Teaching Tips

Why You Need a Killer Dance-Teacher Bio, and How to Write One

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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.

This doesn't mean you are doomed to having a basic play-by-play-type bio that reads like a laundry list of basic skills and past teachers. There are a variety of different ways you can improve this tool and give an informative summary of your experience that will help people learn more about who you are—and what your philosophy is as an instructor. Here are some things that you can do to make improvements.

Have someone else write it. Get in touch with a local freelance writer, or work with someone you know who has good writing skills. A person on the outside can often lift out the most important highlights in your background and make them sound as impressive as they should in your bio. It's easy to downplay your own skills in the name of humility, but when someone else is at the keyboard, you'll be more likely to sound your best on the screen—or on paper.

Write both a short and long bio. A short bio is something that you can use for just about any purpose, and it should hit your very biggest accomplishments and/or best associations to give readers a broad idea of who you are and what your background is like. Go for 200 words (about a paragraph) or so and keep it simple. A long bio is something you should consider including on your website (or the studios where you teach), and this should really delve into all of the experiences you've had that make you unique as an instructor. It's good to have both at your disposal.

Know what to include. If you have studied under someone with a known "name" in the industry, be sure to include that (and hyperlink it on the web if you can), as well as any major school associations you may have. Naturally your years of experience, teaching jobs and any awards you've won belong in a bio, but think beyond that and look to any standout experiences you've had, too. Also try to include something about your teaching philosophy to give people a sense of who you are in the classroom. A current photograph is optional, but definitely preferable.

Keep things updated! It's easy to let a bio slide on past accomplishments or associations, but updating it periodically is something you should definitely prioritize. Be sure to add any new accolades, certifications or accomplishments as they happen, or, at the very least, once a year.

Mary Malleney, courtesy Osato

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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.

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For Parents

Darrell Grand Moultrie teaches at a past Jacob's Pillow summer intensive. Photo Christopher Duggan, courtesy Jacob's Pillow

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In 2020, we learned that there are some unique advantages of virtual summer programs: the lack of travel (and therefore the reduced cost) and the increased access to classes led by top artists and teachers among them. And while summer 2021 may end up looking more familiar with in-person intensives, audition season will likely remain remote and over Zoom.

Of course, summer 2021 may not be back to in-person, and that uncertainty can be a hard pill to swallow. Here, Kate Linsley, a mom and academy principal of Nashville Ballet, as well as "J.R." Glover, The Dan & Carole Burack Director of The School at Jacob's Pillow, share their advice for this complicated process.

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From left: Anthony Crickmay, Courtesy Dance Theatre of Harlem Archives; Courtesy Ballethnic

It is the urgency of going in a week or two before opening night that Lydia Abarca Mitchell loves most about coaching. But in her role as Ballethnic Dance Company's rehearsal director, she's not just getting the troupe ready for the stage. Abarca Mitchell—no relation to Arthur Mitchell—was Mitchell's first prima ballerina when he founded Dance Theatre of Harlem with Karel Shook; through her coaching, Abarca Mitchell works to pass her mentor's legacy to the next generation.

"She has the same sensibility" as Arthur Mitchell, says Ballethnic co-artistic director Nena Gilreath. "She's very direct, all about the mission and the excellence, but very caring."

Ballethnic is based in East Point, a suburban city bordering Atlanta. In a metropolitan area with a history of racism and where funding is hard-won, it is crucial for the Black-led ballet company to present polished, professional productions. "Ms. Lydia" provides the "hard last eye" before the curtain opens in front of an audience.

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