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.
At Dance Studio Life, two changes will influence what you see in our pages this year. A new writer, Patrick Corbin, will be passing along his wisdom in “2 Tips for Modern and Contemporary Teachers.” Patrick’s long career as a dancer took him from The Joffrey Ballet to Paul Taylor Dance Company to his own troupe, CorbinDances. Now on the faculty at the University of Southern California’s Glorya Kaufman School of Dance, he’s full of ideas and enthusiasm.
Also, we have a new member of the editorial staff. Laura Fredrickson joins us as copy editor, and she’ll be handling other responsibilities as well. She comes to us with years of editorial experience, a love of dance, and a gung-ho attitude.
The year ahead is full of potential, and we hope our pages will educate, inspire, and enrich you as dance teachers. Thank you for your readership and your devotion to the art of dance. —Cheryl A. Ossola
DSL editor in chief Cheryl A. Ossola, a former associate editor at Dance Magazine, is a writer for San Francisco Ballet and a member of the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto. She holds an MFA in writing from the University of San Francisco.
At last summer’s DanceLife Teacher Conference, school owner Teri Mangiaratti talked about the importance of a welcoming lobby. “I want people to sit down, have a cup of coffee, and make connections in my lobby,” she said. “I’m a mom. I get it.”
Not everyone was convinced. Some owners said their waiting areas were so problematic that they’d removed them. Disgruntled parents drew staff into arguments; kids loitered and made messes; the chaos distracted students in class. Whether or not these lobbies felt welcoming to clients, they felt toxic to the staff.
This view of lobbies surprised me. Studio lobbies have always been my community centers. As a young aspiring dancer in New York, I stretched, chatted, peeked in at classes, perused audition notices, and made friends in lobbies all over town.
Peridance, near Union Square, was one hangout. The vibe was professional yet low-key, students were eclectic, and some of my favorite teachers taught there. After a family tragedy, I remember having intense conversations in that cozy, lived-in lobby. It turned out two girls from class had also suffered terrible losses—they understood.
The lobby (or rather hallway) of the beloved old Dance Space Center near Canal Street was another sweet spot. Hundreds of downtown dancers came through daily, but the receptionist, a smiling, elfin man with a gray braid, always remembered my name. That hallway was crowded yet communal in a very New York way. There, I saw in action the ability New Yorkers have—and dancers too—to flow like liquid into confined spaces (sidewalks, subway cars, studios) and share them with grace.
In the San Francisco Bay Area, it took me a while to find a “dance home” for my kids and me. At one studio, the office was locked on weekends or staffed by one teenager, lobby signs encouraged parents to drop off or wait outside, and blinds blocked classroom windows. Other families seemed to like the monastic atmosphere; I felt pushed away. We moved on.
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. —Tamsin Nutter
DSL associate editor Tamsin Nutter lives in Berkeley, California. A former MoMA marketing writer, she trained at Vassar College and The Ailey School and danced in NYC with Regina Nejman & Company and others.