Choreographing a Kid’s Dance Routine – Not for the Light Hearted

Kids under seven are difficult to work with in any classroom let alone a dance classroom.  They yell because they want to be with their parents. If they aren’t use to public interaction with kids, it is difficult for them to get along with other children their age. And finally they can’t sit still for more then two seconds.  Over the last eight years I have been a dance teacher I have grasped an understanding on how to handle young kids and teaching them a routine.  There are three rules to follow:

Firstly, keep it simple. As a child, they are still learning the world and trying to understand everyday life, like their right from their left, why they can’t hit someone if they don’t get their way, or tying their shoes.  In a class where the kids are four to seven years old always kept feet and arm movements separate.  Trying to put them together is disastrous and you will end up with kids slamming into one another and falling down. Use simple dance movements that they have been learning all year. For a tap class some moves would be toe taps, heel digs, and big arm movements. If you tie in the movements that you do all the time in class, the kids are more likely to retain the dance when they get to the stage performance.

Secondly, relate to their lives.  I know relating to a life of a five year old can be hard since your an adult, but I promise you were a child once. When I start to develop a children’s dance the first thing I do is start listening to a ton of music.  Depending on what kind of dance you are teaching will depend on the music.  Let’s take tap as an example.  Back in 2008-2009 I was teaching a tap class for five to seven year olds.  I decided to use the song ‘My Girl’ which was probably one of the greatest kids dances I ever choreographed.  Since the song is super slow and has a repetitive chorus it gave me the opportunity to utilize the words in the song for arm movements, and during the instrumental parts we did toe taps, knee bounces,and shuffles, as well as gave the kids something easy to sing-a-long to.  Also, using imagery that they can relate to is important to get them to perform, like pretending that mommy is in the front row.

Finally, keep repeating the routine for fifteen minutes at the end of class every week. This sounds tedious and boring, but it is difficult for many children to remember things that are not repeating everyday.  So, when a child is only going to dance class once a week it is even harder.  This repetition will get the kids to understand the patterns of the movement, to understand the song, and how the two mesh together.  Routine is important for a child to have consistency in dance classroom is just as important as the child’s everyday life.

Just a little My Girl throwback for you to sing along to:

Dance Competition Survival Kit

Dance_sports_bag_large_Energetiks_DB21_Blk_turquoise__79496.1405440585.1280.1280For most studios, competition season is done, and it is the beginning of dancers going off to summer intensives.  So, this post is really to prep you for the Fall season and get you ahead of the curve.  You should have three types of bags walking into every competition.

First and most important is you dance bag. This bag should include every type of dance shoe you own.  Don’t take a risk that even if you don’t need a certain shoe, don’t take them out of your bag. You never know when a fellow dance may have forgotten his/her shoes and you happen to be a perfect match for their feet.  At that point, you’d be able to come in like superman and save the day.  Second, you should always have a small first aid kit including neosporin, band-aids, medical tape, gauze, peroxide, and an ice pack. It may sound silly to have something like this in your bag, but having cut myself more then once at a competition I had to keep learning the same lesson multiple times.  Third thing is extra tights.  Tights are constantly getting runs in them, and you never know when you are going to snag them on a piece of wood of the stage in the middle of a performance and they become unfix-able.  Fourth thing is a change of clothes, because who seriously wants to be constricted by tights or have to explain yourself when you walk into some place public like a restaurant? No one.  Final and fifth thing in your dance bag should be multiple bottles of water.  Always stay hydrated.  Find where the closest water fountain is and continue to refill as needed.

caboodleThe next thing you should have is a caboodle.  I’m not sure if that is what they call it anymore, but it is basically a makeup case.  It has every kind of makeup from foundation to eye shadows to lipsticks, to eyebrow pencils.  Being a competition kid you learn about various kinds of makeup at a young age.  You should also have miscellaneous items, like tweezers, nail clipper, clear nail polish (to stop runs in tights), make up remover, cue-tips, cotton balls, and nail polish remover.  This little kit was everything that was needed to make me not look washed out under the harsh lighting on stage.  I have very fair skin, so I had to wear a lot of makeup…I always felt like I had to shower three times before I could get it all off my face.

Third and final bag is your food survival bag.  I wish I had known now, what I didn’t know then about food, because I feel like I would have had more energy at shows and better eating habits as an adult.  Anyway, don’t have your parents or another parent get you fast food like burgers, french fries, chicken nuggets, or soda.  You are not helping yourself in anyway!  Bring nuts, apples, bananas, water, Zero Vitamin Water, and veggies that you can pick at in Tupperware.  Don’t, and I repeat do not eat starbursts and goldfish all day.  It will give you a high and then you will seriously crash and feel like crap.

Do yourself a favor and follow my bag rule. You will be a much happier dancer, performer, and student.

Careers in Dance – There is More to Dance then Being a Performer

11412211_10100594299141981_7579294585861180014_n (2)Recently at a baby shower, my college friends and I were reminiscing about the past, the choices we have made after college, and where the future is headed.  In life everyone makes choices and it is a rarity that everyone can have it all.  A college dance friend is currently seven months pregnant, another dance friend is getting married this fall, and I have aged one more year closer to thirty.  Do I believe that you can create your own destiny?  Absolutely, but anyone who is successful will explain the sacrifice they had to go through to get there, and as a performer there is a lot of sacrifice.  As a performer you could be struggling in a big city like Los Angeles or New York working from stipend to stipend or contract to contract.  Performers are also working multiple jobs like bartendering, serving, or being a hostess, but there is more potential in the dance field than just being a performer.

First you could become an instructor. At dance studios, a person with extensive dance training can command $15-$30 an hour depending on if you are living in a big city or a small town.  There are also opportunities to teach at high school and college levels, but teaching at either level requires you to have a masters in dance education as well as specific certification.  If you have an extensive performance background this might get over looked at certain colleges if you decide to teach at the college level.

Besides teaching, you could go the health route.  Get certified in Yoga, personal training, Pilates, or massage therapy.  These jobs will allow you to work and coach athletes such as dancers in their cross training endeavors to keep their bodies up to par during their performance years.  A few friends of mine are doing both, still performing as well as doing some health related job so they can make money and live in the expensive room that they are renting for $1200/ month in NYC.

Finally, there is arts administration. Granted you can get a masters degree in arts administration, which I have, but if this is a field that you want to get into there are ways around getting a masters degree. For example, I did an internship in communications and development at a small organization of two people called the Natasha Trifian’s Performance Group in NYC before I was hired at another company as the Assistant to the School Director.  From there I moved up in the organization and eventually moved to another organization when I stepped into a new city. With arts administration you can also go the for-profit/ commercial route working at talent agencies, booking agencies, publicists, and performing arts center presenters.

If you haven’t figured it out the possibilities are endless. Limiting yourself as only a performer can be career ending.  Think ahead, and know that with the right moves, a good head on your shoulders, and some drive you are already ahead of 80% of the general population.

Making Your Kid Responsible – One Ballet Class At A Time

imageMany children, teenagers, and even adults lack discipline, responsibility, and the ability to fail and get up and do it again until they succeed.  Granted, this has to with how you are raised and your parents value system, but it also has to with what activities parents put their kids into at a young age.  For example, my brothers and I were all in team related activities growing up.  Team related activities promote competition, strength to improve as an individual, and provides a discipline to work hard and get better technically with every class, individual practice, or competition.

So why do kids today lack this?  Easy, they are involved in too much.  You know that saying, “A jack of all trades but a master of none,” that is currently what we are dealing with in society.  Now, I am not a parent, nor do I claim to be an expert on raising children, but teaching dance for the last ten years I have seen many children of various ages come in and out of my ballet classroom and they always leave for the better.  Ballet teaches you about discipline.  It takes discipline to go into a dance classroom everyday to work on pirouettes for an hour before you finally land a perfect single or double.  Then you have to try to replicate that over and over again till it is ingrained in memory from the weight shift of your body, to the height of your arms, to the position of your leg.  It’s all about calculations.  Is it tedious? Absolutely!  Then I think about that other saying, “practice makes perfect.”  Where is the drive to be best?  I feel like some kids that I come across in the dance classroom are lazy followed by back talk about how I know nothing about dance.  Firstly, if I talked to my parents/ instructor that way I probably would have gotten a wack on the back of my head.  Secondly, I am a ballet instructor with years of knowledge, technical training, and I’ll show you cool moves if you listen.

I had this one girl who was eighteen years old and had so much natural talent.  I pushed her everyday in class, from teaching her to pick up speed in her turns, to using her long limbs to utilize every piece of music to her finger tips.  She didn’t listen to me in class, and in fact she was a know it all like the five year olds I teach.  Needless to say, a year later she came back with a letter that she gave to me that said, “You taught me about responsibility, that others in the classroom depended on me to know my part.  You taught me about discipline and pushed me to be better everyday at the barre and through movement across the floor.  You taught me that we will always be stronger as a unit instead of tearing each other a part, and that constructive criticism isn’t a personal a attack, but a way to drive us.  I’m sorry I was such a brat and even though I wasn’t listening then I’m listening now.”

Ballet is more then just beautiful people on stage dancing for one night.  They were taught discipline, responsibility, and hard work which they have strived to perfect everyday.  So, if you are looking for that one activity that will motivate your kid (whether it is a boy or a girl) take a look at the ballet world before you look anywhere else, because ballet instructors will help you build a responsible adult one ballet class at a time.