Kathy Blake, Suzanne Blake Gerety, Joanne Chapman and Barry Blumenfeld answer your questions
Q: I have a few students who spend almost all their extra time after school and on weekends at the studio, and I’ve naturally formed a tight bond with them. I don’t want to appear like I’m favoring them in classes over other students, but I do want to keep them as passionate, eager and involved as they want to be. Sometimes I feel like I’m neglecting them just to avoid favoring them. Please help!
A: First, acknowledge that every student is special and may require a different amount of attention at various times during their training. For instance, a student who spends so much time at the studio might really need a little extra attention. With this in mind, it is counterproductive to avoid students for fear of showing favoritism. Rather, it’s best to come up with ways to praise or acknowledge every student and develop a system to interact with students both on and off the dance floor.
In rehearsals, make a conscious effort to balance the amount of coaching, correcting and praising across all students. Outside of class, you can recognize all students on their birthdays, for example, or for regular attendance or years of participation. Consider creating a student-of-the-month program that honors a student’s teamwork and school spirit. For the eager students who are always at the studio, you could develop an assistant teacher-training program, or an extra performance or competition team. This will allow you to maintain professionalism in your interactions while giving them a constructive outlet for their energy and focus.
Kathy Blake is the owner of Kathy Blake Dance Studios in Amherst, New Hampshire. She and Suzanne Blake Gerety are the co-founders of DanceStudioOwner.com.
Q: I’m struggling to make ends meet when it comes to my studio’s competitive division. The choreographers and travel are expensive, and unlike in the recreational division, there’s no recital to generate extra revenue. How can I keep my comp division running?
A: It’s a challenge, to say the least, to make competitive teams financially viable. One of the ways to do this is to fill all your classes. We encourage our families to enroll even their youngest dancers in multiple dance classes. By the time dancers are 6 years old, we make it compulsory for them to enroll in a jazz class if they’re in a tap or acro class, and as they get older, we require them to take a ballet class if they’re in a jazz class. Our junior company dancers are required to take one jazz, tap, hip-hop, lyrical or contemporary, and two ballet classes per week—and they’re allowed to sign up for more. Your dancers know that with more classes they will improve faster, and if you offer a multiclass discount, they’ll often choose to do more than the minimum. It’s a win for all—your students become more well-rounded, your classes are full and many of the competition expenses will be covered.
We also ask some of our competition faculty members to teach a few recreational classes. Although they often teach at higher rates, we find that this encourages some of the recreational dancers to enroll in more classes. To balance the higher cost, a number of junior teachers (who are at least 17 years old) teach recreational classes at a lower pay scale. These junior teachers are usually former competitive students who are in college. Though they teach as a part-time job, we hold them to the same standard of quality as the competitive teachers. Since your recreational program is your moneymaker, it’s imperative to maintain enrollment and show recreational parents that their children are receiving the best training possible.
Joanne Chapman is the owner of the award-winning Joanne Chapman School of Dance in Ontario, Canada.
Q: I know there are programs like Audacity that allow you to alter a song’s tempo. But to do so, I have to open the song, choose the tempo, convert it and then play it. It takes way too long. Is there a program that will let me do it instantly?
A: Neutrino is a music-player program for Macs that has an easy-to-use interface. It pulls your music directly from iTunes, so your music will stay organized in the playlists you’ve created. The program lets you modify tempo on the spot, or you can save a song (and burn it to CD) at a different tempo. I use this feature in my tap classes if my students are working up to a particular speed. If they don’t make it to the actual tempo by performance time, I can make a copy of the version they’ve been practicing to and use that. Another feature I like is the looping function. When I’m working on a combination for class, I can focus on just a few bars of music and play it over and over until I’ve figured out the phrase.
Neutrino isn’t free, but before purchasing it for $29.95, you can download it from the internet for a 30-day free trial. And here’s a little secret: You can still use the software once the trial expires. The program will lose most of the functions, but the tempo-change ability will remain.
Windows Media Player has the ability to change the tempo while playing the song. Look under the menu “Enhancements,” and choose “Play Speed Settings.” This opens a slider that allows you to control tempo.
As for apps for portable devices, there are a few that work. I’m a fan of the iPhone app, Tempo Magic Pro. It is $4.99, but the app is worth the money because its slider interface is easy to use and you can create a playlist and then lock the tempo, so that all songs in the list play at the same tempo. Tempo SloMo is a great free option, and this app allows you to add markers so you can go back to specific points in the song. For Android users, Music Tempo and Audio Speed Change are apps that are highly rated and free.
Barry Blumenfeld teaches at The Friends Seminary School in New York City. He is an adjunct professor at New York University and on the faculty of the Dance Education Laboratory of the 92nd Street Y.