“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.Read More
“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?Read More
“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.Read More
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.Read More
“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.Read More
“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.Read More
“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.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
“Mindful Diversity”: In this issue we explore racial and cultural diversity in dance schools and why it’s important. You can read about that in the story, which starts on page 82; what I want to do here is make a pitch for diversity in a broader sense.
“Honor or Insult?”: Not long ago, a high school in Utah found itself in hot water over a drill team dance. Clad in Native American–themed costumes, feathers, and braided wigs, the students pounded their feet, spun, and raised their arms to a recording of drums and eagle screeches. One parent, a member of the Paiute tribe, felt her culture was being mocked, and her unhappy post led to an apology from the school. The number was withdrawn, never to be performed again.Read More
“Put On Your Red Shoes . . .”: In 1983, David Bowie extended an invitation: “Let’s Dance.” The title track of his Grammy Award–nominated album provided the focus for the first mixtape I ever created, and the inspiration that same year to enter—and complete—a 12-hour dance marathon benefiting a housing project. But for me, and countless others in the 1970s and ’80s, Bowie offered much more than an invitation to dance. For LGBT youth, in particular, Bowie’s mere existence could be a lifeline.
“Just Dance”: The teacher’s dilemma was common, one about mean girls and ugly tweets and hurt feelings. “Help,” she cried out on Facebook. Thanks to team-building exercises and a party, the year had started out splendidly, but now she wondered what to do.Read More
“Training Thinking Dancers”: Rehearsals had begun for my new musical theater competition number, but nothing was working. These girls had been with me for years—they trusted my “nobody’s gonna get this” themes, solved the puzzle of my patterns, could ace any acting improv. They were ready for a real challenge—or so I thought.
“When Helping Hurts”: Above, Karen says, “I became the parent who does the homework.” This mentality—the determination to not let a child fail in ways that are necessary for learning to be a responsible adult—is prevalent and nothing new. But it’s gaining ground in new ways.Read More
“Season of Change”: Happy New Year! The flip of the calendar from December to January is one of my favorite times of the year, because it brings a sense of renewal and rejuvenation, the potential for growth, and the anticipation of the unknown. We at Dance Studio Life hope 2016 holds much goodness for you, both personally and professionally. With so much cruelty and so little compassion in the headlines in recent months, it’s our wish that everyone enters this new year with a goal of human kindness. All of us have the power to do good, whether in the form of personal interactions or via the soul-touching qualities of dance.
“Studio Havens”: At our current studio, the teachers are good and the atmosphere is easy. In the lobby, parents talk quietly on the couches and teenagers do homework or flurry past like March winds. Postcards and event notices emphasize that this space functions as a community’s hub; a bookshelf gives my little son and me something to do while my daughter takes class. Through gauzy curtains, I watch my girl skip, leap, and laugh in class. That’s why we’re here—that’s why we come back. As a mom, dancer, and human being, I appreciate being welcomed.Read More
“Dance in Museums”: Choreographer William Forsythe has long kept a toe in the art world. He’s exhibited at the Louvre, Tate Modern, MoMA, and Venice and Whitney biennials, and now has a major show at Frankfurt’s Museum of Modern Art.
“A Farewell”: I was asked if I wanted to write a farewell or slip quietly into the sunset upon resigning as associate editor. I love sunsets, but I have also loved my job at Dance Studio Life magazine.Read More
“Bravo for Ballet”: Ballet gets a bad rap. Kids complain: it’s boring and tedious, old-fashioned, rigid. And the music! All those old guys. Ugh. [Cue universal eye-roll.]
“Paris Opera Ballet, Virtually”: Many casual dance fans came to know Benjamin Millepied through his work on a film (Black Swan), so it’s fitting that Millepied—now director of Paris Opera Ballet—would turn a camera on his own dancers as a way of promoting them to the wider world.Read More
“Recipe for a Better World”: On page 146 of this issue, you’ll find a story about the DanceLife Teacher Conference in which we tell you about many of the goings-on at this big event—but there’s one thing we didn’t touch on because it bears separate mention. It’s the joy and abandon, the sweat and exhilaration of the hundreds of dance teachers who threw themselves into all kinds of technique classes.
“Powerful Girls”: It’s 2015, and our culture still conditions young girls to grow up believing men should be strong and women should be pretty. Misty Copeland’s sinewy leaps, Katniss Everdeen’s archery feats, Title IX, Michelle Obama’s arms, and critical best-sellers like The Princess Problem and Reviving Ophelia haven’t yet washed away mainstream expectations that femininity requires physical weakness.
If you teach girls to dance, you know that isn’t true. But do the girls?Read More
“Art Thieves”: Today we see cookie-cutter dances that borrow too heavily from music videos, TV dance shows, and other popular entertainment. And at Dance Studio Life, we hear from studio owners who complain that former employees or teachers at other schools stole their competition or recital choreography. I don’t mean the poachers borrowed a step, or the idea behind a step, or a story or theme that they then morphed into something of their own creation. I mean they stole the dance in its entirety and presented it as theirs. Judging by these school owners’ outrage—and my own experience in having my writing plagiarized—it’s obvious they didn’t feel flattered. They felt violated.
“Tough Times: Choosing the Team”: The lovefest that is recital is over and we meet in a dark corner of a café for the annual agony of choosing dancers for the team.
It’s more difficult than it seems. If it were only about technique it would be a snap. Perhaps we could pass out a test and set the cutoff at 77. Would parents be terribly upset if we put names in a hat? Would we?Read More
“Conquering Stage Fright”: In October, I watched my daughter suffer intense stage fright in her first show.
Deafening cheers. Phones flashing in the dark auditorium like crazed fireflies. Other kindergarteners smiled—mine looked stricken with terror. Would she faint or throw up? Afterward, she sobbed with disappointment. It wasn’t fun, her stomach hurt, she didn’t expect the noisy dark and blinding lights. Then I remembered that she’d frozen before: as a wedding flower girl, walking the gauntlet of a semi-dark hall thronged with cheering strangers.
“Hold the Flash”: Enough with the pirouettes and the pyrotechnics.
Yes, we’re all impressed with double-digit pirouette counts. Triple sauts de basque, hummingbird-fast entrechats, reverse-twisting, leg-splitting steps you can’t even begin to name—all of those make us gasp. But every time I go online I’m bombarded with videos of dancers performing superhuman physical feats. And it’s becoming tiresome.Read More
“Balance: Beyond the Classroom”: What I do believe in is this: striving for wholeness and balance in every aspect of life. When we do that, we learn where to focus our self-confidence so that it yields the greatest results. If you’re like me, working toward wholeness and balance is an ongoing process, difficult to master. But I’ll keep striving for both.Read More
“Learning to Let Go”: Letting go is difficult. It takes time and wisdom (often someone else’s at first) to understand that we’re better off without those habits, that person, these ideas. Usually only after a period of doubt and mourning do we realize that leaving something has made room for something else.
“Then It Happens”: What happens when one of them is suddenly gone? Growing up is a dangerous activity. The kids come to class, joyous, new licenses in hand, and you make sure to camouflage the worry in your congratulations. Weeks and lessons pass, and you’re consumed with corrections they forgot or how to address fizzling energy levels.Read More
“Points of Connection”: I’m writing this the day after Martin Luther King Jr. Day, at a time when world events make me wonder whether we, as individuals and societies and nations, will ever think of one another as equals. Serendipitously, I came across an interview with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater artistic director Robert Battle in which he speaks about dance’s role as an equalizer.
“Embracing Mistakes”: The computing industry has figured out something we arts folks already knew: failure can be your teacher.Read More
“Cultural Citizens”: In 2013, the great cellist Yo-Yo Ma put down his bow for an evening and picked up a sheaf of papers to give the Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts and Public Policy at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. He called his speech “Art for Life’s Sake,” and though the art in reference was, of course, music, the parallel to dance is obvious. In subsequent speeches he has called on each of us to become a “cultural citizen” who uses art to better the world.Read More
“Beginnings”: It’s January, a month named for Janus, the Roman god of doors and gates. And, because Janus is two-faced, gazing both ahead and back, he rules over beginnings and endings. …
“Catching a Wave, Dancing the Dance”: Catching a wave is like dancing the dance—when it’s caught you or you’ve caught it, nothing else exists. You’re in it, and you’re moving, and your body is a wondrous thing. …Read More
“We ♥ Ballet”: Where were you on October 1? If you’re a ballet lover, you were probably glued to your computer, watching live feeds from five world-class companies: Bolshoi Ballet, The Royal Ballet, The Australian Ballet, The National Ballet of Canada, and San Francisco Ballet.
“Two Lumps, Please”: The words were out, and there was no taking them back. And three feet in front of me, two blue eyes were filling with tears.Read More
“It’s All a Blur”: Once upon a time, I enjoyed watching dance. From recital queens to big-name ballerinas, amateur troupes to Ailey masters, it didn’t matter—if someone was willing to move her body to music, I enjoyed it.
“Looking Out, Not Looking In”: The movie Boyhood is a fictional depiction of a boy, Mason, and his family as they traverse 12 years of his childhood. Remarkably, the film was shot over the course of 12 actual years, allowing us to observe time passing for the characters while the actors mature in real time.Read More
“Remembering Robin”: Robin Williams wasn’t a dancer. Not officially, anyway. During an interview on Inside the Actors Studio, he mentioned taking class with Anna Sokolow at Juilliard; perhaps he trained with others too. Regardless, this was a man who could move—who, as my colleague Lisa Okuhn put it, was a “wildly physical performer. His brilliance and energy took over his body, almost as if he was possessed.”
“Not Alone”: College—or launching a dance career—is tough. Kids can feel overwhelmed to the point of giving up—dropping out, succumbing to despair, or worse. Let’s make sure they know there will always be someone who listens and understands, who values what they have to say, who doesn’t expect constant perfection, who will pick them up and dust them off. Let’s make sure they know they’re not alone.Read More
“Killing It”: And that’s the point. The boys were able to perform well not because they’ve had years of dance training (I assume), but because they got it. If they hadn’t performed with intent and commitment (not to mention expressions that ranged from intentionally blank to starry-eyed to open-mouthed delirium), this skit would have been painful to watch instead of laugh-out-loud funny.
“Missing It”: Comedy is tough, I tell my students. We have to display technique while taking a figurative pie in the face. We can’t break character. We have to trust one another. Even if we do all that, and do it well, comedy is precarious. One man’s Adam Sandler movie is another man’s headache.Read More
“Dance 911”: It was an emergency. My son, then a sophomore in high school, approached me after a dance. “Mom,” he said, “when you dance, do you go back and forth, or side to side?” He demonstrated both, shifting stiffly from side to side, and yes, back and forth. Aghast, I gave him a quick lecture/demo on moving from his center and never bobbing his head.
“Make Your Bed”: What do you need to know about yourself in order to be fully present as a good teacher and choreographer, a successful studio owner—to uphold your values? And once you are aware of your patterns of behavior, how do you support yourself emotionally so that you can do creative and innovative work?Read More
As the cover makes obvious, with this issue Dance Studio Life celebrates 10 years of publication. I’ve been on board for seven years as editor in chief, but I had a hand in some of the earlier issues as a freelance editor—which means I’ve seen how much the magazine has grown and changed since its inception. The anniversary is Rhee’s topic this month in “On My Mind,” so I won’t say more than this: the most gratifying part of my job is seeing you, our readers, respond with enthusiasm to the magazine’s evolution. Our goal is to make a difference, helping you develop as business owners and teaching artists, and offering you new paths to creativity. Like you, we take our work seriously, and that’s as it should be.Read More
The Huffington Post headline caught my eye: “18 Things Highly Creative People Do Differently.” Wouldn’t you know, I fit almost all of the descriptors, from “they daydream” to “they people-watch” to “they ask the big questions.”Read More
There are two singing ensembles in my area. One boasts 100 chosen-by-audition voices trilling out six-part harmonies. In performances the singers wear black-tie garb and are accompanied by a professional orchestra—with a harp.Read More
I love dance neophytes. Accompanying one of those newbies to a performance—whether it’s their first exposure to dance in any form, to a particular kind of dance, or to a specific work—has the added perk, beyond the performance’s offerings, of a delicious mingling of pleasures.Read More
Dance teachers say it all the time: ballet is the foundation for all dance. Yet students who see only hip-hop and contemporary dance in their future don’t think they need ballet. Those students should be taken immediately to a performance by Nederlands Dans Theater and placed somewhere in the first 12 rows. From there they will have an excellent vantage point from which to see absolute proof that ballet is essential to every dancer.Read More
Here’s an observation that’s been getting a lot of press lately: providing people with information doesn’t make them change their behavior. It’s easy to think of examples of this: we all know smoking cigarettes can cause lung cancer, yet many of us won’t quit; a sign says dogs must be on leash, but people let their pups run free. In the world of dance education, a common rule, or piece of information, is that students can’t miss rehearsals and still be on the competition team or in the recital.Read More
I used to judge local scholarship pageants. It was fun, and I liked that the girls got a moment in the spotlight and some money for their educations. But suddenly my services were no longer needed, and I think I know why.Read More
Last August at the DanceLife Teacher Conference, I noticed a recurring theme: school owners unhappy about not being able to run their businesses the way they’d like to. They perceive a disconnect between what they want and what’s possible, citing resistance to change from their employees or clients. Less fearful school owners encouraged the disempowered owners to have confidence and fortitude. No one likes change, they said; what’s needed is the conviction to say, “Yes, that’s how we’ve done it in the past, but now we do it this way.” End of discussion.Read More
I volunteer in a program that offers support to high school seniors—all the first in their families to attend college—as they write their college application essays. At our second meeting a recent high school graduate and program alum, who has been accepted to the University of California–Berkeley, spoke to the group of 50-odd coaches and students.Read More
I was internet stalking for studio news when I came across a dance mom and her irate, two-part blog. Apparently she thought her young daughter was being forced to wear a revealing, sexualized outfit and (to further tarnish the child) perform to a song inappropriate in the extreme.Read More
When I attended the World Irish Dancing Championships, I didn’t realize what a world I had stepped into. Even when I left three days later, having made friends with a former world champion, a band of mothers from Colorado who were flattered by my endless questions, unpretentious professional dancers, charming competitors, and practically an entire studio from Ireland, I still had no clue. It wasn’t until two weeks later, when the horrific Boston Marathon bombings maimed a young Irish dancer, that I began to understand the shared pride that binds Irish dance studios separated by miles, languages, even oceans, into one community.Read More
May 29. One hundred years ago. Paris. As the story goes, an opening night audience became so incensed at what they were hearing and what they were seeing that they punched each other and threw chairs. At the ballet. How scandalous!Read More
I was proofreading an upcoming “A Better You” by Suzanne Martin when one statement smacked me in the face. “And unlike performers, who are only ‘on’ onstage, a teacher is ‘on’ as a role model all of the time. Don’t let your students see you slump!”Read More
Call me odd, but I love going to recitals. Doesn’t matter if I know a single dancer—I just enjoy seeing the show. That’s how I found myself strolling on a Saturday night through the gilt-and-red-velvet decor of yet another theater lobby, on my way to yet another recital.Read More
José Limón’s Othello-inspired dance, The Moor’s Pavane, is essential viewing for anyone with an interest in dance history. The work is the prime example of Limón’s intense, nuanced modern-dance voice, and I had never seen it. So when Diablo Ballet of Walnut Creek, California, offered it (in conjunction with sjDANCEco of San Jose), I marked my calendar. Preceding Pavane, with only a pause in between, was a piece by Vicente Nebrada from 1978, and the juxtaposition was striking.Read More
I suppose we all knew it would come to this. The Mackay Daily Mercury in Queensland, Australia, ran a front-page story in October when a 10-year-old dancer was cut from a dance company performance due to missed rehearsals.Read More
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.Read More
If you want to be successful, says Chade-Meng Tan, retrain your brain. It’s as simple as this: if we let our emotions rule us, we are, Meng (as he’s called) says, letting the horse drag us instead of being in command. Meng, an engineer and the author of Search Inside Yourself, is now Google’s official “Jolly Good Fellow,” and the book is an evolution of a course he taught there. (Look for him on YouTube, giving talks at Google and TED on this topic.)Read More
The results are preliminary, but they’re a no-brainer to anyone involved in arts education. A study has found that “children that partake in music activity in a group setting are more prone to developing one of humankind’s noblest traits: empathy.”Read More
Business owners working together, and customer service—those are small-town survival strategies. In May I spent a few days in a small town in eastern California, the kind of place where Main Street is a freeway and boarded-up businesses occupy the handful of side streets.Read More
The 2012 graduates of the University of Pennsylvania got some unusual commencement advice. Nipun Mehta, the founder of ServiceSpace.org, told the Ivy Leaguers that though everyone else might expect them to fly, he wants them to walk. What he said makes sense for all of us, and it seems particularly timely advice for our business-focused issue.Read More
It was only the first competition of the new season and boy, were the tears flowing already! I started to think: where are the TV crews when you need ’em? Drama, tears, girls in costumes making a scene—we had it allRead More
It made No. 4 on TenduTV’s blog listing “APAP Preview: Ten Things the Dance Field Should Be Talking About in 2012,” and I’m sure it has been popping up in your conversations more and more. What is it? The issue of intellectual property rights, otherwise known to dance teachers as “Hey, that’s my choreography!”Read More