Columns

February 2017 | 2 Tips for Hip-Hop Teachers | Playing with Tempo Changes

by Samara Atkins

Tip 1: When you’re building up choreographic phrases, repetition is key to students’ understanding of the sequencing. Repeating a section several times, breaking down the more difficult moves as you go, helps students remember what you’re teaching.
Tip 2: Playing with tempo changes is also helpful once you’ve taught the entire phrase.

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February 2017 | EditorSpeak

“Safe and Sound” by Heather Turbeville: In December, I started physical therapy for my hip. It wasn’t my first time in PT; it wasn’t even the first time I went for my hip. But it was the first time I told my physical therapist, “It bothers me in dance class—but I’m not going to stop dancing.”

“Remembering Debbie Reynolds” by Thom Watson: When Debbie Reynolds appeared in her first leading film role as Kathy Selden in the 1952 musical classic Singin’ in the Rain—at age 19—she had been studying dance only a few months.

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February 2017 | On My Mind

by Rhee Gold

Creating choreography is an opportunity to be an artist, to make a statement, or to entertain. An audience, except perhaps for dance teachers or judges, isn’t generally impressed with spectacular feats; the average audience member doesn’t even know the difficulty of a given move. However, an audience always responds positively to performances that elicit an emotional response or provoke thought.

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February 2017 | 2 Tips for Ballet Teachers | B-Plus and Gut Check

by David Arce

Tip 1: Remind students to take their time moving into B-plus, making sure to plié generously and present a fully turned-out heel before straightening the standing leg.

Tip 2: The circular port de bras, toward and away from the barre, is important for all students to practice, as it develops strength, flexibility, and musicality.

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January 2017 | EditorSpeak

“Studios as Safe Spaces” by Tamsin Nutter: No teacher can fix the world for her kids. Still, we adults owe it to children to be our best selves for them, and with them. We owe them love and safety. We owe them our protection.

“Inherent Value” by Karen White: How many of your studio’s alumni studied dance in college or went on to professional dance careers?

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January 2017 | On My Mind

by Rhee Gold

A new year is upon us, the time when we traditionally make resolutions about things we want to change about ourselves—lose a few pounds, read more, budget better, and so on. It’s a great opportunity for studio owners and dance teachers to resolve to change their professional lives for the better too. Here are my suggestions for you to adopt and share.

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January 2017 | 2 Tips for Tap Teachers | Making Tap Dances

Read 2 great tips for tap teachers from the legendary Thelma Goldberg, teacher and director of The Dance Inn in Lexington, Massachusetts, since 1983, who is the author of Thelma’s Tap Notes: A Step-by-Step Guide to Teaching Tap: Children’s Edition.

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January 2017 | 2 Tips for Ballet Teachers | Height and Control in Grand Jeté

by David Arce

Tip 1
The grand jeté is one of ballet’s most rewarding steps, for both the audience and the dancer. The ability to propel oneself from one foot into the air, reach a perfect split, then land on the other foot, all while showing grace and ease in the upper body, is a hallmark of excellent ballet technique.

Tip 2
Don’t overlook the grand jeté’s landing; in terms of student safety, it is the step’s most important aspect. Properly turned out placement of the standing leg is a must, as any turning in puts extra stress on the knee’s tendons.

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December 2016 | EditorSpeak

“Artistry: Mystery vs Transparency” by Cheryl A. Ossola: Frederick Wiseman’s 1995 film Ballet is a unique perspective on the lives of artists, and in remembering it, I thought about the conversations teachers might have with students—conversations about artistry, how we perceive it, and what enhances or impairs those perceptions.

“Never Stop Dancing” by Tamsin Nutter: The hours I spend sitting at a desk make me feel creaky; a recent “big birthday” turned my thoughts to using my life stages wisely and well. Perhaps that’s why Keep Dancing, a lovely 2010 film portrait of then-90-year-old dance icons Marge Champion and Donald Saddler, has been on my mind.

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December 2016 | On My Mind

Let’s imagine that one town has two very good schools, and let’s say that they are roughly equal in size and that each offers a quality dance education. What could make one school stand out above the other?

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December 2016 | 2 Tips for Ballet Teachers | Two Rules for Male Partners

by David Arce

Tip 1 In partnering classes, the first thing I tell male students is that their most important job is to make their partners look good. Only after their partners are comfortable and balanced should male dancers consider their own poses.

Tip 2 I tell male students to keep their hands low on their partners’ hips—the lower the better.

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December 2016 | 2 Tips for Tap Teachers | Across the Floor and Around the Room

by Thelma Goldberg

Tip 1 Small, stationary footwork is important to master, but it’s equally important that tap dancers learn to move rhythmically across the floor and around the room.

Tip 2 Moving side to side, forward and back, or in circles and squares will add variety and fun to your tap classes and help keep your students on their toes.

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November 2016 | EditorSpeak

Preschool dance education—it’s a frequent topic among studio owners and dance teachers. In fact, in my conversations with attendees at the DanceLife Teacher Conference and the International Dance Entrepreneurs Association conference, preschool dance seemed to come up more than any other topic.

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November 2016 | On My Mind

Children depend on us to protect them from being exploited or sexualized. In a society that appears to accept and promote the sexualization of women and girls, it’s hard to stand strong and insist—as I’ve done for decades—that dance teachers must be advocates for their students. But I believe every dance teacher must stand firm against movement, music, and choreography that inappropriately sexualize young girls.

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November 2016 | 2 Tips for Hip-Hop Teachers | Essential Moves: Crisscross

by Samara Atkins

Tip 1
The crisscross is an essential element of the hip-hop vocabulary. Funky and stylish, it’s a great move to be able to pull out, whether in choreography, freestyle, or battles.

Tip 2
When students have the foot patterns down, have them add a body roll in reverse (rolling upward from knees to head).

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November 2016 | 2 Tips for Modern & Contemporary Teachers | Landing Lifts and Turning Heads

by Patrick Corbin

Tip 1
Developing lifting skills is fundamental to learning how to partner. Teachers often emphasize a lift’s take-off and apex, but the most important part of any lift is the landing.

Tip 2
“Look side, farther side, all the way side!” Sometimes I find it difficult to get students to turn their heads. Clarity of focal intent can be tricky. Students often think they are turning their heads when they are merely shifting their eyes.

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November 2016 | 2 Tips for Tap Teachers | Building Fun Combos

by Thelma Goldberg

Tip 1
Once students have a variety of basic tap skills, start introducing combinations that challenge them to connect short ideas into complete phrases of 4 to 32 counts.

Tip 2
You can also increase a combo’s complexity based on the students’ level.

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October 2016 | 2 Tips for Ballet Teachers | Pointe Shoe Drill and Fondu Footwork

Tip 1
It’s awe-inspiring how quickly professional dancers can get into and out of pointe shoes. When I started teaching, I noticed that my students took a long time to put on their shoes—minutes that cut into valuable class or rehearsal time. So I created the “Two-Minute Drill.”
Tip 2
In fondu combinations at the barre that begin in fifth position—for example, en croix, battement fondu développé to 45 degrees, place toe on the floor in tendu, close in fifth—place extra emphasis on the footwork in moving from fifth to coupé in plié. This is a great opportunity to strengthen the feet. Ask students to visualize the toes of the working foot as an ice cream scoop. Then, instead of simply picking up the foot and placing it in coupé, they should imagine scooping ice cream from several inches below the floor. Not only does using this image guarantee that the feet will be completely pointed when they arrive in coupé, it also improves the strength and dexterity of the toes and the muscles in the soles of the feet.

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October 2016 | 2 Tips for Hip-Hop Teachers | Sitting in the Pocket

Tip 1
Teaching musicality can be harder than teaching moves. An especially difficult skill is “sitting in the pocket,” stretching a move to fill the space (or pocket) between counts. Mastering this skill (also called “finding the groove” or “riding out the beat”) is important to hip-hop’s style, flow, and execution.
Tip 2
To help students learn this skill, vary your intonation when counting, drawn out where students should sit in the pocket and sharp where they should end it: “Ooone, twooo. . . ” or “Ooone, two! Threee, four!”

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October 2016 | 2 Tips for Modern & Contemporary Teachers | Landing Jumps and Trusting Partners

Tip 1 We want students to jump high and give the illusion of being suspended in midair. But what about landings? Do your students make a lot of noise when they land? Are they able to bounce high in the air but unable to put their heels down when landing? Landing carelessly is likely to lead to injuries. To develop a strong, sustainable, and healthy jump, a young dancer must develop a pliant landing with a generous plié. Here are two helpful directions that are easy for students to remember and effective in reminding them to land softly.
Tip 2 Trust may be the most crucial aspect of partnering. Partners must have faith in each other to achieve the sometimes seemingly impossible tasks that choreography calls for. One way to build this trust is an exercise I call “Blind Date.”

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October 2016 | EditorSpeak

“Recital Memories”: The recitals of my childhood blur together.

“Offense, Not Defense”: A teacher’s life is one of lessons learned. Forgive me that cliché, but it’s true. Most of these lessons hit hard, but as you get older—if you are supple and reflective—you might find a trick or two among the bruises.

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October 2016 | 2 Tips for Tap Teachers | Building a Foundation

Tip 1
Building a strong foundation in tap basics enables your dancers to make steady progress in acquiring new skills. Begin with mastering the single sounds of tap, heel dig, toe dig, step, brush, spank, tip, toe drop, heel drop, and heel stand. Whether beginning or advanced, all students will benefit from combining these single sounds into various quarter-note phrases.
Tip 2
Once they’ve mastered single sounds, students can progress to playing eighth notes, both straight and swinging (1&2& and a1 a2). Shuffles, ball changes, double heel drops (such as press or traditional cramp rolls), and slaps and flaps add challenges for dancers who have a strong single-sound foundation.

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October 2016 | On My Mind

After months of attending conferences and giving speeches across the United States and Canada, I’ve discovered that there is always more to appreciate about our dance education community.

We are witnessing a time in dance history when many school owners have become smart small business owners who offer quality dance education to every child—and they are being rewarded with financial success. For dance teachers, there have never been more opportunities to teach, not only at these schools but also in a new field that has evolved, in which master teachers travel throughout North America to teach and choreograph at small-town studios. And everywhere they go, they inspire young people to pursue their dance dreams.

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September 2016 | 2 Tips for Ballet Teachers | Jump Readiness and Ending on 7 (not 8)

Tip 1
Most students look forward to the transition in the center from adagio and turns to jumps. It’s usually the most exciting part of class, and dancers are at their warmest, with legs and arms feeling their fullest range of motion, and hand-eye coordination in full effect.
Tip 2
When I create a grand allegro, several factors come into play. I include the theme I’ve been using that class, day, or week, so that students finish class with one more opportunity to think about it. I take into consideration how hard I’ve pushed the students in class and their remaining workload that day or week (rehearsals, performances, etc.), then adjust accordingly the combination’s length and difficulty level. Finally, I set the combination so that the final pose or step comes on a music accent.

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September 2016 | 2 Tips for Hip-Hop Teachers | Spins as Accents

Tip 1
Spins or turns are great “punctuation” elements to introduce into students’ vocabularies. Spins can accent a specific beat or the end of a phrase, and they look cool, whether in choreography or freestyle. There are many turns you can teach to add dynamic motion to students’ dancing.
Tip 2
Pencil turns are another good accent. Begin with feet shoulder-width apart, arms loosely at the sides. Bend the knees, jump the feet together and wrap the arms tightly around the torso to create momentum, and spin the body 360 degrees in either direction. Spin up on both toes, keeping weight distributed between the feet. Tell students to look as narrow as possible, as if squeezing into a tight space.

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September 2016 | EditorSpeak

“Starting With Why”: I’ve just returned from three jam-packed days at the inaugural International Dance Entrepreneurs Association (I.D.E.A.) conference in Scottsdale, Arizona, where I, alongside several hundred dance studio owners and administrators, listened to speakers representing a range of school types, sizes, longevity, and business approaches. I learned a great deal from these mainstage sessions.

“Farewell to My Arabesque”: Recently I realized something: my arabesque has gone the way of the dodo. Extensions to the front and side? I’ve still got ’em, sort of. To the back? Eighteen inches off the floor—maybe.

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September 2016 | On My Mind

Today school owners want to learn to lead with confidence, both in their schools and as mentors, leaders, and teachers in their communities. They want to be part of a unified voice in dance education that stands for everything that is good for their students and the field. By working together, teachers and school owners can preserve the integrity of dance education—and, on a personal level, evolve in this exciting, ever-changing world of dance and dance studios.

I am proud to lead this call to unified action by founding the International Dance Entrepreneurs Association (I.D.E.A.), the first business association for dance school owners who are ready to stand up for a business model based on a code of ethics. In addition, I.D.E.A. focuses on cultivating new knowledge—the members’ website is loaded with management tools, e-learning courses, and webinars, along with such tools as customizable forms, correspondence, policies, coloring pages, and marketing materials. Regional professional development seminars will be held around the United States and, eventually, internationally.

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September 2016 | 2 Tips for Modern & Contemporary Teachers

Tip 1
Young dancers often become self-conscious and timid when asked simply to walk; make sure to teach students this necessary skill.
Tip 2
Are your students stuck in the mirror? They may be addicted to looking at their own images, or they may be using the mirror as a tool to mask sequencing problems. In my own teaching, I became weary of repeating, “Don’t get stuck in the mirror.” One day, instead of repeating myself once again, I pointed at the mirror and shouted, “She lies!” This broke the students out of their mirror stupor with a laugh; for the rest of class, they used the mirror less. I now use this idea almost daily. When I notice students focusing on the mirror, I point to it and say, “What does she do?” The students respond with a resounding “She lies!” As a result of this practice, my students now depend less on the mirror.

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September 2016 | 2 Tips for Tap Teachers

Tip 1
The start of a new dance season is a perfect opportunity to spice up your tap program with new ideas that will reinforce your lessons and inspire students to practice.
Tip 2
Flash cards with one-bar rhythm phrases can provide a wealth of teaching moments. Whether dancers are novices or experienced tappers, the clarity of their sounds depends on their ability to reproduce specific rhythms, and seeing a phrase in addition to hearing and doing it will help bring success. In particular, when dancers see the rests, or silent notes, in a rhythm, they are more likely to respect them and produce accurate footwork.

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September 2016 | 2 Music Tips for Dance Teachers | Minkus’ Don Quixote and La Bayadère

Tip 1
Ludwig Minkus (1826–1917), a Vienna-born Czech who worked in both France and Russia, composed melodic, rhythmically clear, and uncomplicated ballet music, mostly in waltz rhythm. He excelled at giving each ballet an underlying mood, for example the passionate Spanish flavor of Don Quixote (1869) or the tragic atmosphere of La Bayadère (1877).
Tip 2
Both Don Quixote and La Bayadère—landmark achievements in Minkus’ long association with Marius Petipa—contain music that’s perfect for ballet class.

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August 2016 | 2 Tips for Hip-Hop Teachers | Introducing Freestyle

Tip 1
Freestyling (improvising) has been around since long before hip-hop began, making dance come alive on street corners and at parties. In recent years freestyling has become increasingly important in the hip-hop world—it’s a major component of the urban street dance movement—mostly because it encourages so much spontaneous creativity. New freestyle moves come out of experimenting or trial and error; trending moves, like the Dougie or the dab, are often born from someone’s take on a preexisting move. The basic concept is doing whatever comes to mind while listening to a song and letting your movement be completely free.

Tip 2
Impromptu and improvised, freestyling gives dancers creative control over their bodies—and that can make students nervous. Framing freestyling as an activity or task can help them feel more comfortable exploring their own movement. For example, ask students to freestyle for 16 counts at certain points within set choreography, perhaps during the intro or at the end, and either individually or all together.

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August 2016 | EditorSpeak

“The Teachers in My Village”: It takes a village to raise a child, the proverb says. As I type these words, it’s the last week of school—recitals over, summer stretching ahead—but when they appear in print, it will be August and time to gear up for the fall. At both times in the year, my mind dwells on my village, and especially on the teachers.

“New Season’s Greetings”: This is the time of year when we welcome students back into the dance studio. The new school season is also an apt time to reflect, as Tamsin does above, on the value of teachers—and, I would add, support staff.

To that end, among the stories in this issue designed to help you make the most of the new season, you’ll find one about best practices for teacher evaluation, compensation, and pay increases, and another about studio owners who delegate tasks and programs—social media and marketing, children’s birthday parties, preschool programs, staff recognition, and more—to paid support staff positions.

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August 2016 | On My Mind

Not too long ago, marketing at most dance schools meant investing big bucks in printing, postage, and newspaper ads. Many school owners couldn’t pay for that kind of marketing, but nowadays, social media puts all schools on a level playing field. My motto is “Give it the time, and it will give you the return.” Where many school owners make mistakes, however—and squelch their social media success—is in moving beyond dance into hot-topic issues in their posts.

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August 2016 | 2 Music Tips for Dance Teachers | Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty

Tip 1
Before The Nutcracker, Tchaikovsky and Petipa first collaborated on The Sleeping Beauty (1889), with Petipa providing detailed descriptions of his musical requirements. Listen to the overture for the two leitmotifs that, throughout the ballet, represent the conflict between good and evil: strident, disjointed chords for the fairy Carabosse; and lush, lyrical music, like a barcarolle (a lilting piece that imitates gondolier songs) for the Lilac Fairy.
Tip 2
The story’s 100-year time span gave Tchaikovsky the opportunity to explore various historical dance forms. Act 1’s waltz (no. 6) is a wonderful piece for introducing waltz steps. Try Act 2’s gavotte (no. 12c) with tendus in center, or Act 3’s polonaise (no. 22) with grands battements or polonaise walks.

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