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My very first recital was when I was about three years old.  I went to a small studio and instead of doing the recital at a theater we did it in the studio.  My teacher set up chairs in one half of the studio, and the other half was the stage.  Even though I had been practicing the dance in that studio for months, I never made it on stage.  Instead I cried and screamed as my sister tapped her way through the dance with a couple of other classmates.

Now I brag about my amazing track record for getting the little ones on stage.  I know I shouldn’t do it, but each year I do.  I’m bound to curse not only myself but an innocent little ballerina, but hopefully not this year.  We have a fool proof way for ensuring the success of our dancers.  Here’s how we pull it off:

Preparation is key.

As soon as we start learning our recital dances, everything is the most fun ever!  “We’re going to start learning our dance that we’re going to perform on a big stage in the spring time.  It’s going to be awesome.”  I repeat this phrase using different words every week, emphasizing how much fun performing is.  We also have children’s books about ballerinas performing on stage that we begin reading to the students to help them prepare.  In one of the stories, the performance does not go as planned but everything still turns out in the end.

We’re also fortunate enough to be in the theater the entire week leading up to the recital which means our dancers get at least two trial runs to be successful on stage before recital day.  At our tech rehearsal we take each class on stage and back stage, giving them a tour of the theater environment.  We also get to practice the dance that day.  Sometimes kinder students are hesitant that day since it is a new environment.  I don’t make a big deal of them.  I tell them they can watch that day and we can try again at dress rehearsal.  Usually by dress rehearsal they are ready to try it out!

“Nervous” is NOT part of the vocabulary.

Feeling nervous can be very similar to feeling excited.  Younger dancers have trouble distinguishing the difference between the feelings, so I prefer to use the term “excited.”  Nervous has a negative connotation.  It implies that something could go wrong, that messing up is bad, or that trouble is in the near future.  Excited makes the students think just the opposite.  When you are excited for something it is usually because it is going to be an enjoyable and rewarding experience.

Especially when it’s a tiny student’s first recital, they don’t know what to expect.  When we manage their expectations by telling them exactly what is going to happen and how successful they are going to be, they are more confident!  When preparing your dancer for recital day, remember to keep everything positive.

Make it fun!

I’ve said this a million times before and I’ll say it again, but recital is my FAVORITE day of the year.  I love it because it is fun, and I am filled with pride when my students take the stage, no matter what happens.  At recital students get to wear beautiful sparkly costumes, wear their hair a certain way, and put on a bit of make up.  It is a special day to celebrate growth, hard work, and accomplishment.  Enjoy the one day your dancer gets to show you what they’ve been working on for the entire year.  It really is a great one!

Our recital theme this year is “Beyond Belief” and I personally can’t believe that it’s just around the corner.  We’re already counting down to the best day of the year, and we can’t wait to see all of our dancers take the stage in May!

Good luck!

I start most of my classes off with a quick share time.  In share time we are allowed to say anything that takes 10 seconds or less, or I give an alternative.  The alternative is usually what they ate for lunch, but sometimes it’s their favorite color, movie, song, book, or flavor of ice cream.

With my middle to high school students it can be hard to stick to the 10 second rule.  Some students need to get things off of their chest.  Over the course of the year the dance studio becomes somewhere where the students can share their true feelings.  I hear about successes, stresses, school frustrations, and more.  After share time the students feel better.  They have cleared their mind and can now focus on their technique.

Recently in share time one of my students shared that she was stressed because she had a night full of homework ahead of her.  Her story went something like this:

Tonight I am going to be up until the a.m. because I have so much homework.  My Mom didn’t want me to come to dance but I came because I love dance and it makes me feel better.

I immediately felt a pang of happiness in my heart.  As dance teachers we are constantly trying to find the balance of setting realistic expectations for students without giving them additional stress.  Obviously they need to work hard to reach their goals and improve their technique.  The pressures of school are much greater than they have ever been, and we strive to make the studio a place where they can release their anxieties.

Share time ended and we transitioned into technique class.  Two thirds away through class we began recital practice and ended up finishing the dance.  All of the students were excited to have finished.  The sense of pride, accomplishment, and happiness filled the room as the clock approached 9 p.m.

I watched as my students performed our full dance for the first time.  Naturally, it wasn’t perfect.  We have some details to fix here and there.  But their performance and the energy they are putting behind their movement at 9 p.m. inspired me.  At the end of the dance, the clock struck 9 and I walked over to the music to turn it off and dismiss class.  That’s when a voice chimed in:

Can we run it one more time?

This is a question that I rarely say “no” to.  Most middle and high school students are so stressed and tired that they are ready to go when class is over.  As I turned around, I realized that the student who was asking to run it again was the one who shared that she was going to be up late doing homework.  In the moment, that stress didn’t matter to her.  The feeling she was going to get from two more minutes of dancing was more valuable than two more minutes of homework or sleep.  I responded to her request, “Absolutely.  I’d love to see it again.”

We ran the dance one more time, exchanged “thank yous” and “great jobs,” and turned out the studio lights.  As she walked into the lobby, I wished the student with homework the best of luck.  While she had a night of stress ahead of her, she was still able to let dance be her stress relief.  And that made my night.

Our student of the month for the month of February is Katie Saxon!

Katie joined the studio a few years ago and immediately immersed herself as a member of our youth program.  Her sweet and positive attitude in and outside of the classroom made her transition into the ADC family a very easy one.  Since joining the studio, Katie has become a member of the Atlanta Rising Talent company, currently as a senior company member.

This past year Katie joined ADC’s teacher training program.  This program requires students to assist in classes and meet once a month to learn and build dance teaching skills.  Katie has thrived in this program and assists several classes per week.  All of her students love her because of the love she shares with them.  We love having Katie teach and assist beside us because she is so helpful and involved with all of the students.  Through the program and assisting classes, we have seen Katie’s confidence, energy, and personality grow.

Congratulations, Katie!  We are very proud of you.

When did you start dancing?  When I was two I started taking ballet.

What is your favorite style of dance, and why?  My favorite style of dance is contemporary because it is a great way to express your feelings and emotions.

What is your favorite thing about assisting with classes?  I love hanging out with all of the students.  They’re so funny and they make my day ten times brighter.  I love them.

What is your favorite food? Mac & Cheese

What is your favorite movie?  Tangled!

Since dance is an art form, the idea of it being a “team” activity is often overlooked.  Sure, some studios have competition teams, but even without having one, dance is very much a team activity.  Other activities also have the advantage of having games and tournaments more often than dancers have recitals.  This makes recital even more important.  It may be only one time per year, but it is the most important display of teamwork that happens for the studio that year.  Here’s why:

  1. Individual dancers are performing choreography as part of a class.   Starting at a very young age I teach my dancers that we have to dance together.  I have even told 4 and 5 year olds that they need to dance like twins, because they understand that it means they have to be performing a move at the same time as the dancer next to them.  As dancers get older they have to use their peripheral vision while they’re dancing in order to stay within the same timing.  In this way, they are having to work as a team in order to portray the choreography accurately.
  2. Teamwork doesn’t just happen on stage, it happens behind the scenes.  If only everyone could see all of the hard work that happens back stage.  As teachers we work as a team to make sure everyone makes it on stage successfully.  Each one of us has an important job, and we know the students are watching us set an example as a team.  What filters down from that is a team of middle and high school students who are eager to help.  When they have down time back stage they are helping younger students change costumes, put their hair in buns, and touch up make up.  Students helping each other is a rewarding sight to see, and it also makes recital run extremely smoothly.
  3. We are all working together to put on a show together.  Recital is like a giant group presentation.  Last year our recitals had over 275 performers! The staff, parent volunteers, technical crew, and cast includes more than 300 people.  All of those people work together to put on a spectacular show.  What’s even more exciting is the feeling of accomplishment at the end of the show that we all did it!  Each small group is an important part of the entire studio as a whole.

Recital is a great display of teamwork on both a small and large scale.  When each dancer does their part to learn choreography, dance as a group, perform with passion, and help others succeed, it makes for a great show!

With every new season comes new students who aren’t sure how they feel about dance.  They are usually first time students who are nervous about trying something new, especially between the ages of 3 – 7.  As a dance teacher, these students push me to be the absolute best teacher I can be.  That way if they don’t end up continuing with dance, I know that dance just wan’t their thing!

Last season my challenge was a cute little three year old.  She tip toed into the classroom, not because I had taught her to, because she was shy.  One of the magical things about teaching three year olds is that in most cases they immediately look at me with a love filled gaze.  To them, I am a real life ballerina!  This particular student wasn’t buying it.  She looked at me with doubt in her eyes. She gave me a “who are you?” look.  The “I don’t have to do what you say because you are a complete stranger” look.  At the end of the first class I told my assistant that I was determined to have this three year old fall in love with dance.

Weeks went by and I got the same look.  While other students were starting to share with me and talk to me, she still looked at me like I was crazy.  I pulled out all of my teaching tricks and personalities trying to get this little one to like me.  Things were getting personal!  (Just kidding, but seriously.)  At the start of December I was beginning to feel like maybe she just didn’t enjoy dancing.  Maybe she would be happier playing soccer in the spring!

Then the miracle of the holiday season kicked in.  Literally THE class before holiday break this student galloped into the classroom with a smile.  She shared during share time, she held my hand during our circle warm up.  Most importantly, she looked like she was having a blast during every little combination and exercise!  It warmed my heart to see that she had been in love with what she was doing the whole time, she was just afraid to share it.  Ever since that moment, she has come to class with a smile.

Another new student this year joined my class without having ever danced before.  This student is naturally talented, very coordinated, and when she has her mind set on something she gets it every time.  The problem is since this is her first year dancing, she isn’t very confident.  At the beginning of the year she came to most classes looking a little grumpy.  Most of the time I redirect students to something exciting so they will forget they are nervous, so I started doing that with her when she began in the fall.

With each class I tried to find a way to get her to feel more confident when working on new skills or combinations.  Some days I would even have her demonstrate or start by casually saying “you’re going to be really good at this!” before explaining the exercise.  I wasn’t lying, I knew she WOULD be good at it.  It’s taken a while, but this student’s attitude about dance has completely transformed throughout this season.  She comes to class excited, her gorgeous smile is contagious, and last week she even….wait for it… GAVE ME A HUG!  This may not seem like an accomplishment, but it was.

Some students take time to develop their sense of safety, confidence, and love for dance in the classroom.  When it all comes together and a student falls in love with dance (no matter what age they are) it makes everything we do as teachers worth it.  We will continue trying everything we can to connect with students and make dance accessible to them.  Each one of our students are unique and beautiful and it is amazing to watch them as they fall in love with dance throughout the season.

Some of the best parents in the world enter and exit through our studio doors each week.  Here are some examples of how awesome our parents are:

  1. One of our moms with 4 sons and 1 daughter came in during our costume sale to Halloween shop.  She sat her four sons down and gave them each a task while she and the daughter found a costume.  Everything went peacefully.  Maybe this was one of those magical moments that is as frequent as spotting a unicorn, but I was in admiration.
  2. After class a student (who was fine in class!) had a full on meltdown in the lobby.  She was tired.  It happens.  Mom took a deep breath and handled the tantrum in the calmest voice I’ve ever heard.
  3. A student in high school had to come straight from school a few days per week because she assisted in our classes.  On these days, her Dad would stop by the studio in the morning to drop off her dance bag and some dinner.
  4. One of our high school students left her homework in the company lounge.   This is a 2 for 1 because not only did this parent raise their high schooler to be responsible enough to be completing homework in the time in between classes at dance, but Mom also came by in the morning to retrieve the homework and take it to school so her daughter would be able to turn it in on time.
  5. A tiny kinder student was having a behavioral issue in class.  Not only did Mom trust us to handle it however we thought it worked best, (thank you!), but she also worked with us to develop a plan to help this student get back on track.

We know all of our parents have different teaching styles and we appreciate all of them.  Here are some more general reasons why we love our parents:

  1. You sit in the carpool line, pick up your children from school, feed them, and get them to class on time in the appropriate clothes.  Kudos to our ballet parents who also get their students here with their hair in a bun!
  2. You trust us to teach your children week after week, yet you only see their progress at the end of the year recital.
  3. The end of the year recital is a big enough reason in itself!  You follow the crazy schedules, change your kids into and out of their costumes, make sure they have the right make up, and more!  You do so many things to help make our recital successful that we’d have to write another blog about it.
  4. We have a team of recital volunteers that help make sure things run smoothly in the dressing rooms, work as ushers, and sell concessions.

Most importantly we appreciate you because you are the reason we have the best students in the world!  We know they didn’t teach themselves how to be responsible, respectful, work hard in class, be kind to their fellow classmates, and be dedicated to success.  It is all of our parent’s hard work that has shaped each child into the amazing person they are.  We cannot thank you enough for giving us the opportunity to share our passion with your children each week, and for working with us to help develop them into the best possible people they can be.

Laura Anne Rodriguez is having a great year here at ADC!  This is her fifth season dancing with us and she is currently a member of the Mini Company.  In addition to her Mini Company classes she takes class in the youth program.  We’ve noticed a real change in Laura Anne’s dancing this year.  Her hard work is certainly paying off, her technique is strengthening, and she continually applies corrections with enthusiasm.  She has also been very helpful to her classmates, especially in the youth program classes.  Congratulations, Laura Anne!  We are very proud of you.

How old are you? 10

What grade are you in? 3rd grade

What is your favorite dance style? Ballet because I like how pretty it is.

Tell us a fun fact about you?  I’m bilingual and I like to sing!

 

Ms. Mary Ann is the only faculty member other than Ms. Charlotte who has been at Atlanta Dance Central since it’s opening in 2009.  Most of our families and students know her best through ballet and contemporary classes.  Her traditional approach to the classical technique and her eye for detail is what gives the students such great training!  Teaching dance isn’t Ms. Mary Ann’s only specialty, she’s also an incredible seamstress.

For the past several seasons, Ms. Mary Ann has been ordering very basic ballet costumes for the ART company productions.  Once the base comes in, she transforms the costumes by adding flowers, rhinestones, and more. The costumes really come to life on stage and become amazing masterpieces.  Dancers end up wearing professional level costumes that look simply amazing!

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Last year’s youth program recital ballet production had an “under the sea” theme.  If you saw it, you may remember that one of the groups danced as jellyfish, holding umbrellas decorated with tentacles.  The LED lights made the jellyfish glow!  Who was responsible for transforming some simple umbrellas into magical underwater jellyfish?  Ms. Mary Ann of course!

This year’s new creation that you’ve seen at the front desk is crocheted bun covers.  All of the bun covers are hand crocheted and designed by Ms. Mary Ann.  She has fun naming each exclusive design, and creating new designs depending on the season.  We love seeing the new designs, especially when they show up in the dance studio.

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Ms. Mary Ann makes costumes, props, and hair accessories more fun for all of us with her unique embellishments.  When it comes to creativity, she is the queen!  We can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.

FullSizeRender (24)As I was beginning to choreograph my recital dances last week I started thinking of all of the things that go into choreographing.  Recital is one of my favorite days of the year because the students have their one shot to show what they have been working for the past 9 months.  Team activities often have weekly games where parents can regularly see their student’s hard work, but in dance we get one weekend.  There is so much more that happens behind the scenes than what parents get to see on recital day.  Here are some things that go into recital choreography.

  1. Finding the balance between challenges and confidence.  Often times the choreography you see on stage in the spring doesn’t accurately represent all of the things the students have been working on in the classroom.  The reason is because students can accomplish difficult skills in the classroom, but it can be challenging to remember those skills within choreography.  When I choreograph my recital dances in January, I try to think of steps that will challenge the dancers so they continue to grow.  I mix that up with moves I know they are already comfortable with because I want them to perform with confidence!
  2. Making sure every child has their chance in the spotlight.  Starting from a young age I can feel the air leave the room when I start setting formations.  Every student wants to be front and center.  In all honesty, I don’t think much about how I set the formations.  Usually I do it according to height.  When dancers get older sometimes I think about their strengths and put them in groups according to their strengths.  Overall, I believe that every dancer deserves a chance in the spotlight.  It makes them assume responsibility for the choreography, but most importantly it makes them feel valued.
  3. Putting together movement that is fun and creative!  The students perform better when they are inspired by the dance.  Whether it’s the overall idea for the dance or that they really enjoy the movement, I try to make the dance as fun or inspiring for them as possible.  I love watching students fall in love with what they are doing.  People like watching dancers that look like they love what they are doing.  This means I may not choreograph a dance filled with the hardest tricks set to a fun song.  I don’t want my dancers looking stressed out when they are performing, I want them dancing from their hearts.

Choreography isn’t an easy task.  Dances have to be creative, enjoyable to perform, and performed with confidence.  The process of learning and performing choreography teaches students so many different lessons, and we value each one of those lessons as teachers.  We can’t wait to share our choreography with you this spring!

Behind the Scenes Recital Themes!We love recital planning.  In fact, we love it so much that we start planning our recital in October!  We start by picking a theme for the recital, followed by costumes and music.  Once everything is picked out we are ready to begin choreography with our classes in January.

The youth recital has an overall theme which this year is: “Beyond Belief: Imagine the Possibilities.”  Based on conversations we’re having in the staff meeting it sounds like we’re having the most creative recital ever.  Ideas are flying and our teachers are having a blast collaborating.

Additionally, each style of dance (jazz, tap, ballet, etc…) has it’s own theme.  All of the levels within that style do a dance within the theme to create a bunch of mini productions!  It’s always cool to see different levels dance next to each other to see the progression of our students.  Here are some of the themes for our recital productions this year:

  • Jazz classes are all superheroes: Each jazz class will have a super power that inspires the theme of the class dance.
  • Contemporary classes are all fairy tales: The fairy tales and characters we picked for the contemporary classes are Jack and the Bean Stalk, Little Red Riding Hood, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  Each class is taught by a different faculty member, and we already have ideas about how our dances will tie together.
  • The Tap theme is out of this world: As in, we’re having a space themed tap production.  Our tap dances will take you into outer space to check out the galaxy.
  • Mythical Creatures will grace the stage: You read that correctly.  Ballet is our largest program and by far our largest production.  Each of the ballet classes will represent a different mythical creature.  Think fairies, ghosts, dragons, and more!  The musical selection is sure to keep our audience on their toes.

Our imaginations are soaring with this year’s recital planning and we know the creativity will come across on the stage in May.  We also plan on sharing more behind the scenes looks on recital, why we love recital, and even what goes into choreographing a routine.

All that being said, mark your calendars for our most exciting recital yet:  ADC’s youth recital is Friday, May 12 and Saturday, May 13 at Blessed Trinity High School.

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