All Dressed Up and No Place to Go Go at Your Own Prom!

by Deborah Joy Block, Director of Back to Basics Social Graces for Youth Program

Have you heard of the fable about the Emperor with no clothes? He travels through his kingdom making proclamations but his ommission obscures his message. Unaware of his nakedness and with nobody daring to inform him, his nonverbal communication speaks volumes. Watching the Homecoming King and Queen, the high school’s honored couple resort to the prom sway for their First Dance debut is equally awkward. They are royalty for the day and the dance floor spotlight is the most visibly dynamic kick off to the party which officially invites all the other attendees to join the festivities on the dance floor.  In this comparison, both the Emperor and the Homecoming King and Queen have missed the opportunity to put their best foot forward.

Stepping through the dance studio door and admitting you need lessons to be able to dance as a partnership with someone else  doesn’t occur to most teens and is often the hardest part for people- especially males.  For those who initially express opposition to lessons, I ask them what their alternative plan is and they respond “the high school prom sway.”  I suggested that before settling on a decision they should videotape themselves and see if they can last the full length (a typical song is 3:45) without feeling bored or awkward then watch the full length dance on video from their guest’s perspective too.

According to proper etiquette, The First Dance is a formal obligation of honored guests to open up the dance floor for the rest of the guests to feel welcome and comfortable to dance and set the tone for the festivities. It is also the epitome of the Cinderella/Prince Charming moment at their ball. Unfortunately, many don’t realize that the awkward high school prom sway for 4 minutes in front of 200 people is not a desirable alternative to skipping dance lessons. Cutting the “bear hug sway” down to 90 seconds isn’t fooling anyone either. It just says that you are all dressed up with no place to go. There are countless reasons a person can conjure up to talk him/herself out of dance lessons but for every reason not to there are double the reason to go for it!

The dance lessons are a vulnerable space where couples learn about themselves and their partnership and where they learn appropriate boundaries or respectful physical contact unlike twerking, bump and grind or freaking which are not only degrading but will get teens kicked out of the prom by chaperones. The couples also feel pressurized because they are often juggling major undertakings such as part time jobs, full time school, hobbies, sports, and a social life. But dance lessons actually benefit and bleed into all of the above areas in useful ways that can be incorporated as a life skill for future occassions besides the prom. Can you imagine a speech with no microphone for all of the audience to be able hear? Unthinkable. Dance moves give voice to the First Dance as confident student leaders in the community demonstrating their maturity through cooperation and teamwork and setting the bar for healthy interpersonal relationships between males and females. With a little preparation, prom night has the potential to be the most magical, fairytale moment for everyone!

Deborah Joy Block is the Founder and Director of Back to Basics Social Graces Youth Program.   Block’s company has taught over 10,000 students of all ages. Block is most known for being the premier national expert on wedding dance preparation and founded the nation’s first wedding dance company called The Wedding Dance Specialists which has attracted celebrity couples and national media attention. Mrs. Block is available for guest blogging, interviews and to teach social skills, social graces and life skills programs on or off site. http://www.BackToBasicsManners.com

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Dance Studio Etiquette for Teachers and Students

DANCE STUDIO ETIQUETTE FOR TEACHERS

by Deborah Joy Block, certified etiquette instructor and professional dance instructor/performer

There are lots of articles about social dance party and class etiquette for students and a few about ballet student etiquette but despite the fact that ballroom studios have existed in this country for over 100 years it is quite rare to find an article on the subject of professional guidance for dance instructor etiquette . Unfortunately, common sense does not always prevail in a room full of “divas” so an official etiquette rule book is required. These tips are designed to ensure a pleasant work environment and high quality lessons for optimal customer satisfaction. Studio landlords, feel free to copy this and post it or distribute it to your staff. I hope you will find it a useful resource to maintain a peaceful and pleasant studio atmosphere! Feel free to add your own etiquette suggestions (without specifically IDENTIFYING individuals as that is ALSO a breach of etiquette and your comment will be deleted.) Enjoy!

  1. If space allows, set up speakers & use mirrors at OPPOSITE CORNERS of the studio NOT NEXT to another lesson already in progress.
  2. Once all 4 corners are full THEN fill in the middle sections to avoid creating a crowded, distracting and dangerous teaching environment.
  3. If you need to play music LOUDLY or NONSTOP while rehearsing SOLO routines directly next to ongoing lessons please use EARPHONES.
  4. GROUP lessons requires MORE space and are noisier so either rent the whole room or do NOT teach middle sections. Simply swap positions with your neighbors.
  5. If you set yourself beside a privacy curtain assume that your neighbors may expect you to use it or else switch places with them so others can take advantage of the amenity.
  6. Rent space during non peak hours (anytime BEFORE 6pm) if you are teaching tap or flamenco, drumming, zills or other loud percussive dances. Anything after 6pm requires that you rent the entire back room as you are making it IMPOSSIBLE for others to teach next to you.
  7. Be mindful of volume levels and speaker location/angle or take turns if nobody is able to hear their music. If your speakers are poor quality bring A/V wires to take advantage of the many speakers the studio offers. If the bass is adjustable set it to MEDIUM.
  8. Approach management with unresolvable complaints rather than gossiping or cyber bullying on social media as that damages the studio reputation and creates a toxic work climate.
  9. Ask permission before adjusting the teaching environment –curtains, lights, fans, borrowing speakers, using overhead speakers, adjusting temperature climate, closing or opening blinds or windows, switching music, etc…
  10. Due to the high risk, direct contact nature of our jobs, use sanitizer or wash hands frequently to prevent spreading germs around the studio.
  11. Turn your music OFF when not teaching or dancing to minimize the overall noise in the room. Don’t leave music playing unattended.
  12. Don’t leave your belongings around the studio to “save” a space indefinitely. Let your neighbors know when you plan to return.

Please use common sense and good etiquette to be part of the SOLUTION be creating a FUN environment for yourself, colleagues and clients that is friendly and respectful so clients, staff and renters will recommend and return to support your studio and share in your passion for dancing!

Deborah Joy Block is a professional ballroom dance performer and instructor with 17 years of teaching experience with close to 10,000 students.  Throughout her career, Block has had 30 professional instructors on her staff including international competitors and world champions. Block has a Bachelors in Public Relations/Communications and Business from James Madison University and received her certification in etiquette from  the American School of Protocol in Atlanta, Georgia with 10 years of experience as the Director of Back to Basics Manners Social Graces Program teaching for the DC metro community and local public and private school systems. Deborah Joy Block, is also the Founder of The Wedding Dance Specialists – the first wedding dance company in the nation. She is recognized by the media, wedding industry leaders and engaged couples as the premiere national expert of the wedding dance industry. The Wedding Dance Specialists inspired the entire niche industry to expand worldwide! Ms. Block is available for interviews, guest blogging, consulting and teaching etiquette and social dance instruction in the DC metro area or worldwide!

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First Impressions Matter!

by Kimberly Irwin, Publicist for Back to Basics Social Graces

When you watch a movie or read a book which are the parts you remember the most distinctly? The beginning and the end ofcourse! That’s why first impressions are crucial when forming new relationships and leave a lasting impression. Whether you are meeting a new potential employer, new friend or love interest, the principles remain the same. Here are some general guidelines to helping you achieve the best possible first impression every time. Here are some key tips to make a great first impression!

1. Be confident: confidence is always key. If you’re not proud of who you are, why would anyone want to be around you?

2. Be a good listener: avoid dominating too much of the conversation. Allow other people to speak and ask for their opinions. Others will appreciate that you took the time to listen to what they have to say.

3. Make eye contact: eye contact shows that you’re engaged in the conversation and are an active participant in it.

4. Dress well:  grooming. If you look nice, people will generally have a more positive impression of you. Meet with a stylist to create the perfect “look” that represents your signature style!

5. Be honest: People can tell when you are being sincere and genuine.

6. Be respectful: Always be respectful. There is nothing more off putting than a rude person.

7. Use the other person’s name: People love to hear their own names. It makes others feel special and valued.

8. Be humble: Humility is a highly admired quality in a person. Avoid bragging about yourself or constantly trying to be the center of attention.

9. Be at eye level with the person you are speaking to. If they are standing, you should stand and vice versa.

10. Always rise when being introduced to someone new especially someone older or higher rank.

11. Hygiene: make sure your nails, hair, hands, face, ears and teeth are clean and presentable and your clothes are fresh and laundered. Deodorant is a MUST.

12. Open up a conversation with a compliment: not only is it the perfect icebreaker but making someone feel good with a compliment is one of the kindest gestures and can make someone’s entire day! Often, people feel ignored or anonymous and you have the power to make them feel special and noticed!

13. Offer to help someone: another great ice breaker and a foot into the door of someone’s heart is to take the time to volunteer your assistance or loan someone something that they need. This is especially shocking as a stranger will be tremendously grateful and pleasantly surprised that you were so generous and helpful. The gesture says a lot about you and it also inspires others to pay it forward and be kind to others.

14. Listen: sometimes just lending a caring ear and empathizing with someone is just what the doctor ordered. Sometimes your calm presence and focused attention can even be powerful enough to save a life.

15. Make something home made instead of store bought or host someone in your home instead of meeting at a restaurant: time is money and this gesture demonstrates that the person’s company is valuable enough to you to invest the time. Priceless!

16. Table manners: if you are making your dining companion nauseous by licking your fingers, picking up crumbs and eating them, chewing with your mouth open, talking with your mouth full, slurping your drink, hitting your utensils against your teeth, leaning on the table or holding your drink with both hands they will not be able to even look at you let alone connect with you.

Keep these tips in mind to get started off on the right foot in personal and professional interactions.  And remember, you only have one chance to make a great first impression!

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Good Sportmanship in Life and Love

by Deborah Block, Back to Basics Director

I wonder if the Bachelor is privy to the behind the scenes footage depicting all the “mean girl” antics… If he did, it would be very easy to separate the wheat from the chaff.  As much as this show depicts relationships as a competitive experience each woman is really competing against herself and her own merit. The confident ones with strong character realize that and will not get dragged into the cat fights and drag their own reputation down in front of the world. Just because others get catty doesn’t mean you have to get dirty in their sandbox too!

Here is an example of the latest passive aggressive “catfight”

http://tv.yahoo.com/blogs/yahoo-tv/bachelor-watch-exclusive-clip-next-week-episode-103012015.html

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January 5, 2012 · 10:03 pm

Adults “Freak Out” over “Freak and Grind” at School Dances.

by Deborah Block, Director, Back to Basics

And with good reason.

For children who have not learned how to partner dance – a school prom can be a daunting challenge…Since they don’t know how to lead and follow and have no concept of personal space they tend to adopt what they see in popular media – – the freak and grind. Some use the excuse that it is simply a form of self expression or cultural norms but that is just an excuse since they actually know no other alternative. As a result schools across the country are taking matters into their own hands. Some are empowering students with actual skills while others are trying to curb innappropriate conduct with rules and contracts. Either way, it is making headlines. Many cultures around the world use solo and partner dancing to highlight rights of passage, rituals and even casual celebrations but for those who aren’t exposed to it growing up, it can be too hot to handle when they are thrown into the fire! Here are some examples of what parents, administrators and chaperones are doing to prevent that “spark” from turning into a wild fire:

  • In order to attend a dance at Walnut Hills High School in Evanston, students must sign pledges that they will not dress
    provocatively or engage in lewd dancing. Their parents must sign, too. “Grinding, bumping, fondling, humping, licking, booty dancing, rolling, kicking, mashing, shoving, wallowing, disrobing, sexual kissing, freaking, jacking, and whatever a chaperone deems improper and/or indecent will not be permitted.” Students who break the rules will be removed from the dance and assigned Friday School detention for the remainder of the year.

• In Guam high schools, National Honor Society members have been threatened with a suspension for dancing in an inappropriate manner.

• At Dunwoody High School in the Atlanta area, students were told that if they were caught “dirty dancing” those who violated the policy would be sent to a “timeout” room if caught.

• Gabriel Richard High School in Riverview, Mich., linked dance attendance to passing a quiz about dance floor behavior.

• A Brown Deer, Wis., high school has thrown students out of dances, sent letters home to parents and threatened to suspend youths caught dirty dancing.

• Lower Merion High School in Philadelphia canceled school dances beginning next fall until students can propose rules.

• Dances have been canceled at schools nationwide, including in suburban Los Angeles; Iowa City, Iowa; Anchorage, Alaska; and Bethany, Ky.

• Administrators at Union Grove High School in Wisconsin are aiming to curb risque moves at their January winter formal. To assure that students do not get too footloose, school brass have issued official dance rules. As seen below, the rules outlaw “sexual bending” and the touching of breasts, buttocks, or genitals. Leg straddling is also verboten. Additionally, students are on notice that “Both feet must remain on the dance floor at all times.” The dance “will be videotaped to insure the safety of all students attending,” and so administrators could presumably review the film for provocative moves that were initially missed by monitors.

reprinted in part from The Cincinnati Enquirer

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The Benefits of a Social Skills Program for Youth

External circle of influences reinforce lessons learned at home. Children benefit from a social skills program because of the positive reinforcement they receive through “positive peer pressure” as they see the relevance of these concepts in their daily interactions with others outside of their usual comfort zone. In our program, Back to Basics, our students develop or fine tune their communication skills through life skills, manners and social dancing. The importance of good manners is obvious but what may be less obvious is how powerful social dancing skills are for celebrating milestones, personal expression and defining boundaries.

As witnessed in the documentary film “Mad Hot Ballroom” and movies like “Take the Lead”, social dance helps children cultivate coordination, self-esteem, respect, and socialization skills. Social dancing empowers children to:

• experience the joys of social dance fundamentals, music and rhythm.
• create opportunities for self expression.
• enjoy the social dance skills necessary for proms, parties, weddings and cotillions.
• inspire others to seek out dancing throughout their lives.
• to step out and shine when they may be shy or introverted.
• release pent up physical energies
• enhance their self-esteem by learning a new skill and achieving a goal.
• improve participation and confidence using interactive social skills.
• engage in teamwork with others
• learn  dance floor etiquette and appropriate decorum.
• broaden their exposure to the world of music and culture.
• gain an appreciation for dance performances as an artistic form of entertainment and expression.
• become acclimatized to public presentation.
• experience appropriate touching by defining their own boundaries and respecting the personal space of others.
• improve their physical health and combat obesity by making exercise fun!

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