Saturday, January 9, 2010

"My Life Would Suck Without You"

Who doesn't love a good Kelly Clarkson song? 

In honor of my friend, David Norsworthy, coming in to teach today I am going to write about about it!  Well actually I want to share how important I think it is to have guest teachers and choreographers in your studio on a regular basis for your competitive kids, but we can say it's about David personally!

I might not have a marketing budget, but I surely do have a monthly allowance for guest teachers... 

From the very first year of the studio we offered a summer dance intensive with all guest teachers.  I don't run one of those competitive level summer camps where only my regular staff teaches the kids the same things they do all year long.  We have guest teachers all day for the entire week.  I might charge a bit more than some other studios for the Intensive, but in comparison to a weekend convention, I'm offering more classes with more teachers at the same price.  Then I saw the growth and development in the kids so I decided that we better utilize guest teachers as part of our monthly classes to help enhance their training.

When I was growing up we used to have to attend a minimum amount of weekend conventions every year for training purposes.  Not only do I find the conventions themselves pricy, but then there are travelling costs, hotel costs, food costs, and of course you're in a room with 500 other dancers so there isn't any personal attention involved.  I figured I could bring the same concept of convention training into my own studio so that my students could continue to grow as dancers in a more intimate and relaxed setting.  I don't even think the parent's at my studio realize that I do this so often, and am saving them thousands of dollars by not making conventions mandatory.  They pay for it with their monthly fees and intensive costs, and I know they appreciate the dollar value that they're getting at my studio.  My competitive students do attend outside Workshops/Conventions as well, but they go on their own, because they have realized the importance of it!

I'm lucky that I have affiliated myself with a local group of choreographers through David's Company, Fresh Dance Intensive, who contracts out young up and coming choreographers.  They are really affordable for studios to have in on a regular basis, as oppose to flying out some big name person for a one time deal.  This way I'm always throwing a learning curve at them, as every teacher they have comes from a different studio, with a different style of teaching and choreography.

The greatest lesson I think my students have learned from having so many different teachers over the years, is that class work is about how much they put into it.  They gain out of it as much as they put into it.  Maybe the open type of classes don't focus on technique as much as some other teacher's think kids need, but that's the major difference between the level/ages of the students I hire guest teachers for.  My Intermediate & Senior Competitive level students have enough solid technical training behind them that they can apply it themselves in other classes.  My Junior Competitive kids do also get guest teachers, but maybe not as often, and I am more careful in letting the teacher coming in know what the expectations are.  It's not in replacement of technique classes, it's to compliment them!

It's all about making these guest teachers work within the bigger picture of what you're trying to achieve as a competitive studio.  Are you just concentrating on cleaning up competitive routines in every class from now until March rolls around?  Or are you continuing to train your kids in all facets of dance so that they are continually growing and improving all year?  I am training my students to be in the best condition and at the highest level of training they can be when we go to competition... it's not just about the 14 groups they're in.  I can see straight through a super-clean but basic jazz routine to the fact that those kids could never go take a workshop class and keep up.  I am training them for long term, because let's face it, competition season ends at some point, but the growth in their dancing should have never stopped!

Also, knowing my kids are comfortable with so many styles of movement and choreography allows me to be more creative with all their competitive routines.  Don't you just hate when a studio has 5 lyrical groups that all look the same?  It's probably because same teacher did all of them!  Why not have one of these guest teachers choreograph a group for you that challenges your kids?  I wouldn't take any personal strikes if a routine from my studio won something that another choreographer did.  I would take personal gratification in knowing that this group was from my studio, and it was my choices as a dance educator that helped them succeed!  The cheque they win is still being written out to Dance Fusion, and I still get to be the one to dust the trophy!!

I had the brilliant idea in the summer of doing a studio swap with a colleague who owns a studio a few hours away.  She would come down to my studio for a day of my summer intensive, and then I would go down to her studio for a day in exchange.  That way we are not only saving the expense of having guest teachers in, but we are enhancing each other's students and also sharing what we both love to do.  My ideal situation would be to do that once a month with a different teacher from a different studio.  Imagine how much we could all share and the skills we would be offering to our students.

Personally I have learned a lot of things from even the younger guest teachers coming in to my studio.  I am not self motivated about being the only one who knows everything about teaching my students... they can eventually all see right through that one! 

I better end this blog now for today... I'm hearing loud cheering coming from the room where David is teaching the Intermediates and I better go see what all the excitement is about.  Or maybe I should be content enough sitting here knowing they're that excited about being in class and having him here!

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