Why We Dance: In the Studio and On Stage


I am struck by the many reasons we dance.

In talking with teachers, parents, and dancers about a recent performance, I heard the declaration of so many different motivations. Each group had their own reasons for participating in the show and each group felt that those reasons were validated by the experience. The best thing about hearing everyone’s comments was realizing that these different motivations all overlap and compliment each other.

But before the stage comes the studio and the many reasons we choose to dance…

Ideally, the studio is a sacred place where problems are left at the door and the outside world takes a backseat to practice. In the past year, I’ve seen students who are motivated by a love of movement, by fitness, and by the enduring allure of a tutu and tights. I’ve heard parents express an interest in the discipline of dance, the health benefits, the socialization, the intellectual stimulation, and simply the fun and enjoyment that it brings their children.

As a teacher, I want all of these things for my students.

I’m working for healthy bodies and minds that love to move and continue to be stimulated by new and different concepts, including those beyond dance technique. I love watching students grow and change and I try my very best to acknowledge those changes. This year alone, I’ve seen students with severe separation anxiety become well-adjusted, creative, and independent movers. I’ve seen dancers with disabilities improve in their dancing and overcome physical limitations. I’ve seen students make connections and create imagery that have improved their dancing as well as their understanding of how their own bodies function.

Most importantly, I’ve seen students engage. From two-and-a-half all the way through to adulthood, I’ve seen students engage their bodies and minds in the process of movement: technique, patterns, rhythm, shapes, speed, energy, and flow. We don’t just practice a dance. We engage in the practice of dance, with all the intricacies that it requires.

The studio is our home, our lab, our workshop, our space to learn, move, and grow. The stage is our means of sharing those achievements.

A father and daughter share a hug at dance recital

Photo by Andrea Stephens

So many of our dancers were visibly excited at the prospect of dancing on stage. Tutus, costumes, and a chance to “show off” their skills was enough to make some of them bounce up and down. Parents expressed their appreciation for the opportunity provided their children to dance and perform on the stage. Some of them went into this day hoping their child would grow to the occasion and, without exception, they did. There were tears, cold feet, and a few melt downs, but they did it. I saw dancers on the autism spectrum perform at the same level as their peers, dancers overcome congenital limitations, and dancers who struggled through stage fright and separation anxiety to show their heartfelt love of dance. Moreover, I saw an audience who was none the wiser to each and every one of these extraordinary accomplishments. More than just showing off their dances, all of the dancers showed off their bravery, their love of movement, their excitement, their skill, and their progress.

The stage shines a light on everything our dancers have learned, and, while we’re proud to show our dances, we are far happier to show our ability to dance with all of the behind-the-scenes learning and growth that it requires.

Jennifer LawrenceJennifer Lawrence is a studio owner and dance teacher in Morgantown, WV. She has more than 15 years of teaching experience and specializes in ballet, pre-ballet, creative movement, and teaching language through movement. Jennifer also has a PhD in French Language and Literature from the University of Pittsburgh and is in the process of creating a pilot program teaching French through dance and creative movement.

Drama-Free Costuming: Yes, It’s Possible!

Costumes are such a special part of the dance business for me.

Some of my favorite childhood memories are of recital season when my mom had me sewing with her.  I got pretty good at attaching the fringe from one shoulder of a leotard across to the other hip.  It was so exciting to tear the little string off the fringe and see the costume come to life.

IMAGE Sign outside Kathy Blake Dance Studios costume shop. IMAGEWithout knowing that story, you might think we’re crazy to have a full time costume manager on staff coordinating our average order of 3,000 costumes from about twelve different manufacturers each season.  If you come to visit me at our studio, I’ll even show you our special area of our studio we’ve lovingly named ‘sewing world’. We’ve come a long way since solid colored leotards and bolts of fringe!

Whether you like sparkling tulle, stretch velvet, or the full glitz of rhinestones, costuming is a special part of your artistic expression. Costumes are also an important part of your business.

At the Weissman’s Costume Open House this fall, I had a chance to [Read more…]

Spring Fever Giveaway 2011: Squirrel Trench Audio Editing

This giveaway is now closed to new entries.

Check the Spring Fever main page to enter those still open.

Welcome to DAY SIX of the Spring Fever Giveaway 2011!
IMAGE Squirrel Trench Audio IMAGE

We'll take care of the music. The dance is up to you.

Today’s giveaway is sponsored by Squirrel Trench Audio.

Squirrel Trench Audio offers music editing and original remixes for dance competition and recitals.

Musician and editor, Morriss Partee has played and studied music in one form or another since he was a wee tiny tot. A while back, his girlfriend, who is a dance teacher at a top 10 studio in Massachusetts, asked him to blend together several different songs and spoken voice pieces for a character dance for her 8-10 year-olds called “Pixie Hollow.” Morriss says he had a blast putting the music and sounds together for the piece and enjoyed seeing it performed on stage. Later, as he realized that nearly all songs destined to be played loud over competition or recital sound systems, could be improved with professional-level audio editing, Squirrel Trench Audio was born.

Morriss realizes that many dance teachers and studios don’t have the budget for professional song editing, especially in this difficult economy. So he’s written many tips and techniques for doing it well on his blog at squirreltrenchaudio.com. Right now, he’s working on a series of posts on how to avoid the five most common audio editing mistakes he’s hearing at dance competitions. Because dance teachers sometimes need inspiration for song ideas when their new season starts in August or September, he’s also compiled a list of song ideas in several dance categories (jazz, lyrical, tap, contemporary, musical theater).

FYI, if you’re wondering what’s in a name, a “squirrel trench” is what Morriss calls a bad music edit – an obvious hiccup, glitch or scar in the music for a dance routine. Hopefully the squirrel trenches you hear at dance competitions are in other studio’s music, and not your own!

The Giveaway

IMAGE Capture of a Squirrel Trench Audio editing session in progress. IMAGEMorriss would like to give away one editing session of a song to dance competition/recital length to THREE different Dance Advantage readers.
The retail value of a single song edit is $50. Since the finished product will be made available for downloading, our winners can be located anywhere. However, if you’d like Morriss to provide your song on CD, the cost will be $10 plus shipping.

As a winner, you’ll get to hear an initial draft of your edited song, and if you’re not 100% happy with the way it has come out, you can provide feedback for what you’d like changed. After you’re satisfied with the final result, Squirrel Trench Audio will make the edited song available online for winners to download in both high quality mp3 format, as well as AIFF for highest quality when burning to CD.

When Morriss edits songs, he does it from a musician’s perspective, with an understanding of what dancers need in the music. “I always keep the ending if the song has one,” he says. “There are a lot of things that go into editing a song well for dance, including song structure, intro, ending, overall volume, equalization, and so forth. In order to edit the song optimally for dancer(s), it’s helpful to know if it’s a solo, duo/trio, or group, what the age group is, and whether we’re looking for a shorter piece (2:05-2:25) for younger dancers/soloists/tap or if we’re going for a longer piece (in the 2:30-2:55 range) for older dancers and/or larger groups.” Squirrel Trench Audio offers single song editing, as well as multiple song packages for teachers and studios.

How To Enter:

TEACHERS: Leave a comment at this post, responding to the following: Name a song you’ve used or seen performed at a dance show/competition that stands out as a favorite or uniquely special.
STUDIO OWNERS: How do you handle it when two or more of your teachers want to choreograph the exact same song?

Again, since the finished product will be made available for downloading, this giveaway is open worldwide and will close Wednesday, March 30 at Midnight EDT.

Winners will be drawn and contacted within one week from today. Best of luck!

Check back tomorrow for our LAST giveaway.

Once contacted via the email used to comment, winners have only 48 hours to respond and claim their prize. Each giveaway is treated as a separate contest. Subscriber PLUS members are given daily opportunities to earn additional entries on each giveaway. PLEASE READ our giveaway policy before entering.

Giving Thanks Giveaway: DancesToGo… Encore

This giveaway is now closed.

This is it. Our final giveaway!

Dejà vu. Didn’t DancesToGo open The Giving Thanks Giveaway?

You bet. Frances, the dynamo behind DancesToGo, is just super generous and wanted to give THREE MORE people a chance to get free ready-made choreography downloads from DancesToGo.com.

Dances To Go logo - Our Perfection is your Performance

Click to visit DancesToGo.com

If you came late to the party and don’t know about DancesToGo.com, Feel free to head over to the other post where you can learn more. Here’s the postcard version:

DancesToGo.com creates fun and ready to teach downloadable dance routines for dance studio and elementary school teachers and their students.

Here’s what you need to know for this giveaway:

This contest, like all the others featured at Dance Advantage this week, is independent from any of the others, including the initial DancesToGo contest posted on Monday. This means contestants can enter one or both DancesToGo giveaways.

What you can win:

As before, DancesToGo is offering a $25 gift certificate to THREE Dance Advantage readers.
On this, the Dances To Go encore giveaway, there’s more!

Decorated Christmas treeThe three winners from this drawing will also receive 3 Christmas dance routines, choreographed by yours truly.

  • The Little Christmas Tree -The suggested music for this one is Stevie Wonder’s classic One Little Christmas Tree. This sweet and earnest little number is perfect for 5 – 8 year olds. Dancers all get a turn in the spotlight with simple, often pantomimed movement that is great for beginners who may have only a few months of class under their belt.
  • The Christmas Tree Rock – You’ll think the suggested track for this one is The Beatles. It isn’t, but Rubber Band’s holiday ode to the Fab Four is just as classic. Repetition and unambiguous rhythms make it easy for students to pick-up; changes in formation keep it fun and interesting for the audience. Suitable for ages 8 – 14, depending on the group of students.
  • A Little Angel – Santa knows if you’ve been naughty or nice, and these little angels/devils know how to beat the system. Parents especially will get a kick out of this dance for 3-5 year-olds. Simple to pull together for a holiday performance, especially with Santa’s class helpers nearby.

Please note that these particular routines are infused with Christmas themes. They may not be suitable for all classes or all students. Use your discretion.

These and other choreographies of my own design will gradually be made available for purchase at DancesToGo.com but you can win these 3, plus download $25 worth of dance choreography if you enter this giveaway.

How to enter:

Leave a comment at this post, answering the question: What is your signature move when you choreograph?

Intentional or not, we all seem to have one. I think mine is balancé. Maybe it’s because I like doing them so much but, they find their way into everything, not just ballet. Okay, they aren’t necessarily called balancé in jazz but I can rock a swaying step ball-change, or make it pop in hip-hop, or add some flaps with my very soft shoes. How about you?

Many of our giveaways close TONIGHT at midnight EST. Friday’s and today’s giveaways (including this one) close Sunday at midnight EST. Either way, you don’t have much time!

The DancesToGo encore giveaway is open worldwide.

  1. Leave your comment below.
  2. Be sure to thank Frances for a second go at DancesToGo – she’s on Twitter and Facebook.
  3. And make sure you haven’t missed out on any of our other giveaways.
Good luck! I truly hope you’re a winner!

Giving Thanks Giveaway: Grosh Backdrops

This giveaway is now closed.

Final day! First giveaway! This one is sponsored by Grosh Backdrops

Grosh Backdrops & DraperyGrosh Backdrops creates one of a kind, hand painted backdrops to dress up your recital, performance or special event.

They are a small, family owned business, founded in 1932. For over 75 years, Grosh Backdrops has been supplying the dance industry with top quality backdrops and drapery from an unmatched selection. Their backdrops have appeared in music videos, commercials, movies, and television shows. You can read Grosh Backdrops’ full Hollywood story here, or check out the video below:

Grosh Backdrops Promo Spot

Watch this video on YouTube.

Their sales consultants have backgrounds in all forms of entertainment events, and can suggest ideas to match your theme from the Wild West to Hollywood to New York City.  A Victorian-era parlor à la Nutcracker; a fantasy forest; a disco dancefloor – Grosh can place your performance in just the right setting.

Winter landscape - Grosh Backdrops ES2224“Grosh backdrops are hand painted by our very own in-house scenic rental artists,” says Lindsay Fultz, Manager of Sales & New Media. “We have the largest inventory in the scenic rental industry, boasting over 5,000+ backdrops!”

What you could win:

Grosh would like to give away a backdrop rental (winner’s choice) valued up to $500 to ONE Dance Advantage reader.

Wow your audience at this year’s recital with a professional backdrop that is as spectacular as your students. Winner must pay shipping but, with two warehouses in California and Indiana, Grosh can ship two-day ground practically anywhere in the country, saving their customers a lot of money.

How to enter:

Just place a comment at this post, answering the question: If you were to win, which theme or specific Grosh backdrop would make your performance or event a success?

This giveaway is open to those in all 50 of the United States of America.

The contest will close tomorrow, Sunday November 14, at midnight so don’t delay!