Editor Speak | I Know What I Like

At this point in my dancing life, I know what I like. I’m lucky if I dance twice a week, so I try to choose classes wisely. Here’s what I look for: Quick-moving. Slow classes were great when I was getting back into shape after having kids. Now they’re frustrating. My muscles get cold, the…

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Editor Speak | Studio Safe Place

I know someone in prison. He’s a dance teacher—or was, before he was found guilty of raping girls he had taught at dance studios in two states. At this point, he’s been in prison for more than nine years with time still left to go. Whenever I read a story about a dance studio instructor…

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Editor Speak | The Genius Myth

When a raft of sexual harassment and physical abuse allegations surfaced in December against Peter Martins, ballet master in chief of New York City Ballet, I was first shocked, then not surprised (hello, ballet world!). Then I thought, if Balanchine were alive now, he’d be in big trouble. No one, as far as I know,…

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Editor Speak | The Sad Tale of the Stolen Props

  I’m scrolling through the news, past stories about Republican party turmoil and the latest Hollywood sex scandal, when one headline shocks me into a scream: “What? Not again!” “Dance studio trailer filled with props stolen.” The reporter on scene in front of a strip mall dutifully explains that the studio owner isn’t as worried…

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Editor Speak | The Language of Dance

When I moved to Costa Rica in 2003, I got to test an axiom I’d often heard: that you should be able to take a dance class anywhere in the world and follow along, no matter the local language. The studio near my neighborhood’s Más Por Menos grocery store was in a second-floor walkup with…

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Editor Speak | Trust and Teachers

Trust is so important between employer and employee. Studio owners often come to our guru-in-chief, Rhee Gold, with this complaint: “I trusted my staffer! And now she’s betrayed me.” Whether the betrayal involved poaching students, overstepping authority, or spreading comments shared in confidence, the sadness and fury of the injured studio owner is palpable in…

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Editor Speak | Improvisation and Inspiration

The modern dance classes I took as a child started with every dancer taking a turn in the circle, improvising to whatever word the teacher called out—red, bumblebee, wooden. I loved it. In high school, I improvised a 30-second or so solo at winter guard competitions, flag and all. But now, the word “improvisation” and…

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Editor Speak | A Step in the Right Direction

The weekend after the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia—and the upheaval that followed—I found myself looking for artistic consolation. The 2013 documentary Dancing in Jaffa, which had been sitting in my Netflix queue, turned out to be a timely choice. The film follows former championship ballroom dancer Pierre Dulaine (whose Dancing Classrooms program in New York…

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Editor Speak | Lucky Editor

One of my favorite parts of editing this magazine is reading the great advice. Our Dance Studio Life columnists are a smart bunch, and their ideas often stretch beyond the studio. As I work with them to refine their writing, I frequently find myself mulling over ways I can use their tips. I might not…

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Editor Speak: The 15-Minute Recital

“Families, come on in,” said my daughter’s dance teacher, giving us her beautiful smile. I peeked into the studio and saw kids adjusting ribbon skirts and neck kerchiefs. “Costumes!” I said in surprise. “Aren’t costumes the whole point?” asked another mother, grinning. I didn’t expect costumes that April afternoon because this wasn’t a recital—just a…

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Editor Speak | The XX Files

  Mao’s famous phrase “Women hold up half the sky” crossed my mind this summer while I was parked on a blanket in an amphitheater, watching Oregon Ballet Theatre’s Choreography XX project. According to OBT artistic director Kevin Irving, the project was meant to cultivate more work by female choreographers; after a national choreography competition,…

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Editor Speak | New Year, New You

It’s September—the New Year of the dance studio industry. Just as January 1 motivates people to exercise more or curb bad habits, anything seems possible at the start of the new studio year. This year, teachers everywhere vow, we’ll be sticklers about the dress code. We’ll draw up a lesson plan, watch our tone, dial…

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Editor Speak | Weird Science

A headline in the April 20, 2017, edition of USA Today caught my eye: “People trust science. So why don’t they believe it?” The writer was grappling with the notion that while many people claim to have full faith in science, when they’re confronted with data that contradicts what they believe—regarding global warming or vaccinations,…

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Editor Speak | That’s the Work

One of my favorite dance-teacher phrases is “That’s the work.” I’ve heard many teachers say it, always with a look of deep satisfaction. I can tell they love that “Aha!” moment when teacher and student together figure out what an exercise or step is really all about. When you finally feel those inner thigh muscles…

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July 2017 | EditorSpeak

Butterflies and Beginnings I have a confession to make: The last time I taught dance was many years ago, although the butterflies I felt before every class are still fresh in my mind. My university’s dance department required its students to teach a semester-long dance class to preschoolers at the school’s childcare center. My first…

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May-June 2017 | EditorSpeak

“Learning With the Body” by Tamsin Nutter: I don’t have the brains to be a dance professional. Never did. I can pick out a spelling mistake at 50 paces, and I gamely answer kids’ questions about human cells and World War II. But the dance pieces I rehearsed and performed hundreds of times have vanished from memory. And please don’t ask me to show you last week’s combination.

“Comings and Goings” by Thom Watson: The upcoming July issue will mark DSL’s 13th anniversary. In conjunction with this milestone, we plan to roll out some exciting new changes: beginning in July and August you’ll find tips for teaching preschoolers and students with special needs; new columns about competition, costuming, business management, self-care, and studio style; a revamped dance history spread with resources to use in the classroom; and more.

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March-April 2017 | EditorSpeak

“The Rights Stuff: Who Owns Choreography?” by Karen White: There I was, in another conversation about who owns choreography, the teacher or the studio. Sometimes I think this issue will never go away, doomed to be debated forever by two clans glaring at each other over an immovable fence.

“Cycles of Inspiration” by Thom Watson: There are days when I really love my job. For this issue, for example, I exercised editor-in-chief privilege to assign myself the delightful task of interviewing several of my favorite choreographers and master teachers for a feature story, “Cool & Contemporary.”

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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July 2016 | EditorSpeak

“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.

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