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.”