The checklist: One of the best tools for habitual learning

I don’t know about you, but I have always been in awe of how much a dancer needs to remember simultaneously in order to execute anything correctly. I made this revelation at the ripe old age of 7 when, for me, body awareness kicked in and I realised that I wasn’t as brilliant as I thought I was at dancing. That this dance journey I was on was and is something that will require much more than just ‘doing’. I needed a system. I needed a way to remember and apply the mounds of information I was being given. In a moment of sheer revelation I created the checklist. Something that I would use to develop my dance based knowledge and then use to teach that knowledge to my students. Although, I didn’t know it at the time, I had created one of my most vital learning tools for long term dance success.

So what is “the checklist”? It is the manner in which I remember all the technique that is required for any given skill, quality or movement in dance. Let’s start with something really simple: ballet first. I always start from toe to head when internally or externally moving through it. Before I start though it is important to remember the age and ability of the person using the checklist. The more complex you go, the older and more able the dancer should be. So let’s begin :

Basic list:
* 10 toes spread in the floor
* Knees lifted in to thighs
* Bottom squeezed in the centre and towards the floor
* Belly button to spine
* Shoulders down
* Chin lifted

This very basic list is something I would teach to a fairy ballet class. They repeat it every single class. How you deliver it is up to you. And, without fail, by the end of the year they are executing this checklist all by themselves. Then, whether it is in the same year or when they return the following year they apply it without having to verbalise it or even intentionally think about it. And this my friends is habitual learning. Dancers who execute proper technique without intentional thought means that they have laid the bricks of their dance house and can now safely and effectively add more and more technique without the basics crumbling underneath them.
Once you create your basic check list, no matter what genre you are teaching, you can add more every single year; or even throughout the year depending on how quickly they are remembering and applying their checklists. And to highlight how I might add to it I’ll show examples of slightly more advanced to advanced students:
* Slightly more advance: I might add soft fingers and lifted eyeline ONLY to the above list.
* Very advanced: I might add weight slightly forward on the toes and shoulder, hip and ankle alignment to an already very comprehensive list.
For beginners you might walk them through the list or to a group of up and coming teachers you might use it as a speed round of questioning. The great part about this tool is that it moves with you, your teaching techniques and the students level of involvement. By pairing brain development with physical applications we are able to actualise consistent and confident results that have lasting, positive outcomes.

Trust me. Trust me not.

Today’s blog is a request from a fellow professional. A request to write about the mistrust  so many have for their dance teachers, studio owners and the industry. I am not going to lie though; they will probably only like half my bog.

Yes, undoubtedly there is an overabundance of cooks in the kitchen when it comes to dance. Parents, students, the mail man and his dog all have an opinion on dance and what the industry should look like. I get ridiculously irritated thinking about all the people I have had to engage with regarding information and situations that were WAY, WAY, WAY outside their scope of understanding. Why am I discussing with a 12 year old to not change my choreography because she felt she looked better with her own? Why do I have to explain to a parent why a sun dress and cotton knickers are not appropriate for a public venue involving dance, let alone any dance in general? WHY, WHY, WHY????????

So many of these situations would be avoided if people simply trusted their professional. Why else would they have chosen them? Was it a bargain? Sally’s friends go there? It is close to the house? If parents have chosen their dance school based on any other reason that is not in addition to trusting their instructor then I can’t really help them with their attitude because professional, safe, experienced instruction was not the main motivator for their decision. In my opinion, the #1 reason to allow someone in their child’s life is because they trust them.  That is it! I can’t even believe I had to say that …massive face palm. However, it is so obvious that so many  don’t trust their dance professionals when they are blatantly changing solo choreography, speaking down to their dance teachers, not following their policies, forgoing reading newsletters, not arriving on time regularly, not wearing appropriate dance clothing and the list goes on……..and on ………………………….. and on………………………………………………………………………………….and on to infinity and beyond, whether it is justified or not.

I may love dance, but I also love being a professional, with a job, that is respected and that pays me money. As long as I am making a difference in this world through inspirational teaching, finding the balance between challenging and building confidence, designing outcomes that compliment each and every student all within a safe and respectful work environment then I will continue to do what I do. I am certainly not teaching in order to have the privilege of being in any specific parent’s and child’s holy presence. I do not believe one child is more important then the next. I work incredibly hard for all the students I teach. So many of us do. So to think that a parent or student believe they are 1) above everyone else in a class and 2) above the expertise of their instructor is a concept I am yet to grasp as a former competitive dancer, now instructor and proud dance parent. This scenario is not only affecting the positivity of the dance environment but our ability to produce results. And that right there folks is the real shame of this distrust and disrespect we continue to see and experience daily. So not following a professional’s instructions will extinguish any guarantee of a good result and the student will be a mere shell of their potential and ultimately the entire endeavour will be a huge waste of money.

Parents who would like to undermine my or any other dance professionals decisions can teach their kid at home using youtube…cause thats always worked out great:/

As I said earlier, I am a dance parent. So now it’s time to tell all these dance teachers why parents often don’t trust them. This simple list will hopefully highlight the MASSIVE downfalls of our industry and how it affects parents:

  • No regulations regarding who can teach dance or open a studio. None whatsoever. I have seen former students of my colleagues open studios after 2 years of dance instruction. I have brought my son to an acro workshop where the instructor made him do skills I clearly knew he wasn’t ready for and he broke his toe. Disgusting.
  • Marketing messages also have no legal ramifications if they are false. Now how is a parent supposed to know that when a studio says it offers “the opportunity for academic accomplishment and a professional career” that it cannot actually help their child achieve this? When they say they are great but if assessed by another professional would no doubt educate that parent about what that school is actually offering the parents, and it would not be a pleasant revelation. That if a dance school says its “fun” and “supportive” but the teacher forces students to rehearse for a year end concert, which is supposed to be fun, for weeks at a time on the stage ultimately impeding on everyones’ lives; then what is a parent supposed to do? What people are saying about their schools and the reality of what they offer often doesn’t match up and the only way for that parent to find out is by attending the school and giving them their hard earned money. Imagine the lesson was even harsher. Imagine finding out that their 16 year old daughter cannot keep up with 5-7 year old class with a proper teacher after 10 years of ‘so called’ serious dance training. All those years they thought they were getting something they weren’t and it was at the expense of the child. What parent wouldn’t lose faith in dance and its professionals?
  • Too many emotions means studio owners are not making the right decisions. the amount of studio owners I have met that do not stick to their policies is astounding. Being soft isn’t just bad for the students, it’s bad for the industry. For years, dance professionals have crumbled under the pressure of having to honour their policies for fear of losing students. But you see, that’s what a business does, it creates policies that will regulate the type of business we receive. Not all business is good business and not all students and parents belong at every single studio. So instead of letting everyone find a situation that is better for everyone, we are teaching parents to disregard our expert knowledge and authority. Dance teachers did that. Not the parents.
  • Youtube teaching galore means parents and students are seeing that dance professionals don’t have a clue what they are doing. When a teacher goes in to a studio and constantly uses online resources to teach but does not truly understand how to HOLISTICALLY teach the skill then the students will be skipping foundation technique that will make the skill messy, unsafe and unusable. So then parents start asking “if the teacher is going to youtube then why can’t I and what am I actually paying for?” Very fair, very accurate questions.
  • Judges and examiners teach children and parents that dance is subjective in competition and exam settings. BUT IT ISN’T! If everyone performed the same on another day it shouldn’t matter who the professional is; the results should most likely, with the tiniest of variances, be the same. Dance isn’t some thing that is randomly performed without structure, long standing techniques, expectations and concepts. Dance is a sport that has CLEAR guidelines as to what makes a dance and dancer great. No its not an opinion. It is based on facts and we need to start educating the public on this fact.

As you can see, we, as an industry have failed miserably when it comes to educating our public as a whole. I am not saying everyone has failed or that there aren’t parents and students that get it or teachers that aren’t absolutely on the ball when it comes to their teaching, studios and marketing. What I am saying is that a significant portion of the industry is riddled with poor teaching, poorly run studios, a lack of regulation and consistency which is paired with a generation impaired by too much information and not enough clarity or personal responsibility.

So how can we fix it? Here is another list that will hopefully help both sides to come to some sort of respectful and productive conclusion:


  1. Give your studio 6 months where you do absolutely nothing but drop off and pickup your child. No negative comments of any kind.  Let the studio respond to every unique situation as it arrises. Things take time and you need to give that time to see how they handle themselves.
  2. If you have a concern, put it in writing like a you would for any other professional institution. This will give the studio TIME to address it PROFESSIONALLY and that is not in the middle of class or at the end of a long day of teaching.
  3. Read about dance. Educate yourself on its origins and it’s heroes. Start to see dance for its legitimacy and history. Not the caddy Facebook feeds.
  4. Be ok if your child isn’t brilliant at dance. Explain to them that like anything else they have to work at it and invest fully in their classes. That is your only job parents! Support your children through their sport as a parent, not try to be wanna be coach.
  5. Respect the studio owners hours of operation and personal space. They do not live for your child. They provide a service that has a scope and that scope does not include listening to your personal problems or taking your calls outside of office hours. If for ANY reason you cannot meet your commitments then that is NOT YOUR DANCE TEACHERS PROBLEM. We are not monsters, but we are also not working solely to please parents and children.


  1. If you have not done the following: trained in dance for a long time; assisted experienced teachers; taught beginners; taken a business course; taken all genres; had an honest conversation with yourself and what you are ACTUALLY capable of teaching then do NOT be surprised if you have an abundance of issues with parents. It is often the lack of skill and ability that is shining through the smoke and mirrors of the words and excuses.
  2. Be mindful of your message and ensure that your website, social media and other marketing materials are a true reflection of what you can offer. When the results do not match the promise then you will get yourself in to big trouble and breed a very distrustful market.
  3. Let us work towards standardised marking systems. Let us be ok with sticking by those systems. And let us maintain our standards in the professional, competition and exam sector of this industry. In the same way that NASA isn’t sending all little astronauts to the moon we need to stop giving everyone an experience that only hardworking children and professionals deserve.
  4. Dance teachers with a massive amount of skill and knowledge need to become mentors. We need to offer teaching methods and tricks of the trade that work to those who are willing to learn. Because how else do teachers have the ability to critique their own teaching abilities? We are leaving others behind and it’s not acceptable.
  5. If you can break the skill down to its absolute basic form than you know how to teach it. If you don’t, then ask a mentor or go back to assisting. But do not ‘try’ to teach something you can’t teach or have no experience teaching. It is wrong; plain and simple.

Before I finish up I wanted to apologise to Karen for not writing a shorter blog! I really struggle to put all of the stuff in my head in to even less words…yes folks this is me trying lol.

So to conclude this blog I would like to say that the mistrust between parents, students and dance  professionals has been created by a multitude of factors. Not just the parents and not just the professionals. I will end on this note: Be sure of what you want, because what you put out in the universe will come back to you.

Lots of work to do folks!!! Change is good. Let us change together:)


What makes a good correction…It might not be what you think.


As teachers, we are the instrument that examines and questions each and every student in order to find and develop their inherent gifts; gifts that are converted in to usable skills hopefully allowing for each student to realise their dreams; whether dance based or not. Our students’ successes no matter how big or small are a reflection of our teaching abilities. We teach because we want to make people better. Our goals are our students goals. And being judged by the output of other people is an extremely daunting aspect of teaching. Because there is an element of uncertainty that at any moment that person will consciously or unconsciously stop applying the lessons we teach and fail the task at hand. Failure isn’t a bad thing. But, if it is consistent enough it may be seen as a reflection of our teaching, whether it is or isn’t.

One of the biggest predictors of success in a dancer is how well they apply corrections. Their stability, consistency and skill depend on it. Now what if I told you that it is our (teachers’) ability to give those corrections in a meaningful way that will determine whether a student receives that correction. That in order to have the intended outcome of actual change we must parlay our knowledge in a manner that will resonate with each individual dancer by educating them on their own facility.

It is amazing how often we believe we are helping our students but in reality we are doing absolutely nothing for them. Our intentions are so pure but it’s the delivery that is, in reality, frustrating our students and stopping them from enjoying the process. Because lets be honest, we all could teach, dance and learn for a lifetime and still never truly stop growing as dancers and as people. Thousands of “point your toes” and “stretch your knees” said during any given class. Is it helping? Will it make them actually point and stretch the way we want them too? The answer is an overwhelming no.

With many years and many opportunities I have learned how to help others learn. This is not an easy task. And, unfortunately, you cannot take a seminar or download a book in order to develop this skill. The first step to knowing how to teach to the individual is by teaching a wide array of unique people, with unique problems, that require unique solutions that will render unique outcomes. So, my first recommendation to being able to give a good correction is to expose yourself to as many different teaching situations as you can. And FYI, the really strong competition team is not the place to start. Try teaching 3 years olds after watching them all start crying in the lobby on the first day of class. Teach teenagers from a country town where very few if any training possibilities exist.  Teach in a culture that believes a bad performance is based on voodoo magic. Explore classes for children with disabilities. Assist a class in a country where you do not speak the language. Learn to inspire students who are not physically fit enough to get off their knees without help. Teach a sick child who just had their arm amputated from cancer to embrace who they are and what they have to offer this world. I have had the privilege of being in all of these situations and many, many more. Try to give your knowledge to everyone you can in order to understand how different people, with different needs, respond to different teaching techniques. These children will teach you more about yourself then you could ever imagine and it will truly start you on the road to being a purposeful educator.

Now that you feel comfortable teaching beginners, it’s time to let you in on a little secret: children often figure most of it out themselves if you give them the right environment. I wonder how many of you looked at the page and thought “is this girl for real?” Yeah, I am. I’m not saying to show up to class and say “ok, jete..and go.” What I am saying is that every step you teach will have a multitude of things wrong with it the first time your students try it. So simply let them try it. By “letting them try it” without corrections you are teaching them that trying something new can be a moment of self discovery instead of something you get right or wrong. Once the students are comfortable with the step, preparation or movement I give them 3 tries before I give any corrections. It is amazing how they figure out some very important techniques simply by being given the chance to listen to their own bodies. This is so crucial when developing a mindset that is motivation driven instead of fear based.

It is amazing what a fearless group of students can achieve. Being fearless means that they will attempt skills with maximum effort. Only when a student is performing their steps with 100% of their energy can you truly begin to correct them. Why is this the case?  Because the steps never reach their full potential and the corrections thus become another form of re-teaching. Let’s think about a pirouette and how the results of that pirouette and their corrections will change based on effort. Before they begin pirouettes they learn how to balance, find their retire, rise on a straight leg, spot, arm placement, hip placement, alignment, appropriate use of the floor and the direction to send their energy.  Think of any one of those technical components on a dancer who is giving their all as opposed to a dancer who is not trying. If the retire, for example, reaches its full potential you will be able to correct them on things like speed of the leg or educate them on reading their body based on the direction they fall in. However, on a student who is not trying, what is most likely going to be your first correction? You guessed it; find your retire. And there you are, re-teaching instead of correcting. So to avoid this very frustrating situation of re-teaching, teachers make sure you have prepared your students mentally to give their all every single class.

Great! Your students are showing up week after week giving you their all. The next step in the correction process is to help them realise the importance of returning week to week with  the previous teachings. I do this in several ways:

1) Introduce choreographed warm-ups.  By having a choreographed warm-up, each student can come in to class with an aspect of “knowing”. The power of “knowing” means you can confidently and intelligently build on it so that “knowing” becomes all encompassing. What do I man by that? Well, if the student doesn’t have to consistently look up or think about what is coming next then their mental energy can be focused on absorbing corrections. And with a choreographed warm-up there is consistent opportunity to apply those corrections in the exact same way, thus making them habit and thus actually correcting the student in a meaningful way. Because as I always say, you are only as good as your warm-up.

2) Choose no more than 3 corrections and work on those as a class. I feel like teachers often feel the need to prove how much they know by pointing out every tiny little thing they see wrong in a dancer. At no point can a human absorb, apply and correct their technical errors by being bombarded with a multitude of corrections at one time. And since it is hard to remember as a teacher what each individual is working on all the time, I choose 3 very important and widely seen technical mistakes and work on them as a team. This way you build all your dancers up to the same standard and allow them to truly master each aspect of their dance journey.

3) Don’t let it slide no matter how frustrated you get. As teachers, we all reach a point where we feel some students just aren’t getting it. So often teachers simply move on and say they will address it later. But, since I feel that this skill is so important I make sure that is felt by everyone in my classes. Even if one person is getting something wrong, we all stop and try again. This process is done until everyone gets it right. And as the more capable students in that situation get frustrated I often tell them that this is equally as valuable for them as it is for the person who is still trying to get it. How? Well firstly, they are seeing first hand my commitment to repetition, its importance and how much it helps. Then they begin to understand how their bodes respond to learning new things and how quickly they are able to produce the intended results. And most importantly they see that dance is mostly a team sport that requires everyone to be in touch with each other and their learning processes.

4) Visualisation is key. I really don’t love the idea of physically practicing at home. Unless they are a professional with a solid technical foundation, students are more likely to create bad habits rather than good ones while devoid of watchful instruction. So, what I do do is teach the students how to visualise their intended outcomes, routines or exercises. It is amazing how even in their head students will make the same mistakes they would physically; so visualising the correction means you are mentally studying it in order to be able to recall it when needed. Recall becomes a component of self correction, which I am sure I could write a book on.

The only way to truly move forward in dance is to make sure you carry the lessons of the past, apply them and never forget them.

It is so incredible how good I feel knowing students are remembering their lessons from week to week. Now, the hands on, individual based corrections are ready to be received. At this point its important to decide whether the student requires a correction or needs further basic training. This is a critical component that will determine your effectiveness as a teacher. If a teacher sees a student in a jete and their front leg is low, initially many might think to correct them on their leg. But how is telling them their leg is low really helping? Unfortunately it is not. Let’s look at the actual corrections that will raise that leg:

  • Lengthening the hamstrings
  • If the student arches forward in their split on the floor, then a teacher will have to correct the alignment of the body in the split to allow for the leg to be lifted in the air.
  • Understanding the concept of lifting the thigh and pointing the knee in the direction the dancer would like to extend the leg.
  • Possible lack of plie which is preventing the student from jumping high enough.
  • If they are sending their energy out instead of up then they need to be retaught touch points and how to direct their energy to the desired touch points.

As we can see, none of these corrections involve lifting the front jete leg higher. So this step really is the problem solving step teachers need to include, if they haven’t already, to ensure they are solving the correction problem instead of saying meaningless words that do not translate in to actual change.

I have a 3 class rule. If a student cannot achieve a useable skill in 3 classes than they are simply not ready and I need to go back to the multitude of progressions I have taught and understand where they are going wrong. My definition of a useable skill is a skill that can be performed 5 times in a row, technically correct and to various tempos. So to avoid injury, frustration and bad habits please stop teaching skills that they are clearly not ready for.

There are so many things I can share regarding this topic so I will leave it at that for today. It is important to learn when it is too much or not enough. That students can receive training that will elevate them as long as you have elevated their minds first. Do not be afraid to be honest. Embrace all of their quirks. Remember that every class you teach should teach you something back.

Happy teaching!



“How about some credit”…said every dance teacher ever!!!

Years of attention and corrections given over countless class hours. Sleepless nights pondering how to best fix their stubborn issues. You equip them with the right mentality so that they are ready to  embrace all of your well prepared, meaningful lessons. Tears of joy are shared after milestones are reached. A relationship that brings many ups and downs but renders some of the most special outcomes. You watch them grow. You impart your knowledge and teach them to soar, like a chick being tossed from a nest. Your teachings have given them so much of what they need to succeed; and guess what? They do! AND THEN THEY FORGET YOU EXIST! Their new resume lists the multiple workshops they took over the course of 3 months, all of which were 1 to 2 hours each with professionals who didn’t even know their name. After winning an award 1 year out of your instruction they publicly thank the commercial jazz choreographer who they spent all of 5 hours with for their inspirational teaching.  Then over the course of the next couple of years they post and thank and post some more how everyone else including their poodle “Mercedez” with a Z has helped them get where they are today. But throughout all of that your name, your legacy your teaching abilities are nowhere to be seen.

That story went south fast! And it usually does. I don’t think any of us are prepared for when a parent and student forgets all of our efforts. And the reality is that without those efforts they would most likely not be where they are today. Sadly, if you have been in the industry long enough, have created enough capable dancers than you my friend have probably been forgotten by a student. I certainly have and it sucks. I literally could not think of a more eloquent way to put that. It just down right sucks so bad that you sometimes question why you do this at all.

The inspiration for this blog was based on a story that highlighted the fact that Maddie Ziegler did not acknowledge Abby Lee Miller’s role in her great success. Abby Lee then turned around and said the following: “I don’t think had she not been in my studio, she would be where she is today.” And yeah, I agree. Why not acknowledge her contribution to her success? Why pretend your abilities came from the dance fairy in the sky! Why take away the fruits of our labour?  I have some theories based on my experiences as well as other industry professionals’ as to why this happens.

Theory # 1: Dance teaching isn’t glamorous enough to bring with you when your all grown up.

I cleaned the toilets at the studio the other day because the cleaner wasn’t coming in for another two days and I simply couldn’t leave them in the state they were in. That wasn’t that much fun nor was it a good representation of my teaching skills. Students see me play many roles and I’m sure they can think of plenty of words to describe me. Glamorous probably isn’t one of them. I’m not cool. I’m not insta-famous. I’m ‘just a dance teacher’. So I would say dance teachers simply do not seem to command the kind of praise they deserve due to their various relatable roles. So unless you are Lady Gaga’s choreographer, students don’t seem to see the VALUE in associating themselves with a little old dance teacher from their home town regardless of how much you gave them in order to actually function in a professional setting.

Theory # 2: They have grown out of their child hood and that includes you.

Some people simply want to move in to adult hood as quickly as possible. Much of their transition years are spent grieving the loss of competitions, classes, friendships and all the other great things that come with being a dancer as a child. Students in this phase of life become know-it-all’s and ungrateful. I would say pretty standard behaviour for a large portion of older teens and early adults; but still no less hurtful.

Theory # 3: They are just like you.

There is a point when certain personalities clash because they are a lot a like. Elite dance has a tendency to attract very motivated, dedicated, confident human beings and when their are too many of those in one room it can become a tense situation. A student who is goal driven and has an A type personality will often reach a point in their training life where they want to prove to everyone how great they are, even if they don’t realise it. The “I don’t need you anymore” attitude kicks in and creates a sort of resentment towards their teacher because they simply believe they have risen above their teachers teachings, because thats how good their teachings are. This happens when a student starts winning awards and consistently receives praise from others in the industry. Any opinion other than their tired old teacher’s becomes far more valued.

Theory # 4: The grass is always greener at another studio.

Of course that studio owner is being nice to you. You already have everything in place to make a routine look good. So they aren’t correcting and challenging you like your current teacher because they don’t have too. That’s how good your current teacher is! Everyone wants you now! But hang on…What about before? When you weren’t awesome? Where were these people then? I think it’s so easy to move on from your long time teacher when you have become really good because praise feels better than having to meet the expectations of your current studio who have had you throughout all of the good and bad . I have had a fair few students move on to due to age policies of the studio I am working at, moving cities or the fact that I don’t under any circumstances tolerate rude, downright nasty parents and students. However, the minute they walk in to another studio all that talent and hard work somehow becomes theirs….Nope! I dare say not. How about you lay claim to them when you have had them as long as I have. Let’s do that instead.

Theory # 5: Children are raised to think they deserve everything and you simply aren’t giving it to them.

“A dancer can do a scorpion or side layover (way too far over)…oooooooooh no way!!! That must mean they are the best ever,” said no dance professional ever. I’m gonna say that dancer spent 2 hours and 20k takes to get the right shot. That is impressing everyone but the people that matter. Really good dance teachers look past natural ability and nurture real, usable talent. This makes dance teachers less appealing as a motivational source, as opposed to 5k+ FB and instagram followers that will feed todays very large, very undeserving egos. Put yourself in the shoes of todays youth. Why would you take corrections, failure (positive in nature) and hard work from a dance teacher when you can have the public praising you for every bit of dance you put out there whether its great or not? The second option happens NOW! And who doesn’t want everything NOW? And since good dance teachers offer the total opposite to instant gratification, it appears that in 2017 we have gone out of fashion.

The saddest part about this very real, very common story is that these children who praise and thank everyone else for their success but their child hood dance teacher seem to forget one very important point: That teacher saw potential in them. That teacher nurtured that potential. And that teacher helped them realise a large part of that potential. Without a teacher, potential is just that….potential. Ultimately, very few, if any, people will invest in another adult the way childhood educators invest in their students . And yet, we are often completely forgotten along with our contributions to their success.

To all those students and parents who understand our value please help us spread the message that without teachers there are no successful careers. Teachers are the wheels that perpetuate innovation, the foundation that maintains and raises quality and the tool that develops students in order to have a prosperous future.

I do not believe in being INSTA-anything! We preach it constantly to the youth of today but perpetuate the bad habits by supporting the very thing we try to combat. In order to teach youth what constitutes actual achievement I have started a FB page called “The Real Stars of Dance”. This page celebrates real, long term, prevalent and ground breaking teaching practices and teachers that have given dance the legitimacy and respect it deserves. Please contribute to this page by posting your dance educator and make them online famous!





















































































































































































































To compete or not compete….that is the question?

Hello dance world.

I am fully aware of how cheesy it is to start a blog or any body of writing with a definition, but I am astounded at how many people have forgotten the meaning of the following word:


  1. the act of competing; rivalry for supremacy, a prize, etc.:
  2. a contest for some prize, honor, or advantage:
  3. the rivalry offered by a competitor:

I didn’t create the word. I didn’t create the meaning of the word. And I certainly haven’t forgotten what it means. But sadly the dance industry has forgotten what it means to compete and it’s ruining dance for a particular group of dancers: Competitive ones.

These days everything has to be inclusive, easy and fair. I believe it shouldn’t be. I bet there are a bunch of people reading this and now hate me; Thinking that I am a horrible human being. That all children deserve a chance. That they should all be celebrated and given positive reinforcement all the time because that makes them happy. Go on haters and hate me; I have learned that I can’t make everyone happy so I may as well be authentic:) Look, I know what I am saying is a major faux pas but I know personally that others think this way and are often too afraid to express it. When we do, we start second guessing ourselves often thinking: “Am I a bad person if I want to win?”; “Everyone is giving praise when clearly that person doesn’t deserve it. Guess I should too!”; “I/We are really good and have won everything, but if I celebrate I’m not being humble and thats bad.”; “My child isn’t ready for comps but everyone is doing them. I don’t want them to miss out.”; and the list goes on. Essentially we are being guilted in to celebrating mediocrity.

I guess it is now time to write the rest of the blog defending, oh um I mean, explaining what I said. You know, elaborate on my bold and very unpopular statements.

Over my many years of dancing, teaching and parenting I have realised one very simple rule: EVERY SINGLE CHILD IS DIFFERENT FROM THE NEXT. This is the key to making decisions as to what is best for each child. Growing up I liked winning and still do. I like trying to work harder than others; more often I try to work harder for myself. I love setting goals and achieving them. I love getting even the most harsh criticism, which I am sure there will be plenty of after I publish this, and make improvements based in them. And ultimately prefer hard work to leisure and fun. Fun, FOR ME, comes at the end of achievement. What motivated ME to want to strive for excellence was and still is achieving something I know is difficult, challenging and way outside my comfort zone. Being comfortable is actually incredibly uncomfortable for ME. When I am comfortable I feel bad, unmotivated and most importantly less like myself.  THAT IS OK! I AM STILL A GOOD PERSON WHO HELPS OLD LADIES WITH THEIR SHOPPING, PAYS MY TAXES AND LIVES A VERY POSITIVE LIFE. The fact that I need certain things as a person to motive ME means that is ME. There are OTHERS like ME. And its absolutely OK to be LIKE ME. I recognise what I need to be MY best self and seek people, situations, organisations and forums that suit ME. So, my parents found a highly competitive dance school that provided a very challenging dance environment that entered in to highly competitive competitions that competed against others who were and are JUST LIKE ME.

I wonder how many of you are picturing me as a rude mean girl that thought she was the best. If you are, then it is important to educate you on something: WANTING TO WIN AND BEING A JERK ARE NOT THE SAME THING. Not only did I keep my head down when at comps, I worked day and night. I learned, respected and employed the necessary but often boring art of repetition and had a knack for listening, absorbing and applying everything my teacher said. I always said good luck to my competitors, shared a needle and thread, hairspray or even pair of tights with anyone who needed it and always appreciated talent and hard work when I saw it; and guess what? I still conduct myself like his to this day.  Back when I was competing it was very simple: People like me, came to similar venues to achieve similar goals. Not once did you see competitors that were out of their league because teachers, parents and students were self aware (a skill greatly lacking in 2017, in my opinion of course) and I believe most truly understood and respected what competitions were, why they existed, what they entail and what they stood for.

Having said all that, those who do not belong (yes I just said some children do not belong at everything you want them too) at competitions in dance or any type of competition means that they should seek other forums that will help them flourish i.e. end of year concert or school performances. I teach children with autism. Children who are not as physically fit as some. Children who attend OC therapy for a ray of genetic birth defects and not one parent would say I do not excel at teaching them. Just because I am an elite comp teacher does not mean I do not appreciate everyones’ journey. It means that the well being of my students is the absolute top priority. So part of my job is identifying what level a student is at, how they learn best, who should be in their classes, what pace I should be teaching at, how to build confidence and how to provide the RIGHT kind of experience for my students. No I am not going to put a child that dances once a week in a competition no matter how talented their mom thinks they are. That is not enough of an investment in dance to warrant that kind of forum. I also don’t care if a child dances all week but is simply not at competition level. I will not put them in comps. Mentality, outlook, investment, ability and a multitude of other things play in to putting children in competitions.  Some children are not designed for stress whether that is now or at any point in their lives and so for goodness sakes know your students and or child enough not to enter them and find a forum that will suit them.

NOT EVERY EXPERIENCE IS A GOOD EXPERIENCE! Putting a child in a situation to fail miserably without the right mental and physical preparation is borderline child abuse, in my opinion. When 8 year olds are doing triple turns, with incredible facial and musical connection, while executing their routines with skill and poise and your student is doing wiggles and looking at the wing because they forgot their dance 3 times throughout means they shouldn’t be there. This does not help them learn. It is embarrassing. At no point is this making them a better person. If you haven’t asked your students what losing to this magnitude feels like then you should. I often have the gruelling task of un-teaching all the terrible and damaging habits instilled by wannabe or just plain terrible dance teachers and competition teachers. Children who have competed and clearly were not prepared have expressed the following: They knew they were clearly not good; They realised they were unprepared; and for some reason they no longer trusted their teachers and/or parents; because despite what people might think children know so much more than what they would like to give them credit for. They definitely know it is their teacher(s) and parent(s) job to prepare them. And so if you notice children just don’t try in class or take a long time to execute a new step or skill than it may be because they don’t trust you because of situations like this. Children often internalise these experiences and start thinking it’s because they aren’t good enough in general; when in reality no one told them what it means to compete, what they realistically should be doing to have even the slightest chance of looking like they belong there and that it isn’t their fault that they failed it’s the ill prepared comp teacher and uninformed parents fault for not educating them on the reality of life and what competitions should be.  Don’t believe me? Try to get your child or student to be honest……. If you haven’t already drilled in the “this all about having fun” stuff .

I think now is a good time to address the poppy in the room lol!!! Something I have been schooled on a lot here in Australia is “TALL POPPY SYNDROME.” For those of you who do not know it is jealousy with a twist. As you rise up through your profession, sport or hobby many people will try to cut you down so that you are at their level. Let’s say for a second that you are better than me at what I do. You are doing that through hard work, focus, knowledge, time, perseverance, dedication, talent, effort, problem solving, networking, blah, blah, blah. See how none of that had anything to do with me. So why would your achievements bother me or cause me to speak rudely about you, try to make things harder for you or simply devise an evil plan to ruin you or your business? Well I wouldn’t. I love seeing other people who deservingly receive recognition for their achievements. But yet, people continually and without fail make others’ achievements about them. Celebrating hard work, talent and achievement is one of the best parts about competitions. Because, if people didn’t strive for excellence there would be NO PROGRESS. And at no point should a person achieving in their life apologise for how that achievement is making OTHERS FEEL!!! And this is where the problem lies. If someone wins then someone else has to lose in order for this to happen. Your job as the loser is to learn from the winner, not cut them down, get upset that its not fair or be celebrated also. Everyone in that comp is there for their chance to be the one complimented, celebrated and rewarded for their  hard work. If this process bothers you then why in the world are you attending competitions. It is clear that they are not for YOU! And ultimately if anyone is trying to diminish those who are better than others in order to make themselves feel better than that means that they are the ones with the issues. Losers who are self aware do one of two things when they lose: 1) Learn everything they possibly can and improve themselves for the next competition; or 2) realise that they are not meant to compete in this particular sport or in some cases not at all. I have lost so many times I can’t count. I have failed so many times that I honestly think its a daily occurrence. And since I was raised to be self aware I recognised my competitiveness and learn from every single person who was, is and will be better than me in order to be my best self.

So the reason for my post is that I am seeing a multitude of children who are lacking any real motivation because those who are just like me aren’t being provided any forums that NURTURE THEIR COMPETITIVENESS. It’s all about making sure everyone is celebrated. Then let me ask you, if a person at your work sat on the floor in front of your office colouring all day for the exact same pay as you while you busted your hump day in and day out would you still be motivated to work hard? ABSOLUTELY NOT. This is no different. And for those of you who think that we should just be doing it for the love of dance than you are deluded. Having a love for something does not equal output or excellence. Dance teachers, can you count how many times a parent has called you up and told you how much their child loves dance and then you get them in class and they aren’t trying their hardest or willing to miss a party for a very important rehearsal? Too many to count! So we need to give those children who thrive in competitive forums actual competitive forums that provide well earned prizes, comparable rivalry, and a safe place for them to celebrate how they feel best in order to give them what they need to succeed. What are we doing instead: Worrying about those who feel bad about how well someone else is doing!! I am absolutely appalled at how we build up mediocrity and pooh pooh excellence. And whats worse is that when someone wins they are supposed to be quiet and congratulate everyone instead of allowing themselves to revel in their glory. Jumping up and down, getting excited, accepting compliments (something women have been taught not to do since the beginning of time), walking with pride and however else that child would like to celebrate their OWN ACHIEVEMENTS should be accepted and honoured. Not only do we give everyone a prize but we dictate how children should celebrate their achievements so as not to upset someone else. REALLY!! That celebration is about them not you. Are people so insecure that they have to make everything about themselves!! “How dare they dance around like that!!”. “How dare they make noise and celebrate their hard work!!”. “That is making my child who lost feel bad!!”. UGH, giant sigh, absolute annoyance with the world and total and utter confusion as to why someone feels that they have the right to dictate someone else’s behaviour. In my day, when someone else won I watched them and their team scream with joy. I knew why they were doing that. All of their sacrifices (also something people in 2017 so many have no clue about, in my opinion of course) had paid off and it was a release of joy, disbelief and excitement that hard work TRULY PAYS OFF! A message totally and utterly lost these days and it saddens me to no end.

We need to stop pointing fingers at others for our dancers lack of success!

I get it, many of you will openly disagree with my above opinion however this blog really is designed to help so I would like to discuss some of the pros and cons of competing and how to make the best decision for your child and or students.


* Children learn so much from watching their peers. Its is a necessity for all students wanting to achieve excellence in their sport to attend forums where other students are also striving for excellence. Seeing what is truly possible, feeling the movements from the audience and hearing the feedback from the judges for not just themselves is crucial to creating a well rounded competitor.

* Parents are forced to see their children through other’s eyes. This is a big one. I find some parents really put a damper on elite training because they think their children are amazing and that the sun shines from you know where which means several things:

1. These types of children put a massive strain on the class and often shows attitude which unfortunately affects the outcome of the class for all students in such a negative way. I personally have had a few of these and they make class incredibly unpleasant.

2. The child doesn’t reach their full potential. Believing you have nothing to learn from anyone means you just don’t become the best dancer you can be.

3. They just can’t keep up in the real world. Unfortunately the reality is that these children have been sheltered from the outside world so criticism, real hard work and dance habits that lead to success are all missing. Leaving your comfort zone and venturing out into the big bad world of exams, competitions and auditions often prevents this from happening; Students are ultimately aware of where they stand and are able to rise to the occasion of becoming something great.

Moral of the story …. listen to your teacher. They are teaching your child because they care and if there is a problem its probably true!!

* Parents can see whether they are getting great training where they are. If you are a studio and are claiming to be great than you need to make sure your parents can see what else is out there so they can confirm this and, in turn, have enough information in order to decide what is best for their child. It’s really only when a school has something to hide or claims to be better than they are do they advertise as “serious” but hide their children from the outside world. So parents be weary of this. If you want serious training you’re going to have compete and travel far and wide to judge and compare your training to others.

* Children mingle with other super motivated dancers who have the same goals. This is so nice for the students and parents who make dance a priority because they can meet, learn and become friends with like minded motivated parents and students.

* Hearing other professional opinions is awesome. Dance teachers at times sound like a broken records to their students. When a judge gives them the same correction it helps to affirm your class teachings. How can this be a bad thing!!!! Well it’s not!! Remember students, crit sheets are your friend unless no criticisms are to be found. Watch out for super positive competitions that only praise competitors. What a waste of an entry fee!!!!!!!!!!!  if they are not going to provide me or my students with information that will help me get better than the comp is partly a waste of time.

* With comps come workshops. This experience really is a combination of the previously mentioned points. Take as many as you can from as many teachers as you can. So let me repeat: Take any and all workshops and auditions you can get your hands on. You can bet your peers are!!!!

Alright so I am obviously pro competitions because I am a competitive teacher. However, there are so many situations where comps will have a negative impact on a child.  Let’s talk about the cons:

* Some children are not suited for a dance comp environment. This could mean that their personality type, work ethic, life situation and/or level of dance involvement is not conducive to high stress situations. If they are not living for the stage and are more worried than happy at comp time than you should rethink elite dance and the competition scene.

* Not all comps are made equal. Dance is not as subjective as everyone says. There are long standing dance standards and practices that make it clear as to who the top 3 should be. A competition that understands the difference between genres, does not give out pity prizes, and has clear rules based on tricks are just some if the things you should be looking for when choosing a competition. Trick after trick and yet winning everything UGH….can I get an amen dance teachers! Spreading around prizes is a big no no in my books but is done as a result of greed by the competitions. More students, more studios, more money. This saddens me because it teaches students the wrong message….”it doesn’t matter how hard you work and how good the outcome is, it only matters if its fair”; and thats just it competitions are not supposed to be fair in that way. Sitting in audience after audience thinking “Oh hell no, that did not just win.” You all have thought it. You all have experienced it. And yet no one speaks up about it!

Now before you all say ok we have a sore loser here let’s chat about it. When son first started dancing, and was training in a country town, I brought him to some of the largest dance comps in Australia knowing he would lose. Why would I do that…well because he needed it in order to decide whether he wanted to work harder or try something else. Losing and winning honourably is what I am about. I am his biggest critique and supporter and I work on creating an educated and realistic dance so they know when a win is a proper win; and that losing with pride and honour is equally as important. This means everything.

* Some kids just want too have fun in dance. If this is the case and you use the word fun and dance exclusively than you should under NO CIRCUMSTANCES BE COMPETING IN ANY FORUM OF ANY KIND. You see, losing is not a fun experience. Useful and necessary if your end goal is excellence but not really fun. So in my opinion it’s just a form of torture to make these children go up against others who are training their butts off . These recreational dancers feel inadequate and lose self esteem. Why? Cause they think they are not good enough. I just can’t stress enough how awful these kids feel in this environment; and if they don’t feel awful than it’s fair to say they do not understand the concept of ‘the harder you work the more you get’. They would be given prizes for showing up and as you all know, that is a massive no no in regards to long term behaviour that breeds success. My teaching philosophy includes respecting each child’s journey. I am here to build children up, not tear them down. Some rec student’s could be very capable if they invested themselves in the craft but that’s not where their passion lies so let them enjoy a totally fun experience. One way is not better than the other. They simply have different journeys in dance with totally different intended outcomes. Recitals are a great way to show progress without the pressure of being compared to students who have a different, more intense relationship with dance. I know the saying these days is “it doesn’t matter if you win or lose, just have fun”. That may be the case where fun is the intention but have you ever asked a dancer who trains day in and out if loosing is fun, or the the dancer who has been waiting hours for an audition after travelling hours to get there if they are happy with a fun audition…No of course not. They want to see their hard work pay off and there is nothing fun about losing out on an opportunity. To put it in perspective, imagine a sports caster asking any of the Australian olympic swimmers if they had fun even if they lost……That’s right you wouldn’t ask because it’s an embarrassing question. When a child shakes their head and says “yeah I had a great time” after loosing, I promise you they are lying. Let’s be respectful of the children that want to have fun with dance and give them a loving and nurturing environment that will build them up as people.

* Nastiness. Ok I really did’t experience nastiness in the industry until YouTube teachers entered on to the scene. You see, by not going through the proper channels to become a serious teacher or choreographer they have essentially skipped the stuff that gives dance its best qualities which is discipline and respect; and basically aren’t good at their job. Crappy dances galore with terrible technique and tricks that don’t belong and are brutally executed are in no shortage at comps in 2017.  These days anyone and everyone can teach dance so when a student does really well at a competition against students that, yet again, just don’t belong for many reasons, parents and students start asking questions. The usual response for these teachers is to cover their butts: “That teacher pushes them in the splits”; “That teacher puts their students on diets”; “That teachers is scary and so all the students do what she says.” And the list goes on. They say these things because their own teaching abilities are lacking and so they need to cut others down that are really good at their job. On a side note, I do think this is a major reason why everything has become fun, fun, fun because studios and teachers that did not belong at comps started making the environment very ugly. You know complaining when they lost (always). Lengthy emails to organisers how the judges were unfair exc exc. And instead of educating people as to what they should be doing in order to be successful at comps, they have developed this strange ‘everyone’s amazing’ mentality to combat it. FYI – Wrong approach people. It has simply lowered the overall standard. Yes there are still amazing dancers coming out of these comps but the rest of it is like eating sandpaper…excruciatingly painful.  I remember when every single dance at a comp was enjoyable to watch… Yes folks there was a time when this happened.

To finish this very honest and open blog I think the only way to decide whether comps are right for you is to determine why you are doing them. This will guide you to the right forums. Remember to be respectful to all dancers. I think what has frustrated me the most is hearing the saying “we are not dancing for sheep stations.” Ok….. well …….for some parents they would like to see their investment become a living for their children and these students may one day be dancing to pay their bills. We need to be respectful of these parents too and their process of preparing them to be successful in this industry.

ALL children require different things. So be mindful of their level, experience and goals:)



Ashley Mardesic the Critic! Say it ain’t so:)

Hello dance world. Let’s talk about Critics, critiquing and how it seriously needs to make an appearance in the world of dance in 2017.

When I say I have been writing my current blog (not this one as I stopped to really understand why my process has been so tedious) for the past 2 weeks because I am trying to find the right things to say, I really mean it. Sentence after sentence, thought after thought I notice how my words become increasingly genuine and far less filtered. It’s not as though I write untruths; I simply find that I often erase and reshuffle my most bold and honest statements in order to appease the masses. The more I write however, the more I realise that I am a critic of sorts. Questioning everything around me is something I have always done and will always do. Constant improvement is a daily task for me and that I need to embrace the fact that I relish in setting and meeting high standards. I am by no means saying that I excel at that all the time, but I certainly make it a perpetual life goal. Thus writing the way I do is not to crap on everyone else and their efforts; it is often to bring to light the stuff that simply isn’t working the way it should based on my educated theories, opinions and research.

There was once upon a time when experts were the people who society afforded the daunting task of rating, explaining and educating the masses. We trusted names like Roger Ebert, Gene Siskel, Manohla Dargis, John Updike and Robert Hughes. These professionals dedicated their lives to specialising in analysing, interpreting and evaluating their chosen craft. Their critiques held value, they commanded respect and the rest of us sought them out to help us better understand the world around us.

In a time when social media has given everyone and their dog a voice it has changed the way we exchange information. Facts are a thing of the past. Educated opinions can range from studying the subject at the highest level to reading one bored panda article. It appears that both people would have the same weight in an argument simply because we no longer value others and over value ourselves.

How has this impacted dance? Firstly, anyone can open a studio, call themselves a choreographer or run ‘master classes’. I mean anyone. Literally, anyone. Did I already say anyone. Oh well I meant ANYONE! And since this is a what came first the chicken or the egg scenario, I will simply list and explain briefly the reasons why I think dance professionals have lost their expertise:

  • Government funding. Can anyone yell out what program in school, communities or professional settings gets the axe? ARTS. What does that tell everyone else? You guessed it: That the arts isn’t a serious career path or profession and ultimately holds absolutely no value in the real world.
  • Parents want a bargain. Here comes the very warranted generalisations: most parents do not care about the quality of dance instruction. They simply care about how much they are paying. When employing people, yes, 100%, without a shadow of a doubt you get what you pay for. And since most people barely pay their studio bills, studios have had to continually employe cheaper, less qualified labour.
  • A large portion of studio owners, teachers and choreographers have absolutely no balls and or lack serious business skills. Yes that’s right! I’m calling all you professionals out who make dance look like a hobby. You know why, because I was there once upon a time. Too weak to follow my very reasonable, very important policies and procedures. I gave in to every parent who threatened to leave, not pay bills or make a scene. But guess what? That changed when I remembered I have a business degree and that if I was in any other form of business that this would not happen. So, I stopped letting non-professionals run my business and you should too if you haven’t already!
  • Parents: so many of you think you know what you are talking about because you have attended a dance school for a few years…but you almost always don’t. By berating, belittling, not paying paying, second guessing and flaunting your views online about the studio owner you hate or the teacher that wronged you, you are letting everyone know how little you value our industry. Your first job is to stop and think about it as a business. Just do that all the time and we won’t need to have this conversation again.

The next factor has to do with the plethora of online teaching resources and courses that people feel replaces ACTUAL EXPERIENCE. Syllabus after course after syllabus is flooding the internet, however, teachers have nowhere to ‘practice’ their teaching skills other than on paying costumers without a watchfull, EXPERIENCED eye to help guide them as to their proper uses. Full time dance schools in Melbourne, Victoria, for example, have fresh faces graduating from their own personal training (meaning they have been focusing on themselves for the last umpteenth years) and then commanding $80-$100 per hour to teach OTHER PEOPLES CHILDREN. And sadly, the overabundance of unskilled, inexperienced studio owners are hiring them in the hopes that someone will know what they are doing, in turn making them look like they know what they are doing. I wouldn’t in a million years hire a person to do anything but teacher train under my guidance with less than 3 years teacher experience. I don’t care if they were taught by Mikhail Baryshnikov himself (love you Mr. Baryshnikov:). It does not mean they know how to transfer their knowledge in to living, breathing, vastly different human beings.

Bah bah bah! You guessed it! Sheep everywhere. I don’t even think it is because people lack intelligence necessarily. I would say it is more due to how lazy technology has made us and how little research parents are willing to do before A) making a statement on dance; B) choosing a school; C) commenting on their experience; D) deciding what aspects of the arts holds value. Then, guess what? Their friends read it, hear it or see it and now it’s gospel! And there you have it. That teacher that kicked a student out because they were bullying other children is now, all of the sudden, the lady that beats her students because angry mommy decided to tarnish someone else’s reputation to their friends. And, because her friends are too lazy to find out for themselves, they are going to make judgements on said parents statements. Not many industries beyond the arts would have people lacking so much personal responsibility to discover the facts for themselves and its detrimental to the industry to say the least.

Everyone is too sensitive…..Yes folks, I happily went there! Dance professionals, and especially the ones that are excellent at their jobs, cannot for the life of them tell anyone the truth. I always stress that I didn’t create dance. I simply pass on its teachings and add my own creative spirit in order to design beautiful, athletic, technical performances. Don’t like the splits? Don’t blame me for it. Don’t like how we wear leotards? Don’t blame me for it. Don’t like how hard it is to do it properly? Once again, don’t blame me for it. Parents, students and educators need to stop lowering their standard of dance so that everyone can be involved in EVERY aspect of dance. Simply create forums, dance schools and outlets to suit each level of dancer. But do not, under any circumstances, get angry if you aren’t chosen for something, win an award or fail at aspects of dance. And then, do not, under any circumstances, shoot the very knowledgable messenger that is trying to explain, educate and administer truthful change in order to actually make you better. How many times do I see parents and teachers complaining that a judge only left positive feedback? Can you guess why parents and teachers judges don’t feel comfortable giving you honest feedback? Because entrants will most likely complain publicly how mean the judge was or how unfair the competition was, all because they told them the truth.  Ultimately, if you don’t like corrections, hate hard work,  are not self motivated to try and find dance classes tedious then DO SOMETHING ELSE! ‘Sigh of relief’. That’s easy isn’t it folks. So to all those parents trying to squeeze their square child in to a round dance hole please do the following: Maybe try another sport; Attempt to educate your OWN child on classroom ethics and how to treat educators; or how about just be a nice person who gets the fact that dance is something created before any of us laid eyes on this earth so just respect the process.

I get it. Everyone wants to live in the land of positivity; believing you can do anything, and be anything. That no matter what, life is waiting for you to conquer it! How about we start by being ok with the fact that some people know more stuff about stuff that you don’t know a lot of stuff about. That an expert writing about their expert opinion should make its way back to the forefront of education and information gathering. That as I spend hours pondering over what to write and how to write it in order to piss off the least amount of people, one thing rings true: Experts are so afraid to speak up these days so as to prevent the masses from boycotting their businesses. That positivity is big business these days and without it you simply can’t make a living. The shame is that people don’t understand that being a critic and expert does not make you a mean spirited person, it simply makes you A CRITIC AND AN EXPERT. Oh and don’t forget, honest.

I am in love with my job. I am in love with my life. I simply want to make sure I am doing the best I can to produce the best work possible. That to me always means questioning my methods, the industry and those who work within it, myself included. My blogs are often about exploring the things that aren’t working, because let’s be honest, we don’t need to revolutionise the wheel if it’s already spinning:)

Stay tuned for my next blog, cause its a doozy!!


Live Love Dance



Failure is not an option..It’s a necessity!

Over the years I have become more of a councillor than a dance teacher. The “I can’t” mindset has become a gloomy cloud hanging over so many children’s heads. It hinders their progress with every single half embarrassed/half fearful attempt at something new. As it progressively creeped its way in to my classes I would catch myself being their personal motivator instead of their dance teacher. And for those of you who believe they are one and the same, they mostly aren’t. Everyone has their days, and yes I work hard to motivate every child through them however it is not my job make people want to try to the best of their ability. After reading a fascinating article, which I referenced at the end, I realised that this issue is, in my opinion, generational and global. Essentially the article discussed a new toy that has been developed to teach children how to fail. Isn’t failure part of every day life. Doesn’t it happen so often that its inherently etched in to the daily comings and goings of every single human being? Well, in 2017, it appears it is not. This speaks volumes about the climate we have created for todays youth. Here is my take on the toy, society and how it relates to dance culture.

This “failure toy” has been designed to teach children from the age of 6 how to fail by actually exposing them to failure through 3D puzzles. The creator Ben-Ari explains that “It involves frustration and patience: how do I creatively communicate to someone else who can’t see? The toys have us looking at self-assessment and self-reflection.” It claims to improve skills such as creativity, adversity, problem solving and communication. To show the economic importance of developing a person’s ability to preserver through failure Ben-Ari states there is research showing that companies can become 50% more profitable by continually engaging in this type of learning. As a business owner I 100% agree. My staff, all of whom are required to work autonomously and are constantly challenged to think outside the box, have greatly contributed to creating a wonderful and dynamic atmosphere which ultimately creates a more profitable business. Studio owners this really applies to you. And we all know that your goal is to turn your passion into a living, if you haven’t done that already.

I really understand the challenge with mindset these days since my son is 9 and dealing with this at school. I am witnessing first hand the coddling and failure avoidance and let me tell you it really seems to be damaging children and their ability to be the best they can be. Teaching children outside of the school system I get to see and feel the result of children so afraid to fall, try something new and ultimately put themselves out there that it makes creating beautiful dancers quite difficult. And since I have been teaching for 19 years, I have been able to watch the children from each generation change. Situations that were never a big deal are now massively detrimental to a child. For example, learning how to battement (kick your leg for those none dancers) is tough at first. Classical battements require square hips, touchpoint’s engaged, brushing through the foot, strong, well placed arms and upper body, and flexibility in both the front of the supporting leg and hamstrings; however if one of these things are missing there is potential to fall or simply have an unattractive looking battement. Since I had difficulty with my flexibility growing up I often kicked so hard I would knock myself out from underneath me. This is quite common for learning dancers. I use to see plenty of minor well earned and much needed falls throughout the learning process. Now when I teach battements the fear of falling or looking bad at first, which is inevitable, is so prevalent that it takes me 3 times as long sometimes to teach it. I always provide such a safe learning environment and still these children bring their fears to class like a pair of dance shoes…. they never leave home with out it.

Why am I so afraid for these children? Well, because polarisation between successful and and unsuccessful adults will continue to grow and much of it could have been avoided. How can I say this? I see children walk through my doors who have so much natural ability that is squashed by their poor attitude towards failure. Children who could have otherwise been successful find comfort in always playing it safe and ultimately limiting their opportunities. However, children like my son for example who is not handed anything, not praised for doing very average things with average outcomes and who is consistently placed in situations that are uncomfortable will develop the skills needed to go for what they want and stop at nothing to get it. This helps create winners in life. I recall one of my many talks to my previous senior students who often struggled with failure and I posed a very absurd but relevant question “Would you be ok if you had a bugger hanging out of your nose all day and no one told you?” It was an overwhelming NO of course not. Who wants to look ridiculous?! That is exactly what we are doing to our children if we do not tell them the work they are producing is not great; Even if they tried their hearts out and will be incredibly disappointed. Instead educators, parents, family and friends are making them believe that they are better than what they are. Inside you are most likely thinking the truth and making decisions based on that truth but telling them something completely different. For example, a dancer not getting the job after an unsuccessful audition is often shocked because they walked out thinking they nailed it. A student who has a realistic view of their abilities and has faced failure understands when they deserve something and when they have failed. This also and MOST IMPORTANTLY gives them the opportunity to fix it. As adults we have the opportunity to let the children in our lives know they need to work on that Whitney Houston ballad instead of telling them “great job” while we subtly plug our ears. Think of giving constructive criticism in the same way as wiping our children’s noses; we want our children to represent themselves in the best way they can. In order to do this they need to know something is wrong or needs improvement in order to fix it. Not being completely honest with the children in your life is so unfair in my opinion; So misleading; And so destructive because when the time comes that someone who is not invested in that child’s (now possibly adult’s) well being tells them they are not good at something they will be shocked and instead of trying again they often retreat because they haven’t had the opportunity to develop coping skills. These people will be left behind because let’s face it we all have our own issues once we are adults and usually do not have the time to give them the skills that they should have developed during childhood and early adulthood. I know as a business owner I refuse to take on an employee who is too sensitive, unable to think for themselves and is utterly devastated at every little piece of “constructive criticism’; and I promise you it is always constructive with a purpose for betterment. Ultimately those who can fail, learn and move onwards and upwards will most often be successful adults while the rest will wonder why they did not get the promotion or job of their dreams and seem to make excuses for their lack of personal and professional success.

Dance is an extremely hard path like any other sport especially if you want to make it your career.  It is also important to understand that not everyone will become dancers and not everyone wants to be. Where the issue lies is when a child “thinks’ they want to become a dancer but is unable to bring the mindset needed to be successful. Then the excuses start flowing sooner or later when they did not reach their goal. As I said in the beginning, my role has dramatically changed from strictly dance to mostly councillor. This is hard for me since I really really just want to teach new things to students who are willing to simply give it their all. That’s literally how simple my dream is. Unfortunately as the years go on children lack the coping skills needed to fail that I was once accustomed too making my job infinitely harder. I really agree that children need to be taught this and agree with Ben-Ari and her vision. However it is so sad to me that we are leaving skills that should be taught by parents and teachers up to a toy. Ben- Ari says “When you know how failure works, you know how you work with failure,” and adds, “We’re in a stage of failure abstinence right now instead of failure education.” Amen sister!!!

Parents, educators and dance teachers who would like a great resource that will help address this issue please visit the amazing Philipa’s website StageMinded. She is amazing and has developed some incredibly useful tools that will help students and adults reach their potential.

If you would like to read the article here is the link.

Do you offer free trials? Well you shouldn’t!

Do you offer free trials?..Well you shouldn’t!

Free trials have traditionally been something that schools have done in order to give potential students the opportunity to try their classes. By getting bodies through the door they now believe they have the opportunity to turn those trials in to paying customers. I am going to shock you by telling you that I haven’t offered trials in over 2 years. My retention rate is at 92% and my payment rate is 96%. I realised something: Parents are only thinking of themselves and their families, which they should, and during the process of them worrying about themselves they are wasting a lot of my time. As a studio I have hundreds of families to worry about so reducing every single sale down to whether the individual is happy will be the death of my business and my sanity. Teaching parents to respect you, your craft, skill level, staff, business and policies and procedures starts before a parent walks through the door. When I break the ‘devastating’ news to potential parents and students that I do not give them something for free they start to tell me my why they would benefit from a free trial:

“I need to make sure my child will connect with the teacher.”

“I want to see if my child likes dance.”

“They have never been in a structured environment other than school and I need to see if they can cope.”

“I want to see if my child fits in with the other students.”

Now, in addition to the fact that I am a dance teacher of 20 years and a studio owner for almost 5, I am also a parent of a dancer and have been a dancer with devoted parents so I have a very 3D perspective on studio life, parents perceptions, expectations and what is reasonable and unreasonable from many perspectives. Let’s have a look at why I do not offer trials and how I address the above parental concerns.

First and foremost, I am the expert. This is my business. My livelihood, career and financial independence is entirely linked to my success. Therefore, I trust in MY ABILITY to run MY COMPANY. This is part of my business plan because I know how often dance teachers make decisions to make everyone else happy. All this does is compromise your ability to run a successful company. You will piss people off if you are doing things right. This is because you do not overvalue a non experts opinion on how to run YOUR BUSINESS. So if you stick to your policies and procedures you will quickly weed out the customers you do not want anyway. You think you do; but you don’t. I promise! So when people ask me whether I do trials and I say no, I stick to my guns no matter what. I confidently explain why, which I will get to very soon, and ask them if they would like to pay their non-refundable deposit to hold their spot. If they say no, then guess what, they were never that interested in the first place and I have just saved myself a lot of energy. But more often, I get a deposit over the phone without even meeting them because my business is worth their investment. Now, how does this translate in to addressing some of the above concerns. Well, since I am the expert, it will be my job to teach children all about dance. How, in the world can a non expert, a child non the less, judge my school and teachings in 1 lesson, heck even a week. Dance takes years and my lesson plans vary depending on what the students need. No one in their right mind should think that they can assess their child’s love for dance in under 6 months of lessons. Why 6 months? I found that 6 months was the magic amount of time where children have experienced enough classes consistently, with the same group of children, and have learned enough dance to gauge whether dance is right for them. I mean let’s be honest, 6 months isn’t enough time for a casual dancer to be very good but it is enough time for a kid to remember and execute basics, feel comfortable with the teachers teaching abilities and class structure and make some solid friends. I need people to allow me to do my job. Sticking with me over a reasonable amount of time is the only way I can do that. It’s that simple. This is how I explain the benefits of their children attending 6 months of dance:

  • I preserve the learning environment in order to achieve the absolute best results possible. I always explain that it is incredibly distracting if parents and random trial students are coming in and out of classes. The current students may not feel comfortable with new faces from week to week. Class routine and rhythm is consistently disrupted when new students are not entering the school at the same time. And ultimately my time should be spent on paying costumers. Aren’t they the ones that deserve all of my time?!
  • Dance classes vary from week to week. Not every dance class is learning a combo to your favourite song on the radio. Some weeks are doing plies and sautes all class. Students that have built a respect for you and your school know these classes are necessary and so their intended results are achieved. However, imagine being a new student and you walk in on a strenuous technique class. That’s not fun at all and no matter what they will judge your school on that 1 class. Did that class really sell your new student in to signing up. Probably not since they haven’t been educated on dance process and class structure from the beginning of the year and are probably not going to be as good at the steps as your current students. More often than not the student leaves believing they don’t like dance and that they aren’t any good at it. Plus if that child has had a bad day, they will bring that bad day with them. Trying to manage an unknown student with negative energy while they are experiencing trial anxiety is nothing less than disastrous!! See how judging dance and your school in 1 class could actually be detrimental to your school?

Now, if a parent wants to see whether their child will connect with me or any of my staff then they simply need to set up a meeting with us. Children and parents can usually gauge from a 2 minute conversation whether they like you. Dance has nothing to do with this so why would you compromise your class for a personality assessment. I mean, I get that not everyone will get along and that certain children need certain types of instruction, however, a child and their teacher need time to connect. I cannot learn all of their quirks and learning needs in 2 minutes or even 2 classes. The bond between teacher and student takes time and if this time is not given in a professional setting than there isn’t any hope in the students progressing properly or the teacher being able to personalise your child’s class experience. Enjoyment of dance and the school comes with feeling comfortable in your surroundings. Too much anxiety exists during trial periods making this dynamic absolutely impossible.

New environments equal new rules. Expecting a child to know and understand the inner working of my school in such a short period of time is absolutely crazy. They will not do a great job for a while until they understand my class and build some skills. It really blows my mind how many parents are weary of structured classes. Children almost always can handle whatever you tell them too. In my opinion, one of the only cures for tears due to separation anxiety, a child running in and out of class, not taking instruction and the list goes on is doing something consistently. Thats it. Literally thats it. Showing up every week is really the only way to teach your children how to conduct themselves in a dance class. So no you cannot decide whether they will sit still or do everything I say in 1 class because the reality is they most likely wont. So guess what studio owners, those parents are most likely going leave your trial thinking their kid isn’t ready when really its that they haven’t been given a chance to be ready.

Making friends is a really cool part of dance. My son has made a few that I know will last a lifetime. Now I’m going to step aside from the teacher role for one second and add my 2 cents in from a parenting perspective. Please remember it’s my perspective so do what you feel is right. I personally teach my son that he is not supposed to do anything because of friends. Children will be children. They are fickle. They are rapidly changing. So under no circumstances would I take him anywhere because his friends are doing it. Nor would I leave solely based on the fact that his friends were leaving. I attend a dance school because I want my son to be in expert hands with strong policies that benefit my son’s training and that the instructors have proven, updated and safe teaching techniques. That is ALL I base my decisions on. If he makes friends cool. If I personally like the owner or instructor cool. If I don’t love the staff personally but love their output and feel they are incredibly professional than I would pick that school any day. This isn’t a popularity party its a learning institution. Ultimately I am raising a leader not a follower and thinking for themselves is what keeps them out of trouble. Now I am going to put back on my teacher hat and address this from the business perspective. If a parent is worried that their child may or may not connect with others I let them know that my students don’t talk in class. That classes are all about dance. That I control my classroom entirely. I do utilise team building exercises that are appropriate for everyone and are dance based so that they can bond with one another. However at the end of the day our bullying policy is air tight and that all the children who attend my school have the same goal; learn how to dance. I also explain that because my policies include prepayment of 6 months of lessons this ensures that children will consistently return allowing their child to bond without the fear of losing their friends abruptly.

I am going to briefly address the money aspect of this. Many parents say, well this is a big investment. I need to know if it is worth it. I wonder if when they book their trips to bali or take their families out for massive dinners if they pre sample the vacation destinations or the food. That’s a big no! They do research. They ask friends. They pre pay and then once the experience is over do they know whether they loved it or not. Notice how no one worked for free to gain their business. Notice how not one of those companies spent hours convincing them to spend their money with them. They simply put their resources out there and have processes in place that help to guide the customers in the right direction. And dance teachers always remember, parents almost always find money for trips, shopping, lattes, lunch with friends and manis and pedis. Don’t feel bad for getting that money. If they want to attend your school they will easily and happily find that money. If they can’t get that money together then it’s because of the following: 1) They do not feel your company is worth paying; or 2) they honestly can’t afford it. Dance schools are a non-essential service so you do not owe anyone’s children lessons. No money, no lesson!

I believe that free trials most often bring in the wrong kind of student and parent. Not always, but I am going to say that the ones you think you converted would have signed up without the trial anyway. Parents almost always know before they call whether they will be willing to pay your fees, follow your policies and respect your school. Qualities of good dance parents are those who: respect you as a business owner, pay their bills, respect your boundaries, and see you as the professional you are. By not offering trials parents are forced to MAKE A DECISION – JOIN MY SCHOOL OR DON’T JOIN MY SCHOOL. It is literally that easy. They will have read your website, followed your Facebook, spoken to their friends, exc, exc, exc; SO even if they say they aren’t sure, they usually are. After the 6 months is over they can decide to stay on for the concert or try something else, but at least they have given me, my staff, dance and my school a fair and educated shot at being right for them. I deserve that much respect. So do my students and so do my staff. Think of all the follow-up emails, phone calls, front desk and email inquiries you can stop doing by simply making people make a decision. Dance teachers you and I both know that a child and parent cannot asses dance or your school in 1 class. So be confident in your ability to provide dance to your students. At first, you will lose many parents when you start forcing people to pay you on time, especially when you enforce your policies like non-attendance for unpaid accounts. You will start losing people when you force people to respect you in your business environment. You will lose business if you change nothing or everything. It’s the ones you keep that matters. So guess what? If you stick to your guns and institute policies that puts your business first then you will gain parents and students that make your life and business easy to run and enjoyable to work at. As a teacher you will be able to realise your vision because you and your company has stopped trying to accomodate and please everyone. You have reduced stress because let’s be real dance teachers, you are receiving plenty of hate mail and having enough angry encounters while scrambling to please everyone else, neglecting your own family, not paying yourself and killing yourself to produce results in class ANYWAY. By requiring people to MAKE A DECISION, you are requiring them to treat you like every other business. Once they make that decision all you have to focus on is showing them that they made the RIGHT DECISION!

Best of luck dance teachers:) So much love to you all!!!

Ps. I’m going to say that there is only one situation where I believe a trial makes sense: When your child is a proven competitive dancer and is moving from another city. Not one or the other but both. If they are competitive and you have lived somewhere for a while then you are fully aware what is out there and the calibre of the schools. Normally these children would attend competitions in their area and would be able to assess their skills compared to the other schools. However, if you are not attending comps with potential schools than you really do not know whether your child makes the cut. If you are moving from another city but are not a highly trained dancer than the lack of experience would mean that you and your child would fall in to all of the above categories. If they don’t allow you to trial their classes then that’s their perogative and they should be respected for their decisions. And studios, if you do make an exception than be confident in that exception and do not allow that exception to become your norm!!!

Parents…..We need to have a chat.

Let me present a scenario for all you dance parents out there:

Your little girl or boy loves dance. They work day and night even when they were tinny. They gave up birthdays and holidays because they wanted to be the best. Your family sacrificed for years to be able to provide their child with the best training so that one day they may realise their artistic dream in whatever capacity they can.

Adulthood comes. You watch your once child turn into a beautiful adult and wonderful dance professional. You have affirmation that all those years of hard work and sacrifice were worth it. You just want the best for your child. You just want them to be appreciated. You want them to succeed doing what they love.

Now remember not everyone loves to work. So many people wait for Fridays or days off. They didn’t study their whole life to be what they are today. A dancer has studied, invested and focused ALL of their energy to be who and what they are today. This is not just a job….it is their life.

Now imagine this: Everyday your once little boy or girl attends a job they love with every bone in their body and every day someone tries to dictate to them what they should be doing and how they should do it. Just imagine that no one is ever happy with them. That the hours and hours of passion and investment are just not enough. That ultimately their community and dance parents have little to no faith in their ability to do their job.

As a parent how would you feel if after all those years of hopes and dreams parents and students decide that your child is not worthy of respect?

Welcome to the world of so many dance teachers out there that make this their career; their life; their everything. I would like to explain why I think parents are slowly killing dance.

We can’t deny that children deserve love, respect and learning opportunities. But can we also agree that they need food, shelter, warmth and medical care. At no point could you walk into Coles and ask for free food or tell them you will pay them later. Not even for the most basic of services can you frequently leave an IOU message without being arrested or having some sort of negative consequences. So at what point can you walk into a small business with non essential services and dictate things like payment terms and prices. At no point have you been privy to budgets, staff costs, experience vs pay rates, industry standards and any other monetary aspect of the business. So at what point do you think you can haggle with me or any other dance studio. When McDonalds raised their prices for meals did you throw them a $5 and say “that will do.” Costs rise and fall according to many things. Price increases come with things like growth, environmental changes and staff requirements. And ultimately there are things to bargain with and I don’t think it is your child’s learning. Ultimately if you think something is too expensive then do your research. If you think the studio is not worth the investment then go somewhere else. If you didn’t know, studio owners often pay themselves last, are the first to bare the consequences of unpaid invoices, and work hours that you couldn’t even begin to imagine. Unless you would like to become a part owner in my business by investing a large sum of money then you my friend are not on my board of directors and do not have a say on how I set my prices. PS. You sending your child to my school does not make you a part owner, it makes you a client. Client privileges only go so far. Just think as to whether you would do or say even half the things you say to a studio owner to any other the electricity company, bank or grocery store…..

If you don’t trust me find another studio!! If you think someone else can do it better ……find another studio!!! If you are overall happy with our studio, my teaching and have a concern, treat me like you would any other business you respect: Let us know privately and give us an opportunity to fix it. If we can’t fix it or its something that really you have no right to demand but you think you do anyway than…I’m sure you know it’s coming…..Go to another studio. Whether you have sat in an audience or attended dance classes for 5 minutes or 5 years I promise you you still don’t have a clue how to do my job. Lets look at an example: I have had a bank account for 33 years. Under no circumstances do I believe I should be heard at the top level by Bank Management as to what is going to make my life easier while banking or how they should be doing things regarding procedures and policies. If I feel something is not right I call and speak to them. If they don’t see my concern as valid its one of two things 1) NOT VALID or 2) THE COMPANY IS NOT RIGHT FOR ME!!!! It’s that simple. Abusing them, not paying bills, wasting time badmouthing them are all things none of us really do because ultimately we look absolutely foolish pretending we know things about an industry that we fully do not understand. You shop at Coles but how many times have you told them to change their logo or that you know where to find strawberries at a cheaper price…..all things you just don’t do. So trust, respect and listening are things you need to do as a dance parent. If you don’t trust, respect or like what you are hearing from the instructor then simply turn around and walk in the direction from once you came because let me tell you if my birth parents heard all the things people say to me they would be heartbroken.

Dance in general:
Parents you do not set the rules. We set the rules. You don’t even know why the rules are there in the first place. We didn’t really create dance. We simply teach its foundation, techniques and concepts and add our own interpretation to it in order to bring the staples of dance to life. I can’t change certain things about dance just because it does not suit you. In a group guess what SOMEBODY AT SOME POINT HAS TO BE IN A BACK ROW….OR ELSE IT’S ONE GIANT LINE ALL THE TIME!!!!!!!!!!! Global dance standards have risen. I didn’t personally do it all by myself, it’s hard working parents, teachers and students along with amazing global forums that did that as a collective. If you can’t keep up for whatever reason; money, time, natural ability, poor attitude whatever don’t blame me if you don’t get a solo, make the competition team, win at comps or fail at exams. If you are blaming me or your dance instructor for any of these outcomes it really is time to take responsibility for your role in your child’s life. If the dance school is reputable, has excellent instruction, and has produced consistently amazing results then at no point can I or any other dance teacher be the parent for your child and or be responsible for your child’s failures. We can only motivate so much. We can only teach so much. And if they are not showing up knowing what we taught the week before and lack motivation how in the world are we able to create a dancer. Impossible. But yet parents expect that because they show up (sometimes) that us dance teachers are supposed to deal with everything that they don’t want to and also produce results. CRAZY CRAZY CRAZY CONCEPT!!

How is this killing the dance industry:
Every time you undermine a dance professional you devalue dance to anyone who is listening and unfortunately can chip away at the love the teacher has for their craft. The amount of parents who are not putting their children in dance because they think it is full of nasty people saddens me. Mothers telling me “no way”. “Im not a dance mum!!” But what does that even mean? Competitions are catering to parents demands. Studios are changing their rules based on the whims of parents for fear of losing business. Studios and their owners are closing their doors because they allow people to not pay their bills. Creatively teachers can lose their vision and drive due to so much stress and unwanted negative attention. Classrooms become volatile when parents over step their bounds. And the list goes on and on and on and on. Why would you want your child to pursue dance if all you see is angry, disrespectful parents hounding the school and teachers daily? Why would little girls and boys choose dance as a future knowing that it could mean a future of heart ache and financial loss? We will lose dance and all its wonders if we continue to let non-professionals run our industry.

Dance teachers are hurting right now because they are often being railroaded by demanding, disrespectful parents who just do not have a clue.

Guilty Parents lets try the following:

* Do your research
* Accept the limitations of the life you have chosen.
* Pay your bills on time once you have registered.
* Adhere to the policies, practices, training schedule and expectations of your program.

If you do all that and are not happy than discuss, try to rectify and/or move on. See how easy that is.

Now for all those incredible parents that recognise the good work we do I’m sending A MASSIVE MASSIVE THANKYOU!!! Right now I think I can speak for every dance teacher when I say YOU AND YOUR CHILDREN ARE WHY WE KEEP DOING THIS.


So If I have offended you than you are guilty and should be ashamed of the way you have treated your local dance school. If I have helped you see things in a different light than great. Just remember my parents and I sacrificed to be great in this industry. I was once a little girl just like yours. My parents gave up everything to see me succeed just like you. Now they watch people undermine my business on a daily basis and make what I do feel small and insignificant. Just remember, treat your dance teacher like you would want someone to treat your little person when they grow up to pursue their passion just like I did!



Just because you danced doesn’t mean you can teach…Yeah I said it!!!

Dance teaching is my career. I have trained from the age of 5 at one of the best dance schools in the world and have had the opportunity to learn from and work with some of the finest people in the industry. My parents invested every cent in my sister and I in order to become the best dancers and teachers we can be and I continue to invest every penny, minute and effort in to excelling at what I do. I take my job incredibly seriously and consider my responsibility of training students as important as my role as a mother. I will forever impact these students and know that if I am not truly equipped to pass on dance knowledge that I will ruin their future not only as dancers but possibly as people. So, if you are not all in than you should not be teaching the fine art of dance to anyone. Take a class, enrol your child and watch from the audience but for goodness sakes do not teach a dance class.

Where does this anger come from. Oh my… many places that I am truly stumped as to where to start. So I will start with a scenario I have come across time and time again.

Dance teachers with little to no formal training besides taking class as children; does a million and one other sports besides dance; and, uses dance as their part time job are absolutely everywhere. One day I was sitting down in a cafe and a lady just like this approached me and asked “how do you get your students so flexible?” I said “enrol them and they will find out for themselves.” She replied “no no I just need a couple of exercises and I will show them.” I let her know that is not something I feel comfortable doing for obvious reasons. Can you believe she actually teaches dance for 1 hour a week….. WHAT THE!!!!! When she left the table I realised something; this women thinks she can do my job after a 5 minute conversation. That I will give her these exercises and she will miraculously know how to execute them in a professional and useful manor. I can’t begin to describe how ignorant that view is of the dance industry and honestly it makes my blood boil. There are also so many dance schools where no formal acrobatics teacher exists but they are performing acro tricks at dance comps and concerts…again…WHAT THE!!!! If you don’t love this sport, live and breath it and ultimately do not have a long standing, well rounded dance education than include dance in your own life but do not take responsibility for others, not even for 1 hour.

Let’s talk about whether or not a teacher should be qualified. I am, but honestly for a long time I had no need to be part of a governing body because I was working with semi-professional and professionals, mostly doing choreography and teacher training. These people do not need to be put through exams and honestly exams are not the be all end all nor do they make you a good or well qualified teacher. On paper you are qualified but often not in a global, creative, technical, forward thinking dance sense. What they are good for is learning structure, terminology, sequential learning and is a stepping stone to successful auditions. Many terrible teachers and dancers are able to get a piece of paper and yet so many of the worlds best teachers and choreographers do not have a single piece of paper to their name. I am not saying not to get accredited but I promise you it does not necessarily mean you’re a great teacher or that your child is attending a great school if there is a qualification involved. The reality is that you can attend a seminar, get nominated and even take a test online and guess what YOU ARE A QUALIFIED DANCE TEACHER. Yup, its that easy! So yes go for your qualifications however teachers my recommendation is to always attend workshops, seminars, involve multiple industry professionals opinions and never ever under any circumstances stop learning no matter how hard the lesson is; and parents and students do not assume what you are going to get is relevant, proper training from a “qualified” teacher since that qualified teacher may not actually know anything about the current world of dance and or have enough teaching experience to conduct a meaningful class.

Is teaching dance your part time job? If so you need to find another part time job. Sorry but when you are working with children this is unacceptable. If you need extra income than do not selfishly gain it by teaching something that requires immense passion and a massive amount of knowledge. Like I said get creative but do not include a child’s education in your pursuit for vacation money. I know of dance teachers who work at Target and then own a dance school. This teaches others to see dance as something not deserving of focus and respect so these teachers are just perpetuating terrible habits in an industry that should be and use to be known for its discipline.

This leads me to the next issue I have with todays teachers…..


When attending a workshop, watching youtube or any other performance you are only getting a small fraction of the teaching story. Seeing someone do a jete does not mean you can figure out how to teach a jete. Have you started with teaching them to work through their metatarsal for effective, light and well executed jumps? Have you taught them to extend and reach through warm ups? Have you correctly taught a square split without arching forward in order to take the weight from the front leg to their centre? Are they working in ballet to develop lovely shoulder and upper body lines to create a beautiful picture in the air? Do you do saute exercises each and every class to teach them to use the appropriate parts of their body to jump? Are they learning to land their heels in that saute exercise? Have you built long lean muscles that allow for beautiful lines? Do you know what exercises build lean dancer muscles? And the list goes on. You need to have the benefit of working with a great teacher for many years in order to learn how to get your students from A to Z. Yelling at a kid to get their leg up in a jete means nothing and is certainly not helpful. Knowing why they are unable to reach the full potential of their jete and how to make positive and meaningful change through proper progression is the essence of your job. Do they have ligaments that are shorter than their bones (this was one of my issues while I was growing)? Is their split misaligned? Are they still working their flexibility? Have they neglected their feet in their training? Are they bringing their knee up, pointing and extending at the height they want? Are they a little more flat footed? What direction are they sending their energy? What does the preparation look like? Again the list goes on. You cannot teach properly without this knowledge. And let’s be honest I would bet my life on it that TODAY a massive portion of dance teachers are screaming “point your toes”, “stretch your knees” but don’t have the slightest clue how to fix it and probably believe that it’s the students responsibility to know how…….See why I am worked up. These kids are trying their hearts out and getting frustrated because they are taught to believe it is their job to teach themselves so they ultimately feel inadequate.

And now to the greatest question of them all: Why is anyone and everyone able to start a studio? Well a lot of the time parents are willing to pay so where there is money people will come. And honestly, a lot of parents don’t know the difference in the same way I don’t necessarily know the difference between one plumbers job to the next guy unless my toilet explodes. In the case of dance these parents only find out after the damage is done. Their children lack confidence, they lack obvious skills and god forbid they want to work in the industry but its too late and they have too many terrible habits. I have unfortunately seen the result of this by being privy to internal processes of shows like So You Think You Can Dance and the moment you see a child get crushed because they truly thought they were great because of the extremely irresponsible teaching practices of what is in my opinion a scammer, you will understand my anger.

All children deserve an education that is true to its form; That has a passionate message behind it and a teacher that cares so much about that child’s future that they will stop at nothing personally and professionally to provide that child with the attention and teaching they deserve.

There is space for recreational teachers, competition teachers, choreographers, full-time program teachers, technicians, exam teachers, public education based dance teachers exc exc.. however know and understand your skill set and be honest with what you can provide and to what extent. Be so honest that you will tell a student that if they want to do this for a living that you may NOT be the teacher for them. Ok so you lost a tiny bit of income but what you have done is shared your passion for teaching children and their wellbeing is your utmost priority.  You will be rewarded with further business that wants your type of instruction and that child will be set on the appropriate path that will help them realise their goals.

So to all the dance teachers out there that shouldn’t be teaching….You need to stop because its so much bigger than you!! Its the children that suffer, the industry that loses its history, discipline and respect and us full-time dance teachers who believe in what we do and stop at nothing to give everything we can in the best way we can for our students lose the legitimacy of our professions.

And parents, not all studios are created equal!! Be aware, be mindful and understand that experience far outweighs qualifications. But if we really start to take this issue seriously than you will have qualified teachers that actually train how to teach. They are not one and the same and currently one barely has anything to do with the other!


Long live dance!!!