Please Wait a Moment

Advice on Relationship Building

As a K-12 dance educator, you will want to focus on building relationships to further strengthen your program. Here is some advice from NDEO members on building relationships with students’ families, administrators, the student body, and the wider community:

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Relationships with administrators

Relationships with parents

Building relationships withing the school and district

Building relationships within the community

Relationships with administrators

“You're teaching so much more than dance. Make sure people know that! Invite administrators to watch your classes or pop in during an activity that isn't performance related. Talk to history, art, PE and other teachers in your building to see how you can incorporate some of what they are teaching into your classroom.” - Amber Corriston, Director of Dance at Harrisonburg High School, a public high school in Virginia

“It’s always important to keep your administrators in the loop of the great things your students are accomplishing. Even if they don’t understand it, they can’t recognize your importance if you don’t tell them about it.” - Michelle Dunn, Dance Educator at Centennial High School, a public high school in Nevada

“Educate your administrators, families, and counselors about the importance and value of dance education. Pretty much assume all stakeholders know nothing, even if they are arts savvy." - Gabrielle Cook, Dance Teacher in a public high school in New Jersey

“I fought my district for the last 15 years to keep the program. No matter how much I tried to educate them, I still came up at every budget meeting as the class to slash. Be very, very professional in dealing with everyone from the custodians, to lunch ladies, to colleagues, to principals, and higher administration.” - Caroline Brackett, Dance Educator, West Genesee High School, a public high school in New York

Relationships with parents

“Respecting the busy lives of parents and families with clear communication about performances and extra rehearsals will quickly build trust for your dance program. Putting on a performance for your students will bring up questions about costumes, backstage supervision, snacks or meals if staying after school, transportation etc. Families also love a peek inside the classroom. If you are able to have a social media account for your dance program, this is a great way to connect families to what is happening on a daily basis, so they see the process and not just the product. Many schools also have learning management systems where you could post photos or rehearsal videos for students to practice with at home that parents and families would also have access to viewing.” - Cara Lavallee, Middle & Upper Learning Dance Teacher at The Galloway School, a private PreK-12 school in Georgia

“The best way to connect with parents is by having dance events in your school and by publicizing your program. If your school or principal has a newsletter, ask to do an article that highlights a grade level you are teaching and include fun pictures of the students. Create a dance class website that is connected to the school website where families can take a peek into your curriculum and see what their students are learning. Showcase your program at school-wide events such as talent shows, open house, or curriculum fairs. When you are ready, have a dance concert. Families love to come together on behalf of their students and watch a performance. Your performances are a place where families can gather together not only to raise money and awareness for your program, but also to build community with one another.” - Gina Spears, Dance Educator at Portage Park Elementary, a public elementary school in Illinois

Building relationships within the school and district

“Developing a successful high school program is similar to developing a successful dance studio. You must be willing to market your class and yourself to the school population in order to build engagement and participation. Consider starting a club or performance ensemble that can perform at different school events. Then, make them look professional. Get T-shirts/costumes that will make your dancers confident and encourage others to join.” - Hannah Olmo, Dance Teacher at Dover Public Schools in New Jersey

“Building relationships is KEY! Students obviously are the most important, in many places if they aren't signing up for your classes, then your classes will cease to exist. To that end make sure counselors are on your side, so they put kiddos in your class, buy your custodians coffee or donuts so your space is beautiful, and make sure that administration knows that dance is just as important as music to a well-rounded student's education.” - Leslie Williams, Director of Dance at Liberty High School, a public high school in Colorado

“Try to be a club advisor for an after school club related to dance, like Majorettes, Dance Team, as choreographer for the musical. This will help build your program and bring what you teach in the classroom onto a broader stage. The community and administration will get to know you better and dance will be a bigger staple in your district - which means funding!” - Deborah Toteda, Dance Teacher/Director at Harrison High School, a public high school in New York

“Network and offer opportunities for the whole district! Not everyone understands the importance and opportunities dance classes can offer to dancers or non-dancers. Hold camps for elementary levels to help promote your programs at the secondary level. Find opportunities to perform for district events. Invite staff to attend concerts!” - Ashley Zardus, Dance Director/Teacher at a public high school in the Novi Community School District in Michigan

“The National Honor Society for Dance Arts (NHSDA) has helped our program to grow. My school site is highly academic and students are often reluctant to take dance. Having a nationally recognized honor society and award associated with the program has brought us a lot of credibility with parents and the community. NHSDA demonstrates that dance is more than just a fun something to do, dance is an art that rounds out the academic student.” - Carmel Gabriel, Dance Director at La Quinta High School, a public high school in California

“Team up with an academic teacher to present your shows on or off-site. Administration loves connecting arts with academia. For example, a history teacher wanted our department to be a part of his speakeasy lesson so he planned a whole set for the students and actors and dancers dressed up and acted out a speakeasy. The dancers taught the dance of the time. It was a great collaboration that engaged students for nearly 3 hours.” - Kathleen Dominiak Treasure, Dance Director at Hammond Arts and Performance Academy, a public high school in Indiana

“I started an annual dance festival with two other dance teachers at peer schools. The students looked forward to getting together with these other schools, sharing their work and became really excited about the pieces that we would share with one another. It was not a competitive environment, but one of artistry, and became a really positive, welcoming place. All the students from the three schools would take a master class together and then share their work with each other. It became a wonderful environment to really promote dance when we felt like such a niche community within our own school community.” - Cara Lavallee, Middle & Upper Learning Dance Teacher at The Galloway School, a private PreK-12 school in Georgia

Building relationships within the community

“The more you can extend your reach into the community the better. It is one of my regrets-not building that bridge a lot stronger. Be involved with the surrounding private studios. See if you can teach there at night or during the summer to get to know their kids and spread word about your school program.” - Caroline Brackett, Dance Educator, West Genesee High School, a public high school in New York

“Building relationships and finding community resources can enrich your life as an educator and broaden experiences for your students. I draw on the resources of the universities and colleges near me. I find out what guest artists they have coming in, and find ways to connect them with my students. You can share performances with your students so they see what is happening in their community. Find local businesses that support teachers and the arts with grants you can use for your program. Build relationships for collaborative projects with studios in the area, and community organizations.” - Mary Anne Herding, Dance Department Chair and Dance Educator at Xavier College Preparatory, a private high school in Arizona

“We work closely with a number of professional arts organizations and local dance companies throughout the year. These collaborations include Residency program, performance attendance, free tickets, master classes, and lecture demonstrations.” - Tovah Bodner Muro, Dance Educator/Department Chair, Jacqueline M Walsh High School for the Art, a public high school in Rhode Island

“I especially enjoyed collaborating with college dance educators who visited our high school and offered feedback on student choreography. The students applied that feedback, then we visited and toured their college, ultimately performing the student works on their stage.” - Angela Criscimagna, Dance Director at Great Oak High School, a public high school in California


“Find the gaps that you can fill through dance in your community! Educate and advocate all the time - get your students to take ownership of their learning and share it with the community.” - Gabrielle Cook, Dance Teacher in a public high school in New Jersey

“Our students have a public purpose program where they do community work and service projects for an organization. I also have a week-long guest residency each semester with a teacher currently working in the field. I bring in guest teachers and visiting dance companies to the city as well as take students to performances locally. We also attend the high school dance festival each year.” - Tabatha Robinson, Performing Arts Department Chair at Lick-Wilmerding High School, a private high school in California

“Another program I sponsored for 15 years was the AIDS Benefit, this brought schools from both the private and public sector together to provide a spectacular show with all the proceeds going to Dancers Responding to AIDS.” - Gerri Barreras (pictured left), Performing Arts Chair and Dance Director, Gulliver Preparatory High School in Florida


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