Friday, October 29, 2010

SillyBanz and other rewards

Rewarding dancers in the studio is a constant challenge for dance teachers. What's the best way? Praise.

One thing I've learned is the single greatest reward you can give is praise - direct praise with the child's name. "Nice plie' Brooke" or "Great leap Blake", those words go a long way to keeping your dancers motivated. It's easy to start generalizing your praise to the whole group - how many times have you said, "Nice work ladies!" Sorry, but that doesn't cut it for individual motivation. You have to be direct and at the time of implementation. When I have a little one that has really worked hard, I'll walk out to the waiting room with my hand on her shoulder and tell her mom or dad - "Abie worked really hard today, she's doing just great in class." Try that sometime for a huge smile from both parent and dancer.

As teachers, it's easy to get lost in direct corrections and sometimes hard to remember to praise even when they don't get it perfect. Remind yourself often that the words that come out of your mouth are like pieces of sweet candy! The more they hear them the more they want! And the harder they will work to hear it.

For special holidays, I do usually give out candy treats and on most nights a sticker to the little ones- this year for Halloween I ordered the ART themed SillyBanz online and they were a HUGE HIT! I decided that I'd set a healthy eating example and skip the candy, no one complained, they love collecting the SillyBanz.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Back in the Groove - New season start

It's September that means it's time to get back into the studio for me. Many of you may have started classes already but we wait until late Sept. to let the kids get back into the school routine first, then they can add in dance to their busy schedules. Our staff is busy preparing for the classes and selecting recital music and costumes. I love our costume choices this year, Weissmans will really rock it out for us this year!

It's our 10th Anniversary year, so I'm trying to think of cool things we can do all year to celebrate. Does anyone have any ideas? Our "theme" this year is Growing up in Dance. Our recital will be like a garden etc. So, any ideas for monthly things we can do?

One idea I have is a poster at the end of the year. I've traded time for class with a parent who is a graphic designer. I want to have 3 or 4 flowers with blank middle spots and then have the kids add photos of themselves to customize the poster for our 10th anniversary. I envision it to have a lot of green, florals and their cute faces in costumes inserted. I'll let you know how that one turns out! You never know it could be a new idea for our Releve' product line.

I'd love to hear more ideas from you! At 10 years we are still rookies compared to a lot of studios out there!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Do you warm up for your day?

In the dance studio, the warm up is the first thing you do before you take a class. Same should be true at home.

Is your morning routine working for you or just a survival tactic? Consider this, for a working Mom the most hectic part of the day can before you even get to the office. You’ve gotten up early to get yourself ready, packed the lunches or diaper bags and then you still need to feed and dress your children and get them in the car seats, drive to a daycare provider or school, and THEN you finally get to go to work.

I can remember this crazy schedule when my own daughters were little; then I topped it off with a 50 minute commute. Ironically, the commute is what often saved me. It gave me time to think, to regroup. I could drop the ‘Mom job’ and put on my work face for the rest of the day. It worked in reverse on the way home, from work back to being Mom in 50 minutes (or less) depending on what was waiting for me at home.

I felt like one of those blankets that convert to a cute cuddly animal.

As it turns out, the 50 minute commute was critical to my success. How many of you can honestly say you spend an hour or two each day planning and thinking? I could plan and be purposeful each day without running around in a needless hustle. If you don’t enjoy a long commute like me, you can still start your day with some extra time. Wake up 20 min. early – give yourself some space and time to live within. A little warm up, even if it means just sitting quietly on the couch thinking about one topic before the rest of the house wakes up, will help you focus and be more productive.

Every dancer knows the importance of a good stretch. All of us, dancers and non-dancers alike, can take care of our body before we even get out of bed in the morning.

Here’s a great way to wake up:

1. Pull your knees to your chest while laying on your back.
2. Circle your feet in both directions. Do some push and pulls with your feet.
3. Now it’s time to get up, put your feet over the side of the bed and when your feet hit the floor say “Good morning” or “Thank you” or whatever mantra you chose.
4. When you brush your teeth you can easily do ten Plie’s and even throw in a few Releve’s while you are at it.
5. Next, stand tall, reach for the sky, take a deep breath and then reach for your toes. And hold it. Repeat as necessary to feel great.
6. Shake it out and smile.

Now you are warmed-up for the day.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Another Year Done.

Well, it's recital season and that means that dance teachers across the country are beginning to breathe a sigh of relief...another year well done! Whew!

You already know this, but your end of the year recital is your biggest marketing tool for the next season. I hope you remembered to invite your local newspaper in to take photos, sent a press release before/after with audience results, and included an annual summary along with your registration dates for the next season with the release. I also hope you put your URL for your website and Facebook contact info in your show program. These are just some simple steps to expand your marketing opportunities at no cost. (If you didn't, put it on your list for next time!)

This year our class photos were posted on our Facebook page which people really enjoyed. Also, I encouraged students/parents to post their own snapshots on our site and asked them "What was your favorite performance?" Asking questions in your Facebook account is very helpful to start discussions.

Of course parents love to show off their photos and dancers love to tag their photos and share with friends. Creating buzz after the show is important to keep your successful show at the tip of their tongue when they are socializing online or in the local cafe.

I hope you all get a small break before summer classes begin. Breathe! :) Congratulations on another successful year. I'll be off for the summer from teaching, but working on fulfilling orders from dance teachers around the globe of my Releve' Dance Posters.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Reflections on Mother's Day

Reflections on Mother’s Day

Time heals all wounds, but a Mother’s love conquers all first. - D. Boegli

When you’ve lost your Mom, Mother’s day is bittersweet. I struggle each year with this day. A day to honor Mom and yet be honored by my own daughters. Somehow, I’m still trying to learn how to be a good mom, trying to make sure I don’t mess up, trying to be as good a mother as my own Mom was to me. She was a tough act to follow.

I often wonder how my life would be if she were still here. I wonder if her loss and the ultimate changes it created in my own life’s path were destined. I know her life was too short, but in my heart of hearts I believe her end was my beginning. Had she not died I would have been on a different path, for starters I would have gotten married to the wrong person. I would not have found my best friend. I would not have my amazing daughters. I wouldn’t have founded the dance school. Life would be different.

Her gift to me was ultimately her life. Knowing that, I have always worked to live my life to the fullest, give back to others as much as I can, and to keep on dreaming with her spirit living inside of me. I often do things for Mom. When I’m on a trip I see something that she would have loved, and I look at it or touch it – letting her see it though me.

It’s weird I know, but she and I are still connected in ways that many may never understand. I go to Rocky’s and have her favorite pizza so she can taste it on her birthday. I decorate her grave even though many never see it, because she would want it nice if someone comes to visit. I say things to people because that’s what she would have said and sometimes she even tells me what to buy people for gifts. She lives in me in many ways and she always will.

For those of you who still have Mom’s living – enjoy them. You just never know when time will stop and your path will change. But when it does remember that a Mom’s love is stronger than anything and it conquers all – even the pain of her loss eventually.

It's been 18 years and I still think of her every day.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Smile! Special moments for Mom

It's recital season - personally my favorite time of the year. Last week was picture week, so all the students and Mom's (and a few brave Dad's) arrived at the studio bursting with excitement, flashing their sequins and trying to make sense of the chaos.

The recital at our school is the icing on the cake. This year at picture night I was able to observe a little more than usual with my staff fully functioning and able to pose their own students and classes. I watched as Mom's and daughters cooperated, got frustrated, got happy and shared unique moments together. Recital time is like playing "Barbie" all over again for the Mom's. You get to tease hair, put on makeup and try your best to put clothes on "your doll". It's fun!

Since I had a few extra moments and cameras were out in force capturing the behind the scenes drama and groups of smiling friends, I took the opportunity to say..."Let me take a picture of you and your daughter" -- Mom's never get to be photographed, they are always the ones taking all the pictures-- they gladly handed over their camera or cell phones for a quick picture.

It was fun for me to connect with my customers by giving them a free gift - a photo of them together, happy and sharing a moment in Dance.

Enjoy your recital day Dance Mom's across the nation! Have fun playing Barbie with your little girls.

If you need a gift idea for your dance teacher or studio, consider giving them Releve' dance posters. They are a unique and useful gift that will help all the students and teachers alike.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Releve' Posters now at

If you haven't had a chance to visit and join you are missing out! This is a valuable site full of resources for dance teachers of all experience levels. I've had the pleasure of working with DSO creator Suzanne Blake Gerety and she is now retailing Releve' Dance Posters on the site. I'm a member of her site as the owner of my own school and use her resources weekly.

As you may recall, I created Releve' Dance Posters back in 2005 and have had a lot of success over the past 5 years. I think 2010 is going to be a great year with the addition of Dance Studio as a distributor and key partner. If you need to change up your studio Releve' dance posters can give you an immediate face lift!

Suzanne has energy and passion for dance that rivals all! I'm pleased to know her and you will be too. Seriously, you need to add visiting this site to your "to do" list today. (I call it my "ta da" list but that's for another post). It will save you time and money down the road, help you deal with staff issues, and make your recials easier too.

So visit Dance Studio today and check out the shop to find my Releve' posters!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

School Referendums - Is it your business?

Today is Tuesday April 6. Voting day for many local school districts across the nation. My community in Brodhead, Wis. is voting for the second time on a school referendum. The first vote in Feb. failed by 200 votes; the school district quickly put a second referendum on the ballot for April. Now, here's why I'm writing about this on Dance Teacher Talk Spot...

I organized a political action committee to PASS the referendum, even when the community is divided 50/50 on the issue. I'm a parent of two kids directly impacted by this vote and a small business owner of a child-based business; I felt I needed step up and be a leader in my community for the kids.

From a business perspective, I need strong schools my business to thrive-- bad schools equal no clients for a dance school... but I was one of the only businesses in town brave enough to state my position and get involved. Even our Chamber of Commerce and Mayor didn't have a voice because they were afraid to offend and lose business from customers on the opposite side.

So, did I make a mistake? Time will tell, but even if the vote doesn't go our way today I will know that I did all I could to help the children in this community thrive. It's what I do - put kids first.

If parents in my program were "no voters" (and I know there were some) and decide not to support my business next year then I guess that is a price I am willing to pay.

Now, I was careful not to promote the vote inside my business or use my location as a propaganda area, but I was not afraid to let people know I was an organizing member of the PAC and did a lot of highly visible campaigning. It's a small town, so people know me and my business affiliation. I've often heard the term, "it's not personal, it's business" referred to when tough business decisions are made; for me it was the opposite, "it's personal, not business" - sort of.

I'm sad that other business owners were not willing to step up and fight for a stronger school and to protect our local community. After all, if the school fails so will the community ultimately. So, what would you do in this position? Hide in the wings or share your school pride?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Forty and Fabulous

Well it happened I turned 40 this week. And in truth it wasn't all that bad. I guess it really is true, "you're only as old as you feel" - and I feel fabulous. My studio was decorated with window paint on all the mirrors much to my chagrin, but the kids really seemed to enjoy helping me celebrate my big day. Of course it helped that I brought birthday treats to share, just like they do for their special days.

I really think dancing will keep me young and I hope I can keep dancing for a long time. I had the pleasure of attending Ms. Virginia Davis' recital in Beleville Wis. last weekend. She was a dear friend of my own teacher Ms. Ginger, so she has seen me grow up in dance since I was a child. Dance has certainly kept her young- she looks amazing! The tradition of dance is so important, passing from generation to generation - teacher to student. I would encourage you to invite your former dance teachers to your own recitals, even if they are far away, you never know when a road-trip is in order. Think of the rewarding experience it would be to have one of your own students invite you to their recital 20 years from now.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tights for pasty wisconsinites

Don't laugh if you run studios in California or Florida, but the tan tights often worn by my tap and jazz dancers are simply too tan for dancers in the northern states. I finally found tights that work for our pasty skin in Wisconsin. The Revolution brand Classic Pink - is actually about perfect nude color for our non-tanned dancers. The added plus is they are very affordable and of solid construction, no baggy ankles on the young dancers either. Plus they match their shoes perfectly for a very clean line.

Last year I tested these tights on all my ballet students and snuck in a few tests on the Tap classes. The result is that the Suntan/Tan traditional tights we wore for the past 8 years are out the door! Now, all classes can wear the same tights and look fantastic with all costumes.

Parents only need to buy one color, so they are saving money too. Win/Win. Thanks Revolution for supplying us with a great tight, in a great color, at a great price! (how's that for a non-paid endorsement :)

Happy recital planning... it really is almost Spring.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Losing Weight

Last fall I wrote a post about losing weight and told you I was on a personal journey to get in better shape. Well I did it. I lost 43 lbs. and feel like a million bucks. Did you know you can leap twice as high when you weigh 43 lbs. less. I almost hit my head on the ceiling! Man was that fun or what!

I had help from my Dr. and friends at Dean Health in Madison, Wis. I encourage you to talk with your Dr. and find a local program that works directly with you in the clinic. I've tried Weight Watchers and LA Weight Loss in the past and lost 15 lbs., but now with over 40 lbs. off I can say that this VLCD was the right fit for me. The trick is finding what fits for you. And being in the right frame of mind. My goal was 40 by 40. I turn 40 in March and I was determined that I wasn't going to have yet another birthday go by with regrets on my weight. And now Summer can't come fast enough, bring out the shorts and tank tops I'm ready!

Setting a good example for personal health to my own children and my dancers was also important to me. If we can't take good care of ourselves how can we expect them to? As Dance Teachers we give so many wonderful lifetime "gifts" to our students, let good health be yet another.

I Love to Dance

Since it's Valentine's Day week I thought I'd reflect and share a technique we use at our school. I call it positive psychology - each of our classes ends with a statement, a chant - it goes like this... I'm Smart. I'm Strong and I LOVE to Dance! For the past 10 years my students have been saying this same statement at the end of class, at the start of a recital and behind the closing curtain. We have it on our waiting room wall and our kids even have arm and hip movements they created for it. Some people may call it brainwashing... I'd call it a motivational mantra. And you know what? It works. Positive self talk has powerful meaning to many people and even when I'm having a tough day I say this statement to myself and I feel better. Try it, say it to yourself -- right now, say it out loud. "I'm Smart. I'm Strong and I Love to Dance!"

I give you permission to use it in your studios too. Share the love of dance and use positive psychology techniques like this to make your dance program even stronger. And for an extra boost, join to get cool coloring book pages that also say I Love to Dance!

Releve' Dance Poster sample

Releve' Dance Poster sample
sample of poster