Dance Teacher Tips
Cheryl Madeux-Abbott, ballet director at the Franklin School for the Performing Arts in Hudson, Massachusetts

There's more to private lessons than one-on-one instruction. Consider these practical issues as you plan for your next session.

Outside Coaching

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Some schools discourage private lessons and outside coaching for fear that these might contradict their training methods and confuse the student.

Deciding a Rate

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Rates range anywhere from $40 to $100 or more per hour, depending on the instructor. Some studios set a flat rate, offer a discounted package or offer need-based scholarships.

Dealing With the Parents

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Parents might ask to observe the lesson, but their presence could actually hinder the child's progress. "Students work better when their parents aren't watching," says Becky Erhart Moore, artistic coordinator at Marin Ballet. If they insist on peeking in, suggest that they only come for the last 15 minutes.

Scheduling

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Scheduling can be tough, especially since most students aren't available outside of school hours. "If I have to turn down a student because of scheduling issues on my end, I refer them to someone on my staff who is available," says Cheryl Madeux-Abbott, ballet director at the Franklin School for the Performing Arts.

Time Management

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Your time is valuable, so encourage students to arrive ready for the lesson. "If they're practicing a variation, they need to have done class before," says Edward Ellison, director of Ellison Ballet. "But if we're working on fundamentals, then we can start at the beginning of barre and get warm as we go along."

Make sure your technology works for you, not the other way around.

Today, we didn’t have internet in our office until 3:00 pm. And it felt amazing. My fellow editor kept lamenting that she couldn’t get anything done without it, but I’ve never been more productive. It’s because I’m usually trying to prove to myself that I can do 15 things at once. It’s because of—in a word—e-mail. E-mail is a complete time suck, and studio owners know this just as well as magazine editors.

Today I learned that messages can wait, because sometimes they must. Without the option to answer numerous logistical e-mails, I was free to do an essential (my favorite) part of the job: write. For studio owners, I imagine this is like the times when you get to just teach. It feels great, doesn’t it? It’s important to make real, uninterrupted time for this kind of work, not only so you enjoy it, but so that you do it well.

I asked Cindy Clough, owner of Just Fox Kix—the dancewear company and several successful studios—how she keeps e-mail from taking over her busy life. She has a few tips:

  • Overload clients with info. Clough keeps as much current information as possible on her company’s Facebook page and website. “I try to be as detailed as possible in my communications,” she says, “so they don’t have to contact me as much.”

  • Send one-way messages. Clough uses an app designed for classroom teachers called Remind. You can send a mass text to a group of contacts, and no one can reply to it directly. In that sense, it functions like an alert: “Due to snowy weather, preschool classes are canceled today.” Boom. Done. If someone really needs to reach you, they can e-mail or call you separately, but it’s not quite as easy as clicking “reply” on the message.

  • Manage expectations: Reply less frequently. In addition to running her own studio, Clough coaches a high school dance team. When she took on those extra dancers, she began replying to the students and their parents just once a day instead of immediately or hourly. “I work with a lot of high school dance coaches, and they get bothered [if the internet isn’t working],” she says. “I tell them I coached before the internet. It really does eat up your time. Checking it less often is important.”

There you have it from the veteran businesswoman. If she can manage to take a step back, we all can.

Photo: Thinkstock

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