A Balancing Mom: Tara Madsen Robbins

A little over a year ago I became a Mom. It’s changed my whole world and some days it can be a challenge to do both. This is a series on how dance teachers who are Moms balance it all. I hope you enjoy it! xo


Tell us a little about yourself. Where do you live? Where do you teach? What ages and styles of dance do you teach? How long have you been teaching? What’s your background?

My name is Tara Madsen Robbins, 34 years old, and I live in the suburbs of Philadelphia. I’m happily married to my husband, Eric, of 5 years. We have a 4 year old son, Dylan Nash, and our German Shepherd, Rosebud. I am professional dance artist based in Philadelphia .I received my BA in Dance From Slippery Rock University and my MFA in Performance and Choreography from Smith College. As a professional dancer, I have performed/toured with the modern dance company, Tania Isaac Dance, from 2006-2009. While with the company, I had many incredible performance opportunities such as Bates Dance Festival, Jacob’s Pillow, Dance Place, venues throughout NYC and multiple college residencies. I’m forever thankful for the opportunities the company had given me, since it connected me with so many talented dance artists who I still work with/are friends with to this day. As a young dancer, I always wanted to be in a company that was producing quality work, paid their dancers, gave the opportunity to travel, as well as allowed me to grow as an artist.

I knew I wanted to do this BEFORE children, since traveling and being gone for weeks at a time is definitely much harder to do with children. At this same time, I was working/currently still working as a freelance choreographer presenting my original work internationally throughout Spain, Italy, Greece, Guatemala and Scotland. I have also presented my work nationally throughout most of the United States. I currently travel the country as a freelance master teacher/guest artist to many colleges/universities, dance festivals, dance conventions, dance camps, conferences, conservatories and many private studios.


Tell us about your children. How old are they? What are they like? Do you have a partner? How do you support each other when it comes to your teaching schedule?

My husband Eric and I have one beautiful little boy, Dylan Nash, who is 4 years old. Dylan is an easy going, happy child, with an old soul. He is certainly thriving and loving all the wonderful experiences in his young life. He brings so much joy to everyone around him and certainly is a well adjusted child. My loving husband Eric, is a CPA in an auditing firm, downtown Philadelphia, where his firm services not for profit companies. His work schedule is Monday-Friday 9-5, with lots of overtime hours in his busy seasons, as well as traveling nationally to service clients. I’m very impressed by his work ethic and know he is a great role model for Dylan. Eric is extremely supportive of my work schedule and I appreciate that more than anything.He has always known that my dance career is important to me, and that I wasn’t going to slow down after having a child. In fact, my career has been going better than ever at this point. I’m beyond thankful. I was worried that after having Dylan, I would lose momentum in this field and become “Irrelevant.” This is a tough field, so staying current and in high demand was always a goal of mine.

Whenever a new gig comes my way, we always discuss our schedules and always try to figure out a way to MAKE IT WORK. I only say NO if it’s completely impossible to manage, which is usually not the case. Our careers are important to both of us, and I feel we are equally supportive of one another. We do whatever it takes to make everything work. People often tell me, “Wow, you are able to say YES to a lot of gigs, even out of town at this point. How do you make that work with having Dylan?” Eric and I are extremely fortunate to have TONS of support from of our families. My in laws (who, thankfully, are local) watch Dylan twice a week in the evenings while I’m teaching and my parents usually take Dylan on certain weekends back to their house in North Jersey if I’m traveling, which happens on average about once a month. It’s a” win win” for everyone involved. He gets quality time with his grandparents and Eric and I are still doing the things in our career/personal lives to keep us happy and fulfilled. Dylan attends full day preschool 3 days a week, so that helps when I’m at the University. On certain days/nights I will take Dylan to work with me, but that doesn’t happen very often. I usually bring him once or twice during each semester to the University, if his school is closed, or simply just to visit my students which I know they love! I’m lucky that every job that I have understands that family come first, so if Dylan is sick, and I need to call out, its never an issue. I appreciate that kind of understanding more than anything. It’s easier for me to take off work than it is for Eric, and besides, we all know that every child wants their mommy when they are not feeling well!

FullSizeRender-4 FullSizeRender-5

How do you make it work? What time of day do you teach? How many hours a week? How do you handle childcare? Who takes care of your kids when you are teaching? Do you take them with you? Are you able to see them while at work? Tell us a little about your situation as it is now!

I teach Part time (Tuesdays/Thursdays) in the dance department at DeSales University in Center Valley, PA, where I have been since 2007. As an adjunct faculty member, I have experience teaching all levels of modern technique, two levels of dance composition, all levels of Jazz Technique, Beginning Tap, and Introduction to Dance. Contemporary Modern is my professional specialty, so whenever I’m asked to do anything outside of the University, that is usually what people request. I also choreograph on the dance majors in certain years for the faculty and guest artist concert. I’m part of our dance major scholarship audition day where I instruct the modern portion, as well as adjudicate the prospective students. Each semester at DeSales, I teach between 2-3 courses depending on what is needed. I feel very fortunate that my boss and colleagues are very supportive and appreciate my artistic contributions to the department. It’s almost unheard of to have an adjunct gig at a college where you are basically guaranteed classes each year. I have an excellent relationship with my colleagues and students, and I certainly know how fortunate I am to be in this situation. I NEVER take this for granted. In the evenings, I teach at 3 different private studios–JovoDance Productions in Langhorne, PA, CaRu Entertainment in Pennington, NJ, and both locations of the Institute of Dance Artistry in Fort Washington and Plymouth Meeting. I teach between 2-3 hours a week at each studio and do choreography as well at some of these schools.

I love my schedule since technically, I only work 3 days a week. I teach Monday nights from 4-6:30, Tuesdays I am at the University all day and then go straight to one of the studios and repeat that same schedule on Thursday. So I have created a schedule for myself that allows me to work “part time” instead of spreading this over 5 days, which I very well could if I chose. I have been on faculty at all these schools for years, and they are extremely flexible with my schedule each year. It certainly makes things easier when the bosses are willing to work around my other jobs. I give 120% to all of my teaching/choreography gigs, and I know my bosses recognize that. It feels great to be appreciated by all of my bosses and colleagues. I’m surrounded everyday by inspirational artists who are loving and supportive. What a gift! I absolutely LOVE my dance career.

When do you find time to plan your classes? Are you involved in anything else? Hobbies? How do you make time for yourself outside of being a mom and a teacher?

I plan my classes at the beginning of each week. I set aside a specific time where I know I can be alone to zero in on what I need to do for each class. This is a really crucial time for me each week, so I make sure I can do this without anyone around. This usually happens on Sunday night after we put Dylan to bed, and a little bit during his nap time on Mondays. Thank god for nap time :) I have PRIORITIZED “ME” time since the second Dylan was born. My mother always told me, “If you want to be a great mom and career woman, you NEED to make sure you keep yourself happy along the way.” I feel I have been very successful in keeping an excellent balance with all aspects in my life. I see too many mothers put themselves LAST and they end up ultimately unhappy in their lives. I promised myself I would never let that happen. I never feel guilty about taking the time I need for myself as a working mother. Eric and I make time for each other with dates nights, and we each make plenty of time for our friends.

We both decided that having just one child has definitely made this easier. It’s the best of both worlds– we can enjoy raising a child and focus on that, as well as being social and having fun with our family and friends. That’s what life is all about- experiencing new things and building lasting relationships. We never feel guilty for putting ourselves first. I appreciate that Eric is on the same page as me with all of this. Dylan will grow up and realize that his parents are happy together and its “normal” to do things with our friends that sometimes don’t include him. Happy Mom and Dad equals Happy Child! For anyone who knows our son, he is extremely well adjusted and a happy and healthy child. We are forever grateful for the balance we have created in our home.

I’m very passionate about exercising and keeping my body in the best shape possible. Fitness is defintely one of my “hobbies.” It feels great to be confident in my body, especially after having a baby. I was fearful that my body would change completely and I would never be able to get back to my regular dancers body. I think most women feel that way after having a baby. With a lot of hard work and determination, I lost all my baby weight within a few months of having Dylan, and worked my tail off to make that happen. It was TOUGH, but so worth it. I like that Dylan sees me work out and sometimes he even joins me. It’s adorable! It sets a good example for him as far as being fit and healthy. It’s important for me to remain a FIT MOM FOR LIFE. No excuses! I find time to work out since this is a priority for myself as well as in my career. I’m a role model for my students, so I need to practice what I preach. If that means getting up earlier in the morning or getting my workout in at 10pm, that’s what I do. I stay motivated by many of my other “fit mom” friends who continue to set an excellent example. They really inspire me!

How has being a dance teacher impacted your parenting? How has being a parent impacted your teaching?

I honestly look at my teaching and parenting as two very separate things. I still feel I am a similar teacher as I was before having children. I have the same expectations as I did before which equals–work your ass off in my class :) I think the only thing that has really changed for me is that I feel I can relate to younger dancers a bit better after having a child of my own. I teach older dancers for the most part, so I guess I now see even these older students as “someone’s child” instead of just themselves as the dancer. I never thought about that before I was a mother.

FullSizeRender-6 FullSizeRender-10Have you ever taught your own kids? What was it like?

Dylan loves to dance in our house, but I have never formally been his teacher outside of our home.

What is the hardest part about balancing teaching and being a mom?

Time management is the hardest thing. I figured this out pretty quickly after having Dylan. Luckily, I figured out a system that works for us. My days are better when I prep things the night before. Time management is key!

What is the best part about doing both?

I LOVE being a working mother and could never imagine my life any other way. While I certainly support other people’s decisions to stay at home with their kids, it’s not something I was ever interested in doing. I love contributing to the world of dance as an artist and educator. I believe it is my life’s calling. While I love being a wife and mother, I have so much more to offer than just those two things. Those are clearly my most important roles in my life, but being able to express myself through dance keeps me truly happy and fulfilled. It’s something I NEED to do. It’s simply not an option for me to just STOP. I think any artist can certainly relate to this. I believe I would become a very unhappy, resentful and depressed human being without this very important balance of my career and my home life. Dance truly is a huge part of my life, and without it, my duties as a wife and mother would suffer. Having this creative outlet in my life is CRUCIAL. I know Dylan understands that dance is an important part of my life, and that it brings me much happiness. How can I be a great wife and mother if I can’t make myself happy first? I think that statement is something that many women can relate to.

What advice would you give a new mom trying to balance teaching dance and being a mom?

1 .Make yourself a priority. You can’t take care of others, if you are not at your best.
2. Time Management
3. Make sure you only take on a teaching schedule you can actually handle.

Anything else you would like to share? Insights? Ideas? Feelings? Advice? Stories? Frustrations? Successes? Challenges? Inspiration?

One simple statement– “DancerMoms Do it BEST!”


A Balancing Mom: Jessica Solis Carpinelli

A little over a year ago I became a Mom. It’s changed my whole world and some days it can be a challenge to do both. This is a series on how dance teachers who are Moms balance it all. I hope you enjoy it! xo


Tell us a little about yourself. Where do you live? Where do you teach? What ages and styles of dance do you teach? How long have you been teaching? What’s your background? 

I live in Escondido, CA (in San Diego) with my husband and daughter. I teach at two local studios, Georgia’s School of Dance and North County Academy of Dance. Teach 18 months up through teen/adult classes which are primarily ballet, a few jazz and a couple combo classes. The majority of my classes are for 3-8 year olds, which is the age group I most prefer. I started taking ballet lessons at 3 years old and continued my training in classical ballet until I was 14. At that point, I added jazz, tap, modern and musical theater to my training. I learned to teach at 17 while I was in college. I took a brief hiatus after graduating to dabble in the business world, but missed teaching. I began teaching full time in the Bay Area while dancing professionally. I moved back to San Diego and have been teaching here for the last 7 years.

Tell us about your children. How old are they? What are they like? Do you have a partner? How do you support each other when it comes to your teaching schedule?

I have one daughter, Sofia, who is about to turn 4 years old. She’s already a little comedian who adores all animals and creatures (especially dinosaurs), has always been selective about giving affection and doesn’t prefer large groups of people. I’ve been married to my husband, Jake, for 5 years. He’s always been supportive of my passion for dance. Since becoming parents, my teaching schedule has been a topic that comes up regularly. Sometimes there is more stress but we’ve managed to really look at it like an ongoing conversation. We continually talk about how my schedule is working for us, for our daughter, for our household and for me. We both make compromises when we find we need a change. Sometimes, I have to wait for a good transition point in the studio school year before I can make a change to my teaching schedule, but we have always worked it out.

NCAD Nutcracker-Gingerbreads  - 1442-L

How do you make it work? What time of day do you teach? How many hours a week? How do you handle childcare? Who takes care of your kids when you are teaching? Do you take them with you? Are you able to see them while at work? Tell us a little about your situation as it is now!

I’m currently teaching 15 hours each week. 3 afternoons and 3 mornings. Unfortunately, my only day off is Sunday. That is currently a change I’m looking to address. I’d like to drop one of my mornings to give me a second full day off during the week. My daughter comes and stays with me one afternoon and two mornings each week totaling 5 hours. She also comes with me a second afternoon but my husband picks her up once he’s off work to have their own time together. My mom hangs out with her the other afternoon each week which keeps my daughter from being out too close to bedtime. Saturday morning, my daughter either stays with my husband, goes to her aunt’s house or spends time with cousins or friends. I feel that our balance is pretty good right now. I’m thankful that if my daughter can’t be with me, she can be with family. Over time, she has made friends with my students and/or their younger siblings which provides her with some added fun and entertainment while she’s at the studio with me.

When do you find time to plan your classes? Are you involved in anything else? Hobbies? How do you make time for yourself outside of being a mom and a teacher? 

Class planning is done mostly after my daughter goes to bed and often after my husband goes to bed. Occasionally, I will get some time during the day that I am able to work. I’ve been working hard to develop a rich and growing children’s dance program at one of my schools. It went from having 4 classes for young children every week to 15. I definitely spend some time each week devoted to making sure the program is working, the teachers are following curriculum and the students are happy. I love crafts but find that I don’t have much time I’m willing to devote to hobbies at the moment. Instead, I use what time I do have to spend be with family, go on dates with my husband or girlfriends.

How has being a dance teacher impacted your parenting? How has being a parent impacted your teaching?

Since being a teacher nearly half my life, I’ve felt that I have had a realistic expectation of child behavior and development. Now that I’m a mom, I can say that I definitely did. Being a teacher has given me a lot of valuable tools for handling chaos (haha!). I think that my teaching has benefitted much more once I became a mom. I really, truly know how I would want my child to be treated and can extend that to my students and their parents. I find that I have a larger vocabulary when it comes to keeping my class disciplined. I am able to rule my class in a much more loving way. I don’t have the “lost and out of control” feeling that I would get so many years ago when my classes would get extra crazy. I know have a much easier time at redirecting their focus and my efforts. I don’t get frustrated when we don’t seem to accomplish whatever is in my lesson plan, I know that sometimes we just need to enjoy our time together.

Have you ever taught your own kids? What was it like?

I have not formally taught my daughter in the sense that she’s not a registered student at either studio nor attends regular class. I give her the choice to take my class or pack some toys to play while I teach. I always encourage her to choose but I do insist she sticks with her choice. It is very distracting for my students if she’s wandering in and out of class and I don’t think it’s teaching her the “rules” of dance class. Some days, she doesn’t choose to take class until one of her friends shows up, and that’s fine with me. When she does take class, we both usually have a great time. She gets to be close to me and participate in something she knows I love, I have the reassurance that she is safe and happy. She often performs at home where I see all my choreography come out in my living room. She’s taking in everything and has joy in dancing for herself.


What is the hardest part about balancing teaching and being a mom?

For me, the hardest part is remembering that I am a working mom. I love what I do that I often think of my teaching as a hobby and am really hard on myself when I fall behind in chores or other responsibilities. My biggest challenge is managing dinners when I work 3 afternoon/evenings each week. We try to eat healthy, home cooked meals, but it’s just not easy to prepare dinner at 2pm when I also want to be spending quality time with my daughter. My husband is understanding and helpful, but I’m constantly looking for ways to improve in this department.

What is the best part about doing both?

I love that my daughter is able to closely witness me working hard at something I love. I’ve pursued a passion and talent and am successful at it. I feel very fulfilled by being able to work and provide financial support to my family, develop myself professionally and have a creative outlet regularly available all while have my daughter’s either with me or with her family.

What advice would you give a new mom trying to balance teaching dance and being a mom? 

My biggest piece of advice to a new mom would be to have a solid relationship with the director and a few reliable substitute teachers. Start with a few classes if possible to figure out what will work best for your family. Reevaluate the balance as each new school year (or other transition period) nears and be open to change. Life changes fast being a mom and you’re teaching will have to change alongside it.

Anything else you would like to share? Insights? Ideas? Feelings? Advice? Stories? Frustrations? Successes? Challenges? Inspiration?

I feel very blessed to have a job that I love while being available to my daughter. I love sharing this art with her and watching her connect with dance in her own ways.

 10685326_10202392215117808_5184099784840928784_nThank you Jessica! 

Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site

Read It. Move It. Share It. is a collaboration with Kerry from Picture Books and Pirouettes. Once a month Kerry recommends a book for me to use in my creative movement classes. Then I write a post on what I did with the book and how I used it with my students in hopes of giving you some new ideas to use in your classes! Here is the January book. Enjoy!

7a9a49aba996Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction site is one of my favorite books. Kerry and I have talked about collaborating on the book for a while and we are excited to share our ideas! I used this in my both my boys and girls classes. Even though it’s a goodnight book, there are so many movement ideas inside! Take a peek and I hope you will use it in class! :)

First, we read the book out loud. Then, we looked at all of the pictures and tried to make the shapes of what we saw. We spotted the moon, a star, clouds, the sun, and buildings.

Then we made the shapes and did the movement of each of the trucks that are featured.

1) Crane Truck: We lifted a heavy beam. This truck reaches and stretches high and swings too! He fold up to say goodnight!

2) Cement Mixer: We spin and twirl and churn, and then we poured cement.

3) Dump Truck: We carried loads big and small, then dump! I asked questions like can you dump the what you are carrying out the back, or out the front?

4) Bulldozer: Pushing while making big sounds!

5) Excavator: Scooping movement and digging!

At the end we stretched and relaxed on floor as all the trucks fell asleep. I asked them to show me their favorite truck. My favorite is the dump truck! :) What’s yours?

Have you ever used this book with your students? It’s super fun! I would love to hear!

Now head on over to Kerry’s blog to find out about the book! xo

Teaching Dance In Greece

The Around The World project is inspired by a mothering around the world series that I really enjoyed reading. I thought it would be a wonderful idea to see how teaching dance varies around the world. Each month I will post an interview from a different country. I’m so excited to learn about the way dance is taught in other places. I hope you enjoy it! :) 

Meet Eleanna who teaches dance in Greece. She was unable to provide photos because of privacy in Greece but the interview is awesome!

On teaching dance as a career…

1) Can you make a sustainable living?

Art cannot be paid in any forms

2) Are there full time teaching positions? 

In rare occasions there are; but most of the teaching positions are part-time.

3) What credentials do dance teachers need? 

In Greece, in order to teach, dance teachers either need to have a teaching diploma or a teaching degree obtained by a private professional School of Dance or the State School of Dance or the Greek National Opera House, which are all recognized by the Greek Ministry of Culture; or obtaining a teaching degree from a Dance School abroad which will be again recognized by the Greek State.

4)  What additional education/higher degrees are necessary? 

Continuous professional development is always desirable; as a professional, you need to “keep up” to date if you want to be competitive and “stand out” from other dance teachers; but it is always up to the discretion of the teacher if and how will keep up with additional education and/or higher degrees.

5) Is a teaching dance career respected in your community?

If you respect your job –as a dance teacher- then without doubt community will pay respects ☺

On teaching dance at every level and age…

1) Is early childhood dance available? (0- 5) 

Yes, there is and it is called pre-school dance curriculum, addressed to children between

2,5 to 5 years old.

2) Is dance on the college level available? What curriculum do you use? 

In private colleges yes there is, such as Deree College (The American College of Greece); in state universities no there isn’t. I am not quite familiar with the curriculum as I don’t teach at college level.

3) How have you created your own curriculum? 

I have created my own curriculum through inspiration from different forms of art such as storytelling, painting, theatrical plays, music and of course dance.

4) Is dance taught combined with other art forms or separately?

For me a combination is the best. Unfortunately, in Greece teaching dance in combination with other forms of art, mainly is up to the discretion of the dancing school that the teacher is teaching and secondly up to the teacher if she/he wants to enrich her classes.

On creating dance for early learners…

1) Are there recitals? 

In Greece we call “recitals” “annual dance performances”; these are organized by the dancing schools in order for the children to perform and demonstrate what they have learned throughout the year. In addition to that, each dance body (e.g. RAD Hellenic Region, ISTD Latin etc.) ,almost every year, arranges performances with selected children from all dance schools in order for the bodies to teach children how it is to dance “out of your dancing school” in a more professional level.

2) How do you encourage personal expression and creativity?

According to the curriculum that’s been arranged for each class, children are free to express their opinion through directed questions given or through free dancing on the subject’s class, too.

3) Is student input encouraged? 

Always! You can get great inspiration from your students; especially during moments where an activity doesn’t “really match” with the classroom, as you had thought initially, and the “spirit” of the class is starting getting low.

4) What role do the students play in the creative process?

Main role; as their spontaneous responses drive you to more creative ideas!

On parents…

1) What is parent involvement like? 

Parents’ involvement has to do with the ‘mental’ and ‘physical’ preparation of the kids for their dance lesson (e.g. arrange to wear the appropriate clothing for the lesson, do their hair properly, bring them on time for class & collect them on time after class etc.). Everything else is arranged by the dance school (e.g. theme for annual performances, costumes, choreographies etc.)

2) How do you communicate with parents? 

Always with a big smile on my face, showing my openness for discussing anything that has to do with their children’s progress in my ballet classes; through discussion I am trying to inform them of  their children’s abilities and also address any issue concerning their children’s progress, too.

3) Do you offer parent/toddler classes? 

It would have been lovely, but unfortunately the schools that I am currently teaching do not offer this service.

4) How do you engage parents?

Same answer as question 2 of this section

On your dance educator community…

1) What resources and support are available?

Teachers who are interested in Professional Development can find many things on the internet that can help them with their teaching progress.

2) How do dance educators interact? 

As a member & Registered Teacher of the Royal Academy of Dance & the Greek Hellenic Region of Royal Academy of Dance (English Ballet system) we-as educators- mainly interact through the Annual Meeting. During the meeting we discuss issues that may have occurred in the schools that we teach while we interchange ideas that could be helpful in any occasion. In addition to that, an email mailing list is available via the official website of Royal Academy of Dance where news are communicated.

3) Is sharing ideas and techniques common? 

It is common especially at the seminars that are held by the Royal Academy of Dance, where we have the opportunity to share ideas and techniques.

4) are there professional development opportunities (conferences, blogs, teacher trainings,)?

Yes, there are. Professionals who are interested in Professional Development Opportunities can find online many interesting things that will inspire them on their teaching progress.

On the role of dance in your larger community…

1) Is it government funded? 

Probably in the past; but now with the financial crisis that we have in Greece, as far as I am aware of, Government funding unfortunately is unavailable.

2) Are there dance festivals?

The most well-known dance festivals in Greece are the Kalamata International Dance Festival and the Greek Festival. Both are held during summer time. In addition to that, the Greek Association of Dance Schools Owners (SISXE) organizes each year a charity-dancing gala.




3) Is there a national company? 

Yes, the Greek national ballet


4) How is dance portrayed in the media (television, film, etc.)?

Dance is always portrayed in a positive way especially through television and web. Greeks are a demanding viewing audience and are always interested in watching quality performances.

5) Is being a professional dancer a respected career?  

Yes; since it is not a common profession and due to the fact that “special mind and body abilities” are required in order to become a professional dancer, I would say it is.

On Dance in Schools…

1) Is dance part of the school curriculum? 

In Greece, only Greek traditional dances are part of the school curriculum; unfortunately no other form of dancing is supported by the state school curriculum.

2) Are there specific ages that receive dance? 

Yes, there are. Usually Greek Traditional Dances are taught at the primary school curriculum from the age of 6 to the age of 12. In private dance schools children can start dancing from the age of 2.5 without any other limitation on the age; after all, dance is for everybody!

3) Is dance in the schools taught by a specialist or classroom teachers?

Greek traditional dances are taught by the gymnastics teacher, who is specialized in Greek traditional dancing.  In private sector, if you want to teach other forms of dances it is necessary to have a recognized degree/diploma by the Greek Ministry of Culture.

On Dance in a private studio setting…

1) Is taking dance class a common hobby afterschool? 

Yes, it is.

2) On weekends? 

Yes, it is; especially for adults who have a busy schedule during the week.

3) Is it as popular as sports? 

Not as popular as football (soccer) for example.

4) What types of dance is popular in studio settings? 

Funky, hip-hop, break, latin, Zumba…is in fashion lately!

5) Does extra-curricular dance class seem affordable?

Unfortunately with the financial crisis in Greece no extra-curricular activity is affordable; but dance schools and studios are trying their best in order to have the best available deals for their clients with the best available dance products!

On Boys in dance…

1) Is it acceptable for boys to dance? 

Yes, it is

2) Is it cool? 

Yes, it is

3) Is it integrated with the girls? 

Yes, it is

4) Which classes seem most popular for boys?

Funky jazz, modern, break & hip-hop

On dance and tradition…

1) Are there traditional dances of your country? 

Yes, there are. Each region has local variations and different styles of dances.

2) How are traditional dances passed on through the generations? 

Through societies and non-profit organizations. The most popular in Greece & abroad are Lyceum of Greek women & Dora Stratou Dance Company. (http://www.lykeionellinidon.gr/ , http://www.grdance.org/gr/index.php ). Another popular way is through tradition and festivities such as weddings & baptisms.

3) Are there holiday dances? 

No; but there are for e.g. special songs & dances for weddings, special songs for carnival period, welcoming spring & summer, etc.

4) Is dance experienced at social gatherings or is it experienced at the theatre or both? 

Greek traditional dance is experienced in both cases but in different ways. In social gathering the joy of experience comes through dancing as at the theatre the joy of experience comes through watching.

5) Is seeing live performance affordable?

If you are a fan of performances you will definitely find a way to watch a performance; after all there are prices for all budgets.

On dance and language…

1) Does dance play a role language development? 

Oh, absolutely; especially in the early stages (2.5-5) where children have just started going into school and interacting with children of their age.

2) Is dance incorporated in learning different languages? 

French is one! So definitely, it does.

3) Do you use traditional French ballet terms? 

Always!  I think it is really important for the children from an early stage in ballet classes (I had seen it works after the age of 8 for my students), to start connecting the movement with the term.

On dance and technology…

1) Do you use video as a teaching tool?

If I would like to inspire my students or want to work with them on a particular repertoire, I will definitely use my computer in the class! With my elder students, I don’t need to do that as I post my favorite videos on my Facebook page and they can watch them from there.

2) What role does technology play in lesson planning?

Major role!!! In fact, I cannot leave without my computer; It’s like the extension of my port de bras ☺ It helps me research, prepare my lesson plans, as well as keep a detailed logbook of my dance progress while it gives me the capability to connect with the dance world worldwide…which is the most fascinating of all!!!

On anything else you would like to share?

What are you focused on in your teaching at the moment? 

I am focused on creating a core basis of ballet stories which can be adaptable to the needs and activities for all ballet levels that I teach.

What goals do you have for your students? 

To succeed on the learning outcomes & objectives for each semester, to have fun and become better & more sophisticated dancers!

Where do you find your inspiration?  

From the needs of each class and the children themselves.

Why did you choose dance education as a career?

I started dancing at the age of 3. From the very first time I entered into the ballet class, I knew that I wanted to be a ballerina. It was obvious and everybody could see I was talented. Later in life & for various reasons I studied something completely different from dance, which I loved, too but not as much as dancing. I never stopped dancing and when the right time came I decided to engage myself with my FIRST & BIG love…dancing! But because I was a bit old to become a ballerina I decided to study & become a ballet teacher…so here I am! Ready for my classes to inspire my children, to pass them my knowledge of ballet but more than anything make them LOVE my passion=BALLET!

What would you like to see in the future in dance education?

I would like to see a more creative approach in dance education. That approach can be found in all sorts of arts.  It is this “magical ingredient” that helps you teach better, have new & exciting ideas at an ease, smile more, keep children more involved & more enthusiastic throughout the whole class, make the parents happy wanting to bring their children again & again to your classes ☺


A Balancing Mom: Mary Allen

A little over a year ago I became a Mom. It’s changed my whole world and some days it can be a challenge to do both. This is a series on how dance teachers who are Moms balance it all. I hope you enjoy it! xo


photo credit 

Tell us a little about yourself. Where do you live? Where do you teach? What ages and stylesof dance do you teach? How long have you been teaching? What’s your background?

Hi! My name is Mary Allen, I live in Melbourne, FL. Right on the East coast of the state, minutes from the beach! I currently teach at our local church that I am a member of. I currently do not teach in a traditional studio or classroom setting. I teach ages 7-12, Ballet and lyrical style dance. Along with a dance camp every summer that runs for a week in June. I teach an introduction to each style every day, along with choreography for a musical the students perform at the end of the week.

I have been teaching for over 10 years in some way. I began dancing at the age of 3 and knew early on I wanted to be a dance teacher. I studied many style of dance, from Ballet to Irish and everything in between. During high school I danced in a semi-professional dance company, along with teaching younger students, age 3-12 several days a week.

Tell us about your children. How old are they? What are they like? Do you have a partner? How do you support each other when it comes to your teaching schedule?

I have been married for almost 7 years to my wonderful husband! We currently have 3 little ones together. My oldest is 5 years old, a very active and music loving boy. He’s always wanted to dance with his mommy! My 3-year-old daughter just started her first ballet class this past fall, and I have no idea who is more excited, me or her! My youngest little one, just turned 9 months! Every time music comes on, she likes to “dance-y, dance-y” as we say! My husband is very supported of my teaching schedule, which is currently very light. But in the first years of our marriage, he was always helpful with watching kids and helping me prepare for my classes.

How do you make it work? What time of day do you teach? How many hours a week? How do you handle childcare? Who takes care of your kids when you are teaching? Do you take them with you? Are you able to see them while at work? Tell us a little about your situation as it is now!

My current situation is probably the best! It was very tough in the beginning when my husband was working many hours, I was teaching 2-3 days a week in area preschools/schools and raising little ones! Right now I am able to bring my little ones with me. During our summer camp, they are either in childcare on property or participating in the camp themselves. This past summer when my youngest was just 3 months old, I had an amazing parent of the camp stay with me all week, holding the baby while I was teaching and would bring her to me whenever she needed to nurse or wanted time with mommy. I could never repay her for that!

When do you find time to plan your classes? Are you involved in anything else? Hobbies? How do you make time for yourself outside of being a mom and a teacher?

This is my hardest thing as mom! I always seem to run out of time in the day to do things for myself. I plan at night when I need to, also during Tuesdays and Thursdays, when my oldest two are in preschool together. I also work part time at our church as the assistant children’s ministry director. Planning Sunday mornings and our various week long summer camps, that include our Music, Art, Dance and Drama (MADD) camp! I am currently taking a mommy and me ballet class once a week and belly dance class twice a week with friends.

How has being a dance teacher impacted your parenting? How has being a parent impacted your teaching?

When I began teaching in high school, I learned quickly how important patience is! As a parent, the patience I have learned from teaching the littles has helped me with my own children. My teaching style has changed since I became a parent. I have seen the ways my own develop and the way they learned and have used those experiences to help with the many different little ones I teach now.

Have you ever taught your own kids? What was it like?

I have not yet taught my little ones in a classroom setting. I have made sure they know all the ballet positions for hands and feet by the time they are 3! My husband laughs at me for teaching them their ballet steps so early. web-22

 What is the hardest part about balancing teaching and being a mom?

The hardest part about balancing is finding time for everything. I feel like things get shorted or forgotten at times. I have learned that not everything will get done. But as long as the kids are fed, bathed (sometimes), classes are taught, and everyone is asleep. I have done great things!

What is the best part about doing both?

The best thing is getting to be both a mom and a dance teacher. I get to share my love of dance and learning with both my kids and those I get to teach with. Even though I don’t currently teach in a traditional studio or classroom setting. I will always consider myself a dance teacher. Someday soon, I hope to find an opportunity to teach again in a studio.

What advice would you give a new mom trying to balance teaching dance and being a mom?

Take it one day at a time! You will have moments or even days where the baby has been crying non-stop, your covered in sweat, baby spit up and nothing felt like it got done. But you give a child the experience of dance and loved your child! Those are the moments that matter.

Anything else you would like to share? Insights? Ideas? Feelings? Advice? Stories? Frustrations? Successes? Challenges? Inspiration?

I love how dance is not only a part of me, but I can see it in each of my kids (My biological children and also the students I have taught). When music comes on, they love to dance and move. They might not become professional dancers or even take many formal classes. But I know they all have that love of dance in some way, inside each of them. As a dance teacher, that is why I will always teach in some way. At times I might just be teaching my own kids (everyone should know plie’s) or students during the summer months. But that will never stop me from being a dance teacher at heart!

Thank you Mary! 

Exploring 2 Props

IMG_2835This week in class I am trying something new! We are dancing with two props at the same time! Gettin’ crazy around here! Ha! Here’s what we did:

The two props I am using are ribbon sticks and streamers. I have a lesson I use with both of these props but I thought dancing with both at the same time would be interesting! First we danced with them to an instrumental Frozen song. Don’t the colors of the props remind you of January and Frozen? ;)

Then we talked about heavy and light. One is lighter to dance with then the other. I asked them to hold up which one felt light to dance with and then which one felt heavy. Some of them understood it, but some of them we confused. Showed me we need to do more lessons on heavy and light. Dancing with two things is a good way to figure it out.

The props have two different qualities of movement which was important for the dancers to see!

Next we made a shape on the floor with both of the props. Whatever shape they wanted to make. It didn’t have to look like anything at all, they just had to use them both. Then we made the shape in our body. It was cool to them translate what they created into their body.


Last, we practiced some coordination. We took both and circled them in and out then following each other left, then right.

It was a fun lesson to teach. I feel like it could still be developed. As the week goes on lessons usually evolve.

Have you ever done a lesson using two different props at the same time? What were they? I would love to hear! xo

Balancing Mamas Series

IMG_2521Hi Friends!

I’m starting a new series! It’s all about the work- life balance of dance teachers who are also moms! Sounds interesting, right? This past year it feels like my life was turned upside down, in a good way of course. I had to figure out EVERYTHING all over again and how to make teaching and being a mama work together.

I’m interested in how all of you make it work. So, if you are a mom and a dance teacher and would like to be featured in the series, please e-mail me at maria (dot) f (dot) hanley (at) gmail (dot) com. I will send you questions on your work-life balance and then feature you on the blog!

If you aren’t a mama, I think the series will be helpful to you as well! I hope you will also enjoy it! You could be a part of it by passing it on to your dance teacher mama friends. Other posts will also be in the mix, so don’t worry!

Look forward to hearing from you all!


p.s. above is a photo of one of my classes with my baby watching. :)

p.p.s. how do you like the name of the series? It’s a double meaning! Ha!

Teaching Dance in the UK

The Around The World project is inspired by a mothering around the world series that I really enjoyed reading. I thought it would be a wonderful idea to see how teaching dance varies around the world. Each month I will post an interview from a different country. I’m so excited to learn about the way dance is taught in other places. I hope you enjoy it! :) 


Meet Nicola Nicola who teaches ballet to children from ages 2-8 in the UK.

On your background…

I studied dance and musical theatre at Laine Theatre Arts (a college for performing arts) and was a professional dancer/singer for over 12 years, performing in musicals in the west end and touring the world. Whilst working as ‘Dance Captain’ on the musical Mamma Mia!, I started to realise my love of teaching.

I now teach ballet to children from the ages of 2­8 and have been teaching that age group for over 4 years.

On teaching dance as a career…

You can make a substantial career if you teach full time for a studio/ company, or if you have your own company. I co­own a company named ​Tippy Toes Ballet​that provides fun, creative ballet classes and I teach part­time and run the school the rest of the time!
No degree is necessary to teach dance, however either a certification from a governing board, a diploma in dance or experience is needed.

On teaching dance at every level and age…

There are lots of early childhood dance classes available in the UK. Parent’s love to see their children take class from a very young age. Likewise, there is a great range of private colleges that offer great dance programmes. Dance is also offered in University and state run colleges.
I have co ­written my own syllabus for our ballet classes, however I studied in R.A.D and I.S.T.D.

On creating dance for early learners…

We encourage personal expression and creativity by adding make believe to every one of our exercises. We have found that children engage and participate in the class if they feel that they are part of a ‘story’. We encourage children to express themselves throughout the class. Children learn ballet technique whilst having fun.


On parents…

Parents participate in our 2­3 year old classes as sometimes very young children need support. We enjoy having parents in our classes and working alongside them to ensure that their child has the best experience possible.

On your dance educator community…

Dance teacher conferences are available, but are few and far between.
I have seen a rise in social media groups for dance teachers recently, and they can be a great way to ask questions, and bounce ideas around.
There is quite a large number of teacher training however I would like to see more specifically for pre­school dance.

On the role of dance in your lager community…

There are lots of dance festivals and company’s in the UK. Dance is portrayed well in the media and being a professional dancer is a respected career. There is goverment funding for dance and the arts and we are very fortunate that it is so.

On Dance In Schools…

Yes, dance is often taught in secondary schools, but not in primary schools, however primary school often invite a dance teacher to teach a weekly after school class in school for any children that may want to take part at a cost.

On Dance in a private studio setting…

Taking dance class after school and on the weekends is a very common hobby for children in this country. It is definitely as popular as any sporting activity. Street dance has become very popular, however most styles are readily taken up. I think that extra curricular dance is very affordable in the UK.

On Boys in dance…

It is becoming more and more acceptable for boys to dance in this country, especially in street dance, which seem to be more and more popular to boys since TV talent shows have featured all male dance troupes, making it ‘cool’ for boys to dance.

On dance and tradition…

We still have many traditional dances in our country. Scottish Highland dancing is still very popular with children, as is Irish dancing. You can often see traditional dance performed at festivals and town fairs. Professional dance is very popular in the theatre and it can often be expensive, especially in the west end.

On dance and language…

We use all of the french ballet terms, however for the little ones, we also make up names so that they may find it easier and more fun.

On dance and technology…

We video our syllabus for our teachers to use in planning their lessons and to keep a record of our exercises.

On anything else you would like to share?

I love to inspire young children and help them find a ‘love’ of dance whilst learning technique. For those children that don’t carry on with dance, I like to think that they have gained confidence from my classes, and for those that carry on, having a good foundation from a very young age will help them ‘want’ to train and practice when they get older.

What would you like to see in the future in dance education?

More focus on pre­school teacher training. I read a lot of social media posts from dance teachers who are searching for ideas on teaching pre­school children, and resources seem to be few and far between.


Rounding out 2015

FullSizeRender-2The end of another year, I can’t believe it! I really miss you all, and I know I keep saying I am going to blog more, I just can’t seem to find the time to fit it in with full time teaching and a 1 year old! Are you all still with me and reading?

I have exciting goals for 2016 though, and I think you will love them! I have promised myself some writing time every week! I think it will be a big help in staying connected to you all!

I posted the question on Facebook, but wondering if we should do a project for 2016? In 2014 we did the Creating With Kids series and in 2015 we did an Around the World series. What could be next? Any ideas? Send them my way!

Thanks for a great year! Up above is our holiday card that I thought would be appropriate to share. I think of you all as family! Have a great start to the New Year!