There was a time when the rules of dance studio etiquette were clear to students: Don't stand with your hands on your hips. Never step in front of the teacher, especially as she demonstrates. Wear pink tights and a black leotard to ballet class. Don't talk. But in today's age of entitlement and instant gratification, studio conduct codes can feel optional at best. No specific 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.


1. “I keep overhearing parents and students in the lobby debating what our makeup-class policy is."

Solution: Create a handbook. Shane Hall, owner and artistic director of Prodigy Dance Centre in Columbus, Georgia, learned the necessity of a handbook the hard way. “We started with nothing—no document or code at all. We would just say, 'Don't be late,'" he says. “But that doesn't work. People argue or misunderstand. So we created a code with simple bullet points that included agreements about dress code, absence policy and conduct. Now, the guidelines are clear."

Whether it's a booklet or one simple page, a written document detailing your procedures and expectations will let students (and parents) know what you expect. Make sure to explain these rules in an orientation meeting. Distribute handbooks, discuss the main points and post the materials in your studio.

2. “My minis won't stop talking, no matter how many times I ask them to be quiet."

Thinkstock

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."

3. “I don't want a strict dress code, but I don't know how to get my dancers to dress appropriately for class."

Solution: Ask students to dress the part. Rather than ban certain attire, request that students dress the part for each genre of dance. For ballet class, what's the outfit that will put them in an elegant, pulled-up mind-set? For a contemporary class, something entirely different—knee socks and booty shorts—could be a better match to the movement. Explaining the dress code this way—and being clear about what outfits are allowed where and when—will help students make mature and appropriate choices.

And remember, hair is part of that costume, too. “One group of students was repeatedly coming in with messy hair, so I did all their buns one day. Then, like magic, they attacked the movement with more verve," says Konrad. “When they look the part, they know it's time to dance."

4. "A student won't stop acting up in class, no matter how many times I send her out. She apologizes later, but then does it all over again the next week."


Thinkstock

Solution: Define the consequences. If the consequences for breaking rules are hazy, the rules—no matter how clear—will lose their clout. For many educators, using a hierarchy of steps is helpful. In Konrad's case, if any rule is broken, she first addresses the issue with the student in class. “If it's behavior that needs to stop immediately, I address the child in front of the class and then move on," she says. “This brings the emphasis back onto what we are learning versus the negative behavior."

If the behavior persists, she calls the parents. “I use a positive approach," she says. “I explain what's happening in the classroom and ask, 'Is there something that I should know about? Is there a learning issue that prevents them from following directions or standing still? How can we build your child's love of dance while instilling discipline?'" The next step is to dismiss the student from class and, as a last resort, discuss a move to another studio.

Be sure to clarify your consequences in your handbook, so that students always know where they stand—and how many strikes down they are.

5. “My juniors won't stop texting at the barre between combinations."

Thinkstock

Solution: Enforce (realistic) technology boundaries. While teachers might prefer students not use cell phones at all, that's no longer a realistic rule since parents expect their children to have constant contact. Try limiting their use of mobile devices instead. “Just like I could check my phone while I'm on break from rehearsal, the kids can check their phones on their five-minute break," Hall says. Some studios require students to leave their phones in the break room. Konrad allows hers to have phones (in bags) in the studio, but ensures that they're on silent—by answering any ringing phones herself.

6. “My comp kids don't know how to behave outside of a convention. When we took an open dance class in New York City, they all rushed to stand in the front, even though they didn't know the warm-up."

Solution: Discuss how to act in different situations—before they happen. At a convention, it might be appropriate to stand close to the teacher, regardless of whether you know the warm-up or not. A New York City open class operates differently. Talk over an appropriate response, such as: “Veterans get the front spots, and if you don't know the warm-up and flow of the class, standing in the middle is a good adjustment." To help your students act appropriately no matter the setting, discuss different possibilities and your expectations before situations arise. “I meet with the students prior to our trip and also before classes to encourage the students to stand where they can be seen, and get the most out of what is being demonstrated for the class," says Hall.

The Conversation
Dance Teachers Trending
Photo courtesy of Hightower

The beloved "So You Think You Can Dance" alum and former Emmy-nominated "Dancing with the Stars" pro Chelsie Hightower discovered her passion for ballroom at a young age. She showed a natural ability for the Latin style, but she mastered the necessary versatility by studying jazz, ballet and other forms of dance. "Every style of dance builds on each other," she says, "and the more music you're exposed to, the more your rhythm and coordination is built."

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Harlequin Floors
Burklyn Ballet, Courtesy Harlequin

Whether you're putting on a pair of pointe shoes, buckling your ballroom stilettos or lacing up your favorite high tops, the floor you're on can make or break your dancing. But with issues like sticking or slipping and a variety of frictions suitable to different dance steps and styles, it can be confusing to know which floor will work best for you.

No matter what your needs are, Harlequin Floors has your back, or rather, your feet. With 11 different marley vinyl floors available in a range of colors, Harlequin has options for every setting and dance style. We rounded up six of their most popular and versatile floors:

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
Getty Images

Q: I'm trying to think of ways to maximize studio space and revenue during the summer. What has worked for you?

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Insure Fitness
AdobeStock, Courtesy Insure Fitness Group

As a teacher at a studio, you've more than likely developed long-lasting relationships with some of your students and parents. The idea that you could be sued by one of them might seem impossible to imagine, but Insure Fitness Group's Gianna Michalsen warns against relaxing into that mindset. "People say, 'Why do I need insurance? I've been working with these people for 10 years—we're friends,'" she says. "But no one ever takes into account how bad an injury can be. Despite how good your relationship is, people will sue you because of the toll an injury takes on their life."

You'll benefit most from an insurance policy that caters to the specifics of teaching dance at one or several studios. Here's what to look for:

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
Getty Images

In 2019, dance parents are more eager than ever to observe their child's progress, and stay up-to-date with the ins and outs of what's happening in the classroom. That means yearly recitals aren't always enough to keep them satisfied—especially if you have rules against visitors observing class from week to week. The solution? Visitor observation weeks. Trust us, the guardians and loved ones of your students will love you for it!

We caught up with Suzanne Blake Gerety, vice president of Kathy Blake Dance Studios and regular contributor to Dance Teacher's "Ask The Experts" column, to hear her tips on how to have a successful visitor observation week.

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Success with Just for Kix
Bill Johnson, Courtesy Just for Kix

Running a dance studio is a feat in itself. But adding a competition team into the mix brings a whole new set of challenges. Not only are you focusing on giving your dancers the best training possible, but you're navigating the fast-paced competition and convention circuit. Winning is one goal, but you also want to create an environment that's fun, educational and inspiring for young artists. We asked Cindy Clough, executive director of Just For Kix and a studio owner with over 40 years of experience, for her advice on building a healthy dance team culture:

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer Health
Adequate dorsiflexion mobility is needed to find a supple demi-plié needed to bound into the air and land safely. Getty Images

Dancers are trained to think often about the range of motion, stability and power of their extended lines: the point of the foot, the reach of the penché, the explosion of the sauté in the air. But finding that same mix of flexibility and strength in the flexed foot is just as integral to technique and injury prevention. Without adequate dorsiflexion mobility, it is nearly impossible to find the kind of supple demi-plié needed to bound into the air and land safely.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by World Class Vacations
David Galindo Photography

New York City is a dream destination for many dancers. However aspiring Broadway stars don't have to wait until they're pros to experience all the city has to offer. With Dance the World Broadway, students can get a taste of the Big Apple—plus hone their dance skills and make lasting memories.

Here's why Dance the World Broadway is the best way for students to experience NYC:

Keep reading... Show less
Site Network
Irina Kolpakova in the studio with Katherine Williams. Photo by Quinn Wharton for Pointe

Being coached by a treasure like former Kirov prima Irina Kolpakova is an experience most dancers only dream of. But company members at American Ballet Theatre have been the lucky beneficiaries of her wisdom since 1990. Thanks to Instagram, where pros like Gillian Murphy and James Whiteside share snippets of their sessions with Kolpakova, any ballet lover can be a fly on the wall during rehearsals with the famed ballet mistress.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
Photo by The Fleet, courtesy of Lion's Jaw Festival

Growing up in New Jersey, Lisa Race trained with a memorable dance teacher: Fred Kelly, the younger brother of famous tapper Gene. "Fred would introduce our recitals," she says. "He would always cartwheel down the stairs." It wasn't until years later, when Race was pursuing her master's degree and chose to write a research paper on Kelly, that she realized there was a clear connection between her own movement style—improvisational and floor-based—and his. "In this television clip I watched, Fred jumps up to the piano, then jumps off it—he's going up and down and around," she says. "I thought, 'Oh, wow, all this time, I've thought of my dancing as my own, but that's where it started!' Moving upside-down and into the floor. There's a thread there. I rerouted it in different ways, but there's a connection."

Now, as a professor at Connecticut College, she concentrates on how to introduce her students to that love and freedom of upside-down work—and how to best prepare them for life after graduation, no matter what dance path they take.

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
Getty Images

It's summertime, which means we're all starting to feel HOT! HOT! HOT!

While a warm room is certainly better than a cold room when it comes to dancing, you don't want your students to get heat stroke at your studio. To help you survive this sweaty time of year, here are tips and tricks that will keep your classrooms comfortable for an excellent class.

Enjoy!

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox