Monday, October 29, 2012

Costume time and I'm not talking about Halloween

It's Halloween week and Hurricane Sandy is making sure the east coast will never forget this scary holiday!  Since I'm sitting here in Wisconsin, I'm enjoying some calm weather and took an opportunity today to visit with Curtain Call costumes whose reps were in Madison, Wis. for a costume showcase.  How nice it was to see the entire collection and get to touch and feel it.   I didn't get to any UDMA shows this fall, so this was my first "hands on" costume event for the year.  

Definitely demonstrates again how different costumes in real life and catalog photos can be.  It's important to try to get to see these costumes (from any manufacturer) in person as there were several costumes in the catalog that I would have breezed right on past - the photos simply did not do it justice.   Always read the descriptions!   They had some new multi-facetted sequins that were cool too. 

I'd have to say their new "confetti" sequins are a hit - I'm going to make something work out with my music selections just so I can pick one of those costumes!  In general all the costumes were  well-made and very stylish, as I have come to expect from long term suppliers like Curtain Call. 

Their timing was great because my first set of books is going out to one of my teachers tonight - we have 6 teachers so we need to rotate books and get these costumes picked out before Dec. 1st.  I usually pick only 3-4 suppliers and try to get as many costumes selected from those books as possible.  Why?  First for the discounts and second for my sanity... too many costume suppliers and I start to pull my hair out in the Spring.  

Costumes are so important to the overall tone and polish of your recitals.  And as I've said over and over again, your recital is your single most important marketing technique. If you can't pull of a great show you will not win the competitive battle for children's time.  Recitals must make memories and amazing costumes are one of the elements to acheive it.

I always make a big deal about the "unveiling" of the costume selections in January, the kids just wait and wait for their class to be revealed.  Upon arrival,  for my pre-ballet, first time students, I always tell them how important taking care of their very special costume is: "Take extra good care of it, let Mom hang it in her closet until picture day and recital day ... then AFTER the recital you can wear this costume as much as you want - you can even wear it to the grocery store!" -- and they all laugh, but they get the point.

Later, I get a huge smile when I see one of my dancers in the grocery store the week after the recital. "You know (insert name...she never forgets," says the Mom with a shrug.  Then I smile and say, "well at least you are getting your money's worth!" 

The Finale' - a costume collection at it's best.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Clogging TV shows show love of dance vs. fear of losing

I had a brief moment to watch a new reality TV show called Down South Dance it featured two rival dance companies Sole Impulse Dance and SouthernDanceAcademy.

First the dancer's are great and they have all had excellent training, so my kudos go out to their teacher's Chip Harrison and Sarah Darby and to the students who have obviously worked very hard on their Clogging skills.   But here is my observation... aside from the Dance Mom's wanna-be this show did unveil difference at least in my eyes to why some groups win at competitions and some don't.

At the end of this show it was revealed that Chip's dancers at Southern Dance were beaten by Darby's Synergy Dancers by something like one tenth of a point.   Chips reaction was that Darby should be scared.  They'll get'em next time...he said it came down to Showmanship.   I agree in part.

I would argue that it came down to passion. Chip's girls are scared to disappoint.  They fear Chip and fear their own parents reactions - knowing they have a lot on the line.  Ms. Darby's girls are much more relaxed, enjoying the heart of competition and loving what they do.  You can see it in their faces in the movements they do together as a team.  Yes, a judge might call it showmanship.  I call it lack of fear.

Chip tries to get girls to leave one school to come to the other. I didn't know that he was a lawyer until I read up on him he and his actions makes a little more sense to me.

So, Chip Harrison, if your reading this - try sharing the love of dance, the love of the pounding of feet, the love of the rhythm.  It wouldn't kill you to give the kids some kudos, love and praise either. They obviously RESPECT you, but they don't LOVE you...they fear you and don't want to disappoint. You have a beautiful gift of talent that you've cultivated, now take them to the finish with pride not fear. 

And if you think those other girls are going to jump ship from Ms Darby well.... if they did they'd be a bit crazy since she is home to the winningest record.  And her kids can smile for real not fake.  I did think your distraction strategy was interesting, twisted but interesting.-- hope those Mom's and girls don't fall for it.

You should check out the show was good.  Maybe it will make it as a series after all.  If nothing else Clogging will get some new found respect up here in the North vs.only in the southern states. Break-a- Leg ya'll.

Dancingly Yours,
Ms. DeAnne

Friday, October 5, 2012

5 magic erasers later

Had our first big night in our new studio on Monday...our new studios are beautiful, kids love it, the dancing was great and then...the night was over.  And what did I see?   Fingerprints, handprints, footprints on the freshly painted walls!   Uggg!   Last time I checked I didn't teach kids to dance on the walls, so why are there so many foot marks on the walls? 

Well, nothing a little (or a lot) of Mr. Clean Magic Erasers couldn't tackle - 5 to be exact and they even worked great on the scuff marks on the floors.   Walla!  My new studio was back.

It did make me question my choice of Vanilla Milkshake for my wall color...might have to re-think that choice later.  But for now, the cleaning is proving to be a great workout too.  Cleaning the studio is one of the many behind the scene activities many dance teachers don't talk about, but it's so important. (I've chosen to barter for cleaning services with a parent who runs a pro cleaning business.)
Here's a photo of one of our new studios.  I'm waiting until our first full week of classes are done to post more photos on my studio website and facebook pages to everyone can be suprised at our new look.  One thing I have not added yet are my Releve' dance posters - I wanted to make sure I knew how the room worked before I put the posters up which means that will be my quick weekend project. I'll post those later.

Have a great weekend everyone! I'm going out to buy more Magic Erasers...
Dancingly Yours,

Monday, September 10, 2012

My own space - making the big move

I know many dance teachers go through this same process, so I thought I'd share mine with you.   The first of August, just 5 weeks ago, my landlord decided to move to a different smaller space.  So, I had to move too.  Over the past 11 years, I've built a nice dance business in a small community in Wisconsin.
Over those same 11 years, I've rented studio space from a local fitness center, so while we had some dedicated area of the building the space was never really "ours."   But the price was right, the space was nice and it worked...that is until Aug. 1.

Within the past fuve weeks, I've rennovated the basement of an old church built in 1856 to be our new home.  It's been a ton of work and a huge learning opportunity for not only me but for my family who is helping.  My husband for years has been telling me to get my own space, but for some reason I was afraid of upsetting the status quo of what was working for me.  I should have listened to him sooner.

Now, I can't believe I waited so long.  We haven't had our first class yet, or our open house, and we aren't even done with the finishing touches yet-- but it's almost dream come true.  My own dance school. I often just stand in the middle of the one of the studios and stare at it. One time I even shouted "5,6,7,8" just to see if it sounded right.   Silly I know, but my mind races with images of kids dancing, me teaching and the awesome creative process that comes when I dance and teach dance.  People often say dance becomes part of your soul and I truely believe that.  I am at my best when I'm in my "dance element". 

Here's what I've learned so far:

Find people who know what they are doing and pay them to do it.
Be nice to your husband because he can do a lot of stuff and save you a lot of money. (Thanks Honey!)
Be prepared for a daily trip to the home center for supplies.
Don't pay up front for anything until you know it is done right..
Be prepared for the worst - yes, we had this...beautiful vinyl flooring installed friday...dehumidifier hose dropped and leaked water under it for 24 hrs...not a beautiful sight the next day. 
Everything can be fixed with enough effort (and money).  So don't cry.
Just because its your vision and looks completely obvious to you doesn't mean others can see it.
Everything costs more than you planned.  Just don't look at the credit card balance for a while.
Dance suppliers often cost more money than other solutions, so you need to do your homework.
Some dance suppliers are worth the extra money cause they know what they are doing.
Dance parents can be amazing supporters and volunteers, but you need to ask for help.
Doing Fall registration and remodeling at the same time is not a great idea - avoid if at all possible.
Keep your website and Facebook pages updated so your customers know what's happening.

I'll have photos of our rennovation soon to post.  I can't wait to hang my Releve' dance posters in my new space and finish the look of the space.  I didn't realize just how important the posters would be in my new space, but I really need the "pop" they'll provide.

Looking forward to a fun fall in our new location.  I think this old church is enjoying a little new life being brought back into it.  It's fun to rennovate a space and make it part of the creative process I enjoy so much.

Dancingly Yours,

Friday, July 6, 2012

Time for change? Ready or not here it comes.

The local fitness center where I've rented for 11  years is under financial duress.   They want to move to a smaller I'm being forced to smush into a smaller area or find a new home for my growing dance studio.  It's such a wierd feeling being pushed into a new plan, versus planning to do it yourself.   I just had it all figured out. We are coming off of an awesome recital in May, have a great group of teachers coming in for the Fall, and then the floor litterally drops out from under us!   Uhmmumf....

So, now looking at new options.  Which are limited in our small town... I just have to keep reminding myself of why I do what I do.  Why we all do what we do...why we teach dance --- it's so these kids can dance. 

I know I should be excited about the possibilities, but I'm just not ready for a big change in my dance life right now.   My regular work life is crazy and I sort of liked the way my dance life (business) was going.  Well, time to "go on with the show" I guess.   I'll let you know how it turns out.  If you have any advice I'd love to hear it! 

Dancingly Yours,
Ms. DeAnne

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Creating Moments to Remember - Mother/Daughter

At my recital this past weekend, we had our very first Pointe' performance.  After 11 years, it is amazing to see these children who I've worked with since they were in pre-ballet perform en Pointe'   On my morning walk the day of our final performance for the weekend, I suddenly decided that I needed to more to recognize these girls than just make an announcement -- so I decided to have the Mom's of these dancers present a single rose to them at the end of their final performance.  

As a Mom of one of these dancers myself, I just simply wanted her to know how proud I was of her and all of her hard work.  They did a simple but elegant dance titled "The Royal Wedding" with music from the actual William and Kate royal wedding.  (costumes from Curtain Call)

Before the show, I approached each of the five Mom's with my idea, each broke out in tears at the sheer mention of doing this.  I handed them a rose and gave them their instructions... every Mom cried each time.  I knew I was on to something good just seeing their reactions. 

So, at the end of the performance as they made their final portabra and pose we walked up the front steps and presented them with a single white rose.  There was not a Mom (or Dad) in the packed auditorium that didn't tear up.   It was one of those moments that transcended all things for that minute.  That mother-daughter relationship, which can be so strained at times in those teenage years...everything melted away to see the raw love between a mother and her child.  

Even the young teenagers choked up after that element of "surprise your Mom's on stage with you" look faded.   It was a moment I created for myself and my fellow dance Moms that day.   And I'm so glad I did it.   I'm sure it will become a tradition now, but that element of surprise is passed and can never be replicated.  

Creating mother-daughter moments is not something I've often thought about aside from trying to create less negative ones backstage etc.   I want the recital process to be smooth and fun for everyone - I don't like seeing stressed out mom's at the show.   So, I do work hard for that, but now after seeing every one's reaction to this event, I realize that as a Dance Teacher I have a unique opportunity to provide moments that will be so meaningful and precious that parents will crave them for themselves and will provide even greater loyalty to our Dance Academy (and yours) in the future. 

Dance does so many wonderful things - this is just one more reason why I love to be a dance teacher.

Dancingly Yours,

Ms. DeAnne  and proud Mom (she's the one in the photo in right corner) :)

Monday, May 7, 2012

Love makes the world go round.   And I LOVE to dance!

I came across some tips called 10 simple steps to a healthier happier you - on Yahoo! today that really made this Broadway classic song title come alive for me.

In the Shape Magazine article, the author Jene' Luciani says, "It may sound cliche', but love truely does make the world go round."

The #8 Tip is -  Find ways to get more LOVE in your life.  Make time in your schedule to see the people you love.  Play with a child, hug your friends, tell someone you love them, and smile at someone you don't know.  These small gestures can make a big difference!

I love this advice.  We all need to bring more LOVE into our lives.  As dance teachers we get multiple chances to hug a child, play with a child, and smile at people!   What a great profession we are in.  

I think the basis of love is also rooted in confidence and that is one of the most important things we can instill in our dancers.   Personal confidence - the ability to love themselves, so they in turn can share love with others.  

At the end of every class I teach (and those that my staff teaches) we say our mantra:   I'm Smart. I'm Strong and I LOVE to Dance.   For the past 11 years we've been saying this after every class in our studio.  I'm proud of it.   This motivational statement is based in self-confidence and love.  And it works.   Even when I'm having a bad day I can say to myself "I'm Smart. I'm Strong and I LOVE to Dance!"  

A few years ago, Dance Studio Life let me publish an article on our use of this positive psychology in our dance studio.  It's linked on my website at Releve' dance posters if you wanto read it.  It's titled Winning from the Inside Out.

You should hear our backstage at the start and end of recials, when the halls and stage ring aloud with this chant from every dancer!  Gives me goosebumps every time!

Go ahead say it out loud right now....

I'm Smart.  I'm Strong and I LOVE to Dance!

It feels good doesn't it?   :)  (there's a smile from me to you)

Take some time for you today and read these tips

Dancingly yours,

Ms. DeAnne

Friday, April 27, 2012

A great show is all in the details

As dance teachers we get really busy.  I've found over the years that preparing for the recital is my favorite experience of the year.  I love to put on a great show... I'm a planner.  So, I make lists, check stuff off , and try to stay one step ahead.   Some people say to me, "Oh, you must be so busy this time of year..." and I smile.  Because to be honest, I'm all ready done with my check list.  I'm sort of tappin' my toe waiting for May 19th to arrive.   But I'll play along and pretend that I'm busy just to make this look a little harder than it is--after 11 years I can say I'm a master recital planner.  (knock on wood)

I love this time of year because the students are taught their dances, now I get to just drill them during class. The costumes are in and we had picture day, so I know everyone is ready.   The music is edited.  Tickets are sold out. And bills are paid.

So while I wait, I pay attention to the details.   I make sure my programs are ready and a table display is appropriate for the theme is boxed up and ready for a volunteer to set up at rehearsal night.

I fill my stage boxes with little necessities like sewing needles that are pre-threaded, hot glue guns loaded, hair supplies and extra Revolution tights for backstage runs, and a first aid kit for whatever comes our way. 

Make sure I have rosin ready and in a good container - I like to recycle the box trays from Panera Bread for our rosin boxes.  Then I can throw them out after the final show.

I get my music ready to play before and after the performance to keep the auditorium festive.

I take my costume photo clips and post them to sheets of paper which we then post in the hallways backstage, so kids know where to line up.  (this works great to keep the backstage organized)  Put the show order number on the sheet and tell parents to find the matching costume - works like a charm! 

With my extra time I added some fur boa to some headpieces to make them pop and I have to do one more coat of paint on my "suitcases" for the opening tap number... that's about the only thing left on my to do list other than that final press release to promote the show. Since I'm a PR person in my day job, I can pretty much write that in my sleep. 

And then just when I think I have it all covered... I remember I need to finish the Pre-Registration forms for next year... I like to pass those out when the parents get their picture day pictures in hand... when everyone is loving dance!     It never hurts to do your next season registration at the end of the year...get them to commit now before you have a few weeks off for summer break. And don't forget to update the website.

So, I guess I better stop my toe tappin' and get to work on my registration stuff... hope you have yours ready too.   And remember the key to a great show is all in the details!  So plan ahead to give your mind and your hands time to work on them. That way it can be fun for you too and not stressful.

Hope your show is amazing!    Ms. DeAnne

Friday, April 20, 2012

NIKE ARC ANGELS (Pointe shoe training) on the Behance Network

NIKE ARC ANGELS (Pointe shoe training) on the Behance Network

Just came across a new Pointe' shoe that I thought you all may be interested in...has anyone seen this, tried it yet?

I love the idea, our students are having a hard time keep their shoes in shape and parents I'm sure would love to buy fewer pointe' shoes.   I see a lot of interesting uses for this shoe!  What do you think?

Haven't quite figured out how to buy them yet but I'm sure Dance Distributors or Discount Dance Supply is working on it.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Postcards from Paris...Is your recital memorable?

Next week is "Picture Night" at our studio.   My favorite night when the kids come to class and get their photos taken in their recital costumes.   We use it as a "costume and make up rehearsal" too.  Good chance to get all those last minute parents motivated to make final costume, tights and hair tweeks before our big events next month - the annual recital.

It's this time of the year when the business of being a dance teacher really sets in.  Promoting a show, selling tickets, finalizing payments for year end and trying to think about the next season of dance even though you are totally exhausted from the current year. 

Now is the time to think about marketing your dance school...your recital is your biggest marketing tool.  A successful show can mean new students, but most importantly it KEEPS students returning to you year after year.

I know, I know many people have told you this before, including me and Rhee Gold at Dance Studio Life, but your recital is  your moment to shine.  Make sure it's memorable, well run, and most importantly fun for your students and parents. Don't make it so long that it's even painful for dance enthusiasts to like it.  Do what you have to do to make it enjoyable and entertaining.

I have a good system that works for me, but I'm sure every dance teacher out there has their own "system".  For instance, my dress rehearsal is scheduled in chunks, so the entire dance academy doesn't have to be there all at the same time.  We do dress rehearsal the evening before the show.   And we do photos a month before that... like next week for instance.  I always contact the local paper and issue a press release about our event too.   This year we are using social media -Facebook page with invites to recital event.

I also try to create a show.  Not just a recital.  I do my best to stick with a theme and give our small town, rural customers a glimmer of what a real Broadway show might be kind of like... (insert "clear my throat" sound effect)

I've had parents tell me they love the recital "as much as Christmas".... which is a good thing I think. 

One of my surprises each year is the backdrop selection - for over ten years we've been using Backdrops Fantastic and I love them!!!   This is in no way a paid endorsement, just a real time word of mouth plug for a great company that is ready and detailed for busy studio owners like us.  The backdrop makes the stage stand out and it sets us apart from other studios in the area who don't use them.

This year our theme is "Postcards from Paris" - my spin on an international theme.  I tried something interesting... on LinkedIn I posted a call for postcards in one of the dance teacher groups... we've started getting postcards from around the world to display at the studio/recital.   I want to say Thank You to all those who are sending or have sent cards!  I can't read every one's handwriting or languages, but it sure is fun!  (if you want to send a card to us there is still time-  BHF Dance Academy, 804 23rd Street, Brodhead, WI, 53520)  Our show is May 19, 2012.

What do you do to make your recital memorable?   I'd like to hear from you... because quite frankly I'm having a hard time picking my theme for next year and I need some help.

Thanks for reading,
a Dance Teacher just like you!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Welcome Visitors - Any fresh ideas?

It's the all important Visitor's Day this week at our studio. A chance to show Mom and Dad, some Grandparents and a few squirrely siblings what we've been learning at class.

I generally enjoy visitor's night. It's exhausting, but I enjoy it.

As a marketing/branding tool I think it's really important to include your parents in on the progress of their students. I enjoy "teaching" the the parents how to skip backwards or forwards and letting them feel a little silly in the pre-ballet classes. Sometimes the kids make it all look a little to easy - especially when they are in full concentration because Dad's watching.

Do other studios hold Visitor Nights during class times or only exhibitions? Let me know what you do. And if you have any fun ideas.

And remember to use your Releve' dance posters - studio essential posters to Welcome Visitors to your school.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The ripple effect of dance in a small town

As a dance school owner in a small town, population less than 4,000-- in rural Wisconsin I have a very typical dance program. Over the past 10 years I've had the privalage to share my love of dance with more than 200 students each week. Well, last weekend our local high school hosted a Show Choir Invitational with high school show choir teams from all around the state. As I sat there watching I realized what an impact my program has had on the kids in our town. You see some of my first dancers are now in high school - so it was really cool for me.

All of the choreography for the Middle School and first level High School choirs was created by 3 of my dancers. High school students themselves, two of the girls are or have been assistant teachers and the third was a long time student. Those three girls took what I taught them and shared it with 50 more kids. And they did great!

Then, when I looked at the front rows of both these choirs I see them filled with my dancers too. Some past, some present, but all students we've touched in someway through our dance academy.
It was proud moment.

I know many dance school owners struggle with keeping the high school age kids in their programs, we do too. There's so much competition for their time. But now I see how those first foundational years in dance can impact a high school in both their show choirs and other extra curricular events. So, I'm ok with letting these kids fly away from a weekly dance class to strut their stuff in school plays, musicals, sports and show choir. The confidence, poise and technical abilities we gave them will last a lifetime. And right now, high school is the most important part of their world. I'm grateful that they are using all their talents to represent their school and make our community proud.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Hey Ms. DeAnne, do you watch Dance Mom?

At class this week I finally had a young student ask me if I watch Dance Mom on TV. Here was my response: "Yes I have watched it but I really don't like it much." To which the student replies, "I like the dancers but that teacher really scares me! I'm glad you aren't like that Ms. DeAnne"..."Well at least most of the time," she added with a smile. To which I smiled back because I know I'm not at all like that teacher, Ms. Abby. "The parents scare me more," I responded.

I shared with the student that it's great for her to watch the dancers for ideas on choreography, but that she shouldn't compare herself to them unless she practices as much as they do. I reminded her that they practice everyday and take classes every day. "Did you know that?", I asked her. She replied, "Well I know they practice a lot more than I do because they have better turns."

I'm glad she noticed that the other dancers were better than her and that they are good because of their work ethic in the classroom. I made sure to remind her that she could be just as good as them with more practice and boy did she SMILE!

I know we've bashed the Dance Mom TV show before in other posts, but perhaps there's a light at the end of this tunnel afterall. Students can learn that to get to a level of dance they see on TV they are going to need to make sacrifices and put in the studio time to do it. Not a bad lesson to learn. Disney Channel and all the other cool dance shows do make it all look so easy - they don't show the hours of rehearsal that it takes to make it all look so great. Dancing with the Stars is doing a great job of showing the hard work it takes. So, while I don't have time to watch that show either I do like it on premise.

But for the record, I still don't like the Dance Mom show on TLC - I think it has become like Desparate Housewives- full of Botox, big lips and big hair. Those Moms are really scary.

Releve' Dance Poster sample

Releve' Dance Poster sample
sample of poster