8 Great Links for Dancers In Training

Here’s what we’re sharing with you from our unique vantage point online, a.k.a the front row…

  • 8 links for dancersFinding “Neutral Foot”
  • The history of… tap dancing
  • Dancers & their Ballet Bags: A Visit to Ballet Black
  • How to Take Audition Photos of Your Dancin’ Boy
  • 10 things my cats have taught me about ballet
  • A father’s influence
  • When Should You Dance for Free?
  • From Competition To College

Want more links to read, share, or put to good use? Follow @danceadvantage on Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest. [Read more…]

Teaching Dance Freelance – Do You Have An Umbrella?

Are you a floater? Or do you have an “umbrella” to teach under?

Parasol Umbrella by Michelle YaoI’m a freelance dance teacher. Let’s face it, freelancing isn’t easy; adding up many pieces to equal a full time job. Actually, scheduling everything is a job in itself, but that’s another blog post for another time.

When people ask me how I make a living teaching such a niche age group – toddlers and preschoolers – I break it down:

1. It’s what I have always wanted to do and so I’m determined, but it wasn’t always that way.

2. It’s what I am known for. Maria? Oh, she teaches babies to preschoolers.

3. I have an umbrella (some people may refer to it is a brand). You might have heard of it — Maria’s Movers.

When I first started teaching in NYC I was what I like to call a “floater,” floating from place to place just doing my thing.

I did anything and everything I could to “make it.” I set guidelines for myself, but only after I’d learned the hard way that it was needed or I would go insane.

One year I was doing crazy things like traveling across city boroughs twice in one day. That, my friends, was not fun. But I loved teaching so much that I was willing to do it. Plus, I knew that what I was doing would bring me to what I am doing now.

Even though I was seeing about 200 kids per week, I still didn’t feel like I belonged to any of the communities I freelanced within. What helped me most was building my own umbrella, a place to call home. Now that umbrella guides what and where I will teach.

If you are looking to build an umbrella for yourself, here are some ideas to start with:

If you want to teach young kids, work with children wherever you can.

One day, no joke, I dressed up in a cow costume at an ice cream shop for a kid’s birthday party. Another semester I taught cooking. I taught gymnastics and art. I scooped ice cream and traveled at least 2.5 hours a day on the subway everyday. Whatever it was, I made sure the experience I was getting was with little ones.

Failure = Opportunity

I was on track to being a public school dance teacher, but for some reason I couldn’t pass just one test (the dance one!) to get certified. I took it four times and still couldn’t pass it. At the time, I felt like a failure. Later, I realized it was a blessing in disguise, because teaching early childhood is what I am meant to do.

Be patient while it builds.

It takes time to build a house, and it takes time to build an umbrella too. I have been in NYC for almost 8 years, 2 of those years were for graduate school. Just this year, I am able to pick and choose my schedule and actually say “no” to teaching cooking and dressing up in a cow costume. It takes time, probably even more time than you think.

Be willing to go there.

Maybe you have to travel a little further to get to a job that would be inline with your ultimate goal. I say do it. You can always drop it later if needed but, who knows? It could be the best job you ever had. Weigh your options and then take a risk. Being known for teaching a specific niche means you have to find an opportunity first!

Word to the mothers.

I truly believe that moms of kids in my classes are equally important to building my umbrella, especially in NYC, but word-of-mouth works anywhere. With so many choices for kids these days, Moms with good things to say about you and your teaching makes your umbrella bigger.

Think outside the studio.

Think about other places you can teach and spread the love of dance to young children.

girl dancing, in pink

1) Homeschools – You could add this into your day, and traveling to them makes it all the more fun. Co-ops are often looking for qualified teachers.

2) Libraries – Story time loves movement teachers.

3) Basements or playrooms – In the summertime I go to playrooms and basements and teach dance. It’s not a dance studio, but it doesn’t matter. They just want to move!

4) Preschools – Not every child has the opportunity to dance outside of school. It could be very fulfilling to approach preschools and teach dance/movement during their school day.

Creating an umbrella, your own brand is empowering. I’m not suggesting you need a blog, or even a website (although you should have one), but I am suggesting that you think about what your umbrella (or brand) might look like.

I have been wanting to write this blog post for a very long time. I hope it inspires you to find your niche, whatever it may be, and work to position your own umbrella.

What I love so much about my umbrella is that I get to choose what goes under it.

Are you a floating teacher? Do you have an umbrella?
Do you have advice to add on building and maintaining an umbrella? I would love to hear!


What Makes a Dance Career “Alternative”?

As I’m preparing to graduate from Beloit College in a little less than a month (yikes!) and am trying to figure out what I want to “do with my life”, there is one thing that I know for sure: entering a “typical” dance career, like joining a company or hopping directly into an MFA program isn’t for me.

Right now, I’m interested in exploring “alternative” dance careers: dance movement therapy, Screendance, costuming, and critical writing. This is the first of two posts where I look at these careers by talking to people who are currently working to pursue them.

rainbow dancers

What is my definition of an “alternative” dance career?

A person pursuing an alternative dance career is someone who is not primarily dancing with a company, teaching at a school or in a studio, performing, or choreographing for the stage.

Chelsie Batko is a student of the Dance/Movement Therapy and Counseling (DMTC) program at Columbia College in Chicago, IL. [Read more…]

New Dawn, New Day, New Things Coming Your Way

I’m feeling good over here at Dance Advantage.

Why? Well, this will be my third year running the Top Dance Blog contest. You’ll have the chance to pick which blogs you felt were the best of 2012 this month so stay tuned for that announcement!

Plus, the new year will bring a milestone — Dance Advantage will celebrate its 5th birthday on April Fools’ Day!

There are also cool things happening “backstage.”

The second half of 2012 brought new partnerships, for example.

One of those partnerships included Ovation, a TV network to which, as a frequent viewer, I’ve been happy to bring attention. If you are a dance enthusiast in the U.S., you may know them primarily for their Battle of the Nutcrackers programming, but they bring many fine dance performances and performing arts documentaries to the small screen.

OvationTV - Be MovedOvation is the only network in town dedicated to the arts. You can find them on various cable and satellite providers. Though partnering with them has been exciting, I have a bit of bad news.

Unfortunately, Time Warner Cable recently dropped Ovation from their lineup. Boo!

So, I’ve signed the petition at BringBackOvation.com. Whether you have enjoyed Ovation television via TWC or not, the network could use your support. I know the arts are important to you and that you’d probably like to see a wider variety of dance programming on TV. Please let Time Warner Cable and others know you are unhappy with their decision by joining me in signing this petition. It only takes a few moments. Thank you!

A little disclosure: Though Dance Advantage has previously received compensation for promoting OvationTV and its programming, we are not receiving compensation for the Bring Back Ovation campaign. We just want to use this platform to help out a network that directly supports the arts and artists.

OK, on to some good New Year news!

Another of our recent partnerships has, so far, been developing behind-the-scenes ever since I met Catherine Tully (of 4dancers) in person at the annual Dance/USA conference in San Francisco last June.

4dancers.org logo

In 2013, the relationship is going public as DanceAdvantage.net teams up with 4dancers.org to more fully cover the topics you want and ask for, when you most need them.

We’ve devised a shared calendar for our content to help you read and learn and share in a more focused way. Over the first quarter of the year (January through March), we’ll be diving into the following topics on both sites:

  • Summer Intensives
  • Commercial Dance and Broadway
  • Footwear, Foot care, and Fashion
  • Competitions and Conventions
  • Career and Auditions

These won’t necessarily be the only topics covered during the next few months, but you can expect them to be a major focus.

Each site will still do what it does best, with the same caliber articles and methods of approach you’ve come to expect. We’ve just decided to get ourselves in step.

We think it’s a duet you’ll appreciate!

Got specific questions or concerns in any of the above areas?
Suggest the article topics you’d like to see covered in our comments below!

What a Candy Cane Can Teach About The Virtues of a Dancer

Dancers learn important life lessons younger than most people. Melanie Doskocil adds another page to Ballet’s Un-X-pected Lesson Files illustrating integral qualities that lead to success, not only in dance, but in life.

Knowing her as well as I did, I could see the telltale crease around her eyes as I told her she would be a Candy Cane again in this year’s production of the Nutcracker. Her smile never wavered, her posture never slumped, but the miniscule sign of disappointment was there. She thanked me profusely and walked proudly out of the studio. Even later, when I was in my office and the thin walls amplified the voices coming from the dressing room, I could hear her extolling the virtues of being a Candy Cane to another of this year’s Candy Canes.

IMAGE A candy cane's tabletop reflection forms a heart. IMAGE

Photo by JD Hancock

“Talent notwithstanding,” I thought, “this one will go far in dance.”

This 11-year-old budding ballerina had already learned life lesson number one of being a dancer:

Handle rejection with grace.

Successful dancers learn early that they won’t always get the parts that they want, and later, the jobs they want and the salary they want. They learn to accept these decisions with poise and dignity, instead of throwing a temper tantrum that can have severe and often dire consequences. Dancers are not meekly accepting of what life hands them, however they keep their grace and dignity in the face of adversity, determined to succeed where others might quit.

Accept, even covet, constructive feedback or criticism.

This is another life lesson that dancers learn at an early age.

One day, while teaching my advanced level, I [Read more…]