A Note From Beverly's Desk — Learning from Lisa Howell

This February, I had the pleasure of attending Lisa Howell’s Level One Dance Teacher and Health Professional Workshop in Burlington, Ontario, Canada. The first time I met with Lisa was in Australia, and then she worked with me on the Leading Edge Dance workshop in Lafayette. Spending time in Canada was much colder than we were used to, but we thoroughly enjoyed our time shared together. We took in the beautiful frozen scenes like Lake Ontario and Niagara Falls, shared stories over dinner, did a lot of learning, and even made plans for future collaborations. 

 
 

The workshop was the in the middle of February, and I can already see that the information I learned during the workshop has made a positive difference in my dancers! I truly believe every ballet teacher should take level one of Lisa's dance teacher training. The information and techniques learned are essential to teaching dancers of all ages.

My niece Danielle (in the picture above with Lisa and me) is recovering from an injury and ankle surgery, and she has been diligent about doing her “Miss Lisa exercises” several times a week. She is now able to stand on the surgery ankle without wobbling and has learned to activate the muscles needed to maintain her rotation and alignment without the support of the barre. We are very excited to see such progress in a little over two weeks. I do believe that with Lisa’s prescription of exercises she will be stronger than before her surgery by the time she is able to return to fully dancing and performing. All of her exercises were learned in Lisa’s workshop.

I am now starting each class by implementing Lisa's rotation activation exercises with my students too. I am taking time to teach each exercise so the young dancers (ages eight and up) are able to understand and perform the exercises on their own. Once I know they are able to perform them correctly on their own, I will ask them to do the exercises on their own prior to the start of their class. So instead of just talking in the hallway before class, I expect them to be doing Lisa's exercises. Many of the exercises are done with a partner so the young dancer’s friendship and social needs will also be met while preparing for class. After a dégagé exercise today, one of the nine-year olds turned to me and said, “Wow, Mrs. Bev! When I stand on my leg, I can feel my turnout muscles working ever since we started those new exercises!” Lisa would be proud! I know I am!

Finally, I am very excited to announce that Lisa will be at the August Leap ’N Learn Workshop! She and I will be teaching a session on safely and effectively training turnout in young dancers on August 6th, the special day for returning Leap ’N Learn studios — in other words, all of you! She will also be holding the same training that I attended in Canada on the three days before the LNL workshop. You can click here learn more about this Dance Teacher Training and Health Professional Workshop in Lafayette. She is graciously offering all licensed LNL teachers a 10% discount on the workshop. Simply enter "leapnlearn" at the checkout (the offer is good until April 30, 2015). 

Lisa is very excited to meet everyone involved in Leap ’N Learn and looks forward to sharing, as my niece calls it, her “Miss Lisa exercises!" 

I can't wait to welcome you to Lafayette this August for our annual workshop (don't forget to register as soon as you know you can make it) and to hopefully having you stick around to learn from Lisa too! 

Happy learning! 

 
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Featured Leap 'N Learn Studio, B Side — Lifehouse Performing Arts Academy

Each time we share a featured Leap 'N Learn studio interview on our blog, we also share an expanded, insider edition with all of you on the member site. This gives our interviewees a chance to speak even more candidly and give advice directly to their Leap 'N Learn peers. Check out the additional "B Side" questions below from our latest featured studio!


 

Nesha Woodhouse, Director
Lifehouse Performing Arts Academy
Salem, Utah
Website | Facebook 

 

An Introduction: Lifehouse Performing Arts Academy is located in Salem, Utah an hour south of Salt Lake City. This Leap 'N learn dance studio draws students from six surrounding communities. It offers classes in ballet, jazz, tap, modern, musical theater, and hip-hop. Lifehouse Performing Arts Academy offers pre-professional and recreation classes. The studio does not participate in competitions, but rather focuses on producing excellence in dance technique and creating meaningful, professional performances and productions throughout the year.

  1. We’ve seen the success you have in your dance studio — fantastic work as that is not a small accomplishment! Tell us how did you get to where you are today professionally and what major stepping stones helped you along the way.


    I started Lifehouse Performing Arts Academy fifteen years ago in the basement of our first home. We lived in a small community up on the benches of Payson Canyon in Utah. I had just had my first baby and planned to stay home. I was excited to be a mother! I had some neighbors who knew I danced ask me to teach some lessons to their little girls so they didn’t have to drive off the benches and down into town. Dance has always been a huge part of my life, and I thought teaching a few classes would be a fun way to stay involved in the art form. My plan was to teach about 20 students ages three to eight. After two years, there were 90 students. The studio continued to grow and so did our locations. The studio has moved five times to accommodate growth. Two years ago we completed a 18,000 square foot facility with seven studios. There are now between 450 and 500 students. 

    I think the biggest factor that has helped the studio grow in the marketplace are its values and purpose. Where dance in my area has gone to being all about the competitions, I decided we would never compete. At first this decision was met by confusion. What was dance about if there wasn’t competition? Some of my students were told that they must not be very good because they don’t compete. 

    I want the focus for my teachers and students to be on reaching their individual potential and not how their abilities compare to another person’s abilities. This is difficult when you attend a competition and a judge gives one student a first place trophy and another person a second place trophy based on their opinion of the performance. I also think there is a higher motivation that can be taught for achieving excellence with your talents. That is the higher level of excellence we achieve with our gifts and abilities, the more opportunities we have to share them in significant and meaningful ways, the more inspiring we are to others, and the more good we can do in the world. This is a much better motivation for me than doing my best so I can win a trophy and be declared better than someone else.

    I also wanted to create a culture at Lifehouse that encourages the students to celebrate each other’s progress and improvement and to care for each other as individuals and to be inspired by our unique talents and abilities rather than a culture that encourages students to evaluate themselves and each other based on “being better” or “winning” over another student.

    I also feel that competing can oftentimes interfere with a student’s training. The focus becomes more on perfecting routines rather than on training. There is pressure to try and get students to do skills they are not ready to perform because it will impress a judge, but that can lead to injury and bad technical habits that will ultimately hold back their training. It is better to build strong foundational alignment, body awareness, and technique. In the end it creates a more skilled dancer.

    Instead of competing, Lifehouse focuses on creating meaningful performance opportunities for its students where they can share their talents and abilities to an appreciative audience who is there to share and celebrate with them in the wonderful art form of dance. We work our hardest in the classroom and in rehearsal to prepare ourselves to uplift and entertain our audience, and when we have worked our hardest and done our best, everyone walks home a winner.

    The other biggest factor is hiring the right staff. I have had amazing teachers, office staff, and directors come on board over the years that have contributed their amazing gifts and talents to the students. Lifehouse would not be what it is today without their help.

    B.  What are some of your goals, how do you work towards them, and what indicators do you look to when gauging your success?

    I believe in what dance can do for young people. We are all dancers because we all move our bodies. My goals are for the studio to be of significance in the lives of its students, their families, and the audiences who come to watch our performances. I want my students to learn truth and good values as they study dance. I believe that even though we teach dance which mostly manifests itself physically in the body, we must also teach a student’s mind, support them emotionally, and help them find purpose in what they do. As a teacher it is easy to just focus on the body. We forget that people are four dimensional (physical, emotional, mental, spiritual). I guess I measure my success by what I see in the students. Their growth as people and dancers means everything to me. I also believe that if this is my focus, the business side of things will continue to grow. 
     
  2. There are so many things that time and experience teach us, and we wish we could’ve learned some of these things earlier. What is the most valuable piece of advice you could share with someone starting off in a similar career? 

    Define your purpose. What is your overall mission in running a studio? Stay true to whatever your vision is. It won’t be for everyone and that is okay. Each dancer and their parent are looking for different things when exploring studios. Build a supportive team who believes in your vision and purpose. Don’t be afraid of customer feedback. Listen to it, but also be okay with throwing it out when it doesn’t support your vision for your business.

    B.  Continuing education is key. How do you keep learning even after years of experience? 

    I read a lot, dance books and blogs, but also books about people and true principles. This last year I have studied Brene Brown’s books. I also read The Power of Full Engagement and am finishing Stephen Covey’s The Eighth Habit. They inspire me and help know how to be a better director. I also attend conferences such as Dancer Teacher Summit and The Leading Edge Dance Conference. Collaborating with my teachers is a huge source of learning for me. They each have unique strengths and we learn a lot from each other. My studio produces a dance camp every year and we bring in guest artists and master teachers. That is also a wonderful learning opportunity.

     

  3. Congrats on being a licensed Leap 'N Learn studio! When did you first learn about Leap 'N Learn or start using it? Why and how did you get involved with our dance program? Finally, why did you decide to become a licensed studio?

    I met Beverly at The Dance Teacher Summit in New York City in 2013. I had attended a different seminar on teaching ballet to little ones and found myself disagreeing with much of what was offered. I call it inspiration that I ended up in Beverly’s class. As she presented, I could feel the truth behind her program and curriculum and how it relates to children. Four weeks later I flew to Louisiana for a training. I love Leap 'N Learn because it teaches the whole child. It teaches them physically, mentally, emotionally in a safe and loving environment. It is a phenomenal foundation in dance technique, but also how to conduct themselves as a dancer. It also teaches the joy of movement and hard work.
     
  4. What have been the most noticeable changes in your dance studio since applying Leap 'N Learn to what you do?

    More consistency across teachers in what is being taught and the culture of the studio. I have seen increased technique in the younger classes.
     
  5. What types of responses have you received about Leap 'N Learn from your dance teachers, students, or parents? 

    Everyone is really enjoying the curriculum. The students enjoy class, the teachers enjoy teaching, and parents feel that their children are truly learning which makes them feel good about the financial and time commitment.
     
  6. How do you go about adding your own ideas and fitting your studio needs into the Leap 'N Learn curriculum and lesson plans — or vice-versa, how do you apply Leap 'N Learn to what you already do? 

    I had to increase the length of my classes. We have a really wonderful tap program. My open classes starting in kindergarten do ballet and tap. My company students have individual classes. It was a transition this year, but well worth it.
     
  7. In our opinion, there is no better place to work than in the dance world, but often times the hard work required to keep a studio running smoothly stays hidden behind the scenes. What do you find most challenging; how do you best handle such challenges?

    For me with my personality trying to please everyone is the most difficult. I work really hard. Learning to accept that everyone does not have to like what I do or value it has been a journey for me. It is also hard for me when people complain about paying for things such as recital fees, etc. when I am working so hard. If we do our jobs well, we make things look easy. Customers take for granted the hours of preparation and work that have gone into everything running smoothly and being easy for them. I have had to learn to not take things personally and to know that I am competitively positioned in the market place and worthy of pay.

    B.  What tips would you give to your fellow Leap 'N Learn licensed studios for making it through the tougher times?

    Find your vision, what your belief systems are about dance and stick to them. Love your students and remember that we are more than what we do. Our value is so much more than success of our business or our students. I think maintaining a personal identity separate from directing a studio is really important. 
     
  8. What gives you the most joy in your job?

    Seeing students grow as people. Watching an audience come out of performance being thoroughly uplifted and happy. Working with passionate people who share my vision.

We want to give a heartfelt thanks to Nesha Woodhouse of Lifehouse Dance Academy for her responses about running a dance studio and her wonderful approach on dance training. We love this type of non-competitive environment and know her students and staff are lucky to have a great place to take and teach dance class!

Say hi to Nesha and your fellow Leap 'N Learn members by leaving a comment below. Ask Nesha a question, thank her for something she said that struck you, or continue the conversation with everyone by sharing your thoughts on these topics. 

Reminders — 2015 Leap 'N Learn Workshop

One of our favorite events has been added to the calendar! Get ready to attend the annual Leap 'N Learn dance teacher training workshop this August in Lafayette, LA. Please register your two free attendees as soon as possible so we can secure your spot at the event. 

Leap 'N Learn Workshop | August 6-9, 2015

This year there is an added day exclusively for existing LNL members, aka all of you! We've also planned a later start time on Thursday and earlier ending time on Sunday to allow for easier travel arrangements. 

DATES + TIMES:

  • Thursday, August 6* — 10 AM to 6 PM
    *This day is open only to existing LNL licensed studios. 
  • Friday, August 7 — 9 AM to 6 PM
  • Saturday, August 8 — 9 AM to 6 PM
  • Sunday, August 9 — 9 AM to 2 PM

LOCATION + Details:

  • The workshop is held at The Ballet Studio at LSPA in Lafayette, Louisiana. 
  • You can fly in directly to Lafayette Regional Airport (LFT).
  • Ground transportation to and from the airport, hotel, and events will be provided. (Please note transportation can only be provided when staying at the host hotel.)  
  • A discounted rate of $109/night has been secured at our host hotel, SpringHill Suites Marriott. Accommodations must be booked before 7/21/15 to receive the group rate. Click here to book your stay now. 
  • Healthy lunches and snacks will be provided daily from our favorite local sources. 
  • A special event will be planned one night for anyone that would like to attend. 
  • You are welcome to register more than the complimentary two attendees per studio; the cost is $489/person. 

We look forward to seeing you at the workshop!

P.S. If you have any questions, you can leave a comment below or email beverly@leapnlearn.com.

Dance Discussion — Free Dance Ideas

In this short month, a lot of us have love on our minds. Whether we're planning a girl's night to show our best friends how much we appreciate them, looking forward to a romantic date and finding that perfect gift for our sweetheart, or indulging in something special (because there's no reason we can't be our own Valentine), love is in the air. And looking to little ones to see pure love and happiness can be even more adorable. That's why our February dance discussion is inspired by what our students love. 

Our students love the free dance section at the end of every Leap 'N Learn class! This part of class allows children to be creative and move freely, which helps them be more confident in expressing themselves and creating choreography as older dancers, and it's just plain fun! This provides a great opportunity for teachers to be creative too, while still following the monthly lesson plans and working within the Leap 'N Learn class structure. We think it's especially fun to hear about other free dance ideas and get new ideas to try out with our students, and we thought you all might like that too. Plus, if you're in month 6 like us, the objective of expressing emotions through movement seems fitting for the topic and month! 

So, let's share free dance ideas...

This dance discussion doesn't really need any prompts! Just comment below with your favorite free dance ideas. They can be ones directly from the LNL curriculum, LNL ideas that you've tweaked or elaborated upon, original ideas you've come up with or seen at your studio, or creative prompts you've gathered from other sources. Let us know how you brainstorm new ideas, and of course, tell us how they went over in class (stories about students are always the best.)

P.S. Happy Valentine's Day! If you need a quick and easy way to give Valentines to your students, these printable ones (or these) available on Etsy go well with this month's moving like the animals! free dance exercise. 

Featured Leap 'N Learn Studio, B Side — Boynton Beach School of Music, Dance & Drama

Each time we share a featured Leap 'N Learn studio interview on our blog, we also share an expanded, insider edition with all of you on the member site. This gives our interviewees a chance to speak even more candidly and give advice directly to their Leap 'N Learn peers. Check out the additional "B Side" questions below from our latest featured studio!


 

Diane Gwynn McWhorter, Owner
Boynton Beach School of Music, Dance & Drama
Hypoluxo,  Florida
Website | Facebook 

 

An Introduction: “Breeze into Boynton Beach, America’s gateway to the Gulfstream” is the logo in this community. Located in South Florida's Palm Beach County along the Atlantic Ocean, this area boasts exceptional sub-tropical weather year round. On a typical day in this performing arts studio, you will see students arrive in flip-flops and tank tops, even in January! Boynton Beach is the county's third largest city and was the number one rated beach in Palm Beach County in 2001 by the Palm Beach Post. The population within a five-mile radius of the studio is 276,622.

Since the community is growing rapidly (Florida has now become the 3rd largest state in the US), many young families are moving to the area. Boynton Beach School of Music, Dance & Drama has found that families new to the area find their studio to be a place where they and their children can feel at home, and they are continually working to make them feel like they belong.

This performing arts school in Hypoluxo, Florida offers instruction in music, dance, and drama. Their lessons include voice, piano, drums, violin, trumpet, flute, saxophone, clarinet, keyboard, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, bass guitar, trombone, tuba, preschool music, musical theatre, drama, ballet, tap, and jazz dance! They also offer three Broadway-style musicals a year, a music recital at Christmas and one in the spring, and a dance recital in the spring. 

  1. We’ve seen the success you have in your dance studio — fantastic work as that is not a small accomplishment! Tell us how did you get to where you are today professionally and what major stepping stones helped you along the way.

    I have had a passion for music since I was three-years-old and my mother brought home a baby grand piano.

    I am a lyric soprano and have performed with The New York Grand Opera, Opera Theatre of New York, The Miami Opera, The Orlando Opera, and the Palm Beach Opera Companies. Some of my roles include Musetta (La Boheme), Pamina (The Magic Flute), Giannetta (The Elixir of Love) and Marguerite (Faust). I was a finalist in the Metropolitan Opera Company’s regional auditions and a semi-finalist in Sarah Caldwell’s American / Israel Foundation Competition. I had the privilege of performing the role of Kate Pinkerton in the opera Madame Butterfly in Central Park. Some of my roles in the Broadway repertoire include: Eliza Doolittle (My Fair Lady), Maria (West Side Story), Marian (The Music Man), and Maria (The/Sound of Music). While performing in New York, I directed and performed in my own one-woman-show off-Broadway. I attended The University of Florida and Peabody Conservatory of Music, and I hold a Bachelor of Music degree in vocal performance. I was selected as Miss Palm Beach County and Miss University of Florida. I am a member of Delta Delta Delta Sorority.

    B.  What are some of your goals, how do you work towards them, and what indicators do you look to when gauging your success?

    My goal for our dance program is to offer our community a dance program of excellence in manner that is fun and engaging for the student. In addition, personally, when I auditioned for Broadway shows, I could sing and act, but could not dance, so I am EXTREMELY passionate about my singers learning how to dance!
     
  2. There are so many things that time and experience teach us, and we wish we could’ve learned some of these things earlier. What is the most valuable piece of advice you could share with someone starting off in a similar career? 

    Start out growing your dance program with ages three to five years of age. Understand that growing the program will take time and your three- to five-year-old students will eventually become your ballet I, ballet II, etc. students. When I started my dance program, I offered many age categories of dance, but found that the three to five year classes were the only classes to actually fill up.

    B.  Continuing education is key. How do you keep learning even after years of experience? 

    Because I am a musician offering my community dance (and actually don’t have “years of experience”) I rely on Beverly and the Leap 'N Learn program to offer me the continuing education I need. 

    Perhaps this will help another musician offering a dance program to their community. I know which of my voice and piano students are involved in a dance school in my community, and I make sure that I attend any events that they are involved in to see what other dance schools are doing. I also make sure that I attend every dance recital in my area. In addition, I have started attending every professional dance event that my local professional auditorium offers.
     

  3. Congrats on being a licensed Leap 'N Learn studio! When did you first learn about Leap 'N Learn or start using it? Why and how did you get involved with our dance program? Finally, why did you decide to become a licensed studio?

    I learned about the Leap ‘N Learn program through a consultant that I use to help me run my school. I purchased the program when I added the dance program and was one of the first studios in the US to become a licensed studio. I decided to become a licensed studio because it is a program of excellence and Beverly is passionate about continuing to make it a program of excellence. The monthly newsletters are full of tools to help me expand the program, and the summer workshops are invaluable.
     
  4. What have been the most noticeable changes in your dance studio since applying Leap 'N Learn to what you do?

    I have only used curriculums written by Beverly, so from the opening of my dance program, I feel like we looked like we knew what we were doing even though I am a musician, not a dancer.
     
  5. What types of responses have you received about Leap 'N Learn from your dance teachers, students, or parents? 

    My parents love the fact that we offer a very organized, well-thought-out program and they can see their children learn and grow as dancers. I love to hear a parent tell me that their child comes home and practices what they learned in class and they use the terminology correctly. The students really enjoy the “homework” and some bring back what they have colored during the week and they are amazing works of art! The teachers that I have that have a degree from a college in dance are very comfortable teaching the program.
     
  6. How do you go about adding your own ideas and fitting your studio needs into the Leap 'N Learn curriculum and lesson plans — or vice-versa, how do you apply Leap 'N Learn to what you already do? 

    I wanted to try to help the students and families become excited about the theme that we offer in class each month, so we made sure this year that the theme was posted, as the Leap 'N Learn curriculum suggests, in areas where the students enter and the parents are seated while waiting for their child. We also have a small gift that we give out at the end of each month with a “Congratulations Certificate” attached saying “Congratulations you have completed __________ month”. The gift for the musical awareness month was a maraca that I purchased from Party City, and I added a sticker with my logo and a ribbon. Very cute!

    B.  What have you seen work well or what have you needed to change? Any recommendations to share with your fellow Leap 'N Learn licensed studios about how to customize our program?

    I have found that I need to continue to encourage the teachers to stick with the Leap ‘N Learn curriculum.
     
  7. In our opinion, there is no better place to work than in the dance world, but often times the hard work required to keep a studio running smoothly stays hidden behind the scenes. What do you find most challenging; how do you best handle such challenges?

    I am passionate about the music, dance, and drama curriculums and am always thinking about how to make them better. So the business side is the most challenging for me — marketing, advertising, keeping track of finances, making sure the website is current, keeping our Facebook page up-to-date, handouts for upcoming auditions and programs, etc. Having a professional database for the business has been key in keeping things running smoothly.

    Working behind the scenes is my amazing husband of 36 years. He is my biggest cheerleader and biggest fan! He understands the hours of commitment and work involved in running a studio. As a successful businessman, he is able to give me advice on anything involving the business side of the studio. He is also our amazing “repairs and maintenance man!"

    B.  What tips would you give to your fellow Leap 'N Learn licensed studios for making it through the tougher times?

    Honestly, I am still relatively new at running a school of music, dance, and drama. When I was the only teacher I made a very good profit. When expanding the music program and adding a dance and drama program, my goal has been to first and foremost offer my community programs of excellence and secondly to not loose money while growing the programs. Adding these programs, I realized that I needed to purchase pianos, stereo systems, ballet flooring, curriculum for the dance program, database program to run the studio, sheet music, furniture, etc... and I have been able to purchase everything needed and stay within my budget. I guess what I am trying to say is, give yourself a period of a few years to grow your program. This past October, I hit my number of projected music students and increased so much that I had to lease another space. It took three years to reach this goal, which is about the time frame you should give yourself anytime you add a new program. My number for the dance program is 120 dance students (I only have one dance room), and we are at about 40 students. My number for the musical theatre/drama program is 100, and we have about 40 students in that program. I am projecting that we will hit our number for the musical theatre/drama program in 2015-2016 and for the dance program by 2016-2017. 
     
  8. What gives you the most joy in your job?

    It is very exciting to discover students that God has gifted with extraordinary gifts of music, dance, and drama and to have the privilege of helping them grow in their gifts. (One of our voice students will be traveling to Orlando this weekend because she has been selected to be a contestant on The Voice. We are very excited!) It is also a joy to watch students that just have a love of one of the arts and to see their excitement as they grow.

    B.  What tips would you give to your fellow Leap 'N Learn licensed studios for maximizing the positive aspects of owning or working in a dance studio?

    Maximize the joy of watching your students fall in love with the art of dance. It is because of your dream and vision that they are able to then follow their dream of becoming a dancer.
     
  9. If you had to choose only one of your favorite aspects of Leap 'N Learn, what would it be and why?

    The coloring sheets (homework). It sets us apart from other dance studios in our area and really reinforces the concepts taught in class. Students take a piece of the class home and look at it all week.

    B.  How do you make the most of this part of Leap ‘N Learn and utilize it to benefit your studio in the best way?

    I am passionate about the coloring pages (homework). I make a big deal out of each and every page brought to me. Our first present for month one, was a pink binder with each of their coloring pages inserted.
     
  10. Anything else you’d like to share with dance studio owners and teachers, or perhaps to Leap 'N Learn students and their parents?

    To any new dance studio owner, I would just like to reinforce that this is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes time to grow a program of excellence, and it takes about three years to show a profit.

    B.  Anything else you’d like to share specifically with your fellow Leap 'N Learn licensed studios?

    Continue to trust Beverly and encourage her. She continues to amaze me with her long range plans for Leap 'N Learn. I am thrilled that as my students graduate from the Leap “N Learn program, Beverly is working on the next phase of a dancer's education and is making plans on how best to continue to offer our students programs of excellence as they age and advance in their skills.
 

We'd like to give a big thanks to Diane Gwynn McWhorter of Boynton Beach School of Music, Dance & Drama for her time and thoughtful responses. It's great to see things from the perspective of a music professional and to see how she's successfully growing all of her school's programs. 

 

Say hello to Diane and other Leap 'N Learn members by leaving a comment below. You can thank Diane for her insights, share your own related stories, or ask questions to keep the conversation going.