I’ve Been Blogging For 5 Years. No Joke!

It’s April Fool’s Day 2013.

Five years ago I signed up for a blog at wordpress.com. I thought it might be a way to stay connected to the dance world and give me somewhere to share my knowledge of dance with students and teachers while I raised my then infant son.

I thought I would do this in my “spare” time.

The joke was on me.

You moms out there know that spare time when you are starting a family means late nights. It also means a lot of one-armed cooking, cleaning and, in this case, blogging!

You bloggers know that spare-time effort in blogging gets you a blog full of stuff that no one is finding or reading.

I was partially right, though. Blogging has kept me connected to dance in ways I couldn’t have imagined. I’ve enjoyed and have experienced great personal reward as a result of sharing my knowledge and receiving what readers and other writers have shared with me.

Five years later, I’ve acquired both skills and insights into blogging, the Internet, marketing, and relationships that I did not have before. So, as part of my 5th Blogiversary celebration, I thought I’d share some of that with you too!

I asked Twitter followers to submit their questions about blogging. I am answering three of these ON CAMERA. Not my favorite place to appear, but I’m taking one for the team.

Question #1


This video covers four essentials for growing a blog plus gives straightforward insight into what kind of traffic it takes to attract advertisers and some insight into what bloggers can generally expect to be paid for advertising. A lot of people don’t like to talk about this stuff. I’ll admit nothing is concrete and this is by no means comprehensive but being vague won’t help you, so here goes:


Question #2


You can overcome what I’m calling publisher’s anxiety by changing the way you think. I give some advice on stopping negative thoughts and also describe blogging in a way that will hopefully ease any reservations you have about just doing it!


Question #3


It’s better to give than receive but if you are providing a valuable resource, it’s not unreasonable to want to expand your blog in ways that earn income and compensation for your services. Your blog isn’t exactly your business, but blogs are a great tool for reaching potential customers. If you are hoping to expand into advertising or paid content, it’s still very possible to blog with honesty.


Question #4


Tom said that he’s waiting to pull the trigger on a blog that will serve multiple purposes. I gave my answer to him via Twitter and said,

“Experimentation is ok. You may gravitate toward one or another as you find your voice & readers respond. Whether informational or personal, let the blog reflect who you are.”

No, I’m not going to start blogging about blogging instead of dance…

But if you like these or have other questions for me, do let me know in the comments!

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Is Dance A Field In Danger?

In the months surrounding Jennifer Homans’ new account of the history of Ballet, there was an effectual freak-out from dance writers and bloggers about the impending death of ballet as Homans claimed quite boldly that “ballet has come to resemble a dying language…understood and appreciated by a shrinking circle of old believers in a closed corner of culture.”

Whether or not you agree with Ms. Homans, her bold proclamation stirred up the dance community and forced us to take a good look at the state of ballet regionally, in the US, and beyond.

Perhaps it was for the same shock-value that the most recent Dance/USA conference presented the dramatically titled break-out session Dance: A Field in Danger.  Nichelle and I sat in it together, and speaker Kadida V. Doumbia (after a somewhat incomprehensible intro) simply posed the question, “Why are there no jobs?” and let the group take it from there.  Tensions ran high as we struggled to define what a successful job in dance looks like.  Some claimed that the lack of jobs is due to a diversity problem, with predominantly white, upper/middle class individuals capitalizing the market.  Others questioned the definition of “diversity” in dance, and cited job scarcity as an overall problem in that there are not enough resources to go around.

A young woman started to cry as she described her personal struggles with a career in dance, and the difficulty of working multiple jobs in the service industry without access to adequate health care or insurance.

The truth is, this young woman’s story is more common than the glamorous dance careers presented by the media and dance teachers.  Are we doing enough to prep college students and young emerging dancers for the day-to-day struggle of a career in dance? Are we lacking creativity in defining what a job in dance looks like? Why would anyone actually want to enter this profession?

Finding the “why”

An over-arching theme of the conference was the need for all of us to “find the why” in what we do.  The status quo can be a really comfortable place to be, even when we spend entire conferences discussing why change is imminent and essential.  It’s easy to stay in our day-to-day bubbles and stop considering the greater dance community in what we do…. that’s why finding our “why” is so critical.

I found that an unfortunate trend of this session in particular*, and perhaps of the conference in general, was to bring up a problem, complain, and not have time left to pitch positive solutions.  As the predominant national service organization for professional dance companies and, to a lesser extent, individual dancers, the somewhat suppressed efforts of Dance/USA to lead are not for lack of trying… they struggle with the same poor funding and infrastructure that plague the dance organizations they seek to support.  Dance/USA appears to be in the business of retweeting, when it wants to be leading the charge.  In a conversation with Brandon Gryde, Director of Government Affairs, he openly acknowledged the backlog of communication and the steps that need to happen in order to truly be the face of advocacy for dance in this country.  How does he hope to accomplish this?

Maybe the question isn’t how, but why?

courtesy of Michelle Jordan

Big budget dance studios teeming with three year olds and pre-professional hopefuls are turning out dancers at a remarkable rate and the non-profit sector of dance companies are struggling to keep heads above water.  As funding flounders at the professional level, it behooves us to take a look at our “whys” and reassess the way dance is created, funded, supported and presented.  Dances are often created in a spirit of collaboration.  We as an entire dance community can embrace that collective spirit to work together and forge a sustainable future.  Within the context of this 75 minute roundtable, we failed to solve all of the problems we face – or to really pin down whether or not dance is, in fact, a field in danger – but as one participant said, “We are constantly creating from nothing…it’s what we do best. Apply it to life!”

Blogging as a forum to grow our audience and continue the discussion

In the end, as my colleague Zac Whittenburg said, “it’s all about the dialogue”.  We create dances as a means to communicate that which cannot be expressed in words… and either because of or in spite of this it’s a medium that isn’t always accessible to the outside world.  Homans’ supposition that dance is “understood and appreciated by a shrinking circle of old believers in a closed corner of culture” might not be specific to ballet.  What we do is not inherently understood, which might be why I see so many familiar faces at every dance concert I attend.

To paraphrase Nichelle (paraphrasing Simon Sinek), the “why” is something that is innate and beyond the realm of verbal communication.  It’s not WHAT we do, but WHY that truly reaches people.  So long as we create authentically from our “why”, we have the ability to touch people at their very core. That is an awesome and uncomfortable place to be as an artist AND an audience member.

The question remains: how can the concept of “WHY” help us transcend the culture barrier that has us facing a serious cash flow problem.  

In order to sustain ourselves, we have to find another way to reach audiences and increase the value that society places on dance.  Words are a form of communication that is often more easily understood.  Not to brag, but platforms like Dance Advantage are a great medium for accessing a larger community of people who might not ordinarily chose dance.  The ability to articulate your work in words cannot be underestimated.  By the same token, we can continue to address problems among ourselves that can’t possibly be solved in a four day conference comprised of a small percentage of the dance community.  Being comfortable with words, I personally feel some level of accountability for continuing this work, but it requires that we all converse together.

So, what do you think?

Is dance on the verge of failure?

How do we create and/or reinterpret successful and sustainable jobs in dance-related professions that make dance a viable career choice?

Does the way dance is portrayed by the media help or hinder dance as an artform?

*Read a bit of the discourse from Dance: A Field in Danger by checking out the live tweets (mostly mine) at #fieldindanger

Will Your Site Be A Top Dance Blog of 2010?

Photo of female hands typing on a computer keyboard

Update! Winners of this year’s contest have been named. Check ’em out here.

Over the last year I’ve been contacted by a handful of websites who have created lists of 50 Best Ballet Blogs, Best Blogs for Dancers, etc. Usually… well, always, they come from outside the online dance community and are designed to get links back from the blogs they list. No offense to the list-makers – it’s nice to be included, but it got me thinking that it’s high time readers of dance blogs voted on their own list.

So, I’m grabbing the bull by the horns, as we say (especially here in Texas 😉 ) The number of dance-related blogs have certainly grown in 2010. No time like the present!

Here’s the plan:

  • If you have a blog and roughly more than 60% of your posts revolve around DANCE (any form or genre), you are eligible to participate.
  • Each blogger or blog owner will enter their own blog into the competition by publishing a blog post that links back to this one.
  • In your post, you will ask readers to show support of your blog with a comment on YOUR post. You will have until December 22 to round up as much comment support as you can.
  • Only blog posts with the most comments will qualify for the voting round.
  • Voting will take place between December 27 and 30.
  • The votes will be tallied and the results posted during the first week of the new year.

What to do first:

Decide which of the following categories is the best fit for your blog:

  • Dance News/Criticism
  • Artistic Process/Investigation
  • Dance Company/School
  • Dance Education/Training
  • Dancer Musings
  • Dance Student/Beginner

I know that these do not perfectly cover every unique voice in the dance blogosphere. In reality you may be in a category of your own but for this competition, you must choose the ONE category listed that suits you best. You may feel that you fit into multiple categories. You must choose only ONE.

The TEN most supported blogs (according to comments) will qualify for the voting round of each of the above categories.

All blogs entered will be eligible to compete for the Top Dance Blog of 2010 title. Comment support will be compared in all participating blogs and the 20 with the most support will qualify for the voting round. Readers’ votes will decide the winner and ranking.

How to enter your blog

Top Dance Blogs of 20101. Write a post on your blog about the Reader’s Choice Top Dance Blogs of 2010 competition.

DO link back to this post. Here’s the URL: http://danceadvantage.net/2010/12/08/top-dance-blog/

DO add the cute little button over there (right click, save as)

DO encourage your readers to rally their support by commenting on YOUR post about the competition.

DON’T be sneaky about comments. If it is discovered you are padding your comment count by encouraging your readers to make multiple comments, accepting or creating bogus comments, or offering incentives to commenters, you will be disqualified.

DON’T throw your support to any other blog and suggest that readers vote for them as well OR suggest that readers withhold votes for another blog OR even mention another competing blog (positively or negatively) in your post. This one is all about you, baby, or you’ll be disqualified.

2. Come back here and place in the comments below a link to your post about the competition AND the category under which you’d like to be considered.
3. Start promoting your post and drumming up your comment support.

Answers to questions you haven’t asked

Is Dance Advantage throwing its hat in the ring?

No,  I’m just the ringmaster for this circus. If Dance Advantage is your favorite dance blog, help out by sharing this post on Facebook, Twitter, in forums or statuses and encouraging worthy dance blogs to participate. You’ll also have a chance to show your love to DA later on.

Why should I enter my blog?

I’m delivering an opportunity for you to engage your readers and find out why they love you. This is valuable no matter your readership or chances. Even if you don’t qualify for the top ten or twenty, you’ll enter 2011 with encouragement to keep blogging!

What do I get for being a Top Dance Blog?

Read the above question… you’ll get that. Plus, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you were chosen by actual dance readers as a Top Dance Blog, and you’ll have the opportunity to display and leverage your ranking. Winners will also be announced and linked to from this site. Beyond this, 2010 is a trial year. Help me grow this community event and new developments like prizes for winners may be possible in the future.

What does Dance Advantage get out of it?

Like the list-makers I mentioned at the start, I get linked to by participants, reach new types of readers, and thereby grow my audience.

I get to be a connector. I connect readers with new blogs that suit their interests. Readers like that, so it is a win for me.

I get to give back and step up. New dance blogs pop up every day but enter a more crowded blogosphere than the one I stepped into nearly three years ago. In this environment, it is easier to miss the interdependent nature of blogging but blogs depend on each other to grow and survive. This contest is a chance to build a stronger sense of community. Yes, this is a competition. But a successful, positive, and friendly competition indicates that dance occupies a significant, healthy, and thriving corner of the blogosphere,

What didn’t I answer? Feel free to comment below or contact me with your question.

Blog Spotlight: Maria Is Moving, Creating, Educating

I love finding new dance blogs and I love, love, love that I’m encountering teachers who are using the platform to process and share ideas. Blogging, like journaling, is a remarkable tool for dance instructors to document and assess what they learn along the way (oh yes, teachers do a lot of learning too).

I was immediately drawn to the material over at Move. Create. Educate for its emphasis on creative movement for young children and began interacting with Maria, the teacher and blogger behind it all.

I discovered that Maria is an independent dance educator around New York City who holds a Master’s degree in dance education from NYU. I discovered that Maria is currently building her own business called Maria’s Movers where she offers creative ballet and creative movement to children around NYC. I discovered she is a teaching artist in public elementary schools for New York City Ballet, a creative movement and tap teacher for Mark Morris Dance Group in Brooklyn and a movement specialist for 2-3 year olds at York Avenue Preschool on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. And then, THEN, I discovered she and I both received our undergraduate degrees in dance from Slippery Rock University! Needless to say we’ve had a lot to talk about.

I thought you might like to get to know Maria a little better too so, I caught up with her to ask a few questions about her blog and her life as a teacher.

DA: What inspired you to start your blog?

Maria: I was inspired to start Move. Create. Educate. because I was looking for a place to share my ideas about dance education. I had so many ideas, frustrations, and questions that I needed to write them down. I was feeling alone in this profession, but I knew that wasn’t true. So I set out to just write, write, write — not really knowing if anyone would read it. I think of the blog as my journal. I try to write everyday, as I think of it as an extension of my job as a teacher. Now that I have been blogging for a while, I think it is so important to share and connect with dance educators everywhere. I hope the blog will build a community of teachers and become a place to talk about challenges and accomplishments of dance educators. It was just the outlet I was looking for!

DA: What is the biggest challenge you face as a teacher?

Maria: My biggest challenge right now is being able to get all of behind the scenes work done. If you are a teacher of any kind you know that just because you leave work, it doesn’t mean your work is done. Planning, playlists, e-mails, and evaluations, it all has to be done in between or after the day of teaching is over. Sometimes it’s hard to keep up. The challenge is making time and space for all of this work. I use my New York apartment as my office/planning place. If you know New York apartments, you know that space is limited! Oh and did I mention I carry my dance room on my shoulder? A challenge in itself!

DA: What do you love most about what you do?

Maria: This is such a tough question! I love it all! I love when the kids see me and their faces light up with a huge smile and offer me a huge hug. I love when the parents tell me that all they talk about at home is ballet and that they sing the point and flex song to fall asleep at night! I love parents days and performances because the kids feel so accomplished. I love to see my students of all ages engage in the creative process. I love to hear them laugh. I think what I love the most though is just knowing that everyday I get to teach dance and make a living. It was always my goal, and I finally have reached it!

DA: Name three items that in your work with little ones you just couldn’t live without.

Maria: 1) Hand drum: I bought a hand drum when I first graduated from NYU and was first hired to work with preschool age kids. I wasn’t sure what I would use it for, but I knew I could figure something out and it would come in handy. It is now a regular part of every class. The sound of the drum signals for them to stop, look, and listen. We practice jumping on the beat, and they love to play it too. If I have a new class, I begin with letting them play the drum. Works like a charm! This also works with older kids, and I have used it in all types of classes — ballet, tap, and creative movement.

2) Star spots: My life saver, but so heavy to carry around in my bag! These star spots keep everyone organized and in a happy place. We sit on them to start, but then I incorporate them into the class. They put them on their heads, we balance them on body parts, I put them in charge of their star. They keep it the whole time, so they know exactly where they need to be. I think of the stars as my special “assistant.”

3) Stickers: My students love stickers (better than stamps, the ink gets all over) after class. I started this a few years back when they come to me at 2 years old for behavior modification. As they grow, they never forget about them. They always want the “pink” stickers. I try to buy stickers that are all the same size and color, so no one gets upset! If I forget the stickers, I am in trouble!

If you teach dance, and particularly if you work with young children, you’ll want to keep and eye on Move. Create. Educate. too!

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Answering 10 Questions at 4Dancers

I hope everyone is enjoying 2010 so far! Though I am quite busy behind the scenes at Dance Advantage, I am technically still on my self-imposed blogcation. I’m breaking my vow of silence for the week, however, to share a recent post over at 4dancers.org – an interview with yours truly.

Catherine’s line of questioning reveals my motivation for blogging, gets into the nitty gritty of my work-at-home routine, and uncovers a few surprises. Most importantly, you will learn how to pronounce my crazy last name!! :-)

So, head over there by clicking on the 4dancers button below….. while I head back into my hole for a few more days!