Teaching Tips

This Checklist Will Help Your Dancers Make Smart and Safe Decisions in Their Professional Lives

Thinkstock

It's a dance teacher's job to prepare students for professional careers. As everyone knows, this means more than just giving them precise technique and exceptional performance capabilities. Perhaps more than ever, it's important that teachers prepare their students to know how to make smart and safe decisions when entering the workplace. It's important that we give them the skills to say "no" when a project doesn't fit with their personal values, puts them in a dangerous or toxic work environment, or is discriminatory to their race, gender, sexual orientation or religion. Teachers need to help their students advocate for themselves in order to create a career they can be proud of.

Here are four tips for helping your dancers make safe and smart professional decisions when they leave the warmth of your caring and supportive studio.


1. Teach them to ask questions.

For anyone starting their careers, asking questions can be difficult. We are each trying desperately not to rock the boat in order to book the job and establish good connections and relationships in our industry. That being said, we do ourselves a disservice when we choose not to ask questions.

Encourage your dancers to gather all the information they can about the company, artist or organization they will be dancing for, before accepting a gig. Prepare them to reach out to other dancers who've held that job previously, in order to know how performers are treated, whether the health of the dancers is prioritized, whether they felt respected and if there are any safety concerns they should be aware of.

The more your dancers know going into a job, the more power they hold to make important choices.

2. Prompt them to establish their own personal values they can hold firmly.

Whether it has to do with modesty standards, suggestive movement, gender wage disparities, toxic leadership styles or discrimination, help your dancers decide what they are and are not OK with. Teach them to hold strong to their values as they prepare to navigate the terrain of the professional dance industry. Do this now before they are put into a situation where they may feel pressured to compromise.

3. Encourage them to advocate for themselves when necessary.

If it turns out they discover the details of the job will be harmful to them physically or emotionally, teach them to advocate for themselves respectfully. Work through ways they can stand up and ask for fair treatment, a pay raise or a work environment that takes sexual harassment seriously.

Give them the confidence and self-esteem to speak up. This will go a long way in creating a stable career that they can take ownership of.

4. Help them practice saying "no" respectfully.

Dancers are very good at doing what they're told. In fact, you'll be hard-pressed to find a more disciplined community of people. That's excellent when teaching technique, but when it comes to creating healthy boundaries for ourselves personally and professionally, it can be harmful.

It will likely be difficult for your dancers to turn down opportunities as they begin their careers. Everyone is trying to book anything in order to start filling up their resumés. This is where dancers can find themselves in trouble. Teach your students that it's OK to say no and walk away when necessary.

One way to do this is to establish times in class when your students give their permission. For example: Before giving a correction where you may need to physically move your student into a position, ask them if they're OK with it first.

You have such a big influence on your students, dance teachers! Thanks for helping them reach their potential!

Let us know over on our Facebook page what other things you do to prepare your students for their careers!

Music
Getty Images

Securing the correct music licensing for your studio is an important step in creating a financially sound business. "Music licensing is something studio owners seem to either embrace or ignore completely," says Clint Salter, CEO and founder of the Dance Studio Owners Association. While it may seem like it's a situation in which it's easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission—that is, to wait until you're approached by a music-rights organization before purchasing a license—Salter disagrees, citing Peloton, the exercise company that produces streaming at-home workouts. In February, Peloton settled a music-licensing suit with the National Music Publishers' Association out-of-court for an undisclosed amount. Originally, NMPA had sought $300 million in damages from Peloton. "It can get extremely expensive," says Salter. "It's not worth it for a studio to get caught up in that."

As you continue to explore a hybrid online/in-person version of your class schedule, it's crucial that your music licenses include coverage for livestreamed instruction—which comes with its own particular requirements. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about music licensing—in both normal times and COVID times—as well as some safe music bets that won't pose any issues.

Keep reading... Show less
Teaching Tips
A 2019 Dancewave training. Photo by Effy Grey, courtesy Dancewave

By now, most dance educators hopefully understand that they have a responsibility to address racism in the studio. But knowing that you need to be actively cultivating racial equity isn't the same thing as knowing how to do so.

Of course, there's no easy answer, and no perfect approach. As social justice advocate David King emphasized at a recent interactive webinar, "Cultivating Racial Equity in the Classroom," this work is never-ending. The event, hosted by Dancewave (which just launched a new racial-equity curriculum) was a good starting point, though, and offered some helpful takeaways for dance educators committed to racial justice.

Keep reading... Show less
Higher Ed
The author, Robyn Watson. Photo courtesy Watson

Recently, I posted a thread of tweets elucidating the lack of respect for tap dance in college dance programs, and arguing that it should be a requirement for dance majors.

According to onstageblog.com, out of the 30 top-ranked college dance programs in the U.S., tap dance is offered at 19 of them, but only one school requires majors to take more than a beginner course—Oklahoma City University. Many prestigious dance programs, like the ones at NYU Tisch School of the Arts and SUNY Purchase, don't offer a single course in tap dance.

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.