Dancing Days-Guide for New Professionals

So you’re just starting your career in dance and you’re having trouble visualizing how you will make enough money to make a living and still have the flexibility to perform, choreograph or produce your own work?

Many performers choose to teach dance at a dance establishment. From my experience, teaching in dance studios is certainly rewarding. It helps to move your dance career forward and provides a steady income; however, I found I could make a lot more money teaching outside the dance community, while maintaining a flexible schedule.

workshop-schoolsI had several teaching positions at dance studios but these positions prevented me from performing in dance productions and touring opportunities. Since I was dedicated to the establishment’s program, leaving town for extensive periods of time meant finding a replacement in my absence. If I was granted a leave, I sometimes ran into problems with my substitutes because they were unreliable, which caused conflicts with my employers.

So I found another solution, or rather, a solution found me. I just happened to be asked to join a program called Learning Through the Arts in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. This program required artists to work with a class and teacher for four sessions, focussing on using dance to teach curriculum.

Around the same time, another dance company I worked with asked me to lead an outreach program that brought dance to public school students.

These opportunities proved to be a perfect fit for me. I was able to plan sessions with teachers around my rehearsal and touring schedule. Contracts were often short term, so this allowed me the freedom as well (a week or more). But most importantly, it paid more.
At that time, the average pay for a dance teacher was $30/hour per class. I could fit about four classes in an evening, making $120 a night. Not bad for my first teaching job; however, once I started producing my own shows, I needed more flexibility and money to support myself. While teaching in schools I earned, on average, about $80 to $120/hour per lesson. I could fit in four lessons in a school day so my daily income increased to as much as $480 – a significant difference for the same number of dance classes. Because I used dance to teach the Ontario school curriculum, I was given the fancy title of education specialist and consultant, providing something unique to my community.

Teaching dance in the school system taught me a lot about myself. I learned why I excelled in school and why I found some subjects easier than others. My dance training also had provided me with special awareness, problem solving skills, and mathematical skills at a younger age than most students.

Let’s face it – extracurricular opportunities are not available or affordable for everyone. By teaching in the school system, dance teachers are helping many young people understand the art form. At the same time, they are inspiring students and helping them learn important skills.

I used ‘train the trainer’ professional development by providing workshops to teachers. Once they learned the various methods of teaching the curriculum through dance, they were able to teach the exercises to their students, saving valuable time and money.
I encourage dance teachers to get into schools in your community. You might be able to work in established, well-funded programs or seek funding for your own special programs. You could begin by teaching the basics of dance but I believe it’s even more beneficial to students, teachers and the educational system on the whole to use curriculum-based themes.

Following are some examples of curriculum that I found could easily be taught with dance:

  • Symmetry: exploring movement with a partner
  • Mathematical patterns: creating dances that follow numerical patterns such as: 8, 4, 2 and 1
  • Rotations: directing students using mathematical terminology instead of asking them to face the right, turn 90 degrees, etc.
  • Vocabulary: using words that describe movement and dance them out
  • Science: using shadows, liquids and solids, snowflakes or animals, create dances based on students’ observations
  • Story telling or poetry: re-enacting the story or describing the words in gestures
    Technology: building structures based on important principles while using contact dance
  • Force: using tension and compression to create shapes or movement between partners

Using the curriculum helped me to avoid cultural issues around dance. Unfortunately, some boys are embarrassed to dance. In order to encourage boys to participate, I called my lessons Kinaesthetic Learning with Numbers. Curriculum-based dance gives students the opportunity to explore creative movement without learning complicated steps.

If teaching curriculum with dance is something you could see yourself doing, please visit my website: http://www.danceequations.com or tune into my YouTube channel.

Wishing you nothing but the best in your dance career!

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