Tuesday, March 10, 2020

An interview with a few Alumni of Encore Studios - Why it is important to keep dance in your child's life as they get older

As we head towards the finish line of our 15th season, we thought we'd touch base with some of our past students about how taking dance classes has shaped their lives.  

What feelings do you associate with dance lessons from your youth?

Alumni #1:  Joy, strength
Alumni #2:  Happiness, responsibility, stress relief, commitment, belonging,
Alumni #3:  Happiness. Those classes allowed me to make happy memories even if I was having a hard time in other aspects of life.
Alumni #4:  fun, friends, creativity, expression
Alumni #5:  Happiness, fulfillment, passion
Alumni #6:  Happiness, freedom, imagination, discipline, creativity

Did you dance in High School? How was that beneficial?

#1:  Yes. It was beneficial in that I made a lot of great friends, it helped my self esteem. It kept me active. I was not good at gym and dance allowed me to stay healthy
#2:  Yes. Kept me active, continued friendships that had been formed earlier, gave me a way to de-stress
#3:  I danced throughout my 4 years of high school and it helped keep me focused and helped teach me discipline, along with keeping me active! :)
#4:  I danced all through high school. It taught me to be self disciplined and responsible- to do both dance and maintain my grades was absolutely possible and I believe it gave me time management skills that were incredibly beneficial in university and my career. In addition, it was my escape from the stresses of high school life. I could leave it all at the door of the studio!
#5:  Yes - about 15 hrs/wk. Dance taught me to be poised, to handle challenges, to be disciplined and helped with my confidence in public speaking, self-expression and juggling priorities.
#6:  No! But so many regrets that I stopped before I started high school.

Did you dance while in post-secondary education? How was that beneficial?

#1:  Yes. It was like high school in that I made a lot of friends and it kept me physically active
#2:  Yes. Great way to stay connected to friends, stress relieving, kept me active
#3:  Yes, throughout my post secondary education I have continued to dance and be apart of the dance community. It has helped me de-stress during busy times at school and it has helped me express myself and focus my emotions during tough times
#4:  I taught and took classes all through my post secondary career. In fact, dance paid my way through university! I was able to work at a job that I thoroughly enjoyed and allowed me to work less hrs per week, which was possible because I committed through high school and was able to become an instructor as a result.
#5:  Yes - see above, but also dance provided an outlet for my stress, an extra support system of people I loved and a part-time job that I absolutely adored.
#6:  Yes! That’s when I came back to dance. I missed it so much. It felt great to come back.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Why Students Should Keep Dancing Through Exam Week

While we've touched on this subject before, it seems appropriate to talk about it again in light of the impending recital season corresponding with high school finals.  

Someone recently sent me an article from The Telegraph from April of this year:  https://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/2019/04/24/children-should-not-stop-playing-sport-run-exams-has-no-impact/amp/.  The article states that parents should not stop children from playing sport (or dance) in the run up to exams because it has no impact on the exam results.  The findings of the study conducted through Huddersfield University said that not only did participating in sport (or dance) not have any negative effect on exam results, participation actually has a lot of positive results for students.

The study found that those students who remained active during exams were happier, psychologically healthier, less anxious and more resilient and robust.  Active students learn to balance their time better to accommodate both sport and learning.  Here is just one way we've found that helps to make this a reality:

We suggest that students put the exam material on cue cards and carry them at all times.  Then whenever there is down time such as riding the bus, waiting in line, or waiting for their turn to perform, the student can pull out the cue cards and do some studying.

The cue cards are effective because they allow for frequent repetition of exam content.  Reviewing material in smaller portions more often really helps with retention.  

It is natural that parents and students be concerned that dancing too much will take away from their (child's) ability to do well academically.  However, after many years of observing dancers, we find for the most part that students who keep dance in their life have more success at school.  Here are a few reasons why:
  • Dance is the only activity that works both sides of your brain, which helps to expand knowledge as well as memorization skills
  • Dance reduces stress levels because it is a form of exercise as well as a form of expression
  • Dance enhances the quality of life of a student as they are more fit and feel more confident
  • Dance improves kinesthetic intelligence
  • Dance gives structure in a student's mind, making it easier for them to manage their time and complete assignments in a timely manner
And if those reasons aren't enough, did you know that the average dancer gets 30% higher on their exams than the average student who doesn't dance?!

So get out your cue cards and plan your time wisely during the upcoming recital and exam weeks - participating in both is not doing any harm and is actually doing good!

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

4 Mistakes Parents Make When Enrolling Their Child In Dance For the First Time

Your child loves music.
Your child loves to move and put on 'shows'. 
You want your child to learn discipline and feel confident. 
You want your child to exercise and create healthy habits. 
You want your child to make friends and have fun.

These are just some of the reasons parents look to put their child in dance lessons.  With well over 30 dance studios in Winnipeg, dance is a popular activity for kids.  But why so many schools?  Are they all the same?  Dance is dance - right?

Wrong.  After 13 years in business, there are trends and mistakes that we have seen parents make unintentionally time and again.  The studio you enroll your child in at the beginning is SO important.  It can make or break your child's love for dance, their inclination towards healthy habits, their appreciation of the performing arts, and their sense of self-worth for years to come.  We've had families come to us after years at other studios who can't believe their initial choice in a studio ended up being so wrong.  

Don't make the same mistakes - this is your child's future we are talking about!  Here's a helpful list of what NOT to do when enrolling your child in dance for the first time:


Mistake #1 - choosing a studio based on proximity to where you live

Listen, who has time and patience to drive all over the city?  We get it.  But if dance ends up being something your child is inclined towards, don't you want them to spend time and make friends with like-minded people, in an environment that is uplifting and encouraging?  That place, that home away from home, might not be conveniently located at the end of your subdivision.  

There is a reason there are so many dance studios in Winnipeg - each caters to a different kind of clientele, a slightly different approach, and a slightly different atmosphere.  There really is something and somewhere for everyone, but not everywhere is right for you.  

We recommend going into the studio you are considering, asking for a tour, and getting a feel for the atmosphere, the people, and the approach with teaching styles.  You will see that no two studios are the same, and that each has something to offer.  Make sure the studio you choose matches your wants and needs and not just in the short-term when your child is 3 or 4 years old.  Ask about approaches and philosophies for when your child is a teenager, whether they dance recreationally or competitively.  

Parents don't realize that once their child is enrolled in dance, they will make friends, you will make friends, and the next thing you know, you are five years in and realizing that the in-studio approach doesn't match up with your family values or child's personality.  In some cases, a poorly matched environment causes a child or a parent to lose interest in dance.  Also, changing studios brings on a whole new set of challenges, and just like changing schools, it can be a very difficult adjustment for your child.  All of that can be avoided by choosing the right studio in the very beginning. 

We recommend being clear on your values as a parent and on finding a studio that matches those values.

Mistake #2 - choosing a studio based on the biggest or top listed ads

Studios come in all shapes and sizes, but it goes without saying that the bigger studios have a bigger advertising budget.  That makes sense, but just because they are big doesn't mean they are the right match for your family.

In this day and age we all get on the search engine of choice to look for goods and services.  Did you know that the top listed items are in that order because of finances?  The search engines allow businesses to compete for placement based on advertising dollars and bidding.  Bigger businesses can afford to bid higher, and therefore get top placement with the search engines.

So the top listed dance studio is the studio with the biggest financial resources, and not necessarily the best place for your child to start on their dance journey.

Looking at several links is the only way to know if a studio is a good match for you.  Try one from the top, one from the middle, and one from the bottom to get a fair overview of what kinds of studios are available. 

We recommend you scroll down and look at a few different websites and not just the top of the search engine list to find the studio that's right for your family.  

Mistake #3 - choosing a studio based on popularity and awards

Its not very politically correct to say, but its a fact of life:  if a business has more financial resources, those resources can be used to gain more than search engine status.  Best business awards come at a cost, and some studio gems just can't afford them.  

It also makes sense then that the bigger studios will have more competition awards, simply based on numbers. 

So what you want to know is:  what is the process the child and family goes through to get that award?  Every studio has their own expectations and approaches.  Is it more important that you 'always win', or do you want the child to learn how to win in a supportive, encouraging process, where they learn how to win at life, even without a trophy?  

Chances are, even if your child is just preschool age, you should find out about the processes the studio uses to approach competition.  It could save you a lot of heartache for you and your child if you start in a place that matches your long-term hopes for your child.  And that may be for them to 'always win' - just be sure so that you end up in a studio and with friends that are like-minded for your family's long-term happiness.

So don't get star-struck by paid-for awards.  Look beyond the award to the processes and approaches that are in line with your family values.

Mistake #4 - choosing a studio based on class price

It may surprise you to learn that just like retail businesses, dance studios can offer 'lost leaders' to get customers in the door.  Some studios offer significantly reduced pricing, or even free classes for preschoolers to attract students.  If you only look at price, then you might not end up with a positive experience, and may even discourage your child from wanting to dance at all.

Winnipeg is well-known as the 'bargain-hunter's city' and that mentality is very much a part of us as citizens.  But you wouldn't buy an item just because its the cheapest.  You make your purchasing decisions based on getting value for your hard-earned money.

Conversely, some studios use their reputation and status as justification for their high tuition prices.  We can't tell you how many times people have told us about monthly tuition payments that match or exceed their mortgages!  Is that really necessary?!  Maybe, if all the other aspects of the studio are in line.  However, you can probably find a studio that matches both your values and your pocketbook.

We recommend that you look beyond the price when starting out, and instead look at the value of what kind of service you will be receiving and the atmosphere where you will be spending your time while your child is in their class.  The quality of the people you surround yourself with, from teachers to other families, is just as important of a consideration as the cost of the classes themselves.

Parents that are new to dance don't realize at first that its more than just an activity.  Its a community, a place of friendship, and can have a powerful effect on how your child feels about themselves.  It teaches perseverance, strength, independence and teamwork.  Dancers learn about hard work and how to set and accomplish goals.  They have an appreciation for arts and performing arts, and tend to be better students than kids that don't dance.  
It is worthwhile to take care in finding the right dance studio for your family as you will get more out of it than just an activity.  You will also get peace of mind from knowing that where your child is spending time and who they are spending time with are people and spaces that match your values. 

Go to encore.johnnybrown.ca

Thursday, January 25, 2018


This article focuses on the internal strengthening and uplifting aspects of dance when it is imparted in an atmosphere of enjoyment and encouragement.

March 7, 2017, I lost my Dad.  The manner in which he left this world was unthinkable, and left not only a hole in my life, but a wound that was deep, taking a long time to heal, and leaving a scar that will never be erased.

I have to admit, since that time,  it has been bothering me if I should share this with our customers and associates.  Some people I have shared this with because of a necessity to explain my own strange reactions to situations.  Initially, I felt that there was no value sharing this with our customers.  But in truth, this business is different from most, consisting of a community of children, families, teachers, and administrators that share something special that is difficult to put into words.  And as such, I knew at some level that sharing this tragedy at some point would be necessary and important.

It was the context of sharing that bewildered me.  I didn't want it to be empty words, only to generate sympathy.  There is a deeper meaning here that needed time to develop into an expression-able idea, one that could be used to help others.

I think I've come to the point in the healing journey where I can share, and even more importantly, feel compelled to share so people can understand why I am so passionate about sharing dance in a positive, enjoyable way with as many people as possible.  This is the context in which I compose the following ideas.

To me, dance is not about winning awards and recognition, its about winning at life with dance as the means to that end.  This is such a complex concept - what does it mean to win at life?  Certainly, the loss of my Dad did not seem like a win.  And the tragic way his life ended was the exact opposite of a life-win.  Its not because my Dad was not a dancer that his end came unnaturally early.  So, what does one have to do with the other?

I'm sure you have heard motivational phrases such as 'It's not what happens to you in life, it's how you handle it'.  I was not able to handle what happened well.  I'm human, and this situation broke me.  It has taken a long time to put some of the pieces of me back together, and the glue holding the pieces is not invisible.  At times I felt like a failure because I was broken.  The only way to move forward was to accept that I was broken, acknowledge that I had experienced a terrible pain, and learn to live within the context of that new reality for me and my family.

That idea led to my first 'win' post incident.  It came after attending a workshop in July, where I physically and mentally could not participate in fully because of what I could only recognize as post-traumatic residual reactions.  It bothered me so much that I could not participate fully.  What would become of me as a dance studio owner who couldn't deal with movements and situations that brought feeling of excruciating pain that did not allow me to function at full capacity?  I retreated after this 2-day workshop to do some much-needed processing, and after about a day and half of tormenting with this reality, I realized it was just that - a new reality.  I would accept this, and learn to move forward within this, and it would be ok.

I had to learn to give myself a break, both figuratively and literally.  When you own a business, that's a tough one!  Time off for me to be with my family and for me to pamper myself had to be a priority over the last 10 months.  But I disciplined myself to a schedule and stuck to it.  Dance taught me how to do that.

When I was in the studio, I took great joy and satisfaction in creating and teaching.  Moving in the studio allowed me to express myself.  Being active helped me to stay healthy and promote an overall sense of well-being.  When I was low I was able to distract myself and get lost in the movement and music.  Dance, being a form of self-expression, gave me an outlet for my feelings.

Setting goals with our teachers, administration, and students gave me things to work towards and look forward to, and the achievements were that much sweeter knowing they happened in spite of the adversity in the other parts of my life.

I re-discovered that I have a loving, supportive, and caring community of people around me that just needed to be asked once to help when needed, and they were there for me in an instant.  This community effect of the dance world  has carried me through the worst part of the healing process, and I am so grateful.  I've also learned through dance about compassion, and how I too can be there in an instant to support others and lift them up through tragedy and difficulty.

So when I say and advertise that dance should be a source of joy and positivity in your life, it's not just marketing rhetoric.  I also don't mean it should be easy and meaningless.  What I mean is that some people are just in it for the "wins" and that's ok for those that follow that line of thinking and approach, but for me, its a means, a lifestyle, and a way to add colour to one's life.  Even if a person never becomes a professional in the dance industry, through participation of a class or two per week, one can really reap the benefits dance can provide.

Its the combination of challenge, achievement, and expression that is what makes dance an important tool for healing, grieving, and strengthening one's inner self.  Please remember to keep it joyful, positive, and remember how lucky you are to get to move, feel, and celebrate living.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

How to Handle New Student Jitters

Before you give up on class for your child, be sure to check out the valuable information in this short video by Artistic Director, Ms. Tobi Leveille.