A Dancer’s Tools

Dancer's bagA painter needs a paintbrush to complete their piece of art, a sculptor needs clay to make a masterpiece and a musician can’t play a song without their instrument. On the other hand a soccer player needs a ball to score a goal, a football player needs a helmet to protect their head and ice skaters can’t get on the ice without a proper pair of skates. Dancers are artistic athletes who use their bodies to tell a story and express their art form through movement. Without the proper tools this can be extremely difficult. To set your dancer up for success you need to make sure they have the proper tools.

When a studio enforces a dress code they are preparing your child for success and safety in class. As dance teachers we try to ensure that students have what they need to succeed. Can you imagine trying to learn tap with shoes that are too big or doing a jump in a pair of ballet shoes that are too tight? How about doing a turn when your hair gets in your eyes or having a necklace with tons of beads that break all over the floor where people are dancing? These are all things that I encounter everyday as a dance teacher and I want to help parents and students understand why there is a need for a dress code and how to set your student up for success.

Look like a dancerI had a teacher once say, “To feel like a dancer you must look like a dancer.”  When instructors are able to properly see alignment they can prevent injuries and incorrect habits. If a student is wearing clothing that is too baggy around their middle I might not be able to help them strengthen their abdominals to prevent back injury. A pair of baggy pants over the knees would not let me see if the student is tracking their knees over their toes to prevent a muscular imbalance in the leg. Habits are hard to break and the sooner I can correct them the better. We all want our children to grow up to be healthy active adults with little or no injury and I am here to start them on that right track.

Dancers should wear clothing that does not have to be re-adjusted during the course of his/her class. A dancer should be able to move freely without restriction. I sometimes have students who play with their attire (i.e. roll skirts up in their hands, put clothing in their mouth, pull clothing into the incorrect area). Can you imagine the distraction that it causes for not only the student who is mesmerized by their clothing, but also the other students who might want to play with their own outfit in the same way? This is even distracting for the teacher who is trying to correct a student’s movements and can’t since they are playing with their clothing instead of dancing. If your child tends to be tactile perhaps the best outfit for dance is a plain leotard with tights. This type of outfit is very classic, simple and easy to move in. I also want to note that jean shorts are not dance attire. They aren’t easy to move in, nor do they cover properly when stretching, kicking or jumping. Our Urban instructor, Emily Alvarez, puts it perfectly, “Feel free to express yourself, but please do not wear anything you wouldn’t wear to school or an interview (i.e. tiny spandex shorts, exposed midriff, sagging shorts with exposed underwear).”

Tights are wonderfulTights are highly recommended to protect the feet from blisters. I know it seems counter intuitive to wear tights when the temperature is 110 degrees outside, but it is the contrary. When a dancer wears all leather dance shoes (which is the kind of shoe that they should have) their feet sweat and swell in the shoe. A pair of tights will absorb the sweat and keep the shoe comfortable to move in.  When the student then goes to change into their next shoe (be it tap or jazz) it will slide on easily. Socks are not recommended to wear with ballet, tap or jazz shoes. These shoes should only fit when wearing tights, if you have socks on with them it is hard to feel the floor and move your foot freely in the shoe. If you have to wear a pair of socks with your ballet or tap shoes then they are too big. All shoes should be fit with a pair of tights. Socks don’t slide into dance shoes with the same ease as a pair of tights and when you are trying to change an entire class of 3-5 year olds into the next shoe, the easiest way is always the best way. Tights are also a good idea is for the safety and health of your student. With open wounds and sores (otherwise known as boo-boos) we always run the risk of spreading diseases. Keep his or her precious legs covered so when we can all be safe when we are on the dance floor.

Hair pulled backAll hair should be pulled back and secured. Did you know that I once did a turn on stage with my hair in a low, long ponytail and sucked a piece of hair down my throat? No joke. From then on it was bun or braid for me only. The students in all levels are working on turns and their hair needs to be pulled up and out of their face and eyes. A hair stuck in the eye is no fun either.

For the dancer’s safety, dangling jewelry is not allowed. Not only do we run the risk of having the jewelry break and leave tiny pieces all over the floor, but also it is a distraction for the student. They tend to play with necklaces and bracelets and end up taking them off halfway through the class anyways. We should lessen the distraction by just removing it prior to dance class.

Do you know what style of shoe is required for your dancer’s class? Urban dance requires shoes, sneakers or “kicks” that should be flat on the bottom (try not to wear running shoes, they are harder to move around in). We ask that all urban students designate a pair of shoes that are used strictly for urban. Please carry in your urban shoes and only wear them in the studio to keep the dance floor clean and free from debris. These Urban students will find themselves on the floor working on breaking moves and they don’t want to be dancing in a pile of sand from their shoes that they wore on the playground too.

For ballet, tap, and jazz I highly recommend buying your shoes from a local dancewear store. There are some shoes on the market, which are not good quality (sold at Big Box stores) and can actually hurt your dancer’s feet. The dancewear stores can size your child’s foot and make sure they get a proper fit. Please check that the fitter allows some room at the end for growth (less than a fingers’ width). If you are buying at a second hand store beware…you might accidentally purchase a brand of shoe that is sold at the Big Box chain stores (Target and Payless to name a few). A brand I recommend for all ages and styles is Bloch. Remember, you should always have the child with you because all brands fit differently. The local dancewear stores offer discounts when you say you dance at DANCE 101. If you have any questions about the fit I would be happy to look at them before your child dances in the shoes so they can be exchanged if needed. Always check with the store on exchange policies before purchasing the shoes.

Here is a list of the local dancewear stores.
(Shop local and support other small businesses in our city!)

Barry’s Capezio
Dee’s Dancewear
Body Language

Do you have the right shoes?

Does your child have the proper fitting shoes for class?
A dancer will have trouble learning their technique if their shoe is constantly squeezing their feet or falling off. Please check periodically if their shoes fit or ask me to check. I try to let parents know when I see a shoe is not fitting well or if a student tells me that their shoes are hurting them. I do have a bin of shoes that can be borrowed on a temporary basis, but students really need their own pair of shoes to ensure that they have a proper fit.

Is your dancer set up for success in dance class? Please review DANCE 101’s Studio Policies for more dress code information.


And the most important part of a dancer’s dress code is to carefully label all dance items including shoes so that I can help dancers keep track of their proper equipment!

Help Ease Your Students’ Recital Jitters!

Final Bow

Recital is Approaching!

The count down has begun. Only a few more weeks of polishing steps, memorizing dances, and practicing smiles until the big day. Dance Recitals are an exciting way to show friends and family how hard we worked throughout the year, but it can create butterflies in the stomachs of less experienced dancers.  Here are some tips to help your child feel more comfortable performing their skills.

Practice at home with a video.

I always publish a video on the web for the younger classes so students can practice with me at home. Often times when a student gets home to practice they have a hard time remembering the steps or doing it without the music. With technology these days, the students can pull up their dance on any device and practice with their teacher in the comfort of their own home.

For the older students I ask the parents to come in and videotape the choreography. Often times they have different parts therefore we need to customize the video for the individual who is recording the dance.  I perform with the class doing that student’s part so they have the correct steps for their at-home practice.

Practice gathering family members and friends to watch. 

Practice makes perfect!Have your student perform practice shows for anyone who will watch. Gather the audience and find a special place where they can show you their dance. Ask your teacher for the name of the song and artist so you can download the music for their “performance.”  Remember to clap after a job well done.

It is also fun to show your student what it is like to watch a wonderful dance show. Use role-play to perform a dance for your child. Get up there and strut your stuff and if you can remember them, include movements from your child’s dance.  They will be thrilled to watch you dance and will gain an understanding for how great it is to watch someone you love perform.

Read books about Recitals.

Read to your child about the experience. Visit my blog for a comprehensive listing of many dance books about recitals and performances. http://mydance101.com/ms-emilys-favorite-dance-books/

Getting a flower!Go to local shows.

Get out there and see dance. Whether it is a performance at a local high school or a Broadway show, support dance in your community. Talk to your child about the show and how he or she is going to be doing the same thing. Discuss how the dancers wait backstage, how they look onstage, and how the audience claps after each dance. Ask your child open-ended questions after the show. What did they see? What was it about? What were the costumes, music, lights like? Was the dance happy or sad? Did they dance together?

Then relate their answers to their own recital choreography. How do you feel when practicing your recital dance? Do you dance together with your friends? What is your dance about? How will your costume, music, lights look like?  This will help the student connect what they just saw to their own performance.

Visit stages to try it out yourself.

There are a few local stages that you can use for your student to practice their dance. Perhaps your church has one, maybe your school, or even there are various outdoor ones that you can do an impromptu performance on. No music needed just let your dancer feel what it is like to be out on the stage with the audience in front of them.

Videotape your child doing the dance.

Whether at home or during an in class showing videotape your student doing the dance and then show them. Sometimes it takes seeing a recorded performance to notice the level they are performing at. Have a discussion with them on what steps they might need to work on and what part they know really well. Ask them if they are showing the correct emotion?  Notice if they are listening to and dancing with the music. This process of self-evaluation can support new growth in their skill level, even with the youngest dancers!

Be there for showings in class.
Dance Recital-2626

I always invite parents, students, and other guests to watch during the class time, as we get closer to recital. There is nothing better than a real practice with the whole class in front of an audience. It can be nerve racking and distracting to have someone sitting right in front of you while you perform. Nothing builds self-confidence better then to show others how hard you are working. Be sure to praise the students afterwards for a job well done. Not only are the dancers working hard to remember choreography, but they also are trying to be entertaining as well. This is no small feat and every student should be congratulated for his or her attempt to do this well!

It’s Showtime!

If you have incorporated these ideas into practices at home the dancers should be well prepared by the time we get to dress rehearsal for their Recital experience. They have worked so hard all year towards the Annual Recital and are always excited to share what they know. If we can help to ease the nervous jitters through these activities your student can put their costume on, go onstage and just have FUN!

Best Friends at Dance!



For as long as I can remember dance studios didn’t accept children for classes until they were three. It was like something happened when the child turned three that allowed them to be able to dance. I just accepted the fact and regurgitated it to parents when they wanted to sign their children up for dance. I understood this as dance “law” and followed it to a T for the first 6 years that I taught dance. And then something happened. I became a mom.

Ever since my oldest daughter could walk (at the young age of 9 months) we had daily dance parties at home. She was doing some of the most amazing moves in our kitchen, living room, and anywhere that the music played. I have a video of her at about 11 months doing her own interpretive dance complete with pivot turns, dynamic movement, and some pretty creative arms. As she got older I began to teach her marches, jumps, skips, chasse, bourree, and grand jete. I was amazed at the transformation that was happening right before my own eyes. Friends would always comment on how physically advanced she was and I never really made the connection between that and how much dance “training “ we were actually doing at home.

When I had my second daughter two years later I decided it was time to begin my own dance program. I always had dreams of opening my own dance studio so I began to make the transition. I started by renting other people’s space. I wanted to offer classes that they didn’t have so I was not directly competing with their existing program. Also, I did not have a sitter so I had to figure out a class to incorporate my 14-month-old daughter. I decided that it was time to dig into my creative movement studies and put together a Parent/Child class.

The journey from that first class has been incredible. Those students who started with me when they were all 1.5 years old are now turning 4 and have been dancing with me for 3 seasons already. The skills that they learned in the Parent/Child class has served them well through their dance training. It has also made strong bonds between the students and I, as their instructor. It is so exciting to watch them grow up and expand their knowledge of dance. I feel privileged to have instilled a love of dance in them as they grow into amazing children.

The rule about needing to wait until you are three to take dance is not one that I follow at my studio. Dance can begin as soon as you can move. We foster this innate love for dance and start early to build a long lasting relationship with dance. Just take a look at my four year olds who have been dancing with me for 3 years and you will be amazed. More importantly, the skills they have acquired along the journey have turned them into life long lovers of dance. They have built healthy and creative habits that will last them a lifetime. What more can we ask for!

Classroom Viewing Etiquette

Owner of Dance 101Let’s face it, one of life’s greatest joys is watching our children grow and learn everyday, and the dance studio is no exception. Being a mom myself, I understand the happiness you feel when you see your child learn a new skill, but we must do so in a manner that can allow our children to train in a most effective fashion.

Besides being a mom I am also a teacher. Though not in the traditional sense that most think of as an instructor, this is exactly what I have been educated to do, teach your child to dance.  And I need your help in order to do this successfully.

The viewing windows were placed in my studio so parents could be aware of the events going on during class. They could check in from time to time to see the smile on their student’s face or note something new that their child was learning. They were not designed for means of communication between the parent and child, for entertainment purposes, or for regular observation of the class. Below is a list of rules and practices to follow while waiting for your child during dance class.  Please read through them carefully and help me keep the viewing windows available for all to enjoy.

Keep the curtains closed.

I spent a long time selecting the perfect curtains for the viewing windows. I wanted something transparent for parents to be able to “peek” in on their student. Children are easily distracted and I only have them for 1 hour once a week. Please allow me to have their total attention for this short time frame in order for me to teach them to the best of my ability. Please leave the curtains closed for the entirety of the class in order to allow your child and all the other students to have the opportunity to focus on the class and what is happening inside the studio.

Warm up at DANCE 101

Please do not converse verbally or physically with your child through the windows.

Have you ever been to the zoo or an aquarium where the sign asks you not to tap on the glass? This is probably because it will disturb the animals. The same is true for a dance class. Tapping on the glass, standing close to it, having a sibling bang on it for attention, or having a conversation with your student through the glass is non-effective to their learning process. I have had several instances where I was trying to get the attention of a child in class to correct them when I discovered they were trying to have a conversation with their parent from the waiting room. I can tell you now, they have no idea how to read lips or understand your sign language so it really isn’t useful anyways. Please allow me the opportunity to teach your child and the others all of the wonderful things that come with a dance class, including how to listen to their teacher.

Ms Emily Teaches TapPlease keep siblings from standing on chairs to look through the windows.

It just isn’t safe.

Do not enter the studio unless it is an emergency.

I have spent many years perfecting my class lesson plans and how to engage a student in just the right manner at just the right time. Opening the door to take something from your child, to find out if they are feeling okay, or to check in when you might hear something is very disruptive to me, your child, and the other children in the class. It can take me twice the amount of time to get them back on track after an interruption. If I need you I will come and get you, ALWAYS!

Teach your child to let their teacher know if they have to go to the bathroom.

Checking on your child when you think they might need to go to the bathroom or having them ask you through the window is yet another distraction. Please teach them that they can ask me if they need to go. This might need to be a conversation everyday so that they understand how to ask. Stop me before class to point out to your child “You can let Ms Emily know if you have to use the potty, Okay? Even better, be sure they do it before class so there is nothing to worry about.

Relax and enjoy your break, read a book, play with your other children, catch up with a friend, do some work, or get a coffee.

With 12 plus years of teaching experience you can rest assured that your child is being taken care of by one of the best teachers in the Valley! Please take the time for yourself knowing that your child is receiving quality dance education and having fun while doing it!

DANCE 101 Future Stars

Changes in tuition to better your child’s dance education!

The 2012-2013 dance season is going to be the best one yet! I am so excited to be getting a new home for DANCE 101! This has been a dream of mine since I started dancing at the age of 3! To finally see it come true and be able to open the doors of my own studio on September 4th, 2012 is amazing. I am so excited to share this moment with my dance family and students!

With the new location (at 1855 E. Guadalupe Rd. Suite 101 in Tempe) there are so many features that my students and parents can count on. We will have a state of the art dance floor that can be used for all types of dance. I can finally teach tap again and we have added Urban (hip hop) as well as Yoga and Zumba classes.  Ballet barres will be added to sharpen up technique! (Though the chairs served their purpose the last few sessions, I am so excited to have the students use the proper equipment!) We will also have a waiting room for parents and siblings with two viewing windows so you can watch your student grow and learn.  Most importantly the new studio will have a place for me to keep my props, no more loading and unloading them from my car. You know what that means, I will be adding to my collection!

Along with having a new home for DANCE 101 we are able to offer a year round season. When I was renting other spaces I was only able to do short sessions at a time due to scheduling. Now with the assurance of always having a space I can offer your student a consistent class time for their lessons. For all classes tuition will now be based on a 36 week season for the school year which is then divided into 9 equal monthly payments (amount next to class is the monthly payment). The season will run from September 4, 2012-June 10, 2013 with an optional recital at the end of the season. The 36 week season is beneficial to students in many ways. Some of the benefits include…

  • Consistency – Classes will retain the same students throughout the entire season (for the most part since I allow registration into my classes year round).  This allows the students to build a community within their class, make friends and feel comfortable in their learning environment.
  • Advancement – Have the same group of children every week helps the teacher to move the class at a pace which is right for the group. It is easier to teach new skills when the population of the class has remained the same throughout the year.
  • Effectiveness – Having a set date for the class throughout the year can assist with scheduling for the family.  Knowing that dance is always at the same time/day every week helps with planning.

Please review the studio policies page on the website and contact me if you have any questions about the changes.  All of the changes we are implementing will make DANCE 101 a great place to take dance. I am so excited to begin classes this year at DANCE 101’s new home.

Hope to see you dancing with us soon!

Emily Finch

Owner/Director of DANCE 101

Parent/child Dance Class in Tempe

Having fun in Future Stars Parent/Child creative movement dance class!