Winter Wonderland BrainDance!

Happy December! ‘Tis the season for all things winter: snowflakes, snowmen, hotchocolate… the list of wonders goes on and on! This is also an especially fun time of year to explore winter themes with your dance classes and young movers, which is where this month’s BrainDance comes in! Make sure you stay tuned for next week’s blog as well, where I’ll be reviewing my favorite holiday pick in kid’s lit! Happy Dancing!

Finding Help In Unexpected Places

As dance educators and studio owners, we wear a lot of hats. It can be overwhelming, even impossible at times to feel like we have the help and support we need.

We’re also guilty of trying to do too much on our own (I’m suuuuuper guilty of this). We are WonderWomen, but that doesn’t mean we should look for, or accept help.

I’ve found that sometimes help can come in the most unexpected of places - our students. One of my favorite ways to engage young students who might be feeling shy or uncertain about joining class is to make them my “helper”. I made a video about it a few weeks ago….

This works because we all like to feel useful, and it gives the child something actionable to do, which makes them feel more at ease, focused, and safe. It puts them back in control when they’re feeling out of control. It has the added benefit of helping me, and showing the other students ways in which they can be helpful. Usually when I do this, before I know it I’ve got a whole classroom full of helpers who I can give various tasks to, and who feel proud of their actions.

Where will you find help today? In a student, a parent, a random interaction on the street? I’d love to know where and how you found help, and how it made your day a little better!

Two Must Have Fall Songs For Creative Movement

If you’re a dance teacher who works with Littles, you know the power of a good song. Incorporating action songs and transition songs into your classes is a great way to keep kids engaged and focused, and is an excellent way to deliver instructions in a fun way.

Today I’m sharing two must have songs to work into your fall creative movement classes. This first one is one of my most watched videos over on my YouTube channel. I originally developed it as part of a BrainDance, but you can use it just about anywhere in your classes.

Additionally, you can nab these fun handouts in the Shop to send home with parents so the fun can continue at home, or share them with your employees!

This second song is a good one for exploring levels and actions. You can replace any of the words with various directions or actions, such as hop, jump, march. etc.

There you have it! If you enjoyed these videos I’d love for you to #1 subscribe to my YouTube channel, and #2, make sure you check out my online shop, where you can find more resources for your young dance classes! Happy Dancing!

September Book Report - Up In The Garden & Down In The Dirt

So it's been a little wet in upstate NY lately, but for this week's Book Report I'm channeling my Northern California roots, where September is hot, hot, hot, and many gardens are in their full glory.

Kate Messner's Up In the Garden and Down In The Dirt is a great book for any kid who loves to be outside and get messy (aka - ALL kids). It's also a great one for exploring ecosystems, and in dance class, levels, and size. That's just one of the reasons (one of the others being its gorgeous illustrations) that this book is also a recommended read in the Creative Dance Curriculum (which you can get a FREE download of here!)!

The Creative Dance Curriculum is broken down into 10 modules, each exploring a different dance concept. Additionally, each lesson plan includes a 'Kickstarter'; a book, poem, or short activity that helps dancers understand the concept they'll be exploring. 

Books like this one are some of my favorite to use with young dancers; they're so accessible, fun, and colorful, everyone can't help but enjoy them and get excited about learning!

Get the first Module in the Creative Dance Curriculum below, and then I'd love for you to join me at my Facebook Live conversation I'll be hosting on date, where you can hear me talk more about why I'm so in love with this program, and what, exactly, makes it unique, and valuable to you as a dance educator!

Happy reading, and happy dancing everyone! Hope you see you on Facebook at date!

The ONE Thing Dance Teachers Can Do To Help Students

Not too long ago, on the wonderful Business of Dance Podcast, I was asked what ONE thing dance teachers could to bring more body positivity into their classrooms, and my response was to become more aware of their language.

Now post podcast interview me realizes that this is a rather nebulous suggestion (although still a valid one), so I've broken my answer down a bit and am sharing it with you today.

I actually made a little video of it over on my YouTube channel (which I'd LOVE it if you subscribed to!), and am including that below. In the video I talk about how this can bring body positivity into your classes, but you can also use this technique with giving any kind of feedback to your dancers.

Yes, we as teachers absolutely need to be aware of the language we use around our students because words matter (case in point: raise your hand if you can still recall that one thing a teacher said to you 10, 20, 30 years ago that still makes you feel about as special as a a lone sock on the side of the highway), but bringing more awareness to our words is a lifelong process, so here's an easier solution.

PRAISE YOUR STUDENTS HONESTLY AND TACTFULLY

So maybe they had a bad day in class and you can't even think of a single thing to compliment them on. Tell them you're glad they showed up and made it through class. That's not giving false praise, that's encouraging them to be determined, and naming it, aloud to your student sends the message that it's ok not to have a great day, that their value goes beyond how many pirouettes they did that day or how technically correct their alignment was.

Ok, so hoooooooow exactly do you go about praising your students honestly and tactfully? Well, funny you should mention that, because I've got a set of compliment cards for sale over in the Different Drummer Dance store! But you can also just put these compliments into your own words and put them on a Post-It or 3x5 card and hand them to your students at the end of the day.

Which method will you be trying? Give me a shout out and let me know!

August Book Report - The Sasquatch And The Lumberjack

When you live in upstate NY, there's no shortage of trees, lakes, and creatures... of all kinds. My New York home, Speculator, has a particular penchant for the legend of Sasquatch, so when I found this month's book, Sasquatch And The Lumberjack at a local store (full disclosure, it's my husband's business, Campstore!) I knew it had to make a sighting on the blog.

Sasquatch And The Lumberjack, by Chrix Sheridan, is a simple tale of two hipster icons: the Sasquatch, and a lumberjack. The book's illustrations are fun and whimsical and while the text is just one word per page, the story provides the opportunity for readers (or dancers) to explore, or even make up their own additional stories. With words to peak the reader's curiosity (winter, pick, and slide), we see Sasquatch and his buddy lumberjack finding adventures galore. I love books like these that leave plenty of space for readers to explore movement and concepts - I can't wait to try it out with my creative movement classes!

Do you have a book you think deserves a spot on the next Book Report? Let me know, I love to hear your recommendations! Happy Reading!

*Disclosure: This post contains Amazon affiliate links, which means I receive 4.50% if you make a purchase using this link.*

August Brain Dance - Stand On Up!

Hey Friends! August has arrived in a haze of humid heat (at least in upstate NY), so to beat the fatigue, this month's Brain Dance is a quick series you can do standing to get right into class. I've found I often revert to my comfortable sitting routine with the Brain Dance, so I wanted to challenge myself to do one that was all standing, that had a nice flow and energy to it. Voila! Feel free to share it with your friends and use it in your classes! Happy August, and happy dancing!

Self Care For Dancers - 4 Ways To Beat Burnout

Well hello there August, you've popped in quicker than I expected, but you make me feel quite relieved after 7 weeks of bi-coastal dance camps in June and July.

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Anybody else feeling the fatigue as the dog days of summer arrive? Last week was my final summer dance camp, and if you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen a story I did about loving camps, but being so DONE. That got me thinking about the specific kind of burnout we experience as dancers and teachers, and how we can recover in a way that feels truly restorative.

In my Instagram story, I also talked about feeling guilty for taking a day off, and how I for sure don't have all the answers on how to beat that feeling, but I do have some insights for how we can beat burnout when things are getting crazy.

#1 DELEGATE (AND REST)

Rest seems pretty obvious, but isn't really possible unless you can delegate some of your work to your trusty team. For teachers or studio owners, if you don't feel comfortable delegating tasks (social media management, responding to emails, contacting parents, etc.) then I highly encourage you to make a priority list, and be really brutal with it. Drop things down on your list that don't REALLY need your attention this day, or this week. If you burnout, those things could take months to get to instead of just taking a break now and putting them off for a week or two. For dancers, this can be a little harder if you're in the middle of an intensive or workshop where there's a set schedule, but it all comes down to time management. Put your phone down and go to bed an hour earlier, or squeeze in 10 minutes of rest between classes with your feet up on a wall and do some deep breathing. Even 10 minutes can make a massive difference in your energy.

#2 WALK AWAY FROM THE SCREEN

It's hard, I know, but our screens can be a major suckubus for energy and emotion. There are tons of apps you can use that will monitor time spent on any given site, so set yourself a timer and then walk away from your screen. If you have work to do that requires screen time, see #1 about delegating, and get super honest with yourself about if you really NEED to post that photo on Facebook. (Likely, the answer will be no.)

#3 AND GET OUTSIDE

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Now that you've put the screen away, get outside! Take a stroll, bike ride, or even a drive and get some fresh air! Don't listen to a podcast while you walk, and only go with someone else if you know that chatting with them won't drain your energy stores further. Time away from our work and alone time is VITAL in filling our own well when it's feeling low.

#4 TAKE YOURSELF ON AN ARTIST'S DATE

Ooh la la, a date night for one?! Yes please! And bonus points if you make it an Artist's Date! WTH is an Artist's Date? It's only a super amazing concept introduced to the world of creatives by Juila Cameron. This book changed my life a couple years ago when I first read it, and I can't recommend it enough, especially if you're feeling uninspired and unmotivated, some time tapping into your passions is a great way to get your mojo back and also feel rejuvenated.

So which of these will you be trying? Give me a shout out and let me know, or if you have any methods to beating burnout, I'd love to hear them! Remember that it's ok to rest my friends, and you're completely allowed to take time for yourself, even if (and especially when) things get crazy. Good luck, and rest well!

Branding For Dance - Naming Your Classes

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As if summer wasn't busy enough for teachers, and studio owners, we have the impending fall schedule quickly approaching, making many of us want to crawl up into a ball and just hibernate through fall and winter.

Hopefully you've scheduled out your fall classes by now, but you may be working on tweaking names, ages, and writing copy for descriptions. This can be many a teacher's worst nightmare, but fear not, because today I'm sharing a little branding 101 to help you solve the puzzle of what, exactly, to name your awesome offerings.

Before you get started on the naming process, you need to do a little behind the scenes work to figure out (or remind yourself), what your studio is all about. Do you have a mission statement? (you should!) Revisit it to guide how you're naming and structuring your classes. Ideally, your classes, their names, and descriptions should be on brand with your organization as a whole. 

For example, my mission statement is 'Different Drummer Dance offers classes for anybody who has a body. We teach pirouettes AND body positivity, and grace on the dance floor and in life. We believe in dance education from the inside out that empowers bodies, minds, and spirits.' I use that statement, along with my brand words (bright, fresh, big-hearted) to guide how I name and describe my classes.

Here's how I might name and describe a class: Magical Movers - this is a creative movement class for ages 3-4.5 and the perfect introduction to developing a lifelong love of dance! Using whimsical props and interactive songs, dancers explore the magic of movement in a nurturing atmosphere, where dancing with dragons and twirling with fairies builds motor and social skills, confidence, and a can-do attitude!

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So how did I come up with all that copy? Well, before I crafted my mission statement (have I mentioned you should have one of these?), I did a brain dump of all the words that I knew my business was, and that I wanted it to be, as well as words that others had used to describe my business. From there, I added and subtracted and did a lot of editing before I came to what's now my mission statement, but I keep that list of words and phrases specifically for times like this when I need to name and describe a new class, or write copy about my classes, or even speak about my business. Having a list of words you can pull from that already jive with the energy and focus of your business will make it so much easier when it comes to things like naming your classes.

Now it's YOUR turn! Download your FREE copy of this worksheet that lays out all this info and gets you clear on the right words to use for naming and describing your classes below!

Want more branding blogs or info? Make sure you sign up for my bi-monthly newsletter! I give lots of great tips and freebies out with that email, and you can also grab my (mostly) weekly tips over on my YouTube channel! OR, you can also boogie over to my Consulting page and we can work one-on-one!

I would love for you to share this with someone you think would enjoy it, and then let me know what branding topic you'd like more info on next!