Elevate Dance Center began 4 years ago, but most of our staff has been in the business of dance for longer than some of our dancers’ parents have been alive, and many of our staff members have worked together for a decade or two before EDC. When the dance studio I was working for in Westminster closed it’s doors in 2014, my sons still wanted to dance, so I went on the hunt for a great school for them close to home. I tried several, and I couldn’t find it. So, Elevate Dance Center was born. We were founded on the idea that what I wanted in a dance studio for my own children did not exist on our side of town. It was also founded on the idea that there are a lot of goofy- but sorta true- complaints about this industry, and we thought we could easily do business in a way that totally eradicated them. Now I mean absolutely no shade to any of my competitors, but the truth is, I saw certain norms being perpetuated in dance studios everywhere, and I wanted a change for the industry. I wanted to do it all differently. So, we did. Here are 8 things EDC does to revolutionize the studio experience:
- We are organized and communicative. You’ll notice it with your EDC handbook, your show handbook, the presentation and delivery of your children’s costumes, and our responses to your emails, calls, Band chats, social media messages and texts. You’ll also see it with how quickly our shows run, our dismissal procedure at shows, and more. Many schools run on chaos and prayers. We run on well-thought-through CONTROLLED chaos and prayers.
- We create a culture of love first, then dance and not the other way around. Our community is second to none. From parents, to teachers, to students, we care for each other. We lift each other up. This is why our name is Elevate.
- We perform in the best venue we can find, and we do not scrimp on staff or supervision.
- We select gorgeous costumes that are both classy and covered. Our rule is that we don’t show our midriff. There are many beautiful costumes out there that show midriffs, and crop tops are totally in right now, I get it, but it’s a slippery slope to dancing in a rhinestoned bra. I have judged dance competitions and taught classes from coast to coast, and it’s not just true but sadly it’s also the general standard. By keeping “no midriffs” as our rule, we never slide down that slope.
- We choose our music to tell stories that uplift and entertain. There are lots of ways to express emotions and process life through dance, but we choose to stay away from topics that are too serious or too mature. You won’t see our kids dancing about breakups, deep romantic love, or death. That type of art can certainly be beautiful, but it’s just not our jam. We stay in our lane of love, empowerment, and FUN. We believe in spreading positive vibes to build positive lives.
- Our ballet music is usually unconventional. Our ballet technique is absolutely traditional, but our music is often not classical or from a famous ballet. There is time for honoring tradition as the children grow in their appreciation of ballet, but for the moment, we just want them to love it.
- We are never in the wings dancing with your kids. Our youngest performers at shows are barely two years old. Our newest performers might perform after only dancing 6 weeks. We are confident in them, and we don’t care if what they produce on stage is perfection. What we care about is that they are brave and proud. Their technique will come with time.
- Our school is super boy friendly. A lot of dance studios are all pink glitter unicorns all the time. That doesn’t work for every girl, and it certainly doesn’t work for every boy. We work hard to welcome everyone at EDC, and I bet we are the only general dance studio in Colorado with a fluctuating percentage of boys of 10-20%. #boysdancetoo #heckyestheydo
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.
Costume Try-On Week is such an exciting event for dancers! Slipping the costume on for the first time is often the “a-ha” moment when the dancers suddenly understand their teacher’s vision for the performance. This is also the moment where your dancers get pretty excited about their time in the spotlight. Simply put, they feel like stars.
Behind the scenes, so much goes into the logistics of costuming. Your studio’s process of selecting costumes is a painstaking one, full of careful thought, creativity and the joy of putting a smile on your child’s face. Read on for the top 5 things we things we REEEEAAAALY want you and your dancer to know about costumes:
- Costumes aren’t a democracy. 🙂 Your dancer’s costume has been selected by the choreographer (the person who made up the dance), and has been carefully considered to both bring the dance to life, and flatter the performers. There may be differences in costumes in the same class. For example, it’s possible there will be three different colors of the same style of costume in one routine. The colors have been chosen for specific dancers for a reason- such as formations- and there is no switching or requesting.
- Costumes have been chosen not only with artistry and beauty in mind, but also with modesty and tastefulness as top priorities. You will not see exposed midriffs in our choice of costumes. All dancers will wear tights. These are non-negotiables for us, and we’re proud to keep your dancers covered on stage.
- We are building a non-judgmental culture of love and understanding at our school. Please keep these core values in mind as you see the costume reveals and bring your dancers’ costumes home. If the costumes wouldn’t have been your choice had you been in control of the selection, please keep in mind these costumes WERE the first choice of the teachers who picked them. We are very excited about our costumes and can’t wait to see our dancers wearing them. Remember if it’s not necessary to say, then it’s necessary not to say it.
- If it’s your dancer who comes home less than thrilled about his or her costume, then please use this as a teachable moment for your child and educate them about everything mentioned above. Let’s work together to get your child pumped and operate under the principle, “You get what you get and you’re super excited about it!” (We like this better than the old “throwing of the fit.”)
- Our costumes are not custom-made, however we take careful measurements following the manufacturer’s guidelines and we allow for a reasonable amount of growing room. Even so, costumes may still need some adjustments. Pinning and/or a neighbor with simple sewing skills will be your best friend in these cases. If something absolutely does not fit, we will make every effort to exchange it. Remember, we are on Team YOU!
Thank you for taking the time to learn “how we elevate.” We understand not everyone grew up in dance or theatre, and we want you to feel like the confident, competent and loved members of our dance family that you are. Mostly, we want you to be happy and we’re working hard to make that happen. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask one of our friendly staff members. Happy Costume Time!
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.
Keston Meyer is a dancer with Ballet Ariel in south Denver. He performs in three shows this weekend on April 27th & 28th in Swan Lake Act III & Mother Goose Fairy Tales at the Lakewood Cultural Center. We caught up with Keston in between dancing, rehearsing and teaching to ask him our top 6 burning questions.
How did you start dancing? I started dancing at 15, after I watched a rehearsal from a local school in my home town. There was a paper posted on the window looking for guys with ‘no experience needed.’ I took my first class and the fire was started. I kept it burning ever since that first class when I was a teenager, and I’ve never looked back. The best thing I’ve found in performing is that on any given day, I could be a prince, a pirate or an evil wizard. To be able to portray that to an audience through dancing, is my favorite aspect of performing.
What do you think has been the key to your success as a professional dancer? I worked as hard as I could. I took every class possible and dove headfirst into dancing.
What does a day in the life of Mr. Keston look like on a performance day? A performance day or theater day starts with packing and preparing everything I will need from the moment I leave the house. Then I will typically start with taking a 90 minute class, followed by 5-6 hours of rehearsals and then straight to the show.
What is one of your all-time favorite dance steps- something that makes you feel like you can fly or conquer the world? A really lofty grand jeté. When you time it just right, you feel like you stop time and float in the air.
What are you looking forward to most as you retire from professional dance? To start a family.
What advice can you offer our young dancers? Work hard. Give your dancing everything you have when you’re in class or on stage, and you will never walk away dissatisfied. And… point your feet!
While I dance I can not judge, I can not hate, I can not separate myself from life. I can only be joyful and whole. This is why I dance. – Hans Bos
The joy and sense of self we experience when we dance is something that crosses all ages, races, socioeconomic statuses and genders. The men in our society deserve to feel the bliss of movement to music just as much as the women. We need to encourage our sons to dance like we do our daughters. Here are the top 9 reasons why:
10. There is no escaping it. You know the old saying, “If you can’t beat them, join them.” It couldn’t be more true. All throughout life our boys will be faced with situations where dancing would be a great tool to have in the old toolbox… school dances, clubs, weddings… wouldn’t it be better if they had the courage and swagger to get out there?
9. Dance is not necessarily taught in schools anymore. Remember the days of the dreaded gym class square dance? What about the elementary school plays and choirs? While dance standards remain a part of most school’s curriculum, often today’s teachers do not have the time, space or expertise to teach a “dance unit.” Specials classes are constantly threatened at every stage of education, and if we don’t expose our boys to the fine arts- music, theatre, dance- then they might not ever experience them. According to Scott Gormley in the Huffington Post, “This problem goes beyond ballet: we encourage perceived strength over all kinds of artistry and often force boys to play organized sports while diminishing the role of the arts in schools. As a society, we are failing not just ballet danseurs, but boys who want to be violinists or actors or sculptors.”
8. Dance is a positive form of self expression. Our boys are not taught to feel their feelings as freely as our girls. Dance allows boys to process emotions without words and gives them a safe place to express themselves.
6. Dance develops leadership skills and builds character in boys. Besides the obvious facing resistance from friends and even family in choosing to dance in the first place, dancing also requires our boys to learn how to take the lead, both literally and figuratively. “When one leads, one does it with strength, but also with gentleness. It is done with confidence, but not as subjugation. It requires the man to make decisions, to communicate his intentions clearly and then to invite the lady to join him.”
5. Dancing is fun and adventurous. “Because there are so few male dancers in relation to females, the jobs available to men are particularly significant.” Dance can take you around the world as you work with inspiring people and perform on stage and screen. On tour with Rhianna? Performing for the Queen of England? Starring in the next big dance movie? Why not?!
3. Dancing help us connect. Whether it’s in the form of music appreciation and understanding or cultural awareness, dancing helps our boys connect with society and art on a deeper level while building a strong sense of community.
2. Cool Factor. Yep, we went there. Dancing is plain cool. For all the bullying that can happen when a boy chooses dance, he is always the life of the party. Men envy him, and women want to be asked by him- everybody looks up to the confident guy on the dance floor.
And the number one reason why boys should dance? Girls. We live in a #metoo world. From a very young age dance teaches our boys positive gender interactions and allows for them to learn how to engage with the opposite sex in a way that is fun, appropriate and not at all sleazy. In medieval times a knight’s training included dancing- they were onto something there.
Besides the obvious and universal reasons why anyone should dance- improved health, strength, endurance, physique, fun, artistic expression- there are reasons unique to boys why dancing just makes sense. Let’s get those boys dancing today!