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Friday, January 05 2018


At Symphony Dance, our students love us! (& We love them right back.)

You can tell our dancers love us, because at least half of our students take more than one class. We have some extremely talented and dedicated students at our studio. This talent and dedication excites us!

We do have students who leave us, or who don’t take as much dance as they’d like. The reason? We normally are told that parents want their child to try all different things, do small samples of many different activities, or don’t want them missing out because they were at dance. We usually try to explain that once you find something you are good at and love, you should foster that. Since our answer doesn’t always change their minds, we went out in search for answers from other dance teachers around the world.

Miss Katrina thinks there is a balance between life outside of dance and life at dance. She also loves dancing and spending time with the #SymphonyDanceFamily, so she sometimes feels like she might be biased. (Also keep in mind that as a teen dancer, Miss Katrina was in the studio at least 4 hours a week per dance team she was on, in addition to student teaching, and helping her mom clean the studio, and working to help pay for her hobby. Miss Katrina was also involved in band and chorus, because she loved music.)

We asked are students spending too much time at the studio and are they missing out on things?

We took what they had to say and applied it to Symphony Dance to see what we might be missing as a dance studio.

Here’s what other teachers had to say about dancers wanting to dance a lot:  

  • The passionate ones are just that, passionate. They have found their passion, and it would be a shame to take that away. (Matt-Swing Dance Teacher from Australia)
  • I find that the parents who don’t want to commit, or who lack the passion that their child has, end up crushing their child’s passion. The parents put such a negative light on it, whether they mean to or not- complaining about the cost, or driving them to dance, or how they do so much for the child, the child begins to feel like they are the problem, and they quit something that could be so good for them and they could be so good at doing. (Sheryl, Teacher from Michigan)
    • Symphony Dance offers many discounts, and as a dancer who grew up with less money, and therefore less opportunities, Miss Katrina understands and tries her best to help out the dancers she can with scholarships, rides, fundraising, and more.
  • They can only dance this much and be the best dancer when they are young. (Beth, dancer/dance teacher/artistic director/company founder from Buffalo, NY)
    • Miss Katrina says that as someone who was in dance at the age of four, but not really heavily involved in dance until middle school then high school and college, she can say that she wishes she had done a little more sooner, or had the opportunity to train more when she was younger, when she was more flexible, when she  was more athletic, when she wasn’t considered an “older dancer.” She says “I love dancing and push myself every day, but I still feel like it would’ve been easier and I could have done way more, if I had done it sooner."


Here’s what they have to say about dancers who might be missing “something” because they are at dance:

  • Danielle, from Nebraska says “As a parent of a dancer who is at the studio almost as much as me (a full time dance teacher) I want to know what parents think their kid would rather be doing. My daughter does miss out on some things. However, she is doing what she loves to do. She almost gave up a solo role in her elementary school musical, because the show was the same day as our dress rehearsal. Luckily, our studio director said she work out the conflict. Before the studio owner offered that, my daughter had already told me if it is the same day, she would decline the musical. Nine times out of 10 this would be her response. I mean she’s only 9, so occasionally she might get a little down about missing a birthday party or something, but dance cheers her up and she knows that dance was her choice. “
    • *Symphony Dance has options for having birthday parties at dance, so you can combine two great things in one if you want.
  • It’s a balance between the loves in their life and sometimes they miss things they love for something else they love, but they are doing what they love. (Aviva, Dance Instructor/Director in Alabama)
  • Growing up my friends were from dance! I didn’t feel like I missed out on school stuff, because I always felt like I was missing more if I wasn’t at dance. (Melissa, Dance Studio Owner in Ohio)
  • Analiese (a mom and gymnastics coach from California) says her daughter loves to dance! She’s only 5 though and dances 6 hours a week at the studio and spends other hours at the studio where Analiese works. She says her daughter is adding more dance after winter break also. As a parent Analiese doesn’t want to remove any opportunity her daughter has right now to explore other things, but as a teacher she wants her to excel at what she currently loves and enjoys. She says it’s a hard balance. Analiese says they very much value family dinners and doesn’t want to sacrifice time for her daughter to build a relationship with her siblings and her dad if she spends all her time dancing or with mom when she’s working.
    • At Symphony Dance we have many siblings and cousins who dance together at the studio and if you as Miss Genesis and Charley about their dance classes together, they like getting to spend time together doing something they both like and sometimes they fight like sisters do, but they feel like dance and the performances and steps to practice and friends they have in common and experiences they go to together gives them something else to bond over. We also have a lot of families who come and watch from the lobby including other brothers, grandparents, and younger siblings and we foster a family feel in our studio and at our studio events-we never want dance to feel like a separate world from your family and many of our students love the support Symphony gives to their family time and the support their family gets to give to their dancing time.
  • My daughter played soccer, but then practices and games started to conflict with our schedule. This gave her an opportunity to practice serious decision making. She did not want to dance less, so she passed on soccer (at least for now.) My daughters and all the dancers at our studio have incredible work ethic because they treat it like their job. We do miss Family dinners but we plan them for days when none of us are dancing like Fridays and Sundays.  (Elizabeth, a dance teacher and mom from Florida)
    • We have a lot of #dancefamily meals together at Symphony Dance (sometimes dancers and teachers, sometimes dance parents and dance students from many different families) . Whether we are eating lunch together during a camp, enjoying a snack on break together, eating breakfast before early Saturday morning classes, going out to eat as a dance family, or having a party together we find time to make family memories on and off the dance floor. 
  • Essentially what many kids miss out on while they are at dance are: being on social media, being exposed to drugs and sex, or sedentary lifestyles. I hate to be harsh, but personally I think keeping them too busy for trouble is a good thing. I am always happy to let them take off for a birthday party, school dance, or a special night with friends and I think that’s a happy medium. (Andrew, from Australia)


Some of the teachers could relate to losing students to being overbooked or having student who participate in too many different activities.

  • It’s important kids are not a jack of all trades and a master of none, but when they can focus on those few things and excel at them, then they can be masters of their passions. Colleges look for well rounded students, but students who specialized in areas or who are trained well in those areas, not students who did a little bit of everything for a little bit. (Kim, Gymnastics and Dance instructor in Fulton Co, NY)
  • Don’t half way do two things, do one thing with full effort and focus. {Edited for a curse word “Don’t half ____ two things, whole ____ one thing.”} (From Lainey-a dancer, mom, and dance teacher in Washington)
  • A lot of American parents have what I’ve termed “Ben Franklin Syndrome.” They want their kids to be involved in so many things, incorrectly thinking they are able to excel in multiple areas. The truth is this is just not possible for most; & in order to really hone a skill, it takes focus, discipline, and consistency.  Even if the student does not go on to dance professionally, there are so many life skills to be gained in getting a dance education, including that awareness of knowing exactly the kind of dedication it takes to hone a skill. People don’t normally go to college & select 5 different majors. They select one, maybe two, and focus on the prerequisites & courses necessary to excel in their desired field.(Kelly, Dancer and Instructor from Georgia)
  • I think it just depends. My kids spend a lot of time at the studio but they are younger and I don't want ro commit to lots of sports but I also won't let them join the company yet because they personally are not ready for the commitment. I loved being at the studio but I'm glad that i was able to participate in other things if I wanted. You can't go back in your 30s and try other sports and you can't go back and dedicate more time for dance. It is a decision each child has to make. My sister decided basketball was for her and went on scholarship. If my parents hadn't let her dedicate more time to basketball though, I think she would have missed an opportunity. For me, I dropped all sports for dance. However, we didn't make those decisions until High School. Before that we were only at the studio 5 hours a week.  (Emily, Dance studio owner from Illinois)
    • Notice that Emily said “only” and “5 hours” in the same sentence. She isn’t talking about dancers who are doing one or two classes or who take class for a few weeks at a time who get too involved in dance too early.
    • Miss Katrina decided at the beginning of middle school that she could no longer do cheerleading. She wanted to participate at school but it was so much more expensive than dance and wasn’t as much her passion. At the end of middle school/beginning of high school she had to quit soccer because practices and games and tournaments were much more frequent and didn’t allow for the expression that dance did. Miss Katrina says she made choices and as someone who is still dancing to this day and occasionally kicks the soccer ball around, she feels like she made the right choice-if she had stopped dancing she doesn’t know that she would be able to occasionally do a multiple turn pirouette or a grand jete and she likes that she does these things only a daily basis instead of once in a while.
  • One studio owner and founder said “I like the idea of 10 activities by 10.” So before 10 is the time to let your kids try it all and see what they like and become well rounded. By 12 they should have a major (some activities support each other and could be a double major like dance and cheer or gymnastics and dance) and 2 minors. And then really concentrate after that. This is a rule another coach mentioned to me and I really liked it as a guideline. It’s not a matter of missing but a matter of missing fundamental skills. Kids who do a lot of physical activity young are the most physically literate and most likely to stay active throughout life. (Richele, British Columbia)
    • At Symphony Dance we have students of all ages who do many different extracurricular activities. We have football, lacrosse, soccer, basketball, field hockey, tennis, rugby, and volleyball players. We have marching band and color guard members, we have musicians, we have actors and actresses, we have singers, we have artists, we have cross country runners, and dancers with part time jobs-all ages 5-17. We also have adults who one or more of these things in addition to dance and working a full time job or more than one job, who are parents, who have other hobbies, who volunteer, and who have kids who do multiple things.
    • Our studio knows that this is time for business and people are busy, but we work to accommodate schedules and makeups for missed classes and we have students who want to dance but know they are too busy and they chose to take certain classes without committing to recital or competition and/or performances, because they want to focus. We understand and we are happy to help!


This Texan dance teacher essentially summed up what all the others had to say:

  • Being involved in dance and being committed to one activity is really beneficial. There are so many social aspects to these activities and lessons besides just dance. Parents get worried that children will regret missing social events but they forget how many of those same things they get from being involved in dance. (Jessica)


We’re not saying that dance class is for every student. We are also not asking students who are good at dance to be at the studio all day every day (Miss Katrina (and Miss Genesis for the most part) chose that life because this is what they love.) We are simply saying that if dance is something you enjoy, it is okay to indulge a little.

If your daughter wants to take tap class and do a tap dance in recital, why limit her to 6 weeks of tap once or twice a year? If your son wants to do clogging, acro, hip hop, and lacrosse and he can manage that with school-what is stopping him? If you daughter likes karate and ballet (and Symphony Dance is happy to work around schedules) who says she can’t?


“Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do, than by the ones you did do.”- Mark Twain

Posted by: Symphony Dance AT 01:48 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Sunday, April 30 2017
Dance Picture Day Tips
  • Any hairstyle works for picture day. We want you to like your pictures and how you look in them-and hair can play a big part in that.

    • Schedule haircuts a few weeks ahead of time to allow hair to grow back a little if needed, unless you like it short and want a fresh-cut look.

  • Keep kids relaxed and ready to be themselves. Smiles can look fake if they’re over practiced and there's a saying we like: “smiles are like french fries-they’re better when they’re fresh.”

  • Miss Katrina will be practicing the picture poses with the students in class this week and will be giving them ideas for their individual photos. You may also find a great one you like online. We wouldn’t rehearse the face too much, but it definitely wouldn’t hurt to plan out and practice some poses and make sure they are flattering and ones that can be held for a great photo.

  • If you have trouble with keeping your eyes open (Miss Katrina knows all about this), try looking down or away from the camera until the photographer says she's going to take the picture, then look right at her. 

    • ​Sometimes the close your eyes and then open on 3 tends to result in scary big eyes instead of simply open eyes. 

  • Get plenty of rest and a good night's sleep the night before….wouldn’t hurt to plan to go to bed extra early a couple of days before. (Don’t want to notice your dark circles before your awesome costume and beautiful face….plus rest will help you feel less stressed too.)

  • Drink plenty of water in the week leading up to your dance pictures.

    • (Miss Katrina is an advocate for water all the time, but especially in preparing for pictures!)

      • Stay clear of energy drinks right before, it might give you a limited boost but being antsy and anxious can negatively affect your shots.

  • Practice your makeup and hair and try on all of your costumes, tights, and the accessories before picture day, so you know how they fit, how they will look and if you need to do anything differently than you had originally planned.

    • Ask your family and friends if the color choices for your makeup look good with your costume and if your makeup and hair choices look good all together.

    • It also doesn’t hurt to time yourself and see how long it takes you to get everything applied and perfected so you know how long you need to plan for to get ready on picture day.

      • Don’t forget to add at least 5 extra minutes in case something goes different on the actual big day.

  • If you are getting head shots taken, remember to test out your shirts and outfits and see how they look. 

    • Pack a few different shirt options so you can see how they end up looking, don't want to put all of your eggs in one basket. 

    • Remember that head shots shouldn't have too much extra in the frame. 

    • Try not to do anything with your hands, body, or face that you wouldn't do in conversation out with a friend for coffee. 

  • Make sure to brush and floss your teeth thoroughly before coming to the studio on picture day.

  • More than one costume? Pack them into your Symphony Dance garment bag in reverse order so the one you need first is on top.

  • Make sure your garment bag has the name label in the front pocket.

    • Make sure your shoes have your name in them somewhere (even if you only do it for picture day {and rehearsal and recital day}).

    • It wouldn’t hurt to also find a place to discreetly label your costumes and your accessories as well.

      • You wouldn’t believe how many things get left behind or mixed in with others and things work out easier if we can simply identify what belongs to which dancer.

  • Please do not add any extra accessories besides the ones already included with your costume.

    • For your individual pictures, if you have an item that is really important to you and not distracting from you-then you can wear it then, but it’s best not to wear during the group photo.

  • Don’t make picture day too much of a big deal. Don’t put pressure on it, just relax, feel confident and stay positive.

  • Don’t worry about things being perfect. If you have a blemish or a scratch, or a wild hair- the photographer does retouching for free (she’s nice like that) and anything she can’t re-touch (like someone’s goofy smile with their two front teeth missing) will be something to look back on and remember for this particular dance year.


Finalizing your photo purchase

  • Before you chose a photo package to order, make a list of what size pictures you want to give to family members and what size photos you want for yourself.

    • Next read all of the packages and then compare your list with the packages and see which matches best.

    • Decide if a package that is pre-set is for you, or if you want to build your own package.

      • Remember that our photographer can offer you more than one package, but if you do a pre-set package, the photos must all be the same. (So you can’t do some of the group photo and some of the individual, or some of the ballet costume and some of the tap costume...unless you do a build your own package or buy more than one.)

  • A memory mate is an 8x10 photo that includes an individual pose as well as the group pose.

  • We have pre-pay photo forms/envelopes available at the studio. You should bring it, filled out, on the day of your photo to give to the photographer.

    • Please make checks out to: Picture the Best

    • You only need one form and one check per dancer

      • If ordering multiple poses or different photos-just make it clear for our photographer on the form.

  • If time allows, the photographer will allow you to see your photo and possibly take more than one photo if necessary.  

  • If you would like siblings or friends to be photographed together you can select a package or do a build your own, just let Miss Katrina know and she and the photographer can work them in.

Have a tip that you think will help other dancers? Got an idea to make picture day run more smoothly? Email, text, message, comment, or post and hashtag us #SymphonyDancePictureDay and we could share your post on social media, or add it to our blog! 

Posted by: Miss Katrina AT 09:09 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Saturday, July 16 2016
Signs You Have an Awesome Dance Teacher

Signs you have an awesome dance teacher

1.       Really Loves Dance 


Seems obvious doesn’t it? Sometimes teachers get burned out, they get bored, they became a dance teacher for the wrong reasons, or maybe after years of being a business owner the other stresses overpowered the reasons they liked dance and opened a studio to begin with. There are way more that don’t have that problem than do though. A good start is making sure you’ve found the ones that have the love. If he or she can’t hear a song without imagining a dance to it, if he or she could watch dances for hours, can’t get enough of it - you’ve got a good one. 


2.       Loves and Honors Teaching 


You can love dance and still not be a fan of teaching, so make sure you’ve got one with both! The best teachers are caring, knowledgeable, patient, and willing to work with each student. There are dance teachers everywhere who say “I only want to work with the students who already know what they’re doing”…yeah that’s typically easier, but most teachers like to say that they are also the ones who helped the student get to the “knowing it” stage. There are also the teachers who prefer certain ages, “I hate babies,” or maybe flip that and “I do best with the younger crowd.” Not every person in the world likes every single other person in the world, but teachers treat all students with respect and encouragement. When your dance teacher has a passion for teaching, they are excited to see everyone learn. These same teachers also know the perfect balance of fun, discipline, and self-expression and they create the best learning environment for you. If you and your classmates are enjoying class, smiling, learning, feeling like individual dancers (and not someone else, or a robot), if you’re respecting your teacher and the other dancers around you, and everyone making improvements in some way - that’s the good stuff. 


3.       Has a seal of approval/ is affiliated with a trusted dance teacher certification program


The industry of dance education is not regulated by licensure, but you know your dance studio is a good one when they are associated with one or more professional dance teacher programs. One of the most well-known and respected programs is Dance Masters of America (DMA). DMA is a non-profit organization that tests each member in subjects of music theory, dance history; practice, dancing theory, and application to include terminology, proper technique, and hands on spotting for dance genres. Participants are trained and tested in ballet (including pointe and lyrical), jazz (including musical theatre, African, and hip hop), tap, modern (and contemporary), teaching children, and Acro - among others. Other similar organizations exist, some of the more popular are Dance Educators of America, Royal Academy of Dance, American Ballet Theatre (ballet only), Cecchetti USA (ballet only), and National Dance Educators Organization. The National Clogging Leaders Organization trains clogging teachers through its Certified Clogging Instructor Program. If your teacher comes with approval through one of these groups or your studio mentions their association with these esteemed groups, you can be pretty sure they know their stuff! 


4.       Has a reputation


A good one of course! Dance teachers who help their students the most are those with previous experience, a history, related training. Say your dance teacher is, or was, also a school teacher, a physical education teacher, a nurse, or they have a degree in health, fitness, or dance; that is excellent news for you. It’s likely that you want the best chances of being the best dancer you can, this means you’ve made sure that your studio offers a staff that is good at teaching as well as performing. You probably wouldn’t feel as comfortable taking dance from someone who hasn’t performed on stage much, who is afraid of speaking on a microphone, or who does not perform well. Great teachers have a diverse background and viable experiences. Did your dance teacher start out as a dance student, then a dance teacher’s assistant, up to a dance teacher or studio owner? Those who have been in your shoes can relate better and those who have studied under others are better prepared to perform that same job independently. Teachers who have been working with children a while, who have their own children, or even those who were babysitters also tend to do better when it comes to teaching. Whatever you want from your dance class/studio and the teacher you choose, make sure they have experience with that. Finding a teacher with a lot of experiences in many different formats is the best. If your teacher has a good background - they’re bound to be a good teacher!


5.       Is "Hi-tech"


Studios working mostly on technique, or who incorporate it throughout the year have more talented and skilled dancers than studios that focus only on certain routines for months and months. Most studios have at least one performance annually and many also go to competitions and offer more opportunities to showcase their dancers. While that is awesome, it’s even more awesome when teachers emphasize dancing and the individual growth of each dancer. You don’t want to spend six months to a year in a class and only come out knowing about 2 minutes of specific steps and tricks, or on the other end to get to the big showcase and not be able to show off some of the great stuff you’ve learned.  If your teacher creates great routines and works on them leading up to an event to be sure you know them, but remembers to balance that with technique, to keep working on making you a well-rounded dancer, and that dance foundations will also improve the routine…he or she’s a keeper! 


6.       Knows that good things come in small packages 


No one likes to be crowded or restricted in their movement and while many dancers tend to want to be in a class that is large (if everyone else is doing it), they tend to discover it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Your teacher knows what he or she’s doing if he or she keeps classes smaller so that he or she can focus on the growth and development of each individual student. He or she also knows that a smaller class size means more space for dancing, more room for you to see the teacher, more chances for you to be seen when you perform (no one wants to learn a dance and when you perform no one can even tell you’re on stage anyway), and most importantly, smaller classes mean more space and time for the teacher to see you (individual attention!) If your dance teacher keeps the number of students in each class low (even if that means having more than one offering of that class), he or she deserves high praise. 


7.       Is Diverse 


This kind of goes with a good reputation, but your teacher may be the best ballet mistress out there and that’s cool but is she also a pretty good tapper, and awesome at jazz, and does she know modern? If yes, you’ve found gold! Dance studios that have you covered no matter what your mood or age are what you want. Maybe you only want to take ballet right now, or maybe you only plan on taking a few lessons…you never know what you’ll want in the future. If you choose correctly now, it will pay off later. Keep that teacher that has preschool and adult classes and offers many different styles! 


8.       Has been a student and remains a student


Does your teacher stay current on dance news, costume trends, and choreography ideas? The best teachers are the best students. They've been a dance student in your shoes before and they can relate. They know from experience what it's like to be in a recital, to remember multiple dances to perform, to go to a competition. They can help you make it through like they did, they can also see how their students handle things so they can tell their future students. Learning from their students, going to classes, doing research, keeping up to date on certifications, these teachers know that you never stop learning. Do you have a teacher that keeps trying to improve herself? That's the one that's going to help you improve the most. 


If you've found a teacher that can be described these ways, hold on for dear life! If you haven't found a teacher like this, keep looking - they're out there and they're amazing. 

Posted by: Katrina Kaplin AT 09:53 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Friday, July 08 2016
Select your Studio with Caution

As I wrote this blog I started with about four different introductory paragraphs before landing on this one. I want to tell you the importance of a good dance teacher, I want you to know how to identify them, and I want to share with you what comes of good versus bad training. I can get really long winded and at times seem like I'm ranting or venting on this topic, so I've tried to start with the most basic and essential step. Why does any of it matter?

When people tell me about their studio of choice and say: "Well she's been in business a long time," or "she didn't realize that stretching her like that would cause a long term injury," or "he's a good dancer, so he must be a good teacher" it drives me crazy.

George Lucas (a filmmaker) has said "apart from my parents, my teachers have done the most to shape my life." Who do you want shaping the life of your child, or shaping your future as a dancer? Some of my own life values, teaching styles, and goals have been inspired by my dance teachers whether they taught me at age 6, 16, or 26.

I've had teachers who made me feel like less of a person, who've made me want to quit dance, who taught me poor technique, who held me back from my goals and my dreams, and who wanted me to bring them success-but wanted no success for me. These are part of the people who inspired me to want to open a dance studio so that I could be the opposite of them, but they do not deserve even that much credit.

My teachers who encouraged me to push myself, who promoted me, who gave me opportunity, who ran a wonderful dance program, who made me feel like a star, who could give me a correction and make me feel like they were giving me praise, who inspired me to be a strong woman, who reminded me you're never too old, who supported me in class and in life, those are the teachers I hold in the utmost esteem.

Van Rossum (a staff member at the Faculty of Human Movement Sciences at Vrije University, Amsterdam, The Netherlands and frequent contributor to the Journal for the Education of the Gifted) reported that the role of a dance teacher is of utmost importance and cannot be underestimated. In the world of field sports, "parents are about as important in the career of a talented athlete as is the coach," he said. In the world of dance, the role of the dance teacher is of much more importance when compared to that of the dancer's parents." To help illustrate what he was saying he pointed to research that showed that significant numbers of field sports athletes referred to their family as a "sports family," but only a small minority of dance students (ages 12-17 in this study) considered their family a "dance family" and considered their home to be supportive of dance. Think about you or your parent, if a member of their family decided to pick up running cross country vs. modern dance.which one will have you immediately offering help or feeling comfortable with how to support them when they want assistance practicing?

I have a mom who helped me in unbelievable ways as a child with my dance (I didn't appreciate it enough then, but as a teacher who wishes more students had parents like her I do now!) Most parents do not know about dance, do not know the terms, the ins and outs of technique, the guidelines for preventing injury, and youtubing how to dribble won't lead to permanent damage like youtubing how to do a tilt or a back handspring can. (PS I don't hate youtube either) The main idea here is that teaching dance can have a significant impact and tends to be more of a singular act rather than a combined effort, so when choosing that sole should be done extremely carefully.

The Royal Academy of Dance has warned that unqualified teachers can cause children "untold physical damage." Dance teacher educational programs around the world agree that untrained teachers can cause lasting injury. If young children are in the hands of unqualified people then physical damage can be done simply because the teacher does not know about anatomy and the development of bones.

I personally have seen students with bone growth deformity and with significant injuries from doing techniques that a "dance teacher" taught them. I also have students at the studio now who were having significant issues performing certain skills or who say "my last teacher told me I wouldn't be able to do that because my legs are weird." Meanwhile, with proper tactics and training and instruction in basic elements and a little support, these dancers are doing things they never thought they could or who are saying "that's amazing that you helped me fix that." I would take the credit, call myself a magician or a miracle worker, but I can't.  It's due to the fact that I have been trained to teach dance and that I constantly continue my education.

Another common issue I have seen in my years as a dance teacher is that good dancers don't always make for good teachers. Have you ever known how to do something really well, but then someone asked you to show them how, and you struggled? Often, the understanding isn't there of how to break things down and build things up to achieve a well-rounded dancer. Some people can cook a meal from memory and taste and others need a recipe to guide them. This is the same for dance, no two dancers have the same background, basic skills, or natural talent and someone who is not trained in all the basics of dance instruction is less likely to be able to help their students succeed. I knew a great hip hop dancer who did fantastic solos and had training in all styles of dance, but when it came to teaching and choreography, she struggled. She had students who were like her - who kept up and caught on quickly, but not all of them felt successful. Students were quitting left and right because they thought they weren't good dancers or it was too hard for them, or they must not like hip hop.  Put them in a class with someone who is not as good at performing hip hop (still good, but not to the level of the first teacher), but who has dance teacher training and experience and the same students who "suck at hip hop" were ready sign up for America's Best Dance Crew.

So your dancer seems to be doing "just fine", no injuries and they can do all kinds of tricks.  Are they doing them properly? Are they cranking their shoulder to get that triple pirouette? Do they know what pirouette means? Are they lifting their hips off center to get that leg high? Are they using the correct muscles to turn so that as they advance they have the ground work to do so? I see the Instagram and Facebook posts of studios who have authoritative rulers who use fear or who have teachers take "cheats" to get their students to look impressive, but at what cost?

What happens when your child is overcome with anxiety, when they blame themselves for the poor instruction and lack of basic essentials, when they have anorexia, when they don't have the skills to take their dance career where they want, or when they cut corners or intimidate others to make a gain? It sounds dramatic, but I've seen these things first hand. I've been that dancer in a class with students who had more basic technique and vocabulary than I did, even though I had more years of experience as a dancer than them. I've built up a beat-down dancer's self-esteem as a teacher to students new to me and as a teammate. I've helped with eating disorder counseling and seeking help, I've tried to clean up the heartbreak after a student was not adequately prepared for an audition or performance, I've seen dancers who were promoted to more advanced classes only to see them fail because they didn't have the actual foundation they needed, only a façade to make their previous teacher look good.

I have written way too much at this point and it sounds depressing. I didn't mean to go there, it just bothers me so much that anyone can hang a sign on the door and say they are a dance teacher and they can do so much damage or good. In the next blog, I will talk about how to make sure your teacher is the best for you. Maybe then I'll be able to tell you about the achievements and victories of dancers I've seen who knew how to get the best from their dance teacher, even if they just wanted to take dance for fun.

Posted by: Katrina Kaplin AT 08:52 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, July 04 2016
Whose Move is it Anyway?

Our last entry on Modern seemed like the perfect introduction to Improvisation. Improvisation is defined in my dance teacher text books as spontaneous movement or composition without preplanned use of form. Improvisation lets dancers feel free in their movement and stimulates their creative energies.

At Symphony Dance we try to incorporate improvisation in our daily classes and we also offer a separate class just for improvisation. In classes we often offer times in the dances for freestyling, we let dancers show off their moves, and we do activities where the students get to create a dance and lead the rest of the class (including the teacher) in movement that fits their style.

Dancers may be shy in the beginning of improvisational work, but we work to help them get into the spirit of improvisation. I try to remind my students that improvisational movements should be from within and should focus on how the movement feels rather than how it looks. Many times it’s hard for dancers to create spontaneous movement that isn’t imitation or that doesn’t end up looking forced, but many times the dancers who are the most shy in the beginning end up being the dancers who enjoy improvisation the most.

Some examples of improvisation that may occur in our daily classes include:

-Dancers may be given 12 counts of a Jazz combination and then asked to complete the last 4 beats (2 make two steps worth) of their own movement that fits the music.

-In ballet we use improvisation in all levels, but specifically in more advanced classes it is fun to have dancers create their own combinations for the barre portion of class at the beginning or lead the class in a reverence, that they create on the spot, to end the class.

-Improvisation is incorporated into tap class in different ways, but I like to have dancers stand in a circle and start with one person adding one beat/step/count/element and then the next person starts with that piece and adds their own piece and you build the step around the circle.

-Our hula hoop instructor often gives opportunities for solos, gives options on arms and positioning for independent style choices, and ends every class with a song of “free-hoop” where participants can do anything they want to with their hoop. I often use this as a cardio section of waist hooping, or may take the time to practice my chest hooping, other hoopers work on specific arm tricks, hoop jumping, traveling the hoop from waist up to a lasso or from lasso down to knee hooping.

-Acro (short for acrobatics) seems like a strange place to work on improvisation, but improvisation makes a well-rounded dancer and we want to contribute to that in every class. In this class improvisation can be incorporated by allowing dancers to do a combination of their favorite skills (tumbling or dance) down the mat.

-In toddler and preschool dance classes we start with simple freeze game style music that tells you what to do (maybe walk or jump or tip toe and then freeze) and then we sneak “dance” in there too. It’s amazing how uninhibited 2 year olds are, they sometimes start by following me and copying exactly but it’s not long before they’re adding style to everything, including their walks!

Our improvisation class builds dancer skills so they have a selection to choose from when performing their improvisations. We also work on different challenges to the improvisation, on different music timing, on different styles of dance, and on testing the limits of the dancers’ emotions, abilities, athleticism, and creativity.  I may ask dancers to do a call and response to each other, to do the same combination of moves and find ways to personally stylize them or to make them portray different emotions, or we may simply play the music and dance and enjoy the work of all the dancers in the room.

Teachers who are creative with improvisation will develop a strong, well rounded performer. Dancers who can improvise are not the dancers who “blank out” on stage, who stare at the floor, or look like they are thinking about something else or would rather be anywhere else.  I have seen this to be true in other studios I’ve worked for, in students I’ve taught solos to, and in our Symphony Dance students. I hope to continue to build amazing dancers through various techniques including improvisation.

Posted by: Katrina Kaplin AT 08:28 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Friday, July 01 2016
Thoroughly Modern Symphony

Last blog, I talked about a rare dance style that is offered at Symphony Dance and gave you a little taste of clogging. This blog, I’d like to now offer a second course in this sampler-Modern Dance. Many dance studios in our area list contemporary and modern as interchangeable dance styles and say that they are offered, but are not often listed on the schedule. (PS Contemporary is like a form of ballet or Jazz and Modern is an independent style on its own…separate from other styles.)

As part of my 4 year teacher’s training program, I have been studying from college professors of dance including modern and have taken modern specific courses. This summer I will take a multi-part exam that includes a written test, oral exam, choreography, instruction, performance, and I will watch a modern dancer and have to correctly identify the actions performed by the dancer.

I know Modern, and when I say we have Modern-we do.

Modern dance originated at the turn of the 19th century and spread through Switzerland, Germany, France and Across Europe and from Chicago to California to NY, in between and beyond.  Dancers who were trained in ballet wanted to express more emotion in their dance, they wanted more of an intimate style of dance, and rather than focusing on romantic themes like ballet they wanted to express a realistic and humanistic emotion.

These dancers wanted to rebel against the strictness of ballet and wanted to dance for more than just entertainment, but also for instructional, uplifting, and/or satirical purposes. These dancers wanted to show athleticism and take dance from being just amusing to being a form of art.

A few Modern dancer/choreographer names may be familiar to you, like Martha Graham who was in the first generation of modern dancers and was an influential person in society not just for her dancing. Martha Graham is well known for her quotes like “Dance is the hidden language of the soul of the body” and “Great dancers are not great because of their technique, they are great because of their passion.”  Twyla Tharp is a modern dancer and choreographer in the Post-Modern Era and is known for her dances in Hair the film and the musical, her choreography for Singin’ in the Rain (my favorite movie/musical), her work with Come Fly Away (on Broadway and on Tour), and Movin’ Out (on Broadway and on Tour-collaborating with Billy Joel) among others. Garth Fagan is based in Rochester and is in the Third Generation or Post-Modern Era as well and is known for his choreography in the Broadway production of The Lion King.

Modern dancers as a group lean towards a style that isn’t defined, that doesn’t have set rules, that focuses on using the torso for power, on challenging the limits of the physical body, while being based in human emotion and natural movements. Any line, shape, or any form that the human body can create in space is valid in modern dance if it expresses what the dancer or choreographer wants to communicate.

As someone who likes to have set rules and expectations or building blocks for things like a shuffle step in tap or clogging, a ball change in those or in jazz, or a pirouette…modern was a hard concept for me in the beginning. I am also someone who likes to not have to do the highest jump, sometimes a little jump portrays what I want. I am someone who likes to listen to the music and see what it inspires me to do without having to think if that’s an accepted “step” or “move”. I also like to push myself and my dancers to do more than we think we can with dance, with movement, with letting go of inhibitions, and with portraying emotion (whether it be happiness, sorrow, anger, etc.) For those reasons and more, I have come to really love modern dance.

Modern dance is another style that is good for the dancer who thinks they “can’t dance.”  Trust me, everyone can dance, but that’s not my point. If you think you “can’t dance” because you struggle with rhythm or turns, or even standing on your tippy toes, if you can have a feeling and portray it in some way with your body, then you can be a modern dancer.

I feel like my blog is getting a little long now. (I write these in Word before I post them and I set out a rule for myself {I told you I like guidelines} that I wouldn’t go longer than a page and this is already a page and a quarter.) I could tell you a lot more about modern and the liberating quality it has or the fun you have turning into someone else when you dance, but those kind of apply to all styles of dance…so I will say this- Modern dance is sometimes harder for those who are more inhibited but it is always enjoyable for any level. Modern dance is often used as a blanket term, but it is an independent style of dance or dance-form. Modern is not offered at most studios or is often seen as “stuffy” or only for the strict ballerina. Modern is meant to be open to all humans and is meant to be enjoyed by all. Modern is offered at Symphony Dance and we would be thrilled to have you.


Posted by: Katrina Kaplin AT 06:33 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, June 27 2016
No Wooden Shoes Required!

     If you’ve seen some of the recent posts on our studio Facebook, you’ve seen that I have been trying to build the studio. Part of building the studio is working on helping people see how great the studio is. A main factor in that is what sets you apart from other studios. Symphony Dance is the only studio in Rochester and surrounding areas to offer clogging classes. There are also very few studios in the entire state of New York that know much about clogging, but clogging is a dance style that is recognized around the world and well-known in many other areas. 


     I first became interested in clogging as a child. I was at one of those dance studios where you take tap and ballet as a combination and until you are asked to be on a competition team (which I was asked, but it’s a long story-different blog.) When you take these combination classes, they don’t push you very much and the choreography leaves something to be desired. Studios like this think “why spend a lot of energy on them if they aren’t competition” or if “they” (the dancer and their family a.k.a. the customer) aren’t spending a lot of money. (Also a different blog.)


     The point here is I wasn’t loving what I was doing and I saw clogging and thought, “now that’s awesome!” It seemed so much more exciting than the tap dancing I had been doing. They looked like they were doing something similar to tap but their shoes made noises that were a little different, their legs were up higher, the energy was higher, and they looked like they were having a lot of fun!  I had found my new dance style!     I stepped into the clogging world and while I still get training, go to workshops and continuing education, and teach many other styles…I will always be a clogger too. 


     Clogging is a dance style that came about in the early colonial days. All of the settlers would come together and one of the easiest ways to “communicate” was through dance. Irish settlers, English settlers, German settlers-you name it. They didn’t speak the same language but they all have a shared culture united through dance. They would come together and dance together and through this styles were blended and through the years. Clogging became the official dance representation of the “melting pot.” 


     Clogging has now evolved into something that incorporates tap dancing, square dancing, step dance, hip hop, some jazz, some cheerleading, and can be danced to all styles of music. Clogging has been featured on television shows like America’s Got Talent, America’s Best Dance Crew, So You Think You Can Dance, Dance Fever, 15 Seconds to Fame, and even had a TLC special-“Down South Dance”. (Clogging is extremely popular in the southeast.)  


     Clogging is very similar to tap but where tap is on the upbeat, clogging is on the downbeat. If you clap along to a piece of music, the part when your hands come apart is the upbeat and the part where you clap is the down beat. Clogging also adds an extra tap to the shoe that is loose…a “jingle tap.” Clogging can be very advanced, but is typically very easy to catch on to and can be fun, even in the most beginner dances.  


     I’ve had many a beginner clogger tell me that they have two left feet and those same dancers are now advanced Cloggers and some have even developed their dance talents further into other styles and clogging was the dance style that built their confidence and was a stepping stone for them. I can’t tell you how many dancers I’ve had who struggled to hear the beat and finding that downbeat in clogging strengthened their internal rhythm. I’ve had tappers who were pretty good before but when they added clogging in to their training they excelled in both areas. 


     Clogging is a dance form that is evolving and growing and is taking off. Clogging is danced from California to Maine and around the world and also at Symphony Dance in Irondequoit, NY. Come clog with us! 

Posted by: Katrina Kaplin AT 06:50 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email

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Symphony Dance
1300 East Ridge Rd.
Rochester, NY 14621