What dance teachers (at least this one) think, feel, etc
Choreography is the steps, movement or specific way a dancer is set to move through a dance. The steps given are created by the teacher, taught to the students, memorized and 'cleaned' by the group for a seamless performance.
The balancing act of choreography is a difficult process. Dancers must be challenged, too easy or repetitive and they get bored or lose interest. To difficult and they get discouraged, frustrated and give up. To plain jane and the audience falls asleep.
The world of hip hop and even jazz can become to provocative quickly, and keeping true to the style choreography is a must. We strive to never give dancers things like twerking to preserve their innocence and protect them from the outside world.
So how is it decided? How do teachers plan out each little moment to create a dance that the students love while performing & 'keep it fair'?
#1. We know our stuff. We have many styles, techniques and classes under our belts. We can adjust, alter and tailor choreography to fit our group of students at the time. We contemplate style, class size, song length, skills already taught and ones coming up in our syllabus, etc before setting choreography on dancers.
#2. We know our dancers. We carefully watch dancers muscle control, placement, jumps, leaps, turns, attitude, work ethic and potential during class. Some kids may be ready for triple turns and others are not yet doing doubles. This is OK! They all move at a different pace and teachers give them what they can handle.
#3. Why is SHE ALWAYS in the front? This is one every dance teacher HATES hearing. The dancer/ parent asking is doing a few things (maybe unintentionally) when asked this.
These questions do the following
-They are challenging the teachers authority
-They are not trusting the teacher. Teachers always have the best for ALL the kids in mind.
-They are ruining the joy of seeing dreamt of choreography come to light.
These questions are the equivalent of yelling at an umpire during a baseball game. The ump made the call, it's his job. We made the dance, it's our job. Some dancers may see this as unfair. The good news is everyone gets a turn front and center eventually. But that spot is earned with great technique and HARD work. There is nowhere to hide on the dance floor, all dancers are seen!
#4. We LISTEN to the music on repeat. Nonstop. My husband knows all the words and the cuts of music for all my songs. Earbuds are not my thing, I want to feel the music around me. So all road trips are a nonstop recital playlist. All The Time!
#5. We DANCE. There are hours of dancing done before students come in to create these routines. Some teachers set the piece while kids are in front of them and others create the whole thing start to finish prior to the class beginning.
#6. We STRESS, then clean. We teach and watch the dancers, sometimes it was different in our heads. The whole piece can change by adding or taking away one little dancer! So we count, make sure the dancers know it WELL, and polish it. Then we change it and polish it again. This is called cleaning. It is typically the least favorite part of all dancers and teachers. It is nit picky but wholly necessary.
#7. We Watch. We go to performances, reminding dancers to make those 3 minutes count and love being on that stage. We feel so proud of our creativity, our dancers hard work and how the whole thing always comes together.
#8. We begin again. Recital planning for the following year is already under way before this years recital has taken place. We start throwing around ideas and a feel for the whole show or each piece, beginning choreography the week after recital!
It is the season for choreography. Teachers are behind the scenes listening to the same songs on repeat, dancing in the car/ shower/ while vacuuming/ eating/ sleeping. The sheer amount of choreography to be done to get to competition and recital is daunting. So what do we fill dances with?! The dancers and audience seem to be screaming for TRICKS. So why aren't our dances full of long turn combinations into flips and death defying contortion?
To address this, we first must define technique and trick in the dance world.
TECHNIQUE- The proper movement of the body through dance. It requires engaging muscles in a specific method from head to toe to fingertip, in a predetermined uniform way. Ballet technique (there are many styles of this genre) is the mostly widely recognized style and the ballet class is best for technical development.
TRICK- A dance movement that causes shock and awe to the audience. Good examples of this would be movements like flips, group lifts and spinning on your head.
So if the audience loves tricks, why is that not what we primarily do? Let's break it down by style.
Ballet is a set style that has evolved but still clung to it's roots for hundreds of years. Preserving the art of ballet is very important to dance culture, and adding tricks into this would compromise the style that has been the foundation for modern dance in the states. There are set lifts for ballet partners that do not qualify as a 'trick' in this example.
Modern/ Contemporary is an offshoot of ballet. Dancers, sick of the rigidity needed to dance a traditional piece, created a new style of technique based on ballet. There are clear ballet undertones while TRICKS are accepted, and in contemporary expected. This style is still meant to evoke a feeling, tell a story and move an audience. While an audience will be shocked by tricks, it will not move them to tears. The technique, movement and performance quality does.
Acrobatics- This style is a set technique all its own. While it may be compromised of 'tricks' to the audience, dancers know that the tricks in other styles are techniques borrowed from acrobatics. Acro is a beautiful mix of contortion, tumbling and dance.
So why are the dancers learning technique for the fall before we move on to choreography and tricks? Technique for all styles is the foundation of a dancer. Hip hop has a technique all its own, just as ballet does. The dancers will study and learn to move in the proper technical way, gaining strength and knowledge to later help them execute the tricks in a safer way.
There is a method to the madness of teaching anything, and starting with one block at a time is the only way to build a successful dancer. Teachers know that the dancers want to learn everything new and exciting from day 1, we do too! But learning the proper technique is the most important thing a dancer can do.
So do that barre work with pride! Know that with each kick across the floor you are improving, growing and becoming a better dancer.
Watching students grow and thrive is the best feeling a teacher can ever have. So give it your all, dance as much and possible and LOVE your technique class.
Working with kids means that Fall to teachers is like New Year's to everyone else. Fresh year, new season, a changing group of kiddos (and hopefully lots of familiar faces!) There is a sense of excitement, change and planning in the air. So here is a post all about the fresh start for me, the studio and the dancers this coming year!
Goals, thoughts and wanderings. . .
Clear goal #1 is GROWTH! We have been in recovery mode from 2 moves in one year. The testing of strength and dedication to just keeping the studio afloat through all of this has come to a close with recital. Now focus can be shifted from surviving to thriving! So adding in a competition team, new students, new classes and new teachers is the biggest priority. I cannot wait to see us expand and meet our potential! know any friends you can refer to join a class. . . :) ?
Clear Goal #2. Get more connected in the dance community. I will take more classes from dance masters, go to costume shows, network (eew, networking), teach as a guest for other teams/ studios, bring in guest teachers, all in all just be a more active member of this dance world! There is so much out there to learn and grow from and I want to gain experience to bring back to my students (and share my knowledge with other studios too!)
Clear Goal #3. Get a yearly schedule up with all dates. For the whole season. This is the most ambitious and crazy idea so far. But getting a calendar on the wall with all major events and practices up in the Fall would save my dance parents so much headache later when they have to juggle events with other activities. So being the most organized and well planned activity out there is my goal!
Clear Goal #4. Bring on the FUN! Once a month I hope to have a fun event going on to bond us all closer as a dance family and less as a group of dancers that have a studio in common. Slumber parties, parents dances, movie nights, bring daddy (or mom) to dance day (this is going to be hilarious!) and more.
Less clear goal #5. Make the studio more inviting, somewhere we all want to be all the time! Decorating, adding in things like birthday greetings for the month, photobooks and canvases of our dancers, etc. Just making the atmosphere one that resembles who we are as a studio, so you just know when you walk in!
Thought. Changing our client software. The backend of the studio is now fairly easy to run, but not user friendly for the dancers and parents. Is the hassle of learning a new system worth it?!
Thought. Selling snacks and water bottles. Worth it for the dancers to be able to have in studio? I don't know. Comment below!
Thought. Teach the students to encourage each other more. Be encouraged and more encouraging. Create an atmosphere of positivity and healthy competition. Work hard and be proud of the work put in! No excuses or complaining but rewards for great effort.
Thought. Studio gear. We need it. Sweatshirts, t-shirts, sweatpants, water bottles, stickers, temporary tattoos, our faces on bus benches. All of it.
Wanderings. . . We need more sparkle and light in our lives! My faith gives me that, dance gives me that, happy clients gives me that. This year I want to strive to spread the joy around the studio. No matter how burned out and crazy this year can make us, the smile on stage is the whole point. And loving dance class is what gets us there. So more sparkles.
Here is to a great new season and a fresh start! Bring it on
)Recital for dance studios is the culmination of over 1 year of planning. A year of costume shopping, choreographing, music cutting, teaching, administrative work, marketing, gaining and losing students, possibly a move or two(!!!), joys and frustrations all rolled into a few minutes on stage.
So while you watch or dance on the stage there is a teacher standing in the wings taking it all in. What is going through that teachers mind? What is that teacher feeling as they watch? Probably a lot of what you would expect, and maybe a few things you wouldn't.
#1. Pride. A sense of accomplishment that we all made it! The students dancing on the stage worked so hard, overcame so many challenges in class and out and are now showing their determination with a happy heart. That brings joy to dance teachers everywhere!
#2. Nerves. The dancers step on stage and they are nervous! Things like forgetting to count, forgetting their steps, freezing or injuries happen. I silently pray for safety and success for each and every dancer all day (and many days of the year!)
#3. Counts! I am silently doing the dance mentally with the kids. Urging them to smile, have fun, listen to the music and dance like they never have before! And sometimes helping a bit behind the curtain when a nervous little one sends a panicked look my way.
#5. Protective mama bear-ness. The performers are just kids. They do their best and every performance they get better. Rude comments from the audience, friends, other dancers during and after bring out the scary in me! The dancers have worked hard and harsh critiques are never helpful, but always hurtful.
#6. Joy. Sharing my love for dance with the dancers is what makes my job not just a job but something I love doing. Seeing them on stage loving to perform is what makes me excited to start planning it all over again for next year, as soon as the final curtain drops!
#7. Relief! When the curtain drops and all is said and done, a huge sigh of satisfied relief is released. We made it. The dancers are always amazing, doing their very best. The audience is (mostly) thrilled with the dancers progress and all are ready for a much needed rest. And a huge meal of comforting carbohydrates!
#8. Appreciated. When the dancers wait for parents to pick them up, they run to hug and thank their teacher. The dancers know that recital is a huge undertaking. There are always unforeseen hiccups, a little drama and a lot of work to get us on that stage. Just hearing thank you makes the whole year sum up so perfectly.
#9. A little bittersweet nostalgia. As the dancers leave with their parents, I know many go on to other sports or activities next year. While I support and encourage all students to find what they love to do, they will be missed. Each dancer is unique and special, and will be remembered in the studio family.
#10. Excited. Leaving the theatre I always feel a big mix of all of the above. The predominant thing though is just a giddy feeling that my job is an honor to have. Being in a position to teach and influence the lives of others is something to be cherished.
Recital is a stressful time, but I always remember that these dancers are kids. They will not always be little. We all grow and change constantly, that 3 minutes on stage is just a snapshot of the past year's journey. So hold fast to the memories being made, I am so honored to be a part of them.
We are almost there, recital is just days away. Practice hard, give it your all and break a leg!
If you look back at the brief history, you know we have moved. A LOT. Reasons varied, but mostly due to the building we were in not being maintained at all (flooding!) or leases running out/ broken and landlords having a better option with another client ready to pay more.
The real estate market in Salem has been making a comeback for a while. The building we just moved to in September (yes, just 7 months ago) has sold. The past owner had given us a lease, and said the new owner planned to honor it.
The new owner was apparently unaware of any leases tenants had. So a quick week of 14 hour days on the tenants part later, we are told to get out and find somewhere else!
The search did not go well. We cannot move mid season to a different area, or pay the NNN rates in the area companies are demanding. Most places would require us to double our tuition rates just to pay the rent! And then we found it. . . A space that logistically will be odd, but we can afford and is a little bigger than we have now.
THE NEW STUDIO. . . The building is closer to downtown, just two minutes away from our current location, better maintained, has a separate waiting room for parents, a BATHROOM IN THE MAIN STUDIO (yay potty breaks that don't take 15 minutes!) and a big support beam in the middle. Yup, a big ol' pole sticking up the middle of the dance floor. Inconvenient, I know. We do NOT plan to incorporate pole dance into our schedule, so keep those clever comments to yourselves all you funny readers :)
So after a week of PRAYERS, stress, strong coffee and a 5 lb weight gain (I didn't even have time to eat?!) we realized God had lead us here. Yes the support beam is inconvenient, but having a bathroom in the studio and not down a hall is AWESOME. Having more space for the office and lobby, great! A weird layout? We can make that work. God provided, I will not grumble and complain.
What I will say is how thankful I am for the spiritual support I have from my dance family, my bible study group and my husband. This studio has been through worse. The flood of last year, instructor and dancer injuries, recital venue changes at the last minute, there have been more than one teacher's share of tears.
But we are fighters! The love of dance I have is spread through the students and families, and we make it work.
The big point here is this. . . The room we dance in will never be as important as the people we dance with. I learned to love dance as a child in an old grange hall with splintering wood floors and boy scouts sharing the space with us. Still some of my best dance memories are there, and in old high school gyms waiting to perform.
The most important thing we have to move and carefully take with us is YOU. Our students are cherished, loved and valued. Students that didn't follow when we moved in September are still in my heart and prayers, and I hope to see them again (in class or out!)
So thank you all for your support and loyalty in a time that could be exhausting, but may be a blessing in disguise. If you are thinking "hmm, wonder if they need help moving?" the answer is YES. If you want to help load the truck and trailer, we would love the support! If you can't help with that, your prayers are always appreciated. God is good, all the time. We will rise above and keep growing, showing Salem area dancers why Valley Dance Academy is the place to learn to dance and grow as a person.
Having a happy heart in all things is so tiring, but in the end makes life so much more enjoyable. I hope that we can all embrace the move, no one is more disappointed than me but I know it will all work out for the glory of God.
So again, thank you dance family. You are all so amazing, and make a really difficult work situation easy to handle. Here is to a fresh location, a new start and brighter futures!
I was teaching at a ballroom studio in Beaverton (that shall remain nameless) in 2009. I was just married to my oh so handsome husband and loving the training and soaking in all the information. The pay was terrible, and the 'training' was a lot of rhinestoning students costumes-but still. It was a legit studio.
A few months in I found out I was pregnant (with some complications) and we were having to move was out into the country. So long teary story short, bye bye ballroom and hello bed rest/ stay at home mama. Macy was soon born, huge and healthy (almost 10 lbs?!) and I was enjoying being a new mom.
Fast forward 6 months, and I am BORED. My body is aching to move, get out of the house and do something. So with a couple month's planning, we opened up Santiam Valley Dance Academy May 2011 in a little church reception hall in Lyons, OR. (Later the Santiam was dropped from the name, as Salem folks couldn't spell it easily and we lost ton's of website traffic :) )
The clients were all referred by friends, small town word of mouth is still the best advertising I have ever used. We danced here for almost a year, but we had already peaked in such a small town with a winning competitive studio the next town over.
Flash forward to 2012, and we have moved to Salem sharing space with Jazzercise in South Salem. I also landed the varsity head coach job for McNary's dance team (but that 3 year stint is a post all it's own.) We shared space until they had to move, and finally opened our own studio with a real deal lease and everything!
Hyacinth- a Heaven sent nightmare. Many of you were clients at the Hyacinth building for the entirety of our 3 years there. We were the second business in the building that was still under construction. There was dust, one bathroom and chaos prevailing, yet we somehow managed to thrive! We grew steadily, dancing around a roof leak, skating around construction debris in the hall and finding ways to deal with the noise.
In this time we had wonderful opportunities to perform at Blazers game, a Globetrotters game and hold standard recitals along with other community events.
And then the flood came. Upon firing up the computer one day, I realized the floor sounded weird. I stepped down and watched water bubble up! I quickly discovered a pipe had burst and gone unnoticed, destroying 1500 sq ft of dance flooring.
This was a heart breaking blow, thousands of dollars down the drain. The landlord refused to compensate, and we took a big insurance hit. The lease was up for renewal and we couldn't come to a fair agreement (after management company after company fired the building owner) so we packed our bags and moved across town. Losing 50% of our students in the process.
But we opened back up, with an even better marley sprung floor! And we are slowly building back up to the student count we were before. We have missed our old students dearly, but quickly fallen for the new families God has brought to us! To our alumni, you are always welcome to stop in and say hi, you're missed every week!
I heard once not getting emotionally attached to students is the only way to stay sane and own a successful studio. This may be true. There are studios in town with massive rosters, and I know they couldn't be emotionally invested in all those little lives. But that is not how I am wired. When students parents go through hard times and the kids come crying, I cry with them. When pipes burst and landlords don't have integrity, I know dance families pray with me.
We are small, but we are a tight knit group! There are a few families that have been with us since that little church hall, and new ones that I cherish just as much. This history is so much less about the building we are in, and so much more about the history of the life long relationships we are building.
I have always believed that journal-ing is powerful, writing out one's thoughts can help process and get down to the root of emotions. Blogging seemed too difficult, or scary, or--- something, I suppose. What if no one reads it? What if I offend a client? Possibly the worst of all, what if what I say has no relevance in people's lives?
Despite all this, and time constraints on a busy life, I have been advised that as a studio owner this is a must do. Clients will know me better, and I will be more transparent with my community. So here we go . . . I am officially a blogger. Get the book deals ready :)
I hope that through this channel I can communicate how I feel in my dance family, and my dance family can comment on how they feel! What a great way, and a bit more personal than facebook or a formal review posted online.
The history of the studio is a long whirlwind of moves, short notice yet fabulous performances, new and old students, short term teachers and my dream of keeping it together. The cumulative effort of many and the faithfulness of God to bring us where we are today is both amazing and exhausting. May this blog be an honest, uplifting and authentic look at the studio and all in it!