Sugar plum fairies, trick-or-treating, fireworks—holidays are made of traditions. This month we honor holiday traditions but approach them in new ways. Get prepared with creative show concepts, a how-to guide to marketplace events, ideas for teaching dance history, event marketing strategies, and of course the latest holiday-themed costumes and backdrops.
Plus, student-focused custom calendar for fundraising, marketing, and information; how and why sister studios share ideas, advice, and resources; a Las Vegas choreographic “marriage” between Nevada Ballet Theatre and Cirque du Soleil; and more.
There’s something here for everyone!Read More
When a barre combination includes multiple ronds de jambe, students frequently need to be reminded to draw a complete half circle on the floor with the working toe before starting the next rond de jambe.
Another mistake often seen in multiple ronds de jambe is cutting short the final one to close in fifth. To correct this, try giving one fewer rond de jambe than the music suggests.
Tip 1 Merriam-Webster defines counterpoint as “the combination of two or more independent melodies into a single harmonic texture in which each retains its linear character.” How can we use counterpoint in our choreography and classroom exercises?
Tip 2 For advanced dancers playing more complex rhythms, make sure the volume of each counterpoint section is equal—otherwise one rhythm will drown out the other.
Books of note (new and not)
1. The Artist’s Compass: The Complete Guide to Building a Life and a Living in the Performing Arts
2. Dance Production: Design & Technology
3. Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova
4. Raising the Barre: Big Dreams, False Starts, and My Midlife Quest to Dance The Nutcracker
The Valley of the Sun, a prosperous swath of south-central Arizona that includes the greater Phoenix area, cradles Dance Connection 2, in suburban Chandler. DC2, as it’s known locally, was spun off 28 years ago from Scottsdale’s Dance Connection studio by MaryAnna Gooch, now 72. Several years ago Gooch decided to dedicate the school’s Christmastime show to charity, choosing HopeKids Arizona, a nonprofit organization that serves children with life-threatening illnesses, as beneficiary.Read More
In my seminars I often talk about change: I believe that accepting it is key to personal and professional success. Some change is hard to accept, but some feels like a natural evolution. Some can be a little of both. That’s the case for me as Cheryl A. Ossola, after nearly a decade at the helm of Dance Studio Life, has decided to transition into a new role here. Though Cheryl has stepped down as editor in chief, she continues to provide valuable expertise and support in her new and evolving position as senior editor.Read More
“Not Exactly Billy Elliot”: As a boy growing up in the 1970s in a small, rural county that had one dance school and one male student—the owner’s son—I couldn’t imagine getting a dance education. Mine wasn’t an Appalachian coal mining town equivalent to the mid-1980s Northern England in Billy Elliot, but in retrospect it seems close: a pulpwood company town of unions, strikes, and factory chimneys pumping out smoke.
“Autism in Girls”: The story made so much sense that it was like reading news I already knew. “Autism—It’s Different in Girls” (Scientific American Mind, March 2016) looks at new research and suggests the reason boys diagnosed with autism far outnumber diagnosed girls (generally, 4 to 1) is that autism in girls doesn’t resemble autism in boys.Read More
Twinkling lights and scarecrows, candy hearts and pumpkin pies—we love to celebrate the holidays. In many cultures, dancing is part of the celebration, so why not bring the merriment into the studio?Read More
Does that Nutcracker recording keep buzzing in your head from September through December? Some dance school owners and teachers think so, and they’ve decided not to follow the Sugar Plum Fairy’s lead. Included here are four directors who have created or produced holiday shows that offer alternatives to The Nutcracker and still draw audiences.Read More
Forget the stereotypes of backstabbing and rudeness among studio owners—competitiveness doesn’t have to be the norm. Nor do studio owners have to feel alone in facing challenges, from fundraising to coping with difficult clients. Those who team up in sister-studio relationships often find unexpected benefits.
Some studio owners share resources such as costumes, teachers, and even students. They collaborate on shows to reduce the burden of production costs as well as expose their students to new ideas and ways of thinking. Perhaps most significant, they lean on each other for moral support and answers to questions that only another studio owner can understand.Read More
My school, Perna Dance Center, does many holiday-related performance events and participates in community and charitable activities throughout the year. For each holiday, a troupe of volunteer dancers is assigned to perform at events. All these occasions are good marketing opportunities for the school, but they require some marketing of their own.Read More
In a side bend exercise, students may pike and pitch forward slightly, thinking they are increasing their side bend. Instead, they are likely inhibiting it in the long run. Remind them, as you demonstrate and as they do the exercise: “Truly side!” They won’t be able to bend far at first, but with repetition their spines will loosen and they will both increase their true side bend and develop the strength to support it. Bad habits always creep back in, so keep constant watch for the true side bend.
Lifeless, shapeless hands! How do we help students to extend through the tips of their fingers without tension? The only rule I follow for hands came from the great José Limón dancer Betty Jones. “Human hands,” she would say—and suddenly I released all notions of trying to create shapes with my hands, instead allowing them to be simply hands; this in turn allowed me to extend them without tension. Try asking students for “human hands” that include the two thumbs.
If Houston Ballet’s Nutcracker Market is any example, things really are bigger in Texas. The annual fundraiser generated $6.5 million in gross revenue in 2015 and contributed $5 million to the company’s Foundation, which supports the general fund, academy, and scholarship programs.
Now in its 36th year, the Houston Ballet (HB) Nutcracker Market is a regional tradition that draws more than 100,000 visitors to the massive NRG Center. Along with shopping nearly 300 merchant booths filled with home decor, toys, crafts, and gourmet food, attendees can enjoy a preview party, fashion shows, and raffles.
A Nutcracker-themed market can be a fantastic fundraiser for local companies and small studios too, even when done on a fraction of the HB event’s scale. HB Nutcracker Market CEO Patsy Chapman and associate director Daisy Perez share their experience and tips for making any marketplace a very merry event.Read More
Studio-created custom calendars are a fun way to celebrate your students, and they serve practical purposes at the same time—raising funds, keeping families informed, and serving as marketing tools. They can also be great holiday season gifts for anyone with ties to the school. We spoke with three studio owners who created three very different calendars and learned about the process and practicalities, from brainstorming to designing to selling.Read More
A stilt-walker surrounded by children, a contortionist amid a whirl of bourréeing ballerinas, a bevy of beauties lifting a clown—it’s a grand pas, Vegas style. Vegas, the wedding capital of the world, has united two unlikely partners: Nevada Ballet Theatre (NBT) and mega-producer Cirque du Soleil®. Each year since 2007, the two have joined forces to produce A Choreographers’ Showcase (ACS) at the 1,500-plus-seat Mystère Theatre at Treasure Island Hotel & Casino, creating buzz up and down the strip.Read More
Tip 1 I’ve previously described the dive (“Two Tips for Hip-Hop Teachers: Drop-Freeze and Dolphin Dive,” March-April 2015), a house dance move. Here’s a basic version for beginners.
Tip 2 To teach the dodger, another house dance move, have students stand with the torso and weight shifted toward the left, left knee slightly bent. The right foot is on the ball, slightly behind the left; the right shoulder is angled forward. In this move, the shoulders always move in opposition to the working leg.Read More
The 15 colleges and schools of West Virginia University (WVU), in Morgantown, offer 193 bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral, and professional degree programs. Dance program director Yoav Kaddar considers it his mission to integrate dance into “the academic tapestry of the university. Everyone can find their niche in our bachelor of arts in dance program,” he says, “or they can enhance their primary academic program with a minor in dance.”Read More
Tip 1 For many dancers and musicians, the holiday season is synonymous with The Nutcracker. Tchaikovsky’s 1892 score, composed according to Petipa’s libretto, is fascinating in many ways. The orchestration includes toy instruments and the celesta, a recently invented cross between a piano and glockenspiel. Its silvery sound fit perfectly Petipa’s instructions that the Sugar Plum Fairy variation evoke water splashing in fountains.
Tip 2 The Nutcracker includes many dances that work well for class. In Act 1, try the March (no. 2) with marches in children’s class and the Gallop (no. 3) with gallops and spring points in 2/4. In Act 2, try a section of the accelerating Russian Trepak (no. 12d) with turns from the corner, the Spanish Bolero (no. 12a) with pirouettes and pas de basques in center, and the Tarantella (no. 14, first male variation) with frappés at the barre.Read More
Classroom Connection: Fun and Games: Games are often incorporated into classes for young dancers, yet just as often are eliminated as students mature in age and dance ability. However, games are a great way to refocus and reenergize even preteen and teenage students. Here are some I enjoy.
Reality Check: Progress Reports: Q. Do you do end-of-year progress reports for company members and/or recreational students? Do you keep copies or have the students return the originals to you?