A timely Term 4 reminder…

Dance schools everywhere are buzzing at the moment with concert excitement building. Students are immersed in choreography and squeals of delight at costume reveals can be heard from afar. It is such a thrill!

We understand that this is a busy term with a never-ending list of events and To Dos, not to mention the countless emails and notices from organisations like ours…. We understand that there will be days you may feel stressed, confused, too busy or too tired to take it all in. We understand that juggling work, school, activities and home can be overwhelming at the best of times let alone in November/December.

BUT (yes there is always a but), the photo day, studio rehearsal, dress rehearsal and concert are what every dancer lives for. It is their well-earned reward for a year of hard work, for doing that medal test, for pushing through those cold winter months, for being passionate, interested and motivated. The whiff of hairspray, the laughs with friends, pulling on a scratchy but sparkly costume, that well-earned smile of acknowledgment  from your teacher when you finally nail a tricky bit of choreography. It’s magic.

Mums and dads (particularly those who are new to dance this year), I promise it is worth it. When your little dancer is all grown up, these are the memories they will cherish. These are the events that will shape who they become. Dance builds strong, confident achievers. As teachers, we are motivated by seeing our students grow, not just as dancers but (more importantly) as people too. It is at the concert that this growth becomes truly evident. We care for your children as if they were our own and we share in your pride as each of them take their important place on the stage.

Dance schools go to great lengths to ensure information is available and accessible (ours is all on our website), but we need parents to take responsibility for their own schedule. Please read the information provided and ask by email if you have questions that are not answered. Make early arrangements now for rehearsal days to ensure you are not late and/or stressed and please don’t call your studio owner or teacher on the day to ask what time you are required!

Dance schools appreciate your patience and support at this time of year. Trust me when I say that an enormous amount of work goes on behind the scenes preparing for a concert. Long hours of choreography, costumes (measuring, sourcing, ordering, collecting sorting, fitting, altering), accessories, sewing, music cutting, licensing, ticket management, production meetings, venue liaison, child safety, OHS, running orders, lighting plots, image projection, communication with our families, props and more. In particular, we spend a lot of time on scheduling to minimise the time each family is required on important days. I certainly hope Dance Habit families will find our schedules practical and easy to read this year after the countless hours put into them!

Please be kind to your studio owners, administrators and teachers. They are all working tremendously hard to pull together fabulous concerts for the thousands of enthusiastic dancers around the country. As they rightly say in High School Musical – “We’re all in this together”!

At Dance Habit, we have just five weeks to go. I can’t wait to be backstage to feel the magic and anticipation as the curtain goes up. There’s no better place in the world.

Enjoy the ride!

Megan  x

A dancer's home is on the stage

Photo source: Unknown

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A little about me…

Megan

I’m passionate about all things dance. It’s literally my bread and butter. I pride myself on educating our community about the importance of safe approaches to dance tuition (giving consideration to the physical, mental and emotional health of students), but I often struggle to find a platform to share my thoughts. Hence the blog! Not sure how successful it will be, but as I say in my first entry below – it’s impossible to be perfect. So, here goes! I hope you enjoy reading x

My name is Megan Jessop and I have been passionate about dance for as long as I can remember. I commenced ballet classes at age three and completed exams in ballet, tap and jazz under the expert tuition of the teachers at Mt Eden Ballet Academy in New Zealand. I secured my first dance teaching job at age 16 thanks to Jacqui Cesan (owner of The Dance Studio, Auckland) who saw something in me. I never looked back. 

In 2002, I graduated from the University of Auckland with a Bachelor in Performing Arts (Dance) and shortly after, migrated to Melbourne. In 2011, after far too many years of working (unhappily) in the public service, I made my childhood dream a reality by opening my very own dance school, Dance Habit. This October, we will celebrate six years of operation and I love being able to spread joy through movement!

I have always wanted to own my own dance school – it was something my friends and I dreamed about when we were younger, however, the push to make that a reality came from being unhappy in an administrative role with the public service (which I had fallen into as a means to an end when I first migrated to Melbourne). Despite being highly motivated and driven to succeed, I kept butting heads with management who were reluctant (or unable) to authorise any improvements to business practices. Ultimately, I was just not cut out to work in the public service, but it took a good 4.5 years and hitting absolute rock bottom self-confidence for me to realise this.

Opening Dance Habit was a huge challenge. I maintained my full-time job for the first two years whilst setting up classes in a church hall. I have an all or nothing personality, which means I don’t do things by halves. Those first few years were taxing – financially, physically and emotionally. I put everything I had into my new venture and went as far as being admitted to hospital for exhaustion (against my wishes)!  However, I persevered and after two years was in the fortunate position to accept a small voluntary departure package from the public service, which I eagerly accepted as a sign to give Dance Habit my full attention. 

Since leaving my full-time job, I have opened our own studios in a commercial space, grown to 400 students and have a committed team of eight who collectively manage over 70 classes per week. Getting the right people has been imperative. I was fortunate to have some very close friends jump on board in the beginning and they are still here on the journey with me now! The emotional support they have provided has been indispensable.

Through trial and error, I have developed a pretty regimented recruitment process and I choose not to hire dancers. Performing is an entirely different skill set to teaching and it quickly become evident that the best dancers do not make the best teachers. I hire only those who are committed to their roles as dance educators – the kind who put their classes before professional work… the kind our students can rely on. 

Personally, I stay motivated through up-skilling and professional development. Last year I completed a Diploma in Dance Teaching and Management and travelled to Queensland to attend a three-day studio owners and dance teachers’ conference. This year, I attended a conference in Palm Springs, California hosted by Misty Lown from Dance Studio Owner University. Just this month, I am proud to have received certification in Rhythm Works – a specialised and inclusive dance program designed for those with individual learning challenges and other special needs. 

As a mum, I’m working on work-life balance, which I admit is a challenge. I made the best decision in a long time by recruiting an administration officer earlier this year. She has been the perfect fit for our dynamic team and has allowed me to step back from daily management of the studio to focus on the bigger picture. I’ve been busy further developing and supporting my teachers, increasing our presence in the community, offering additional programs over and above our regular classes and of course, spending more time with my family. My son is growing up so quickly! He’s almost three and it’s true when they say the days are long but the years are short. I am consciously choosing not to prioritise studio matters over my family – a change from the early years after his birth. Unfortunately, I have been criticised by some for this decision as it means I am not as visible at the studio, but I don’t want to end up looking back with regret.

Like any venture, running a business comes with a number of challenges and without a doubt, the biggest one is failing to please everybody. I take criticism pretty personally, though you wouldn’t know it from the calm and resilient façade I’ve somewhat mastered over the years. I’m learning that I’m only human and that I can’t possibly be perfect. This is a great lesson for me, but more importantly, it’s one I can share with the students of my school. 

I think it’s a beautiful thing that I have the ability to teach our kids that it’s okay to make mistakes… and what kind of role model would I be if I didn’t lead by example? Yes, I have messed up along the way and I’m sure I will continue to make mistakes for a long time to come. However, I know that I have a good heart. I build others up and I contribute to my community by sharing everything I know and love. The definition of success looks different for everyone, but for me, right now, that’s enough! 

Megan x