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. 

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. 

Featured Leap 'N Learn Studio, B Side — Pure Dance Works

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!


 

Tiina Hazelett, Director
Pure Dance Works
Fort Wayne, Indiana
Website | Facebook | Twitter

 

A Quick Introduction: Pure Dance Works is located in Fort Wayne, Indiana. In its fourth year of business, Pure Dance Works is providing quality dance education to young students and has implemented Leap 'N Learn fully to allow each student to shine. 

  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.

    While I am thrilled to be the director of Pure Dance Works, I have to give God all of the credit for the stepping stones that have led me to this place. Looking back, I see a meandering variety of stepping stones; choices and events that were gradually leading me to a place I never could have imagined twenty years ago...


    1: First Steps — Naturally, my first steps towards today started in the dance studio I grew up in, where I primarily studied ballet. 

    2: Major Step — I earned my bachelor’s degree in psychology from Indiana University. 

    3: Welcome Mat — Fast forward several years and add wife, mom, and home school teacher to my hat collection. 

    4: A Hop, Skip and a Jump — When my three daughters started taking dance seriously, I decided it was time to step back into the dance world. Eventually I started teaching ballet and tap at the studio where we took classes. I discovered Leap 'N Learn while researching information on teaching effective ballet classes for preschoolers. It was love at first sight for me, but the studio director was not interested in using it. Although this appeared to be an obstacle, it turns out it was stepping stone number four.

     5: Diamond in the Rough — In 2009, I attended Dance Revolution, where I met Misty Lown when she was leading a teacher’s workshop. I talked with her about my frustration with not being able to use the curriculum I knew would be so good for my students. She suggested that I start my own "baby studio" that catered to young children. This gem of a stone appeared as a barely perceptible spot in my path, but ultimately its light steered me towards a professional career I had never even dreamed of. I tried to dismiss the idea as undoable. But the seed had been planted, and over the next two years it slowly germinated.

    6: Steppin’ Up — That same year (2009) presented a huge boulder of a stepping stone in my path. My husband, Jason Hazelett, owner of Steppin’ Up Physical Therapy, started building a second clinic. Part of his plan was to include a studio offering fitness classes where patients and the community at large could come to get fit and stay fit as a way of preventing and eliminating common pains and injuries that land people in physical therapy. It was with the creation of this studio that our professional paths joined on this huge bolder, boosting us together into the world of community fitness as part of Steppin’ Up’s overarching mission of promoting health in our area.

    7: Paving Stone — It took a while to climb up and over that boulder, but eventually in 2011, I laid the paving stone for Pure Dance Works when I became a tenant of the studio. I bought the Leap 'N Learn pre-ballet curriculum and used it along with Creative Dance for All Ages by Anne Green-Gilbert to create lesson plans that had specific objectives and built on each other in an effective way. For two years, this was rewarding and successful, but I was always working to create lesson plans for the upcoming weeks. I was pretty stressed out.

    8: The Granite Slab — In August 2013, two weeks before fall classes were to begin, I was online trying to purchase some new Leap ‘N Learn movement scarves, when I discovered that Leap ‘N Learn products were no longer available to the general public, but could only be purchased by licensed studios as part of a recently implemented quality control system. I also learned that licensed studios had access to tested and proven monthly lesson plans incorporating all of the wonderful objectives, movement concepts, education-based skills and age appropriate ballet technique contained in the curriculum. I immediately filled out an application to become a Leap 'N Learn licensed studio, was thrilled to be recognized and accepted because of Pure Dance Works’ child-friendly training methods, and flew to Louisiana with one of my employees over Memorial Day Weekend for the required training workshop. This was like coming upon a massive, strong and beautiful piece of granite in my path. The Leap 'N Learn licensing has afforded Pure Dance Works a solid ground to continue to grow on. 

    At the Leap ‘N Learn training workshop, I was surprised to learn that two of the other studio owners had very similar backgrounds to my own. We all own a dance studio, hold degrees in psychology, and home school our children. That's a pretty rare combination. But I believe it is precisely this mix of traits that drew me and these other women to the Leap 'N Learn curriculum in the first place. The careful weaving of education-based concepts and developmental abilities along with age-appropriate ballet technique explains why it is so attractive to someone with a background in dance, psychology, and a vested interest in education. Here I finally saw how all of these God-ordained stepping stones, from my first ballet lesson as a child, to being accepted as a Leap ‘N Learn licensed studio, had been leading me all along to where I am professionally today.

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

    One of my goals is to hold a recital every other year starting in the spring on 2016. The first three springs, we have hosted an informal end-of-year party where students can show off their skills in carnival-style games with prizes and a short stage demo by age groups. We will do that again in the spring of 2015.


    I didn’t want to do a recital until I knew we could do it well. Now that owning a studio is no longer a brand-new experience, and I have seen growth in my students’ technical abilities, I feel like we are ready as a studio to start preparing for the myriad of details I know that a recital entails. 

    For this goal, I’ve worked towards it by taking one year at a time, patiently building the program and my students. Now that I feel more confident as a business owner and teacher, and I see that my returning students are ready for a performance, I feel that we are successfully reaching a place where we can put on a show worth participating in as a dancer and an audience member. 

    Another goal is to continue to increase my income by raising tuition rates incrementally and increasing my enrollment until I feel like I’m making enough of a profit to justify the hours I put into the studio. I love what I do, and my family has always functioned on only my husband’s income. I told myself when I started the studio that I’d be content to break even the first three years, never be in debt, and not count on a profit until year four. So far there has been a little more left at the end of each year for me to do what I please with, but now it is year four, so I am actually transferring money for my teaching hours to a savings account each month and hoping the studio doesn’t need it back. 

    I’m working towards the goal of increasing tuition by increasing tuition a little each year, and not feeling bad about it. This year the increase was five percent. I am having tuition auto-withdrawn monthly in nine equal payments. Next year I will do ten equal payments and increase the price again, perhaps more than five percent. However, because of the extra payment, it will feel less expensive per month to parents, even though per week it will be more. 

    I am continuously reaching out to the community in different ways to increase enrollment. I’ve tried all sorts of advertising from newspaper to postcards to radio. Don’t think I’ll ever do any of those again. Now I’m experimenting with a DataSphere online package and the local Welcome Wagon. I donate gift certificates to silent auctions and the like frequently. The way I gauge the success of these marketing attempts is that every time someone registers for a class, they are required to say how they heard about us. What works best for me is Facebook and word of mouth. Because of this I am happy to spend money on Facebook ads and posts and offer parents a $10 credit for each friend that registers and mentions that they heard about us form them. I’m not sure how motivating that $10 is though, and I want to capitalize on the fact that most people hear about us from a friend. I’m thinking about doing a special promotion that offers them a free month’s tuition for a referral… that’s quite a bit more than $10, but if it motivates them to talk and brings in a new student, that more than covers the tuition. I’m also thinking about doing a free bring-a-friend class the week of Thanksgiving (we have no classes all week) and getting friends in the door that way. A similar event last year brought at least two new students directly from the event.

    Obviously, successfully reaching this goal will mean I am earning a fair wage for my hours teaching and directing the studio.
     

  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? 

    Take it slow, be patient, and don’t over-commit yourself. Learn to do small things well, and add on from there. 

    When I started Pure Dance Works, I thought I’d offer classes for babies through adults. I quickly learned that 300 students of all ages don’t flock to the doors of a brand new studio, so I pared it down after a year to ages three to six. Now I’m adding age groups each year that grow with my students. Do parents of two- or thirteen-year-olds call sometimes to ask about classes? Yes, and I hate to turn them away, but we will get there eventually, and we will do it well.

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

    I love to take class from master teachers. I love to attend workshops and training sessions designed for studio owners. Those things are not always easy to get to or cheap, but they are worth it. I also love to read and listen online to things like the member section of Leap 'N Learn's website or Dance Studio Owner’s monthly calls and the other resources they offer studio owners. Resources like these are readily available for a reasonable fee, and they are very, very insightful. I also have read many books that relate to what I do — books on ballet anatomy, ballet pedagogy, I’ve even been known to sit down and read ballet dictionaries! The ballet world is vast; I will never know it all. There is always room for growth.

     

  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?

    [Please check out question number one, especially part 4 and 8, to learn how Tiina and Pure Dance Works became involved with Leap 'N Learn.]
     
  4. What have been the most noticeable changes in your dance studio since applying Leap 'N Learn to what you do?

    We have used Leap 'N Learn at least in part since the inception of Pure Dance Works, so it’s not like we had to rearrange an existing program to implement Leap 'N Learn. As we’ve gradually implemented more and more Leap 'N Learn principles; however, I have definitely seen steady improvement in our program. 


    One area that we did not follow in the beginning was the recommended age groups. The first year we had three- to four-year-olds, five- to six-year-olds, and seven- to ten-year-olds together with up to twelve kids per class. I quickly realized that there is a reason Leap 'N Learn divides students into twelve-month age groups and limits class sizes to eight kids for three-year-olds and ten kids for four-year-olds. There is such a huge difference between what a three- and four-year-old or a five- and six-year-old are capable of doing. The fact that the curriculum is designed to meet each age group where they are at developmentally, including not only physical abilities, but their social, emotional, and cognitive development as well, means that lesson plans respect the ability of each child, and it does not ask them to do something they are not ready for. Nor does it hold them back because younger children can’t do what older ones could. Offering classes in the recommended age groups has positively improved the quality of our classes in a major way.

    Compared to other studios I have taught at or my kids attended as small children, I’d say the most noticeable difference is the use of imaginative play built into curriculum. At the same time, Leap 'N Learn teaches kids “real” ballet, rather than just playing games at an early age. This translates to excited, happy students who are engaged, love ballet, and are learning what they are capable of from an early age. Another difference is the intentional use of education-based concepts that compliment what kids are learning at each age level. I see myself as an educator as much as a dance teacher, and I really appreciate that we are intentionally reinforcing important early childhood education concepts with our class material.
     

  5. What types of responses have you received about Leap 'N Learn from your dance teachers, students, or parents? 

    Teachers love it, partly because the lesson plans and playlists are already done for them, but mostly because they can see it works. 


    One parent commented on a survey that she appreciates that we teach real ballet, not just a bunch of games. Another mom recently called to register her six-year-old and told me that the reason she choose us was because we place younger students based on developmental ability rather than experience. I have had a parent who was moving away ask me if I knew if there was Leap 'N Learn studio in the city she was moving to. I knew there was not, unfortunately, but it was nice to hear that she valued the Leap 'N Learn name enough to look for that in a new community. You can read more quotes from parents on the Testimonials page of our website. Not all are related directly to Leap 'N Learn, but many refer to the curriculum we use.

    We always ask our students what their favorite thing was after each class, and typically it’s whatever the guided free dance activity was. They love pretending and getting to put what they know into a little free dance time.
     

  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? 

    After two years of doing part Leap 'N Learn and part Creative Dance For All Ages by Anne Green-Gilbert, we are now on our second year of following the Leap 'N Learn lesson plans exclusively and love every bit of it. We now also follow all age group, class size, and time recommendations along with following the lesson plans to a T. I don’t want to change a thing. It just works.

    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?

    Nope. See my answer to 6a. I can see how if you’re established as a studio and then take on Leap 'N Learn, you’d have to choose what to adjust and what not to. I’m sure many have thirty-minute classes for their preschoolers and struggle with how to make those classes longer. I’d figure out a way to make it happen. You’re giving up too much valuable material when you have shorter class times. My advice is just follow Leap 'N Learn all the way as soon as you can.
     
  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?

    One thing I used to find most challenging was creating effective lesson plans for each age group. I never wanted to just teach students steps and little dances; I want them to truly understand what they are learning, be engaged, and enjoy using what they’ve learned. I handled that challenge by working long hours on lesson plans before. Then I permanently solved it by becoming a Leap 'N Learn licensed studio. Woo-hoo!

    Now my biggest challenge is probably finding effective teachers. I’ve had a few great ones that I hand picked, and a few that didn’t work out who answered help-wanted ads. I’ve taught the vast majority of the classes for the last three years, and I love teaching, but I don’t want to live at the studio. This year I’ve employed several teens who have strong ballet training to be my assistants. Eventually they will become fully-trained teachers. I’ve learned that it’s best to hand pick employees rather than post a help-wanted ad. When your employees are working with children and their job it to teach ballet correctly, it’s best to know who and what you’re getting up front.

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

    Think outside the box, and don’t reinvent the wheel. Don’t do something the same way just because that’s how you’ve always done it. Look for resources to help you with your dilemma. Seek support and advice from others in your field.

     

  8. What gives you the most joy in your job?

    I love being in class, teaching my students. I love interacting with them, making them laugh, seeing their excitement when I announce that we are about to do a favorite activity. I adore my students, and building relationships with them brings me great joy.

    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?

    For studio owners or business directors, I’d say automate as much of your processes as much as possible. I use MainStreetSites.com for my website, online registration, email communications, and tuition collection. This has been a life saver in terms of the work I’d otherwise have to do collecting and tracking everything. I love Main Street because they are very reasonably priced and have excellent customer service. There are lots of programs out there to help you; find one that fits you and use it!


    Build a great team that works well together, respects each other, and is on board with what you’re trying to accomplish as a studio. Don’t be afraid to dismiss those who are always arguing with you, not pulling their weight, or just did not turn out to be a great fit. 

    For dance teachers, I’d say come to class prepared to teach and enjoy giving your students the best hour of their week!
     

  9. If you had to choose only one of your favorite aspects of Leap 'N Learn, what would it be and why?

    Oh, that’s hard! I think my favorite would be the careful attention to the developmental abilities of each age group. I love that not only are the child’s physical capabilities taken into consideration, but their cognitive, social, and emotional abilities as well. I love knowing that the things I’m asking my students to do are possible for them to do. I love that we intentionally foster each age groups’ social skills with the interactions and manners we require of them in class, as well as their emotional development as we engage in pretend play. I love that we are increasing student’s cognitive abilities as they are asked to recognize or perform patterns or count music. I love that I can tell parents that a six-year-old can start in a class with other six-year-olds even if she’s never had ballet before because what we do is based on a six-year-old’s developmental abilities, not on how many years she’s taken ballet. The best part about it though is that it makes for effective lesson plans that respect children, meet them where they are at, take them by the hand, and lead them further down the path on their developmental journey. It not only helps students to become well-trained ballerinas, but well-rounded people.

    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?

    It’s all over my website and printed material. I talk about it during parent performances. I post it in Facebook ads and tell parents in mass emails to my subscription list. I blog about it and tell every parent that calls for information. I feel that it is really one of the keys that sets Leap 'N Learn apart from other ballet classes for children, and parents do get it and love it.
     
  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 students and parents — Thank you for choosing a Leap ‘N Learn studio! I really feel that Leap 'N Learn is the crowned jewel of childhood ballet training programs. As a studio owner, I wouldn’t pay to have the license if I didn’t think so; it would be a waste of resources. I know that your ballet-minded child will flourish in his or her Leap 'N Learn classes, and you will not only be comfortable knowing that your child is being trained in a safe, fun, effective environment, but also ecstatic about the things he or she is learning about ballet and beyond.

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

    Thank you for supporting Leap 'N Learn and for providing your students with the best dance education possible!
 

We want to thank Tiina Hazelett of Pure Dance Works for being so open and sharing so much of her story and insight with all of us! Her path to getting involved with dance education and opening her own studio is relatable and inspiring — and we have a feeling it can act as a great model for others too. We couldn't be happier that she's experiencing positive results and enjoying all the benefits of Leap 'N Learn, and of course, that her students are developing into great dancers and well-rounded children — and having fun in the process! 

 

Get to know Tiina and the other like-minded Leap 'N Learn members better by leaving a comment below. You can thank Tiina for her awesome responses, ask questions, or talk about any ideas that were sparked by reading this interview!

Featured Leap 'N Learn Studio, B Side — Steps of Faith Dance Studio

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!


Julie Bridges, Owner and Instructor
Steps of Faith Dance Studio
Lumberton, Texas
Website | Facebook | Instagram

A Quick Introduction: Steps of Faith Dance Studio is located in Lumberton, Texas. Lumberton is a thriving and growing town full of wonderful people who are very involved in their children’s lives. Steps of Faith is a Christian dance studio offering a faith based dance education.

  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 am very thankful for how far Steps of Faith has come in 11 years. It is truly amazing to see what God has done. Our beginnings were very humble! 

    One of the major factors that contributed to our success has been the commitment to loving children and giving them our very best.

    We also strive to improve every year. It is very important to us that we never stop learning and growing as dance educators, and as a dance family.

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

    One of my major goals is that of EXCELLENCE. Being excellent requires admitting weaknesses and mistakes, and constantly striving to improve in every area. I work toward this goal by continuing to learn and grow as a teacher and leader of others. 

    I gauge my success by the joy in children’s faces in class and by the positive feedback from parents and community members. 

     
  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? 

    The best and most honest advice I can give anyone is PRAY, and not just pray, but pray a lot. Working with children is very rewarding, but also very challenging. I believe that in order to be truly successful we all need wisdom, knowledge, and understanding that is beyond our own human nature.

    Also, I feel it is very important to be genuine. Truly care about students and their families.

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

    I have purchased MANY books! I also have invested in numerous DVDs and other materials from Finis Jhung and other leaders in our field. My staff and I also attend training and conventions. I think it is crucial that we stay true to our roots, but also strive to be “current.”

     
  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 came across information on Leap 'N Learn many years ago while ordering materials from another website. I ordered what was available then which was curriculum for 3 to 6 year olds. I fell in love with it instantly. It was superior in every way. It transformed and revolutionized my little ballet classes. All of a sudden there was wonderful structure and joy! As a former public school teacher, I loved the idea of following a set curriculum. It was also so in line with my ideals and philosophies of education. When I found out that Leap 'N Learn had expanded and licensing was being offered, I was ecstatic! I had to be a part of something that I had such great success with and that I believed in so whole-heartedly.
     
  4. What have been the most noticeable changes in your dance studio since applying Leap 'N Learn to what you do?

    My favorite thing is that there is just pure joy in the early childhood dance classes! However, not only that, but the technique of the dancers who have been under Leap 'N Learn instruction for numerous years, is strong. I am very proud to see that. I can send my older students out in to the community and be proud of what they can do, and what they know of dance terminology and technique.
     
  5. What types of responses have you received about Leap 'N Learn from your dance teachers, students, or parents? 

    We have open house once a year. Parents come in and observe class. I normally get so much positive feedback. Parents tell me they are so surprised at HOW MUCH we are teaching them in class. This is a wonderful feeling! 
     
  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? 

    At this point, with the revised and expanded Leap 'N Learn curriculum, I am trying to follow it as closely as possible. I have found it to be very thorough and complete and not really in need of a lot of modification.

    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 honestly feel it all works beautifully. I am so very pleased with it. My classes are not broken up the same way Mrs. Beverly’s are this year. I have some age groups together and the levels are different. This may be the only challenge I have seen. Next season, I will group my students in classes exactly as the curriculum suggests, and I feel that will make everything even easier.

     
  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?

    The most challenging thing for me was trying to handle parts of the business that I cared very little about, like the student accounts and billing, payroll, ordering dance wear and costumes, etc. I was thankfully able to hire fabulous people who take care of all of that for me! What a joy to be able to focus on my true love and passion… being in the classroom with the students. It is wonderful when you can surround yourself with people that you trust, so that you can focus on what you are really called to do. This is a major blessing. Delegate!

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

    Again, I would just have to be honest and say, “Don’t worry about anything, instead pray about everything.” Philippians 4:6-7 

    This is how I have made it successfully through many difficult things. This will help you have hope and the very important positive attitude that will take you to the other side of the difficulty.

     
  8. What gives you the most joy in your job?

    I receive the most joy when I am making children happy. To have a class full of smiling, giggling, laughing little children who are learning at the same time… it doesn’t get any better than that in my book!

    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?

    I think it is extremely important that we focus on those things that are important to us and not try to do everything. Trying to do too much can drain the life, passion, and joy out of us. Learn to say NO to things that will take away from what is truly meaningful to you. It is all about focus too. When we focus on the good, the good will be magnified. Don’t “feed” the negative and it will eventually “starve” and diminish. For example, sometimes we may receive one negative comment from a parent. That one negative comment can cause us to forget the 10 positive comments we got before that. We have to make it a habit to focus on the good and the positive aspects of what we do. This takes determination and real effort.
     
  9. If you had to choose only one of your favorite aspects of Leap 'N Learn, what would it be and why?

    I love the pretend play aspect that is a huge part of Leap 'N Learn. We get to be mermaids, flowers, kangaroos, rockets, flamingos, etc. We rock our babies to sleep, march in a marching band, move like ocean life and so much more! What child wouldn’t love such opportunities? Furthermore, in the midst off all the fun, they are receiving instruction in ballet that provides them a firm and solid foundation.

    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 enjoy this aspect as much as the kids. I love being silly and making them smile and laugh. It is just so much fun for me as well as for them! This is what makes them love dance. This is why I have so many parents telling me their children love dance and can’t wait to get back to class each week. I just try to bring all of the enthusiasm I can, as suggested in the curriculum. It is contagious!
     
  10. Anything else you’d like to share with dance studio owners and teachers, or perhaps to Leap 'N Learn students and their parents?

    Leap 'N Learn is fabulous. I truly believe in the superiority of this program. There is nothing else that can hold a candle to it. Beverly Spell is so creative and truly amazing. Annie Spell is brilliant. The two of them together have developed something unique and special. I am honored to be a part of it.

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

    As you probably already realize, you have made a wonderful choice in aligning your studio with Leap 'N Learn! Following such a wonderful curriculum… we just can’t go wrong!

We want to give a big thanks to Julie Bridges of Steps of Faith Dance Studio! We appreciate her time, thoughtful responses, and partnership. And in return, we can't go wrong when we work with studios this excited about teaching dance, so thanks for that too.

Julie also shared so many adorable photos of her teaching Leap 'N Learn. Browse through them below — we know you'll recognize these fun exercises! 

Please feel free to connect with Julie, and your fellow Leap 'N Learn studio owners, by leaving a comment or starting a conversation below. Introduce yourself, let us know what you learned, ask questions, and maybe even share a story or piece of advice that you thought of when reading this interview.

Featured Leap 'N Learn Studio, B Side — Tamara Howe School of Dance

As you know, one of our favorite perks of running Leap 'N Learn is the opportunity to work with some of the best children dance educators and studios in the world — aka all of you and your businesses! And we don't want to keep that just to ourselves, so we're spreading the word about our licensed Leap 'N Learn studios on our blog. But even more so, we want all of our members to know that being a part of our dance community has another great perk for you too — access to each other! 

So each time we share a featured Leap 'N Learn studio, we'll have an expanded, insider edition for just members. 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!


Tamara Howe, Owner and Director
Tamara Howe School of Dance
Salina, Kansas
Website | Facebook | Pinterest

A Quick Introduction: The Tamara Howe School of Dance provides professional, quality dance instruction for children, young adults, and adults. A variety of classes are offered to meet each dancers needs. We take great pride in our training techniques and educationally based programs. It is our objective to inspire passion for the art of dance in every child who passes through our doors. Participation at Tamara Howe School of Dance goes far beyond mastering steps, learning dances, and winning awards. It encompasses much more including building self-esteem, encouraging team work, developing self-discipline, musicality, self-expression, and appreciation for the language, art, and history of dance. Our goal is to create memories for you and your dancer and to help your dancer reach their greatest potential with confidence in whatever path in life they may choose.

Tamara Howe
Tamara Howe
  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, like many studio owners, grew up dancing at my local dance studio. I began with a tap class at the age of five. My mom needed a something to focus my energy as I spent most days just dancing around my house. Through my elementary and junior high ages, I tried various classes, quit a few years here and there, but really fell in love again with dance at the end of junior high. I continued through high school taking every class I could and assisting classes. I continued my love of dance while in college and majored with a BFA in Dance and Kinesiology and Health Promotion. 

    After moving to a new town, I wanted to teach again and found a few wonderful studios in which to share my love of learning with others. Upon the closing of one studio, I was asked by the studio director if I would open my own studio so her students could continue. Having always been a part of a studio, I wanted to expand upon that and open a place of my own. We have now been open for seven years and have really enjoyed this opportunity. Teacher workshops, business events, and continued support have really been catalysts to our continued growth.

    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 our goals change yearly. I continue to look at ways to improve our students' success. I look at what we can do as a school to engage our students, offer them more, grow them not only as dancers but as people, but at the same time being mindful of their time. Many of our students commute thirty to sixty minutes one way and are not able to be here every day so our time management of classes for them is a necessity. 

    We continually work towards those goals, but evaluating where we are seeing growth in our class numbers, teacher availability, program success and, where we need improvement [is important too]. Where do we see a need for student improvement? What programs are really/are really not successful? What can we add in to make it more efficient? We have a wonderful staff that continually offers great feedback on how to improve upon our current model.
     

  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? 

    Be okay with not having everything right at the beginning. Businesses are built one brick at a time. We started small with our business and have added as we’ve been able. I wanted to offer quality over quantity and have worked hard to ensure that we are able to continue with that goal in mind. Know also that it is okay to ask for help. Go, learn, explore… do all the things we ask our dancers to do. Take time to take a few business classes, and again, ask for help. There is so much valuable input at any level that we can all give to one another. In this business, you can often feel isolated. It’s important to reach out as many others encounter the same situations the we do in our own businesses and have great feedback.

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

    Myself and my staff continue to attend workshops. Our studio hosts one to two workshops a year. I love being a part of programs like Leap 'N Learn where I get monthly feedback and support. Anything that I can do to help me grow as a person, learn more about my business, and how to give more to my students, I love to take part in those opportunities.

     

  3. Congrats — you are among the first of the licensed Leap ‘N Learn studios! 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? 

    We began with Leap 'N Learn from the beginning. In looking for a syllabus that would assist me in planning, I came across the Leap 'N Learn website. I ordered the syllabus and saw an immediate response from my students. For seven years now, we have continued through the curriculum and have utilized all of the materials that have been offered. Having seen our studios for the past five plus years grow with this program, you can see the growth through the levels. There is still so much that I would like to do with it in our school. I decided to continue with the licensing process as this information is so rich. The syllabus makes my day easier, gives continuity to all of our classes, gives my teachers confidence and allows us to all be on the same page. Beverly has done a fantastic job of building this program, and I’ve been so excited to be a part of learning and growing as a teacher.
     

  4. What have been the most noticeable changes in your dance studio since applying Leap ‘N Learn to what you do? 

    There are no questions as to what to follow. Each year as we continue our syllabus, the teachers grow in their confidence with the material. My students know what to expect in the classes. There is structure to what we do and a reason to why we do it. We had always had structure, but the level of the material has allowed us to reach further with what we are doing not only for our older students but also for our youngest students.
     

  5. What types of responses have you received about Leap ‘N Learn from your dance teachers, students, or parents? 

    Our parents love that they can talk with their students after class about what they have learned with the coloring pages. They appreciate the vocabulary learned at such a young age. I have three-year-olds that can describe a word, what it means, and show the action correctly. The students love creative movement. They remember from year-to-year the activities and ask for them by name. There is nothing more precious than free movement from a child. My teachers appreciate the in-depth explanation of movements. They feel confident about what they are teaching and how it is supposed to be done. It takes so much guessing work out of the schedule for them. They notice how quickly students “pick-up” choreography as they’ve had all the building blocks through the class work to put it all together.
     

  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? 

    Our class times are not as long as recommended for our younger students. We often have to adapt exercises to fit within our time frame. We also combine ages five and six and have worked to combine exercises for that level. I have always had to do this so it is not a huge adjustment. I find also with some of our recreational or late-start students, I have to move an age level down. The material is so guided that it is easy to switch a level if needed and students typically quickly pick up.

    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?

    Leap 'N Learn gives a good framework for you to build on. While the lesson plans are set and the age levels are given, it is easy to weave it into what you currently offer. I have found that with using the syllabus for so long that my view and focus of class time and class scheduling continually changes. I am looking forward to changing bits and pieces for next year so that I can offer more ballet time. You would think that my older "tween" students would like to take anything but ballet. However, this fall, my heart sang when I walked into my twelve- to thirteen-year-old-ballet class. I had seventeen kids! They take a combination class with ballet, tap, and jazz, and out of all three classes, ballet had the most students. Our ballet has grown, and I’m excited to see where it is taking us. They love what they learn, and we love that Leap 'N Learn has helped us to foster that love for ballet in our students.

     

  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? 

    With every season there is a new adventure. While we would all love to just be in the studio teaching, that is rarely the case. Bookwork and paperwork is the hardest for me. Just keeping up with the day-to-day scheduling, correspondence, and office work. Fortunately, I have some wonderful people who offer great support. You have to lean on others when you don’t know where to go. Hiring and giving tasks that may not be your strongest suit to others has allowed me the ability to focus on other areas within our business that need attention.

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

    When you encounter rough situations or difficult times, you have to continue on. Tough times help us to grow and make us stronger. I think there is valuable learning in every phase of life. Everything we encounter teaches us something that we are supposed to know. Look for the good, because there is good, in everything, and you will find it — and hold on to that. That mindset has really helped me through the years.

     

  8. What gives you the most joy in your job? 

    My kids. I say my kids as the kids at the studio really are my kids. I love hearing them lined up at the door. I love seeing them grow. I just enjoy getting to be a part of their lives and seeing their confidence bloom through dance. That is such a great joy.

    My studio growing up was my second home. It was the place where I felt most comfortable. It was the place where I felt I could go and just be myself and really be me. I know that our studio is that same place for many dancers. What a blessing to be able to offer that to students knowing that this comforting place, where they can just be, will give them the opportunity to flourish and grow into themselves.

    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?

    Working with children is such a special opportunity. They come to learn dance but learn so much more than that. If we can provide that safe environment and be that positive light in their day, we help them grow. We want our students to come and take lessons, but often the most valuable lessons learned are the ones they teach us. Every business has it’s ebbs and flows, find the joy within.

     

  9. If you had to choose only one of your favorite aspects of Leap ‘N Learn, what would it be and why? 

    All the great manipulatives and tools!

    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?

    We love all the fun manipulatives! They dancers remind me often if I forget to use them. They are integrated into all of our lessons and even some choreography. There are so many fabulous CDs, scarves, ribbons, mats, and more. We see a greater engagement in our students when they are utilized during class time.

     

  10. Anything else you’d like to share with dance studio owners and teachers, or perhaps to Leap ‘N Learn students and their parents? 

    Leap 'N Learn has provided such a wonderful curriculum for our students. I encourage you to try a Leap 'N Learn studio. Watch a class of students and see their joy in and out of class. We all want our students to have fun, but we want them to be learning too. Through a Leap 'N Learn class, your dancer will not only be learning the framework to basic ballet skills; they will be developing their listening skills, developing creativity, working on basic class room behavior, and so much more. We love this program and know that you will too!

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

    Thank you Beverly and Annie for all you do! I can't begin to explain how the work you've done in creating and fine tuning your syllabus has been a benefit to me. We continually appreciate it!

     

Tamara Howe School of Dance

Again, we want to give a huge thanks to Tamara Howe of Tamara Howe School of Dance! We appreciate her time, thoughtful responses, and partnership! 

Please feel free to connect with Tamara, and your fellow Leap 'N Learn studio owners, by conversing in the comments below. Introduce yourself, let us know what you learned, ask questions, and maybe even share a story or piece of advice that you thought of when reading this interview...