a lot about its prevailing message, “Dance for every child.” I felt that concept very deeply when I attended a workshop titled “Special Needs Students,” led by Rhythm Works Integrative Dance teacher Tricia Gomez. She gave a rundown of sensory issues experienced by students with special needs and showed how different types of cuing (visual, auditory and tactile) can help those students dance. It was fascinating and inspiring!

Talent and innovation were abundant at the Capezio A.C.E. Awards! Among the winners were 2nd runner ups Mark Osborn and Justin Myles for their tap number, Long Train Running.

3.     The competition scene is immense (and intense!). At both the competition/convention panel discussion and Joanne Chapman and Nancy Giles’ seminar, “Competition Teams: Keeping it Smooth,” I was blown away by just how much the comp scene has expanded since I was a studio dancer. Representatives from 15 dance competitions were present at the Summit to field questions. Meanwhile Chapman and Giles shared how they run their award-winning comp teams. One key to their success? Hold every dancer on the team to the same high standards.

4.     Stay positive and good things will come your way. At Kim Delgrosso’s seminar, “Fill Your Cup,” she shared how maintaining a positive attitude and being grateful can impact your life. It’s worked well for her—the mother of 8 and grandmother of 22 has run a successful studio in Orem, Utah, for more than 30 years. From taking the time to connect with the people around you to participating in nondance activities, she had great suggestions for staying grounded and humble in this often chaotic industry.

5.     The future of dance education looks bright. The Closing Summit panel discussion last night was truly uplifting. Summit ambassadors Denise Wall, Joanne Chapman, Kim Delgrosso, Sue Sampson-Dalena, Dance Teacher editor-in-chief Karen Hildebrand and faculty member Deborah Wingert talked with teachers about the future of dance education. More job opportunities for dancers, an increased emphasis on health and self-care and more innovation in the choreographic realm than we know what to do with are all indicators of a bright future for today’s young dancers.

From left to right: Denise Wall, Kim Delgrosso, Sue Sampson-Dalena, Joanne Chapman, Karen Hildebrand and Deborah Wingert

Photos (from top): by Rachel Papo (2); by Helen Rolfe

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Seen & Heard At the Dance Teacher Summit

Nancy Giles, fourth from left, with fellow DT Summit ambassadors

Nancy Giles

Owner

Southern Strutt

Irmo, South Carolina

600 students

During 32 years as a studio owner, Nancy Giles has learned a lot about running a business, including how to handle parent drama and make time for herself. She shares her wisdom each summer as an ambassador at the Dance Teacher Summit.

 

Dance Teacher: What has been the biggest change you’ve made to your studio practices since opening?                              

Nancy Giles: All my studios have observation windows, where I used to invite parents to watch the children. I wanted them to see the passion and how hard we were working. Over the years, however, it became a place to gossip and argue, so then we started limiting the windows to once a month. But still, it got so bad that teachers couldn’t walk out the door to go to the bathroom without parents jumping all over them about why their child wasn’t in the front row. Now I have closed the windows and parents are not allowed in the building at all. They are typically just allowed to drop off and pick up, and now, when I invite them in to watch, it’s a privilege.

Thirty years ago, parents would say, “Do what you can for my child. I trust and respect you.” But today’s parent-teacher-child relationship is different. Society makes people feel entitled, like everybody has to win and everybody has to be the best. Because the world has changed, our approach had to change.

DT: How did you present such a drastic policy change to parents?

NG: I have a parents’ meeting every year, and that’s what I addressed that year. I said I wanted to get back on track with parent trusting child trusting teacher. I told them we wanted to make the atmosphere more conducive to learning. I said, “We know how much concern you have for your child, but with all of you being there, it keeps us from being the best teachers we can be. We feel like we don’t have the freedom to correct your child. You’re paying us to teach them, and that requires corrections.”

I expected it to be a really hard change. I was so worried that I hired somebody to sit in my lobby. I didn’t call her a bouncer—I called her lobby patrol. A few parents tried to get in, but once they saw I was serious, they respected the rule. Once we made the change, it was a clean, healthy separation.

DT: How do you make sure you’re comfortable taking time away from the studio?

NG: I’m 58, and there comes a time when you realize there’s more to life. My whole career I’ve surrounded myself with good faculty, and I’m always looking to hire graduates who have grown up in the studio and know what we do. That’s why I’m able to trust and be more free to live the other part of my life at this age. My daughter also has been working with me for the last 10 years. I can leave knowing that everything will be as if I were here. —Andrea Marks

Photo courtesy of Break the Floor Productions

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