Safety Level

The Invisible Backpack

At a training once, I heard the perfect analogy for how we want to serve our students’ mental health in dance. It went something like this:

Imagine that every child has an invisible backpack, and this backpack contains all their worries and anxieties; all the weight they carry for their responsibilities at home and at school; plus any trauma they may have faced in their young lives.

Now imagine if every child, upon entering the dance studio, could take off their backpack and unload some of those burdens. What if they could share the weight and discharge some of that emotion, expressing their feelings through dance, lightening the load they have to take home?

These days I think that these invisible backpacks can be quite heavy. Our kids are adapting to yet another school year of changes, an ever-evolving list of expectations, external and internal pressure to be or act a certain way, and all this while going through the “normal” stages of growing up.

My hope – actually, my belief – is that through all of this, dance will work its magic on our students. It is not an exaggeration to say that in the past 15 years, I’ve seen lives transformed by the positive impact of dance. And now, I think that impact is being multiplied and magnified because our kids need it more than ever. Role models. Friendships. Movement. Expression. Music. Laughter. Focus. Teamwork. Connection.

I’ve read that physical activity is one of the ways human beings complete the stress cycle. That is, stress is a part of everyone’s life in some way, and to process it fully we must complete its full cycle through our physical bodies. I can see in our dancers the relief and the joy and the exhilaration that dance brings, that it helps them process their stress, keeping those backpacks from overburdening them. Dance is giving them more than we ever imagined, because they are living in a world we could never imagine!

So we’ll keep encouraging our students to unload their worries and express themselves through dance. We’ll lift their spirits – and watch them lift each other’s. We’ll keep this at the forefront of our teaching philosophy and our commitment to More Than Just Great Dancing.

At SDC, we’re ready to lighten those invisible backpacks and dance into a new school year. We’re grateful to have you on the journey with us!

– Ms. Julie

Cultivating Rest & Play

A friend of mine recently reflected on a post she had seen on social media by speaker and researcher Brene Brown. The post was about how important it is to “cultivate rest and play” in our daily lives.

This is something I have struggled with myself, as a formerly proud workaholic. What I’ve learned, after reading and listening more of Brene Brown’s work, is that there is actually no power in wearing your exhaustion and productivity as a badge of honor. Instead it’s a recipe for burnout.

It didn’t take long for me to realize this is true for our students too. They need to experience rest – true restful rest – and enjoy downtime to just play, even if they are teens. They do not need to be worn out from too many commitments, whether its dance or school or other activities.

Now, at SDC, we are more cognizant of this need and have built in more breaks into our schedule for this purpose: to cultivate rest and play for our staff and our students. I hope we can continue to improve the way we balance hard work and time off, so that everyone can be their most fulfilled selves.

– Ms. Julie

What to Expect from Your Little One










Here at SDC, we understand that kids should be kids!  In an age where many children are growing up too fast, we’re pumping the brakes and saying, “It’s OK for our kids to be themselves!”  We believe dance offers our students a path to self-discovery, teaching them to learn about their strengths and overcome challenges—without outside pressure to be someone they’re not.  So as a dance parent, what should you expect from this philosophy? You should expect that …

  • Your child will be introduced to developmentally-appropriate movement and encouraged to progress at his or her own pace
  • Success will come in many forms, whether it’s triumphing over a difficult new step or experiencing the joy of performing
  • When anxieties or frustrations surface, those emotions will be welcome—working through them will lead to building resilience
  • The dress code and costuming will always positively reflect your child’s age, allowing them to appreciate their body and feel confident in their own skin

Knowing what to expect at SDC is a big deal to us.  We want to be your partner in helping your child grow up to be happy and healthy, safe and strong.  🙂

– Ms. Julie

Gratitude for You!










Dear SDC families,

This past dance season has been one for the history books and we wanted to take a moment to express our gratitude to YOU, for believing in the transformative power of dance. Through thick and thin—through the unpredictable nature of living through a pandemic—you have allowed your child to dance; to soak up the benefits of movement, self-expression, teamwork, and social-emotional growth.

When so many parts of your child’s life were inconsistent, you kept this door open for them. You were willing to take the necessary steps to make dance possible, whether it was changing up your schedule, wearing masks, waiting in your car, or going virtual. We know these are not small sacrifices.

Whether we see your dancer once a week or for several hours, know that teaching them is the best part of our day. Dance teaching is a joyous profession and our students bring us so much joy! We hope you see the same spark in your child that we do. 🙂

So thank you, families, for your belief in your kids and in us—for understanding the benefits of dance and seeing the advantages in the whole health of your child. Thank you for making it possible for us to fulfill our mission even during a pandemic. We appreciate you more than you know!

– Ms. Julie

A New Understanding of Performance













There’s something quite special about the way dance performances impact our students. It’s hard to describe, but we’ll try to put it in words!

Dance is, at its core, a performing art. When our dancers practice their technique and skills in class, it is to gain both competence and confidence. When they practice their musicality and showmanship, they are building artistry—in some cases delivering a choreographer’s vision, and in other cases, discovering how to express their own emotions. Even our youngest dancers are building the foundation of how to be a performer. They are learning what it means to improve through the repetition of “muscle memory,” and they’re learning how to entertain with their skills, showing off their best effort.

Performing, for our students, is a bit like having their batteries recharged. It’s a time when everything they’ve been working on culminates into one big moment; it’s a time of excitement, overcoming nerves, trying their hardest, and feeling pride in themselves—a sense of accomplishment. And then, after the dust (or glitter!) settles, they begin working towards the next performance opportunity, and the next after that.

Whether your child is new to dance or more experienced, suffice it to say that they are always preparing to perform; to touch that moment in the spotlight. Much like the way Olympians train for years on end, or the way professional sports players build up to a match or a game, dancers continually work their way up to a much-anticipated performance time.

As we found out last spring, dance performances earned new meaning beyond what we were accustomed to for “recital.” When the pandemic set in, we needed to get creative with the definition of performance! And our fellow dance studios around the world did the same, so we knew we were in good company.

Now we know that performances can be anything we make them—as long as our students feel the greatness of the moment. Performances can be done solo or in groups; they can be virtual, live-streamed, in the studio, or on a stage. They can be held inside or outside, simply produced or with the latest technology. The details, we’ve learned, matter less than the experience itself—an experience that can lift a child’s spirits, give them more confidence, prove their grit, and boost team morale. An experience that holds lessons for a lifetime.

At SDC, teaching dance is our way of life, and one of the most rewarding aspects is seeing the progress our students make from their lessons to their performances. The positive impact of a performance is incredible, and it drives us to make sure our dancers have those opportunities whenever possible. We used to take for granted that performances would be held a certain way, at certain venues, and at certain times. Now, we know better. Those certainties aren’t guaranteed, but one thing is: The show must go on!

This year’s shows might look a little different, but how lucky are we to be in a theater for a live performance? Very lucky. And very grateful.

– Ms. Julie

Then vs. Now










We are officially one year since the world turned upside down, when the unexpected became reality. We can’t help but remember where we were when things began to change … During Spring Break of 2020, we brought a group of seven dancers to New York City – a trip of a lifetime!

Prior to the trip, news began to emerge about the novel coronavirus. We gathered information (11 cases in Manhattan), talked it over (we would be vigilant about germ-prevention), and decided to proceed with the trip, which began March 9, 2020. With lots of hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes packed, we embarked on our adventure: the girls took classes at Broadway Dance Center and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater; we celebrated Ms. Kayla’s birthday; Broadway show tickets were ready to go.

Although we didn’t make it to our Broadway show after all, the rest of the trip was incredible. The classes were amazing and the midtown-NYC-vibe was lively and exciting as always. Our dancers’ experiences were full of growth and learning and so much fun and bonding together.

On our final day – the day Broadway went dark – we were enjoying the sights at Rockefeller Center when the messages began to come through that schools in Frisco were closing. Then the next day, as we boarded our flight, word came that our Spring Concert was canceled, with the hope of merely postponing a month or two.

Well, we all know what happened from there! The rest of the dance year was relegated to Zoom as we all processed the reality of quarantine and public health restrictions. It became clear that we were in this for the long-haul and that making lemonade from the lemons was the only realistic option!

Now here we are: One year later, with the gift of resilience and emotions that still need healing. Emotions that I hope can continue to be expressed through dance as we keep moving forward. I could not be more proud of our staff and our students (and parents) who have persevered and continue to do so as we slowly emerge from this unbelievable time in history.

Here’s to a year of the most delicious lemonade we could possibly make – and to rest of 2021 when, quite possibly, we will not just say we have survived but that we chose to thrive!

– Ms. Julie

Just Maybe …










Did you have a hobby or sport or passion as a kid? Something that drew you in and compelled you to occupy those after-school hours?

For many of our students, dance has become this thing: Given the opportunity, they would spend every day at the studio, not just in class but creating their own dances, teaching moves to their friends, trying out new ideas to their favorite songs. If we put out sleeping bags, they would probably take us up on nightly slumber parties. (Which yeah, no – we wouldn’t actually go for that!)

Because many of us teachers felt this way as kids, it’s so fun to see our students “bitten by the dance bug” – the way they just can’t contain themselves. I can personally remember, quite vividly, wishing I could skip school and take dance class all day. 🙂

Even if it makes you quite exasperated when your child is bouncing off the walls dancing or they are begging to add another class, remember this: Just maybe, these moments will fuel their confidence. Just maybe, dance will propel their focus, boosting their grades. Just maybe, that new friend in class will become their friend forever.

Just maybe, dance will be the thing that not only occupies their time, but sets them on a path to success – whatever their life goals may be.

We hope that will be true. And there’s only one way to find out … and that’s to dance!

– Ms. Julie

Big Potential, Part II









We originally ran this blog post in 2019 and here at the start of 2021, it felt like the perfect sentiment to revisit!

Here’s a fun fact for you: In dance, it is common class etiquette to applaud when groups take turns practicing combinations or when a student is asked to demonstrate.  We celebrate effort in this way, showing appreciation for being able to watch and learn from each other. At SDC, this classroom tradition of recognizing others is part of our classroom DNA.

Similarly, when a student achieves a goal—however big or small—we want to celebrate their success and encourage their classmates to do the same.  A dancer’s goal might have been to accomplish that clean double pirouette in jazz class or to finally earn their pointe shoes. Or it might have been acceptance to a particular summer intensive, or to be cast in a specific role in the school musical.

What we’ve noticed is that sometimes dancers feel as though their classmate’s success has taken away their own potential to succeed—and because of that, their confidence shrinks.  But when it comes to achievement, nothing could be further from the truth! Science actually tells us that more success happens when we encourage each other and celebrate those wins.

Shawn Achor, researcher and author of the book Big Potential, writes: 

“Simply celebrating a person or a team for their companionship, their strengths, their everyday contributions—no matter how small or seemingly insignificant—reinforces a more empowered self-image and helps them see a vivid image of themselves as someone who is worthy of happiness and success.”

This empowered self-image is what we’re all about at SDC.  We want dance to be the catalyst that propels our students forward in life, but it takes more than just the steps to make that happen.  Dance can serve this mission only when combined with an ecosystem of positive culture, resilient kids, supportive teachers, and accountability.

We want to help our students understand that lifting each other up is beneficial for everyone, not just the person who is in the spotlight at that moment.  Everyone’s potential rises when we choose to celebrate each other’s success! Through dance, and through each other’s wins, our students can see that each one of them has the power to achieve new goals.  

It’s affirming to see the scientific proof that being interconnected with each other, within our studio ecosystem, allows our students to thrive in dance and in life.  And we will continue to encourage this interconnectivity with the way our dancers complement each other’s strengths and work as a team during class. As Achor says in his book, pursuing greater potential and achieving success must not be a solo journey: “The conclusion of a decade of research is clear: It’s not faster alone; it’s better together.”

We couldn’t agree more, and we’re proud to raise up our dancers with this mindset!  Let’s hit the ground running this new year and do better together, even if when socially distant. 🙂

– Ms. Julie

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