- Jason Warley
Dance Studio Trend - 5 Solid Ways to Enhance the Dance Experience During Your Summer Program
In my position as owner and director of services for Man In Motion, I have the privilege of working closely with a great many dance studio owners throughout the New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut area. I also meet with many more studio owners when I travel across the country (and even abroad) as a guest instructor at dance conventions or serve as a judge at various dance competitions. Through these visits with so many studio owners, I have noticed an exciting trend that is taking place involving their class schedule throughout the dance year. While every studio owner will schedule master classes for their dancers in the standard genres (contemporary dance, jazz, modern, hip hop, etc.), many innovative program planners are now adding other workshops to their studio’s program offerings that enhance their dancers’ overall experience and complement perfectly with their training in the standard dance genres. I refer to these opportunities as “supplemental training.”
While the standard genres are already a part of a dancer's regular season schedule, these innovative studio owners are finding that summer camps and summer intensives are a great time to shift gears a bit and offer these workshop-style supplemental classes that attack dancer training from a totally new perspective. Some example topics might include acting techniques for dancers, a mock audition workshop, a wellness-type class that focuses on nutrition, body conditioning and relaxation, and the list goes on and on. “When we started four seasons ago, (providing supplemental training workshops) was not the norm, however it does seem to be growing in popularity for some studios in our area,” said Samantha Zaleski, director of Essential Elements Dance Studio in Hazlet, NJ. “If I could afford it, I would have one guest instructor teaching one of these workshops every month, all season long. It has made that much of an impact on my students.”
During the week-long summer intensive, Essential Elements offers the standard dance genres and the currently trending contemporary classes, as well as many of these new ideas that will continue to widen their dancers’ horizons during the crucial summer months.
Here are some more detailed descriptions of supplemental training workshops that serve as great options for dance studio owners to offer:
Acting Techniques for Dancers
Consider a class that helps to turn dancers into true storytellers. Using structured movement, acting exercises and theory on how to promote characterization, motivation and intention, an “Acting Techniques for Dancers” workshop would help both the shy and not-so-shy dancers to connect emotionally to their material and allow them to become great storytellers through their movements. After all, famous works like "The Nutcracker " is a magical story told completely through the art of dance.
Strengthening Your Mind, Body & Soul as a Dancer
Imagine a class that helps dancers "from the inside out.” In workshop form, such a class would incorporate breathing exercises and relaxation techniques inspired by yoga (great for those pre-show jitters), stretching and strengthening exercises based on Pilates (to build a strong and limber body), as well as some discussion about daily nutrition that addresses what dancers should be eating and when. All this would be nourishment for the body and the soul.
Mock Audition Workshop
Bridging the gap between the dance studio and the Broadway stage is that dreadful process known as… the audition. And actually, it is true that many young dancers have already gotten their feet wet by experiencing an actual audition – whether it was for the competition team, cheerleading, or the school talent show. But has anyone ever REALLY taught them how to be successful in the process of auditioning?
A mock audition workshop might begin with the process of learning choreography and later transition into putting the dancers through the paces of an actual audition. The experience would culminate in a discussion that offers constructive feedback on what was observed during the audition process and provides some of the tips and tricks for landing the job. While the class itself may not offer that ultimate prize, everyone would still be a winner based on what they learned.
Note: Such a class may be more effective when taught by a guest instructor, someone with extensive experience both as a performer and a teacher, and who has a fresh eye. Using a teacher that already has a relationship with the dancers may not allow them to take this process as seriously as they otherwise would.
Stage Makeup Tips and Application
A studio owner can either choose to have dance moms all over the dressing room trying to assist their child with applying makeup for their competition or recital number, or they can teach their dancers how to do it themselves. While a seven-year-old will still need assistance, I would say that a 13-year-old can certainly learn how to tackle this task alone. And how do they learn? Offer them a stage makeup application workshop.
Consider a class or workshop that helps dancers to "learn" their face and understand how to play with colors that highlight the structure of their face. The benefit is they learn how to accentuate each and every feature of their face to be read from the last row of the orchestra. And with practice, they learn how to do it within minutes.
Making the College Decision
The college decision can be a seemingly overwhelming challenge for many high school students. Chances are, most dance studios have several juniors and seniors who are wondering, "What is the next step in my dance journey?” While studio owners may have suggestions and can offer some answers, a well-designed workshop around the topic will pose key questions and provide students with vital information that will help them make informed decisions about college.
Want to take this concept further? Offer a college-level dance class that explores modern dance techniques in Horton, Graham, etc. that prepares young dancers for college-level material. Because let’s face it, these young people probably will not be doing calypso jumps and switch leaps in their dance classes once they get to college.
And the possibilities for supplemental training can go on and on.
At Empire for the Performing Arts in Totowa, NJ, co-director Liz Perez felt it was essential to offer supplemental training workshops to their company dancers in order to keep them engaged and as well-rounded as possible in all aspects of dance. Once or twice a month from September through June, she invites a master class instructor who introduces their students to genres as specific as the Fosse style or to classes like “active isolated flexibility.” Then in August, they hold a week-long intensive where the students receive five master classes a day, including: audition technique, vocal lessons and Pilates, along with all the dance genres.
“We have seen not only growth in our students, but a huge appreciation and understanding of the different approaches in techniques and genres,” she said. “With each month comes the anticipation of which type of class(es) they will receive. It has helped keep attendance on target - and their strength and diversity in stylization has increased dramatically. Not every dancer is built in the same mold - and this type of program aids in touching upon various layers and facets of the art, while allowing each dancer to fulfill their potential.”
Man In Motion Provides Dance Studios With Guest Artists Who Specialize In These Various Workshops
Dance studio owners can offer a host of supplemental training workshops that will certainly complement the curriculum at their summer camps and summer intensives. To book an affordable guest artist or to get more information on workshops/master classes that can be tailored for your studio, visit the Man In Motion website, or send us an email, or call (646) 543-4060 to discuss your needs further.