As teachers and studio owners, your lives are full of stressors—everything from harried recital weeks to curriculum overhauls to building-maintenance issues, not to mention addressing the needs and concerns of all your students and parents. How you view and cope with a stressful situation can have a direct influence on how you experience it.

You already know it's important to eat right, exercise and get good sleep to keep yourself from feeling run into the ground. You may even use deep breathing to calm or center yourself in tense moments. (If not, check out our breathing-exercise sidebar.) But Joel Minden, a cognitive behavioral therapist who works with dancers in California, says while physical coping strategies can be helpful, they alone aren't enough. It's even more important to prepare yourself mentally and emotionally. If you begin practicing psychological stress management as part of your routine, along with relaxation techniques like yoga or meditation, you will be better prepared for the crisis moments.


1. Anticipate obstacles—and success

If you know specific things stress you out, think about whether you can prevent those scenarios from occurring at all. For instance, if juggling parents' questions as a recital draws nearer has overwhelmed you in the past, let them know you'll be off e-mail during recital week, and all issues will have to wait until after the show. Or perhaps you could set an auto-reply directing emergency questions to a trusted staff member.

Jon Aaron, a certified teacher of mindfulness-based stress reduction in New York, emphasizes the importance of reflecting on past successes, as well. He recommends a big-picture view as you consider an impending crunch time. "Part of mindfulness is recollecting—the knowledge that this has been done before by [you] and it's been successful," he says.

2. Use a worry journal.

"Planning stuff in writing is really important," Minden says. Rather than letting your thoughts race from one concern to the next, get organized. If you feel there are hundreds of things that could go wrong—whether it's simply a busy day or the lead-up to a big event—set aside some time to make a list. That keeps the worries from stacking up in your mind. You may find the list isn't as long as you feared, and you can begin to address possible solutions.

3. Distinguish between what you can and can't control.

Some worries are productive, because they can help you make a plan to prevent a problem. Others, less so. As you go through your worry journal, pick out those things you have control over, like your approach to managing parents, leading classes and training staff. Also pay attention to things you can't control, like how other people behave, dancer injuries or weather emergencies. (More on those worries in a minute.)

4. When in doubt, plan the first step.

In his practice, Minden teaches clients instructional self-talk, which you can use to handle a stressful time period or troubleshoot a worst-case scenario—think electrical blackout at the performance venue during dress rehearsal. "Tell yourself in specific terms what you want to do and maybe provide a rationale," Minden says. "When a problem comes up, think about the very first thing you need to do and start with that. If you do that—and here's the rationale—then the problem might seem less overwhelming." In a blackout, for example, the first step might be to get everyone safely seated in the theater.

5. Practice active acceptance of things you can't change.

You can learn to tolerate discomfort, and doing so may help you better handle stressors. In many cases, Minden says, people want to push away negative thoughts and feelings to try to will them out of existence. But often that doesn't work and the feelings return, which can leave you feeling out of control or incapable of coping with the issue. Instead—and Minden notes this aligns with the popular mindfulness movement—acknowledge that you are stressed-out, upset or maybe even feeling depressed. "It's about turning directly toward our experience with a feeling of acceptance and patience," Aaron says. Then, try to get on with what you need to do.

Minden compares discomfort to having an uninvited guest show up at your party. You can spend your time trying to make the interloper leave, or you can accept that they're there and try to enjoy the party anyway.

6. Emotions don't have to drive your behavior.

Minden recommends letting your personal long-term values dictate your behavior, rather than succumbing to the moment-to-moment emotional changes. Values don't change, although they can be temporarily at odds with your emotions. "Tell yourself, 'I accept that I'm thinking these things and feeling this way, but the more important thing right now is, despite how I'm thinking or feeling, I need to focus on my values and the appropriate behavioral response," Minden says. During recital week that may mean showing up to the theater, talking with parents and helping the show go on.

7. Make physical and mental relaxation part of your routine, too.

Incorporate meditation, yoga or another relaxation practice into your daily life. Trying to draw on deep breathing or mindfulness exercises in the midst of a crisis will be easier if you already do it regularly.

The Conversation
Dance Teachers Trending
Photo by Quinn Wharton, courtesy of Forance

While Teddy Forance admits that performing with commercial artists like Lady Gaga and Madonna, and in front of 30,000 people, is exhilarating, he is personally drawn to more abstract music when he choreographs. It's a preference that sometimes confounds his contemporaries. "Some of my friends will ask, 'How do you choreograph to music that sounds like silverware fighting?'" he says. "I just tell them one sound at a time," he says.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Dance Teacher Web
Courtesy Dance Teacher Web

Dance students aren't the only ones who get to spend their summers learning new skills and refining their dance practice. Studio owners and administrators can also use the summer months to scope out new curriculum ideas, learn the latest business strategies and even earn a certification or two.

At Dance Teacher Web's Conference and Expo, attendees will spend July 29–August 1 in Las Vegas, Nevada learning everything from new teaching methods to studio management software. And as if the dance and business seminars weren't enough, participants can also choose from three certifications to earn during the conference to help expand their expertise, generate new revenue and set their studios apart:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
Photo by Julianna D. Photography, courtesy of Abreu

Although Rudy Abreu is currently JLo's backup dancer and an award-winning choreographer—his piece "Pray" tied for second runner-up at the 2018 Capezio A.C.E. Awards, and a variation of the piece made it to the finals on NBC's "World of Dance"—he still finds time to teach. Especially about how he hears music.

Keep reading... Show less
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
Getty Images

Q: Our dancers' parents want to observe class, but students won't focus if I let them in the room. I've tried having them observe the last 10 minutes of class, but even that can be disruptive and bring the dancers' progress to a halt. Do you have any advice on how to handle this?

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Getty Images

James Payne, director of The School of Pennsylvania Ballet, starts class each day by asking students how they feel. "If they're collectively hurting, and I know that the day before they were working hard on something new, I might lessen the intensity of the class," he says. "I won't slow it down, though. Sometimes it's better to move through the aches and get to the other side."

A productive class depends, in part, on how well it is paced. If you move too slow, you risk losing students' interest and creating unwanted heaviness. Move too fast and dancers might not fully benefit from combinations or get sufficiently warm, increasing their risk of injury. But even these guidelines may differ depending on the students' age and level. Good pacing is a delicate balance that can facilitate mental and physical growth, but it requires good planning, close observation and the ability to adapt mid-class.

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
Getty Images

Running your own studio often comes with a pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps mentality. After all, you're the one who teaches class, creates choreography, collects tuition, plans a recital, calls parents, answers e-mails, orders costumes—plus a host of other tasks, some of which you probably don't even think about. But what if you had someone to help you, someone who could take certain routine or clerical tasks off your hands, freeing you up to focus on what you love?

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
Derek and Julianne Hough via @juleshough on Instagram

Here at Dance Teacher, we LOVE a talented dance family. Something about parents and siblings passing their passion for dance down to those who come after them just warms our hearts.

While there are many sets of talented siblings across all genres of dance, ballroom seems to be particularly booming with them.

Don't believe us? Check out these four sets of ballrooms siblings we can't take our eyes off of. Their parents have raised them right!

This is far from a comprehensive list, so feel free to share your favorite sets of dance siblings over in our comments!

Keep reading... Show less
Courtesy of Roxey Ballet

This weekend, Roxey Ballet presented a sensory-friendly production of Cinderella at the Kendell Main Stage Theater in Ewing, New Jersey, with sound adjustments, a relaxed house environment and volunteers present to assist audience members with special needs. The production came on the heels of three educational residencies held at New Jersey–based elementary schools in honor of Autism Awareness Month in April.

Keep reading... Show less
To Share With Students
Shared via Dance Teacher Network Facebook

I'm a part of a popular group on Facebook called Dance Teacher Network which consists of dance teachers across the country discussing and sharing information on all things dance. Yesterday morning, I spotted a photo shared in the group of four smiling young boys in a dance studio. And I couldn't help but smile to myself and think, "Wow, I never had that...that's pretty damn amazing."

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
Photo courtesy of Marr

When Erica Marr discovered ballroom dancing in her late teens, she instantly fell in love with the Latin beats and strong drum lines that challenged her musicality. After shifting her focus away from contemporary and jazz, she began studying with elite ballroom coaches in New York City and quickly earned a World Championship title in her division.

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox