It’s that time of year again! Moms everywhere are coordinating fall schedules that would make a professional organizer panic… deftly arranging carpools, drop offs and pickups on time tables worthy of a board at Grand Central Station. If you are fitting dance class into your family’s routine this fall, here are a few things that will make you look like the most together mom in the waiting room!
Label Everything! Considering your dance studio most likely requires a certain color and style of shoe for class, it is reasonable to assume that all of the dancers in any given class will have similar shoes. And since they are probably also grouped by age, the chances of those shoes being identical right down to the size are pretty decent. With this in mind, grab a sharpie and label away! You do not want the brand-new tap shoes you just paid for going home in another child’s bag. But they probably will. If they are labeled, the mystery can be solved by the studio staff far more easily and quickly…and with less panic.
Arrive Early for Class. Dance class is designed in a particular order so that a dancer’s body will be prepared for the more challenging work toward the middle and end of class. For older ballet dancers, missing the first exercises at the barre leaves the dancer unprepared for the center work that lies ahead. (In my teen classes, dancers who arrive late are required to complete these exercises independently before they can join the class. The dancers understand this is not a punishment, rather it is for their own safety.) Even in the preschool classes, arriving a few minutes early allows the dancer to settle in at the studio, get their shoes on and enter class with the group. This is far more comfortable and productive for the dancer than rushing in on mom’s hip with their ballet shoes already on and getting ushered through the studio door to a class that’s already in progress. Students who come in relaxed and happy have a better class every time. Additionally, for younger classes, the line leaders are necessarily chosen at the beginning of class. Students who are not present when the leaders are announced may never get a turn to be first.
Water Only. Hydration is very important and older dancers should be encouraged to have a water with them for breaks during class. For younger dancers who are in class for 45 minutes or an hour, this may not be necessary and water should be enjoyed during shoe changing time so as not to disturb the flow of class. Water bottles should always have very secure caps and dancers should be old enough to close them on their own if they are bringing them into class. A leaky water bottle can ruin new dance shoes very quickly when these items share a dance bag. Soda, Gatorade and other sugary beverages should never be brought into the dance room where a potential spill could wreak havoc on the dance floor.
Pay attention to the studio’s dress code. Some studios require students to wear a particular color or style that indicates the level of the class. Other studios require special leotards adorned with the studio’s logo. All studios have some sort of parameters that outline what a student should wear to class. You’ll probably receive this is writing. Read this and ask questions if you have any to be sure that your dancer has the appropriate attire for the class in which she is enrolled. Proper attire is important for any activity and sets the tone for a serious learning environment. I tell my students, “You don’t wear your prom gown to the pool.” Dress for the class you are attending. Most studios will require a leotard and tights as basic necessities. Accessories such as skirts, camisoles, boy shorts or leggings may or may not be allowed over the leotard and tights depending on the genre. For ballet class, pink tights and pink shoes are often required. This is so that the leg and foot have one continuous color and line which makes it easier for the instructor to spot flaws in technique and correct them.
Be sure that your dancer has the required shoes for class. Dance shoes vary wildly in color, style and quality. Purchase and wear what your studio recommends. Quality dance shoes are necessary for quality results. Bargain dance shoes can impede your child’s progress, and in the case of tap shoes… can even damage the studio’s dance floor. If your studio has a “borrow box” for dancers who forget their shoes, please use it only when necessary, and not as a substitute for purchasing shoes. Dance shoes will form to a dancer’s foot and help to accentuate the line and shape of the foot. A dancer who wears ill-fitting borrowed shoes week after week will not reap the benefits of properly fitted shoes.
Put your dancer’s hair up at home before class every week. Dance requires movement of the head. Turns cannot be executed correctly without “spotting” which is a whipping motion of the head. Therefore, it is first and foremost a safety measure that every dancer’s hair be up off of their face. If hair is long it is essential for it to be in a bun for the safety of the dancer and those around her. Every dancer who has ever taken class with their hair in a pony tail can tell you how much it hurts when your own hair whips you in the eyes! And if that hair is long enough… or braided… it can whip other dancers nearby as well. Our motto for class is “put it up, leave it up”. Dancers who fix and adjust their hair constantly during class are not only distracting to themselves and others, but they are also getting hair all over the dance floor. Any anyone who lives with long hair knows how much you find on the bathroom floor after brushing. Imagine that hair times the number of dancers in a studio each week! Put it up at home, and leave it up throughout class.
Offer your child the bathroom before class. The golden rule of leotards is that as soon as you put one on, you need to use the bathroom. Tiny dancers are no exception! Be sure your child uses the restroom before pulling on her leotard and tights so that the likelihood of having to interrupt class with a bathroom break will be minimal. Tiny dancers can have trouble getting out of their leotard in time when the urge strikes, so its important to plan ahead. Also, when little ones are engrossed in the class, they can sometimes wait too long before asking to use the restroom. A little planning can go a long way here.
Pay attention to when tuition is due. Understand that most dance studios are small businesses that run on fairly tight budgets. When families get behind on tuition, it can be a hardship for studios since payroll, rent, taxes, insurance and may other expenses still need to be paid on time. If you are struggling to pay your bill, have a frank discussion with the studio staff. They may be able to help you adjust your schedule or have another solution to make things easier. Addressing the issue is always better than letting your bill pile up. Most studio owners would not let an unpaid bill stop a dancer from entering class, but this could potentially be the case, so being upfront about your situation and working together to make a payment plan or find another solution is best for your child.
Read the studio’s newsletter, emails, bulletin board or whatever method of communication is provided. An informed parent allows for a relaxed and prepared student. Important information will probably be provided many times through various methods. If you feel out of the loop, check with the studio office to be sure you are receiving all information.
If your child is enrolled in dance, then you probably already know how amazing dance is as part of a well-rounded education. Dance helps the student with coordination, balance, math, memory, social skills, spatial skills and so many other things. Following the above tips will help ensure that your child gets the most out of her dance education.