Use The Summer To Your Advantage

We’ve all heard the age-old expression that the three best reasons for being a public school teacher are June, July and August. It makes for great faculty room humor, but about 40 percent of teachers nationwide work a second (or third) job during summer break. Whether it’s to bulk up a bank account, explore new territory or pursue a passion, a summer job can offer more than money. It can provide a break from the ordinary, a change of scenery and a chance to expand your horizons. You can use your time to develop your resumé by working with different age levels, dance styles, teaching environments or approaches. With a little creativity and planning, your summer break can be rewarding in more ways than one.

Dancing for Dinero
Before you start your summer job search, ask yourself whether you want to work as a dance teacher or try something completely different. If dance is your preference, speak to your principal, arts coordinator, personnel director or regional supervisor about arts programs at local schools. Keep in mind that many summer school programs are remedial in nature, so you might want to propose a project that incorporates literacy, math or social studies with movement to jibe with summer curricula.

Contact area dance studios, fitness centers, yoga schools, YMCAs, gyms and youth centers that may need experienced teachers to fill their summer calendars. Don’t be afraid to propose something new to their schedule, such as hip hop for kids, ballet for adults or swing for seniors. You’ve got nothing to lose and you may even plant the seed for a program in the fall.

Museums, parks and recreational centers might also be in the market for dance programs that focus on a specific theme or upcoming exhibit. Rachel Martinez, a K–3 dance teacher in Toledo, Ohio, created a summer workshop that focused on animal movements for kids in conjunction with a local zoo. Local community boards often have funding in their budgets for summer activities at playgrounds, parks or public spaces. They may be interested in a “dancin’ in the streets” or a “salsa under the stars” program.

In addition, the travel and entertainment industries are always searching for performers, choreographers and teachers to work at resorts, various events and on cruise ships. Be sure to check your union journals as well as the trade papers, such as Back Stage and Show Business, for job postings and auditions.

By far, the most plentiful source of summer teaching jobs is at the hundreds of summer camps across the country. You might have been a camper as a kid, but going back as an adult can be a whole new experience. Think of it as a nature retreat with the added bonus of a paycheck, free room and board, and no household chores for two months! At first, camp salaries may not seem that great, but remember that you’ll have very few expenses during your stay. Most camps also offer bonuses to those who take on extra responsibilities, such as directing camp productions or supervising group outings. If you have children, they may be allowed to join you for a fraction of the regular cost. You might even consider renting out your home while you’re away and adding that cash to your summer earnings.

Gigs for Greenbacks

Perhaps you have a hobby or passion that you can parlay into extra summer income? You could opt to recharge your batteries by spending your summer working in a completely different field. A group of high school teachers at John Jay High School in New York City listed an assortment of summer jobs they have held, including scuba instructor, lifeguard, firefighter, landscaper, baseball coach, computer teacher, foreign language instructor, travel agent and wilderness camp leader. In some cases, these summer flings turned into profitable side businesses for a few enterprising teachers.

If you’re looking for short-term employment with minimum commitment, consider contacting a temp agency. As a temp, your hours may be flexible and you’ll gain office experience along the way. Hotels, restaurants and retail stores are also busy in the summer months and often find themselves short-staffed. Working in a local boutique gave Margaret Ward, a K–3 teacher in Boston who also owns a dance studio, just enough retail experience to add a dancewear annex to her school.

If you’re looking to really break away, think about working abroad for the summer. American teachers are in high demand for jobs as camp directors and instructors, tour guides, program coordinators and English teachers in countries around the globe.

Learning for Loot

Summer seminars, institutes and fellowships are available to K–12 educators through a number of government and private sources. Generally, teachers who participate in these programs receive stipends of up to $5,000 to cover their time, tuition, travel and housing costs. The National Endowment for the Humanities offers dozens of institutes through July and August on the following topics and more: Shakespeare, American Literature and Pluralism, Teaching Jazz as American Culture, Poetry, World War II, Don Quixote, Mozart’s Worlds and Landmarks of American History.

The National Endowment for the Arts, the National Geographic Society and many foundations also sponsor similar paid seminars for teachers. You may find summer study grants in conjunction with your local school system, colleges or universities, or a nearby museum or library.

Hunting for Hook-Ups
If you want to land the summer job of your dreams, start your search early and don’t forget to network. Tell your friends, colleagues, students and parents to keep you posted about anything that might sound interesting. In the meantime, do your own research and update your resumé, contacts and business cards. You have nothing to lose, except for a few months’ time. Your teaching job will still be there when fall rolls around and hopefully you’ll return a little bit richer, in more ways than one! DT


Lorelei Coutts is a public school dance teacher in New York City.

Studio Owners
Courtesy Tonawanda Dance Arts

If you're considering starting a summer program this year, you're likely not alone. Summer camp and class options are a tried-and-true method for paying your overhead costs past June—and, done well, could be a vehicle for making up for lost 2020 profits.

Plus, they might take on extra appeal for your studio families this year. Those struggling financially due to the pandemic will be in search of an affordable local programming option rather than an expensive, out-of-town intensive. And with summer travel still likely in question this spring as July and August plans are being made, your studio's local summer training option remains a safe bet.

The keys to profitable summer programming? Figuring out what type of structure will appeal most to your studio clientele, keeping start-up costs low—and, ideally, converting new summer students into new year-round students.

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Dancer Diary
Claire, McAdams, courtesy Houston Ballet

Former Houston Ballet dancer Chun Wai Chan has always been destined for New York City Ballet.

While competing at Prix de Lausanne in 2010, he was offered summer program scholarships at both the School of American Ballet and Houston Ballet. However, because two of the competition's winners that year were Houston Ballet's Aaron Sharratt and Liao Xiang, dancers Chan idolized, he turned down SAB. He joined Houston Ballet II in 2010, the main company's corps de ballet in 2012, and was promoted to principal in 2017. Oozing confidence and technical prowess, Chan was a Houston favorite, and even landed himself a spot on Dance Magazine's "25 to Watch."


In 2019, NYCB came calling: Resident choreographer Justin Peck visited Houston Ballet to set a new work titled Reflections. Peck immediately took to Chan and passed his praises on to NYCB artistic director Jonathan Stafford. Chan was invited to take class with NYCB for three days in January 2020, and shortly thereafter was offered a soloist contract.

The plan was to announce his hiring in the spring for the fall season that typically begins in September, but, of course, coronavirus postponed the opportunity to next year. Chan is currently riding out the pandemic in Huizhou, Guangdong, China, where he was born and trained at the Guangzhou Art School.

We talked to Chan about his training journey—and the teachers, corrections and experiences that got him to NYCB.

On the most helpful correction he's ever gotten:

"Work smart, then work hard to keep your body healthy. Most of us get injuries when we're tired. When I first joined Houston Ballet, I was pushing myself 100 percent every day, at every show, rehearsal and class. That's when I got injured [a torn thumb ligament, tendinitis and a sprained ankle.] At that time, my director taught me that we all have to work hard, memorize the steps and take corrections, but it's better to think first because your energy is limited."

How it's benefited his career since:

"It's the secret to me getting promoted to principal very quickly. When other dancers were injured or couldn't perform, I was healthy and could step up to fill a higher role than my position. I still get small injuries, but I know how to take care of them now, and when it's OK to gamble a little."

Chan, wearing grey pants and a grey one-sleeved top, partners Jessica Collado, as she arches her back and leans to the side. Other dancers behind them are dressed as an army of some sort

Chun Wai Chan with Jessica Collado. Photo by Amitava Sarkar, courtesy Houston Ballet

On his most influential teacher:

"Claudio Muñoz, from Houston Ballet Academy. The first summer intensive there I couldn't even lift the lightest girls. A month later, my pas de deux skills improved so much. I never imagined I could lift a girl so many times. A year later I could do all the tricky pas tricks. That's all because of Claudio. He also taught me how to dance in contemporary, and act all kinds of characters."

How he gained strength for partnering:

"I did a lot of push-ups. Claudio recommended dancers go to the gym. We don't have those kinds of traditions in China, but after Houston Ballet, going to the gym has become a habit."

On his YouTube channel:

"I started a YouTube channel, where I could give ballet tutorials. Many male students only have female teachers, and they are missing out on the guy's perspective on jumps and partnering. I give those tips online because they are what I would have wanted. My goal is to help students have strong technique so they are able to enjoy the stage as much as they can."

Music
Mary Malleney, courtesy Osato

In most classes, dancers are encouraged to count the music, and dance with it—emphasizing accents and letting the rhythm of a song guide them.

But Marissa Osato likes to give her students an unexpected challenge: to resist hitting the beats.

In her contemporary class at EDGE Performing Arts Center in Los Angeles (which is now closed, until they find a new space), she would often play heavy trap music. She'd encourage her students to find the contrast by moving in slow, fluid, circular patterns, daring them to explore the unobvious interpretation of the steady rhythms.


"I like to give dancers a phrase of music and choreography and have them reinterpret it," she says, "to be thinkers and creators and not just replicators."

Osato learned this approach—avoiding the natural temptation of the music always being the leader—while earning her MFA in choreography at California Institute of the Arts. "When I was collaborating with a composer for my thesis, he mentioned, 'You always count in eights. Why?'"

This forced Osato out of her creative comfort zone. "The choices I made, my use of music, and its correlation to the movement were put under a microscope," she says. "I learned to not always make the music the driving motive of my work," a habit she attributes to her competition studio training as a young dancer.

While an undergraduate at the University of California, Irvine, Osato first encountered modern dance. That discovery, along with her experience dancing in Boogiezone Inc.'s off-campus hip-hop company, BREED, co-founded by Elm Pizarro, inspired her own, blended style, combining modern and hip hop with jazz. While still in college, she began working with fellow UCI student Will Johnston, and co-founded the Boogiezone Contemporary Class with Pizarro, an affordable series of classes that brought top choreographers from Los Angeles to Orange County.

"We were trying to bring the hip-hop and contemporary communities together and keep creating work for our friends," says Osato, who has taught for West Coast Dance Explosion and choreographed for studios across the country.

In 2009, Osato, Johnston and Pizarro launched Entity Contemporary Dance, which she and Johnston direct. The company, now based in Los Angeles, won the 2017 Capezio A.C.E. Awards, and, in 2019, Osato was chosen for two choreographic residencies (Joffrey Ballet's Winning Works and the USC Kaufman New Movement Residency), and became a full-time associate professor of dance at Santa Monica College.

At SMC, Osato challenges her students—and herself—by incorporating a live percussionist, a luxury that's been on pause during the pandemic. She finds that live music brings a heightened sense of awareness to the room. "I didn't realize what I didn't have until I had it," Osato says. "Live music helps dancers embody weight and heaviness, being grounded into the floor." Instead of the music dictating the movement, they're a part of it.

Osato uses the musician as a collaborator who helps stir her creativity, in real time. "I'll say 'Give me something that's airy and ambient,' and the sounds inspire me," says Osato. She loves playing with tension and release dynamics, fall and recovery, and how those can enhance and digress from the sound.

"I can't wait to get back to the studio and have that again," she says.

Osato made Dance Teacher a Spotify playlist with some of her favorite songs for class—and told us about why she loves some of them.

"Get It Together," by India.Arie

"Her voice and lyrics hit my soul and ground me every time. Dream artist. My go-to recorded music in class is soul R&B. There's simplicity about it that I really connect with."

"Turn Your Lights Down Low," by Bob Marley + The Wailers, Lauryn Hill

"A classic. This song embodies that all-encompassing love and gets the whole room groovin'."

"Diamonds," by Johnnyswim

"This song's uplifting energy and drive is infectious! So much vulnerability, honesty and joy in their voices and instrumentation."

"There Will Be Time," by Mumford & Sons, Baaba Maal

"Mumford & Sons' music has always struck a deep chord within me. Their songs are simultaneously stripped-down and complex and feel transcendent."

"With The Love In My Heart," by Jacob Collier, Metropole Orkest, Jules Buckley

"Other than it being insanely energizing and cinematic, I love how challenging the irregular meter is!"

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