Advice for dance teachers | Retaining Recital Choreography Dear Rhee, What are your strategies to help students retain recital choreography? This year was especially hard, which resulted in a lot of stress for my students and me. I know I must be missing some tricks of the trade. Any expertise is appreciated. —Mikala Hi Mikala,…Read More
Onscreen, on the page, and online The Nutcracker produced by New York City Ballet and illustrated by Valeria Docampo Ballet and picture book lovers, rejoice! New York City Ballet presents The Nutcracker, a 2016 children’s book featuring the beloved story, which is told for the first time using George Balanchine’s quintessential production as inspiration. The…Read More
The Emory University Dance and Movement Studies Program focuses on contemporary modern dance, emphasizing improvisation, choreography, and performance through a somatically based curriculum.Read More
“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.”Read More
In Sweet Briar’s dance program, students explore creative expression while gaining practical experience. For more than 40 years, the program has drawn on traditional and modern dance techniques and newer styles such as aerial, with an emphasis on and intensive training in choreography.Read More
by Samara Atkins
Tip 1: When you’re building up choreographic phrases, repetition is key to students’ understanding of the sequencing. Repeating a section several times, breaking down the more difficult moves as you go, helps students remember what you’re teaching.
Tip 2: Playing with tempo changes is also helpful once you’ve taught the entire phrase.
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 Rhee Gold
Creating choreography is an opportunity to be an artist, to make a statement, or to entertain. An audience, except perhaps for dance teachers or judges, isn’t generally impressed with spectacular feats; the average audience member doesn’t even know the difficulty of a given move. However, an audience always responds positively to performances that elicit an emotional response or provoke thought.Read More
by David Arce
Tip 1: Remind students to take their time moving into B-plus, making sure to plié generously and present a fully turned-out heel before straightening the standing leg.
Tip 2: The circular port de bras, toward and away from the barre, is important for all students to practice, as it develops strength, flexibility, and musicality.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
Teaching musicality can be harder than teaching moves. An especially difficult skill is “sitting in the pocket,” stretching a move to fill the space (or pocket) between counts. Mastering this skill (also called “finding the groove” or “riding out the beat”) is important to hip-hop’s style, flow, and execution.
To help students learn this skill, vary your intonation when counting, drawn out where students should sit in the pocket and sharp where they should end it: “Ooone, twooo. . . ” or “Ooone, two! Threee, four!”
Spins or turns are great “punctuation” elements to introduce into students’ vocabularies. Spins can accent a specific beat or the end of a phrase, and they look cool, whether in choreography or freestyle. There are many turns you can teach to add dynamic motion to students’ dancing.
Pencil turns are another good accent. Begin with feet shoulder-width apart, arms loosely at the sides. Bend the knees, jump the feet together and wrap the arms tightly around the torso to create momentum, and spin the body 360 degrees in either direction. Spin up on both toes, keeping weight distributed between the feet. Tell students to look as narrow as possible, as if squeezing into a tight space.
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
Individuality is essential in hip-hop. While students need to know how to pick up and execute other people’s choreography, they also need strategies for generating their own movement. Try these exercises to get students’ brains working and creativity flowing. Allot plenty of time, and end with performances and a critique session. As they work, students may find it helpful to jot down steps in a notebook.
Choreograph by “cutting and pasting”: students generate short sequences, then identify beginning, middle, and end sections. They cut apart and rearrange these sections—for example, moving the end to the beginning or the middle to the end.
Books of note (new and not)
1. The Art of Persian Dance
2. Hijikata Tatsumi and Butoh: Dancing in a Pool of Gray Grits
3. Dancers as Diplomats: American Choreography in Cultural Exchange
4. Bharatanatyam: A Reader
NOMINATED BY: Dana Farber, a student’s mother: “Brynn has endless energy for her students. She spends weekends working on choreography, rhinestoning costumes, hand-making accessories, and helping her solo students. She wants the best for her students and encourages them with positive and kind words. What I value most as a dance parent is that Brynn takes class, attends conventions, and looks for performing opportunities to further her own dance experience.”Read More
Dancers have always prized flexibility—and the bendier they can get, the better. But technique has gotten more extreme in recent years, and today’s choreography seems to require a contortionist’s malleability. Young dancers strive to emulate Miko Fogarty’s 180-degree penchés and Maddie Ziegler’s ultra-arched back, while audiences and judges have come to expect show-stopping feats of flexibility. Social media only fuels the frenzy; an online search for “ballet stretch” turns up thousands of eye-popping images of oversplits, curlicue feet, and tilts that lean far past vertical.Read More
I’m noticing a lack of creativity in choreography lately—or maybe it’s people’s inability to think for themselves. At a respected ballet company’s performance, on the competition stage, and on TV, choreographers are creating contemporary work that’s strikingly similar. Yes, the level of technical mastery among dancers is diverse, but there’s a disturbing sameness to the mood, expression, and movement—which typically convey ideas about suffering and tragedy. This dark subject matter combined with moody lighting and zero humor add up to a sad observation: today’s dance productions may be depressing audiences instead of entertaining them.Read More
After years of pink sequins and fairy princesses, you’ve finally snagged a boy for your competition team or teenage ballet class—great! Whether only one boy is enrolled at your studio, or there are several boys who fall singly into various technical levels, having an available male creates new possibilities for choreography, themes, and music choices.Read More
When you’re choreographing, nothing is more frustrating than finding a song you’re excited about, then realizing you can’t use it. If bad words, length, or repetitiveness are obstacles, don’t give up—there are ways to alter any song, by cutting, adding samples, and mixing in other songs. The editing process might seem overwhelming at first, but there are numerous apps and programs on the market that allow you to create your masterpiece even when you’re not an audio or tech expert.Read More
One evening before a rehearsal one of my students said to me, “It must be great to be a dance teacher. You can sleep all day and then show up for a few hours of work at night.” This happened during preparations for a rather large-scale show. Like many studio owners, I was responsible for handling all aspects of the production; I’d started planning months beforehand.
This dancer’s comment made me realize how little students understand about what goes into producing a show. In response, I created Production 101, a class that introduces students to the process of theater and dance production, from concept to performance. I also wanted them to see how they could be involved in dance aside from performing.
The two-hour class, open to advanced students, meets weekly for 16 weeks. I also offer the class as an enrichment course at a private high school for international students—a month-long intensive that meets four days a week for three hours each day. On the fifth day, I take the students offsite for field trips. We have toured theaters, observed rehearsals, attended performances, and spoken with production professionals. I also invite guest speakers to the studio for Q&A sessions. Each program ends with a performance at the studio that is open to our dance families.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
Competition dances often present angst-ridden choreography set to lyrics that convey pain or despair. Whether they depict personal suffering or take a bleak perspective on the state of the world, these pieces are dark—and though they can be powerful, they can be difficult to watch, and in some cases, similar to one another, or derivative. What happened to dance as joyful entertainment, we wondered, and is there value in originality? To answer these questions, we asked readers whether such dances have a place on the competition stage, and why. Here’s what they said.Read More