From the September 2020 Issue. Read the rest of the issue here.
Many dance instructors hold, at the very least, a bachelor’s degree. The vast majority of these degrees are in Fine Arts.. One can also get certification from American Ballet Theater, Youth Protection Advocates in Dance (YPAD), Darkness to Light, or in Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) that further denote one’s commitment to safely teaching certain disciplines or students.
By obtaining degrees and certifications and by keeping up with our art forms, many dance instructors are able to obtain multiple part-time jobs that help them to make a living. With the COVID pandemic, everyone in the dance industry has felt the strain of classes going online. This strain is amplified for those who support themselves through teaching, as many of us have been laid off, taken pay cuts, and more. These events can certainly affect one’s view of oneself, and may have people questioning their own worth.
Since March, dance professionals have asked how they should price classes that are “only online.” Their logic is sound in some ways; even if there are no technical issues while delivering classes, instructors can’t readily give individual feedback to students as they would in class, and progressions across the floor aren’t always possible. Under these conditions, is a class worth the same amount of tuition? What about the fringe benefits of being physically in class, such as building relationships with classmates? Can we meet all of these needs electronically?
Despite these limitations, our expertise and time commitments haven’t become less valuable. If anything, they have become even more valuable! We’re scrambling to best integrate technology with the services we offer, changing our processes and lesson plans accordingly. For example, many instructors are purchasing wireless technology to broadcast their voices better in an online environment. Studios are purchasing subscriptions to specialized technology that allows them to best deliver their services, and lesson plans have been greatly altered to adapt to the varied spaces dancers have available in their homes. It costs us time, energy, and money to ensure that students receive a quality product and experience.
In addition to this, artists have flooded social media, hosting live dance classes for free or for donations. Hours of knowledge and experience have been made available by incredible performers we would normally only take classes from at dance festivals. While many instructors are already actively taking dance classes themselves, regular access to top artists in the industry can help teachers develop their craft in new, fun ways for their dancers. This brings even more value to your students!
There’s no doubt enrollment is down right now and many studios are closing as a result of this pandemic; it’s hard on everyone. Instructors are going outdoors, online, and to all sorts of places to provide quality services. To add to these problems, many instructors’ confidence has taken a hit, leaving them worried that students won’t be happy with their products.
Katrena Cohea, CEO of Different Drummer Dance, has spoken on this very topic. Cohea’s studio and online community are dedicated to promoting body positivity in dance, and to providing useful resources to dance educators and parents. Cohea encourages all studio owners to stand up for their prices and services. “When you stand up for yourself and your prices, you’re also standing up for dance teachers everywhere,” she said. Cohea stresses the importance of dropping a “lack mindset,” which concentrates on losing clients or not having enough students. “When you’re confident in yourself, your business, and the prices you charge, you can also be confident that the right people will find you,” she says. You’ll discard your lack mindset and begin to think, “I’m paid well for the work I love,” or “The perfect students for me always find me.”
Don’t sell yourself short and don’t ask others to sell themselves short. It is possible students may try another studio, but in many cases, they will recognize that you have something truly special to give them. They will want you, your staff, and your colleagues to continue to feed their athleticism, creativity, knowledge, and love for dance. Know your worth, appreciate your worth, and know and appreciate the worth of others in spite of these very trying times.
Understand that your worth transcends wages and tuition, and let others know that, too. Unless your reputation precedes you, your resume will often make your first impression as an artist. There are many great ways to build a resume that gets a callback, whether you want a job as an instructor, dancer, producer, or something else. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, but there are four “must-haves” that can help you stand out from your peers. Your resume can include a lot of information that shows your worth. The basics of where and when you worked tell a story, but when you round out those basics with information that presents a fuller view of who you are and what you have to offer, you never know where it might lead!
If you’re applying for a dance instruction job, it should be a given that you have dance experience. Where you’ve worked, danced, and studied should absolutely be on your resume. But ask yourself, “How many numbers are on my resume right now?” Try quantifying your accomplishments, where appropriate. If you’ve won multiple choreography awards, do you know how many pieces were in competition for that award? If so, include that fact. An award is an incredible accomplishment. Why not make it look even better?
Think of the time you’ve spent honing your craft or that of your students. How many hours do you spend with students in a typical week? How many private lessons or master classes do you give in a month? How many company pieces did you set last year? Don’t be modest about the level of your commitment.
Log Your Activities
We may believe we can remember all the projects we work on, or even our ordinary tasks such as subbing or teaching. A few hours on a lighting gig may not seem like much over the course of a few months, but if you’re keeping track of and writing down your activities, you may find the same activity can add up over the long haul. Activities you may want to log are company pieces you’ve set, private lessons, master classes, festival performances, and workshops attended. Use your log to compile data that you can use to quantify the experience you include on your resume.
Include Choreography Clips or a “Best of” Reel
You might feel this goes without saying if you’re a choreographer or performer, but you’d be surprised at how many people forward resumes without any examples of their work. Put your best foot forward; give studio owners and program directors a good idea of what your style looks like, the rigor you’re able to bring to advanced students, or the charm you can bring to those younger students.
A good reel should be no more than two minutes long, with each piece of choreography lasting approximately 10 seconds. Use nondescript and royalty-free music will give your reel a put-together look, without adding to your expenses.
Advertise Additional Training and Strengths
There is a lot of free training out there. Take advantage of these opportunities to build your technique, develop strength in new areas, and augment your credentials. Programs such as Youth Protection Advocates in Dance (YPAD); Apolla’s Studios for Equity, Prevention, and Science (StEPS) training; CPR/AED training; Darkness to Light Stewards of Children can help you develop strengths that both support and augment your traditional dance training. Of course, extra training will take extra time, and it isn’t always free. You will need money to complete programs like the American Ballet Theater certification. But these skills are often important to dance studio directors. Your certifications can show that you’ve gone that extra mile and they could be tie-breakers when you’re up against someone else of equal talent.
Try to think outside the studio. YouTube offers a free crowd growth certification, useful for developing your own brand as a dancer, as well as perhaps a studio or program’s brand. Skills such as marketing, social media, and website design can also add value to the story on your resume. Practical skills and education gleaned outside the dance studio can’t hurt either. Dance industry professionals who have advertised these skillsets have been offered more responsibilities and larger roles in their studios as a result.