boys after first dance class at Elevate Dance

10 Tips for a Great First Day of Dance Class

It’s the first day of your new job….

You just moved to a new neighborhood….

You are stepping out onto the weight room floor for the first time ever….

We all know how daunting firsts can be.

I’m getting butterflies in my stomach just thinking about them! Guess what? Our kids are just like us; firsts are scary. And even if your little dancer has been shimmying all over the living room or begging to sign up for ballet lessons, the first day of dance class is no different.

When all is said and done, your dancer is probably going to have a fabulous time in class. Most kids do! 

Still, there are few things you can do at home to be proactive and set your child up to walk into their first class with confidence and a smile:

  1. Feed and water them.
    I know, sounds obvious. But, take extra care to make sure their basic needs are met. Our kids don’t perform well when they’re tired, hungry or thirsty. It’s hard for adults to behave well when they’re hangry, let alone kids! Try to get them a good night’s sleep the night before dance, and make sure they’ve had some fuel in the tank before they hit their first day of classes.    
  2. Love on your dancer for a few minutes.
    Make sure your kiddos have had full eye contact with you and a good hug or two at some point during the day. Your kids aren’t going to let you out of their sight to go to dance if what they’re really craving is some attention from you.
  3. Go to the bathroom before class starts.
    Even older dancers need to “try.” No child can concentrate if all they’re thinking about is how bad they have to poop. Gross yes, but oh so true. Also, our time on the dance floor is limited; we don’t want to waste it in the potty.
  4. Show up 10 minutes early so you have time to spare.
    Having a few extra minutes to use the bathroom, put up the hair and change shoes is nice. Walking in calmly and chatting with each other about how fun dance is going to be will make a night-and-day difference over dragging your child across the parking lot and shouting, “Hurry UP!” (Not judging, we’ve all been there.)
  5. Pack the dance bag with the essentials the night before.
    Younger dancers need an organized parent for this. Older dancers can have a checklist and do it themselves. Either way, make sure you have uniform pieces and a right and left of every dance shoe, dance folder or journal, pencil, extra hair tie, water bottle and maybe a healthy snack.
  6. Unpack the dance bag of non-essentials.
    It is more of a distraction than a help if the bag is giant and full of extras. Kids can’t find what they need quickly and they get caught up checking on their dolly (or their boyfriend) when there’s toys and technology in the bag.
  7. Kiss and GO.
    This can be the trickiest part. If you have an anxious predancer, your first inclination is probably to hold their hand, offer to hang out and watch a few minutes, dance alongside them, etc. Then the crocodile tears start and you don’t want to leave when your dancer is crying hysterically. How COULD you? We get it. It’s so hard as a parent! But it’s also like ripping off a band-aid: slower is WAY worse. Just kiss, and head out the door. The quicker you make your move, the faster we can get your dancer some happy feet. We’ll call you if we can’t get it worked out. (And we’ve never had to make that call.)
  8. Encourage dancing outside of class whenever you can, but don’t force it.
    We don’t want your child to have a bunch of homework or feel like dance is a chore.
  9. Show interest.
    Dancing isn’t your jam? That’s okay. You don’t need to take your child to see a full length Ballet. But, why not ask your dancer to teach you something from class?  Or watch a few youtube clips together about a style they’re learning. Get a little square of plywood you can slide out from under your coffee table for an impromptu tap show. Play Just Dance together on the Xbox. The possibilities are endless!
  10. Stay in the loop.
    We’ll do everything we can to make sure you know what’s happening in the studio. Check the Facebook page, sign up and read the Remind texts, read through your dancer’s folder, call us with questions, etc. We are here to help you feel at home, and we know when you feel comfortable in your dance family, your child will too.


Happy Dancing!

It’s going to be a wonderful First Day at Elevate Dance Center!

Elevate Dance

How To Choose The Best Dance Studio For You

Your son and daughter have been begging you to take dance lessons, but you have no idea where to begin. There are so many choices in your neighborhood! How do you choose the best dance studio for your family?

The obvious place to narrow the choices …

is by asking around to your friends and neighbors, but still you should dive deeper. One size does not fit all, and the studio your best friend’s family thinks is top-notch might completely differ from your family’s values. Narrow your choices by asking around, sure. But when you set out to choose the best dance studio for what quite possibly may become your child’s lifelong passion, it’s best to take five simple steps:

  • research the educational philosophy of the school,
  • visit onsite,
  • take a trial class,
  • stick it out for awhile and
  • reevaluate as necessary.

The educational philosophy of a
school determines its culture.

When you research the studio online, don’t just read the mission statement, but also poke around and make sure you find evidence of the studio’s stated mission. Review the class schedule, required attire, code of conduct and policies and procedures. Also take a look at the studio’s social media pages, such as Facebook and Instagram. Do these reflect the values you read about in the mission statement? Since educational philosophies are as diverse as your studio choices, we’ll review a few of them here:

  • Dance is a team sport.

    • This studio focuses on competitions and will prepare your child for “making the team.” Whether you want to join the studio’s competitive team, your high school or collegiate squad or become an NFL cheerleader, this studio will support your dream with classes such as poms, jazz, hip hop and extra rehearsals. You’ll be offered a chance to audition for the studio’s company at a young age, and weekends may be spent at dance competitions. Often your classes will be taught by instructors who’ve done the same, and some teachers may still be dance for your local professional sports team’s squad.
  • Dance is recreational.

    • This studio focuses on dance being a fun way to exercise. Movement to music will be the core value here. There may not be a structured syllabus. The instructors might be very young teens who enjoy dance or senior citizens who’ve always danced. The season-end performance will likely not be in a large theatre or require a purchased costume. Any additional fees will be minimal. The dress code may be as simple as “clothing you can move in.”
  • Dance is an industry.

    • This studio focuses on preparing dancers for commercial industry auditions such as music videos, television commercials, movies, live shows or pop tours. You might see specialty classes such as “heels” or ballroom permanently on the schedule and it may also include singing and acting classes. A dress code of sports bra and booty shorts might be expected, especially for company dancers. Company dancers might be in isolated classes away from recreational dancers. The studio’s website will probably have a section devoted to former students’ industry credits.      
  • Dance is a major.

    • This studio takes their craft pretty seriously, but typically in only one area of specialization. The focus is on training and becoming an expert. While you can take many different classes, the studio is typically limited to one genre, such as ballet or hip hop. This studio will have opportunities to perform and compete, and will do everything possible to distinguish its students as leaders in their one chosen area of study.      
  • Dance is arts education and a lifelong pursuit.

    • This studio focuses on creating well rounded dancers and preparing every child whether they grow up loving dance or “living it.” The schedule is technique focused, so expect to see multiple levels and types of ballet, modern, turns and leap and jazz classes, but they will also offer a sound variety of other styles such as tap and hip hop. A base uniform of pink tights and a black leotard would be expected, with possible outfit changes varying by class. The summer program might include a range of specialty courses. This school will likely have a scholarship or company program or another tract for students who want to pursue dance professionally, however all dancers regardless of their dance dreams will be mixed in classes and treated equally. This school will have a few performance opportunities throughout the season which may include community appearances or a dance competition, but these opportunities are in place to serve the dancer more than the studio, so they are chosen with care. This school focuses on education with a diverse faculty that teaches life lessons in addition to dance lessons.  


The educational philosophy is the most important piece in how to choose the best dance studio for you.

There is no right or wrong answer from the list of choices above, but the educational philosophy of the school should align with your goals for your child. Once you’ve sifted through your area’s schools based on educational philosophy, it’s time for the easy part- visit the school, and take a trial class! This allows you to verify that the impression your internet research left you with is authentic, and it also helps to determine the appropriate classes for your dancer so he/she can feel successful in dance right away.

Remember, the end goal is to not stumble upon a studio, but to consciously choose the best dance studio for your family.  Once you pick one, stick and stay for awhile! Whether you give it a semester or a season, make sure you allow enough time to truly decide if the studio you picked was the best one for you. And finally, reevaluate as necessary. If after your allotted timeframe you decide the studio wasn’t the right fit, there are others.  Dance is an art, and art is for everyone, so keep going until you choose the best dance studio for you!

This blog post originally appeared on on January 4, 2017.

Elevate Dance Center

Spring Show: Why and How

Spring Show is a time of celebration for dancers. This is the moment where the kids’ hard work and dedication gets showcased on stage. We want them to feel like stars, and it’s the show that really gives them their time to shine. The Spring Show is an event. And like any event, pulling it together requires resources- time, money and many hands. Here’s the truth- a production requires more than plopping down a folding chair for an hour long soccer game. Allowing our children to experience what it takes to perform live theatre entertainment can get cumbersome for the adults.  As parents, you’ve got a huge role to play. There’s costuming, dress rehearsals, tickets, videos, pictures and more. The commitment is significant whether your child performs in one number or 15, and there is time spent planning, preparing and just straight up waiting. For this alone, parents deserve a standing ovation.
    So, is it all worth it? We think so, but don’t take it from us. When asking a veteran dancer of 15 years what value Spring Show has added to her dance experience, she said, “Spring Show has given me an opportunity to perform and grow as an artist. I am able to demonstrate all the hard work I’ve put in throughout the year while spending time with the close friends I’ve made at the studio. I’ve learned the value of a production as well as all the hard work that goes into creating [one]. No matter where life takes me, I will be able to use the life skills I learned from show to succeed.”  That alum is now currently attending the University of Oklahoma where she is continuing her dance training and pursuing her dream of becoming a professional dancer. She lives to dance, and she’s got big dreams ahead of her.
    But what about those dancers who just love to dance right now and haven’t necessarily arrived at their life’s goal yet? Is Spring Show a big deal for them? When we asked a former dancer about her most special memories of the show, she said, “My earliest memory has to be the first time I stepped out on stage to perform “Molly Smiles.” I felt like a true ballerina in my pink tutu on the big stage and performing felt so amazing because I knew my family was so proud of me. I also vividly remember watching the “big girls” and wanting to be just like them. Seeing them dance was so inspiring!” We couldn’t agree more- Spring Show is a family affair. To make it even more enjoyable and memorable this year, we’ve collected a few pro tips from members of our dance family who’ve done it for years:

    • If your dancer is young, pack together. Don’t pack FOR him/her necessarily, but pack together. If a dancer knows all of the parts and pieces to his/her costumes, where to find the water bottle, etc. it helps the kids be responsible for their own stuff. And don’t forget to check and double check it (together)! Which brings us to the next one…
    • Let the dancers be responsible. Unless you are a designated volunteer, you will be asked to hang back and be part of the audience only. This means you have to trust your child, the volunteers and the teachers who’ve been guiding your dancer all year to get your child on and off stage safely and correctly.
    • If you do want to be involved, sign up to volunteer! There is so much to do for the Spring Show, so whatever your time allotment or talents allow, your “official” help is welcome.
    • Put down your phone and leave the cameras at home. While it’s nice to relive the moments later, it’s not the same watching them through a screen. Sit back and enjoy the performance fully present! Buy the video that’s offered if you want a lasting memory- it’s well produced and a great investment because you’ll have it for years to come.
    • Pack extras! Tights, bobby pins, water, whatever! This is one case where it’s better to have too much than not enough.
    • Congratulate everybody. Your dancer is the star of your heart, but remember to lavish the praise on everyone at this annual celebration. The other kids on stage, the teachers and the volunteers are all a vital part of making the show work. More equals more here, so please share the love!
    • Celebrate your dancer. Consider picking up flowers or a small souvenir from the booth at intermission, or take your dancer out for ice cream or dinner afterwards. When the video comes, make a batch of popcorn and watch it together. The most special memories are the ones shared together, so jump in on the excitement with your dancer!

    Another former student said, “Performances were always really special. You’ve spent the entire year working really hard and it’s a chance to show all of the improvements you’ve made and things you’ve learned. Having people there to support you is all you really need!”

    Now that says it all. It’s showtime!

    A version of this article was originally published on on June 14, 2017.

class designed to help students in focus on the turns, leaps and jumps that dancers perform in Ballet, Jazz and Lyrical classes

Two Things All Studio Owners Really Need From Parents

While judging dance competitions in cities throughout the country, I get the pleasure of meeting studio owners and directors everywhere I go. Many things vary from region to region, but one constant truth from Chicago to L.A, in Arkansas and Michigan, is that there are only two things dance studio owners really need from parents. A Denver owner said it best when she told me the story of one of her former students who grew up to become a meddlesome dance mom, “Listen,” she told the mom, “You danced all your life, so you know better. There’s truly only two things I really need from you. One, I need you to love your daughter unconditionally. And two, I need you to pay your studio bills as soon as they’re due. That’s honestly it.”

And she’s right. Whether your dancer is 7 or 17 years old, the two things all dance studio owners really need from parents remain the same from every studio owner around, and they also seem to be the hardest ones for parents to fulfill. Unconditional love, seems like it should be a no-brainer, but too often we misdirect our love for our kids into “fixing” their problems for them, which creates more conflicts than resolutions. For example, our kids don’t need us to question their instructors’ decisions about level placement for classes, but they do need us to listen to them vent, and then use these teachable moments as opportunities for growth. Instead of dashing off to the school director and demanding a meeting about why your dancer isn’t standing in the front row in the routine, why not help him draw his own conclusion by asking thought-provoking questions? You might help your dancer learn something about his work ethic, team spirit or other issues, while also prompting him develop a lifelong strategy for problem-solving. Loving unconditionally does not mean packing your daughter’s dance bag for her every week (so she can wrongfully blame you when one tap shoe goes missing the night before competition), but it might mean you help her make a “dance bag checklist” and enforce a rule that she uses it to pack on her own before she goes out with her friends. Unconditional love is not a verb. It’s not fixing or doing or being or handling . Unconditional love is a noun- it’s the warm hug your child can wrap herself in to overcome the challenges of dance-life and life-life.

The second of the two things all dance studio owners really need from parents is simple, but we should be careful not to confuse “simple” with “easy.” Parents must pay their dance bills so the studio owners can pay theirs! A dance education isn’t cheap, but that’s not because your studio owner is pocketing all the dough. Of all the studio owners I’ve ever met- from those who are barely scraping by to the others who seem to be doing rather well- I have never met anybody who’s gotten rich from owning their school. Owning a dance studio has the same carrying costs of owning any other business; there are taxes and insurance to pay, facilities to maintain, a staff to compensate for their talents, service and unique skills, and more. For every pricey competition invoice you pay to the studio, you must understand the studio has already written a check to the competition company. When you don’t pay your bills on time, the studio is forced to carry your fees- often for months- after they’ve paid out their vendors on your behalf.

I knew an extremely talented studio owner who told me it was common for his clients to ask for an extra week to pay their tuition- they had to buy new tires, or fix their roof, or pay the electric bill. He threw up his hands as he told me the story. “What do you do in that situation?! I didn’t want to stick it to my clients when they were going through hard times, but I had to chuckle to myself- I mean, we’ve got tires to buy and a roof to fix and an electric bill over at my house too. How am I supposed to pay all of that when my clients can’t pay me? Everyone has a story, man. I just sometimes wish I didn’t have to hear them all. It’s exhausting.”

It exhausted him alright, because soon after that conversation he had to close the doors because he could not afford to stay in business. We all know running a business isn’t free, but as dance parents we must remember there is great value in the service provided to our children. The dance studio is not just a place for dance lessons, it’s a place for life lessons and it’s often our kids’ second home. The studio is their safe place, their creative space and their family outside of family, so shouldn’t we do our best to keep it open? It’s hard to say “no” to your child, but take a careful inventory of all of the costs involved and avoid overcommitting to your child’s dance lessons. Make sure you understand what your dancer will need in the form of equipment- shoes, uniform, etc. and find out if there are any other fees throughout the year such as for performances, exams, or competitions. If your family makes the decision to sign up, then be certain to responsibly uphold your end of the agreement by not just paying your bills, but paying them on time. Unplanned life circumstances happen. Sometimes a parent loses a job and suddenly cannot pay, but in a dance studio where outstanding balances are not the norm, then an owner can often scholarship a student facing hard times. A healthy parent-studio relationship is an integral part of your dancer’s experience, so help your dance instructors deliver the best fine arts education they can, and do the two things all dance studio owners really need from parents: love your dancer unconditionally, and pay your studio bills on time.

This post originally appeared on on February 4, 2017. 

dancers of all ages get on stage

When I Dance

When I dance, I know exactly who I am. The chaotic world orders itself, and I know where I fit. There will be no auditions or rejections. I’m not in training anymore. In my genres, I’m a master now. So when I step into the studio every week, my heavy invisible backpack slides off my back and gets dropped at the door. I am fully alive, wide awake and comfortable in the present moment. I am ready to create.

When I dance, I am wild and authentically, uniquely me. I’ve certainly got other passions like writing and Spanish, but when I do these things I still feel encumbered. If only by threads, I am tethered.

But when I dance, I am light. Buoyant. Free. If you don’t know me, you might assume I am one of the chosen few: an up and coming dancer with her whole bright career stretched out ahead of her, or perhaps a famous industry leader with reels of credits. You’d probably never guess I could lose a few pounds, and I’m approaching middle age. If you could join me in the studio and we could move together, I’d surprise you again; you’d believe I was a much younger, more beautiful woman.

Because when I dance, I wear my soul on the outside of my body. In my everyday life, I persevere through new pursuits that pose major struggles for me, like 5am workouts and CrossFit training, and many times I fail. I can’t climb the rope. I can’t complete the “real” pull-up.  I CANNOT do one more burpee. I pause and limp along, gasping for breath when I am supposed to be running faster, going harder. I employ the help of experts to lead me and I often glimpse myself through their eyes, pathetic and stumbling. Weak. I catch myself thinking, If only these people could see me dance.

Because when I dance I am a warrior. I am strong and fierce and in command. I grow tall, my heart swells bigger my eyes flash bright, and I bring the fire. I don’t shrink myself. I do not waffle. Sometimes I fall, but I do it attempting something great, doing a thing most other people simply cannot do or would not dare. And I get back up! Every. Single. Time. I turn the music up louder, and I keep going, because dancing makes me real.
When I dance I become my best self- artist, teacher and mother- so I’m able to pull the best out of my students. Suddenly they too are doing things they once believed they couldn’t. Click! They’re in the pocket, becoming more, and I got to be the one to lead them to this special place. It might be but a moment, but we have reallydanced and so we’re forever changed. The world will never see us in our corner of the neighborhood studio week after week, and maybe they wouldn’t notice us if they did, because we are invisible to their untrained eyes. Our dancing goes virtually undetected and undocumented, but the magic has happened anyway, and I am whole.
This post was orginally published on


ballerina's health and mind work together

Book Review: Ballerina Body by Misty Copeland

Misty Copeland, one of America’s most celebrated ballerinas of modern times, has recently released a third book. This time she steps into the Health and Wellness arena with Ballerina Body: Dancing and Eating Your Way to a Leaner, Stronger and More Graceful You. When many people think of a “ballerina body,” often what comes to mind is a waif-like supermodel shape. However, Copeland defies many conventional norms of what a ballerina looks like. Besides the fact that she is strong and toned, she is African-American. In fact, in 2015, she became the first African American woman to be promoted to principal ballerina in American Ballet Theatre’s Company. According to Copeland, skinny is over. In her book, she asserts “Standards have changed: what women do want is a long, toned, powerful body with excellent posture.” 

Like any health and wellness book, one can expect chapters on fitness and nutrition. Copeland does not deviate from this model. Her fans will love the abundant photographs of the famed dancer’s flawless ballerina body. Fellow dancers might find the workout routines in the book to be basic or redundant, while non-dancers might think them hard to follow without a background in dance and a working dance vocabulary. Nutrition aficionados won’t find anything groundbreaking in this section, but Copeland’s advice is sound nonetheless, and especially readable for teenage dancers wishing to pursue dance more seriously. She stresses the importance of a well- balanced diet of protein, carbohydrates, fat and vegetables. She specifically emphasizes the benefits of a high-fat diet in properly nourishing the body so it has sufficient energy to prevent injury and train hard. She also discusses timing and frequency of eating to perform. If I had to boil the nutrition chapters down to one sentence, it would be “Food is Fuel.” 

In my opinion what sets this book apart from others in the genre and makes so endearing is not the actual health and fitness advice, but rather the time Copeland devotes to wellness as a whole. She talks extensively about mindset. She also discusses journaling and even shares some excerpts from her own journals about her past struggles with her ballerina body. She talks about the importance of finding a mentor and then the value in paying it forward and becoming a mentor to others. Overall this is a great read for anyone interested in wellness and I especially recommend it for “tween” and teenage dancers wishing to take a healthy, holistic approach to honing their fiercest “ballerina body.”