by Karen White
Dance intensives are called that for a reason—generally, a lot of learning is crammed into a limited time. The dancers are expected to rise to the occasion—fast—in an unfamiliar atmosphere where everything from experiencing new movement to finding the bathroom can prove challenging.
Dancers who spend one, two, or three weeks of their summer with the bicoastal School of Creative and Performing Arts (SOCAPA) tackle all that—plus they perform in one or more professional-quality dance videos.Read More
by Ryan P. Casey
What if the trick to getting more people to tap dance was getting them to attend a fitness class?
That’s the premise behind Sole Power, a tap workout program Riverdance alumnus Aaron Tolson conceived in 2013 that fuses basic tap dance with cardio and strengthening exercises.Read More
by Bonner Odell
A fusion of dance, martial arts, and healing arts, Nia is a cardio fitness technique performed barefoot to music from around the world. Through a mix of simple choreography and guided improvisation, Nia instructors emphasize sensation and internal experience over outward aesthetics in an effort to cultivate awareness of one’s body, mind, emotions, and life as a whole.Read More
by Karen White
Guided by occupational therapists, early childhood development specialists, and pediatric physical therapists, Gomez created a system for teaching hip-hop that could be understood by students with learning differences and special needs and that could help these students reach some of the physical, social, and cognitive goals set by their medical teams.Read More
by Bonner Odell
There is one group that is especially close to Susanne Liebich’s heart and to whom she owes the idea to start Dancing Wellness: adolescent girls. She created her first wellness program, which she named GirlPower!, just for them.Read More
by Constance Hale
Native Hawaiians often express their way of learning in a neat trio of verbs: ho‘onana, ho‘olohe, ho‘opili (“watch,” “listen,” “imitate”). Whatever the craft, the idea is the same: find a master, open your eyes and ears, and if you don’t get it quite right, trust your teacher to correct you.Read More
by Joseph Carman
When flamenco artist Carlota Santana demonstrates her snaking arms, articulate fingers, fiery footwork, stalking strides, and laser-like gaze for observers at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, she evokes the ancient echoes of Gypsies in Andalusia. The pride and passion of her flamenco moves ignite the soul. Santana has produced numerous flamenco symposiums at Duke University, but they represent only a fraction of her efforts to share the technique and cultural aspects of this art form through performance and instruction.Read More
by Heather Wisner
When My-Linh Le watches turfers at work, she sees the grace, fluidity, and balance of ballet—no small feat, considering that turfers often perform their style of street dance aboard San Francisco Bay Area BART trains, busking for donations in cramped and unsteady spaces. “Turfers tend to get [up] on their toes,” she says, “and they like to do spins.”Read More
From winter competitions to summer national galas to fall intensives, there are exciting learning and growing opportunities for dancers of any age. In our annual listing, you’ll find the right fit from among nearly 125 competitions and conventions, ranging from old favorites to intriguing new options.Read More
by Steve Sucato
The occasion was Regional Dance America’s 2016 Northeast Festival, held June 2 to 4, 2016. It was a homecoming of sorts—in 1960 Erie had hosted the second Northeast Regional Ballet Association Festival (NERBA, now known as Regional Dance America). And that predecessor of this year’s event was a seminal moment in the grassroots regional dance movement in the United States.Read More
by Joseph Carman
As a dance form, hip-hop emerged from the streets, and its spontaneity, energy, and individuality reinforce its appeal. So when you place hip-hop in concert form, as choreographer Lorenzo “Rennie” Harris has done successfully for 25 years, it’s vital to retain that freshness while instilling it with discipline and stagecraft. Enter Rennie Harris Awe-Inspiring Works (RHAW), a second company to the acclaimed Rennie Harris Puremovement.Read More
by Karen White
Questions about what jazz dance is, where it lives, who does it and why drove discussions at the conference, Jazz Dance: Roots and Branches in Practice, held July 21 to August 3 in Newport, Rhode Island, hosted by the dance program at Salve Regina University. Hailed by attendees as a rare opportunity for educators, historians, choreographers, and master teachers to come together in celebration of jazz dance, the conference addressed not only the jazz lexicon but issues of race, relatability, and respect that impact how the art form is taught and viewed.Read More
by Josie Bray and Richard Kent
Though journaling may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of training dancers, teachers across the country use writing as a tool to help their dance students improve both technique and performance.Read More
by Joseph Carman
Every seven and a half seconds, a baby boomer turns 60—which means dance classes for senior citizens can be viewed as a growth industry. By 2020, 35 percent of the U.S. population will be age 50 or older, and that’s an age group that gravitates toward movement, dance, and fitness activities.
Savvy dance teachers around the country have created programs for elders. Whether the genre is improvisation, Zumba, chair dance, ballet, or cardio-based movement, senior citizens are making dance a vital part of their lives.Read More
by Bonner Odell
Any young dancer who contemplates a career in dance will get plenty of cautionary advice. From the modest salary to the relatively short stage career, there are real considerations that well-meaning elders can be quick to point out. But there’s one piece of advice that PeiJu Chien-Pott, a soloist with Martha Graham Dance Company, has found to be downright wrong.Read More
by Karen White
When Alicia Jonas first taught preschool classes, she found herself on her own. Curriculum, format, music, expectations—all were left up to her by studio owners who offered little guidance.Read More
A child’s work is play, and classroom games can make learning more fun. We teach technique through repetition, and creative play helps mask that repetition so that students stay engaged. (See “From the Top—Again.”) Supplies for most of the following games cost little or can be found at your home or studio.Read More
Hannah Wiley has been educating Seattle dance audiences for more than 25 years, and she’s doing it in a way unlike anyone else in U.S. academia. As the director of the University of Washington’s MFA program in dance, and its associated Chamber Dance Company (CDC), Wiley, a former ballet dancer, has made it her mission to present, record, and archive works of historical and artistic significance. The current trend in the modern dance world is to pay homage to the past. Since 1990, Wiley and her company have honored the pioneers who forged the way, and nowhere else can this unique collection of archived works be found.Read More
“They don’t make tights for ugly people.”
That’s what Robin Gamble-Maddrey’s daughter, a student at Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH), said to her mother. And Gamble-Maddrey, who is African American, was brokenhearted to hear those words. “I saw the pain and the hurt,” she says. “She didn’t like to look at her body, and she would tell people, ‘I’m too dark.’ As a woman and a mother, that’s something you never want to hear from a young girl.”
The reason for the girl’s self-criticism? She couldn’t find tights and shoes that matched her skin tone. “I told her, ‘It’s not you; it’s not your fault,’ ” Gamble-Maddrey says. The incident led her to start a tights manufacturing company, Shades of Dance. “The first color I created was for [my daughter],” she says.Read More
There are two major streams of tap dance from which all other styles have evolved. One is rhythm tap (or jazz tap), which derives from the musical qualities of jazz music and includes core elements of rhythm, call-and-response, and improvisation.
The other is a more theater-derived style that can be called musical theater tap, a full-bodied style of percussive dance that incorporates elements of soft shoe (an early form of stage dancing derived from the jig and clog, performed in slow 4/4 time without tapping), ballet, and ballroom, and often relies on set choreographies for large choruses, with relatively simple step patterns that allow the dancers’ meticulous steps to be seen and heard.Read More
It’s been one of those days. The energy in the studio is off, and your students look more bored with each brush of the foot in a tendu exercise. You saw an eye roll, maybe two. And in a ballet/tap combo class, the little ones were more interested in playing with each other’s hair than working on their shuffles. You love teaching, but days like these make you feel tired. You’re repeating the fundamentals over—and over, and over—again. If this scenario sounds familiar, you’ve faced one challenge inherent in dance training—repetition.Read More
Competitions can be high-octane extravaganzas or simple, single-day events. Yet no matter the size or scope, at some competition somewhere a dance studio owner is bound to say, “Can you believe what’s going on? Maybe I should start my own competition. After all, how hard can it be?”
Three studio owners know exactly how hard. “We work on the competition year round,” says Teresa Mackereth of the BC Annual Dance Competition, which she founded in British Columbia, Canada, in 1988. Its organizers take only one week to decompress after each May’s weeklong event before beginning work on the following year’s. “It’s an ongoing commitment,” says Mackereth, who is also artistic director of Dance Academy of Prince Rupert. “And we have never had a paid staffer. It’s all volunteers, always.”Read More
Dance studio owners open additional locations for numerous reasons—to increase profits or to house a growing student population, for example. Or maybe a nearby area needs a dance studio, or an opportunity arises to take over an existing one. Whatever the reasons for branching out, those who have done so find that managing multiple locations has its own set of benefits and challenges. Here are some tips on how to run more than one school location efficiently and effectively.Read More
Dance competitions and conventions have flourished for decades, giving young dancers time onstage and plenty of skills. Competing in dance requires discipline, a strong work ethic, the ability to field criticism and cope with pressure, and networking savvy—all attributes that have served former competition kids well in a diverse array of careers.Read More
At dance competitions, it’s easy to be critical of the judging panel. Teachers and parents spend hours staring at the back of the judges’ heads trying to gain clues from their posture about what they’re thinking, and they study the judges’ biographies. Who are these people who will critique and rank their students or children?
But how many people know what goes into judging a competition? Not that many. I have been a dance adjudicator for more than 30 years, and it’s always an honor and a privilege to do this job. But it’s not always what people expect! Here’s a glimpse into the on-the-road life of people like me.Read More
It’s September, and all around the United States kids are returning to school and dance studios are beginning their fall sessions. This is also the time of year when competition directors begin hiring adjudicators for the upcoming season. If you aim to book your first gig as a competition judge this year, it’s time to make your move. Put your best foot forward with these tips from three competition directors and three seasoned adjudicators.Read More
At the University at Buffalo, where I teach, the dance and athletic departments stand side by side. I often cite this architectural relationship as a metaphor for the two sides of a dancer—one part artist and one part athlete.
The benefits to dancers of aerobic exercise, weight training, and cross-training are common knowledge. Less widely understood is what dance teachers can learn and integrate into their work from the field of athletics, specifically the concept of periodization, which I learned about at an International Association for Dance Medicine and Science conference. Let’s look at how we can apply this idea to dance education in order to support students’ growth, health, and safety.Read More
With 2016’s nationals in the rearview mirror, competition directors across the nation are prepping for the season to come. Directors of 11 competitions took time out of their busy schedules to share their thoughts on a few topics we threw their way. Their responses (some directors did not answer every question) appear in alphabetical order by company name (sometimes abbreviated). As always, we thank them all for their participation.Read More
These days, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t do research online, whether it’s for nuggets of dance history, video clips of famous dances or dancers, photos, reviews, or even song lyrics. The riches that can be found keep expanding as more and more established dance institutions digitize their collections and wet-behind-the-ears organizations take steps into archival territory. We’ve collected many of these archives here. Some are searchable sites where you’re likely to tumble into a deep “research rabbit hole,” some are aggregates of archives, and some list holdings that are viewable only in physical locations. We hope you’ll find something that sparks your curiosity, increases your knowledge, and reignites your creative spirit.Read More
Anyone can have a good idea, but it takes determination, guts, and know-how to turn that raw idea into reality. From Rhee Gold’s many good ideas in the past 20-plus years have sprung a successful dance competition, a series of practical and motivational seminars for dance educators, a dance education–focused magazine, and more.Read More
When it comes to teacher evaluations, dance studio owners could benefit from adopting some common practices in the business world. Teacher evaluations benefit employees and studios alike, providing a system for reflection, assessment, goal setting, and decisions about compensation.
In the business world, where many people work full time for one employer, typically there is a formal process for evaluations, reviews, and pay increases, usually on a yearly basis. But in dance studios, many owners hire part-time teachers (either as employees or independent contractors) and have no formal system of evaluation or raises. Formal evaluations and systematic pay increases can be difficult to implement in schools where staff turnover is frequent.
In exploring the topic of evaluations and pay increases, we surveyed 100 dance teachers at studios in 22 states. Their feedback is synthesized here to offer suggestions for best practices when hiring and evaluating teachers.Read More
Attracting boys to dance has never been easy. It doesn’t matter that football players like Hall of Famer Lynn Swann or the New York Jets’ Steve McLendon took ballet and it improved their game, or that Lionel Messi looks like a ballet dancer when he shows how to control the soccer ball. With some exceptions—hip-hop is the most obvious—there are deep-rooted obstacles to getting boys into the studio.
. . . As Nikolai Kabaniaev at City Ballet School in San Francisco notes, “It’s not lucrative to have boys-only [classes] in this country.” He’s fortunate that his directors have made the commitment to “do whatever it takes.”
Along with City Ballet’s introductory dance classes for boys, there are other success stories that offer insight for studio owners who are trying, or hoping, to bring in the boys.Read More
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
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
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
“Attracting minority dancers is tough,” says Cheryl Taylor, school administrator at Chicago Multi-Cultural Dance Center (CMDC), a school that she says draws nonwhite students by offering a welcoming environment, high-quality classical ballet training, and modern/contemporary choreography. “But I think to survive, dance—and ballet in particular—has to be for kids of all colors. We have to open the doors and let others in.”
Attracting and keeping students of color not only ensures that all children have the opportunity to dance, it also enlarges the role dance schools play in ensuring that ballet and other dance forms thrive. By broadening their student base, dance studios have the potential to increase their enrollment and attract new audiences.Read More
Dance is a spare art. It can be practiced with few accoutrements—at minimum, only the body. Dance studios can be similarly low-tech affairs: any empty room will do. But when it comes to the virtual realm, careful attention must be paid—not only to what is used, but how. The world is watching, which means presentation is critical. It’s not enough for school owners simply to have an online presence; they need to portray themselves and their schools in a positive, professional way.
Here to tell us how to do that are Teri Mangiaratti, owner and director of In Sync Center of the Arts in Quincy, Massachusetts, and Patty Polanski Neal, founder and CEO of Dance Spectrum in Depew, New York. They share their tips on managing websites and using social media to build community.Read More
As one of the oldest music conservatories in the United States, the Peabody Institute of The Johns Hopkins University has changed the scope and scale of cultural offerings and the arts, not only in its home city but across the nation. Philanthropist George Peabody, a British American financier who is considered the first modern philanthropist, founded the namesake school in Baltimore in 1857 because he “believed in the power of the artist to enrich the lives of others,” according to the institute.
At its inception, the Peabody Institute was solely a school of music. While its contributions to the development of classical music have been unparalleled over the past 150 years (it is one of the oldest, most prestigious music conservatories in the U.S.), few people know about the lively and groundbreaking dance history that played out in the studios and concert hall in Peabody’s beautiful columned, stone-and-brick edifice. It’s history that’s still being made today.Read More
To say that Jackie Sleight exudes charisma is akin to saying a lion sports a mane.
Like a bolt of electricity, Sleight (pronounced “slight”) zigzags around the stage at a recent L.A. DanceMagic (LADM) convention class, belting out directions, corrections, and humor-filled tidbits. Wearing black yoga pants and mid-calf boots and flicking her fire-red hair, she’s an über-mom for a sea of eager teenagers jazzing to a recording of “Vegas Lights” by Panic! At the Disco. Sleight wants the best for them, and in her purview nothing less than aiming for perfection is acceptable.Read More
You’ve decided to add modern technique to your studio’s offerings, and now you’re wondering which style would be a good fit. Will your students be swayed by the intensity of Graham? The power of Horton? The clarity of Cunningham? The fluidity of release? Or the exploration of Gaga? Which style will they enjoy—and which one do they need?Read More
When pop star Beyoncé, looking for moves for her Countdown video in 2011, swiped some steps from the work of Belgian choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, she ignited a process that resulted in a brilliant gift to the world dance community.
Many artists, violated in this way, might respond with legal action. But De Keersmaeker, director of the Brussels-based troupe Rosas and of the international contemporary dance and choreography school PARTS (Performing Arts Research and Training Studios), had another idea.Read More
Can you teach a dancer—or anyone else—how to choreograph?
For more than five decades, the National Choreography Intensive (NCI) has stood by the idea that the tools and craft of choreography not only can be taught but should be taught, especially to aspiring dancemakers. Every July, the NCI, run by Regional Dance America, convenes to nurture and guide both fledgling and seasoned choreographers, as well as participating dancers, through the process of learning how to construct a dance. A director of choreography and a director of music (in 2015, Ronald K. Brown and Farai Malianga, respectively) serve as the participants’ mentors.Read More
It was September 2013 and Kingston School of Dance was about to return home. During the previous four and a half years, the studio had set up shop three times in three different locations while its permanent location, the city-owned J.K. Tett Centre for Creativity and Learning in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, was under renovation.
With the return to the Tett impending, KSD artistic director Ebon Gage says he wanted to “do something exciting” for the studio’s 250-plus families, who had remained loyal and patient through all the moving. He decided to produce an original ballet, and he turned to 14-year-old student Jillian Strathy to write it.Read More
What on earth can you create on a 4-by-4-foot stage? And what would you and your performers learn from it?
At a recent Ten Tiny Dances show at Portland, Oregon, warehouse space The Works at The Redd, viewers discovered only a fraction of the many—and surprising—possibilities.Read More