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Five Resolutions for Studio Owners for the New Year

Five Resolutions for Studio Owners for the New Year

By Paul Henderson.

 1. Admit that you are a business owner.  When money and children are used in the same sentence, we become conflicted.  We tend to make the same face we make when we smell putrid broccoli that rotted in our fridge.  Why do we do this?  McDonald’s doesn’t feel conflicted about selling Happy Meals to busy mothers to feed their children, do they?  Private schools don’t feel conflicted about outrageous tuition, nor do they feel weird about badgering their student’s families with fundraiser after fundraiser to raise even more money.  Wal-mart doesn’t feel conflicted about anything at all.  Here’s why.  Businesses exist only if they earn a profit.  Otherwise, they fail to exist at all.  It’s that simple.

2. Vow to run your business like a business.  Once you’ve come to grips with #1, it’s your responsibility to actually stay in business.  Charge the correct amount of tuition based on the quality of education you are providing to your dancers.  If you’re providing a very high level of dance education, you should be charging more tuition than a nearby studio providing a lower level.  Calculating your tuition is not simply a matter of finding out what your competitors are charging.  It’s equally important to consider the overall value of the training you are providing.

dance studio new year 1Realize that your dancers and their parents are YOUR customers first and foremost.  Without you, there would be no dancer.  Here’s an example of how this works.  My studios recently presented seven holiday performances.  We did three full-length Nutcrackers with three different casts and four shows for dancers ages 2-6.  We sold over 5,000 tickets in total.  Do you know how much money the ticketing company earned in fees?  Over $13,000, that’s how much.  And those are just the fees…not the face value of the tickets.  My studio made it possible for the ticketing company to earn revenue of $13,000.  Without us, they would not have earned anything at all.  Do you know how much money the costume companies made?  Figure 500 dancers buying costumes with a retail cost averaging $75.  Let’s just put the gross profit to the costume companies at about $15,000.  The theater also earned over $10,000.  The backdrop company…about $1500.  UPS even garnered $400 – $500.   Even the bank earned over $4000 on credit card fees!  Without dance studios, there would be no dancewear industry.  There would be no costume industry.  Your studio is the gateway for so many companies to earn a profit it’s astonishing.  Being the gatekeeper means that you are incredibly important to the dance industry.  Start wielding that power today.

Attempt to earn a profit on absolutely everything that your students need.  Now, you probably just crinkled your nose in disgust, right?  Look, these dancers are going to buy this stuff anyway…from someone.  If it’s not you, go back and read item number 1 above.  Dancers will ALL buy leotards, tights, shoes, costumes, and bags.  Some will also buy costumes, jewelry, stage make-up, hair accessories like bun-kits and countless other items for performances.  They will also buy tickets to shows and some will pay convention and competition fees…which are incredibly high.  Conventions and competitions are literally getting rich off of your dancers.  Are you okay with those companies getting rich while you toll away day after day, month after month, year after year barely making ends meet?  Remember, you are the gatekeeper.  Without you, the conventions and competitions just don’t exist.  Start wielding your power today.

3. Add a performance – there are so many reasons to do this it’s not even funny.  Your dancers will get better, faster.  Your revenue will increase due to ticket sales.  Your customers will be happier.  Your instructors will be happier.  Yes, you will work harder and stress yourself out, but it will be worth it.  Here’s a link to an article that discusses one of our first Nutcracker performances.

dance studio new year 24. Make your dress code mandatory – For reasons discussed in #2, consider making your dress code mandatory.  Here’s why.  You are a dance studio owner and probably a dance instructor.  Your job is to teach dance, but in reality you are doing something else entirely…at least in the beginning of each season.  Before you can actually teach that dancer, you must enroll her or him.  This means that in reality, at least in the beginning, you are selling memories to mothers and fathers.  When selling memories, a picture is worth more than a thousand words.  When a mother of a three or four year old envisions her daughter joining a new dance class, she has the cute vision above in mind. She does not envision kids in street clothes running around a frazzled dance teacher  who showed up late for class carrying a latte and wearing sweat pants and tennis shoes.

Hip-hop class, of course, is different.  Your argument against dress code might be that your customers won’t like paying for the items and will not enroll. I will remind you that they are not going to come to class naked.  They are going to wear something to class and you, as the gatekeeper, are going to a) tell them what to wear and b) earn a profit on the transaction that will occur with or without you anyway.  This profit will help your business flourish with outstanding, well-paid dance instructors, fresh paint on the walls, clean bathrooms, etc.  Customers love these things.  They don’t want you to be poor.  Well, some of them do, but that’s a different article.

5. Stop complaining.  We seem to be our own worst enemies.  As the gatekeeper, you have a massive responsibility to the dance industry.  Act like it.  Be above the fray.  Get out of the gossip gutter on social media and become the powerful CEO of your dance empire.  It is an empire.  After all, without you, there would be no dancer.

Paul HendersonAbout Paul Henderson

Paul Henderson is an expert on administrative technologies for the dance industry and has been around the business for almost 30 years.  He and his wife, Tiffany, currently own and operate Twinkle Star Dance™ – an online choreography and curriculum system for recreational dancers ages 2-11; eight successful dance studio locations in Northern California (www.tiffanydance.com) and one in Southern California. Tiffany’s Dance Academy’s annual enrollment of over 4,500 students caused Paul to invent ways to automate most of the day-to-day business transactions that take up so much of a studio owner/instructor’s time. Paul’s goal has always been to smooth out the business side of the dance studios so that his wife can spend more time in the studio doing what she loves…teaching. Automating online registration and monthly automatic tuition payments was achieved a decade ago but perhaps the most revolutionary invention is his web-based application – CostumeManager.com and its offspring, Storefront for full-service dress code and costume sales and distribution.

About CostumeManager.com

For the past seven years, Paul Henderson has worked tirelessly with most of the major costume and dancewear manufacturers to consolidate their catalogs into one searchable website. Developing relationships with these companies has been crucial to the success of CostumeManager.com and his efforts have paid off for studios all across the United States and Canada. By creating one searchable website, it is possible for a studio owner to browse all catalogs simultaneously, assign items that they like to a dance class, establish their profit margin, create an online store or print a color worksheet for dancers explaining how they can order their required and or/optional items online or via toll free telephone. Dancers purchase their items securely online and CostumeManager.com orders, receives, sorts and ships the individually packaged items to the studio owner. The studio owner or instructor cashes their “commission” check, hands the bags of goods to the dancer and goes back to teaching. CostumeManager.com eliminates 90% of the work and all the worry associated with distributing costumes and dancewear to dancers while preserving all of the profit margin…if not more.  With Storefront, studios gain a retail store presence without the hassle of buying inventory and managing employees.

To connect with Paul Henderson and CostumeManager visit www.CostumeManager.com, www.TwinkleStarDance.com, or www.TiffanyDance.com.

Posted in Teacher Tips & Resources, Tips & Advice2 Comments

The Life of a Cruise Ship Dancer

The Life of a Cruise Ship Dancer

By Mary Callahan of Dance Informa.

Picture this: You get paid to live on a four-star cruise ship, dance in Broadway-caliber shows, and travel around the world. Well, this dream could quite definitely become a reality. Dance Informa interviewed dancers from five different cruise ships to find out if life on the high seas is really as magical as it seems.

Stephanie Brooks

What cruise were you on?  How long was the cruise? 

Allure of Seas: Royal Caribbean. My contract was for 9 months—2 months of rehearsal and 7 months at sea.”

What shows did you perform? What was the dancing like?

“Chicago is one of the most artistically fulfilling shows I’ve ever done.  Each ensemble member is featured. There’s opportunity to improvise in the Fosse style during the show, which keeps it alive.  The energy you get from being onstage with the band is thrilling.   Every Royal Caribbean ship that has a musical also has a second production show.  The production show on the Allure, Blue Planet, is a combination of pop music, with aerial, jazz, and modern movement.  I enjoyed learning new skills in aerial training, and doing athletic choreography.  We did 7-day cruises: 3 performances of Chicago, two days off, and 3 Blue Planet performances.  This schedule kept me inspired, rested, and fulfilled.”

Stephanie Brooks. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Brooks.

Stephanie Brooks. Photo courtesy of Brooks.

What was the audition like? Was it different from your typical theatre open call?

“For Royal Caribbean ships, they need musical theater performers who also have the strength for aerial work and athletic movement for the production shows. We started with a basic technique across-the-floor combination, learned part of Blue Planet, “All that Jazz” from Chicago, and then sang 16 bars of music and did one of the “Cell Block Tango” monologues.  The process is a lot longer and more taxing than most normal musical theater auditions because there are so many different elements for the two shows.  I advise eating a big breakfast and packing protein bars, water, and clearing your schedule for the day.  The first time I auditioned I had to leave for a teaching job at 4pm (the audition usually starts at 10am) and didn’t get to finish the audition. I was fortunate that they called me in a few months later to audition for a contract they needed to immediately fill.  When I received the offer I had just 11 days to pack up my life and head to rehearsals!”

What’s life like at sea? 

“Living on a ship is not for everyone, but I thrived in this environment.  I loved the convenience of the ship and all of things it had to offer.  I learned new skills like ice-skating, scuba diving, Salsa dancing, and running.  I taught classes for the crew such as Zumba, yoga on the beach or helicopter pad, and we would also take turns teaching dance or doing fitness DVDs together.  We were allowed to use the guest gym, steam room, and running track.  I loved to run around the track as the sun set over the ocean or rent bikes and explore the islands.  RCCL organized a lot of crew activities and opportunities to meet people from different departments.  With Skype and porting in the US once a week, I still felt connected to my friends and family.  The week after my friends or family cruised on my ship was when I felt the most homesick. There is usually a mid-contract slump, where it can become easy to just watch movies in your room and nap all day. It’s important to set goals and keep yourself motivated.  Financially, it was a huge blessing.  When I returned from my contract I was able to focus on training and auditions because I had enough ‘cushion’ to support myself until I booked my next job.”

Stephanie Brooks in Chicago on board of the Allure of the Seas: Royal Caribbean. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Brooks.

Stephanie Brooks in ‘Chicago’ on board of the Allure of the Seas: Royal Caribbean. Photo courtesy of Brooks.

Where did you get to travel?

“We ported in Fort Lauderdale and alternated Eastern and Western cruises: Labadee Haiti, Jamacia, Cozumel, Nassua Bahamas, St. Thomas, and St. Martin.”

What was your favorite part of cruise life?

“Getting to meet and live life with people from all over the world.  I believe you become a better performer and person when you open your worldview and embrace other cultures.  There’s a lot we can learn from each other, and I don’t think there’s any other job where in one day you can interact with people from over 70 countries.”

What was your least favorite part?

“‘Install’ was my least favorite part of the contract. When you get onboard for your first contract there are a lot of maritime rules that you have to learn, in addition to adjusting to a new show and living situation.  It can be overwhelming, but try to find the fun in it and know that once you learn all of the rules and get into a routine it will be a lot easier.  Things like lifeboat training and fire safety can actually be a fun cast-bonding experience if you go into it with a good attitude.”

What advice would you give to dancers on their first cruise contract?

“Hang out with other departments, not just your cast.  It will open your worldview and keep you grounded and grateful for your job as a performer.  Set financial, personal, relational, and professional goals monthly, weekly, and daily.  Wake up for breakfast.  Listen to as much live music around the ship and ask to sing with the band.  Use your gifts to serve others and learn from others.  Go on excursions and always get off the ship when you port.  Don’t spend all your port days using Internet; budget it into your expenses or limit your time and go on adventures.  At the end of your contract you will look back on those memories and be grateful for those experiences.”

Nikki Croker

What cruise are/were you on?

“I performed on the Disney Magic and also the Disney Wonder and am now currently working for Royal Caribbean about to go on the new and biggest cruise ship ‘Quantum of the Seas.’”

How long was the cruise?

“My contracts were anywhere between 5 weeks (for a replacement) to 11 months and 23 days.”

What shows did you perform?

“Twice CharmedGolden Mickey’sVillains TonightToy Story, ‘Welcome Aboard’ and ‘Farewell’ variety shows, as well as deck parties and theme nights in the clubs.”

Nikki Croker. Photo courtesy of Nikki Croker.

Nikki Croker. Photo courtesy of Croker.

What was the dancing like?

“I guess you could describe it as ‘Disney-fied.’  Everything was fun and upbeat and smiley. Now at Royal it’s very technical, especially because I also work as an aerialist on this contract.”

What was the audition like?

“I actually auditioned for Hong Kong Disney in Melbourne, Australia (where I’m originally from) and they held on to my file and transferred it to Disney Cruise Line when I turned 18. The audition consisted of a ballet combo and a jazz combo. There was a cut and then they kept some of us for strength tests and also for face character cuts.”

What’s life like at sea?

“I actually really enjoy life at sea.  Having a schedule, food prepared and travel accommodations; it’s my idea of a paid vacation! The ‘crew mess’ can be hit or miss, but it’s never horrible. Internet is hard on the ship as you have to rely on a satellite and it can be spotty and expensive. Also the crew phone that you have to use with a calling card has a slight delay so you have to be patient when on the phone to loved ones.”

Where did you get to travel?

“I went to the Bahamas, Caribbean, Mediterranean, Baltic and Alaska with Disney and I will be doing the inaugural cruise out of Germany back to America on Royal. Once back, we will cruise to the Bahamas and Caribbean and then travel all the way back to Barcelona.”

Nikki Croker performing an ariel skill on board the Quantum of the Seas: Royal Caribbean. Photo courtesy of Nikki Croker.

Nikki Croker performing an ariel skill on board the Quantum of the Seas: Royal Caribbean. Photo courtesy of Croker.

What was your favorite part of cruise life?

“The people I met and the places I got to see, some of which I would never have seen if it had not been for the contracts.”

What was your least favorite part?

“Feeling like I was in a bubble sometimes and not having good access to the Internet to connect when family and friends back home.”

What advice would you give to dancers on their first cruise contract?

“Go in thinking the room is going to be EXTRA, EXTRA small and that the food won’t be good, that way it’ll be a pleasant surprise when you realize it isn’t that bad! Enjoy every moment because in what other scenario would you get to do what you love while traveling and meeting so many incredible people that essentially become like family?  Nothing lasts forever and before you know it you will be back in the city auditioning and scheduling all of your side jobs.  Live in the moment.  You’re basically on a ‘paid vacation’ doing what you love.  What could be better?”

Beau Middlebrook

What cruise were you on?  How long was the cruise?

“I was on the Disney Dream out of Port Canaveral, Florida. It went to Nassau, Bahamas and Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay.”

What shows did you perform?  What was the dancing like?

Beau Middlebrook. Photo courtesy of Beau Middlebrook.

Beau Middlebrook. Photo courtesy of Middlebrook.

“We performed 3 Main Stage shows each cruise: Villains TonightGolden Mickeys and Believe. They each had their own story line that involved scenes and songs from your favorite Disney classics. There was also a Pirate show featuring Jack Sparrow that we performed up on the top deck. It was something different from the other shows. I personally had fun with the sword fights, free fall stunt work, pyro-technics and really just dressing up as a pirate and being a kid again. On top of that, as a dancer I had to perform in the ship’s nightclub. The show itself wasn’t bad but it usually started close to midnight, so having performed two, sometimes three, shows earlier in the evening it was always a struggle to wake up, warm up and put on a show face.

As far as the dancing goes, it definitely exceeded my original thoughts of what ship cruise ship dancing was. You rehearse for two months in Toronto, Canada and work with great choreographers who really find what you specifically bring to the table and they use it! For instance, I was the tumbler and they had me tumbling in every show, numerous times. You had to be pretty versatile as well—everything from ‘Circle of Life’ to ‘Hip Hop’ in the nightclub.

I’ll never forget sailing through Hurricane Sandy! You know what they say ‘The show must go on’ and it DID! Sometimes with the highest grande jete’s you’ve ever seen and other times with the most pitiful pirouettes possible.”

What was the audition like?

“The audition was essentially your typical Musical Theatre audition. They had us do a 16 count ballet combination, which they made a cut from, then a musical theatre number which involved your standard kicks, turns and a chance to show your own style.”

Beau Middlebrook on the beach during an excursion while performing on the Disney Dream. Photo courtesy of Beau Middlebrook.

Beau Middlebrook on the beach during an excursion while performing on the Disney Dream. Photo courtesy of Middlebrook.

What’s life like at sea?

“I think ship life is kind of like tap dancing, you either love it or you just do it because you have to. It can be a very convenient life style—everything is done for you. You can go seven months without cooking a meal or cleaning a dish. The difference between Disney ships and most other cruise lines is that you don’t have the same ‘guest privileges.’ You are not allowed to eat, work out or party with guests on a Disney Cruise. You can however use the outdoor decks for sunbathing and relaxing.”

What was your favorite part of cruise life?

“Traveling! To wake up in a different ‘Port of Call’ everyday certainly beats the constant sirens and smoke of NYC.”

What was your least favorite part?

“The food! There’s nothing better than a home cooked meal! My biggest battle was the food. A large number of the crew were Asian, therefore the Crew Mess catered quite extensively for them. This resulted in the common staples such as rice and curries. Let’s just say a lot of the Americans enjoyed a good old ‘Peanut Butter and Jelly’ for their dinners.”

What advice would you give to dancers on their first cruise contract?

“It will be an amazing experience that you’ll never forget if you are open to it. Don’t fight the current, just let it take you where you need to go. Also pack some magnets, as all the walls are magnetic! :)

Erica Misenti

What cruise were you on? How long was the cruise?

“I was on the Carnival Conquest for 8 months as a Playlist performer.”

What shows did you perform? What was the dancing like?

“I performed in DivasLatin Nights and The Brits. The cast and I counted the amount of ‘ponies’ we did in The Brits are there were over 250! Be ready to have wig changes and smile! It’s a cute and fun show. Latin Nights is full of JLO sassy moves, but with a more Latin American feel than a true Latin show. Latin Nights is one show you will never get comfortable with. The costume changes are hard and you can’t be a 1/2 second late. It’s an awesome show! But get ready to work your butt off in the gym to look good in your final costume girls and boys- everyone hated them unfortunately. Divas was awesome with by far the best costumes and dances. The contemporary dance to ‘Bleeding Love’ was the only dance I could breathe in as a dancer. I truly enjoyed the movement and never got sick of performing this show.”

Erica Misenti. Photo courtesy of Erica Misenti.

Erica Misenti. Photo courtesy of Misenti.

What was the audition like? Was it different from your typical theatre open call?

“The audition lasted all day, at least five hours. I was asked to dance five times total including in groups of girls that were short verse tall and learning contrasting combinations. Then I sang at the end of the day. Its one of the auditions I danced the most at.”

What’s life like at sea? 

“Life at sea can be very hard. It costs a lot of money to talk to people at home via Internet or phone, but it’s worth it for your sanity. The alcoholic drinks are dirt cheap and food is free and always available. Midnight mess on the Carnival Conquest was the best! Working out in the gym is a nice way to feel like your leaving your job for a bit, but it truly becomes an entertainer’s second home. Visiting all the beautiful ports and having days off to lay out and get a tan are amazing. I saved enough money to pay off my college loans too, which would have taken me 18 years otherwise!”

Where did you get to travel?

“Everywhere in the eastern and western Caribbean! For example: New Orleans, Belize, Grand Cayman, Tortola, Dominica, Dominican Republic, San Juan, Key West, Miami, Nassau, St. Thomas, San Martian, Cozumel, Honduras, Grand Turk, Freeport, etc!”

What was your favorite part of cruise life?

“My favorite part was not paying rent, paying off my college loans, meeting my boyfriend, performing for good pay, visiting amazing ports, constantly being tan and in shape, meeting amazing people and growing as an individual.”

What was your least favorite part?

“Missing holidays, getting stuck in ship-life drama, having to be back-on-board at a certain time, always having to wear a name tag even on my days off, watching my friends and boyfriend leave because we all had different contracts.”

What advice would you give to dancers on their first cruise contract?

“Don’t feel bad about spending money on yourself to keep you sane. You need Internet and you need to call home. You need to get off the ship and enjoy the beautiful ports; don’t just sleep in because you might never be back there. Go on excursions! Work hard and make friends. Have fun and invite your family to cruise if you can. You get a discounted rate with the company after 6 months.”

Joyah Spangler

What cruise were you on?  How long was the cruise?

“I performed on Holland America Line.  We rehearsed in New York for two months and performed on the ship for six months after that.”

What shows did you perform?  What was the dancing like?

Joyah Spangler. Photo courtesy of Joyah Spangler.

Joyah Spangler. Photo courtesy of Spangler.

“We were an inaugural cast, creating seven brand new shows for Holland America—due to time constraints, however, we only ended up performing five on board while the next cast worked out the kinks for the final two shows.  We were fortunate enough to have two Broadway veterans as our choreographers who were long-time company members of Fosse.  Our choreography was highly influenced by their experience in that show.”

What was the audition like? 

“It was a marathon!  First there was your regular audition with two short combinations.  Then I sang three songs from my book.  The very next morning I came in and did five dance combinations (jazz, ballet, hip hop, character, and partnering) from 9am until 1pm, had a quick lunch, then stayed to sing three out of the five songs they had given me to prepare the night before.  Next, I was asked to stay and do harmony work.  The following day we had to do personality interviews for the Holland America team.  Two days later, I had the job!  It was quite an exciting week!”

What’s life like at sea?

“It’s kind of lonely living at sea.  While you have a great built-in group of friends with your cast mates, you can get homesick for friends and family very easily—especially when Internet is hard to come by.  There’s lots of free time, which is amazing, but it’s also easy to waste it.  In terms of eating, we had the same food as our passengers, which was amazing!  It was really delicious food, but eating healthy while on the ship can become a struggle.  At the same time, the cast was fortunate enough to have access to the passenger gym.  Another great part of performing on a ship is the amount of money you save since you’re not paying for room, board, or travel expenses.”

Where did you get to travel?

Joyah Spangler visiting the rock of Gibraltar on an excursion from the Holland America Line. Photo courtesy of Joyah Spangler.

Joyah Spangler visiting the rock of Gibraltar on an excursion from the Holland America Line. Photo courtesy of Spangler.

“Where do I begin?!  Let’s see: Jamaica, Turks and Caicos, Bahamas, Cayman Islands, Puerto Rico, Florida, US Virgin Islands, St. Maarten, Greece, Portugal, Italy, Monaco, Spain, France, England, Turkey, Belgium, Estonia, Russia, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Germany, and Norway—all in just six months!”

What was your favorite part of cruise life?

“Traveling!  I feel as if I got paid to go explore all of these beautiful places.  Often, I would volunteer to be a shore excursion escort if I had the day off.  This meant I would get to do all of the passengers’ expensive activities at no extra cost!”

What was your least favorite part?

“It’s a lonely life at sea, especially while in Europe where it was hard to stay in contact with friends and family back home.”

What advice would you give to dancers on their first cruise contract?

“Don’t waste your time while on the ship.  During our down time dancers were trying out choreography on each other, building dance reels and taking voice lessons from the vocal captain.  The industry keeps moving forward while you are at sea—don’t waste this beautiful chance you are given to grow and create while you have the free time and free space!”

Photo (top): Erica Misenti standing on the beach in front of the Carnival Conquest. Photo courtesy of Erica Misenti.

Posted in Feature Articles, Tips & Advice0 Comments

7 Things to Avoid Saying to Your Dance Teacher (And What to do Instead)

7 Things to Avoid Saying to Your Dance Teacher (And What to do Instead)

By Rain Francis of Dance Informa.

1. “I’m tired. (Or “I’m hungry”).

Dance can be hard work, we can all agree on that. Make sure you are prepared for class by being fed, watered and well rested wherever possible, and have a light snack beforehand if you need it, to keep you going. Chances are, your teacher has taught several classes in a row, without any breaks, and he or she probably hasn’t had time to have a bite to eat since breakfast, so he/she is probably both hungry AND tired. Remember that it’s not just your teacher’s energy but the energy of all the students in the classroom that contributes to how enjoyable the class is. If everyone was complaining of being tired, imagine how exhausting the class would be!

2. “Can I go and get a drink?”

This may depend on the policy of your school, but in most cases, it is normal practice to bring your water bottle into the studio with you for class. (It’s usually not OK to bring other drinks though, as these can mean sticky floors when spilled!). Keeping your hydration up is important for your dance training and performance, but leaving the studio every time you are thirsty just wastes time and means you miss out on valuable corrections and practice. Be prepared by filling up your water bottle before class so it is on hand when you need a drink (or when your teacher says to get one).

3. “What time is it?” (Or “Is class nearly finished?”)

Nothing says “I wish I was somewhere else” like enquiring about the time. Saying this to your teacher tells him or her that you are not enjoying yourself and you wish the class was finished. Try to imagine how this feels from your dance teacher’s perspective. If you’re really not enjoying yourself, be patient and wait until the class is dismissed, or better yet, focus on the exercises you are being set and see how much progress you can make in the time you have left.

4. “I can’t.”

Although the dance studio can be a frustrating place at times, it is no place for negativity. We are asking our bodies to do some incredibly difficult things, and by using words like “can’t” we are really lessening our chances of being able to achieve those things. Give yourself a chance by thinking positively, visualising yourself doing it correctly, and changing your thoughts from things like “this is too hard” to “I WILL get this!”.

5.“I’m ready to go en pointe.”

Every young ballet dancer wants to get on pointe, and most of you will, when the time is right. There is no set age when pointe work should begin – there are many factors that contribute to a student’s readiness. Pointe can start from ten years old but physical growth, core control, overall strength, mobility, technique, ballet experience and maturity all need to be taken into consideration. Just because your friends are on pointe, it doesn’t mean that it is the right time for you. This can be really frustrating, but trust in your teacher – he or she has your best interest at heart. Going on pointe too early can lead to injury and developing bad habits which can take a really long time to correct. Before starting pointe, everyone should have not only their teacher’s permission, but a pointe assessment with a dance physio or a similar professional, to ensure going on pointe is safe.

6. “This is too easy for me.”

There is certainly a time and a place for being pushed past your comfort zone and to start working on more advanced steps. There is also a time and a place for breaking things down to the basics and working slowly on the nitty gritty of technique. Trust that your teacher is giving you the best exercises for your current skill level. If he or she is asking you to do something that you feel is too easy, chances are you’re not doing it as well – or as correctly – as you think. You will progress much faster working at the correct level for you personally, and this differs for everyone. Even if the exercise is very simple, you can always work to make it even better – can you work on balancing for longer, jumping higher, or achieving a better extension?

7. (Nothing)

If you are late coming into class, or you need to leave the studio for whatever reason, always make sure you excuse yourself. Dance lessons teach you about many things beyond steps, including things like manners and etiquette. It’s common courtesy to say “sorry I’m late” or “may I please be excused?” and your teacher will really appreciate you coming up to him or her and saying this, rather than yelling it across the studio. Just entering and exiting the studio without saying anything is a sure fire way to insult your teacher. The other issue is safety – your teacher has responsibility for you while you are in class, so please don’t disappear without announcing where you are going.

Remember… Your dance teacher is there to help you learn and improve. He or she is dedicated to your growth as a dancer and an artist, and wants the best for you. But being a dance teacher is a really hard job at times; you’re constantly on your feet and aiming to always be an inspiring, motivational force, which takes a lot of energy and passion. Always remember that your teacher is human too, so treat him or her as you would like to be treated and always thank them for class and the hard work that they do.

Finally, this article mentions all the things that are best to avoid saying to your teacher, but at the end of the day, please don’t be scared to talk. If you are unsure of anything or you don’t understand the exercise, put your hand up and politely ask for help. Your teacher will be pleased to answer your questions – that’s what he or she is there for!

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Literally Putting Your Best Face Forward for Competitions

Literally Putting Your Best Face Forward for Competitions

A behind-the-scenes look at stage makeup from a former competition judge’s point of view.

By Christine Dion of Mode Dion.

As the holidays are now over, many dancers can anticipate what’s next – competition season!

Yes, it’s true .Another season of dance competitions are upon us! As a matter of a fact, for some dancers the season has already begun, so let’s not waste any time. Let’s get right to it!

Mode DionHere’s some professional presentation and stage makeup advice every performer should know: Preparation is always key to a confident performance. You may have your moves down, but is your overall presentation polished? What are the judges taking notice of beyond your dance technique?

As an educator on stage beauty and professional presentation for performers, I have had a chance to tour with a popular national dance convention and competition. It was through those decades of exposure I enjoyed the opportunity to get to know competition judges, explore their observations and ask, “Beyond technique, what makes a great performance and presentation?” Here is the inside scoop on what judges take notice of and what helps you stand out like a pro:

Presentation

1. The minute you step out onto the stage you are on! Make sure you enter the spotlight poised, smiling and in good form. You should exit the same way.

2. Watch facial expressions. Don’t make faces (look strained, lips puckered etc.) while performing. Make eye contact, smile and look passionate about your performance without making faces.

3. When performing, avoid mouthing the words. It’s distracting. The exception is when performing a musical number with a singing or speaking part.

4. Don’t move the music tempo faster than the song. Need a faster tempo? Find one.

5. Watch undergarments. Be sure they match and do not show under your costume.

6. Wear costumes and accessories that are secure to avoid embarrassing wardrobe problems.

7. Don’t over do the bling. Choose two rhinestone accessories. Example: earrings and a choker, but skip the bracelet and hair clip.

8. Keep hair off your face, unless it’s part of the choreography.

9. If you make a mistake, keep going. Don’t let a fall or any other mess up stop the show.

10. Keep your energy strong from the beginning to the very end.

Judges notice your makeup – really!

I was surprised to discover how much about a performer’s makeup judges really noticed. Here is a checklist of stage makeup mistakes they have mentioned:

1. Make sure brows are defined, arched and extended properly, especially for the very fair or dark skin tones. Lack of brow creates a “surprised” look and draws away from eyes.

2. Skin tone on all ages should look even and natural, not blotchy, red, pink, orange or shiny. Avoid light-reflecting mineral makeup that can make the face look too fair against the body and extremely shiny under stage lights. If your matte foundation shade looks too light against your body, try a darker powder shade on top instead of foundation. This looks more natural and avoids a line across the jaw. Use a golden tone foundation, not pink or orange tones that can look overly made up. Use foundation especially where cheek color is applied to prevent overly flushed faces. Be sure to blend down under the chin, an area that rarely gets sun and remains light. This is an area judges often see very well as they are below the performer.

3. Eye shadow should look well blended and in neutral colors that do not fight with different costume changes. Avoid frosted or bright colors like blue, green, or purple eye shadow. Bright color is for theme looks only. Use three shades of eye shadow to look more blended; a dark shade to define at corners and through crease, a medium warm shade to balance onto the eye bone and a light matte shade under the eyebrow and onto the eyelid to pull forward. Matte eye shadow works best.

4. Avoid black eyeliner all around eyes. This makes eyes look smaller. Eyeliner should be left open at the outer eye corner. Black at outer corner upper lid and brown to line under lower lashes looks softer. Always avoid the lower eyelid (ridge above the lower eye lashes), as this really closes eyes. White pencil there is preferred. Black eyeliner top and bottom is appropriate for drama when performing jazz/Fosse/cabaret or for deep skin tones.

5. Wear false lashes. They do open eyes!

6. Cheek color should be well blended to avoid a stripe of color across cheekbones.

7. Lips should appear full and defined. Be sure to use a lip liner to shape lips and enhance fullness. Lip liner needs to be blended over most of lips to avoid showing. Don’t forget, the most important part of the mouth is the sides. Keep sides of lips full for profile views.

8. Be cautious when using glitter and shimmer. Apply only to key light-catching points and never on male dancers.

9. When wearing a hat, especially ones with brims that cast shadows, be sure to dress up lips using gloss, glitter or a dramatic lip color so your face doesn’t get lost.

10. When performing a classical ballet or any number that is ethereal, try to highlight with shimmer powder cheekbones and eyes. Matte faces looks plain and dull.

11. Avoid too much plain skin. When lot’s of skin is exposed on the back or midriff, add a shimmer lotion or powder over bare areas. For glitzy costuming, dress up your skin with glitter spray.

12. Remember the themes of your number. For the 1940s, use strong eyeliner on the upper lid and do strong lips. For the 1960s, use black and white shadow and do white lips. Then for the 1980s, use electric bright shadow and lips. Judges get bored with the same look. Add drama and show appeal by mixing your look up with quick makeup and hair changes. Wigs and hairpieces can really come in handy here – as long as they are well secured.

13. Makeup for traditional or cultural numbers, like the Hula, Clogging, African or Latin performances, should stay with the look of that culture.

These tips will help you stand apart as a true professional and dazzle the judges. For more tips on makeup application technique, theme looks and quality stage products to help you look your best, visit me at modedion.com.

 

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Making Healthy Changes Sustainable in the New Year

Making Healthy Changes Sustainable in the New Year

Finally lose those extra pounds by simply shifting the way we think about our food choices – No calorie counting required. 

By Emily C. Harrison MS, RD, LD.
www.dancernutrition.com.

If you are one of the many people who have had a hard time losing a few pounds using traditional approaches of counting calories and fat grams, then it’s time for a new approach. New Year’s resolutions give us an enthusiastic opportunity to seize the day, but how do we really make change happen and stick to it in a sustainable way?  “Sustainability” has become such a buzzword that can all too easily lose its impact or become cliche.  But making choices that are sustainable for our bodies, our busy lives, and the environment is exactly what we have to do to make a lasting difference.  The beauty of the sustainability approach, is that when you stop obsessing over calories, fat grams, and carbs, you open yourself up to making delicious food choices based on more positive criteria.

#1 Eat Real Food 

Before you make a food choice, ask yourself if it’s real food. “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants”.  Michael Pollan’s famous quote sounds so simple, but in this day of ultra processed food, we have to actually define “real food”.  This means fresh, unprocessed fruits, vegetables, beans, seeds, nuts and whole grains.  If the food label is longer than a typical tweet, or if you don’t recognize some of the ingredients, then rethink eating it.  This doesn’t have to be hard. Instead of a pop tart for breakfast, grab overnight oats out of the fridge.  Instead of cheese puffs from the vending machine, pack almonds and a clementine.  Instead of chicken nuggets for lunch, have a hummus, cucumber, spinach sandwich on whole grain bread with lentil soup.  Don’t stress about calories, simply plan ahead to aim to get a fruit or veg at each meal and snack.

#2 Eat Clean 

Eating real food (not from packages, boxes, cans, or plastic) automatically limits your exposure to some substances that have been linked to weight gain, learning challenges, and even sometimes cancer.   Packaged, conventional products often have more sugar, salt, fat, additives, preservatives, colors, dyes, GMOs, pesticides, herbicides, and nasty chemicals like BPA.  Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical found in the lining of canned foods, plastic packaging, and some drink bottles.  There are numerous studies linking BPA and the rising rates of obesity 1,2,3,9. The obesity epidemic is multifaceted and bigger than just our over consumption of calories, but chemicals, hormones, and antibiotics in our food are thought to be contributing factors 1,2,3,10.

When you consider what else could be in your food besides calories and fat you automatically begin to make choices that support a healthy weight.  Don’t be misled by healthwashing claims that your bag of chips are “natural”4.  The word “natural” on your food package isn’t clearly defined in the U.S..  Instead, take 15 minutes to boil some quinoa, toss with dried fruit, nuts, and some olive oil dressing and presto you have dinner without any packages going to landfill.  Throw some beans, onion, and green pepper in the slow cooker, serve with rice, and dinner will be waiting for you when you get home from a long day.  Make extra to save.  No packages required, the calories will naturally be lower than something from a box, and you limit your exposure to obesogenic substances.  The Centers for Science in the Public Interest and The Environmental Working Group have wonderful tools that allow you to know more about how substances can affect the human body 3,4,8,9.

#3 Your Food Choices Affect More Than Just Your Waistline

Your food choices affect others. When you make the decision to buy a burger and soda you choose food products that come from a very unhealthy system.  Sodas and even bread contain high fructose corn syrup which is genetically modified to withstand spraying of industrial herbicides. The meat is likely from a factory farm that routinely uses antibiotics which contribute to antibiotic resistant infections in people (in the U.S.). It is estimated that 90,000 people die each year from antibiotic resistant infections and resistance is a major public health crisis10. Children who live near factory farms have higher rates of asthma and farm animal waste runoff has been linked to e. coli outbreaks10.  Red meat production contributes heavily to pollution5,6,9,10. Choose a veggie burger instead, you’ll get less calories and fat but you also positively impact others on the planet.

Ultimately you are voting with your fork to decide what kind of future you want. This New Year, instead of worrying about calories, make a real sustainable difference by eating clean, eating less meat and dairy, and eating with the seasons. You just might be surprised how sustainable eating affects your waist line (and waste line) well after January’s burst of motivation has worn off.

Emily Harrison
Emily Cook Harrison MS, RD, LD
Emily is a registered dietitian and holds both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in nutrition from Georgia State University. Her master’s thesis research was on elite level ballet dancers and nutrition and she has experience providing nutrition services for weight management, sports nutrition, disordered eating, disease prevention, and food allergies. Emily was a professional dancer for eleven years with the Atlanta Ballet and several other companies. She is a dance educator and the mother of two young children. She now runs the Centre for Dance Nutrition and Healthy Lifestyles. She can be reached at emily@dancernutrition.com
www.dancernutrition.com

Sources:

1. Association Between Urinary Bisphenol A Concentration and Obesity Prevalence in Children and Adolescents. JAMA. 2012;308(11):1113-1121.  jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1360865
2. BPA in food packaging tied to childhood obesity: http://contemporarypediatrics.modernmedicine.com/contemporary-pediatrics/news/modernmedicine/modern-medicine-feature-articles/bpa-food-packaging-cont?page=full
CDC.gov, Overweight an Obesity:  www.cdc.gov/obesity/childhood/index.html
3. Center for Science in the Public Interest: Chemical Cuisine, Learn about Food Additives: www.cspinet.org/reports/chemcuisine.htm
4. Center for Science in the Public Interest: Eating Green. www.cspinet.org/EatingGreen/
5. Live Science:  www.livescience.com/22050-heat-waves-high-death-tolls.html

6. Years of Living Dangerously: http://yearsoflivingdangerously.com/topic/heat/
7. Healthwashing: www.huffingtonpost.com/andy-bellatti/healthwashing_b_4101450.html
8. CSPI Food Day: Food Impact Quiz: www.foodday.org/14questions
9. Environmental Working Group. ewg.org
10. Industrial Farm Animal Production in America: a report of the Pew Charitable Trusts and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. 2010.

Posted in Dance Health, Tips & Advice, Top Stories0 Comments

Pointe Hurts…I Want to Quit!

Pointe Hurts…I Want to Quit!

By Laura Di Orio of Dance Informa.

Dance students new to pointe are always excited. They’ve been watching their favorite ballerinas since they were little, or they watched enviously in past years as their older peers got permission to get their pointe shoes. But now it’s their turn. They get fitted for their shoes, sew on their ribbons and elastics, maybe buy a special bag just for them, and then take the shiny satin shoes to class for the very first time.

And then…OUCH!

Maybe being en pointe doesn’t feel as dainty and pretty as one would have thought. Perhaps it feels, instead, uncomfortable. This sensation is common for dancers new to pointe, but it’s not something by which to get discouraged. Dancers don’t have to give up after one lesson, or even several. Dancers can get used to this new feeling of being on their toes, they can get stronger just by being up there, and they can learn some tips to make the transition easier and less painful.

Here, Dance Informa speaks with teachers from some of New York’s leading dance schools, as they offer advice and encouragement to those dancers feeling a bit weary of their new shoes.

Dancers are usually allowed to begin pointe between the ages of 10 and 12, although that depends entirely on individual assessment, regular attendance of ballet classes, technique and a teacher’s approval. It is recommended that each dancer be professionally fitted for their pointe shoes.

“Uncomfortable, unusual sensation and minor discomfort are all common,” says Jo Matos, director of the Children and Youth Ballet Programs at New York City’s Joffrey Ballet School. “Extreme pain is a good indicator that a shoe has not been properly recommended or fit for the student’s very individual needs, and if you aren’t taught proper techniques for manually breaking in your shoes.”

Kate Thomas, director of The School at Steps on Broadway, and also artistic director and choreographer of Ballet Neo, adds that a student’s ballet technique and alignment has a say in the success of her pointe work as well. “If the student is well-placed physically, there may be some discomfort involved in the initial work, but this should not be continual,” she says.

So, although some level of initial discomfort will exist, dancers should give their shoes a chance to break in.

“Discomfort, or what we call ‘good pain’, will pass with training,” Thomas adds. “If the shoe is fit properly and the student has trained properly, the transition to pointe work should be accomplished with little discomfort in a short time period.”

Other factors, such as a dancer’s bone growth and body development during adolescence, may affect a new dancer’s feeling of “pain” en pointe.

“This is a huge issue,” says Thomas. “Adolescent training is challenged by puberty and all the changes, both physical and emotional, that go along with the process. Growth plates behind the knee cause pain and weight gains before growth spurts cause problems, both emotionally and physically, that may affect dance and pointe training.”

Knowing that this is normal and occurs to everyone can be reassuring for dancers new to pointe and facing discomfort. Time will pass, the body will grow into its own, and any “growing pains” will soon cease.

There are also some things that dancers can do to make their time en pointe more comfortable and, in turn, more enjoyable.

Both Matos and Thomas stress the importance of strong abdominals for pointe work. It is a strong core, Matos says, that will help dancers lift their weight out of their shoes.

“Abdominal strength is crucial, as is proper body placement, while flexibility in the ankle and foot must be built before and during pointe training,” Thomas adds.

Matos advises dancers to learn to roll up onto pointe and down through the shoes to help strengthen the feet and ankles.

“This, coupled with strong core strength and clean technique, will aid in lessening the pain,” she says.

In addition, dancers must take good care of their feet. Matos recommends purchasing a good pair of Ouch Pouches for pointe shoes, and both she and Thomas encourage dancers to air out their pointe shoes between lessons. This will help prevent fungus and lessen bacteria, and will aid in decreasing unnecessary pain.

“Students should disinfect cuts or tears in the skin, and protect and deal with blisters,” Thomas adds. “All of this will aid in a pain-free dance experience.”

No dance teacher wants to see their students discouraged and in pain. Teachers like Matos and Thomas advise their students to approach a teacher or studio director if something feels wrong.

“Pain is not good,” Thomas says. “Pain means something is wrong – improperly fit shoes, weak placement or muscle strength – all should be discussed and addressed by the teacher and school administrators. Pressure on the toes should be minimal and not painful if all the other aspects of training and fit are addressed properly.”

“Work to strengthen your body, refine your technique, and the joy of floating across the stage with beauty, grace and ease will far outweigh the ‘pain’ of wearing pointe shoes,” Matos encourages. “Don’t give up!”

Photo (top): Students from The School at Steps on Broadway in New York City. Photo by Eduardo Patino.

Posted in Dance Health, Teacher Tips & Resources, Tips & Advice1 Comment

Dance Recital Costume Guide

Dance Recital Costume Guide

Attention DANCE TEACHERS
Dance Informa’s 2014 Recital Costume Guide is Out Now!

The 2015 costume ranges are just stunning!

Visit www.danceinforma.us/recital-costume-guide to be inspired and find the perfect costumes for your students from the industry’s best costume designers.

Wow your audiences, parents, and students this recital season!

Dance Recital Costume Guide

Click here to view Dance Informa’s Dance Recital Costume Guide.

Posted in Teacher Tips & Resources0 Comments

Dance Competition & Convention Guide!

Dance Competition & Convention Guide!

Dance competition and convention season is starting! Where will you dance?

Dance Informa has compiled a guide of the hottest dance competitions and conventions this season.
Book your place!

Dance Informa’s Competition and Convention Guide can help you plan your dance season. These competitions, conventions and dance intensives provide great opportunities to learn, compete, grow and connect with industry leaders.

Each event is unique and may be just what you are looking for.
See what events will be in or near your city.

www.danceinforma.us/dance-competition-and-convention-guide

Dance Informa is proud to provide this free service for dance teachers, studio owners and students.

Dance Competition and Convention Guide

Click here to view the Dance Competition and Convention Guide

 

 

Posted in Feature Articles, Teacher Tips & Resources0 Comments

7 Ways to Know it’s Choreography Season

7 Ways to Know it’s Choreography Season

By Paul Henderson.

The other day I happened to glance down at my wife’s feet. No shoes and no socks revealed a big toe toenail so long that I immediately christened it “dagger toe.” She explained that this toe situation was a direct result of owning a dance studio and would likely remain that way until choreography for the new season was completed. I felt a little guilty since my only obligation that day was making sure 20,000 lines of product data was imported safely into the Costume Manager system. I backed carefully out of the bathroom and fled to the kitchen.

Ten minutes later, she walked up to me and exclaimed “Look at this!” She was looking wide-eyed into my eyes and pointing at her face. I was reluctant to say that I had no idea what I was supposed to be looking at. For a few seconds I just looked stupidly at her while she looked expectantly back at me. I shrugged and said, “I don’t get it…what am I looking at?”

She said, “My eyelash!” And then I saw it. The crescent-moon shaped dagger-toenail was now perched delicately on the top of her eyelash.  Apparently, my comment had motivated her to trim the dangerous weapon from her foot. The toenail flew straight up and landed on her eyelid. She was then upset at me for not immediately figuring out a way to remove the thing. Eventually, the toenail was plucked away and life went back to normal… or as normal as life can be when your wife is in the middle of choreographing a few dozen dances for competition season.

Here are seven other ways to know when choreography is wreaking havoc on your spouse, your kids and your life:

1. Your spouse, if female, hasn’t shaved her legs since early September. If male, he shaves his face only when it itches too much to bear it any longer.

2. Normally you have late-night, pleasant, evening conversations with your spouse. You know it’s choreography season when you glance over at her and she’s curled up on the couch listening to something on her headphones with a notepad in her lap. Alternatively, she’s asleep while sitting up on the couch, with headphones in her ears and a notepad on the floor nearby.

3. Your spouse owns three outfits that are “wrinkle-free” and can be worn over a leotard and tights. These three outfits are the only attire you’ve seen on your spouse for eight weeks. She explains that “time” is the only thing that matters now. If she can save time, she will. Any. Way. She. Can.

4. You notice that you’re doing more and more of the laundry, but curiously, very little of your spouse’s clothes are ever in there. This is a result of the three wrinkle-free outfits I mentioned earlier. If you look under her desk at work or in her car (or giant purse-bag-thing), you will find five or six very old leotards, a couple pairs of wadded up tights and some very worn-out dance shoes.

5. There is a curiously large stash of microwavable frozen breakfasts dominating the freezer. These seem to be meals that are under 200 calories, can be nuked in less than two minutes and don’t require any stirring during the cooking process. They can also be eaten while standing at the kitchen sink or driving. You’ve never actually seen your spouse eat any of these, but someone’s eating them and it’s not you.

6. You get in the car for a family outing. One of your spouse’s pieces of edited music starts playing over the speakers and your children in the back seat start wailing, “No, no, no!  Turn it off!  Turn it off!” Upon further questioning, you discover that the only music they get to hear is the competition music and it’s driving them crazy. Your spouse shrugs and continues listening to the music.

7. You walk into your house and see a pair of lululemon pants standing up in the hallway all by themselves. These are your wife’s one and only pair of lululemons and she’s worn them every day for a few weeks. My suggestion is to buy three or four more pairs of them and surprise her with them. Yes, they are expensive, but the cost-per-use (Return on Investment) is actually extremely low if that’s all she wears. Cha-ching!

Now, I’ve got some online shopping to do. Hopefully this will all be over soon.

Paul Henderson

Paul Henderson

About Paul Henderson
Paul Henderson is an expert on administrative technologies for the dance industry and has been around the business for almost 30 years. His sisters were elite state champion gymnasts and dancers and his mother owned a dance studio and eventually a dancewear store. He managed the dancewear store for a few years before moving to the San Francisco Bay Area. He and his wife, Tiffany, currently own and operate Twinkle Star Dance™ – an online choreography and curriculum system for recreational dancers ages 2-11; seven successful dance studios in Northern California (www.tiffanydance.com) and one in Southern California. Tiffany’s Dance Academy’s annual enrollment of over 4,500 students caused Paul to invent ways to automate most of the day-to-day business transactions that take up so much of a studio owner/instructor’s time. Paul’s goal has always been to smooth out the business side of the dance studios so that his wife can spend more time in the studio doing what she loves…teaching. Automating online registration and monthly automatic tuition payments was achieved eight years ago but perhaps the most revolutionary invention is his web-based application – CostumeManager.com.

About CostumeManager.com
For the past six years, Paul Henderson has worked tirelessly with most of the major costume and dancewear manufacturers to consolidate their catalogs into one searchable website. Developing relationships with these companies has been crucial to the success of CostumeManager.com and his efforts have paid off for studios all across the United States and Canada. By creating one searchable website, it is possible for a studio owner to browse all catalogs simultaneously, assign items that they like to a dance class, establish their profit margin, create an online store or print a color worksheet for dancers explaining how they can order their required and or/optional items online or via toll free telephone. Dancers purchase their items securely online and CostumeManager.com orders, receives, sorts and ships the individually packaged items to the studio owner. The studio owner or instructor cashes their “commission” check, hands the bags of goods to the dancer and goes back to teaching. CostumeManager.com eliminates 90% of the work and all the worry associated with distributing costumes and dancewear to dancers while preserving all of the profit margin…if not more.

To connect with Paul Henderson and CostumeManager visit www.CostumeManager.com, www.TwinkleStarDance.com, or www.TiffanyDance.com.

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6 Tips to Help Your Dancer’s Dreams Come True

6 Tips to Help Your Dancer’s Dreams Come True

By Paul Henderson.

I’ve had a few names in my lifetime.  I was named Paul when I was born.  When I married a dancer 16 years ago who now owns 10 dance studios in California, my name became “Tiffany’s Husband”.

I’ve recently had a new name change.  Husbands of studio owners can probably guess why my new name is “Mr. Tiffany.”  For everyone else, it’s because the children in the studio call my wife “Mrs. Tiffany”, so they assume my name could only be “Mr. Tiffany.”

Hey, it’s better than my previous moniker, “Leotard Man”.  I’ll save that story for another time…

From my nightly perch on the barstool in my kitchen where I sip only organic herbal tea and nibble on cheese and crackers (wink, wink), I’ve listened to hours and hours of Mrs. Tiffany’s thoughts and feelings about the daily happenings of Tiffany’s Dance Academy.  It’s a great perspective.  I am close enough to the action to really understand what’s going on, but not so close as to cause any bodily harm.

I’ve figured something out in the past 16 years of owning the studio with Tiffany.

First of all, Tiffany, and all dance studio owners I know, care deeply and passionately for their students.  It’s all they care about, really.  Tiffany’s goal in life is to create dancers and make their dreams come true.

Dance parents (and by that I mean anyone in charge of paying the tuition and driving their dancer to dance class), here are 6 ways to ensure your dancer achieves his or her dreams:

1. Wait.  That’s it.  Just wait.  I’ve discovered that it doesn’t matter at all how amazing your dancer is at age 5, 10 or 15.  It only matters toward the end of their junior year of high school.   This is when she or he will begin auditioning for dance companies and dance programs in college.  This is also when nearly all of her peers, who may have been “better” dancers, have succumbed to the pressures of high school popularity and switched their focus from technique to high school dance team.  From what I’ve been told, dance team is okay as long as it doesn’t interfere with technique classes, which it almost always does.  Because of attrition, if your dancer is a senior in high school, and still working hard in all of her technique classes at the studio, she or he will be one of the top 3 or 4 dancers at the entire studio.  And, think about this.  It’s the same all over the world!  When your dancer is 8 or 9 there are hundreds and hundreds of amazing little dancers bending, leaping and twirling all over the place.  Take a moment to look at exactly how many seniors in high school are still dancing.  Not very many, right?  Waiting it out while training consistently ALWAYS works.  And when I say “always”, I mean always.

2. Back off.  There is probably a more eloquent way to say that, but in the interest of time, I’ve kept it short.  Once you’ve done your research and made an informed decision about which dance studio to attend and trust, your job is done. Kick back, put your feet up and pat yourself on the back!  You’re literally paying professionals to help your child achieve her dreams.  That’s all that is expected of you and it’s all you’re capable of because a complete education in dance involves post high school training and performance.  Since you probably don’t have your own complete education in dance (which is precisely why you’ve hired professionals to do the job), your opinions in regards to the following are grounded mostly in drama, gossip, rumors, speculation and hypotheses and not rooted in any sort of fact-based foundation.  These ideas; therefore, are not likely to be received fondly by the dance studio faculty.  Avoid chiming in with opinions on:
Choreography
Music
Costumes
Which group you are in (or not in)
Which dancers are in your group (or not in your group)

3. Stay put.  It’s inevitable that at some point in your dancer’s education, a popular teacher will leave the studio.  She may even open her own studio nearby.  In the dance industry (which is a very small and close-knit community of professionals), this is ethically and morally unacceptable.  Following one of these teachers will teach your impressionable, young dancer something very dangerous.  If you teach your dancer that loyalty does not matter, her career in dance will be very short and maybe non-existent.  Remember that the teacher who quits and poaches students from her previous employer is the type of person you and your impressionable dancer should avoid at all costs.  These people are morally bankrupt.  Your dance studio owner will, in all cases, replace this person with someone who is better.  Wait it out and you will see.

4. Perform.  Take every single performance opportunity that you can, but pursue trophies with the right frame of mind. Dance is an art form performed by artistic, emotional and gifted athletes.  Their bodies look the way they do for a reason. I know this because I took a ballet class once.  Once.  It’s incredibly hard work.  That’s why everyone’s always running around the studio yelling “Werk”, or “Werk it”.  “Winning” at “art” is an oxymoron.  A component of your dancer’s score is subjective and since there is no objective way to judge art, the whole premise of a dance competition should be categorized as a great performance opportunity.  Competitions are a venue to gain extremely valuable stage time.  I’ve heard Mrs. Tiffany say a thousand times, “performing on stage is how they get better faster.  It’s so much more intense out there.”  So, for that reason, competitions and conventions are a necessary and very important part of their education.  Winning the Overall High Score doesn’t matter a bit in the long run, though.  In fact, going for the “win” can sometimes actually compromise their overall education.

5.Long-term goals.  Training a complete, versatile and employable dancer requires a very long-range plan.  Understand long-term goals versus short-term achievements.  Your dancer’s education in dance is a LIFE-LONG pursuit.  Mrs. Tiffany still takes class for herself and she’s been dancing for over thirty years!  Your short term goals should be something like this:

  • Take dancer to class, performances, competitions and conventions
  • Pay tuition, fees, etc. on time
  • Don’t gossip with the other parents – I know it’s fun, but it’s poison.  It can and will kill your dancer’s dreams.
  • Encourage your dancer and the other dancers at the studio to always try their hardest.

Your long-term goals should be something like this:

  • Attend some conventions
  • Attend some summer camps
  • Perform as much as possible
  • Do a solo or two (great one-on-one training/extra performance experience)
  • Stay at your studio until your dancer graduates high school
  • Take a lot of ballet

Don’t skip technique classes

6. Zip it.  If you ever hear yourself starting a sentence with, “I’m not one of those parents”.  Stop.  You are one of those parents, or at least in that very moment you have become “one of those parents”.  As a parent of three, I know it’s very hard to know when you’re about to cross the line, but the sentence above is a good indication.  Also this one, usually tacked onto the end of a complaint, “everyone else feels the same way”, is a sign that you’ve dipped your toe into the Dance Mom category. Take a day or two to think it over before you actually get involved.  Nothing that follows those words is likely to be helpful to your dancer’s long-term education or even his or her short-term goals.  There are obvious exceptions, of course; like a costume has left your child half naked on stage, or a particular piece of music still has some curse words that haven’t been edited out.  But think about it…if a costume were truly exposing your dancer, you wouldn’t need to say “I’m not one of those parents, but my daughter’s costume is so tiny I can’t even see it from 30 feet away.”  No, you would just say, “Dang! That costume’s too small!”  And your studio owner would say, “OMG!  How embarrassing! You’re right! I’m so sorry. I’ll take care of it.”

Every year Tiffany’s Dance Academy graduates only a handful of dancers whose parents have trusted Tiffany and her staff completely.  These are the young men and women who were not always the amazing prodigies at age 10, rather, they are the dancers who loved it enough to keep “werkin’ it” day after day, week after week, month after month and year after year.  They are the ones who will perform on Broadway, in theaters, in the movies, on T.V.  They are the future choreographers and master teachers.  They are the ones who will come back to teach at Tiffany’s one day when they are finished dancing for themselves.

They are the dancers whose parents simply let them love to dance.

Paul Henderson

Paul Henderson

About Paul Henderson
Paul Henderson is an expert on administrative technologies for the dance industry and has been around the business for almost 30 years. His sisters were elite state champion gymnasts and dancers and his mother owned a dance studio and eventually a dancewear store. He managed the dancewear store for a few years before moving to the San Francisco Bay Area. He and his wife, Tiffany, currently own and operate Twinkle Star Dance™ – an online choreography and curriculum system for recreational dancers ages 2-11; seven successful dance studios in Northern California (www.tiffanydance.com) and one in Southern California. Tiffany’s Dance Academy’s annual enrollment of over 4,500 students caused Paul to invent ways to automate most of the day-to-day business transactions that take up so much of a studio owner/instructor’s time. Paul’s goal has always been to smooth out the business side of the dance studios so that his wife can spend more time in the studio doing what she loves…teaching. Automating online registration and monthly automatic tuition payments was achieved eight years ago but perhaps the most revolutionary invention is his web-based application – CostumeManager.com.

About CostumeManager.com
For the past six years, Paul Henderson has worked tirelessly with most of the major costume and dancewear manufacturers to consolidate their catalogs into one searchable website. Developing relationships with these companies has been crucial to the success of CostumeManager.com and his efforts have paid off for studios all across the United States and Canada. By creating one searchable website, it is possible for a studio owner to browse all catalogs simultaneously, assign items that they like to a dance class, establish their profit margin, create an online store or print a color worksheet for dancers explaining how they can order their required and or/optional items online or via toll free telephone. Dancers purchase their items securely online and CostumeManager.com orders, receives, sorts and ships the individually packaged items to the studio owner. The studio owner or instructor cashes their “commission” check, hands the bags of goods to the dancer and goes back to teaching. CostumeManager.com eliminates 90% of the work and all the worry associated with distributing costumes and dancewear to dancers while preserving all of the profit margin…if not more.

To connect with Paul Henderson and CostumeManager visit www.CostumeManager.com, www.TwinkleStarDance.com, or www.TiffanyDance.com.

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