Top 5 Things You Can Do To Help Your Tiny Dancer (And YOU!)  Feel Confident In Dance Class

It’s hard to be a new dance parent while helping your child navigate dance for the first time, right? Don’t worry, we got you. We are here to walk you through a few life hacks to make it seamless. Some of our top 5 tips are counter-intuitive, but trust us. We’re experts! 

  1. Take your child to the potty before dance. “But I don’t have to go potty, Mommy!” Famous last words, right? Taking a trip to the bathroom to at least TRY to go, is non-negotiable before dance class. At the very least, it will offer your dancer to wash hands before entering the studio. We want our students to have an amazing experience at dance- peeing one’s pants isn’t the way there. A dancer cannot concentrate when they have to go to the bathroom. Stopping class to go to the bathroom for one student usually results in a disruption of the entire rhythm of class- we call it “starting a pee-pee party.” Suddenly, the whole world has to go and one-by-one our students are led on an unplanned field trip to the restroom. In a worst case scenario, the dancer has an accident before they can verbalize their need to the teacher, which results in gross cleanup, and physical- and maybe even emotional- discomfort for all involved. This whole scene is so easily avoided by arriving 10 minutes early, and making it routine to stop by the bathroom.   
  2. Clean out the dance bag and label everything. Clothes, shoes, Barbie dolls, snacks, lip gloss… the list goes on. Your dancer feels confident when they can walk over to their bag, grab their next pair of shoes, and head right back to the group. You can help facilitate your dancer’s shoe transition by making sure the dance bag is easy to navigate and free from distractions. Also, if it comes to dance class, it should be labeled. Most of the shoes look EXACTLY alike, and many of the tiny dancers aren’t sure which gear actually belongs to them. You can help the teacher retrieve your dancer’s belongings by making sure everything is clearly labeled. An easy way to label shoes is to use an address label sticker on the inside sole of the shoe. Permanent marker also works, but make sure you don’t write anywhere it would show up during a performance- no shoe graffiti, please! 
  3. Join the communication platforms. Read the weekly newsletter, join the app, check your parent portal. It might seem like a lot but it’s probably a total of five minutes a week, and it will make all the difference in whether you feel like part of the dance family or not. It feels good to understand policies, changes, important dates, and special events. You’ll never feel clueless or alone if you make the tiniest effort to stay informed at the studio. When it comes to performances, costumes, and the next session of dance, if you read the studio news each week then you and your dancer will always know what’s happening, and you’ll even avoid unwanted charges to your card and schedule! 
  4. Untie shoes. If the dancer’s shoes have laces, it helps tremendously if you take them out of the bag, untie them and stretch them open so they’re ready that tiny little foot to slide right in. Often we find ourselves sifting through the cluttered bag only to find a shoe with a quadruple knot left behind. Multiply that times a dozen students, and we’ve unnecessarily wasted precious dance time wrestling with the footwear. Your dancer feels confident when they can put their own shoes on themselves. When shoes are harder to get into than a bank vault, they can’t do it alone! 
  5. Make like a tree…and LEAVE. (No, do not grow roots and stand there strong as an oak!) We know, we KNOW! Your dancer is clinging. Your dancer is crying. Your dancer LOVES IT when you watch. How can you possibly leave them? But the hard truth is when you linger, the entire dynamic of the class has changed. Your dancer isn’t free to be their authentic class self, because they must perform-duh-  there’s an audience! The other kids start wondering where their parents are, and the questions begin. Everyone is so busy looking backward at the windows and door, they have forgotten all about the teacher in front of them. If you think about it, you pay us to capture your child’s attention. So why then would you compete with us for it? It sounds harsh, but it’s so true. Boogie out of there and everyone’s better off for it, including you- because now you have a full 45 minutes to yourself! When the time comes for us to perform for you, we want you to see growth, progress and a confident, independent dancer. We won’t have anything to show you if you never go away long enough for us to teach it, so kiss your dancer, trust us with your precious cargo, and head out. You can do it!

What I Learned About Dance Class During My First Month Of Jiu-Jitsu

I’m a 40 year old woman, I’ve been a dancer since I could walk, and I just finished my first month training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. While I am a “black belt” in dance, I am as novice as it gets in jiu-jitsu. I have learned so much in just a short time, and it’s exciting because it’s only the beginning. Every class brings a new surprise, but the biggest surprise so far has been how much I’ve learned about dance class during my jiu-jitsu training. Here are  four of the biggest “new student dance class fears” and tips to overcome them, brought to you by my jiu-jitsu academy:

  • FEAR: It is terrifying to walk into a new school, sport or activity for the first time. I’m so at home in dance studio life that I could eat sequins for breakfast. While every dance school is different, there is still a general understanding of the expectations, protocols and behaviors no matter where I’ve gone. I can walk into any school and pick up on their norms and fit in within seconds. Well, I’d never walked into a jiu-jitsu class before one month ago. I had forgotten that gut-wrenching nauseous feeling brought on by stepping into completely unknown territory for the first time. I had shaky hands, sweaty pits, and shallow breath. Even though I really wanted to try a class, I still stood at the front door and seriously considered backing out. I was paralyzed with fear.
    • Tip To Overcome: Take a deep breath, drum up 20 seconds of courage like Matt Damon said to do, and walk through the door with a smile. Face your fear for just that moment, and you will survive to live another day. 
  • FEAR: It is terrifying to KEEP walking into that new school, sport or activity for at least the next several times. I thought walking into jiu-jitsu for the first time would be the hardest part. Turns out, walking into jiu-jitsu for the 2nd and 3rd times was the hardest part. The first time I walked in, I was afraid of the unknown. I was making up scary scenarios in my head. What if nobody will be my partner? What if I get hurt? What if the coaches don’t like me? What if I can’t do anything? Surprise! None of my worst fears came true. People were happy to partner with me. I did not get hurt. The coaches were all nice. But, it was super true that I didn’t know anything. I mean, duh. I had never done jiu-jitsu! So the second time I walked in, I was afraid of the known. I knew it was going to be hard. I knew some of it was going to hurt. I knew I was going to fail a lot in order to be successful. I was walking willingly into the fire and I knew it. It was scary all over again!
    • Tip To Overcome: It’s human nature to want to be great at everything the first time we try it, but that’s not how the world works. Dance is likely not going to be life-changing fun in the first few classes. In fact, it will be grueling or tedious work most every time you go, but you will find joy in the journey and it gets better every time. Consistence is the key. Keep finding 20 seconds of courage and do not listen to the negative voice in your head trying to talk you out of the thing you say you want to do. You are not too old, too young, too skinny, too fat, too tall, too short, too ANYTHING. You are just right, and today’s the day. Just keep showing up and imagine how your future self will thank you. 
  • FEAR: Besides all the technique, there’s a whole dress code, language and etiquette to learn too. Hand me a pair of tights and a leotard and tell me to tombe, pas de bourree, glissade, saut de chat? No problem. Clap and curtsey at the end of class?Totally normal, and I do this in my sleep. But dress me up in a gi, tell me to sit in butterfly guard, and remind me to bow when I get on and off a mat? I might as well be in outer space; it all feels SO alien and uncomfortable.
    • Tip To Overcome: First, do your homework. The studio website is going to give you a solid head start on how to prepare, what to wear and how to act. Look at the school’s pictures on social media. You’ve probably been sent an email or a newsletter. READ them. When you arrive, be a phenomenal noticer. Look around at the more experienced people in the room, and do what they do. Make a friend, and ask questions. 
  • FEAR: Everyone looks super mean and they’re all staring. The first time I walked into the jiu-jitsu academy, there was music playing and people were chatting and warming up. Then it was time to line up for class. As soon as I stepped on the mat, there was a loud record scratch followed by dead silence. You could hear a pin drop. 30 pairs of eyes- that’s 60 eyeballs- were suddenly glued to ME! There were no smiles on faces, just blank stares and scowls. Then somebody shouted, “Get to the back of the line, White Belt!” And they all threw their heads back and laughed and laughed. Then they went back to talking with each other and ignoring me.
    • Tip To Overcome: Absolutely none of that actually happened. Truly, nobody but the teacher even cares you’re there the first day you go. Let that be a relief. How freeing! Don’t take yourself so seriously. Absolutely nobody is paying attention to what you’re wearing, how you look, or whether or not you know anything. They are way too preoccupied with themselves! As soon as you make eye contact and introduce yourself to someone, you will realize they are so nice and quite willing to help you. You make a friend, and pretty soon you make another. Your new friends start greeting you and fist bumping you when you walk in the door. They ask you why you missed class if you were absent one day. Suddenly you’re part of a community, and just like that, you’re home.  

Take if from me, I know how daunting it can be to start something new. If you’re thinking about joining dance class, don’t wait any longer. It’s okay to be scared, but do it anyway. We’re here to answer your questions, help and support you at every stage. Your new dance family is just a class or two away, so show up and let’s d-a-n-c-e!

6 Questions With Professional Dancer Tyler Muhlenkamp

Tyler Muhlenkamp is a dancer with The Walt Disney Company, in Orlando, Florida. It was so exciting to host Tyler at EDC for a Musical Theatre Master Class and Audition Workshop in September. We caught up with Tyler in between his busy schedule of dancing, rehearsing, performing and teaching to get answers to our top 6 burning questions.

How have you turned dancing into a living? I wake up each day and get to perform in the “Happiest Place on Earth,” Walt Disney World, for children and adults to see their childhood stories come to life.  

You began dancing at age 14, which is kind of “old” to start according to some folks. How did it all begin for you, how long did it take for you to “get good,” and when did you realize you wanted to dance as a career? I did certainly start at an “older” age. My earliest memory of being put into dance comes from my younger sister. She didn’t want to go into a tap class by herself, so my mother put me in there with her. Ironically, she no longer dances and it has stuck with me through all these years! I knew I wanted to dance as a career pretty quickly afterwards, when I was around 16 or 17. I started to realize I really had improved rather quickly, and I had a talent for it. Once I learned there was actually a career to be had through dance, I was inspired. Now I continue to grow and get better at my craft through teaching.  

What do you think has been the key to your success as a professional dancer? That would have to be taking every chance and opportunity I possibly can. I  have an open mind, I’m not prejudiced or skeptical, and I put forth 100% effort in everything I do. After all, if I fail at something, at least I tried! 

What does “a day in the life” of Mr. Tyler look like on a performance day?
Everyday is ultimately a performance day. I get to perform 5 days a week on the castle stage and around Walt Disney World 52 weeks a year. We perform 5 or 6 shows a day, but every day is different.  Although I do the same show time and time again, each performance is different than the last. That could be because I am performing another role, I could be with a new partner, or it could be raining and we have to perform a modified show. The complexity of putting on a show for a daily operation is always exciting, and it inspires me to go to work each day.   

What is one of your all-time favorite dance steps- something that makes you feel like you can conquer the world? When I am in class, I love to turn. When I nail a pirouette or turn sequence, I feel unstoppable!  

What advice can you offer our young dancers? My advice to young dancers is to never give up on what they dream. That also means to never lose your drive and determination. Exterior forces will impact you throughout your life, but you can always control how you act and react to achieve what you want.  

 

7 Of Our Best Kept Studio Secrets

Did you know….

  1. We like to give you dance shoes for free. Before the start of each session we host a Gear Swap & Uniform Fitting. We bust out our huge collection of gently used shoes and outgrown leotards, and we set them on tables for you to come “shopping.” If something fits, then you’re welcome to it for free. If you prefer new gear or can’t find a used item in your size, then we’ll fit you on the spot and order your gear for you. We keep our new gear affordable, we never charge for shipping, and we always guarantee a perfect fit! 
  2. We have a giving fund. We believe dance should be accessible to everyone, so we created The Elevate Dance Center Giving Fund. The EDCGF is a scholarship fund devoted to making sure dance lessons do not stop for EDC students who fall upon financial hardship. Financial assistance is determined by application and may be awarded based on need and/or merit. Students who apply for and receive a scholarship from the EDCGF  are provided any combination of tuition, fees and other associated costs (uniform, equipment, costume, production fee, etc.) for a dance education with us. We have awarded almost $2000 in scholarships to date, and our primary source of funding comes from King Soopers Community Awards. Register your card today, and help us keep kids dancing!
  3. We blog. We love writing about dance and teaching our families about dance studio life. We post helpful articles such as, How To Choose The Best Dance Studio for your family, Why It’s Better You Don’t Watch Dance Class and What’s So Great About Signing Up To Do Performances. We also tackle tough conversations like, What Does A Life Of Dance Look Like, #boysdancetoo, and Why Dance. Tune in to learn about all things #dancelife, and please share relevant articles with your dancer.
  4. We’re super communicators. If we had a dime for everytime we heard a parent from other dance studios complain about how they never know what’s going on, man we’d be rich! Lucky for you, we don’t roll like that. We are a hoppin’ community with a lot going on, but if you make even the eensy-weensiest effort to stay informed around here, then you WILL know what’s happening and how to get involved. We send a weekly email newsletter (Check your junk! Gmail users, this goes to your “promotions” folder- send it to your inbox instead), occasional Remind text alerts, and we post on our social media channels almost daily. We are active on Facebook with a business page and a private group for our families, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and TikTok. Also, we post announcements in the Parent Portal- so you can login anytime it’s convenient for you and catch up on studio news. If you think we talk to you too much, you can always mute the channels you don’t want to hear. Just pick your favorite way to listen, and stay caught up!
  5. We’re not into competition- we hope everyone crosses the finish line. So we don’t compete. That makes us a “rec studio,” right? Wrong! Just because we don’t dance for trophies doesn’t mean we don’t get out there and do our thang. We host a bunch of opportunities for our students, including a performance team, dance trips to awesome places such as Orlando and Nashville, and special events and master instructors. We focus on fantastic technical training that will allow our dancers to go after their goals in dance- whatever they may be- all while KEEPING DANCE FUN! 
  6. That’s right, we travel to cool places. Every other year, we travel with Dance The World and take an amazing vacation your whole family will love. We make memories through dance by performing in a parade in an awesome costume, dancing on a world famous stage, and taking class with a celebrity instructor. There is plenty of time to recharge on your vacation and have a blast spending time with your family and EDC community. Our trips are open to all with accessible requirements to attend. Performers can be as young as 7 years old. It’s not too late to join us in Nashville in July of 2021, so ask for details!
  7. We strive to delight you. Seriously, we do. We are doing dance differently, and it’s on purpose. That whole Dance Mom’s show and Negative Nelly culture it promotes in the dance world? So dumb. We work really hard to add value to your life without adding to your payment, and we’re known for our above-and-beyond surprises. Past delights have included gifted professional photos at our winter show, a visit from the Sugarplum Fairy, dance storytime with an author, Little Monster’s Ball for predancers, Bring-A-Friend weeks, summer celebrations, individual evaluations for primary and above, and more. YOU are what makes us have the best families in this business, and it’s our pleasure to show you that you are loved, wanted and appreciated. We think you’re pretty neat, and we try to let you know it!

5 Things You Can Do In Dance Class (While You’re Not Doing Anything)

It’s common during dance class to find yourself with a little bit of downtime. Whether your dance teacher is working out a section of choreography, changing the music or drilling one-on-one with another student, you might occasionally find yourself in a holding pattern during your class. It’s definitely NOT an invitation for you to stop and do nothing, talk to a neighbor or kick up a ruckus. Nope, no thank you, no way! Instead, make use of every moment and perfect your craft. Here are five things you can do in dance class while you’re waiting for direction from your teacher:

  1. Stretch. Flexibility is as important to a dancer as water is to fish! It’s the foundation on which every single piece of dance technique begins. If you are not flexible and mobile, then it’s extremely hard to execute most dance steps properly. So, if you find yourself with downtime during a dance class, then pick a stretch and hold it. If you have arrived early to a class, begin warming up in a quiet corner. Don’t just stand there, stretch something!
  2. Review. If your teacher has just taught you a new dance step, such as an outside pirouette in jazz class for example, then you can be practicing it over and over. Even if your teacher said, “Practice this three times,” and you’ve done it three times- but your teacher hasn’t moved on yet- then keep working! Maybe you’re done before your teacher has gotten around to giving the next piece of instruction, or she has found herself working with another student for longer than expected. Please don’t shout, “Miss, I’m done! What should I do now?!” Chances are, you weren’t a master after the three times anyways. Why? Because mastery doesn’t happen in a minute or two. Keep polishing, keep practicing, and work on your move until you’ve been told to do otherwise. 
  3. Practice. If you have been taught a combination or a dance, and you find yourself with a hot second to think through it, then downtime during dance class is a great moment to remind yourself of your choreography. You do not need to perform your dance “full-out” in the middle of the room to practice. Simply mark through your steps in a quiet corner, and it will make a remarkable difference in how much you can remember when it comes time to do the dance as a class. Your teacher will be so impressed with what you retained! 
  4. Write. So you’ve stretched, you worked on your new step until the cows came home, and you’ve reviewed your choreo so well you could do it in your sleep. You really are done. What now? Pull out your dance notebook and jot down your step or combo so you can remember it next week! For example, pretend you just learned the Martha Washington in tap class. You’ve practiced it several times, you’ve worked through it slowly on your own, you even stretched out your ankles, but your teacher hasn’t switched it up yet. You’re still in Martha Town. There’s nothing else to do right now, right? Wrong! Jot down “scuff-heel-flap, hop-shuffle-step, flap-click-heel-stomp” in your notes, and you’ll never forget about Martha as long as you live. 
  5. Watch. If your teacher is working with another student, or practicing a piece of choreography she’s about to teach you, then consider zipping your lip and watching to learn. You can pick up some of the movements before they’ve even been taught to you! Similarly, you can listen for the corrections the teacher is giving to another student and apply them to your own dancing. Genius! If your teacher is demonstrating a step across the floor, you should pay attention and mark. After all, that teacher is an expert- don’t miss an opportunity to learn from the best!

Remember, every minute counts. Somewhere, someone is working hard.When they meet you on the dance floor, they’ll be ready. Will you? No doubt, because the next time you have downtime during a dance class, you’ll know exactly what to do. There is always a teachable moment in dance, so make sure to use each minute to learn something awesome!

Making The TEAM

TEAM is for:

Trained 

Enriched 

Abloom

Motivated

 

That’s right, Elevate Dance Center is home to a very special dance team. I’ve been asked a few times when we plan to start competing. I mean, why not? I competed myself as a young dancer. I won the trophies. I coached the teams- sometimes I coached the teams that won 1st place at nationals, and sometimes I coached the teams that couldn’t win even a steaming pile of cow dung. I have won the choreography awards. And I have also gotten the comments from judges like,  “This one fell flat for me. Not my cup of tea.” (Whatever, Simon. Who says that to kids?!) And for several years now I’ve been at the judges’ table deciding the fate of the dancers on stage, sitting there for up to 50 hours in a single weekend in a city far far away. 

So yeah, I’ve been there. I’ve done it all, and I don’t intend to do it again- especially not with OUR school, the one where I get to make every careful decision about our values and culture. Nope, not here. Not ever. Buh-bye competitive dance. The bottom line is this- if you want to spend big bucks and a ton of time to dance for trophies and crowns, you are really going to have to find another studio. Oof that’s harsh. 

Or is it? Even though it IS different today, than when I was growing up, I promise not to go on and on about how much better competitive dance was back when I walked 10 miles barefoot uphill both ways to and from rehearsals in snowstorms. I DO have fond memories of my dance team days. It’s just that when I look back on my experience and think of the best parts, those good memories have absolutely nothing to do with the competition aspect. (My trophies hit the garbage bin by age 18.) In fact, most of everything competition related throughout my dance career has been more of a source of stress than anything else. 

Now rather than going into detail on what I DON’T want to promote and all the reasons why I dislike competitive dancing today, let’s instead take my own advice and find the good. Let’s talk about what we DO want to promote at EDC and why our TEAM is different and so special. We feel the point of our TEAM is to give families who want more out of their dancer’s education an opportunity to create a deep sense of community while fostering and living the TEAM core values. It’s our mission to create an endearing and tight-knit community within our community that provides above-and-beyond experiences for our dancers to engage in dance in inspiring new ways without the dance competition environment. 

As we said before, our TEAM is based on four core values. Every move we make with TEAM has to deal with at least one of these values, or we don’t do it pure and simple. Let’s break those down: 

  • Training: To be taught through practice and instruction. To undertake a course of exercise and/or diet in order to reach a high level of physical fitness, to cause to be sharp, discerning and developed. 
  • Enrichments: Improving or enhancing the quality and value of something. To enhance, make richer. Supplementing, upgrading. 
  • Abloom: Flowering or being in bloom. Blossoming. Thriving in beauty, health and vigor. 
  • Motivation: Stimulated in interest and enthusiasm for doing something. Inspired, encouraged, imaginative. A strong desire to succeed in some pursuit. 

Here are the ways we put our core values into practice on TEAM:

  • Training: audition workshop, minimum 2 classes in every session, participation in Fall and Spring show, participation in one weekend dance convention, priority selection for teaching assistants, some administrative training and tasks. 
  • Enrichments: exclusive opening number in Spring Show, featured performers in Finale at Spring Show, Colorado Dance Project charity show (recently canceled due to COVID-19), halftime performance at CU basketball and Denver Nuggets halftimes, volunteer opportunities such as serving at EDC Breakfast & Broncos fundraiser or producing our Halloween show for Sunny Acres Assisted Living, invitation to audition for local The Nutcracker production, trip to Nashville to Dance The World (July 2021).
  • Abloom: TEAM members are urged to grow in technique and skill as a dancer. The teachers will know they have permission to expect more from TEAM dancers and push them harder than before. Blossoming dancers are blossoming humans, and they embody the EDC Student Pledge and they participate in character development exercises with their coaches and teammates. 
  • Motivated: TEAM dancers have a MINIMUM 85% attendance in their dance classes, 2.5 GPA or its equivalent. They are also school ambassadors by always demonstrating proper dance class etiquette and dress code, New Student Buddies, participating in culture building social events, etc.

The bottom line is this- we are not against dance teams. In fact, we love them. We just want to bring out the BEST in our dancers (and their parents) and we’re convinced we’ve found the number one way to do it through our non-competitive dance TEAM, upheld by its core values. Our commitment to EDC families is to take our TEAM members’ experience to the next level. We give the best we have to offer in terms of instruction and experiences, and we work alongside our dance families to raise the most trained, enriched, abloom, motivated version of our dancers they can be. We invite our members to join for the dancing, and stay for the growth. This is what being on a TEAM is all about!  

*Interested in joining the 2020-2021 EDC Dance TEAM? Stay tuned- there will be an informational family meeting in early August!

What Does A Life of Dance Look Like?

Growing up in dance can look differently from state to state, studio to studio and kid to kid. In the past several years dance has made a comeback in the mainstream spotlight of television and film. While this pop culture reboot has done some great things for our art, it has also given rise to some negative trends for both youth and adults. This is one reason why it is so important to take time to find the best dance school for your family. It didn’t occur to me that parents are actually afraid of their children becoming commodities or exploited through dance until I had a lengthy and honest email conversation with a father concerned about his daughter choosing dance as her passion. 

It’s worth noting this conversation was with a prospective client whose daughter danced at another school. For anonymity and brevity’s sake, this is only an excerpt of our conversation. The only thing altered is I have used pronouns where names had been. Do his concerns in yellow ring true for you? Or do you relate more to our responses? Both sides are valid and worth discussing. We’d love to know your thoughts on this important issue!  

“But at the same time, I play it out in my head of what a life of dance would look like, and what message does that convey to our daughter of what we value.”

So this makes me wonder, what movie is playing in your mind when you picture what a life of dance would look like? I hate to answer your question with a question, but it is important to know what you’re picturing here. For me, a life of dance has looked like:

  • A lifetime sport- everybody dances throughout life at school, parties and weddings. I have built the confidence to get out on the dance floor until I am at least 100 years old. 
  • Life skills that have led to my success in life- discipline, work ethic, physical exertion, nutrition, balance, stamina, time management… 
  • Growing up I loved performing. Then I joined a competitive team. (This is no longer a part of my value system and my school won’t be competing. We focus on performances.) In high school this led to me forming a dance team. In college, this lead to me forming another dance team. I also performed in the Dance Collective show in college. As a young school teacher, I joined a professional dance team and performed at games for two years. Highlight moments there included dancing at a game with Bon Jovi and John Elway present, flying in US military Chinooks to land on soccer fields and talk to kids about not doing drugs, and performing in a packed Mile High Stadium on the 4th of July- they were such rare experiences, and SO exhilarating. I also coached and taught dance all throughout my college and “real job” years, where I created dance scholarship programs and put on some amazing shows to raise money for awesome causes. I have seen some of my dancers go on to become professional performers, others who have become dance instructors, and still more who have gone on to do nothing with dance but still be amazing at life and come back and share how dance shaped them as adults. I have performed with bands and choreographed flash mobs. When I was in high school, there was a death in my family- a child, my nephew. It was heartbreaking for my whole family, and I firmly believe dance saved my life back then. Today, my mission is to change lives for the better through dancing. THIS is what a life of dance means for me, and it’s pretty similar to what most of my colleagues and dance friends would say too. Is this what’s going through your head when you picture a life of dance? 

 

I have a message that plays in my head that goes something like “If you get into dance, then you are placing a high value on how you can move and use your body, and you learn to move your body in a way that gains attention and appreciation from other people.” Now I know that this is incorrect, and maybe you could help me out with what value is being conveyed to the dancers with the time and energy they invest into this. 

Well, I’m not sure you are incorrect on this. I think it’s absolutely true. HOWEVER, I imagine that this has a negative connotation for you. Perhaps you are picturing a tiny little outfit and some sexual movements in a dimly lit room. If so, these are terrifying thoughts indeed. For me, my perception of the same sentence is 100% positive. I am completely fascinated with what the human body can accomplish, and I think it deserves the attention and appreciation of others. This is no different than how I appreciate the amazing feats of a football player’s body rushing the passer, a gymnast’s body in a double tuck, the baseball player’s body that swings the bat so hard the ball leaves the field, a wrestler’s body who gets a reversal and pins…. I could go on and on.    

 

I know our daughter loves to dance, I just need to ensure that the time investments and values we lift up and tell her to aim for are good and pure. The last thing I want to be is apathetic and indifferent. 

I completely agree. Apathy and indifference will convey a horrible message to your daughter. However, you might just have to fake it until you make it on that one. It will take some time for you to buy-in. Frankly, it could take years for you to appreciate the life changing magic that happens when a child who loves dancing finds the right fit in a studio. That’s okay, and I promise you’re not the first dad to feel this way. You won’t be the last either. You are probably the only dad who takes the time to think through it this thoroughly though, and THAT in and of itself puts you miles above apathy or indifference. 

In all honesty, I don’t think it’s the art of dance that scares you. I think it’s all the potential environments you are wary of. You don’t need to worry about that with us, and I don’t think you need to worry about it for your daughter in general. It seems to me you are working hard to raise a values-driven adult. No matter what she does with dance or where she goes with it, she’s not going to make decisions to disappoint you. 

 

Introduces our youngest dancers to ballet and tumbling in a positive and fun setting.

Why Can’t I Watch Class?!

Elevate Dance Center is a “kiss and go” studio. This can be hard for some of our youngest dancers’ parents to understand, but we feel very strongly that our children should be given a learning environment free from spectators. Class time is about exploration, mistake-making and growth. It is not a performance, and therefore needs no audience. 

While certainly you are the most well-behaved parent on Earth, some folks are absolutely not. When parents are in the room, they unintentionally create a slew of distractions, such as texting, tending to younger siblings, whispering to one another, or giving a misbehaving child “the eye.” 

While well-meaning, it is actually a huge step in the wrong direction for our classes when parents interrupt the room to help with changing shoes. We totally get it- you’re just trying to help, and you don’t want to see us “waste” 5 minutes changing shoes. But, we are experts in our craft, and there is actually magic that happens during the shoe transition part of class. Did you know it’s actually an opportunity for our kids to reach some benchmarks and milestones in their coordination and independence? Did you know that’s the part of class where some students step in as leaders and help those who need it? Did you know during the shoe change is when some kids share whatever’s on their heart with us?

Who knows what goes on in all those brilliant little minds while you’re watching, but we bet it goes something like:

Why does her mommy stay and mine goes? I want my Mommy too! 

Oh I see my mommy over there I will run and give her a quick hug. 

My mommy is here but she’s looking at her phone. I have an idea! I will really act up so she pays attention to me. 

Why does my mommy keep making those movements at me while I do this dance? She doesn’t like it. I must not be a good dancer. 

My mommy isn’t here today. There’s nobody clapping and watching me do this. I guess I’ll stop. 

You see, when parents stick around, it creates two distinct groups of kids; those kids whose parents stay, and those who don’t. This creates a whole bunch of different behaviors that we don’t normally have to handle when ALL parents simply kiss and go.

So what if you’re on board with the kiss-and-go policy, but you’re still not ready to be separated from your little for 45 minutes? Here are some tips to make it easier on you, momma:

  1. Arrive early enough that you are both calm and not rushing. Take your child to the bathroom, help her find a cubby, set up their stuff just right. Spend a couple minutes together in the room, dance it out for a sec. 
  2. With a bright smile, wave and say “See you soon! Have fun!”
  3. THEN GO. No more hugs, no tearful slow-motion waves. Rip the band-aid off and book it. We promise to keep your child safe and comfort him if he’s upset. 
  4. If you are really uncertain if your child is going to go for this, then talk to the teacher about your concerns up front. Let her know how long you are comfortable with your child crying before you want to be called. (We’ve never had to make that call, by the way. 😉
  5. And lastly, if you can’t bring yourself to leave- just stay invisible. The room is made of glass, you can see in. Just make sure your baby doesn’t see you, or it all really goes downhill from there.

We promise, it gets better every week. This is why we suggest you give it 6 weeks for your predancer to adjust. Check in with your child’s teacher after class. If after 6 weeks it’s still a struggle, then it’s possible your dancer isn’t ready yet.  We will be honest with you and help you if the decision to dance now needs reassessing. We are in this together. You and your child are in great hands. It takes a village, and we are your people. Now kiss that beautiful baby and go! 

More Than Just Great Dancing

Why dance?

Sometimes it’s hard to put into words the magnitude of what we do when step into the studio. When we dance, we throw a party for our soul. As dance teachers, we know we are changing lives in every class, and we think our parents intuitively know it too when they sign their kids up for dance.

When you find the right fit in a studio, you get it. You begin to understand that dance is so much more than pointing your toes. By engaging in dance in a positive and nurturing way, we’re building beautiful human beings, not just beautiful dancers.

Yes, technique is very important. The athletic and artistic benefits of dance cannot and should not be ignored. But, it’s more than just great dancing. Dance enhances intelligence. It also develops resilience, creativity and teamwork among other important life skills.

Your dance studio is a lighthouse in your dancer’s life; a bright beacon in this dark, crazy world. Your dance school is a community of growth and learning, where children are celebrated and dancers are invited to become the best version of themselves.

This is why we dance.

Tights. Are They Over?

Elevate Dance Center is a tights-wearing dance studio in spite of the fact that it’s become very trendy and “cool” to skip the stockings. The no-tights camp is quick to label the pro-tighters as “old school.”  The issue can be such a point of contention, that we once had a parent petition to get Miss Janelle and I fired from Belliston Academy because we did not allow her daughter to dance barefoot and sans-tights at a dance convention like students from other studios were doing. It was our job to enforce the rules of the studio, and we told her she needed to take her classes in dress code. Her mother complained to the owner, Miss Jeannine, and although I don’t remember the exact language she used, it amounted to, “The other kids are doing it, and my daughter should be allowed to look like them if she wants. We pay a lot of money for dance.” Thankfully Miss J backed us up, and told the mother to go ahead and take her pick of those other studios. Phew! Bullet dodged. However, that crazy mommy’s reaction is just a microcosm example of the greater dance world’s hot-button feelings on the tights-or-no-tights issue. I asked our expert EDC instructors to weigh-in, and here’s what they had to say:

Miss Janelle (Hip Hop, Breakdancing, Jazz): I like for them to wear tights. It helps make their body lines look cleaner when on stage. It keeps their muscles warm. When I was judging [a regional dance competition in another state] last month I noticed three [different] teenage dancers that started menstruating [during different dances]. You can tell they were uncomfortable on stage. Tights add extra protection for young dancers. I am 100% in support of tights.

Mr. Keston (Ballet, Turns & Leaps): I mean, it’s ballet. You should always be wearing tights. I didn’t stop wearing full-length tights until I got my first professional contract. It is an extra layer of protection for guys as well- keeps everything in place.

Miss Sara (Predance, Ballet, Tap, Lyrical): I think wearing tights is important to keep muscles warm and I think it completes the body’s lines too.

Miss Harley (Jazz): Tights always made me feel confident and comfortable [while I was dancing].

Miss Shelli (Acro): They are fine right now with what tricks they are working on [but we may need to reconsider them for Acro as the kids progress in difficulty].

Let’s examine both sides of the coin from a broader perspective of the international dance community where this is an ongoing debate. (The following quotes are taken from dance instructors and studio owners across the country, however they were pulled from conversations from closed networking groups and are listed anonymously to protect privacy.)

“What would be a pretty step or trick otherwise looks sexual without adequate coverage. As an Acro teacher, I am very careful about putting kid on stage in just a leotard, hitting split lines and balances. It’s gets inappropriate quickly, and can have the potential to sexualize children. I just watched a community performance with teenagers wearing only leotards and doing balances and tilts, and the audience of adults were either very uncomfortable or watching intently…It’s a slippery slope.”

“As a teenager, it did make an impact on my emotional development feeling so exposed because that’s just ‘what you wear’ and my point is – shouldn’t we be making costuming choices for our children based on what is most modest and appropriate for them individually rather than on what everyone else is doing?”

“Once upon a time when I was training and going to college for dance…tights were a rule. The light compression helped improve circulation to your legs and feet (there have been studies where this is proven…same reason I wear compression socks as a runner). It was also thought to be part of the “uniform” and make class professional.”

“As a studio owner, dance teacher, and mom to three girls, it’s tights all the way. In a perfect world, we should all be able to appreciate the beauty of a dancer’s body, and if body parts happen to pop out, it should not be an issue because it’s all beautiful…. HOWEVER, we don’t live in that world. We live in a world loaded with sickos and perverts, and those out there ready to post pics and exploit a child.”

“When I was in high school I always said “no way” when an instructor brought up not wearing tights. I don’t know why, but tights were just a barrier from my body to the audience. I think part of it is that I never heard someone say “you’d look great without tights” or “you’ll still be beautiful.” Now, every time I bring up not wearing tights, or even wearing shorts instead of leggings, I have a lengthy conversation with my dancers about it and how they feel about wearing them (or not) on stage. The choreographer should be in tune to their dancers’ level of confidence and comfort. There is a difference between choreographing for professionals and choreographing for young girls who have very fragile ideas of their bodies.”

“This will be a conversation that will never end – can we agree it is up to the choreographer and hopefully based on costume and body types, they make the right choices. If you don’t use tights, please make sure your dancers are trimmed, glued and don’t show anything they don’t want us to see. I love seeing the muscles they work so hard on developing without tights, but I also use tights depending on the costume and dance genre.  Let’s let everyone make their own choices and support each other.”

In summary, the list seems to go something like this:

PRO TIGHTS

  • Clean body lines
  • Warmer muscles
  • Added layer of coverage/protection
  • Builds confidence and comfort on stage
  • Hygiene! Tights provide a light barrier between our skin and everything else in dance class. Besides the fact that we want to keep from spreading our sweat, open scratches and/or odors around the room, we also want to keep everything from touching us as well.
  • Protects dancers’ modesty
  • Finishes the look in a costume
  • Looks more innocent, especially on curvy dancers
  • Light compression improves circulation in legs
  • Completes a dance school dress code, adding to the professionalism and uniformity of dancers in class
  • Lessons the probability of a wardrobe malfunction
  • Filters the look of the leg- hides distracting imperfections- bruises, ashy skin, body hair, cellulite, etc.
  • Dancers who don’t wear tights typically must and/or choose to groom excessively- trimming, shaving, gluing, applying self tanner, using tanning beds- to look good and feel comfortable on stage. This is unnecessary for young dancers and can lead to greater questions about beauty and body image.
  • Dancers in a dance school are still in training. They are not professionals and should not be subjected to the life of a professional dancer yet. There’s plenty of time for that later.

ANTI-TIGHTS

  • Old school, outdated
  • During certain lifts or Acro tricks and partner work tights can add slip and take away from grip.
  • Modern, Contemporary and Acro dance styles should never use tights.
  • Dance tights aren’t inclusive enough. Now the manufacturers are getting smarter and offering tights in several skin tones, but that has not been the case for long.
  • Filters the look of the leg- there’s not a thing much more beautiful than a dancer’s muscular leg in motion. Dancers work very hard for their muscles, and seeing the engagement of the correct muscles while dancing highlights fabulous technique.
  • Professional dancers rarely wear tights, and we should be preparing our kids for the “real world” of dance.

I believe there are valid reasons both for AND against tights, and I wholeheartedly agree with the inclusion argument. However, during my dance training I experienced the many benefits of using tights. As a dancer with a professional dance team, we still wore tights while performing. As a parent, I recognize the fact that nobody wants to see children who look remotely unclothed. And now as I come full circle as the owner of Elevate Dance Center,  I strongly believe the pros to wearing tights absolutely outweigh the cons. EDC will continue to mandate tights as part of our uniform for Ballet, Jazz, Lyrical, Turns and Leaps and other classes as necessary, and hopefully now you feel educated and equipped on why tights matter for our school.

Thanks for reading, and never miss a chance to dance. -Miss Dena

What do you think? We’d love to hear your comments.