What Are Students Learning in a Dance Daze® Creative Movement Class?

Saumirah McWoodson, dance educator, researcher, podcaster, blogger, former classroom teacher, and the founder of Dance Daze, Inc. and Dance Daze in Schools, has been developing the Dance Daze® Creative Movement curriculum for over 10 years. Often the most popular studio-based class that is offered by Dance Daze, Inc. in each seasonal session, this class is a great introduction to dance for children between the ages of 2 and 4 years who are ready for a structured, high-energy experience and to move and grove while their parents watch from the sidelines. (For children who prefer dancing with their parents, we recommend Dance Daze® Dance With Me.)

In this class, students are introduced to the basics of dance composition and movement analysis, expression through movement, identifying shared and personal space, and so much more. We use fun, colorful props in every single Dance Daze® Creative Movement class, which we believe ads to the understanding and gives a deeper opportunity for exploration during that portion of the class.

We are active in this class, and we try to keep students moving as much as possible with very little downtime, as we discover different rhythms and develop our love for movement while listening to music from different time periods and from various cultures and genres.

If you think your child would have a blast in a Dance Daze® Creative Movement, sign them up today at DanceDaze.org.

The Best Mindset to Start A Business

mark-adriane-muS2RraYRuQ-unsplash.jpgThe next launch of the Dance Ed Startup Course is happening in just over 5 weeks! This has gotten me thinking a lot about the first module, which is called The Pre-Game Head Game Work.

So what is this first module of the course all about? It’s about getting in the right head space to win. It’s about being prepared to lose. It’s about feeling completely ready to soar when your idea becomes a reality and you are suddenly speaking with real clients and running a real business.

Starting a business takes a lot of risk. It takes a lot of courage. It takes a lot of preparation and planning. So the first module of the Dance Ed Startup Course is a little quick-check for you and for me to make sure that you have your head in the game so that we can work together successfully over 8 weeks to start, streamline, or grow your dance businesses.

To do that, we are going to make sure a few specific expectations are in place. We will do that with the following 5 action steps.

1: Envision Yourself Winning

Before you start a business, or before you start focusing on specific ways to streamline and grow your business, you need to be able to see it happening. When I had a single student in a hip hop dance class of mine for a solid 8 months, I always knew there was a possibility that more students could show up for class that day. I could see the room full of students, and I would prepare music playlists and lesson plans as if I had a full class of students coming. I was able to see my future success (and I was also accepting the success of having a single consistent student, because 1 is better than 0!) before I had it.

Whether you’re enrolling in the Dance Ed Startup Course because you have been teaching dance classes for others for years and are ready to break away and launch your own program or start your own studio or if you’re an experienced dance studio owner looking for innovative ways to revitalize your existing programs and better support your new hires, you need to be able to imagine your success.

2: Be Prepared to Lose

There is risk involved with starting any new venture. Even when taking the most calculated risks, you will lose something. You will be making investments toward what you truly desire, but you will be giving away many things. You must be prepared to give away time, effort, and monetary resources. You may lose some time with friends and significant others. You will be giving away some mental space required for planning your next steps. You will need to invest financially in the business processes, studio space, props, or any area that you want to improve.

Also, you may need to toss out some old ways of thinking. By forging the new business and lifestyle that you want for yourself, you will be sacrificing your old beliefs and mindsets. If you’ve been struggling–with student and teacher recruitment, maintaining consistent income, marketing, or anything else–and if you’ve gotten used to the feeling of struggle, you will have to rid yourself of this.

Finally, be prepared to lose clients, even the ones you adore. Interests, finances, opportunities, and moods change frequently. This means that sometimes you will gain clients, and sometimes you will lose them. It is all part of the process of growth and change.

3: Have A Plan (A Failure to Plan Is A Plan for Failure)

Throughout the Dance Ed Startup Course, we will be creating lots of plans. We want to plan to start and grow your business with strategic marketing. We are going to plan class schedules, class themes, learning objectives, music playlists, reward and consequence systems, and more. We want to make plans for the business as a whole and for the day-to-day operations of working in dance education.

Maybe it is because of my background as a classroom teacher, but I love using the summer months to plan for the year ahead. In fact, I like to plan out the schedule for my entire dance year–from September through June–by June of the previous year. I also like to plan learning objectives and class themes for my classes at least one session (8 to 10 weeks in advance) at a time.

Students enrolled in Dance Ed Startup will learn the ways I do all of the above, and they’ll also be empowered to put their own spin on creating and planning themselves.

4: Think Big (Treat Your First Like Your Last)

Even when I only had a handful of students in my classes, I worked hard to maintain consistent marketing strategies and communication with my clients. Even though my studio is not as big as many dance studios out there, I work hard to maintain a professional website, active social media presence, and quality class programming.

In the Dance Ed Startup Course, we will use our mindset shifts, business plans, marketing plans, operational plans, and lesson plans to prepare for the eventual growth of our businesses in a big way.

We will treat each of our first projects as if they are the last creative works we will put into the world. We will give it our all.

5: Know When It’s Time To Walk Away

I don’t think of myself as a quitter in any way. In fact, I’ve been kicking hard and strong with my dance education organizations for about a decade now, and I don’t see myself stopping anytime soon. However, there have been many ideas that I’ve abandoned over the years.

For example, I used to have class punch cards to encourage students to come to dance class regularly. When students got 10 punches, they got a free water bottle, dance bag, or leg warmers that I purchased from DiscountDance.com. While I still think this sounds like a great idea, it simply didn’t work well for my studio-based dance program. Though the built-in reward system was nice, the majority of my students were too young to be interested in having a punch card or in keeping track of where the card was between classes, which means parents had to do extra work to keep track of the tiny card. Also the cards and prizes cost money that wasn’t being directly being put back into the business. After the students received their bags or leg warmers, there was no lasting effect that clearly positively benefited both my students and my dance program. Finally, when I was running this reward system, the seasonal sessions of my program were running in 8 week blocks, though the cards required 10 punches to be complete. While I thought this was an extra incentive to continue into another session, I believe it created more inconvenience for families rather than an exciting reward system that enhanced their experience in my program.

The above is a simple example of walking away from a very small part of a business. However, there may come a time that you will decide to walk away from your dance business entirely.

You may lose interest, acquire unmanageable debt, receive lucrative opportunities for full-time employment in a different field, or you may even get a new idea for a dance or performing arts-related business that would take too much time away from this venture.

I’m a firm believer in the idea that if your work (not your job, but your work) doesn’t completely and entirely light you up and inspire you in limitless ways, you should leave it. So if any of these situations occur, you may have to make the difficult choice to leave something that you’ve built.

But unless or until that time comes, please believe we’re going to thug it out as hard as possible and grow our dance businesses!

I hope you’ll join me in the Dance Ed Startup Course, launching again on September 9, 2019!

Making Space for Creativity in Your Dance Class

It’s okay to sometimes be a little uncomfortable when you’re teaching. This might sound surprising to some, but it is a fact that I’ve found to be true. I have found this sentiment to be most true when I am working to allow space for creativity in my dance class. Now that I’ve said that, let me give you a little background.

As an elementary teacher for 6 years now, I have spent several years working to find my teacher voice, establish my authority in the classroom, develop my warm/strict mechanisms, and to really just own the idea that I am the “expert in the room” (a validating phrase that I heard frequently at one organization where I taught for two years). But with all of that, sometimes we forget about allowing kids to create. We forget about all of the detailed lessons based in the theory of constructivism that we developed while training to become educators. We forget to make space for our students to experiment, take calculated risks, and to build in their own learning environment.

Also, besides forgetting, sometimes we just get comfortable. We get into a groove, our students enjoy it, we get positive feedback and no complaints (classroom teaching heaven, am I right?), and we decide to not fix what isn’t broken. The problem with that is: stagnation. I believe I heard recently on one of the podcasts that I listen to: “If you’re not growing, you’re dying.” Call us dramatic if you want to, but I’d bet that for most of us creatives, not moving or making causes us to feel like there’s a piece of us that isn’t really living. (#createordie)

Since we artists, educators, and creators have the intention to always be growing, learning, and making, we have to allow our students to do the same. We have to let them discover the joy that comes from ideating, making, and re-making.

So, let’s get uncomfortable. Sometimes, this can be as simple as adding a song to your class that fits within your lesson plan, theme, or unit, but that might not give you the desire to move in a way that is comfortable for you. It could be as simple as slowing down or speeding up the tempo to a piece, changing the direction of a movement, or releasing some control during a portion of class and passing the ownership of the learning completely to your students.

When you allow yourself to be uncomfortable and force yourself to create in an unfamiliar space, you are modeling successfully working through unfamiliar experiences to your students. You are encouraging problem-solving. You are demonstrating new ways to compose dance using various movement elements. You might even simultaneously challenge and empower your students to trust their skills, in movement and in life, even when the unexpected occurs. And, in the process, you might remind yourself that you have the power to do the same.

Cheers to the discomfort! Let’s keep creating.