Nab an Assistant Teacher Gig

Kate Ridge, photo by Bill Kraus

Jenny Wade, photo courtesy of Jenny Wade

Have you ever wondered who those extra dancers are in the front of your class? They’re probably the teacher’s assistants. A TA is a young dancer who is chosen to help a professional instructor demonstrate or keep order during his or her class. The benefits: Being a TA allows you to spend extra time in the dance studio with your teachers while helping other students with their technique, which can actually help you to more fully understand your own critiques and areas that need improvement. So being a TA isn’t just a job, it’s a great way to bring you one step further in your dance career! Read on to learn more.

When Kate Ridge was 16, she got her first teacher’s assistant job traveling the country as a VIP with Dance Olympus workshop. Even though she was paying her own way on the tour, the connections she made were priceless. “I wanted to be as close to the instructors as I could to learn everything about being a dance professional. I was like a sponge,” Kate says. “The dance world is so small anyway, but for people to see what a hard worker you are from day one—it’s definitely a career opportunity.” For Kate, this time on the road got her a gig assisting at the EDGE Performing Arts Center in Hollywood!

Now Kate, 24, works as a teacher and choreographer at the Jean Hart Academy of Dance and the Shadowridge Dance Center in San Diego, and as a marketing administrative assistant for the California Center for the Arts, Escondido. She says she would never be where she is today, were it not for the contacts she made as a TA.

Why You Should Try It

There are numerous reasons to ask your teacher if you can assist her class. “I learned so much through assisting,” Kate says: “How to pace myself in a 10-hour rehearsal; how to take care of my body; how to network with other teachers in the industry; how choreographers handle teaching five or more classes in one day while constantly remaining exciting and motivating; what to charge for my future dance jobs; how to edit music; how to plan a warm-up; and how to balance the busy life of a self-employed dancer with a personal life.”

Getting hired as a TA will also push you to reach your fullest potential. “It forced me to push myself every time I danced,” she says. “People were relying on me for memorization and clarification of the steps, so it gave me the drive to perform full out every time. I never slacked off.” Plus, it gave her the chance to dance front and center during class. “There’s way more space to dance in the front or on the stage in those crowded conventions and classes.”

What You’ll Have to Overcome

Being a TA will help you become a leader. For Jenny Wade, who dances at Rhythm Nation Studios in Bedford, TX, the transformation from student to teacher happened rapidly and unexpectedly. When she was 15, her dance teacher stopped her in the hall and asked her to help out in class. It began spontaneously, she says. “He just said, ‘Hey, come in here and help me.’”

For the first six months, Jenny assisted as a favor to her teacher. But after racking up some experience, she was given her own class of little ones to teach, and she started earning $15 an hour for her efforts. After a year, she was making $20. Because the process was so sudden, it made Jenny, now 17, revaluate her priorities. “I had to step up into that leadership position. I thought, ‘I can’t be playing around anymore. I have to be more serious.’ I had to realize what it really entailed.”

While teaching younger students was no problem, Jenny was a little nervous about helping in a class of dancers her own age, even though they were less-advanced than she was. But when the time came to step into that role, she found her fellow students willing to listen because their relationship was based on mutual respect. She gave corrections but didn’t talk down to them. “It wasn’t like I was on a power trip, or trying to be mean,” she says. “They knew that I was just trying to help.”

Tapper Justin M. Lewis had a similar experience. He remembers it was difficult to connect with students his own age at first, but eventually his years of dancing experience won out: “The students look at me as a professional who knows what he’s doing.” Looking back, he says it’s a bit like the experience of being onstage; at first you might be nervous in the wings but the minute you start to dance—or in this case, teach—you come alive. And after three years of assisting, Justin is now on the brink of his career dream: running his own studio.

From TA to Studio Owner

Like Jenny, Justin began at age 15 and worked for no pay. One year later, he was earning $30 an hour and teaching two or three classes a week at Silver Spring, MD’s Knock on Wood, where he studied tap. Along with being a TA, Justin kept dancing and performing (mostly with his studio’s youth ensemble group Tappers With Attitude) until the managing director of Studio Bleu, Kimberly Walsh Rishi, happened to catch one of his performances and got in touch. “I thought she just wanted me to come in and help her teach classes,” says Justin. What he wasn’t expecting was the super-close working relationship the pair quickly established. “I talk to her daily,” says Justin. “She gives me insight into how her extremely successful studios work and the opportunity to meet some of her investors.”

Right now, Justin is majoring in performing arts management at Columbia College in Chicago. But he and Walsh Rishi have already begun planning their first joint venture. “Within the next couple of years, she’ll start her third studio in Virginia and she wants me to be the operating manager when I get out of school. I had no idea what I was getting into when I first met her,” Justin says. One minute he’s tapping out a few steps, “next thing you know, she’s helping me to run my own studio, which is my big dream in life.”

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What’s in Your Dance Bag—Based on Your Zodiac Sign

Sometimes our dance bags feel like portals to another dimension—we have no idea what half the stuff buried in our bags even is. (Note to self: Clean out dance bag.)

But have you ever wondered if there's a method to the madness? We're pretty sure there is, and as always, we're pretty sure it's something to do with astrology. That's right, your resident Dance Spirit astrologers are back with our best guess at what you keep in your dance bag—based on your zodiac sign.


You're always going 100 mph Aries (or maybe even more), so it's pretty much a guarantee that your dance bag is fully stocked with snacks to power you through the day. Granola bars, trail mix, yogurt, fruit. It's like a Whole Foods in there.

You've also usually got about six different pairs of shoes in your bag. As an Aries, you love adventure, trying new things and, most of all, a challenge. So when it comes to classes, you're all over the map. Tap, jazz, ballet, character, modern—you'll try them all.

Something else you won't go without? Your signature red lipstick, obv. How else are you going to show off your fiery personality? (And look amazing while doing it, TYSM.)


As a child of Venus, you always want to look your best, Taurus. So your dance bag is a hair salon/makeup station, all in one. If your dance besties need to borrow a hair tie, or are looking for a fun accessory to spice up their bun, they know you're the one to go to.

Also important to you? Smelling your best. Taureans love comforting, luxurious scents, so your dance bag is typically equipped with a favorite perfume or deodorant. (Or both.)

But what's most important is the bag itself—admit it, you've been using the same dance bag for years. We get it, Taurus, nobody likes change, and least of all the stubborn bull of the zodiac. But if your dance bag is really starting to smell like feet (or if your bobby pins are starting to slip through the holes in the bottom), you might want to consider investing in a new bag.


Gemini, you love to switch it up. So you're pretty much guaranteed to have at least three different dance fits in your bag at any given time. And your dancewear is always on point. You love to keep up with trends and try edgy, new looks.

Ever the intellect, you usually have a book in your bag, as well. You're always making book recs to your fellow dancers, and you refuse to be bored between rehearsals or backstage.

Though you might act carefree, Gemini, we know that at heart, you're ruled by Mercury—and you have more in common with your sister sign Virgo than you'd like to admit. That's why you always have a toothbrush, toothpaste, and some floss in your dance bag. No way you're getting caught with food between your teeth (or bad breath during partnering class).


Not to be obvious, but as a water sign, the first and foremost thing a Cancerian keeps in their dance bag? A water bottle, of course. (Preferably a Hydroflask, S'well or any bottle that comes in a fun color.) No dehydration here, please and thank you.

Your dance bag also functions as a de facto vending machine for your dance besties, since you always come prepared with the best snacks, and you're always willing to share. As a bonus, your snacks are almost always homemade, since you're practically a five-star chef.

And while we're wary of zodiac stereotypes, there is a pretty good chance your dance bag is stocked with tissues. And there's no shame in that—because, really, who can get through a performance of Romeo and Juliet without shedding some tears? Props to you for being in touch with your emotions, Cancer.


We'll state the obvious, Leo. You love to look at yourself, and sometimes the studio mirrors just aren't enough. So, naturally, you always keep a compact mirror in your dance bag, just in case your makeup or your bun needs an extra touch-up.

You also love bright colors, and you're not afraid to wear more daring dancewear than any of your besties. You've usually got a couple of leotards packed in your bag, just in case you need to make a fashion statement, and they're always fun. Bright colors, loud prints, stylish necklines—you'll try anything.

But something not everyone knows about you? You're an amazing friend, and incredibly loyal, Leo. That's why you've usually got something in your bag for your dance bestie, be it her favorite brand of granola bar, a fun sparkly pin for her hair, or a note reminding her she's a star, on and off the stage.


You're incredibly hardworking, Virgo, so you've always got the tools for success in your dance bag. TheraBands, foam rollers, tennis balls—you're the one dancer your teacher can always count on to be stretching between classes.

You also love to be prepared, so you've usually got a makeshift first-aid kit in your bag. The thought of suffering a blister or floor burn without the appropriate salves or bandages makes you shudder, and, hey, it's always better to be overprepared, right?

What's most noticeable about your dance bag, though, isn't what's inside of it. It's what it looks like—your bag is pristine. It never smells like feet, and you've got a hard-core system for what you keep in each little zip pocket or compartment. And TBH, all of your dance friends are jealous, though they'd never admit it.


Like your sister sign Taurus, appearances are important to you, Libra. You like to look good (no shame in that), so your dance bag is always stocked with the essentials: extra hair spray, lip gloss, concealer, bobby pins and a spare leotard, in case you get just a bit too sweaty.

You also love to socialize, so if this were the 1950s, we would say that you always keep your date book in your dance bag. As it is, you always have your phone with you, and it's usually blowing up with texts from your dance besties asking to make plans.

Your dance bag wouldn't be complete without your secret supply of chocolate. But to be clear: This isn't your average Hershey's bar. Libras aren't afraid to indulge, so you keep a bar of luxury dark chocolate tucked away for when the cravings hit.


You can't fool us, Scorpio—the contents of your dance bag aren't some big mystery, like you'd like us all to believe. In fact, they're pretty basic: For starters, you always have a black leotard or two in your bag. After all, black is your signature color.

One thing that isn't in Scorpio's dance bag? Toe pads. You love to look tough, so you'd never be caught dead wearing toe pads with your pointe shoes. However, this does mean you need a hefty supply of Band-Aids for the inevitable blisters.

You also love all things mystical and, dare we say, witchy. You're the Halloween queen of the zodiac, after all! So it's no surprise you always have a crystal or two in the front pocket of your dance bag. Let us guess…moldavite?


You're an explorer, Sagittarius, and that applies to your dancing. You're always trying new dance styles, and that's reflected in your dance bag. You always have the trappings of your latest obsession in your bag: heeled shoes for ballroom, kneepads for contact improv, sneakers for breaking, the list goes on and on.

But on all of your adventures, there's one consistency: You love making memories. And that means literally—you document everything. At each performance or recital, you're bound to be the one with a Polaroid or disposable camera in your bag, and you can usually be found snapping backstage candids of your dance besties.

Your other favorite form of documenting? Writing it down. You love to learn, so you're always taking notes. You can usually be found after class scribbling down your dance teacher's latest piece of wisdom. Your dance bag is crammed with half-filled notebooks, and you wouldn't have it any other way.


You like to be prepared, Capricorn. And we mean prepared—for every bad scenario imaginable. That's why your dance bag is a mini survival kit. The first Capricorn dance bag guarantee? A stitch kit, of course. Losing a ribbon on your pointe shoe mid-rehearsal is your worst nightmare.

You also always have at least three spare leotards handy. After all, what if you spill something, or get too sweaty or, worst of all, show up to an audition in the same leotard as your dance rival? No, thank you. As a Capricorn, you're expecting the best and preparing for the worst.

Another key to your survival kit? Headphones, so you can drown out the noise around you and focus on your dancing. And before anyone asks, the answer is yes, you have the perfect playlist—for each and every occasion.


Aquarius, you love helping others. That's why it sometimes seems like your dance bag isn't even for you—it's filled with stuff you bring for your friends. Snacks for one dance bestie, Band-Aids for another, and tampons, of course, just in case anyone needs one.

But when it comes to you, you're all about originality. That's why you always have tons of fun accessories in your bag: striped legwarmers, colorful socks, tie-dyed sweats and more than a couple of fun additions to your ballet bun, just to make it a little more interesting.

You're also a rebel at heart, Aquarius, which is why there's usually something in your dance bag that just borders on breaking the rules. Maybe your studio is strictly black leotards only—and yours is gray. Or phones are completely banned—and you just put yours on vibrate. We see you.


Like your fellow water sign Cancer, you're big on hydrating during dance class. But as a Pisces, you're a little more imaginative (and a little less practical), meaning you're usually carrying your water in something aesthetically pleasing, like a mason jar, a tumbler, or one of those fancy water bottles with a crystal in the base.

Unlike Cancer, you're a mutable sign, meaning you can adapt to just about any situation. Counterintuitively, this actually means your dance bag is pretty sparse. Unlike other zodiac signs who feel the need to overprepare in case of disaster, you're comfortable in most situations, and your dance bag reflects it. You like the basics, nothing else.

Something most people might not know about you, though, is that you get cold easily. We're not sure why, but it's a Pisces staple. That's why if you keep anything in your dance bag, it's the coziest of warm-ups.

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