You. Me. The Big Apple?

In one month, I’ll be in New York City.

A glittering big apple charm with NYC as a backdrop

Photo by Kathryn Connell

I’m headed to the Dance Teacher Summit to get ready for fall teaching, to see some of my online buddies in the flesh, and to make some new friends, too.

Do you plan to be at the Summit?

Or perhaps in NYC between August 5 and 7?

If so…

I’m staging a ‘Friends of Dance Advantage’ meetup.

Nothing formal.

Say hello, introduce yourself, exchange info, stay and chat, or all of the above. I’d just like to connect (however briefly) in person with you for a change.

If you’re going and you’re game, please leave a comment below. Or, you can email me at this address:

Nichelle's email

I’ll iron out the when, where, and how and let you know the details via email.

Hope to see you there!

The Pros and Cons of Dance Crossover

A crossover dance artist is a dancer that works in multiple genres or in both the commercial and concert worlds.

Classically trained ballerinas are trying their hand at music videos while break dancers are experimenting with modern dance companies. Crossover is common for dancers, especially in a rough economy!

If you are considering a career as a crossover dance artist, here are some pros and cons to consider:

PRO: Heightened Exposure

One of the perks of being a crossover dance artist is the heightened exposure that comes with the territory. Dancers who crossover into the worlds of commercial and concert dance are seen by a wide range of diverse audiences.  They are also seen by influential choreographers, directors, producers, and agents who can grant them their “next big break!” This heightened exposure grants crossover dance artists with larger fan bases and professional networks.

What dancer couldn’t benefit from more visibility?

IMAGE Dancers shoot in front of a green screen for the film Lost Action: Trace. IMAGE

Photo by Kat Baulu

PRO: Diversified Income

Crossover dance artists benefit from having multiple income sources.

It is common for professional dancers to supplement their primary income by taking side jobs [Read more…]

The Right Steps Towards A Career In Dance

Classic ballet-dancer

Image via Wikipedia

Many children have a desire to dance. Some proclaim that when they grow up they want to become professional dancers. While many youth share this dream, only a few make it.

While it may be difficult to have a career in dance, it is definitely possible. Here are some helpful ways to make your dance dream into a reality:

  1. Become more knowledgeable about your craft
  2. Take a variety of dance classes
  3. Become a choreographer
  4. Consider a degree in Dance
  5. Build connections through networking

Become more knowledgeable about your craft:

Like in any profession, the more you know the better off you will be. The same rule applies for dance. It is a common misconception that dancers rely solely on their muscles. In reality, dancers rely much more on the brain. Learning choreography at a fast pace, reversing combinations, and timing movement to new music takes some serious brain power!

Aside from the physical aspects of dance, become knowledgeable about the entire field. If you are interested in ballet, perhaps research the history of ballet and see how your favorite arabesque came into existence. For Hip-Hop lovers, why not research the early Poppers or see where Krump dancing originated? Remember that a well informed dancer is a promising professional dancer who can contribute to the field in new and exciting ways.

Take a variety of dance classes:

Floor movements

Image by juicyrai via Flickr

It can be scary to break out of the comfortable confines of your local studio. But branching out has many benefits for an aspiring dance professional. By taking a wide variety of dance classes from different sources, you become a more versatile dancer. In today’s dance industry, versatility is extremely important. Sure you can specialize in a specific dance genre, but it is also important to be well-versed in a variety of styles. Most private studios offer the standard ballet, jazz and modern combination of courses. However, some offer tap, ethnic forms (like African and Latin styles), hip-hop (house, breaking, popping, locking), lyrical, contemporary and modern!

Take as many different dance classes as you can from different sources. If you belong to a studio, why not supplement your training with additional workshops and master classes? What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, so if you can survive a grueling dance schedule than you are taking a step in the right direction.

Explore choreography:

Many leading industry professionals are required to contribute to the choreographic process. Even if your goal is to dance for a company, you should still be able to choreograph or create new movement on your own. Some choreographers ask dancers to improvise movement during a rehearsal or develop a phrase to go along with set choreography. Being able to create new movement is not rocket science—it takes creativity. Explore the way your body moves by improvising on your own. Try new things and do not be afraid to break outside of the barriers when creating new movement. After all, the objective is to create something new and exciting—so take a chance. You might surprise yourself and gain a new appreciation for choreographers. You may even become one!

Consider a degree in dance:

UDT 2002

Image by UMTAD via Flickr

Dancers and artists fight an economic battle. To defeat debt, underfunded programs, and unemployment, it is important to come equipped for battle. One of your most reliable shields can be a degree in dance. There are now a host of higher education dance departments across the country. Some offer Bachelors of Arts (most liberal arts colleges and universities) while others offer a Bachelor in Fine Arts Degree (most conservatories). Some programs are large and require dance 24/7. Conservatories are dance training programs that prepare dancers to go out into the performance world ready for battle. Liberal Arts programs offer life skills such as writing, public speaking, problem solving and developing the inner artist. These programs also prepare graduates to become professional dancers and advocates for the arts. Conservatories and Liberal Arts programs have different approaches to dance training, but each has had countless success stories and many graduates currently working as professional dancers. A degree in dance sets you apart from the competition and exposes you to newer dance forms such as partnering, postmodern, and contact improvisation.

While some schools focus more on dance training, some specialize in dance scholarship and the academic component of the field. So explore your options and see if there is a dance program that suits your needs. Chances are you will find at least one program that can challenge your dancing and intellectual pursuits all at the same time.

Shaking with the right hand while delivering a...

Image via Wikipedia

Build connections through networking:

Some dancer landed that dream job because he had a cousin whose best friend’s fiancé knew the artistic director of a company. While this scenario is extreme, it is often how things play out. Somebody you know knows people in high places who can give your resumé some extra attention or land you the audition you always wanted. Do not be afraid to put yourself out there and network. Design a blog, web site or social networking page dedicated to your work in dance. A resumé, headshot (professional photos) and reel of performances and choreography are never a bad idea. With new technologies, promoting yourself as the dance professional you want to be is becoming easier and easier. Do not hesitate to talk to friends, family and co-workers about your goals, because you may be surprised at who can help you become a professional dancer.

Final Thoughts:

Hard work and dedication always win out in the end. If you believe in yourself, never give up, and work until you see your dream become a reality. Go out into the world and make your own creative opportunities. You have the power to create your own career.

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Getting Twitter to Work for You

twittericon-twitterSurely, you must know by now that I am a tweeter, a twitterist, a twit

ahem, a Twitter user.

Twitter has a fast-growing population of users. I don’t know about you but more of my “real-life” friends and associates are joining up. I expect the ratio of personal contacts versus internet contacts to continue to narrow. For those not using Twitter, or not really positive what it is you are doing there. Don’t worry. You are not alone. Many people join the site, inject one lonely tweet into the twittersphere, and say to themselves, “Now what?” and leave (never to return).

Thinking about trying Twitter? Or… trying again?

Some thoughts on how Twitter can work for you (and why you may want it to)

What is your purpose?

This isn’t exactly a philosophical question. You just need to decide if your role on Twitter will be to add to the conversation or follow it. I may catch some flak from the Twitterati for stating this but, having something to advocate, promote, share, or bring awareness to, often puts one in the “followed” camp. Meanwhile “followers” are looking to learn from, keep tabs on, or network with the “followed.” Of course, one can be both a follower and followed (in fact that would be ideal, for the more people providing information of value, the better), but I think at first it may help to identify yourself with one group or the other in order to recognize how Twitter might best serve you.

If you aren’t sure yet which you are, read on…

Come to terms with it – Twitter ≠ Facebook

What often confounds casual Twitter users (i.e. those every-day folks who are pretty sure they have nothing or no one to promote) is the thinking that it will be like Facebook, a place where they can keep up with personal, “real-life” contacts. These users join, find only a fraction of their friends are also users, and perhaps see just a lot of folks, well… promoting. They wonder, what’s the point? If this is you, I’m going to call you a follower (for now).

Though Facebook and Twitter share a core function – updating a “status” statement which is shared publicly – the uses for Twitter and Facebook are different. This is mainly due to the very public broadcasting of tweets vs. the more private, friends-only Facebook environment.

Having stated this, Facebook continues to make changes and options regarding its service. Many of these are Twitter-like, allowing users who wish to have a more public presence the option of broadcasting to a wider audience. However, Facebook’s roots are in connecting offline buddies in the online world. Many, many, many users will continue to use Facebook for this purpose alone. Twitter is identified as a micro-blogging tool and not necessarily a social network. Twitter is better for broadening a nexus of people, ideas, and information.

For more on how, keep reading…

What’s a follower to do?

The ever-expanding group of followed Twitter users are “saying” a lot – stories, announcements, tips, links, video, photos, ideas. The scope of what is being shared changes daily but, for example…

If you are a dancer, art enthusiast, or music lover, you may want to keep up with the artists and companies you love. More and more are appearing on twitter, keeping fans updated on touring schedules, new works, the creative process, and more. This may also be an opportunity to stay up-to-date, and ask questions, within your field or career of interest.

If you are a parent, there is a wealth of tips and links coming from the Twitter mommy community. If you want to keep up with local, international, or even entertainment news there are opportunities to follow TV networks, magazines, newspapers, or (straight to the source) celebrities themselves.

Twitter users are also breaking news… as it happens. I read of Michael Jackson’s hospitalization/death via Twitter first and then turned on CNN. Like the Hudson River plane landing, it was one of many instances in which Twitter broke the news. And Twitter users are using the medium in ways never imagined (read about Twitter’s role during the Iran election aftermath).  The list goes on… many of your local news reporters are on Twitter!

There are those on Twitter who over-promote their own stuff. There are opportunistic spammers. There are those who contribute only the most mundane aspects of their life. Fortunately, unfollowing these Twitterers is as easy as following them… click! You are free to opt-in or opt-out at any time.

Should you want to limit or have more control over who sees your tweets, it is possible to keep them private while still following others.

So, what’s a follower to do? How does one find good folks to follow?

A good start is to go beyond your e-mail contact list when looking but the Twitter website doesn’t exactly explain how to do this. So, I’m going to…

  • Try a search for key words or phrases via Twitter Search (also available on your Twitter homepage) or the Google-powered Twitterment, and see who is talking about the topics in which you are interested.
  • Search the bios and descriptions of Twitter users with Twellow. Like the yellow pages, this is a good way to find local groups and organizations to follow as well. Certain cities are also tracked via CityTweets.
  • Check out who your friends are following. You can sift through them manually of course but there is also Mr. Tweet, a service that connects the dots for you. It also allows you to recommend (or be recommended by) other Twitter users.

Okay, maybe you aren’t content to be a wallflower. Read on…

Birds of a feather

You may not feel as though you have anything in particular to advocate but there is plenty you have to share. Links to your favorite charities, interesting videos on YouTube, photos and tips from your travels. You may find like-minded individuals via Twitter that you would not have interacted with otherwise.

Or, maybe you really do have something to publicize. If you are job-hunting, you are advocating yourself. If you own a business, that business could benefit from a presence on Twitter.

  • Share links and resources with your students.
  • Interact with other local tweeters and businesses. There may be “followers” in your community that are looking for what you have to offer. You may make connections that will lead to new opportunities.
  • Participate and be a valuable member of the online dance community. My network has expanded internationally and it has been amazing (not to mention validating) to connect via Twitter with people all over the world who share the same passion for dance as I.

Should you wish to be follow-worthy, share material that relays something about who you are. Let your followers in on what you are up to but also highlight the work of others, or something that amuses you, or yes, even those daily bits of life (sometimes these are what ignite a conversation).

I tweet more with the people that do these things, though most relationships stay professional in nature. These personal connections which grow before or along-side the strictly-business ones foster good will. This is a method for increasing awareness of your business/expertise that is also fun!

Just remember, Twitter is not a substitute for face-to-face interaction. It is a valuable tool that you can use – don’t let it use you. As with any online network, users should be smart, safe, and savvy.

Giving Twitter a try?

There is a learning curve with Twitter. There is a culture and a shorthand to get to know. There are services which make its use more user friendly.

To help you with this, mashable.com has created a useful guide. Should you decide to join Twitter, It is surprising how much you can discover, glean, and communicate in 140 characters or less! Good luck!

Let me know if you have any questions. And come follow me! Ask me questions! Comment on what you’ve read here. I’d be happy to help get you started with some great dance Twitterers to follow!

DanceStudioOwner.com Offers Real-Life Experience, Support, and a Personal Touch

Dance studio owners have a unique job.

They wear many hats, requiring skills as an instructor, mentor, administrator, production manager, choreographer, entrepreneur, business manager, “boss” and more. I have never owned a studio but have taught at many throughout the years, and have observed this juggling act which owners perform every season. It can be a lonely job in that you are constantly between two worlds – the business and the artistic, the worker bee and the queen bee, the motivator and the disciplinarian.

Relationships with others who share these experiences can reduce the everyday stress of a being a studio owner. Not only can owners learn from one another, they can be a sounding board or a listening ear when these are most needed.

Photo by Bob Jagendorf

A Beacon for Dance Studio Owners

Throughout my journey in the online dance community, I’ve been fortunate to meet some wonderful and giving people. I have been freely offered support, encouragement, answers, and information from those who have a passion for dance and seek to share this passion with others. From my very first interaction with Suzanne Blake Gerety, I found her to be a sincere and generous person. This first impression has lasted as I’ve continued to chat with her through Twitter and emails. Therefore, I feel confident in sharing her website, DanceStudioOwner.com, with my readers. I truly feel that this website provides a unique service for those who are or are seeking to become studio owners.

While there are other places online in which dance studio owners can gather, Suzanne, her mom, Kathy, and other site contributors are offering something special with DanceStudioOwner. Its resources alone make the site valuable to any studio administrator. However, in addition to the information and networking opportunities available, this website is facilitated by actual studio owners who cherish the joys and challenges of running a studio after 35 years in the business.

Kathy Blake began her studio with a dream not unlike that of many studio owners. She has weathered ups and downs and currently operates a performing arts studio with over 1,000 students. Now, with the help of her daughter, Suzanne, she is supporting other studio owners with the goal of sharing her success with others. I have witnessed first-hand the generosity and sincerity with which this mother-daughter team make themselves available to the members of their site.

I recently spoke with Suzanne about DanceStudioOwner, its content, and what’s next for the site. Her words illustrate the spirit of collaboration that is behind the mission of this ever-expanding resource.

Your mother’s success as a dance studio owner inspired you to pass on her legacy, knowledge, and passion through DanceStudioOwner.com. If possible, sum up the keys to her success in just a few words.

Kathy and Suzanne

Dedication, Determination, and Enthusiasm.  My mom’s success has been guided by those words during the times when situations have been challenging or when it seemed impossible to grow.  She’s always been in love with the art of dance and she loves her business, it’s a beautiful combination and I believe it is what makes her a success and also just a great person to be with.  My mom is a lot of fun and she loves to help people find their greatness.

Your website is an online community and resource for studio owners. Why do you think it is important for studio owners to interact with other studio owners, and how does technology facilitate this interaction?

I am a firm believer that studio owners can collaborate together to help encourage each other to build their unique brand – whether they are across town or on another continent – you can be in a conversation of abundance. Studio owners often stretch themselves very thin with the thousands of details it takes to run a studio, our website functions as a collaborative space for them to reduce their time spent on certain tasks, get answers from other owners who are dealing with many of the same challenges, and to get the coaching or support they need to stay focused on keeping their passion for dance alive as they run and grow their studio.

The site explores topics from classroom management to business management and includes a forum where members can post questions and share ideas. What have you seen as the primary concerns of today’s studio owners?

Today’s studio owners are concerned with keeping up with the latest technology available to them to help keep their studio running smoothly.  They are also concerned about the economic situation we are in and what impact it may have on their school.  Lastly, with the popularity of the many dance shows on TV, many worry that the foundations of proper dance technique are being forgotten because young dancers see these shows yet they don’t see the many years of training it takes to lead up to that level of dance.  Studio owners are working to find the balance of offering the popular classes while staying dedicated to the art of dance to maintain a steady foundation of dancers at their schools – student retention.

You have an active group of members. Are these members from all over the U.S.?

Yes, the wonderful thing about being on the web is that our members already represent from over 24 states in the U.S. and also Australia and Scotland. (DA Notes: These figures continue to increase. As of Feb 2010, the site’s membership represents 44 out of the 50 United States. And over 15% of the active membership includes studio
owners from the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Greece, France, Kuait, French Guiana, Mexico, Hong Kong, Antigua & Barbados, Montserrat, South Africa, People’s Republic of China, and Norway)

Our members are our number one priority and what I know from the many conversations I’ve had no matter where they are located; studio owners face many of the same challenges.  Having launched our site in the spring of 2008, we are thrilled at the positive response, and that studio owners know that our site is a resource for them no matter where they are located.  The information is available to them 24/7/365.

The site offers articles, downloads, monthly teleconferencing, and more to its members. What’s next for the site? What other features can members look forward to?

We are so excited about the content we are working on for DanceStudioOwner.com.  You’ll see more video clips and video coaching added. Plus, look for podcasts in the future! I am going to keep bringing the latest trends in social networking and technology to studio owners.  I do believe that many of these trends are going to change the way that business has been run in the past.  My number one goal is to always listen to what our members need and want – they’ve loved our custom coloring sheets and we will add more resources for teachers as well.  Plus our network of contributors continues to grow: experts who can make a difference for how studio owners start and grow their business.

For more information about DanceStudioOwner.com, the subscription page lists member benefits. Or, try their free tip of the week mailing.

My Contribution

picture-4 I have contributed two articles to the DanceStudioOwner technology department about, (what else), blogging. As always, I write what I know and am increasingly certain that a studio blog is a valuable tool for dance studios. In these posts I explain a little bit about why. Suzanne has kindly made these articles available to my readers via the following links:

Why Consider a Studio Blog?

Blogs Have the Potential to Boost Your Business

Update: My Relationship With DanceStudioOwner.com

Since the original posting of this article, I have received compensation from DanceStudioOwner.com as both a ghost writer of articles for the site and as a result of an affiliate relationship. If you are referred to Dance Studio Owner via a Dance Advantage link and decide to make a purchase there, I am compensated for this referral. I’m a huge fan of Suzanne, Kathy, and their website and would rave about them anyway. That they’ve been generous enough to offer something for my efforts is icing on the cake.

If you own a dance studio, are thinking about owning one, or if you are a teacher that operates your own dance program, I hope you’ll check out what the site has to offer. Learn more about subscribing here.

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Dancers at a Gathering

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b6FwqhgOIjI]

The above video is an excerpt from Jerome Robbins’ Dances at a Gathering (performed by Simon Valastro). This post isn’t about this work, but you can find out more about the ballet here.

Actually, the play on words just worked to lead into some discussion on a new gathering spot for dancers – social networking sites. Dancers, teachers, and students are busy people, yet more of us are finding our way to the internet as a means to network or market ourselves, meet other dancers, explore instruction or performance opportunities, and even learn tips which supplement instruction/training.

Dance Advantage Interactive

Yep, Dance Advantage has its own network called Dance Advantage Interactive!

I know blogs by nature are interactive and I love to hear from readers in the comments here. However, I wanted to allow the readers and fans of this site to interact more efficiently with each other. At DA Interactive, users can join and create groups (dance studios, companies, etc. are welcome to start their own group which can be set as open to anyone or by invitation/request only). Users can also participate in the forums, post photos or videos, suggest and vote on blog topics, and lots more. Each user has their own profile page where he/she can promote events, receive comments and shout-outs form others, and add cool gadgets and widgets.

As readers of Dance Advantage, I hope that you will help me make DA Interactive an interesting place to visit. I plan to get the ball rolling with discussion posts based on what you are reading here, however, I have purposefully allowed for a great deal of personalization on the site so that readers can carve their own space according to personal interests and goals for participation.  Your suggestions are more than welcome! This site is really what you make it, so please stop by and consider becoming a member!

Get Plugged-In

Another new social networking site on the scene is danceplug.com. Its aims, according to the site, are as follows:

“DancePlug began with the idea of helping dancers, choreographers, and teachers to promote themselves in a professional but friendly way, and to grow with new learning tools.

From there we realized that DancePlug didn’t have to just be about career advancement; everyone should be able to enjoy what we have to share, like the latest news from the dance world, helpful tips, and connection to all the support services dance lovers need.”

I have recently joined the site and am enjoying some of its features. Like other social networks, each user has their own profile and the opportunity to interact with others. A unique feature of the site is the outlet hub. Here, members of the “faculty” offer video tutorials of various dance basics, exercises, and combinations. The basics are free, however, exercises and combinations will cost you “credits” which can be purchased at the site in packages or monthly plans. I have not yet purchased any of these, so I cannot speak to their content. However, as a networking tool, this seems like a welcome addition to the dancersphere. The site comes with its own lingo, so be sure to review these before you become a “Plugger.”

Socializing Online Can Be Overwhelming

The success of sites like MySpace and Facebook and even blogs have created a surge of social networking sites. There are several hubs available specifically for dancers and new social websites and technology are popping up every day. Ning is one dotcom that has made it easy to set up your own networking site, therefore one can easily be overwhelmed by the number of opportunities available. Bloggers and online magazines are creating sister networks to supplement and compliment their site and, as you can see, I am one of them! However, I myself am still evaluating these tools as a source of information. Doug Fox wrote an interesting post on social networking almost a year ago.  In it he states:

…there are many possibilities and many ways to waste time and energy if you’re not focused on whether or not your social networking undertaking is really going to help you achieve specific, measurable objectives.

I’m not trying to discourage anybody from using social networking tools and applications. They can be very worthwhile. It’s just a question of whether in each specific instance if it’s worth the commitment of time, energy and resources to making it happen.

This is an excellent assessment. It takes time and a willingness to explore the sites a little in order to decide if the rewards are worth the commitment. Now, if you don’t necessarily have goals or objectives, and don’t mind a fun bit of time-wasting, then flutter around like a social butterfly till your heart’s content! Otherwise, try to come up with your goals for networking and pick just a few sites that you enjoy and/or are useful, because one can easily become overwhelmed in trying to keep up with all of them.

What Keeps Me Coming Back

There are some sites of which I am a member that I rarely log into, and others that I visit frequently. What makes the difference for me are the users. If people are interacting beyond just self promotion and the site is easy to use or easily incorporated/combined with technology I already use, I return to the site. To be fair, many of the networking sites for dancers are new and still finding their voice, therefore, it is necessary at times to be the pioneer willing to lead or steer conversation.  If I know a dance site in particular is new, I sometimes try to make this effort or at least return every once in a while to see what’s new (if anything). Eventually I decide if the site is worth adding to my daily internet intake.

Here are a list of Online Dance Magazines, Networks, and Forums:

And don’t forget the two of the largest social networks online…

Facebook and MySpace

Where do you hang out online?

What other dance sites do you visit frequently?

Dance Advantage Interactive

I’ve been working on some exciting new ways of reaching out to dance students, teachers, and parents online and getting the word out about the Dance Advantage blog. In addition to creating pages on Facebook and MySpace, I am releasing updates and other information on Twitter, and use StumbleUpon. If you utilize any of these online networks or tools, I would be honored if you added Dance Advantage to your list of connections.

In addition, I have recently launched a companion site to this blog called Dance Advantage Interactive. [Read more…]