As a dance teacher, your bio is basically a narrative version of your resumé. On a website it's your best public-facing advertisement, and it's often the first impression that parents, students and everyone else has of you. That said, writing a good bio isn't easy! Some people find that they aren't comfortable bragging about their background, while others may leave out information that readers would definitely want to know. There are numerous challenges with getting the balance just right.
Adult ballet students come from all kinds of different places—and they attend your class for all kinds of different reasons. Understanding who your student is and what they want is key in making sure you give the kind of feedback that will resonate with them and help them get what they need out of your class. Achieving this type of connection makes for a happy student and for a more fulfilling student/teacher relationship overall.
Reviewing a simple recording of your voice when you're teaching can help you hear how you sound to your students. Taking the time to play back your instructions, corrections and compliments throughout class will help you find any weak spots as well as recognize some of your strengths. It's a great technique to help you evaluate your instructional ability and make improvements, and pat yourself on the back for things you are doing well. Plus, it's super-easy to do!
Professions across the globe hold yearly conferences, and the dance industry is certainly no exception. Annual conferences exist for dance teachers, dance medicine professionals, dance educators and more. Taking the time out to attend them can be well worth your while for a number of different reasons. Let's take a closer look at four of them.
Any teacher who works with little ones knows that props can make class time run much more smoothly. That said, it's often difficult to find the right mix of tools that will both capture a child's attention and are manageable enough to carry around from one location to another—or pack up and store easily. Anything too big or too heavy is out, and some of the props you love to use with little ones may not be the most practical choice if you're a freelance teacher traveling to multiple studios throughout the week.
We asked two experienced teachers to share a couple of their favorite tips for easy-travel props for those who teach young ones. Here are five solid suggestions you can choose from, to incorporate into your overall teaching plans.
The culture of your dance studio should be a major consideration when it comes to hiring new instructors. After all, teaching experience isn't the only thing that matters! You'll also want to make sure an interviewee fits with your overall philosophy when it comes to interacting with students (and parents!) and teaching dance. Here are some great tips that can help you find the right match.
Operating a dance studio requires a lot of work, and studio owners are always looking for effective ways to make extra money without adding too many demands to their already packed schedules. Here are just a few virtually hassle-free ways to increase your bottom line.
1. Adjust prices and class lengths.
“I raise prices just a little bit each September,” says Diane VanDerhei, owner of INTUIT Dance Studio in Oak Park, Illinois. As VanDerhei has discovered, increasing class rates on a regular basis is a good idea, and not just because it’s smart to keep up with the pace of inflation.
For example, if every other studio in town is more expensive it might be time to up your prices. Research their pricing structure and make sure yours is comparable. The back-to-school season, when customers often expect price increases, is a good time to make adjustments.
To justify increasing costs, consider making classes a little longer. For example, more advanced classes can run for an hour and a half instead of just an hour, and intermediate ones an hour and 15 minutes. Students and their parents might not mind paying more if they see added value.
2. Create promotional days.
“Bring a friend day” (or “week”) is a great way to get the word out about your studio and pick up some additional students. “Word of mouth is a powerful tool in building enrollment, and we’ve found that these initiatives allow us to grow our student body in an organic way that builds upon the relationships we’ve already made with our students,” says Cassandra Oliveras, director of marketing for Ballet Hispanico School of Dance in New York City. Oliveras points out that even if students’ friends don’t enroll, they often tell other people about their experience, thus increasing the studio’s visibility.
Get creative and try out some new ideas to expand your student pool. Why not do a “boys dance for free” day to bring in more male students, or experiment with a “parent day” to see if you can snag new students for your adult classes? Reaching beyond your usual demographic could pay off.
3. Offer discounts and coupons.
Classes at a discounted rate can be an effective way to draw in a larger crowd. Run a coupon in the local paper for a free class or hold 10-minute “sampler” sessions a few times a year. A standing “one free class” option for new students will also keep them flowing in through your studio doors.
VanDerhei holds an annual “Dime A Dance” promotion, based on the concept of dance marathons, to publicize her studio while giving the local community a chance to try out different types of dance. Visitors pay for classes as they wish—anything from literally 10 cents to five dollars. “A lot of people from the neighborhood come, and they sign up for classes because of it,” she says. “I probably get at least 25 new students.”
4. Rent out your studio.
Renting your studio to outside teachers is a great way to earn extra revenue without having to teach more classes. Consider filling extra studio time with yoga, Pilates, martial arts or even other dance classes, as long as they don’t compete with what you already offer. Sheryl Sulek, owner of Sheryl’s School of Dance in Novi, Michigan, rents her studio out by the hour to several other dance instructors who teach different styles. “I have a flamenco teacher who comes in during the day and teaches adults, and I also rent space to a Highland dance teacher and a ballroom instructor,” she says.
If you’re hesitant to commit long-term, offer space for one-time or weekend events. Decide in advance whether you want to charge a flat fee, or discuss an arrangement based on getting a percentage of the profits from the workshops. Sulek has found that renting out the studio for birthday parties is especially profitable. “It’s a good way to utilize the space during off-times, and it has worked out really well as an extra source of cash,” she says, adding that she’s trained her senior students to run the parties. Families can choose a simple room rental, or select a “theme” party with a mini-dance lesson included in the cost. Popular themes have included “princess,” “1950s,” “American Idol” and “hip hop.”
5. Hold mini-recitals.
Instead of having just one end-of-year recital, why not hold regular “mini-recitals” that are open to the public for a nominal charge? Offering to donate a portion of the revenue to a local nonprofit can get you more community visibility and even a mention in the local paper.
VanDerhei began staging mini-recitals in her studio as a way to keep performances low-pressure for her students, but has since discovered that charging a $5 admission fee makes them financially beneficial as well. “This year I did five mini-recitals over three days,” she says, “and parents loved it!”
Bringing in more dollars doesn’t always have to take a lot of effort. Whether you hold special fundraisers or capitalize on rental potential, you can add to your income with just a little creativity. DT
Catherine L. Tully is the Outside Europe Representative for the National Dance Teachers Association in the U.K.
Kristine Anderson has been teaching dance for 25 years in a variety of settings, from studios to public schools. But it was only five years ago, when she joined the faculty at Butler Community College in El Dorado, Kansas, that she found what she’d long been missing: benefits.
“I finally have a job that provides healthcare. I can actually have compensated sick days and perhaps a pension,” Anderson says. “Dance instructors are in a category of their own when it comes to not being compensated properly for their efforts. I am very glad to be where I am.”
The benefits of teaching at a community college come in many other forms as well. It can be a great addition to your resumé, as well as an opportunity to expand your knowledge base and develop new teaching skills. For those interested in eventually teaching at a four-year university, this is an ideal stepping-stone, allowing you test the waters of academia while building related experience.
Studio teachers hoping to reach out into the community and boost name recognition can also profit. By teaching a course or two, you can introduce yourself to a new group of students, and perhaps attract prospective students to your school in the future.
Read on to find out what kinds of opportunities are out there and how to get started.
Options & Qualifications
The types of teaching positions available at a community college will depend on the breadth of its dance offerings. Those with dance departments often have both full-time and adjunct (part-time) faculty positions. These schools usually offer a two-year degree in dance and may also have a performing company.
Other community colleges offer dance classes but do not have a degree program or dance department. Sometimes these courses are taught through the physical education department or are simply given for elective credit. Still others offer continuing education classes, which are non-credit courses geared toward the enrichment and enjoyment of participants.
Teaching requirements for community colleges can differ widely, depending on the school and the program. For example, some schools hire based on teaching experience, while others require a degree in dance. Typically, the requirements for teaching a non-credit course in the continuing education department will be less rigorous than those for an adjunct faculty slot at a school that offers a dance degree.
Lane Community College in Eugene, Oregon, which offers an associate degree in dance, requires part-time faculty members to have at least a BA in dance. Full-time teachers need an MFA with related experience in somatics, creative process and history/theory. When asked what qualities she looks for in potential instructors, lead faculty member Bonnie Simoa says that, aside from a mastery of the form, she wants to see an understanding of the learning process and an approach that allows students to thrive mentally, physically and creatively.
What To Expect
Teaching at a community college comes with its own set of challenges. In a degree program some classes will require the presentation of history, theory and other academic material, as well as grading and paperwork. Continuing education courses will tend to run more like studio classes.
The demands of full-time and adjunct work differ as well. “The main advantage of adjunct work is the freedom it gives me as a dance artist,” says Carley Conder, artistic director of Arizona-based company CONDER/dance, and an adjunct at Scottsdale Community College in Arizona. “I can walk in, teach my class and walk out. The full-time faculty is in charge of the administrative end of things, which allows the adjuncts to concentrate on teaching.”
Anderson says that the greatest challenge has been managing students of widely varying abilities and meeting the needs of each one. Lauri Roesch, who taught at a public high school for seven years before joining Scottsdale Community College as an adjunct faculty member, agrees: “Know the environment you are going to be teaching in,” she advises. “What is the population taking your class? That is going to affect everything from movement vocabulary to music choice. Be flexible. For example, you may be prepared to teach turns and leaps but you may have several students who can't do them due to age or injury.”
Scottsdale Dance Director Angea Rosenkrans adds: “The instructor must understand the demographic of non-traditional students without lowering the expectations and standards of the course. Many times, this means more work in terms of advising, counseling and time, but the results are very gratifying.” DT
Catherine L. Tully is a writer, photographer and educator with more than 35 years of experience in the dance field.