Collective Wisdom

Collective Wisdom | Classroom Connection: Prop Playtime

Ideas and advice from teachers Props add excitement and spark imagination—and can serve as a much-needed energy release—in classes of children ages 2 and a half to 5. Ribbons. At the beginning of class, dancers visit my ribbon wall to select a prop, which they wave as they move about to familiar music. Beginning class…

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Collective Wisdom | Classroom Connection: Roll Out

Ideas and advice from teachers Many teachers work throughout the year with the end goal of a performance in mind, be it a holiday revue, a spring ballet, a recital, competition routines—or, in many cases, all of the above. During a particularly hard time, I was dealing with “all of the above.” I was not…

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Collective Wisdom | Classroom Connection: Starting Choreography

Ideas and advice from teachers Many dance teachers enjoy choreographing recital pieces, yet others find it a daunting task. It’s sometimes difficult to know where to begin, or how to get around a creative roadblock. Here are a few simple choreographic ideas that will help you get over those hurdles and create a dance that…

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Collective Wisdom | Classroom Connection: Trading Places

Ideas and advice from teachers There is nothing better than a faculty that works together like a well-oiled machine. Individual teachers can support each other within their own classrooms by creating lesson plans that support and echo each other’s work. Around mid-year, I’ll sometimes invite other classes to visit mine and share their recital or…

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Collective Wisdom | Classroom Connection: We’ve Got Spirit

Ideas and advice from teachers Freeze out those dreary mid-winter doldrums with a Spirit Week. Creating a week when students can dress up and express themselves is key to cultivating their artistic vision and performance quality. In my ballet classes, I occasionally offer a themed week called “uBu”—a play on “You Do You” or “You…

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Collective Wisdom | Classroom Connection: Teacher, May I?

Ideas and advice from teachers With 10 minutes of class left I noticed five sets of eyes wandering to the window. Time for a fun activity! I searched my childhood memories for a game that would engage these 7- to 10-year-old beginning jazz students, and Mother, May I? sprung to mind. I changed “Mother” to…

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Collective Wisdom | Classroom Connection: Ankle-Rolling Rescue

  Ideas and advice from teachers When several of my 8- to 11-year-old jazz dancers complained that their ankles often rolled over during class, I consulted a local physical therapist, Joshua Kernen, DPT, CSCS. Kernen explained that weak ankles are common in kids in this age range who are growing quickly. He suggested three exercises…

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Collective Wisdom | Classroom Connection: Teaching Musicality

Ideas and advice from teachers As dance teachers, we can elevate our students’ performance quality by developing their musicality. Incorporating a few simple exercises into class can help your intermediate/advanced dancers become more aware of the relationship between their movements and the music. Start with a definition. Mine is: “Musicality is a dancer’s ability to…

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Collective Wisdom | Classroom Connection: Hold Your Story

Ideas and advice from our readers Our youngest students often have many stories they are aching to share. Losing a tooth, eating pancakes for breakfast, falling off a scooter, or going up a shoe size—these stories represent the big adventures in their lives. Of course, most of these stories do not relate to dance. Their…

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Collective Wisdom | Reality Check: Scuff Mark Solutions

Ideas and advice from our readers Q: Does anyone have a solution to keep the wall area under the barre clean of scuff marks left behind by tap shoes? We are painting our studio, and I would rather not continually repaint that area. —Nancy K. Dennis A: Black paint. —Amy Hlavaty Belcher A: I’m also…

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Collective Wisdom | Classroom Connection: Barre Boredom

Ideas and advice from our readers Are your ballet babes bored with barre? One typical Friday afternoon I watched as the 6-, 7-, and 8-year-old petit rats in my Ballet 1 class spent their precious barre time focusing on all the fundamentals that will serve their future dance goals—fidgeting, lip-synching the latest pop tune, and…

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Collective Wisdom | Reality Check: Program Ad Design

Ideas and advice from our readers Q: Asking studio owners about recital program ads: do you design them yourself? What program do you use? —Erika Hogan A: I do it myself using Microsoft Publisher. A few parents have been able to design their own ads, but most people purchasing ads don’t know how. It takes…

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Collective Wisdom | Classroom Connection: Four-Step Formula

Ideas and advice from teachers Classroom Connection: Four-Step Formula How do we effectively address technique challenges while keeping students engaged, interested, and enthusiastic? During one class, as my teen jazz students struggled with piqué turns, I devised a four-step solution that works in all my classes.   Step 1. Create a basic exercise to fix…

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Collective Wisdom | Classroom Connection: Pre-Class Prep

Using the final minutes before your preschool, kinder, or creative movement class thoughtfully will give you a huge advantage during the class to come. Waste those precious minutes and you might be setting yourself up for a frustrating experience. Here are five things I do before every class: Arrive early. Arrive at least 15 minutes…

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Collective Wisdom | Classroom Connection: Themes and Variations

To keep your students engaged in ballet class, try varying how you present the material. I use theme months and theme days with my intermediate and advanced levels to focus and add fun to class lessons.   Theme months No-Barre November: Have students do their regular ballet barre in center. Ask them to notice how…

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Collective Wisdom | Reality Check | Parent-Teacher Conferences

Reality Check: Parent-Teacher Conferences Q: I’ve always been very open and available to discuss a student’s progress when parents have concerns, and during optional end-of-year conversations. But I have some mothers who request parent conferences every couple of months. I have to spend time not only holding these conferences, but collecting pertinent info from multiple…

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July 2017 | Collective Wisdom | Classroom Connection: Sound Effects

Ideas and advice from our readers Classroom Connection: Sound Effects A few years back I had a student with beautifully clear technique, particularly in petit allegro. Yet beyond technique, her dancing lacked artistic touches, such as expression, dynamics, and color. After toying with some tactics to help her add nuance to her dancing, I landed…

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July 2017 | Collective Wisdom | Reality Check

Ideas & advice from our readers Reality Check: Studio Owner Vacation Q. Looking for tricks of the trade for when studio owners take a vacation. What do you do to make sure everything operates smoothly while you’re away? —Samantha Bower A. I let my families know I will not be in the studio—no need to…

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March-April 2017 | Collective Wisdom

Classroom Connection: The Power of Questions
by Holly Derville-Teer

By questioning rather than chastising, Edwards maintained control of the classroom. I was impressed by how the dancers listened. Answering questions also increased their level of engagement.


Reality Check: Sensitivity and Caring
Q. I have a talented dancer who lost an arm in an accident. She came back to ballet class and is doing amazingly well, but I don’t want to pretend that this is not going to affect her balance or her dancing. How do I navigate this situation with sensitivity and caring?

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January 2017 | Collective Wisdom

Classroom Connection: Resistance Band Exercises
Consider integrating stretch/resistance band exercises into pointe and pre-pointe classes to strengthen dancers’ feet and ankles.

Reality Check: Communication Challenge
Q. I’m looking for ideas that will help multiple front desk staffers handle office communication more effectively. Example: Suzy’s mom calls about registration. One staffer calls back and leaves a message—which is noted in the message book—but no one follows up or calls the mom again. Does anyone have a solution? —Neala Dunn

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November 2016 | Collective Wisdom

Classroom Connection: Picturing Dance
Dance photos can support your curriculum and offer playful springboards for activities with students—from preschoolers to high schoolers.

Reality Check: Tough Moments
Q. I just lost my first student to another studio. I understand we all offer different things and people will choose what matches their needs best. But it still hurts and makes me wonder if I am doing enough. How do you handle these moments?
—Anonymous

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September 2016 | Collective Wisdom

Classroom Connection: Cleaning Machine
Heading into competition season, I realized I wouldn’t have enough time to fix all the mismatched heads, crooked lines, and sickled feet in my teen jazz routine. What I needed was a way to fast-track the process and rescue my dance. I decided to turn my dancers into a “cleaning machine.”

Reality Check: Competition Survival Kits
Q.Every year I make a competition survival kit of items my dancers might forget, such as hair bands, hair spray, and hand sanitizer. I want to expand it to include stuff for myself and my instructors. What do you put in yours? —Ashlee Morgan Russ

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July 2016 | Collective Wisdom

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?
—Catharine Skidmore

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March-April 2016 | Collective Wisdom

Reality Check: Doing Away With Dress Rehearsal: Q: Do you have a dress rehearsal at the same theater where you have your recital? For the last four years I have, but this year I am wondering if we can pull off our recital without a dress rehearsal at the venue.

“Classroom Connection: Elevating Jumps”: How do we challenge our advanced dancers to improve their jumps? To work on strength and height, I drill my dancers in a progression of simple sautés, changements, and échappés without music. The silence allows students to be conscious of how they manage their weight and use their feet (toe, ball, heel) on the takeoff and landing. Without the constraint of a particular tempo, dancers can also investigate how high they can actually jump.

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January 2016 | Collective Wisdom

“Reality Check: Must. Do. Ballet”: Q: Who makes ballet mandatory in order to take jazz? I am trying to implement this in my program this year and I have an older student who hasn’t had ballet in a few years and does not want to take it. Do I grandfather her in and let her just take jazz? Or make it mandatory for everyone?
—Ashley Brown

“Classroom Connection: Stories That Move”: Whether you teach a parent/child class, creative movement for preschoolers, or pre-ballet for kindergarteners, starting your youngest kids’ classes with a book can be calming and inspiring at the same time.

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