2 Tips for Modern Teachers: Challenge the core and liquid breath.
Tips for improv in your program.
It feels good to read about other young women who have chosen this path [“What They Do for Love,” July 2012]. I took over my mother’s business at age 23 and I have had so many moments of doubt about myself and my abilities to succeed at such a young age. When you surround yourself with people who believe in you, and when you trust that you have been living this life since you were born (for all us studio babies), it becomes clear that there is no better person than you to carry the torch.
Transitions, staging, and visuals will enhance your choreography in a big way. Don’t be afraid to get beginner dancers transitioning and moving in their routines instead of standing in one spot for an entire song.
Only a few minutes ago, they were swinging, twirling, and balancing over our heads. Now the 12 dancers are earthbound, standing in front of parents and friends on a Saturday afternoon last March, as poised and gracious a group of teenagers as you are likely to encounter. Members of San Francisco’s Zaccho Youth Company (ZYC), they have just shown excerpts of their repertoire, performed on the floor and on trapeze, hoops, and a multi-paned “window.”
A typical dance school year provides a feast of opportunities for images that you can use to convey the personality and professionalism of your school. And who’s better positioned to record them than yourself? Because you’re a familiar face, your young subjects may be less self-conscious than if they were being photographed by an outsider. Also, you’re there every day, which improves your chances of recording the kind of wonderful, unscripted events that arise around the studio or the beauty captured in a formal photo shot.
If you ask 10 dancers why they dance, you will likely get 10 very different answers. One might say it is the feeling of freedom, another the sense of pride that comes from improving, yet another the satisfaction of emotional expression. But a common thread is joy, a feeling that crosses all boundaries of age, ability, background, and training. It is this universal joy that is at the heart of Boston Ballet’s Adaptive Dance Program, designed for students with Down syndrome. With their bright smiles and constant giggles, anyone can see the love the students have for movement and for each other.
There was a time when the goal of modern dance technique training was to make all dancers look as much alike as possible. That day has passed. Today most choreographers expect dancers to bring themselves to the movement they are given, and in many cases, to participate in the creation of the movement itself.
The U.S. modern dance world has been going gaga over Gaga. No, not the lady with the chart-topping pop songs and outlandish costumes, nor the babbling overheard on baby monitors. In the dance world, Gaga is an approach to movement that sensitizes dancers to the space around them and to the inner workings of their bodies.
Hadsel is the director of Curtains Without Borders in Burlington, Vermont, a conservation project that finds and restores theatrical scenery curtains and drops. Her team of professional conservators rescues curtains—most painted between 1890 and 1940—that once decorated the stages of hundreds of granges (home to various political and social rural-based organizations), town halls, and other community buildings. They find them in musty attics and dusty below-stage spaces, where they were rolled up years ago and forgotten, and restore them to their former glory.
Dance studios and programs across the country tend to put most of their emphasis on nurturing budding dancers and give little thought to offering training, support, and opportunities for young choreographers, particularly aspiring teenage dancemakers. But look harder and you’ll find that choreographic mentorship is thriving in three North American programs.
Dance accompanists are an integral part of dance education. The job is multifaceted and challenging. Accompanists must use their experience and instincts to know what music best suits a teacher’s needs, and they need to play it well. They play a crucial role in helping dancers understand musicality, all the while seeking to continue developing their own artistry. It’s not an easy job, but it’s a rewarding and satisfying one for those who are successful.
Once the cabinet has been fully refurbished, it will await a buyer in one of four adjacent studios, alongside antique dressers, lighting fixtures, credenzas, and trunks. In the meantime, it will be admired by a steady stream of dance students. What? A dance studio/furniture store? In Manhattan? Yes and yes.
“You have to be more like an eagle than a sparrow,” Gelsey Kirkland tells an aspiring teenage ballerina who needs help with jumping and covering space during technique class. Kirkland lifts her arms in the spacious studio to simulate a broad wingspan, bringing to mind the combination of a sparrow’s fragility and an eagle’s prowess she brought to the stage during her performing career.
As it so happens, there is a little bird that can help keep your customers informed and do much more—Twitter. As you probably know, it’s a micro-blogging social network whose logo is a bird, and the messages exchanged are called “tweets.” But have you thought about it as a marketing tool for your dance studio? Twitter can reach your customer base and beyond, giving your school a connection to prospective customers, your customers’ family members and friends, and other dance organizations.
I introduce theories of shape early, when kids are 6 to 8 years old, explaining that shape is an element of space and an important visual component in dance. I show examples of angles, lines, and curves; and open/closed, symmetrical/asymmetrical, harmonious/contrasting, and centered/off-center shapes. Here are some activities that reinforce this concept while also engaging young dancers.
My children have learned to embrace dance and how to put it to use in their everyday life. The studio is their second home. I am happy knowing that is where they want to be in their free time; that is all because of her. She is dramatic—aren’t all dance teachers?—but at the same time she recognizes when a child needs to be given a hug because maybe her day did not go so well. She knows each and every child and all of their quirks.”
I slapped some ice onto my purpling Achilles tendon, but I could tell I was going to have to rest it. So I emailed the director of A Little Night Music, a production for which I was contributing choreography. A string of email brainstorming correspondence followed, and I began to write out instructions, reminders, and notes for the rehearsal in the event that I could not attend. Fortunately, the show was three weeks into rehearsal with staging and choreography already plotted out. But that night was an important run-through of Act 2, which I felt I could not miss. As a joke, I wrote, “Too bad we can’t have a video conference!” To which the assistant director replied that we could—via Skype, so that I could “watch” the run-through.
This month we zero in on creativity, which immediately brings to mind the artistic aspects of dance education. But creativity is a state of mind that can flow into all areas of life, including our attitudes toward our businesses. Being creative means being open to possibilities and exploring options. So let’s look at how that mind-set can play out in these imaginary scenarios involving two studio owners.
In the age-old definition, master classes differed from regular classes by the in-depth nature of the instruction. Developed in the classical music world but applicable to all the arts, master classes were rare opportunities for upper-intermediate and advanced students to hone particulars of their craft with an instructor who had reached the pinnacle of an artistic field and could share insights that reached beyond the students’ regular lessons. The key, presumably, was that the teacher was a master.
Successful teaching demands that the instructor take command of her material and her classroom with authority. This can be tough, especially when you’re just launching a teaching career. Think about when you first started teaching. Did you come roaring out of the gate, full of confidence, or do you still sometimes struggle with doubts about your qualifications, teaching abilities, or leadership qualities?
Improv in tap dancing is something that doesn’t come naturally. A lot of students are afraid to experiment; however, that’s exactly what you should ask them to do. The more tap vocabulary they have, the easier improvising will be. It’s all about making phrases and trying different things, such as starting with easy steps they’re familiar with and building on them or matching song rhythms with their feet.
Challenge the core. To build students’ core strength in each class, have them do the yoga “plank” with weight on the forearms. Tell them to hollow the abdomen (exhaling to bring the navel closer to the spine) and maintain this form for at least 30 seconds. As they become stronger, encourage them to place one hand at a time behind the back and then to lengthen one leg at a time until the foot leaves the floor. Incorporating these into longer movement phrases with music allows students to experience them as dancing rather than exercises.
2 Tips: Be visual and a creative and visual routine starts with creative ideas, a concept first and then the music.
Tips on Fouetté Fundamentals
Today one of my teen students told me that she has to leave the school where I teach because her parents can’t afford the lessons, shoes, and costumes. She is such a good dancer, with a personality that cannot be beat. She’s at the studio all the time and I look forward to seeing her because she fills the room with joy. I want to ask the school’s owner to give the girl a scholarship, but I know he is having a hard time financially too. I was thinking of paying for part of the tuition myself, but I can’t afford to cover all her expenses. I am looking for advice on how I can keep this student in the classroom.
COLUMNS Ask Rhee Gold Advice for dance teachers. 2 Tips for Ballet Teachers | Fouetté Fundamentals By Mignon Furman 2 Tips for Hip-Hop Teachers | Artistic Vision By Geo Hubela 2 Tips for Modern Teachers | Strong and Liquid By Bill Evans 2 Tips for Tap Teachers | Early Steps in Improvising By Stacy . . .