Dance Teacher Resources

Studio owners and teachers: How to focus for the 2017 school year

Jane Grech, creative director of Jane Grech Dance Centre. Photo by Marina Birch.
Jane Grech, creative director of Jane Grech Dance Centre. Photo by Marina Birch.

Dance students aren’t the only ones who have to focus for this new school year ahead. Dance studio owners, directors and teachers, too, have to plan ahead for 2017 with thoughts on studio retention, fresh class and routine ideas, and students’ happiness.

Dance Informa turns to two sources – Jane Grech, creative director of Jane Grech Dance Centre in Adelaide and author at Dance Studio Success; and Karen Malek, president of Australian Teachers of Dancing and managing director of Transit Dance. With their advice, you can ensure 2017 will be the best year yet for your studio!

Refreshed and ready to go!

Summer break shouldn’t leave you exhausted and unmotivated; rather, it should leave you feeling refreshed and raring to go for the year ahead! You’ve probably spent much of the break reflecting and relaxing with family, but hopefully you’ve also allotted time to listening to new music and thinking about exciting class and routine ideas.

Karen Malek. Photo by Belinda's Photography.

Karen Malek. Photo by Belinda’s Photography.

Karen Malek says a good way to approach the new year is “with renewed vigour”, and Jane Grech believes the new year “offers the opportunity to start with fresh eyes”. No matter what happened in 2016, enter 2017 feeling positive and hopeful. In addition, Grech says, “if 2016 didn’t go to plan, consider why that happened – what lessons can you take away to implement in the future? Conversely, if 2016 was a great year, how can you leverage that to make 2017 even better?”

What to focus on in 2017.

Of course, each dance studio may have different areas of focus, depending on the studio’s goals, but there are some things that every studio owner and teacher can focus on this year.

“That is the people they are teaching and why they have chosen to teach or own a studio as a career,” Grech remarks. “Bringing your students to the front of your heart and your head, and how you can best serve them, brings clarity as to where to focus energy. When you find your ‘why’, you also find your way.”

And be careful that your energy doesn’t only go toward your studio’s most talented dancers. Even those who may not win at every competition are an important asset; their happiness keeps them coming back, year after year.

“Focus on achieving happiness and milestones for all your students,” Malek says. “All your students and particularly those with two left feet, little coordination, a lack of musicality. Your talented students will continue to grow and thrive, and your not-so-talented students should also continue to grow and thrive in their own time and at their own pace with you championing the way.”

Studio owners: Make it the best year yet.

Jane Grech, creative director of Jane Grech Dance Centre. Photo by Marina Birch.

Jane Grech, creative director of Jane Grech Dance Centre. Photo by Marina Birch.

Grech suggests choosing one word for which to focus your efforts and attention this year. This word, she says, will serve as a guide to keep you on track and motivate you toward achieving your goals – personal and business.

In 2016, the focus for Grech’s studio was “joy”, and in 2017, it will be “quality”. She encourages other studio owners to find their own focus word. “Otherwise, simply writing goals and making yourself accountable to them is important,” she shares. “Many would have heard me say time and time again, ‘Hope is not a strategy’ when it comes to improving your business. Just as for your dancers in the studio, hope will only take you so far. Setting goals, breaking them down into smaller steps, and then working diligently and with self-discipline will always outperform hope.”

Teachers: Make it the best year yet.

Dance teachers, too, can have goals of their own, for their classes, their students and their personal growth as a leader.

“Keep attending ongoing professional development, as this will refresh you and give you new ideas to stay one step ahead,” Malek recommends.

Grech agrees. “As teachers, I feel we should always be learning something new, should always be open to new ideas; we shouldn’t be scared of failing,” she says. “After all, these are the lessons we want to impart on our own students, so we should act as a living example of that as well. Even after teaching for 20 years, I recognise there is so much I still don’t know and so much I still want to learn to share with my students.”

So this year, consider attending teacher training workshops, converse with other teachers, learn new technical skills, read up on the industry and observe others’ classes. “Keep your passion alive,” Grech says, “and your teaching will thrive.”

Success is…

Success is relative and can differ from studio to studio, teacher to teacher. But define how your goals can help you reach what is successful for your studio, this year. Perhaps it is to place at a regional competition, or to master student retention. Maybe success to you is to get more parents involved this year, or to renovate the studio’s bathroom.

Grech says, “For me, a successful school year is when I have been able to elevate others to their full potential. As a leader of teachers and a large staff team, and as a teacher of students, my main role is to be a guide – lighting the way to show others what they are truly capable of, to bring out the very best in them.”

Karen Malek leading a master class at the Southern School of Dance in Hong Kong. Photo by Rebecca McMullin.

Karen Malek leading a master class at the Southern School of Dance in Hong Kong. Photo by Rebecca McMullin.

And for Malek, she says success is “to try and not become burnt out. You are the driving force, the engine that your vehicle revolves around. Keep it in good condition – service it regularly, change the tyres when they are wearing out, and keep it shiny and clean, inside and out.”

Reap the benefits.

If you enter the 2017 school year with a focus word, goals, refreshed excitement and/or gratitude, you’re already one step closer to success. That energy toward bettering your studio and its teachers and dancers shows that you care about trying to have a great year, and it’s contagious, too! Define your goals, and you will reap the benefits.

“Stay focused on what you are trying to achieve, and avoid looking sideways too much,” Grech says. “In the dance studio as a teacher, I am often reminding my students, ‘Be better than you were yesterday. Do not try to be better than anyone else.’ The same is true for dance teachers and dance studio owners. It is increasingly difficult, thanks to social media, not to be intimidated by what others are doing within their studios. A healthy interest is fine, but keep the main focus on what you are trying to achieve, rather than on what others are doing. Each dance studio, each teacher is unique in what it can offer. No two are the same, and nor should they be. Embrace the differences that you can offer, and be your best. Do not let others’ definition of ‘best’ or ‘success’ or ‘achievement’ define your own.”

Cheers to 2017 and to making it your best year yet!

By Laura Di Orio of Dance Informa.

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