Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Listening to weird music - only a dance teacher can relate

Last week I picked out all my recital music for my own classes, I know a little late, but that's ok. I'm right on schedule for me. As I was riding down the road listening to the Dora Dora the Explorer CD I realized I might be the only person listening to this CD that doesn't have a three year old strapped in the backseat. Am I crazy for getting excited about her variation of Row, Row, Row Your Boat? (its adorable you should try it- goes perfect with Revolution's sailor pre-ballet costume) As Dance Teachers we often get to hear many types of music others simply don't. It's one more gift we get for being in our profession. A little jazz, a little reggae, a little Bach --it comes with the territory. So the next time you are secretly enjoying a catchy little tune know you are in good company! But only a Dance Teacher will understand, so you better hide that CD under the front seat. Happy Listening. And remember to register your music, so those song writers can make a living too.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Halloween costumes get creative, sell supplies

It's nearly time for the little goblins to come out and guess what? If you are a dance teacher you likely have a lot of supplies that people could use hiding in your closet, attic or back storage room. You know the place where you dump all the things you don't know what to do with at the end of the year... well, those extra sequin belts, fishnet tights and mis-fit costumes and hair pieces can come in handy to the do-it-yourself costume maker this Halloween.

People are reportedly cutting back on their Halloween spending this year, so the hand-made costume must be coming back into high fashion! I put out a grab box at our studio last week and it's been fun seeing the parents dig through it and mess it up each night. Really. (And they complain their kids don't clean up after themselves!) But it's been well received and appreciated by the parents and kids. So, have some fun yourself- clean up your back room and earn a little cash.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

3,500 calories to gain a pound of fat

Now, I'm probably like most of you who have been athletes and dancers for your whole life, but somehow still managed to pack on some unwanted pounds. Dance Teachers often struggle with weight as they juggle busy jobs, teach classes (but actually get little exercise) and are just real people like everyone else with stress, menopause, and families to feed.

I thought I knew how to lose weight, but I didn't really. For instance, I thought losing weight to look good for the recital was a perfectly acceptable reason to lose weight. Turns out its not. Lowering your cholesterol to stave off heart disease is a better reason. (but I'm still secretly hoping to look great for the recital, don't tell my Dr.)

Today, I'm sharing something that I learned - It takes deleting or burning 3,500 calories (on top of those you need just to live) from your diet to lose 1 lb. Or it takes 3,500 calories to GAIN a pound too. Gosh, one home-cooked family dinner at Thanksgiving plus leftovers surely must be 3,500 calories. No wonder we often gain 5 lbs. during the holidays. And that megabag of M&M's you keep for emergency fuel? Watchout! That's why it's not possible to lose 5 real pounds of fat in a week- despite what the ads tell you. One or two lbs a week is a safe, yet tough goal if you do it right.

Teaching an average dance class for 30 minutes for me only burns, according to the calorie burn charts, about 60 calories - a good night of teaching may be over 350 cal. And one full out, full steam ahead ballet class for an hour can burn nearly 450 calories (if you aren't the teacher.)

So, the next time you want to reward yourself for a hard nights work at the studio remember you may not have gotten as much exercise as you think... fuel your body for nutrition not to relieve the the stress from the day.

After class, get some exercise for yourself. Go for a run or a walk, jump rope, or do yoga. You deserve it. You all give so much to others, give a little back to yourself.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Google Sidewiki for your website

Thought I'd share this cool new application just launched by Google. If your dance school has a website ask your web guy or gal to look into this. Just be careful because you'll need to monitor it and respond to any negative posts. But on the flip side this Sidewiki could help promote your business (or should I say let your customers promote your business.)

Google Sidewiki- info from MarketingProfs site below:

Sidewiki is a just-launched add-on for the Internet Explorer and Firefox browsers that lets you comment on or leave information associated with any Web page. Basically, it makes every website social. Even your website. If people don't like the customer service you provided when you shipped them their Dell laptop, they can leave a comment directly on your homepage stating so. Likewise, if you gave them excellent customer service, they can say that as well. And after you add your comment, you can then share it via link, email, Twitter, or Facebook.
Since this tool just launched, there will no doubt be many tools and applications created shortly that play off of the functionality of Sidewiki. But, needless to say, this add-on holds powerful implications for any company that creates online content, and you need to make yourself aware of the tool now.

Why you should care: Every webpage now can be commented on. Every. Single. One. Potentially, your competitor could comment on your company's website criticizing your products and services. So can your customers. Did you launch a blog and turn off comments? Now your readers can still comment "on" your blog.
What you should do NOW: Go add Google Sidewiki to your browser. Then check out your website, your blog, and social sites that you have a profile page on to see whether anyone has commented on any of those pages.
Unfortunately (or fortunately), you will have to start thinking about how to respond to customers online, because this tool will likely be a popular one. And that will lead to competitors' offering similar tools.

Remember when you heard that "you can't control the conversation"? That's now become reality with tools like Sidewiki. You need to familiarize your company with what this tool can do, so that you can react to feedback left for your company and, hopefully, become proactive in using Sidewiki to connect with current and potential customers.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Sports vs. Dance

Well, it's come full circle right back to my own kitchen. The discussion of sports vs. dance. Who would think that even the dance teacher's daughter would be so perplexed by this decision? My philosophy has always been to raise well-rounded kids. My own two girls play many sports and dance all the classes we can fit in - they are great athletes in the studio and on the playing field.

This year my youngest auditioned for the Madison Ballet Nutcracker and successfully earned a spot on the cast. It was a proud moment...for a while. Then, she said after studying the audition schedule for the part, "But Mom, I'll have to miss 8 basketball games and maybe even more." She contemplated for 2 days and ultimately decided not to accept the role. Basketball won this time.

I'm OK with her decision, in fact, I give the 11-year old credit for trying to figure out the audition schedule and matching up the game schedule - even I hadn't done the full evaluation yet. But it brings out a great point for all of us dance studio owners. Flexible scheduling is key. You must communicate to parents who are contemplating busy schedules just how to fit dance in with organized sporting activities.

It's tough to keep those high school dance/athletes in the studio, but it's so important to your overall program. I remember our first couple of years at our own dance recitals - with out a senior class- the show lacked a bit of the dazzle. I had to grow them from scratch. You need the older kids with the more advanced choreography to make a complete show.

This year I really looked at the school calendar at our local middle school to try to schedule class times for the older girls that would not conflict with basketball and volleyball games - it takes a bit of work, but we managed to keep all our 7 and 8 th grade students for one more year. Dance won this time.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Saying Goodbye to Patrick Swayze

I think it was the Summer of 2006 - Patrick visited with dance teachers at the Dance Teacher Mag. Summer Conference in New York City. I was there with my fledgling ideas for Releve' Dance posters and trying to get some new choreography ideas for my own studio at the conference. The highlight was Patrick... he talked with us and signed autographs for HOURS in the convention hall, staying until every single dance teacher's poster/book/dvd was autographed. I was in line, but my feet got tired, so I went to bed since the line was so long... but he stayed. This is just one example of his character. A character built in a dance studio. His Mom was a studio owner just like you and me! He loved dance teachers and was inspired by us. Let's keep his memory alive and just keep on teaching -- that's what he wanted us all to do--teach and pass along the art of dance to the next generation.

Between Patrick and MJ we could have some great tributes at our rectials this year... just an idea. :)

http://www.patrickswayze.net/ Here's a link to an official fan club if you want to share your thoughts with Patrick's family. While they've been preparing I'm sure this time is very overwhelming from support of fans like us.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Grandparents Day Sept. 13

Every dance studio has them...dancing grandparents. And we love them! Increasingly I see more and more grandparents in the waiting room, helping busy families juggle schedules -making sure thier grandkids get to dance class.

And what a welcome help they are. Grandparents also help make tuition payments or even "gift" classes as birthday or Christmas gifts at our school -- I'm sure they do at yours too. Many times if this extra funding didn't occur the students may not be able to take classes. So it is a true gift of love that will live with these students for a lifetime.

To honor them we have a special "Grandparents Day" when only grandmas and grandpas get to visit the classroom to watch class, usually we host them sometime in February when things are really rolling at the studio. Afterall, you always want to look your best for Grandma!

Coming up soon is the National Grandparents Day - Sept. 13. If you have classes in session now remember to honor them with a sign at your studio. Or simply remind your students to give Grandma and Grandpa a big hug the next time they see them and thank them for loving them so much! (I'm sure that will get your pre-ballet students chatting during warm-ups.)

I also thank grandparents each year at the final recital in my remarks because it is such a family committment to support our dancers. Having a grandparent attend a recital means so much to our students and we have grandparents who travel many miles to attend!

Don't forget Grandparents Day Sept. 13.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

H1N1 and your dance school

H1N1 presents many challenges for dance teachers. We have all had ill children attend class from time to time. Stuffy, runny noses are normal in the dead of winter (at least in Wisconsin where we operate). So, how can we control the spread of H1N1?

  • Place hand sanitizer outside your class rooms, encourage students to wash before they enter. (TV tray tables make a quick small table for this purpose.)
  • Buy facial tissues for each room and waiting area. Supply a waste basket and more sanitizer by each tissue station.
  • Spray down waiting areas and play areas for siblings frequently.
  • Have sanitizing wipes on hand for quick clean ups.
  • Post signs to remind parents not to bring sick children (or siblings) into the school.
  • Update your student policy manual to include how to deal with sickness.
  • Remove activities from your curriculum that include holding hands or dancing close/face to face.
  • Disinfect your barre' after EACH use, not just each night. Consider adding it to the dancer's role in the class room just like you spray down equipment at the gym. (there's also a cool product from Gypsy Wraps in Calif. that provides each dancer their own barre' wrap.)
  • Be careful when you teach not to touch children, if you don't have to. I know this is a sad one for me. I love being with the kids and correcting arms and hands. Or if you do, just keep a bottle of anti-bacteria gel/wipes close by.
  • Consider getting a H1N1 vaccine yourself/staff to help you fight off any exposures.
  • If you or a staff member get sick - get a sub or cancel class. Don't work when you are sick. (I know this is easier said than done, but it's just not worth it.)
  • Consult with your local doctor/clinic to ask if they have advice or supplies you could use such as those small face masks. And buy your other supplies now before they sell out.
Know what your plan will be if the schools close or an outbreak occurs locally, what will that mean for your business?

The CDC is predicting this flu season to be really bad. It's time for us to read up on it and stay informed to keep our kids safe and dancing. Sign up for alerts from the CDC and ask your local clinic/school to report any H1N1 outbreaks to you too.

Stay well.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

SCORE a business plan for your school

Do you have a working business plan for your dance school or retail shop? If you are like most small business people the answer is yes and no. Yes- I have one (or should we say HAD one), when we started, but we haven't looked at it in a while. If it has dust on it you really can't say you have a business plan now can you?

The Small Business Administration has a very helpful website at www.sba.gov on it you can spend hours finding resources you may have never known you had available. One I'm excited about is SCORE. It's a group of retired, executives that will sit with you and build a business plan, or simply just talk through your most recent trials and tribulations. And I know as independent-minded dance teachers we often feel we are alone or maybe afraid to ask for help. Well, here's help and it's FREE. Recently, I visited our local SCORE office in Wisconsin to talk about my Releve' Dance Poster business and they were very helpful, so tomorrow I'm going back to talk about my dance academy.

You'd be shocked at how quick they can get to the root of your problem. Business is business and these people know the business of it all. I go tomorrow to review my "old" plan and make a new financial plan with a specialist in that area. Did I mention this service is FREE! If you are thinking of expanding, contracting or even selling your business I think they are worth a step on your to do list before the dance season goes back into full swing.

Another option is to certify your business as a women owned business, check for that on the SBA site too. Find your state's resources and use them, that's what your tax dollars have been funding you may as well get your money's worth.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Does your school have a Facebook page?

Everyone's on Facebook! This summer I'm watching my own two children keep in touch with friends and grow their fan base on Facebook at lightning speed. So, how do you maximize Facebook for your dance school? Well, you have two audiences, Moms and Kids. The Mom category is the fastest growing Facebook user category on line.

Consider these facts about Facebook from the Internet Strategies Group.
1. 7/8th of its members are older than 24 years old.
2. The fastest growing age bracket is 35 and older
3. The average person is spending 15 minutes per session and accessing Facebook 5-6 times per day!

Your Dance Mom's are on Facebook. Your dancers are on Facebook. They need to be FANS of your business.

Rhee' Gold this month in Dance Studio Life Magazine has a great list of ideas for marketing your business too, go read it! One of his ideas is that people like to belong to a "dance family" so make your business a "place to belong." Facebook can do that easily for you. He had other suggestions but I say Facebook is the way to go!

Create a page for your business. If you have Facebook account already you can add a business page. If not, get online and spend a couple of hours playing on Facebook. It only takes minutes to set up your page, but you'll get lost in the content (trust me on that one).

I'm considering letting my 12 yr. old manage our Facebook account for the Dance Studio... I know scary right? But she knows more than I do and she would learn a lot too. Who do you know that is a huge Facebook user? Call them ask them to help.

Once you are on, join groups, add to discussions, make comments and be social. The key to success on Facebook is acting like a human being, not just a stale business. Have fun. Get creative. You can even add video clips and photos of your recitals!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Dance Correlation to Higher Grades

Yesterday I had the privilege of attending our local elementary school's final assembly to honor students for grades, attendance and civic duties. I am always a local celebrity when I enter the school - I get lots of waves, smiles and "there's Miss DeAnne" when I visit. It sure is fun. We have the majority of our Brodhead Dance Academy students attending this elementary school, so it's a good place for me to make the following observation/correlation.

Of the top academic students in the school (for girls) ALL but two were dancers at our Academy! These kids were the top in their grade and scored the highest on the State Tests in Math and Reading - to be in the top 25% in the state. I was amazed when dancer after dancer arrived on stage to accept their certificates.

I realize there could be many reasons for this correlation and its been discussed before - parents are more engaged, higher income, thus they can afford dance classes...etc. But for today, I think I will let Dance Class take the credit. The skills we teach help on and off the stage to make a life-long difference. I've always known there was a big tie to Tap and Math, "must be the same side of the brain" has been my assumption over the years. But now I see it first hand in all categories. The brain development and learning skills translate across classrooms, be it in the dance studio or the elementary school.

Kudos to all dance teachers who are making the world a better, smarter place one dancer at a time! Bravo!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Recital Success=Marketing Opportunity

As dance teachers each year we have a huge marketing opportunity- the recital. I'm proud to say mine went great this year. In our town of 3,100 people we had 1,500 people come to see our 3 performances! Now that's what I call community support!

I sent out press releases to all the papers in our town and those nearby to celebrate our sold out shows and highlight our program. We received a lot of press which should help with enrollment this year. In an economic downturn like we have now it's important to keep marketing, more than ever. Don't rest on what you did last year, increase your marketing budgets and get creative with public relations.

Last year two days after our recital I received a tragic call from one of my dance moms. One of our pre-ballet students, Isabella died the Sunday after our show while riding a bike. She had a brain aneurysm. At our first show this year we dedicated the performance to Bella and placed a photo and flowers on the corner of the stage so she could dance with us. There wasn't a dry eye in the place. It felt good to honor her, a bit of closure I guess for all of us.

This year we also did a ballet production which was actually our first in our 8 years because now I have the talent level I need in a variety of dancers to pull off a production number. It was fantastic and actually proved to be a great marketing tool itself. Now, the other dancers who had left ballet for jazz or hip hop want to return to ballet after they saw what the potential was on stage. That is rewarding to me. They love ballet! After years of hip hop getting all the attention it's nice to see ballet demand picking up again. Don't get me wrong, I've always had many ballet students, but mostly because I make them take it until they are 8 before I let them move to the other study areas like jazz, tap or hip hop.

I hope all of you out there also had great shows this spring! Now it's time for a quick breather. Make sure to take a few weeks off to decompress and renew your spirit. Creative work like teaching dance is demanding of the heart and mind- give your soul a break.

But keep a notebook close for those inspired moments when you hear a great song or catch a cool beat-- after all the next recital's less than a year away.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Research shares benefits of early training age 3-4

I know most all dance schools provide pre-ballet/creative movement programs for young children, but until recently I hadn't read research to support WHY parents should select this for their children, other than the traditional, balance, poise, social and rhythm advantages.

Recently, I attended a 4-Kindergarten session from a local school district administrator in Wisconsin. While many schools in our area now offer 4K training in the school systems, many don't. So,they are still out there trying to convince taxpayers of the long term benefits of 4K. While I was listening it occurred to me all the same benefits imply for pre-K dance training too.

The Research they shared...

A child's brain grows 75-90% of it's adult size between age of 3-5.

85% of the child's intellect, personality, and social skills are formed by age 5.

There's more, but I guess I don't need more proof. Use research information like this to ADVERTISE your program. What parent can say no to dance class when they think about it this way? It's not about dance class being a "nice to do" its a MUST do when you look at this data.

As teachers we know this intuitively, we see the children progress in the classroom quickly and we can tell the kids that are in a pre-school program from the ones who are staying at home.

Dance training like 4K schooling is an important part of the development process. Especially for kids who are not in other training programs by age 3 - dance can make a big difference.

Another key differentiator was the income of the parents, and while I agree that dance typically tends to go to children in more affluent homes, there's great opportunity for your studio to reach out to low-income families with options to get their children in the studio too. Or maybe this will motivate you to reach out with efforts to your

Monday, March 9, 2009

Baggy ankles and sequins

It's recital season. Dance teachers don't live by a regular calendar year we live by our business calendars. Registration time, back to school, nutcracker season, recital season and summer school... gee, when is it time for vacation season? I need another vacation. Recently I was lucky enough to travel to Las Vegas to the Dance Retailer News Expo for Releve' it was a good show. And I did take a mini-vacation for a day before the show. Las Vegas is fun; it's the place where sparkley dance teachers look right at home in thier sequins and high heels. You know what I'm talking about ladies... admit it.

A couple of observations from the show:

I observed there doesn't seem to be anything all that innovative in the dance world, just more of the same. Some new fabrics were kind of neat, and ballroom is still hot. I did run into a new company that makes barre' wraps, it's called Gypsywraps. She doesn't have a website yet, but maybe a distributor will pickup her products and it will be available soon to us. It's a velcro, terry cloth personal attachment for the barre'. I thought it was cool. I think I will approach her about selling with my Releve' posters too, heck I guess I could be a distributor for her.

I also observed that even in a fashion show models/dancers need to wear tights! Rhee Gold talks about this all the time in his commentary and I totally agree, all dancers need tights. Speaking of tights, I'm trying some new ones out this year at my studio, Revolution brand classic pink. They guarantee no baggy ankles, we'll soon see. I hate baggy ankles. I really do. Makes the kids look like 90 year old women. They already look 30 years old with all the make-up hate to make them grow up too fast with baggy ankles too.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Hello Spring, time to spruce up the dance studio.

I'm going to take a minute to remind all our dance teachers that spring cleaning isn't just for our homes. Busy schools start to look a bit worn and torn this time of year. If you have a spring break at your school consider investing in a little bit of paint and wall hangings to spruce up your space. I know we all usually wait until summer to do this, but consider that parents are going to be making resistration decisions soon and you want to make sure to have your best dress on, so to speak. Especially now in this financial turmoil many families are facing.

A fresh coat of paint and a few new interactive art posters from Releve’ dance posters can make the studio shine. And for less than $100.00 you can make parents and students see that you are investing in your business and in them. And make it a place they want to come to for a bit of a reprive.

Your walls talk. Do you know what they are saying about your business? Roll up your sleeves and let's get to work.

(if you want to order Releve' posters, go to http://www.instructdance.com/) Sorry, a little shameless self promotion for my company. These are the 5 positons for ballet and other dressing room type posters to get kids dressed right for class.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Will the economy hurt my business?

Will the economy hurt my business?

Sounds like an obvious question, but the answer is not completely obvious to me. As a dance studio owner of less than 10 years I have not experienced a downturn in the economy the likes of the one we are facing now. I know that dance studios have been around for a really long time- so what's in their business model that has kept them running all these years, even during economic hard times? What's the secret to staying afloat and keeping kids in the classroom?

When I look at my business I feel like I give an great product at a reasonable price. I know people (and my customer target group) invest in their children before all else. I know as a mom I would do without to make sure my daughter could keep dancing. So what's the answer?

The only way to know if the economy will hurt you is to start asking your customers. I am working on my annual customer survey to every parent - I hope you all do these too- feedback from parents is very valuable. Each year I ask if we met their expectations and other typical stuff. However, the most important question I ask them is "Would you recommend us/or Have you recommended us to a friend or family member." This is the all-important question- to understand word of mouth marketing impact. And word of mouth is a powerful method of marketing during troubled times. People trust each other more than anything else.

This year I'm working on adding a question or two tied to the economy to my survey - Will you be able to continue to provide your child with dance classes next year? Or, what can we do to help you with more flexible payments? etc... I don't have the right question yet, good questions take time, but you get the idea.

I encourage you to start thinking about a question or two you can ask to make sure you can respond and react smartly to the downturn next season too.

Dropping your price is not necessarily the best option(even though your customers may tell you to do it); increasing the value of your product is probably the most sound advice.

You could consider offering "specials" or "loyalty rewards" to existing and new customers. Remember, not to leave the new deals for the new students only. Even if it's a free pair of tights or a free logo'd bag (can be a marketing expense for you, ask your accountants) it can go along way in this deal seeking economy we are in- so reward your customers!

Some other random marketing ideas:
Re-packaging your classes to be more affordable without lowering price is also an option. Shorter term- less price, but at same hourly rate for you. Allows parents to keep some flexibility without committing to a long term service agreement making them feel safe spending money.

Summer programs are probably the most at risk right now. You could offer a free class as part of your package to get people over the hump or other added value efforts.

Other marketing tricks would be to say "we are not raising prices this year" - holding the barre' on prices.

Look for alternate sources of funding, health care plans that cover some classes as part of a fitness program. This is working well at my school. You just may need to rename and invoice differently to make it work for their needs.

Bottom line is you need to be empathetic without sounding to desperate in your conversation with customers in person or in your marketing materials. The economy is tough on all of us, but we'll get through this with some creative thinking.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The little gifts a teacher receives

Had another "Smile" moment this week at class when a student gleefully pranced into my studio to give me a gift. She made it herself, a necklace of colorful beads made just for me - her Dance Teacher. She asked me if I'd wear it, so of course I did. She was proud as a peacock.

I love little moments like that -- the pretty drawings we get, the occassional wilted tulip or silk bouquet-- all are lovely just the same. Gifts from the heart. That's where dance comes from too, we've awakened a spot in thier hearts so bountiful they can't help but share it with us. That's truely something you and I can be proud of.

Enjoy the gifts my fellow teachers. The love always returns to us.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Experiencing the "Flow" - Create Your Happiness

Have you ever just listened to a piece of music and the dance just appeared in your mind? Maybe it was just a combination that struck you to a particular part of the refrain? I love it when that happens! It's called being in the "flow."

Over the years I've learned to wait for it. I'll listen to music that I need to choreograph for my student recital over and over again until the movement appears to me. Now, please don't stop reading because you think I'm crazy. It really does work for me. When people ask "how do you choreograph all those dances" I tell them that after awhile the dance sort of just "appears" to me. I can start to see it happen on stage, feel it as I move around and then I write it down quick. Does this happen for you?

If it does, psychologists would tell you that you are IN THE FLOW. You are linked with the moment, the motivation and the talent to make it happen and you are totally in sync with yourself. I think we all need to find more "In the flow moments."

You've heard the term "go with the flow" well this is a new look at that idea. It's probably where that catch phrase came from, now that I think of it.

Here's an excerpt from the research...There is a state that psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi writes about called flow. The Experience of Flow:

"My own addition to this list is the concept of the autotelic experience, or flow, and of the autotelic personality. The concept describes a particular kind of experience that is so engrossing and enjoyable that it becomes autotelic, that is, worth doing for its own sake even though it may have no consequence outside itself. Creative activities, music, sports, games, and religious rituals are typical sources for this kind of experience. Autotelic persons are those who have such flow experiences relatively often, regardless of what they are doing.

Of course, we never do anything purely for its own sake. Our motives are always a mixture of intrinsic and extrinsic considerations. For instance, composers may write music because they hope to sell it and pay the bills, because they want to become famous, because their self-images depends on writing songs—all of these being extrinsic motives. But if the composers are motivated only by these extrinsic rewards, they are missing an essential ingredient. In addition to these rewards, they could also enjoy writing music for its own sake—in which case, the activity would become autotelic. My studies (e.g., Csikszentmihalyi, 1975, 1996, 1997) have suggested that happiness depends on whether a person is able to derive flow from whatever he or she does.

A brief selection from one of the more than 10,000 interviews collected from around the world might provide a sense of what the flow experience is like. Asked how it felt when writing music was going well, a composer responded,

You are in an ecstatic state to such a point that you feel as though you almost don't exist. I have experienced this time and time again. My hand seems devoid of myself, and I have nothing to do with what is happening. I just sit there watching in a state of awe and wonderment. And the music just flows out by itself. (Csikszentmihalyi, 1975, p. 44)

This response is quite typical of most descriptions of how people feel when they are thoroughly involved in something that is enjoyable and meaningful to the person. First of all, the experience is described as “ecstatic”: in other words, as being somehow separate from the routines of everyday life. This sense of having stepped into a different reality can be induced by environmental cues, such as walking into a sport event, a religious ceremony, or a musical performance, or the feeling can be produced internally, by focusing attention on a set of stimuli with their own rules, such as the composition of music.

If you are still reading, Congratulations! You made it through a college course on flow. It's a bit of a tough read, but its interesting and note how old the research is...this is not new stuff. I bet I was in pre-ballet class when this research was written.

So, go find your flow! I bet it's some place with music and an empty stage nearby...

Monday, January 19, 2009

Madison Ballet Board of Directors

I'm not sure how many of you have ever had the chance to be on the Board of Directors for any non-profit organizations, but I'm lucky enough to serve with Madison Ballet. Madison is about 45 min. from my dance studio and I work my day job in Madison as well so it's a good fit for me.

This year has been exceptionally challenging for all Arts organizations. With the economic downturn the non-profit world has seen the money from thier donors evaporate with the Wall Street and banking scandals. We've all seen direct impact to this with our own studios I'm sure, people cutting back on classes or maybe not buying as much new clothing or accessories.

Dance is an important cultural aspect that we must not let die in the downturn. Major dance organizations such as the San Francisco ballet, ABT, Ballet Chicago, Madison Ballet are great places for our students and future students to catch the "dance bug". If they never see a real ballet on stage or on TV how are they expected to emulate it in your studio or on your stage?

If you have a major non-profit group close by pick up the phone and talk to the local Executive or Artistic Director. Now, may be the time you can partner with them to help them fundraise and help you gain new students. Your affilliation with upper level dance organizations can only help your brand and your local credibility. Be creative. Hire them to be guest teachers or run a seminar for your summer program. Go jointly to a local school and share the love of dance together. Host a fundraiser with your ticket sales in exchange for back stage passes to thier next performance. There are millions of options, but you need to ask. Our young dancers are the next generation of ticket buyers for these arts groups. We often lose sight of the fact that we ALL need to collaborate to push the next generation of dance forward. Go ahead. Find the local groups near you- even if it's an hour away or more. It will be worth the call!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

What's in a name? Taking Attendance a new way

After reading the most recent issue of Dance Studio Life from Rhee Gold I was inspired to find a more fun and interesting way to take attendance. We've always sat in circle in the youngest classes and I've called their names off. Mostly I do it so I can remember thier names... little do they know. But the article I read talked about how taking attendance is important so the dancer learns responsibility to come to class etc. and it encouraged teachers to make a big deal about taking attendance.

So, I began thinking on my drive to the studio, "What could I do to make it more fun?" When I arrived I pulled out a 99 cent princess wand out of my trusty, secret closet and wall-a instant fun... well almost. I decided to have the kids pass the wand around the circle and they could say "My name is ...." and it was fun! Not only did it get each childs voice heard during the class it gave them an additional public speaking opportunity! It really brought out thier personalities too, which in just a few short seconds is enlightening. Some look egar and take it really seriously, some say thier name in one big motion as they try to get rid of wand and limelight as quickly as possible. And I had 2 girls that night who gladly grabbed that wand and then FROZE! They couldn't say thier own name. Now, for me that's great to know. I will focus on getting those girls comfortable saying thier name in a few weeks. I'm always up for a challenge.

In tap class they stated thier name and gave me three shuffles. I guess we could add ballet turns or curtsies to ballet class. The options are endless.

If you have ideas that have worked for you please share them with us.

Releve' Dance Poster sample

Releve' Dance Poster sample
sample of poster