You can’t take your eyes off her. She turns for days and effortlessly leaps across the studio. Now she’s begging you to coach her solo for competition. But she’s only 6 years old, and you wonder if she should even be competing, much less performing a solo. What if she blanks in the middle of her performance, gets hurt by the judges’ criticism or burns out by the time she’s 12?
Nancy Stone, director of Dance Olympus/DanceAmerica, and International Dance Challenge, says that being ready to compete has little to do with age. “I’ve seen 4-year-olds with a lot of stage presence dancing their hearts out. But I’ve also seen 12-year-olds that aren’t ready and should not be out there.” To make sure your students get the best competition experience, be sure to also consider their preparedness and maturity.

Do they have the necessary desire?

Cece White, director of two competition groups at Progressions Performing Arts in Spring, Texas, holds an annual audition for anyone interested in competing. She places the dancers who make the competition team in groups according to age and ability, and dancers can choose to add on a solo. “I used to worry about allowing a 6- or 7-year-old do a solo, but I don’t anymore. If they come and ask me, I’ll do it.” She only adds numbers to a students’ repertoire if they commit to rehearsing each dance weekly.

Are they prepared?
Stone suggests observing students at non-competitive performances to decide if they’re ready for competition. “It’s unfair to put them right into a competition,” she says. “Performing at other venues, not just recitals, but at nursing homes or performances at a mall, are great proving grounds for a dancer.” Before White’s students go to competition, they perform for each other at an informal show. “If a student learns a solo but isn’t comfortable doing it in front of our group, then they won’t compete as a soloist.”
Shari Tomasiello, director of Headliners Competitions, encourages teachers to remember that a competition is not a recital. “Dancers should be able to complete the routine properly and cleanly with no coaching from offstage,” she says.

How do they deal with criticism?

Psychologist Harlene Goldschmidt says that a dancer’s approach to competition is important. “They should be at a maturity level where they want to excel, do their best and feel proud.” They should also be able to retain “a sense of self, even if they lose,” she says. It’s important that they are mature enough to learn from their experience and move on. “An initial letdown is fine,” she says, “but they should cycle through it in a matter of hours or a day and look back and figure out what could have gone better.”

Will they burn out?
Even students with a strong desire to compete may burn out, especially if they begin at a young age. To avoid this, Goldschmidt encourages teachers to emphasize a love for dance above the need for perfect technique and precision. “Help dancers focus on the joy of moving and feeling the joy of expression,” she says.
Burnout may be difficult to avoid when dancers are overscheduled both inside and outside the studio. Karen K. Bowren, owner of North Little Rock School of Dance in Arkansas, limits the number of dances each student performs and coordinates with their schedules outside the studio. “So many dancers are in school and have lots of other activities, and we try to work with them even if it’s more work for us,” she says. Young dancers shouldn’t need to choose between dance, sports and other enticing extracurriculars. “They’re still kids, and we want them to be able to do other things, too,” Bowren says.
“You need to have other things in your life so you can come back to dance feeling fresh,” adds Goldschmidt. “Other interests bring out more artistry onstage because you’re not just this two-dimensional dancer. You’re a person, and people will love to watch you.” DT

Krista Jennings is a former Dance Magazine intern.

photo by Master Shots Photography; courtesy of Headliners

Dance Teachers Trending
Photo by Mitchell Button, courtesy of the artist

Dusty Button prefers music with a range. "There needs to be a beginning, a climax and a strong ending. Like a movie," she says. The award-winning dancer, who joined American Ballet Theatre's second company, ABT II, at 18, has always been drawn to lyric-free tracks filled with dynamic phrasing, rhythms and composition. "Whether it's the violin, piano or cello, instrumental music gives me more inspiration. I want the dancers and the audience to feel something new," she adds.

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
Site Network

When the news broke that Prince George, currently third in line for the British throne, would be continuing ballet classes as part of his school curriculum this year, we were as excited as anyone. (OK, maybe more excited.)

This was not, it seems, a sentiment shared by "Good Morning America" host Lara Spencer.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Dean College
Amanda Donahue, ATC, working with a student in her clinic in the Palladino School of Dance at Dean College. Courtesy Dean College

The Joan Phelps Palladino School of Dance at Dean College is one of just 10 college programs in the U.S. with a full-time athletic trainer devoted solely to its dancers. But what makes the school even more unique is that certified athletic trainer Amanda Donahue isn't just available to the students for appointments and backstage coverage—she's in the studio with them and collaborating with dance faculty to prevent injuries and build stronger dancers.

"Gone are the days when people would say, 'Don't go to the gym, you'll bulk up,'" says Kristina Berger, who teaches Horton and Hawkins technique as an assistant professor of dance. "We understand now that cross-training is actually vital, and how we've embraced that at Dean is extremely rare. For one thing, we're not sharing an athletic trainer with the football players, who require a totally different skillset." For another, she says, the faculty and Donahue are focused on giving students tools to prolong their careers.

After six years of this approach, here are the benefits they've seen:

Keep reading... Show less
To Share With Students
Photo via Claudia Dean World on YouTube

Most parents start off pretty clueless when it comes to doing their dancer's hair. If you don't want your students coming in with elastic-wrapped bird's nests on their heads, you may want to give them some guidance. But who has time to teach each individual parent how to do their child's hair? Not you! So, we have a solution: YouTube hair tutorials.

These three classical hairdo vids are exactly what your dancers need to look fabulous and ready to work every time they step in your studio.


Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Alternative Balance
Courtesy Alternative Balance

As a dance teacher, you know more than anyone that things can go wrong—students blank on choreography onstage, costumes don't fit and dancers quit the competition team unexpectedly. Why not apply that same mindset to your status as an independent contractor at a studio or as a studio owner?

Insurance is there to give you peace of mind, even when the unexpected happens. (Especially since attorney fees can be expensive, even when you've done nothing wrong as a teacher.) Taking a preemptive approach to your career—insuring yourself—can save you money, time and stress in the long run.

We talked to expert Miriam Ball of Alternative Balance Professional Group about five scenarios in which having insurance would be key.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
Roshe (center) teaching at Steps on Broadway in New York City. Photo by Jacob Hiss, courtesy of Roshe

Although Debbie Roshe's class doesn't demand perfect technique or mastering complicated tricks, her intricate musicality is what really challenges students. "Holding weird counts to obscure music is harder," she says of her Fosse-influenced jazz style, "but it's more interesting."

Keep reading... Show less
To Share With Students
Via @madisongoodman_ on Instagram

Nationals season is behind us, but we just aren't quite over it yet. We've been thinking a lot about the freakishly talented winners of these competitions, and want to know a bit more about the people who got them to where they are. So, we asked three current national title holders to tell us the most powerful piece of advice their dance teacher ever gave them. What they have to say will melt your heart.

Way to go, dance teachers! Your'e doing amazing things for the rising generation!

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Turn It Up Dance Challenge
Courtesy Turn It Up

With back-to-back classes, early-morning stage calls and remembering to pack countless costume accessories, competition and convention weekends can feel like a whirlwind for even the most seasoned of studios. Take the advice of Turn It Up Dance Challenge master teachers Alex Wong and Maud Arnold and president Melissa Burns on how to make the experience feel meaningful and successful for your dancers:

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
Getty Images

Enrollment is an issue that plagues brand-new and veteran studio owners alike. Without a steady stream of revenue from new students coming through your doors, your studio won't survive—no matter how crisp your dancers' technique is or how well-produced your recitals are.

Enrollment—in biz speak, customer acquisition and retention—depends on your business' investment in marketing. How effectively you get the word out about your studio will directly influence the number of people who register. Successful businesses typically use certain tried-and-true marketing strategies to recruit and retain clients or customers. These four studio owners' tricks for kicking enrollment into high gear are modeled after classic marketing techniques.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by The Studio Director

As a studio owner, you're probably pretty used to juggling. Running a business is demanding, with new questions and challenges pulling your attention in a million different directions each day.

But there's a solution that could be saving you time and money (and sanity!). Studio management systems are easy-to-use software programs designed for the particular needs of studio owners, offering tools like billing, enrollment, inventory and emails, all in one place. The right studio management system can help you handle the day-to-day tasks that bog you down as a business owner, leaving you more time for the most important work—like connecting with students and planning creative curriculums for them. Plus, these systems can keep you from spending extra money on hiring multiple specialists or using multiple platforms to meet your administrative needs.

So how do you make sure you're choosing a studio management system that offers the same quality that your studio does? We talked to The Studio Director—whose studio management system provides a whole host of streamlined features—about the must-haves for any system, and the bonuses that make an excellent product stand out:

Keep reading... Show less


Get DanceTeacher in your inbox