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!

July Book Report - Animobiles

I'm feeling the heat now that it's mid-July, and I guess we're almost close to the dog days of summer?? (I don't know when that officially is, but we're gonna roll with it). 

So with animals on the mind, let's get down to this month's Book Report - Animobiles, by Maddie Frost! I found this book about a month ago and immediately knew it was something I needed for my young dance classes, because not only is it fun, bright, and catchy, it's full of animals making some awesome moves, and is a perfect book to introduce concepts like pathway, speed, and direction.

Simply written with charming illustrations, this book is best for young readers, but isn't short on themes and ideas to explore with students. From rumbling down the road like a cow car, to flying high like a bird in a plane, this book combines two of many kid's favorite things: animals and moving!

If you teach early childhood dance, I definitely recommend putting this book on your shelf! You can buy it here, and then make sure you check out my free download of my Creative Dance Curriculum for more ideas on how to incorporate story with movement. Happy Reading!

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

Body Positivity For Dancers - How To Respond To Food Judgements

Hey All! If you're one of the smart cookies who's subscribed to my Newsletter list, a few weeks ago you got an email in your inbox that had this fun little graphic, and a story about how as a young dancer, I very vividly remember what a chaperone told me about how good it was that I only ate salad during a summer intensive.

Remembering that is what inspired me to create this visual, in hopes that it might be of service to you if you have dancers heading off to summer programs. They'll be encountering lots of new situations, both in the dance classroom and outside of it, and it's likely that some of those situations might include judgements, shaming, or just general weirdness about food choices.

This list offers suggestions for how to navigate those situations, while remaining friendly, positive, and while standing in our own power about what choices are good for us.

I also talk more in depth about these in the video below.

If you're digging these body positivity vibes, I'd love for you to do 2 things!

#1 - sign up for my Newsletter! It's super non-spammy and I send lots of downloads like the one above, as well as tips and resources for your teaching practice.

#2 - check out my Body Positivity & Empowerment In The Dance Classroom course for more in depth ideas and strategies to light your dancers up from the inside out and give them the confidence to grow and develop as self assured, self loving dancers.

Let me know if you'll be sharing this list or this video with your students as they head off to their summer adventures, and happy dancing!

Dance Teachers - Let's Stop Doing THIS!

Hey Friends! So if you follow me over on Instagram, you may have seen an Instagram story I did last week; I went on a little rant about one of the things I really can't stand in the dance classroom. If you don't follow me on Instagram, we should totally be friends, but aside from that, I figured today's blog would be a good place to explain why the thing I ranted about bothers me so much.

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What I was saying was that I really don't like in early childhood dance classes when we label body parts as 'good', or 'bad/naughty'. For example, I see in a lot of young classes during warm up dancers sitting in a circle and working on flexing/pointing their feet. A common enough exercise, for sure. But what I can't get behind is the pointed feet being 'good' toes, and the flexed feet being 'bad/naughty' toes.

While you might find this a trivial point to have a bugaboo with, hear me out - young dancers are especially impressionable, and will not only take these words to heart, and go home to practice them, but these words and ideas have the potential to become ingrained in them and stay with them for years to come as they develop their technique and ideas about their bodies.

Words matter. Especially in reference to our bodies, our choices and abilities. I really don't like the idea of associating morality (good vs. bad) with body parts, from the tip of our heads to our toes. 

Now many teachers teach the way they were taught, right? How many of us use words, phrases, and visualizations that have stuck with us since we were young dancers? (I'm raising my hand here.) There's nothing wrong with that, that's how we learn and grow, but I think it's a good idea to keep aware of the words we use in the classroom and always ask if there's a different way we could be doing things. That challenges not only us as teachers, but our students as well - when we say new things and propose new ideas, our students are more likely to perk up and pay attention in a new way.

Ok, teachers, your turn. Will you be trying new phrases in your classes? Let me know what you think, and feel free to share these ideas with someone you think would find them interesting! If you're curious about how, exactly to shake up your teaching, and incorporate new and more empowering phrases, I'd love for you to check out my online class, Body Positivity and Empowerment in the Dance Classroom.

Thanks for reading, and happy dancing everyone!