A studio’s success relies, in part, on the achievement and growth of its students. Encouraging dancers who have gone off to college or left to pursue a professional career to remain active at your studio can be a significant boon to your business.  They can enhance your faculty, host a guest class or simply lend a hand in the production of your recital. “Alumni can show current students that there is a bigger world out there than the small pond so many of them have been used to swimming in,” says Brenda Froehlich, director of Wilton Dance Studio in Wilton, Connecticut. “Older students coming back often bring with them a sense of excitement and enthusiasm that is very contagious.”
Read on to find out how to reconnect and foster lasting relationships with your recent graduates.

The Lines of Communication

Technology has made it easier than ever to communicate. College students depend on the internet as their go-to source for all information, so keeping your website current is your first step. You can post school announcements, pictures and even videos of past performances on your web page. Kirstie Spadie, artistic director of the North Carolina Dance Institute in Raleigh, North Carolina, plans to develop a special page that recent graduates can update themselves with personal news and photos.

Some studios use social networking websites like MySpace and Facebook to reach alumni. A group of graduates from The Studio Atlanta Dance in Atlanta, Georgia, recently created their own Facebook group as a way to stay in touch with one other. Angela Harris, ballet director of the pre-
professional division at the studio, frequently visits the group’s page to get in touch and make sure they are up to date on studio news.
A newsletter, via mail or e-mail, is another great method of communication. You can include a calendar of events and regular studio bulletins, as well as special alumni discounts on classes and other incentives to encourage former students to drop in.

Homegrown Teachers

Rounding out your current faculty with former students is a win-win situation: They are already experienced in the methods and styles of your school and can bring a unique point of view to the classroom by combining their studio experiences with real-world knowledge. Cheri Costales, director of Elite Dance Studio, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, rarely hires outside instructors. “My alumni have years of personal training and are already invested in the studio and the programs,” she says. “They know me and how I run my business and classes.”

Broadway Dance Center in New York City helps cultivate teacher-student relationships between older dancers and younger students even before graduation. BDC offers an assistantship program, which provides senior dancers with teaching experience and often becomes the impetus for young alumni to return after graduation, explains Emily Robinson, director of the Children & Teen Program.

Hiring alumni as guest artists can also help to broaden your students’ knowledge of different techniques and expose them to the realities of a pursuing a career in dance. Wilton Dance Studio, for example, welcomes back several alumni year after year to help choreograph and perform in year-end concerts and Nutcracker productions, says Froehlich.

These visits can reinvigorate students and faculty members alike. “What’s most rewarding as a teacher is seeing our alumni succeed, and it shows young dancers that all of their hard work will eventually pay off,” says Spadie.

In turn, the opportunity to teach special master classes or choreograph for recitals will enrich alumni’s professional experience. Those pursuing performance careers may also appreciate the opportunity to use your studio as a safe environment where they can hone their skills and create and experiment with new work.

Mentoring Matters

Mentorship programs, in which alumni offer guidance to students both in and outside the studio, are also great ways to maintain long-term relationships. For the past five years, The Studio Atlanta Dance has used its mentoring program to match graduating seniors with younger dancers.

Mentors who have gone on to college often host prospective students, and also return to the school to assist in end-of-year concerts and cheer on their mentees. As an added perk, “returning alumni and mentors have allowed current parents to see the progression and evolution of students to young adults and professionals,” says Harris.

Don’t lose sight of your students once they’ve left the nest. By making the extra effort to communicate with alumni on a regular basis, you can ensure they’re part of your dance family for years to come. DT

Andrea Lodico is a freelance writer based in New York City.

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
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
Just for fun
Via Instagram

Happy Father's Day to all of the dance dads in the world! Whether you're professional dancers, dance teachers, dance directors or simply just dance supporters, you are a key ingredient to what makes the dance world such a happy, thriving place, and we love you!

To celebrate, here are our four favorite Instagram dance dads. Prepare to say "Awwwwwwwweeeeeee!!!!!!"

You're welcome!

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

If you're a studio owner, the thought of raising your rates most likely makes you cringe. Despite ever-increasing overhead expenses you can't avoid—rent, salaries, insurance—you're probably wary of alienating your customers, losing students or inviting confrontation if you increase the price of your tuition or registration and recital fees. DT spoke with three veteran studio owners who suggest it's time to get past that. Here's how to give your business the revenue boost it needs and the value justification it (and you) deserve.

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
Dance Teachers Trending
Margie Gillis (left); photo by Kyle Froman

Margie Gillis dances the human experience. Undulating naked in a field of billowing grass in Lessons from Nature 4, or whirling in a sweep of lilac fabric in her signature work Slipstream, her movement is free of flashy technique and tricks, but driven and defined by emotion. "There's a central philosophy in my work about what the experience of being human is," says Gillis, whose movement style is an alchemy of Isadora Duncan's uninhibited self-expression and Paul Taylor's musicality, blended with elements of dance theater into something utterly unique and immediately accessible. "I want an authenticity," she says. "I want to touch my audiences profoundly and deeply."

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

Teaching arabesque can be a challenge for educators and students alike. Differences in body types, flexibility and strength can leave dancers feeling dejected about the possibility of improving this essential position.

To help each of us in our quest for establishing beautiful arabesques in our students without bringing them to tears, we caught up with University of Utah ballet teacher Jennie Creer-King. After her professional career dancing with Ballet West and Oregon Ballet Theater and her years of teaching at the studio and college levels, she's become a bit of an arabesque expert.

Here she shares five important tips for increasing the height of your students' arabesques.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Photo by Jennifer Kleinman, courtesy of Danell Hathaway

It's high school dance concert season, which means a lot of you K–12 teachers are likely feeling a bit overwhelmed. The long nights of editing music, rounding up costumes and printing programs are upon you, and we salute you. You do great work, and if you just hang on a little while longer, you'll be able to bathe in the applause that comes after the final Saturday night curtain.

To give you a bit of inspiration for your upcoming performances, we talked with Olympus High School dance teacher Danell Hathaway, who just wrapped her school's latest dance company concert. The Salt Lake City–based K–12 teacher shares her six pieces of advice for knocking your show out of the park.

Keep reading... Show less
Getty Images

Q: I'm looking to create some summer rituals and traditions at my studio. What are some of the things you do?

A: Creating fun and engaging moments for your students, staff and families can have a positive impact on your studio culture. Whether it's a big event or a small gesture, we've found that traditions build connection, boost morale and create strong bonds. I reached out to a variety of studio owners to gather some ideas for you to try this summer. Here's what they had to say.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Sam Williams and Jaxon Willard after competition at RADIX. Photo courtesy of Williams

Self-choreographed solos are becoming increasingly popular on the competition circuit these days, leading dance teachers to incorporate more creative mentoring into their rehearsal and class schedules. In this new world of developing both technical training and choreographic prowess, finding the right balance of assisting without totally hijacking a student's choreographic process can be difficult.

To help, we caught up with a teacher who's already braved these waters by assisting "World of Dance" phenom Jaxon Willard with his viral audition solos. Center Stage Performing Arts Studio company director Sam Williams from Orem, Utah, shares her sage wisdom below.

Check it out!

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
Getty Images

Dance studios are run by creative people with busy schedules, who have a love-hate relationship with props and sequins. The results of all this glitter and glam? General mass chaos in every drawer, costume closet and prop corner of the studio. Let's be honest, not many dance teachers are particularly known for their tidiness. The ability to get 21 dancers to spot in total synchronization? Absolutely! The stamina to run 10 solos, 5 group numbers, 2 ballet classes and 1 jazz class in one day? Of course! The emotional maturity to navigate a minefield of angry parents and hormonal teenagers? You know it!

Keeping the studio tidy? Well...that's another story.

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox