Safety Level

Supporting Our Anxious Students

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s no surprise that anxiety is rampant among tweens and teens these days—there have been so many unpredictable and stressful moments in their lives. From the cancellation of important events last spring to the adjustments surrounding school, family, and their social lives, our children have been facing numerous challenges that none of us could have anticipated!

At SDC, we’ve noticed that some dancers readily express their anxiety in class, often seeking support from their friends and teachers. Others remain quiet, preferring to keep their emotions to themselves. While we would never assume to know a student’s health history, we can’t help but see that more dancers than ever, each in their own way, seem more preoccupied with their worries.

Our observations appear to be confirmed by evidence-based research: Prior to the pandemic, the National Institute of Mental Health noted that 38% of girls experienced an anxiety disorder in their teen years. Then, last summer, the American Psychological Association conducted a study that showed 43% of teens felt their stress level had increased because of the pandemic. Those two facts taken together can only mean one thing: The uptick in anxiety we see in our kids is very real.

We understand that as dance teachers, we’re not equipped to diagnose a child or provide therapy. But we also know that dance itself can be very therapeutic. By its very nature, dance is allowing our students to release their emotions into movement. It’s offering them a way to connect with their peers and their role models, even if it’s behind a mask or from a physical distance. Their dance training—even when produced differently than usual—gives them a safe space to project their feelings and affirms that they’re still being held to high standards.

With this in mind, at Studio Dance Centre, we are committed to supporting our students with dance classes that serve their whole health—mind and body. Our teachers are trained to sense when their students may need more than technique class; perhaps today is a day where the dancers need to center themselves by learning a new breathing technique, or tomorrow will be a day that everyone enjoys a much-needed laugh with a change in the class playlist (holiday tunes, anyone?). Seemingly small moments like these are actually big opportunities to help our students feel secure, grounded, and loved.

We recognize that our dancers’ well-being is more than meets the eye, and it’s vital that we pay attention to their mental health as well as their physical health. Connection is more than just showing up—it’s the bridge we build to lift our dancers up. And it’s how we help them exceed expectations, even during tough times. Our dancers are growing exponentially on this life journey during a pandemic, and we’re here to support them at each step!

– Ms. Julie

How Dance is Shaping Social-Emotional Growth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You hear a lot these days about social-emotional development in children, especially how important it is for building empathy and meaningful relationships. Social-emotional skills equip our kids with the tools they need to manage their emotions, make friends, and connect to other people on a deeper level. It’s a crucial foundation to their whole health—and a challenge in today’s world!

But it’s a challenge that can still be met, particularly here at SDC. A dancer’s learning environment plays a key role in this growth; it gives them an opportunity to build confidence in these skills while simultaneously building their physical skills. Their hearts, minds, and bodies are literally working together.

Here are just a few highlights of how we’re helping your children with their social-emotional building blocks:

Working together as a team. Although we now physically distanced teamwork is still a key part of the class experience. For example, with our younger dancers, we emphasize taking turns and cheering each other on. With our more experienced dancers, rhythmic timing and transitions depend heavily on cues from each other. All of our dancers are learning to respect their peers, and to appreciate everyone’s contribution to the energy in the room.

Using eye contact and hand gestures. With masks in place, eye contact has become an integral part of making social-emotional connections. Psychology tells us that we relate better and form more meaningful conversations when we make eye contact with others, and it’s as true in dance as it is anywhere else! Our “conversations” may be more movement-based, but our moments of eye contact are equally necessary. Hand gestures, too, support those connections—almost like having a secret dance class language! Whether they realize it or not, our dancers are building empathy through these small efforts.

Offering an outlet of creative expression. Managing emotions can be tough at any age, at any time, but for our kids during a pandemic, it can be extra difficult. Dance class has proven to be a beneficial place to channel stress, anxiety, or sadness—as well as joy and happiness! Instead of keeping their feelings bottled up, our dancers can express themselves through both technique and creative movement. Dance gives them a healthy way to let their emotions out, even—or especially—if they don’t feel like talking.

Social-emotional skills are an essential part of growing up, whether your child is four or fourteen. Dance has a way of helping all our dancers feel like they belong, and that they share a common bond with their peers. We’re proud that Studio Dance Centre can give them the chance to develop these skills in a safe, encouraging space.

– Ms. Julie

It’s About More Than Steps

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At SDC, experience has shown us that dance training yields dividends far greater than jetés and arabesques: The benefits go far beyond the technique, shaping our students’ confidence, resilience, and social-emotional skills. So it’s no surprise that throughout this pandemic season, we have noticed an increase in these benefits in our dancers. In fact, it’s made us realize just how important it is that we pay attention to the whole health of each child. Here’s a bit more about what we’ve observed this since the “new normal” began:

Dance has helped our students stay connected. Sure, that seems obvious at first, but it’s more than what it seems on the surface. Not only have they been connected through their commitment, dance class has proven to be the place where many of our kids feel most connected to their friends. They feel understood and valued. It’s almost like they have a secret language, where everyone shares a love for the art form.

The physical activity that dance requires is another benefit we’ve seen grow. As more and more students faced virtual learning for school, and some have had periods of quarantine, dance has given them a reason to get up and move. While masked, they’ve even built up cardiovascular and respiratory strength! We predict that our current generation of dancers will be some of the most physically fit, because of their dedication to dance.

There is a bond that happens with a shared experience, and that has benefited our students too. They give each other hope, lift each other up when they’re down, and encourage each other through the good times and bad. Because they’re living this pandemic life together, they understand each other’s worries and emotions. This experience has been like no other, but getting through it together seems to be making all the difference in shaping a positive outcome.

Dance has also shown to be a source of tension relief for many of our students, more so than ever before. The stress that has descended on our kids during this season has been tough, but in many ways, unavoidable. Having a way to discharge those feelings and escape through dance has been an enormous help to many of our students, of all ages. We’ve observed that many shoulders simply seem to relax as soon as our classes are underway—followed by heartfelt smiles (even under masks!) as classes wrap up.

We’ve always believed that dance has its advantages outside of technique, skills, and performance. What we are learning now is that those advantages are much deeper than we could have ever imagined, and we’re grateful to have a community of parents like you who trust us to instill these benefits in their children. It is not lost on us that we have an opportunity to influence the body, mind, and spirit of our dancers, helping them develop into the best version of themselves.

– Ms. Julie

Hello, September!

Dancers in masks in class

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With a month of classes already wrapped up this season, we’re kicking off September with a strong start!

As I’ve watched our dancers return to the studio over the past four and a half weeks, I’ve noticed just how WELL they’ve adapted to our new “choreographed” way of life … they’ve gotten comfortable with our one-way traffic flow; they know where to stand in the classroom and where to keep their belongings; they smile (I’m sure of it!) under their masks. Every time I see them my heart seems to grow with pride, witnessing their courage and their tenacity. They are willing to take these extra steps so they can do what they love, so they can dance.

Things certainly do look different now. Parents are watching classes via Spot TV live-stream, instead of through the observation windows.  Dancers are no longer hanging out with their friends in the hallways. Classes that were already structured have yet another layer of structure.

And yet …

I also see progress being made; technique improving, just as it should.

I see friendships blossoming through jazz hands and thumbs up signals.

I see shoulders relax and eyes crinkle with joy as soon as students enter the studio.

I see teachers and students dancing through this new journey together.

I can see, now more than ever, that dance is truly for the WHOLE body, mind, and soul. At SDC we’ve always believed in the transformative power of dance … and now we are seeing it action. Health is truly more than the absence of sickness. It is emotional and mental health too; it is having a physical outlet of expression during this unbelievable-yet-believable time in history.

We don’t know what the future holds of course, but we DO know where we stand right now. Firmly, safely, happily on our dancing feet. 🙂

– Ms. Julie

Healthy Classrooms, Happy Kids!

SDC 15 Year Logo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last week we began our 15th season here at Studio Dance Centre – WOWZA! We could have never guessed the challenges that would come our way this year.

Today’s learning environment is more important than ever before. Whether your child is dancing in-person or online, the community they’re building and the connections they’re making are fulfilling important needs. Every child wants to feel like they belong and that they can accomplish great things—and dance helps bring this to life.

In our classrooms at SDC, we’re going the extra mile to create a safe environment that minimizes risk and maximizes joy! We’ve made changes to our in-person class structure, for example, to ensure there is no personal contact and there is always a safe distance between students. Additionally, through our investment in technology, we’ve made it possible for any child to participate in class virtually if their family would prefer at-home learning.

The physical and mental well-being of our dancers is our top priority, and we are committed to providing an experience that supports both. While we can’t predict the future, we can provide a safe outlet of activity and self-expression—a way for our children to cope with their stresses and build their resilience muscles. We believe their health will be better for it!

Living in this new world means our dancers are already adapting to many changes in their lives, from wearing masks to limiting close contact with others. We want to remind them these changes are welcome and appreciated, so that we can all move forward in the safest way possible. We want them to know their efforts matter! This sense of teamwork among peers is just one example of how dance helps our kids make sense of our circumstances.

Not only that, our dancers are learning valuable lessons in how to express their emotions through movement. It can be complicated for a child to verbalize their feelings, and yet through dance, they have the opportunity to say with their body what can be challenging to articulate otherwise. We dance from our hearts first, and we believe every child deserves the chance to express themselves in this way.

We hope that you’ll continue to see what a positive impact dance has on your child’s life throughout this year. At SDC, healthy classrooms—both in-person and online—equal happy kids. And we couldn’t be prouder to bring dance into our students’ lives during this important time.

Love,
Ms. Julie

Everyone’s Big Potential

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dance is often seen as a competitive activity, and while that can be true, it shouldn’t be competitive in the way you might think!

There’s a quote on one of our lobby wall’s by Mikhail Baryshnikov that says, “I do not try to dance better than anyone else. I only try to dance better than myself.”  At SDC, we believe in Baryshnikov’s sentiment, and we strive to teach our students that the real competition that exists is personal.  It’s between the dancer they were yesterday and the dancer they are today.  

Everyone has the opportunity to shine in their own unique way – just as you might have seen at our Spring Concert last week.  And just because one dancer’s light shines bright, doesn’t mean another dancer’s light dims.  In fact, in our experience it’s quite the opposite: The more lights that shine together, the brighter everyone becomes!

It’s easy, of course, for dancers to compare themselves to each other.  But even with the same instruction and the same teacher, each student will progress his or her own way—and we think that’s pretty special.  So shine bright and shine on, dancers! The success of your dance journey is right there inside you, ready to be celebrated every step of the way.

– Ms. Julie

Mentally Healthy Dancers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When we talk about raising healthy dancers at SDC, we don’t just mean physically healthy; we mean mentally healthy too!  It’s important to us that our students have the opportunity to grow their social and emotional health as well as their technique and skills.

For us, being mentally healthy in dance starts with teaching our dancers that it’s OK to have an array of emotions, and that dance is a wonderful way to express those feelings.  Positive body talk is another necessity, as our students learn at an early age to appreciate what their bodies are capable of. And another tool we introduce? Teamwork! Working together with their classmates shows our dancers the value in building relationships with others, including how to communicate effectively.

One of our goals at SDC,  is to make mental health in dance part of our normal conversations; we want our dance families to know that we care about developing the whole child, inside and out.  Dance has the power to positively influence our students in many ways and to help them become stronger, more confident young adults in the future!

– Ms. Julie

Dance Progress

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Progress in dance can sometimes look a lot like it does in school: Students learn new concepts and techniques, and they build on that knowledge over time.  There are milestones to reach along the way to bigger goals, paving a path to success through hard work and perseverance. Just like school, dance brings both challenges and triumphs for each individual student.

Where progress differs is in the structure of the programming.  For example, at SDC, our class levels are typically designed for about two years of participation before a student is promoted, whereas at school students move to the next grade each year.  This is because many dance schools like ours adopt an educational philosophy of “growth” years (when a student moves up a level) and “grind” years (when a student remains in the same level).  The “growth and grind” of dance allows our students to both develop their skills and truly master them before advancing to a new level.

With safety standards as a top priority, it’s true that progress in dance can sometimes feel slow … and especially in today’s fast-paced, instantaneous world.  But rest assured, progress is happening all the time! Through the compound effect of small improvements, our students are moving forward to become their most successful selves.

– Ms. Julie

Encouraging At-Home Practice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We love it when our students say they want to practice at home! Sometimes they’ll tell us how they like to create their own dances; other times they want to practice what they’ve learned in the classroom. As a parent, you might be wondering how to foster this enthusiasm in your child. We get it: You want to encourage their excitement without thinking you need to get into a dance class yourself! With that in mind, we’ve got five basic tips to guide you.

  • Ensure there is a safe space for your child to dance, where there is plenty of room to groove.
  • Use caution with tap shoes; they can scuff some floors.
  • Resist the urge to teach. Allow home practice to be a place for your child to take the lead!  
  • Keep your expectations in check. Your little one may not remember every step every time, but they are still developing their retention skills.
  • Make sure your child is having fun!  Practicing at home is only as good as your child’s motivation to do so.

There’s one last tip we like to offer, just in case you need it: If your dancer asks you to join in, say YES! Jump in with both feet and free dance to your heart’s delight. They’ll love it!

– Ms. Julie

A Positive Influence, Part II

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At SDC, we believe in the amazing benefits dance has to offer kids of all ages. But during the tween and teen years, we’ve noticed some particular advantages that are helping our students become the best version of themselves.

Dance takes hard work; there’s no way around it. And we’ve seen this work ethic spill over into our students’ academic lives as well. Having someone else hold you to a high standard is one thing, but learning how to hold yourself to a higher standard is another. We’re pretty proud of the way our dancers are learning this!

We can also see that becoming a hard worker directly influences our students’ confidence levels. And at this crucial time during adolescence, there’s perhaps no better endorsement than feeling empowered, for yourself and others!  Because when it comes to navigating friendships and communications in life, confidence is a major player in making good decisions.

Our tweens and teens are refining their technique and dance skills, and we love that about them. But the core of what they’re learning as human beings is what matters most—and it makes them even stronger artists!

– Ms. Julie