What Is Your Primary Responsibility As A Dance Business Owner?

If you are a dance studio owner, if you run a dance education program that serves children in your local community, if you run any kind of business that provides the service of dance to clients, what is your primary responsibility?

Some might say their main responsibility is to introduce students to the art of dance and to help foster a love for dance for all students.

Some might say that it is their responsibility to properly prepare all students for professional careers in dance, including careers in dance performance, dance education, arts marketing, arts fundraising, dance research, and more.

Some might say they are focused on using dance as a tool to empower their students, giving them a lens through which to see the world and a voice for self-expression.

Perhaps your primary focus is social and restorative justice. Maybe your programs are focused on repairing and uplifting the people in communities that have been forgotten and neglected.

Maybe you feel that you’ve moved on from all of the above. Now you’re focused on making money. It is a dance business after all, right? If you don’t meet your bottom line, the business ceases to exist.

Maybe you love the marketing, the digital content, the UX design, the social media. Maybe that’s your primary focus and responsibility. Because, no matter what you’re doing, if you aren’t bringing in clients, you can’t really do what you want to do anyway, right?

Is your primary focus simply being organized? Handling registrations, hanging those flyers, getting those dance team jackets out, directing rehearsals, overseeing end-of-semester surveys and technique progress reports, making sure every student has the correct front-stitched leotard or slip-on jazz shoes, ensuring that all students and their parents know how to correctly sew elastic onto their ballet slippers?

Maybe you have mastered the art of delegation, and you are now primarily responsible for making sure your team does all of the above. Your team has to know and live out the values of your organization, manage the day-to-day tasks, communicate effectively with students and families, be a positive representation of your dance program in the community, ensure that regular outreach is happening, manage the social media accounts, teach the classes, keep students engaged and challenged, and more.

So what do I think? What is the primary responsibility of someone who owns or directs a dance business?

All of it.

Yes, when you’re running a dance business, your primary mission is to make sure that all.the.things are getting done, every minute of every day, by any means necessary.

I talked about how challenging finding balance can be in Episode #7 of The Happy Dance Podcast. I also talked about how we may sometimes be doing really well with doing the things that naturally bring us the most joy, while simultaneously failing (yes, failure is a thing… it’s just not a forever thing) at doing all the things that are the most tedious, the most time-consuming, or the most stressful.

So how do we do it? How do we stay motivated? How can we keep worrying about things like performance costumes or even on innovating within our established programs when we are in the middle of a slow season and we want to dedicate all our time and all our funds to marketing and outreach?

We can leave for a while, but we have to come back. This is a paraphrasing of some advice I got from my world religions teacher in high school, by way of my mother. I remember my mom told me that, during a parent-teacher conference, my former teacher mentioned to her that I spaced out during his class sometimes. He was fine with me letting my mind wander, as long as I always brought myself back.

This is what I believe we need to do as dance business owners.

We literally are some of the people in the world who DO IT ALL. (See also: women, moms, stepmoms.)

It can be daunting. It can be exhausting. It can be overwhelming in a terrible way. It can be impossible.

But impossible is nothing.

If you’re a dance educator reading this, you likely already know that huge responsibility that we have in the world as well as the great opportunity that we have to make an impact.

Follow your dreams. Model your educational philosophy. Develop great dancers and great citizens. Live your business mission and see the vision through.

Do it all. And if you ever just can’t do it all, then leave it for a minute… then get up and get back to work.

Creativity Is Definitely A Habit

So does it seem like I’m super into everything related to Dance Daze, Inc., Dance Daze in Schools, and, my newest, Dance Ed Startup? Well, that’s because I am.

But does that mean I like doing every single thing associated with running those businesses and projects? Absolutely not.

Earlier today, I was thinking about a comment from my very first mentor teacher when I was in an intensive teacher training program, credentialing program, and accelerated Master of Arts degree program to become an effective classroom teacher in one year. I must have asked her something like, “What do you not like about being a teacher?” I remember her response to this day–it struck me because I felt like she was either lying through her teeth or delusional. She said, “I like everything about this job.” I simply couldn’t believe her. In fact, I still don’t.

When people talk about their “life’s work” or “walking in their purpose” or “doing what they love” and all that sort of stuff… YES. I 100% GET THAT. Those are ALL the feels I get from running my dance organizations. But, I wasn’t raised to lie. And I’m not in denial. I know what lights me up and what things I completely avoid. (I even know exactly why I’ve gotten behind on this blog… It’s because I hate editing my podcast transcripts. Even though I completely love having a podcast, getting my voice out into the world, developing new skills like audio editing and transcribing audio that I’ve never previously had to do at any j-o-b I’ve ever had… But I still hardcore procrastinated on doing my last two transcripts, which got me completely off track with my little blog pattern I’ve been working on keeping up here.)

All of the above to say: I think I’m a super creative person who is lit up by the work that I do for my businesses. But, if I didn’t make myself do some of the stuff, it would simply never get done.

For example, I love teaching dance. I love having spending time creating learning objectives, structuring activities, challenging my students, and creating incredible experiences through the medium of movement in my classes. I love when parents and other family members enjoy the experience too. It all makes me feel like I’m a super awesome person who is having fun, getting paid, and helping other people have fun and enjoy watching their kids develop into awesome people because of their experiences in dance education.

HOWEVER, I almost always wait until the last minute to plan my classes. The “artsy” part of me feels like it is part of my process to “get inspired” at the last minute then rush to create well-executed masterpieces.

But what did I tell you in my last blog? I totally believe that a failure to plan is a plan for failure.

So how do I satisfy the super prepared and always 10 steps ahead part of me with the wait-until-the-absolute-last-minute-to-produce-your-best-work part of me when it comes to planning dance classes?

I’ve created a habit.

I give myself the “thrill” of planning my classes at the last minute by waiting until the morning of my classes to plan them. But I stay 10 steps ahead by giving myself like 5 hours to do the planning and get to the studio.

That’s right. Most mornings that I’m teaching, I’m up by about 5:30 am to plan my classes for the day.

Crazy right? Probably. (I’ve even gotten up that early on Saturday mornings after being up after midnight. But if you’ve been following me for a while, you know that I can function like a somewhat normal–if not hyper-cranky and hyper-emotional–human on just 5 hours of sleep. And I can fake it on less than 5 hours of sleep. So there’s that.)

So, in my opinion, am I still being creative? Absolutely.

And, am I still planning ahead? Probably not as much as the next gal, but I’ve never been one to do things in a typical way anyway.

The Happy Dance Podcast: Episode #4

Read the podcast transcript below or click HERE to download the PDF!

Hi there! My name is Saumirah McWoodson, and I’m the founder and CEO of Dance Daze, Inc. and Dance Daze in Schools, and I’m also a dance education researcher and business consultant at DanceEdStartup.com. And I’m the host of The Happy Dance Podcast where we talk about all things related to dance, education, and cultivating a life of happiness. So, let’s dance!

Hello, hello, hello! Welcome to Episode #4 of The Happy Dance Podcast. My name is Saumirah McWoodson, and I’m your host. Of course, I want to start off telling you why I’m doing a happy dance today.

So the reason I’m doing a happy dance today is because I’m getting this podcast recorded on Tuesday afternoon!

I’m not sure if you know but my personal goal for myself each week is to have these podcasts recorded and edited by Tuesdays at midnight, so that they can be published and available for all of you listeners by Wednesday at 7:00 am, Pacific Time. However you may have noticed that I’ve actually been getting these podcasts recorded, edited, and published on Wednesdays, just before midnight, Pacific Time. I’m guessing nobody’s watching my podcast that closely yet, but if there’s anyone out there that has noticed, that’s what I’ve been doing, so I am I’m doing a happy dance today because it’s Tuesday afternoon and here I am recording my podcast. So I’m excited for our podcast today because it’s actually going to be the first part of a three-part series where I’m telling you about my favorite social media platforms, my favorite photo editing tools, and my favorite video editing tools.

So today I’m gonna talk about the platforms that I love to use and why I enjoy using them and why I think they work really well for me, as far as my dance education business. And then next, we’ll talk about photo editing apps that I use on my iPhone and the week after that, I’ll talk about video editing apps that I use on my iPhone. And of course in each episode, I will tell you why I love the apps that I’m using or the social media platforms and I’ll tell you exactly how I’m using them for marketing purposes in my business. I also wanted to say that today’s episode is sponsored by my course, Dance Ed Startup. You can find information about the course at DanceEdStartup.com/Course. So just c-o-u-r-s-e: DanceEdStartup.com/Course. We intend to launch again on September 9th of this year, of 2019.

I’m really excited because in this course, not only will you learn how to design your own lesson plans and unit plans and music playlists, but you’ll actually learn how to start your own dance ed business, if that’s something that you’re interested in. Or you can learn about how to expand to an additional location. We’re going to get it to so many different things in that course, including choosing a location, marketing, of course lesson planning, which I already mentioned, using props, pricing your program appropriately, registration systems, expansion, and streamlining your business. So, again, today’s episode is sponsored by Dance Ed Startup, the course!

Okay, so now let’s dive in and I will start telling you about my favorite social media platforms today.

Okay, so my absolute favorite social media platform today is Instagram. I’ve been using Instagram now for a few years. It did take me a while to jump on the Instagram train, as usual. I typically don’t follow trends. I don’t follow trends in the sense of: when I feel like everyone’s quick to flock in a certain direction, I’m usually the one that’s standing back and observing. So I like to take things in and wait and see if the thing that everyone’s flocking to is actually worth its weight.

However, I am now, I would say,  an avid user of Instagram. I love it for many reasons. For one, I personally am–in addition to being a kinesthetic learner, obviously, because I’m a dancer–I am also a very visual learner. So I love the fact that Instagram is completely focused on photos and videos, and I think what intrigues me about Instagram is that not only is there a focus on the photo and video aesthetic, but it’s become a place where I think it’s really about telling a story.

So of course if all of social media you’re only giving a way or telling as much about your life as you feel comfortable with. However, I think that with Instagram, brands businesses and influencers have really taken that to another level. I’m saying that in a positive way. I feel like they’ve taken that to another level in terms of just really creating the desired image for their brands or their business and I really like that. I have recently been making an effort to start using the Instagram stories more and so I’ve been trying to hop on at least once a week.

I haven’t been consistent with it yet, but I’ve been trying to get on at least once a week to do an Instagram story–just a video with my face, talking. And I’ve also been trying to do more with the Instagram Lives. So sometimes I will hop on to Instagram Live, if I’m observing someone else teach my dance classes for Dance Daze.

So, that’s another feature that I really like of Instagram. I’ve heard that with Instagram you actually can use the DMs or the direct messaging system for marketing. I haven’t really tried that very much. I haven’t jumped in to use DMS for marketing. I know a lot of fitness professionals or fitness gurus, people trying to sell fitness businesses to me will often slide into my DMs, so that’s kind of what I really associate the direct messages with. But I have heard that it is appropriate to use the direct messaging system on Instagram for marketing. Something that I want to get into that I have not gotten into very much at all, I actually have never tried it, is the IGTV. So over the next few weeks, and you can probably look out for this beginning next week, I am going to try to start creating an IGTV video at least once per week. I shouldn’t commit to once per week, but that’s a good way for me personally to make sure that I do something, is if I kind of make a statement and say that I’m going to try it and that way I’ll at least try it for two weeks, probably in a row to see if it works for me. But like I said, I, so far, am having a great time with Instagram. I feel like it portrays my brand and my business in a great way.

I should also say that for my dance businesses, I actually feel like a lot of my clients are on Instagram, and so I feel like there is a good return on my investment for a lot of the content that I’m creating for Instagram. So I don’t feel like it’s time wasted when I’m creating content specifically for that platform. I feel like a lot of it is getting watched and absorbed and consumed by my target market, so that’s another reason that I really enjoy Instagram. And I should say that I personally use Instagram a lot. I have a personal account that I post to rather frequently, and I’m often watching other people’s Insta Stories or checking out what kind of photos and videos they’re posting to tell their story.

So I think that makes a difference also. Not only do I feel that some of my target market and my ideal customer avatars are on Instagram, I also have a personal user of Instagram so that makes me feel really comfortable with using it.

Okay, so the second platform that I want to talk about today is a Facebook.

I do think that I’m a little bit partial to Facebook because I did become using it when I was just a freshman in college. I kind of loved Mark Zuckerberg’s whole story of dropping out of Harvard and starting this awesome social media site. And I should state that because of that, again, I’m partial to it. I know that Facebook has been involved with, let’s just say a lot of things, but I am considering Facebook from more of a marketing perspective, specifically for growing small businesses and dance businesses.

So what I personally love about Facebook with that lens is Facebook Pages.

I have had a lot of experience using Facebook pages and, again, I feel like my target market and my ideal customer avatars are on Facebook as well.

I feel like they might be on Instagram more currently, but there are definitely a lot of people who I’m targeting that are on Facebook.

And speaking of targeting, I should also say that another future of Facebook, that I have had a lot of success with is Facebook Ads. So I think that they are very easy to use. And I have noticed some success with running ads on Facebook specifically.

I have not experimented too much with Facebook Groups for the purposes of growing a dance business, but I have been very recently experimenting with Facebook Groups.

Again, going back to the idea or the knowledge that I started using Facebook when I was in college, part of the reason I think that I have not really gotten into Facebook groups is because I associate them with college or I used to associate them with that. So we had very silly groups when I was in college. For example, one group that I started many years ago, was “Future Stay-at-Home Moms,” and we literally never went in the group. We never talked about anything. We maybe posted a couple of funny statements once or twice. But when I think of groups that’s what I think of for Facebook. We also had another group that was very silly called something like, “I Wear Flip-Flops All the Time, Even When It’s Raining Because I’m from California,” or something like that, that I joined, again, my first year of college. So I think I’ve been a little bit reframing my mind to think of Facebook Groups in a different way.

However, I do know that there are a lot of entrepreneurs and business owners out there and marketing specialists who believe that Facebook Groups there are awesome and that they can even be very profitable for businesses.

I personally feel like it depends on what kind of Facebook group you have or what kind of, actually what kind of business that you have, and then also how much engagement you have in the group.

However, like I said, I still am a pretty big fan of Facebook.

I am not on Facebook as much as I’m on Instagram currently, but Facebook and I have a lot of history, so I’ll probably never give up on Facebook. I really enjoy it a lot. And another thing that I think is cool about Facebook is that you can actually have video for your Facebook cover photo. So that’s a feature of Facebook that I have not used, but I have seen it used very well, so that’s another kind of cool marketing feature that you can find on Facebook.

Okay, so the third, my third favorite social media platform would be Twitter and I will say this: My absolute top two platforms are Instagram and Facebook. So the next two that I’m going to talk about today, they are my favorites in the sense that I publish on them regularly. So whenever I’m posting content on Instagram or Facebook nine times out of 10, I’m gonna post the same or similar content on Twitter. The fourth one that I’m gonna talk about is YouTube. I don’t always post the same content on YouTube, but I’ll get to that later.

But anyway, I do post individually, so I don’t use a site like Hootsuite, or I know there are lots of others out there that I can’t think of in this moment, but I do make sure that the content is posted individually or you may call it organically, I guess, on an individual site. And I try to make sure that it’s crafted for that site because I don’t want my content to show up as just a link on Twitter because I’m posting it from Facebook or because I’m posting it from Instagram. So, again, whenever I post on Instagram or Facebook, nine times out of ten, I’m gonna make sure that same information is posted on Twitter. It might be in a way that is specifically designed for the Twitter platform.

So I’ve been kind of hot and cold with Twitter, and I do have the feeling that Twitter users currently are mainly people above the age of 45, who are really into tech, who read the Wall Street Journal regularly, that sort of thing. I did find this morning when I was actually doing a little bit of research that… That’s incorrect. There are actually a lot of millennials who are on Twitter currently.

I will say I don’t necessarily think that my target market is on Twitter, so I’m okay with the fact that I’m not a huge user or a fan of Twitter.

Like I said, I still think that Twitter is relevant, which is why I make sure that it’s one of my top three or top four social media platforms that I’m posting on regularly, so it’s my favorite in that sense. But as far as being a user, I’m not a big user of Twitter. Several years ago, I was… And similarly to with Instagram and Facebook, I was a late user of Twitter, I think it was a couple of years before I ever got on Twitter but then once I was on it, I was really on it. So I do think I am a little bit hot and cold with Twitter. I definitely have been cold with Twitter for several years now, and I don’t know when I’ll be back to being hot with Twitter, but like I said, I’m sure it’s still… I do have the feeling that it’s still relevant. I’m just not sure if it’s relevant for me with my target market that I’m seeking to create content for with regard to my dance education businesses.

I think when I’m talking about my market and my ideal customer avatar for DanceEdStartup.com, I might have to start looking at Twitter in a different light. But I think with specifically trying to grow dance education programs, so my studio-based classes and my in-schools classes, I don’t know that my target market is on Twitter, but I could be wrong. It’s just I haven’t personally found that thus far, but again, I personally spent the most high on Instagram and Facebook. Those are my favorites., but they’re also my comfort social media platforms.

Okay, so the final social media platform that I wanna talk about today is actually YouTube.

I love YouTube because I feel that it’s been really helpful for my generation, for people in my generation to turn their passions and their talents into lucrative side hustles or even full-time jobs, I suppose, as influencers or as people who are showing what life is really like as a classroom teacher or as people who are showing you how to care for and style natural hair.

So for those reasons, I really love YouTube. Also, similarly to Instagram, YouTube is so visually focused. So I love that it focuses on video. However, I think that for my dance education businesses specifically, I haven’t found that it necessarily brings in or reaches my target market. And it could be that I’m not using it in the best way possible. I do have over 80 videos on YouTube. However, those approximately 80 or so videos they span about a decade.

And so I think that people that have really been successful with YouTube, are posting weekly with YouTube and I’ve never posted weekly, I don’t think, ever with YouTube.

I’ve always enjoyed having my videos up on YouTube, and yeah, just editing them and making sure that they’re out there. However, I have never really considered YouTube as far as far as a platform that I wanted to use to create regular content to reach an audience. I personally have considered YouTube as a space to sort of store my work and to kind of hold a collection of what I was doing at a certain time in my life and with my businesses at a certain way at a certain time, in a certain place. So, again, YouTube is on my list of social media platform favorites because every few weeks, I’d say, or at least every few months, I post a lot of… If I wait months I definitely make sure that I get five or 10 videos up on YouTube. So I have kept up with it over the past eight or 10 years; however, I’m probably not using it to its fullest potential.

I have recently heard a little bit about YouTube Live. So that’s something that I considered looking into. I haven’t looked into it much yet. However, eventually, I would like to start creating some webinars, and I’ve looked into the most cost-effective ways to host webinars including live webinars. And so that’s how I kind of came across the information about YouTube Live but it’s not something that I’ve used at all at this moment. It may be a feature of YouTube that I use in the future.

Okay, so now I want to tell you about one platform that I have very, very recently been using intentionally to reach a different audience. So this is not, I guess, a typical social media platform, but I’ve been using a LinkedIn lately. And I should say this: Similarly to these other platforms that I’ve talked about–so Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube–I’ve had a LinkedIn profile for many, many years. And I’ve gone back and forth with having lots of information on it and very little information on it, but I’ve been looking at LinkedIn recently with the intent of just trying to see if there is a branch of my market that I’m not reaching that, I could be reaching on LinkedIn.

So actually, I have realized that there are, here and there, some members of my target market that are on LinkedIn and so, of course, when there are a few, there’s the possibility that there might be many. And so, I’ve been focusing on LinkedIn specifically for Dance Ed Startup, so that’s a different customer avatar than my customer avatar for my dance education businesses. So I don’t wanna get confusing, but I have been looking at linked in specifically for my market for Dance Ed Startup and just playing around with posting content regularly on there. I’ve changed my “about” section on LinkedIn recently, and I also very recently put up some ads on LinkedIn. So if I see any return on my investment there, I will let you know.

So yeah, LinkedIn. I don’t really have, I don’t really have strong feelings about it yet, but I am enjoying sort of playing with it as just an additional means of reaching people that I haven’t been reaching with any of my business ventures thus far.

Okay, so I would say those are all of my social media platform favorites. I went through them rather quickly but that’s it. So, I have Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube that I post to very regularly, especially Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. I’m posting on those at the absolute least weekly, and when I’m really on half of my game, I’m posting to all of those, I would say, daily.

I’m planning on diving in more deeply to Instagram features, specifically IGTV. So, you should look out for me to have some IGTV videos over the next few weeks. And then with YouTube, like I said previously, I try to post on YouTube at least every few weeks or every few months I’ll get a bunch of content uploaded to YouTube. And then LinkedIn, I’m looking at recently just to see if there is a bit of my target market that I’m missing that I could stop missing and actually start reaching via LinkedIn.

Ff you are interested, I actually created a little downloadable. So you can go to DanceEdStartup.com/Podcast4Download and get a little summary of what I said in this podcast. Again that’s just DanceEdStartup.com/Podcast4Download. DanceEdStartup.com/Podcast4Download and you can grab this little freebie, called Saumirah’s Favorites: Social Media Platforms.

Okay, and I just kind of go over briefly what I mentioned about Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. And remember in next week’s podcast, I will be talking about my favorite photo editing apps specifically, and I will tell you what I love about these photo editing apps, how I use them, why I use them, and I’ll also tell you what platforms I use these photo editing apps for.

Okay, so sometimes I am thinking specifically of Instagram when I’m editing a photo. So maybe I’ll make the photo square, for example, which is longer necessary for Instagram, but sometimes I feel like the photos look better when they’re in the square shape. Sometimes I’m specifically editing a photo for the sake of it being on a digital flyer, or sometimes I’m editing photos or a Facebook cover photo that I want to have up to market an event for a week or two.

So anyway, I’ll dive into details like that in next week’s podcast, but I think we should go ahead and wrap it up for this week. I hope you enjoyed hearing about my favorite social media platforms. And before I go, I want to leave you with ways to keep doing a happy dance.

And so my recommendation for you is to, since we’re talking about social media platforms, I know a lot of people are really shy about going on video, just like me, which is probably why I’ve been avoiding it for the past few weeks (even though I was doing a very good job if I may say so, myself, of posting videos, and live videos of myself a few weeks ago I’ve been slacking recently). So I will challenge you in the next couple of weeks or maybe until we need again, in next week’s podcast: Go ahead and try to use video to market your brand and your dance business, and see what happens, see what kind of response you get from posting videos.

I always have actually really great response when I post videos, of course, of my students and their performances and that sort of thing, and then I haven’t really made much of an effort to posts of myself talking, so I can’t really tell you what kind of response I’m getting from that. But I will challenge myself to keep doing that as well, to keep using video to share information and to deliver some content.

And I said I’m going to push myself to try out IGTV over the next couple of weeks, and I will let you know how that experience is for me.

Okay, so thank you for listening to Episode #4 of The Happy Dance podcast, and I will catch you next week.


The Happy Dance Podcast: Episode #3

Read the podcast transcript below or click HERE to download the PDF!

Hi there! My name is Saumirah McWoodson, and I’m the founder and CEO of Dance Daze, Inc. and Dance Daze in Schools, and I’m also a dance education researcher and business consultant at DanceEdStartup.com. And I’m the host of The Happy Dance Podcast where we talk about all things related to dance, education, and cultivating a life of happiness. So, let’s dance!

Hello! Again, my name is Saumirah McWoodson, and you are listening to Episode 3 of The Happy Dance Podcast! So thank you very much for tuning and I’m so excited that you have decided to join me either for the third time or perhaps for the very first time. So again, in this podcast, I will be talking about all things related to dance, education, and cultivating a life of happiness. So, In Episode 2, I talked about community and about surrounding yourself with fantastic, great, wonderful people who will enhance and inspire your life in a positive way. So today I’m going to switch it up a little bit and I’ll jump into that in a second.

I don’t want to forget I actually want to first tell you why I’m doing a happy dance.

So today, I’m doing a happy dance because I’m having a wonderful summer. I’m keeping busy, and I’m getting a lot of things accomplished, but also, tomorrow is my birthday. And I absolutely love birthdays, I love holidays, and I love excuses, to spend quality time with great people, like I mentioned in my last podcast! So I’m very excited that tomorrow’s my birthday and I have plans with friends tomorrow evening and for later on this weekend as well. So that is why I am currently doing a happy dance.

Okay, so now to dive into what I wanna talk about today. I previously mentioned that I’m researching dance educator preparation and pathways to long-term careers for dance educators in the United States.

Okay, so today I’m actually going to comment on an article about service learning practice in higher education in dance education.

Okay, so I’m gonna give you a little bit more of my background in dance education, and how I came to essentially teach dance and to start some dance education organizations. So I pretty much grew up as a competition dancer. I studied at a large school for the performing arts in Daly City, California. So, you can read this in my bio on my website, at DanceDaze.org. I studied at Westlake School for the Performing Arts in Daly City, California, from when I was about four or five years old, until I was about 13 years old, and then my family moved and I started dancing at a different, a few different other studios in the East Bay of California.

As far as my teaching experience, although I studied dance as a student at the pre-professional level and had experience competing in dance for several years, I didn’t really get any teaching experience until I was in my very early 20s and I went to study abroad in Marburg, Germany. So the summer before I was in Germany, I actually was a participant in a program called Camp Adventure or Camp Adventure Youth Services, so we basically ran really awesome summer programs, or year-round programs depending on what track you were on, for the children of United States service men and women. So I spent a summer in Brussels, Belgium, with Camp Adventure then I went right into studying abroad in Marburg, Germany. And somewhere in that time I had my first experience teaching dance. So I taught, I believe one class at United States Army Garrison Bamberg, I believe, to a small group of students, which was really fun, just kind of as a camp counselor type of person. I did that as part of my internship. I wasn’t paid for it. And then when I studied abroad, I taught a couple of classes, I substitute taught some classes, at very Fairy Tale Dance Studio, which is just outside of Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany.

So that was… Those were pretty much my first two experiences teaching dance ever in my life. And so, that’s interesting in my opinion, because I know a lot of people who work as dance educators or who start their own dance companies and their own dance studios, they have different tracks toward becoming professional dance educators, and so I think a lot of people do have that similar experience of, they are students and then they teach.

However, I did not have the experience of studying dance as an undergraduate student. I did spend one year studying dance education at the graduate level, and completing some graduate work in the Dance Education Master’s Program at New York University and that was during the same time that I earned my American Ballet Theatre Teacher Certification in Primary through Level 5 of the ABT National Training Curriculum. So I basically had almost no experience teaching and then I jumped into a graduate program, in dance education so that I could learn how to teach. I always felt I was very… Again, I was in my early 20s then, but I felt like that experience as well, set me aside from a lot of people who were in my cohort in that program because many of them had undergraduate degrees in dance, or something related to the arts. There were a couple of people who had some degrees in Biological Sciences and things like that, but I kind of always felt a little bit of an odd ball out because I was a competition dancer, which I felt was a little bit looked down upon and I had been a varsity cheerleader in high school. So I felt like I definitely wasn’t coming from this–even though I had studied the Vaganova method of classical ballet and I had trained at the pre-professional level–I didn’t feel like I had this ivory tower training, when I entered my graduate program in dance education. Anyway, I came back to California, and I essentially started Dance Daze, Inc. and Dance Daze in Schools, sort of right away, with only teaching a couple of classes in my early 20s, and then doing a year in a graduate program in dance education and becoming an American Ballet Theatre Certified Teacher.

Okay, so I want to talk more about my background and tell you what Dance Daze in Schools has done. So the reason I’m interested in this article that I was reading (and I’m going to grab it here) . . . So this article is in the journal of Dance Education in Practice Volume 5, Number 1, and it’s from this year, 2019. The article is called Developing a Service Learning Project Within a University Choreography Course. It’s by, I believe this is how you say her name, Ali Duffy. She’s an associate professor of dance at Texas Tech University.

So that’s the article that caught my eye and the reason it caught my eye is because I really love service learning. And I’m not quite sure at this moment where that interest and passion began for me, but I know with some of my earliest work with Dance Daze in Schools, that’s exactly what I was doing, I was working to create service learning opportunities for college students, even though I was not in any way a university professor, a college professor, and I was actually doing this both before and while I was earning my Master of Arts degree in Education from the University of the Pacific.

So if you want some examples of what kind of stuff I was doing, you can go ahead and go to DanceDazeInterns.wordpress.com. Again, that’s DanceDazeInterns.wordpress.com. And there you’ll find a couple of blogs that I wrote myself, but you’ll also find blogs that were written by my service learning interns that were working for or volunteering for Dance Daze in Schools.

And so there are two particular experiences that I helped to facilitate or took the lead on with Dance Daze in Schools, and one was with UC Berkeley with their Chan Fellows Program, so that was really awesome. I was able to work with an extreme student from China who was a Chan Fellow and she helped to start a dance program at a Mandarin immersion school in Oakland, California, as part of her fellowship requirements, but also as part of being a service learning intern with my organization, Dance Daze in Schools. So that was really awesome. And she worked with dances and schools for an entire year.

And again, if you go to DanceDazeInterns.wordpress.com, you’ll be able to find some photos. And she has a couple of posts up there that she wrote herself, and so that’s really great. And then the other service learning program that I was able to develop was in partnership with St. Mary’s College of California which is in Moraga, California, and there, the leadership program or the service learning internship program, that I partnered with on their campus was called the Bonner Leaders program with the Bonner Leadership Program.

It was a little bit similar to the Chan Fellows program, in that my interns had to complete a certain number of service hours giving to the community each week. There had to be some sort of reflection each week, that sort of thing. They were different because these students at St. Mary’s College of California, they were not extreme students, they were just getting their degrees from St. Mary’s College. So those were some of my, I guess my most streamlined experiences with developing and partnering with other organizations to help design this service learning experience with using dance as the medium. And so basically, I used to spend a lot of time emailing people and calling people for hours every day, essentially, and that’s how I found these programs and how I got in touch with these, these two individuals. One was named Ryan and one was named Sunshine. I got to partner with them and participate in these great programs. Then I got these interns matched with Dance Daze in Schools, and then I personally went out and I found schools for the interns to work with, so schools that were in typically, they were under-served communities or they did not have a dance program already, things like that. I was able to find public schools each time. So even though I personally as an academic, as a classroom teacher, I’ve only personally taught in private and charter schools with Dance Daze in Schools, I’ve actually worked with a lot of public schools and a couple of charter schools as well.

Okay, so, so now I wanna dive in. So that’s kind of my background in developing these service learning internships. I also wanna say that I was fortunate that in partnering with these programs that the interns were paid and so that’s something that’s always been important to me. I know that when I was a college student, there were tons of opportunities that were available but a lot of them were free.

And I’m a big advocate of volunteering, I’ve been a member of several volunteer organizations in my life, including as an active member, formerly, of Alpha Phi Omega National Co-ed Service Fraternity, which I joined when I was an undergraduate student.

So service is a big part of what I do, but I also think it’s important, when possible, to pay people for doing quality work.

And so I am proud that Dance Daze in Schools has always been able to pay our interns even if they are completing more of a service learning project, even if they are working as interns, they are paid interns. So I’m very proud of that. That I’ve been able to do that. Whether it was just through Dance Daze in Schools or whether it was in partnership with other community organizations, colleges, and educational foundations and that sort of thing.

Okay, so in this article, again, I’m not sure if I’m saying her name correctly, but I believe it’s Ali Duffy. She talks about basically how she started to incorporate a service learning component into her university choreography course. She talks about how she just wanted to sort of restructure the class that she had been teaching for a couple of years, and how it coincided with her recently founding a non-profit dance company and forming partnerships with community organizations and that sort of thing.

She talks about how she re-worded the description of the course, how she supported the college students in leading the courses for their partner organization, which happened to be a school that served middle school-age children.

And then the article goes on to talk about some different aspects that they incorporated it into their teaching, so a lot of elements of dance, a lot of improvisation, a lot of choreography techniques, the college students were teaching to the middle school students, and so I thought that was really great. The college met with their students that they were teaching, the younger students, twice per week maximum and they had to, after each day of working with the students, they had to write a reflection paper and reflect on questions such as: What did you observe? How is your experience similar or different than you expected? What impacts the way you view this experience? What did you learn about the people or this community? How can you apply this experience to other experiences now or in your future? How do you sense our class and the Talkington class are affected, impacted or experience experiencing each other? What surprised you about this experience?

One thing I really liked about this article is that she pretty much lays out how she supported the college students. There was a lot of debriefing. There was a lot of reflection, which is a core part of a core component of service learning. She talks about how she made sure that her university students had a bit of a background in classroom behavior management, and they talked about different ways to approach more challenging situations in the dance classroom. And so I think that that’s really awesome. I think that’s a piece that’s missing for a lot of newer dance educators who don’t necessarily have a background in teaching in the classroom already.

And so, one thing I really liked that’s mentioned in this article is that she says, Duffy states that the teacher of the students with the community organization with whom the university partnered, at the end she sent an email and told Duffy that she appreciated that her students were “exposed to elements of dance, improvisation, and choreography as a communicator of meaning as opposed to a series of steps to replicate and perform.”

And so I thought that was just… If you’re interested, you can go through read the article you can find it in online if you have access to this journal. Again, it’s in Dance Education and Practice, Volume 5, Number 1, 2019. But anyway, I just found it really awesome the way that she describes the way in which she helped her students teach dance, or use dance to teach, I guess, sort of life skills or ways to kind of observe or take in information and to act and react in different life situations. I think that’s what’s important about teaching dance through a service or community-based opportunity, instead of the traditional either studio dance classes or professional or pre-professional dance classes. There is definitely, with the service learning component, there’s so much of an emphasis on giving back as a citizen and helping to create responsible and engaged and empathetic citizens, I believe.

So that’s all of interest to me.

So I wanted to say, for my personal take-aways I think that this is just absolutely great and I’m interested personally in going out, and I’m sure I will, again, (I’m not sure if you listen to my previous podcast, but I am a doctoral student at the University of the Pacific, so this is all within my realm of research) but I really want to go out and look more into what kind of educational opportunities, dance programs, either undergraduate or graduate-level dance programs in the United States are providing for their students.

And I also, as part of that, I would love to know more about which of those programs are providing specifically service learning opportunities and I would like to see how those differ or when students leave the program, how does that I guess their next steps after leaving college and the university, what’s the difference between the students who had a little bit of service learning experience through dance and those who did not? So that kind of interests me after looking at this article, and then it makes me curious as well. So I went in a lot about, I went into a lot about my background in dance and how I kind of I didn’t rush into teaching. I was definitely someone who I could have taught. There were a couple of studios in Stockton. If you know Stockton–yes, there are nice dance schools in Stockton. There are lots of awesome things in Stockton, actually, but some people don’t realize that I think because of rumors.

But anyway, I didn’t jump at the opportunity to teach, I was a little bit shy, but I was also kind of . . . I’m someone who definitely learns from observing, and I like to take things in and I never want to do anything until I feel prepared. So as I get older, that’s changing a little bit. And I think that’s also coming with accepting, realizing, claiming ownership of my experience, of my knowledge, of my education that I’ve had so far, but definitely when I was in my late teens, early 20s, just entering adulthood, I was not someone who was very much like… “Yeah, I know what I’m doing. Let me teach this class!”

So with that, I didn’t have a lot of teaching experience I was a student of dance for a very long time, and so, anyway, getting back on track, reading this article makes me curious about how the majority or what are some other ways that people are getting training to become dance educators?

So I think it is common that people, they start studying at studios and then they get an opportunity to teach and they jump at it and suddenly they’re dance teachers.

So for me, I think it’s different because I have that studio background and then I also have some pre-professional training experience in classical ballet as I mentioned, and I also had the great fortune of being able to observe and learn about dance in a professional environment at the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, School at ABT when I was completing the certification there and studying in New York. And then also for me, which I think is really important and unique about the way that I view dance education and the way that I view my classes and the way that I view all of the teachers with whom I work, especially the college students, is that I have my Master of Arts Degree in Education so specifically in Curriculum and Instruction. And also with that, before I taught a class on my own, I participated in and completed an intensive teacher residency program while I was earning my Master’s degree, so every week, I had a full day of theory and discussion and debate and reading articles and reflecting on articles with my cohort, and then for the other four days in a week, I was in a classroom studying, under a master teacher. So I had that unique experience where I was not just thrown into a classroom of second grade students. I had a year of intensive training where I got to sit back and observe, and I got critiqued every day, and I got recorded, and I got to watch myself teaching and to comment on what mistakes I made, and I got to reflect on why I was not able to certain students, and why some students were not learning, and how could I make the information more accessible to all of my students. I had a year of that, a solid year of that. And so as a classroom teacher, I think that makes me different from many of my peers who were just kind of thrown into a classroom and said, “Okay this is your internship year while you are earning your Bachelor’s or your accelerated Master’s! You’re just gonna teach this class all on your own because you have a substitute credential!” or something like that.

And so I’m also curious as to what… What are kind of the common ways that most people who end up having a long-term career in dance education, how do they come to that? Is it common that most people who become dance educators or professional dance teaching artists I wonder if it’s common that they do participate in university courses, that they attend college to obtain these positions.

And so those are some of the thoughts that came into my mind as I was reading this article. And then finally one of my final thoughts or questions is: Where can people who don’t go to college, but who want to teach dance, where can they get this kind of learning and teaching experience in dance? So I guess I just, if you wanna comment on this, tell me how did you become a dance educator? How did you come into a space of opening your own studio? Those are the kind of questions I have because, like I said, I have my own experience but when I’m go out into the world now to continue my learning and my training in dance so far, I’m doing that with people who are at the university level, studying dance.

So when I went to participate in the Dance Education Lab’s program in Los Angeles, we were at a university at Loyola Marymount and we were with most people there were dance majors, or they were already professional dance educators, and so we were in that again, that kind of ivory tower world and the students were getting that awesome dance training.

Or last summer when I studied at the Sacramento Ballet and participated in that summer intensive, well, all the students there clearly are getting that professional level of training already. So what about the people who aren’t studying in these professional schools of dance? Or what about for those who are not attending college, and getting degrees in dance, or in choreography or in performance, dance education? I’m wondering is there still space for those individuals to become professional dance educators and to make a career out of it, and if so, how are they doing it? And then if not, why?

So, those are my thoughts. And I just wanted to bring it back to dance a little bit. So again, I was reading from or I had some little excerpts that I read from this article in the Dance Education in Practice journal, Volume 5, Number 1. And the title of the article, again, is “Developing a Service Learning Project Within a University Choreography Course.” And if you are interested in continuing this conversation with me or sharing with me your background in dance education or maybe it’s separate kind of like me, if you wanna show your background in dance and your background in education with me, feel free to email me. My email address is saumirah@dancedaze.org.

So you sell that “s” as in “Sam,” a-u, “m” as in “Mary”, i-r-a-h at dancedaze.org, and I will put that in my show notes! But thank you so much for tuning in to Episode 3 of The Happy Dance, and I really look forward to chatting with you again, next week. And let’s see . . . I think that I’m going to leave you with these words this time, so that you can continue cultivating that life of happiness.

I think that something that was emphasized in this podcast, in my opinion, is just that lifelong learning. So if you love something, challenge yourself to keep learning about it, keep diving in.

I’ve been saying it a lot lately, but . . . YOLO! Which means, “You only live once.” I respect you if you believe something different, but that’s kind of an expression that sort of reminds me to keep pushing forward and to keep learning and experiencing as much as I can. So definitely just keep diving in and keep seeking opportunities and experience in the things that you love.

Okay, so thanks again for listening and I will catch you next time.


Use Your Studio Time (Even If No Students Are Present)

Have you ever shown up to teach your dance class, fully prepared and ready to go, but no students are there when it is time for class to begin? So maybe you assume they’re stuck in traffic. Five minutes go by. Still no students. Maybe you check your email quickly. Perhaps one student isn’t feeling well. Okay. Cool. Get well soon. Where is the rest of your class?!

If you’re just starting out your dance business, it may be a frequent occurrence that you have an empty studio because students aren’t yet committed to their training, or maybe they’re just trying out your classes and dropping in when their schedule allows. Maybe, despite your best efforts at social media marketing, flyer distribution at local preschools, attending in-person networking events, and trying to get that word-of-mouth marketing going at local playgrounds, you just haven’t had any students showing up for your classes!

Fret not. There are still ways you can use your studio time wisely, whether you are renting studio space for your small dance business, teaching classes for someone else, or directing your own dance studio.

Think of the 45 minutes or 60 minutes as a time to create, create, create. Don’t waste the time or feel annoyed that everyone decided to miss class today. Take your lemons and make some dance lemonade! In the Dance Daze® How to Use Studio Time (When You Have No Students) Checklist, we give you 5 ways that you can you can be productive in your studio space, even if you don’t have students to teach.

Be sure to grab the FREEBIE above, and come back next week for another blog and another freebie!

Chat soon!