It’s no secret that LA is the place to be for cutting edge commercial dance. Home to the best and up and coming choreographers, dancers in SoCal have amazing opportunities to take class and keep up with the latest dance trends. Many are already working in “the business” . In the age of INSTA everything, the process of training seems to be a lost art, yet is essential to really have a long, healthy, successful career . Seeing this obstacle, I have created a training program for the focused, serious dancer to keep working technique while not missing out on other opportunities. Acceler8 is a 2 hour per week training program using a blend of methods and my 25 years of teaching experience that focuses on proper alignment, posture, rotation, flexibility, core stability and strength. This program is not meant to replace a studio training program, but enhance technical training . The Inaugural Session begins on November 8th and is a 10 week program held on the Second Level of The Brentwood Gardens. Although the program is housed at the Brentwood Academy of Dance, it is a completely separate program. Dancers from anywhere in LA can apply for the program. For more information, or to apply for the program, please contact me directly. Space is limited to 8 dancers per session.
Over the summer I hosted my first Acro Workshop for Teachers. After watching acro added to almost every genre of dance while judging for Hall of Fame, I decided that I would like to help others use the tools I have learned and developed over the last 20 years of teaching. I am a HUGE advocate of safe training. I know that no teacher intends to harm their dancer, but without the knowledge and tools, acro is one of those styles that can have lasting negative effects, if not taught properly.
My first workshop in August was very well received, and sold out in my small hometown in Upstate NY. After the event, so many attendees asked when I would hold another. I knew that I wanted to continue to connect and work with other dancer educators, but didn’t want to be on the road so much. I had contemplated doing a podcast or vlog, but I wasn’t sure I would reach the right audience without a following, so I decided I would try LIVE facebook workshops.
My in- person event was a very general presentation and I was not able to cover all that I wanted. And to be honest, not everyone wanted the same material. I decided to focus on one specific “trick” for each LIVE session. This way, teachers can sign up for only the information they are looking for. This structure allowed my to make it very affordable and cover alot of material in one hour. I knew that dance teachers have little “extra” money, but I wanted to charge a registration fee to create some accountability for those registered. Keeping the fee to $15 per workshop seemed fair and allowed me to cover my time and expenses as well. My first LIVE event I sold tickets through Eventbrite as well as Venmo. I decided to try the venmo exclusively this time, because it is easier and costs me less. I may decided to use eventbrite agin the future when the attendance is too much for me to handle independently. I still wonder if people felt more secure when using a ticketing vendor, let me know below which registration method you would prefer.
My first LIVE event was September 13, 2019 on Cartwheels and Side Ariels. I expected maybe 5-10 people to sign up. When over 25 people (from as far as Germany and Australia) registered for that first event, I knew that I was filling a void that was needed and got the bug to create more events. Digitally I am somewhat slow, but doing the event via a private facebook group LIVE was the easiest way for me to get started and for participants to engage. I hope to learn and grow so that I can eventually host these events in a more professional platform, but for now Facebook is working. ( IF it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it).
My second event is Oct 4, 2019 and focus is back bending and back handsprings. I plan to offer these live workshops as long as there is a demand for them. IF you have a topic you would be interested in discussing in one of these live workshops, drop a comment or email me!
What’s on Your Summer Reading List?
Reading? Who has time to read these days? And while its true reading does take time, modern technology has made reading something you can do while driving, cooking, or getting ready for your day. Taking time to invest in yourself and your business can be done right from you smart phone or tablet and might just be that thing you needed to take yourself, your relationship or your business to the next level.
Remember at the end of the school year, when you couldn’t wait to be homework free, then you were hit with the dreaded Summer Reading List? I never enjoyed reading and rarely got through more than one or 2 books on those lists each year. But as I became an adult, I discovered audio books and it changed my life. I began with a personal development book that a friend “gifted” from Audible. I always hated the idea of self help, but the term personal development was a title that I found more positive and acceptable. I started the audio book while driving in my car. Instead of music, I could listen to a chapter or 2 each day just running my daily errands. After that first book, I was hooked. Not only for personal development, but for business development and relationships as well.
As a studio owner, I often took it to heart when a student left or a teacher decided to quit. I was constantly questioning myself and wondered if I was getting any of it right. I struggled to view the studio as a business, and consequently did not make a profit the way a business should. So after that first book, Eat That Frog, I started to look at other titles that I identified with. I joined Audible, a subscription based app for 1000s of titles at your fingertips. After nearly 3 years as an Audible member, I thought maybe there are others that needed that gift that I got years ago. So if you don’t have your list, here are some of my personal favorites to get you started on your summer reading.
Because I often did not think of the studio as a business, I was often robbing Peter to pay Paul, and dreaded the summer like the plague. Shifting my mindset and thinking more like a business woman made a huge difference in development and productivity.
Some of my favorites on Business Development & Productivity:
The Entrepreneur Rollercoaster
The 12 Week Year
Eat that Frog
The Power of Habit
Dare to Lead/ Daring Greatly
As most artists are, I was very critical of myself. Although I seemed like I had it all together from an outsiders perspective, I constantly questioned my abilities as a businessperson, artist, educator, and parent. Is easy to feel alone and insecure and these things are often taboo subjects, but reading and hearing other people’s experiences and perspectives really helped me regain confidence in myself and all areas of my life.
Some of my favorite Titles on Personal Growth & Development:
The Gifts of Imperfection
Girl Wash Your Face
Rising Strong/ Daring Greatly
Relationships are one of the most difficult things to manage. Relationships with parents, students, staff, family, community members, peers and haters really can push your emotional boundaries. These 3 books by far, have changed the way I live and view interpersonal relationships and because of their powerful reminders I re read these books several times each year. Some of my favorites on Interpersonal Relationships:
The 4 Agreements
5 Love Languages
Braving the Wilderness
I find Audible a great tool that is convenient and easy to use. They have a great program that allows members to gift a free book to friends who are not yet members. I would love to share one of my favorite with you, so leave me a comment or message me and I will send you your first (hopefully of many) audio books you can add to that summer reading list!
Do you have a favorite book that you would like to share? I would love to discover more titles in the personal/business development area. Drop a comment below, and I will check your must reads this summer too!
Let me first start out by saying that dance competitions at their core are opinions of the people sitting at the table on that day. Because every judge has their individual preferences, it would be impossible for me to give you a tips with 100% success in creating winning routines.
You might be asking yourself :
Why should I listen to this one perspective then, and to those people I say, maybe this isn’t for you. Some teachers are very “offended” when it comes to someone else telling them how to do their job. The idea that they are not the “expert” in their own business may create insecurity or fear for those individuals. And for them, this talk may not be for them right now. Or maybe they are getting the results they want with the feedback and critiques they feel are useful and worthwhile. If you find yourself in either situation, then maybe this isn’t for you. But maybe my perspective might help understand the “HOW” of judging.
Before you decide to continue investigating my perspective, let me tell you I have been on BOTH sides of this table. Aside from being a studio owner for over 20 years, I grew my studio from a VERY recreational studio to a national award winning team. In my early years as a studio owner I was very concerned with how others viewed my talents as a teacher and a business owner. The first 5 years of my studio I didn’t even take them to competition because I was afraid that others would base my knowledge and ability as a teacher on how my students performed/placed.
In years 5-10 as a studio director, we attended competitions and had mild success but not the stellar moments I wanted for them ( and lets be real, for me too). In my early days as a competitive teacher, I would try to put in the hardest things they could “do”, even if the success rate was 50%, cuz 50/50 odds aren’t too bad… Other logic I had was, if I put hard things in the dances, it validates me and my knowledge as a dancer. I would make the routines as long as the time limit allowed thinking that the more stage time the better. I would pick music that were “my favorites” regardless of the dancers age/ability because if I had to listen to that song 300,000 times this season, I better damn well like it. Then there was the costuming & props….I would stay up nights trying to be as “creative” as I could dreaming up these extreme props and costumes. I taught every genre of dance, but you know the saying: jack of all trades, master of none…And well, let’s just say I could have taken a few lessons myself is some styles.
Then, year 10 for my studio, I was asked to judge for a few very respected competitions. That was when I had my CTJ, (come to Jesus) moment, a term that I have adopted from the brilliant researcher Brene Brown. As I was sitting there (sometimes for 15 hours) watching dance after dance and looking at these dancers I had never worked with, met, or had an knowledge of their “story”; I was being asked to watch them, give feedback, and score them based on that one performance.
I started to watch and consider HOW I rated each routine. I begin taking mental notes about the things that would affect my ability to score the routine high. I became aware that when a dancer was struggling with the routine & moves, critiques were basic, because there was just so much to fix that I didn’t know what to focus on to make better.
My last 10 years , were by far, my most successful as a competitive studio owner. We began to build a reputation of excellence with dance pieces that were the right fit for the dancers that were cast in that piece.
Now as I judge, nearly 25 years after first opening my studio, I try to give critiques that can help the dancers /teachers not only tighten up the dance, but suggest exercises to improve on some of the things that need work.
Sometimes giving these type of critiques are difficult because of the routine, not necessarily the dancer. So here are the things that not only myself, but many of my colleagues that judge feel can create a stand out performance:
- Keep it Short (2 min for solos, 2:30 for groups). Competition days are long and after watching 100 contemporary solos, we don’t need to see your turn sequence for the 3rd time. Do it once, do it right, and call it day. You should leave the audience wanting more, not checking their program to see what’s next. Which leads me to my second trick of the trade…
- Only put in the things that the dancer can do with proficiency 90%of the time. Meaning if they can do an Ariel 9 times out of 10 in a row, and nail it technically then its a keeper. Not only will the dancer feel less anxious about doing it on stage, but it also allows the judges to give helpful feedback. Now I don’t mean that you should hold dancers back from trying that double turn, but practice in class and perform the part of it that you think you are doing well (even if its just a balance in passé). Teachers are asking us to judge the dancer’s skills and provide feedback to improve, but the actual teaching of the technique is the teachers job, not the critic. You don’t get “bonus points” for attempting something way beyond your training. Truth be told, if your dancer practices the basic way often, it will help both you and the judges give pointers on how it might be better. Those small adjustments to the basic move will translate even faster to the more advanced version with repetition. As a judge, if a dancer is doing a triple pirouette and it’s clear they don’t even have the foundation for turns, then giving feedback is overwhelming and the “go to” corrections like point your feet, are the only definitive things we can say. You are asking us to judge these kids honestly and fairly, so show us their best, not work in progress. In an academic comparison, just because you took Pre Cal does not mean you’re ready for AP Calculus. And this is why the next tip is so important.
- Choreograph to the dancers age & abilities. Although different regions of the country have varying opinions on appropriateness, you never know what region the judges are from. If you even have to ask “is this too much”, then error on the side of caution and go in a different direction. Not only for your dancers, but for your studio’s reputation. If you feel your product is appropriate then go with your gut, but remember you are asking for someone else’s opinion and be willing to hear their perspective and accept the outcome of various opinions. This is true for costuming and music as well. I am not a conservative by any means, but I have witnessed dances that made me uncomfortable watching. Please edit your music. We all know what the song is saying, but that doesn’t mean EVERYONE does that is in the audience, and your studio’s reputation is on the line when profanity is blatant.
- A clean dance is appreciated over a difficult dance. I understand that choreographers are artists, but if the dancer’s execution is not clean and together, then it is difficult to even focus on the theme or story behind the movement. When a dancer can execute a routine with confidence, then it becomes a true performance, not just movement. A clean, cohesive, confident performance is generally well received by the judges.
I hope you find my insight a little helpful moving into the next dance season. Winning isn’t everything, so don’t focus on the prize but the progress you can make by entering competitions. Let the judges help you improve your craft by giving them material that shows exactly what you can do and hopefully they can provide tips for taking your student’s dancing to the next level.