Behind the scenes at the DanceLife Teacher Conference
Last month, we ran a story on a festival called Dance Planet. That’s where we thought we were last August—on an actual dance planet—when the DanceLife Teacher Conference took over a vast portion of the Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona. Surrounded by 750 dance teachers and school owners, 70 dance-industry vendors, and 44 faculty and staff members, we were a world unto ourselves. From 7:30am, when the doors opened for breakfast, until 9 or 10pm, when the day’s last seminar ended, little else existed other than dance.
Being sequestered at the luxurious Phoenician for four days has its perks: quiet, late-night visits to the resort’s string of eight swimming pools, decompression time lounging on terraces that overlook rugged mountain scenery, and guest rooms with marble bathrooms the size of the average kitchen.
I’m trying to retire. It’s going to be your job to transfer this information. It’s a great honor for me to give this information to you. It’s a trust. —Bruce Marks
Outside of class time, there were plenty of distractions—and ways to empty your wallet. Vendors offered everything from shoes and warm-ups to teaching and business management tools to backdrops and costumes—plus raffles, whose winners were announced at a cocktail party. Attendees bonded with new friends at breakfast, found some down time on a patio or in a pool, and stopped to chat en route from one ballroom to another.
Dance till you drop
And those four ballrooms were rarely idle. The 2013 DLTC offered more ballet than ever before, with classes from Kathy Kozul, Roni Mahler, Bruce Marks, and Mme Peff Modelski. Attendees flocked to the ballet classes in large numbers, obviously hungry for advice from these masters.
New to the DanceLife Teacher Conference was Marks, whose classes were SRO. Formerly a dancer with American Ballet Theatre and an artistic director of Boston Ballet, Marks insisted on live piano accompaniment for his classes. “You’re teaching your students to make decisions about how the movement looks,” he told attendees. “Don’t count; it’s about the music, not the numbers.”
He started his first intermediate/advanced ballet class by saying, “I have 60 years of material to teach you, and I only have an hour and a half.” Fortunately, he had more time than that, teaching classes each day, in turns and épaulement along with general technique, and keeping everyone enthralled with his stories during a Q&A session.
In a technique class, Marks told his students, “Ninety-seven percent of the audience is looking at the upper body. Old dance teachers are looking at your legs, but we didn’t pay for tickets.” Toward the end of class, standing before a roomful of teachers who hung on his every word, he said, “I gave 15 things; maybe you got one or two. In each class, look for the principle you got that day, and hold on to it.” Later he told the teachers, “I’m trying to retire. It’s going to be your job to transfer this information. It’s a great honor for me to give this information to you. It’s a trust.”
Mahler, the recipient of the 2013 Dance Studio Life Lifetime Achievement Award, presented (along with a surprise visit by her son, Erik Stone) at the Gala Luncheon, taught a series of classes in ballet technique for various ages, while Kozul focused on beginning pointe, strengthening tools, and floor technique.
Talking about how to teach piqué in her Starting Out, 6-8 Years Ballet Technique class, Mahler crouched, a position she recommended having students assume to watch fellow students’ feet as they stepped onto half-pointe. Then she jumped up and demonstrated a series of piqué sous-sus, dragging a portable barre with her across the stage.
Teaching pointe one day, Modelski got a laugh when she said, “Take plenty of space. I have no stick, no accent, and I don’t bite.” Seeing results from Modelski’s methods, teachers who took her class talked excitedly about what they’d bring back to their students. Modelski also taught a Feldenkrais session in which she said something equally applicable to a ballet class: “It’s paying attention to the quality of movement that brings about change.”
In another ballroom, the words “Five, six, yee-haw!” bounced off the walls, where tap dancer extraordinaire Gregg Russell was teaching intermediate warm-ups and progressions. Next up: a slide. Everyone groaned.
“I had the good fortune to learn slides from the master himself, Jimmy Slyde,” Russell said. “It’s a misconception that you take your heels off to slide. There are three rules of slides: knees bent, feet flat, weight in the middle.” Suddenly tappers were sliding with confidence, and smiles.
Elsewhere, Derrick Yanford, Nailah Bellinger, and Bill Evans offered classes in modern and contemporary. Bellinger challenged teachers with Horton movement, accompanied by drumming. “Spiral, spiral, spiral,” she said repeatedly as the class worked on an upper-body twist.
In Evans’ class on exploring multiple intelligences, several dozen people sprawled on the floor being starfishes, working with the image of filling and emptying the body. “The fluids in the body are seeking gravity,” Evans said. “Feel the breath in every cell.”
Yanford taught an intense intermediate/advanced contemporary class that drew roughly 150 attendees. “Fake it till you make it,” he told them when they missed some of the steps in a combination. “Here we go. Focus.”
Yanford’s improv class had everyone laughing as they explored ways to help students discover movement possibilities through directed improvisation. As the class moved across the floor en masse, Yanford called out animal names—“Snail! Giraffe!”—offering examples of cues that get kids to explore level changes. For qualitative movement exploration, he had the class cross the floor as if climbing a gigantic mountain, or moving through broken glass. There should be “no plan, plot, or choreography,” he said. Cover the mirrors and dim the lights to ease kids’ self-consciousness, and offer specific directives, he advised, quoting Merce Cunningham: “Limitation is freedom.”
In Geo Hubela’s high-energy hip-hop classes, hundreds of people sweated through demanding combinations. Hubela pointed out the importance of keeping energy controlled, likening a dancer’s “strike zone” to that of a baseball player’s: a defined, contained area around the body. “Don’t let it get away from you,” he said, demonstrating a series of flailing moves, “because then you just look sloppy.”
Elsewhere, Tricia Gomez tossed out one idea after another about how to get kids up and moving with games and hip-hop techniques for youngsters, and Art Stone re-imagined “Gangnam Style” for the ballroom set. In a Stacy Eastman tap class, teachers kept up with an intricate across-the-floor combo while simultaneously filming it for future reference on their iPads.
Jazz guru Joe Tremaine breezed in to teach jam-packed classes that left participants happy—and hobbling the next day. “Everything hurts,” attendee Holly Derville-Teer said, smiling. Later that day she was back in Tremaine’s class, ready for more.
In a Teacher Q&A, Tremaine captivated his audience with tales of his storied career: getting started in New Orleans, buying a one-way bus ticket to New York, working with June Taylor, dancing on The Jackie Gleason Show, and living across the street from Chita Rivera on New York’s Upper West Side. Rivera and June Taylor, Tremaine said, were the people he learned the most from. Asked to weigh in on competitions, he drew laughs. “If I see any more angst, especially from little kids,” he said, “I’m going to slit my own wrists.” Addressing competition music choices, he cited the overuse of “Hey Big Spender,” saying he wanted to tell studio directors, “You just had your 12-year-olds dancing to hooker music.”
An array of seminars offered alternatives to the technique classes. Topics included marketing, getting organized, classroom methods, music editing, preschool curriculum, recitals and props, dealing with crises, and an “owners-only” session.
Tap teacher Diane Gudat taught a class about mapping music and notating choreography. “I believe in economy of intelligence,” she told the class. “I’m ‘this-much’ smart; how can I get the most of it?” She made an excellent case for learning basic music theory and spending a significant amount of time learning a piece of music before committing to choreographing to it.
Teacher Sandi Duncan held an inspirational session with school owners, quoting Eleanor Roosevelt: “The purpose of life, after all, is to live it.” Participants teamed up to answer questions posed by Duncan, such as, “If you knew you wouldn’t fail, what would you do?”
Tapper Mike Wittmers gave a lecture/demo on “dacting,” acting and mime exercises that teach kids to show highs and lows, go to extremes, and think on their feet. Covering commercial dance, Nancy O’Meara talked about what dancers need to succeed in L.A.
In her Financial Freedom seminar, studio owner (and businessperson extraordinaire) Misty Lown offered advice on keeping finances in order. “Wheels,” she told her audience, “cycle negatively or positively”; there is no such thing as standing still. Her Wisdom and Balance seminar explored ways to achieve balance in work and life. “What you feed, grows,” she said. “Be careful what you feed.” She suggests keeping a stash of rocks on your desk, each labeled with a goal or priority. Then, each day, she said, choose which rock to focus on.
And one more thing . . .
Throughout the four days, DSL publisher Rhee Gold enthusiastically filled his singular role as host, MC, and business guru. In his closing speech, he referred to Living Traditions Dance Troupe, which performed authentic Native American dance and song at the Gala Luncheon. “I strive for all of us to appreciate dance and movement that comes from the soul,” he said. “It is a heart thing. It is a soul thing. It is a gut thing.
“If we all had a mission of what we want to accomplish through dance, we would change lives 100 percent more than we do today,” Gold said. “And the little ripples that would result would change the world.”
The atmosphere on Sunday was one of fatigued contentment, as friends old and new said their goodbyes and toted home new information, ideas, and enthusiasm. As one attendee said about her experience at the conference, “I just wish I didn’t have to wait two years for the next one.”
Cheryl A. Ossola, Lisa Okuhn, Karen White, and Arisa White contributed to this article.
Cuyahoga Valley Youth Ballet’s kid-friendly approach to ballet
By Joseph Carman
The late Nan Klinger, a dance pioneer in Akron, Ohio, believed that classroom time alone wasn’t sufficient to mold young dancers. “She used to say, ‘It’s like going to football practices but never playing the game,’ ” says her daughter Mia Klinger. In 1975, determined to give her students performing experience, Nan Klinger founded Cuyahoga Valley Youth Ballet.
Mia Klinger, who took over as the youth ballet’s director in 2001, admires her mother’s vision. “Her mission was to create original ballets for children danced by children,” she says. “When I was young, I said, ‘I really want to do Swan Lake,’ and she said, ‘No, that’s for an adult company. I want to do original ballets created for children.’ ”
As of the 2013–14 season, CVYB has 45 ballets and 4 modern pieces in its repertoire, which comprises one of the largest collections of children’s ballets in any company. Many of them are 45- to 55-minute one-act story ballets, perfect for children’s attention spans. In 1966, the Ford Foundation provided a one-time grant that allowed Nan Klinger, who died in 2003, to train her dancers and subsequently stage the ballets in local theaters, schools, libraries, hospitals, and other venues.
[My mother’s] mission was to create original ballets for children danced by children. When I was young, I said, ‘I really want to do Swan Lake,’ and she said, ‘No, that’s for an adult company. I want to do original ballets created for children.’ —CVYB director Mia Klinger
Over the last three decades, CVYB has become an estimable institution, performing at the First Night Akron celebration (Akron’s New Year’s Eve festivities), the Children’s Concert Society series at Akron Civic Theatre, the Discovery Theater Series at Cleveland Playhouse Square, and annually at both the Cuyahoga Falls High School auditorium and Akron Civic Theatre. Farther from home, the company has performed as part of the First International Children’s Festival tour in Taiwan; the International Youth Ballet Festival in Vevey, Switzerland; and at Symphony Space in Manhattan (twice in 2010, including a performance of Fancy Nancy, based on the children’s book). Recently performed works include The Little Mermaid, Miss Spider’s Tea Party, Carnival of the Animals, Fancy Nancy, and A Christmas Carol.
The troupe used to give as many as 20 to 35 school performances per year; however, recent school budget cuts have reduced that number to about 10. Valuable financial support has come from The Ohio Arts Council and Akron Community Foundation, along with donors and volunteers from the community.
The company of more than 40 dancers ranges in age from 8 to 18. Younger CVYB students are required to take four 90-minute ballet classes per week at the Nan Klinger Excellence in Dance Studio in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, while the senior students are required to attend six 90-minute ballet classes (although most take more). Rehearsals for youth ballet performances demand an additional 7 to 10 hours per week.
“I’m a third-generation ballet teacher,” says Klinger. “My grandmother had a ballet studio, but in her day women didn’t work when they were married, so she stopped the dance studio. Then my mom started hers in 1953.”
Mia’s two sisters are also involved in the dance world. Lori Klinger is artistic director of Rosie’s Theater Kids, an organization that provides dance, theater, and music classes, as well as academic mentoring for underserved children, in New York City; Kim White teaches ballet in Europe. The fourth generation is involved too; Mia’s daughter and nieces have taught or assisted at the Akron studio.
Starting in the mid-1960s, the Klinger family made annual excursions to Saratoga Springs, New York, to see New York City Ballet perform. “As a child I used to watch Balanchine and [ballet master] John Taras teach class and run rehearsals,” says Klinger. “My mom always watched classes at the School of American Ballet, because she had many students there.”
The Nan Klinger Excellence in Dance Studio’s style of training reflects the Balanchine style. “Balanchine was based on the Russian syllabus, but he took things and made them longer, bigger,” Klinger says. There is even a Balanchine ballet in CVYB repertoire, Scherzo à la Russe, made in 1972 and set to Stravinsky. “We paid $1,000 to do it,” says Klinger. Legendary NYCB ballerina Tanaquil LeClercq (and Balanchine’s last wife), who owned the rights to it, “gave that $1,000 back and wrote the most beautiful note that we have framed in our studio,” says Klinger. “It reads: ‘Here’s a gift to your company. Scherzo à la Russe was a little gem, and good luck with your company.’ ”
The core of the company’s repertoire consists of original children’s ballets. One choreographer is former NYCB soloist Tom Gold, who now directs his own company, Tom Gold Dance. Nan Klinger first met Gold in Saratoga Springs in 2001, discovered his choreographic ambitions, and asked him to create a piece for CVYB.
The ballet, Seasoning, “is based on the four seasons with a mix of music—Vivaldi and some jazz,” says Gold. “Each season has a different sensibility and flavor, and the seasons are based on activities of kids.”
Gold has created four more ballets for CVYB, including The Little Mermaid and A Christmas Carol (in which the Scrooge character is a hardcore businesswoman who resembles the character Miranda Priestly in the movie The Devil Wears Prada). In March, the company will premiere his new Beauty and The Beast, set to Tchaikovsky’s music.
Gold appreciates the professionalism he encounters at CVYB. And, he adds, “it’s always nice working with the same group of kids because you get to know them. This group, more than any other [youth company I’ve worked with], has distinct personalities and individuals, which is great when you’re doing a ballet with characters.”
He bases his movement on classical ballet technique, with room for individual style. “It’s a hybrid of everything I have learned,” he says. “I’ll look at the dancers and see that they excel at a certain style or technique and I’ll incorporate that into the ballet.”
James Sewell, director of James Sewell Ballet in Minneapolis, formed a partnership with CVYB more than 20 years ago when Lori Klinger recommended him to Nan Klinger. His first ballet for CVYB, Carnival of the Animals, danced to Camille Saint-Saëns’ famous score, is still in the repertory.
“The story ballets tend to be what they’re interested in,” says Sewell. “It was a nice thing for me to explore,” especially since Carnival of the Animals provided many sections for different dancers. “I figured, if it’s elephants, I can do something for the young kids, something that will be easily workable; other sections would be much more technical. I get a sense of what kind of dancer to cast by what looks good on them.”
Over the last two decades Sewell has created three other ballets for CVYB: Three Visions of Bach, a non-narrative ballet with music by the Swingle Singers (Sewell’s company dances an expanded version under the title Doo-Be-Doo); Miss Spider’s Tea Party, based on the children’s book by David Kirk (many of the CVYB ballets are based on children’s literature); and Spirit of the Cuyahoga, about the history of the Cuyahoga River.
Choreographers for CVYB must work fast; they typically have only about a week in August to choreograph a ballet. “We usually have three to four hours a day of rehearsal,” says Gold. “That’s pretty quick. That’s one thing I think Mia appreciates about me—I do work pretty fast and come in extremely well prepared, with everything mapped out and the trajectory of the story line already created. I’m not one of those persons who likes to waste time. These kids give up their free time in the summer to work hard, and the parents are driving them back and forth.”
Sewell respects CVYB’s no-nonsense, professional attitude. “They do a great job of cleaning things up,” he says. “I can set something, leave it in their hands, and they really do the work. It’s amazing.”
Sewell and Gold say that creating story ballets for children requires a special skill set. “It’s hard to do big group pieces,” says Sewell. “[Working with CVYB] has pushed me into that realm in a way that’s interesting and challenging. There’s also the question of how to develop characterization with the kids. You have to structure the drama into the dance. It’s not that the kids can’t act well; they can, but some are better than others. As Balanchine would say, ‘Just do the steps; the drama is in the steps.’ ”
Gold says audiences love seeing the dancers move beyond their technical comfort zone. “You can educate the audience through ballet technique,” he says. “It’s not just about giving [the dancers] skipping and running, but also pirouettes and jumps that propel their technique forward. There should always be some comedy, some humor and lightness, and some emotional substance as well, so the audience can relate to these characters.”
The worst crime, Gold says, is to dumb down choreography for children’s audiences or the dancers. “Never underestimate the kids,” says Gold. “Never play down to them. Always push them to a new level. You’ll be constantly surprised.”
Another delightful aspect of CVYB performances is the high quality of the sets and costumes, despite the company’s slim budget. There’s a wardrobe mistress, who came from the now-defunct Ohio Ballet, and everyone pitches in to help. Gold says, “Miss Nan always said, ‘I don’t get just one student; I get one father and one mother, and everybody is going to work!’ Mia continues that tradition. The parents really work, and some are so talented at costume creation and set design. It’s always better than I could have imagined.”
In addition to maintaining high visibility as a performing company, for 14 years CVYB has conducted an extensive outreach program. Called Reach Out And Dance® (ROAD), it provides students in the Akron, Cuyahoga Falls, and Wooster public elementary schools free weekly in-school dance classes. Classes are led by the company’s faculty members, with live music provided by classically trained pianists. A select group of ROAD graduates (through the eighth grade) have joined Team Excel, which performs short pieces during some of the school programs and at their own schools.
“It’s a great opportunity for these kids to be onstage,” says Klinger. “We try to target lower-income kids. I wanted to give them the opportunity to do what my kids do. They might not be ballet dancers, but they are dancers.”
The Team Excel kids meet at the CVYB studios once a week for musical-theater training. According to Klinger, ROAD is the largest dance-related outreach program in the state of Ohio, even compared to professional companies like Cincinnati Ballet and Ballet Met.
Klinger thinks CVYB’s success and longevity is due to an adherence to her mother’s precepts. “I learned so much from my mom,” she says. “The most important thing was excellence. She stressed that it’s not fun to not be good at something. So if a parent said, ‘My kid just takes ballet for fun,’ she would answer that it can’t be much fun if you’re not good at it. She always strived for excellence in the kids.”
And, Klinger continues, her mother “had very old-fashioned rules and values in the studio.” CVYB students, for example, are not allowed to have double-pierced ears or colored hair. And don’t even ask about tattoos. “The rules of ballet have been in effect for hundreds of years,” says Klinger. “We keep [those rules], and I think parents appreciate it.”
Klinger has adopted yet another practice from her mother: a dedication to staying on the cutting edge of art. “Don’t re-create—that’s been done a million times,” she says. “Create something that’s original, that’s true art. Then present it to the best of the kids’ abilities. Don’t present anything halfway. It’s not just a recital, it’s a dance performance. Every show is important, whether it’s 10 people in the audience or 1,000. You have to show your best.”
The art of managing media relations
By Lisa Okuhn
All dance schools and organizations need publicity at some point—a magazine or newspaper article, a story on the evening news, even a highlighted calendar listing. A little know-how and perseverance will go far toward helping you increase your visibility. Here’s how to get your PR machine humming.
First understand what you’re trying to accomplish. “Map out a plan of what you want to achieve,” says John B. Hill, a San Francisco Bay Area publicist who has worked with dance artists and organizations like Chitresh Das Dance Company, EmSpace Dance, and ODC Theater. “Be clear about what you’re trying to get. Depending on your goal, the strategy for obtaining it will vary.”
Your goal might be to sell out a show, reach new audiences, attract more students, raise your profile in the community, or a combination of objectives. Whatever it is, your goal determines which newspapers, magazines, online outlets, and TV or radio stations you’ll target, and how to write the press release.
Do everything you can to become a trusted colleague of those journalists. Because you never know—if they’re looking to do an arts story sometime in the future they may think of you first. —Mariclare Hulbert
A strategy involves a story. What’s yours? Does it deserve attention? Mariclare Hulbert, director of marketing and communication for Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, says it’s crucial to pay attention to the “so what?” factor. “Journalists are constantly bombarded with ideas, pitches, PR,” she says. “For your pitch or information to stand out, you have to make sure you’ve already asked yourself why people outside of your studio or school should care about this.”
In other words, what is newsworthy? “Producing the first performance of its kind in the area is newsworthy,” Hulbert says. “Or a student or teacher who attends a prestigious festival or competition.” Many media outlets, especially small local papers or stations, Hulbert says, “are interested in hometown-pride stories.”
Once you’ve defined your goals, do some research. Compile a list of media outlets to contact and decide what you’ll ask from each. Do you want a calendar listing in the neighborhood paper? A feature story in your city’s daily newspaper? A radio interview? Get names, phone numbers, and email addresses for journalists you’ll contact. Go online to look at publications’ mastheads; find out journalists’ titles and gain an understanding of what they do and don’t do. Set up a spreadsheet with this information. Make note of what you’re asking for, and keep track of all contacts you’ve initiated and any responses.
The press release is an essential part of a PR campaign. A good one will make an editor, producer, or writer perk up and pay attention; a bad one will be filed in the spam box and get you labeled inconsequential, incompetent, or a nuisance.
A press release should have contact information at the top: the name of the person the media should contact, her phone number, and her email address.
Traditionally, the phrase “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE,” is placed somewhere close to the top, as are the date and place from which the release originates. Look online for commonly used formats.
The news headline, usually centered on the page, should encapsulate the main idea you want to impart: “ABC Dance Company’s Spring Season Features Live Polo Pony Onstage,” for example. Don’t worry if you don’t know the first thing about writing headlines; the news outlet editor will most likely rewrite it anyway. Think of it, instead, as a shout-out to capture the editor’s attention.
The body of the release—the descriptive paragraph or paragraphs—should follow. Be clear and concise. “Don’t say something in 10 words if you can say it in 3,” Hulbert says. She recommends keeping the release to four or five tightly written, fact-based, hyperbole-free paragraphs. She advises including laudatory or more hyperbolic language by way of quotes from others. For example, if a critic has written “These kids are supremely talented, unbelievably attractive, and in all ways irresistible,” about your performance company, include the quote (with proper attribution). Do not make such claims yourself.
Hill emphasizes the importance of writing simply, clearly, and grammatically. “Use standard English. Always write in complete sentences. Public relations is in large part making information easy and accessible to the press.” It’s not modernist poetry, he says. “Don’t use English in such a way that a member of the media has to translate it into something usable for their newspaper, magazine, or radio spot.”
Another thing to remember, Hulbert says, is that “many [media] people don’t know about dance or the arts. There can be a little bit of fear about the art form, especially if it’s a smaller publication, because they feel they don’t understand it.”
She advises thinking about the explanations, facts, or background needed to aid in understanding. Tell them “why that new piece is important,” she says. “Or why that choreographer is such a big deal. The background information we can provide as arts professionals helps those journalists and writers feel like they’re a part of this world, and that they understand it.”
When publicizing an event, include an easy-to-read listing that includes who, what, when (day, date, and time), where, ticket prices, and box office information. Double- and triple-check all details. One typo and your audience might show up on Sunday for your Saturday night show.
Most publicists caution against sending press releases as an attachment to an email. Many journalists will not open potentially virus- or spam-laden attachments. Instead, paste the press release into the body of the email.
Always send yourself a trial email first; copying and pasting a word document into email can result in incorrectly formatted text. For mass distribution, email the release to yourself and BCC your targeted media to protect your contacts’ email privacy.
The timing of the release will vary. Ideally it should be sent at least eight weeks in advance of the event you want to publicize. If you’re trying to get coverage in a magazine that publishes monthly, you’ll need to send the release about three months before the event. These are general rules; as Hulbert says, “Do your research and find out when journalists want to get their information.”
Photos and videos
Photos are very important, but do not attach them to the email that contains the press release. (Again, attachments often go unopened.) Offer to send the photos later, or send a link to a photo gallery site (like Flickr) where photos can be downloaded.
Another option is to make photos available for download on your studio’s website; this allows editors and art directors to quickly and easily access images to accompany a story. Include both high- and low-resolution versions. If the photo will run in a print publication, it must be high resolution—at minimum, 300 dots per inch (also known as dpi), at four by six inches. Low-resolution images are better for online publication.
Make sure these images illustrate something about the story you’re pitching. And, Hill says, make sure they’re “truthful, and informative.” If you’re pitching a story about an upcoming performance, make sure the photos “give the public an honest picture of what they can expect. If they’re not true production shots, they should resemble production shots,” rather than artsy, posed, or obviously Photoshopped studio shots.
Photos should always be labeled with a short description, dancers’ names, and a photographer’s credit.
Don’t forget the power of video. Grab the attention of your email recipient by including in your release a link to a one- to two-minute video excerpt of an upcoming performance, past performance, or clip of your new dance team or competition-bound student. Many newspapers and TV stations have online presences; if you have rights to the video, they can feature it on their websites.
Following up is critical, since people in the media are barraged with press releases. This means calling or emailing about two weeks after the initial release has gone out, and every week or two after that. Keep track of all contacts.
Some publicists rarely make phone calls anymore, arguing that in the age of the internet, a call is an unwanted intrusion for busy journalists. Hulbert disagrees. “Calling is still OK as long as you keep it concise,” she says. She employs what she calls “the flip-flop method—emailing someone first, then following that two or three weeks later with another email to say, ‘I just wanted to make sure you received it.’ Then you might make a quick follow-up call a week later to say, ‘I sent the information, but I’m happy to send it again so it’s at the top of your inbox,’ and then back to emails.”
If journalists don’t like calls they’ll let you know. If you do call, remember that journalists are often on deadline. “If they pick up the phone,” Hulbert says, “identify yourself, quickly say what you’re calling about, and ask if it’s an OK time [to talk for] five minutes. If they do have five minutes, keep it short and sweet.” Keep voicemail messages very short too, and include your phone number.
Your follow-up emails and calls might include a targeted hook, something that might entice an editor to assign a story or that might offer a good headline to run with a photo. Maybe the winning XYZ team is going to compete shortly before Mother’s Day and the team members want to dedicate the performance to their mothers. This hands an editor a timely story to run in early May, or it might convince a popular parents’ website to run an item.
Be flexible. Be prepared with alternative angles if your first pitch is rejected. If an editor says the paper recently ran a story about another dance studio’s charity event, be ready to point out that your Dance-a-Thon for Cancer is being held during National Breast Cancer Awareness Week. Or if you’re told there are too many fall dance events to cover, ask if they’re planning a fall arts roundup and whether you can send them a great photo to include with your listing.
Busy studio owners or company directors probably don’t have the time to cultivate media relationships the way professional publicists do. However, getting to know local and national media outlets and personalities is important. Do your homework: find out what a newspapers or magazine’s readers look for, and pitch stories accordingly.
Also, pay attention to the particulars. If you note that a reporter loved the classical ballet piece in a recent performance, Hulbert says, “reach out to them. Mention that you know they’ve reviewed this choreographer before and that they love them, and guess what? They’re coming to do a master class here.”
She adds, “Do everything you can to become a trusted colleague of those journalists. Because you never know—if they’re doing an arts story sometime in the future they may think of you first. They might call you up and say, ‘I want to do something about the local arts scene. Can you give me a quote?’ Or ‘What do you have coming up?’ ”
Maintaining your machine
Keep informed about local and national media outlets. “Media is constantly shifting,” Hill says. “People are in and out of their jobs; there are new arts pages, reorganizations, new columns, new possibilities for coverage.”
He also recommends making your website work for you by putting information you want the media to have on a dedicated press page. This should include bios of your organization’s artistic director, school director, and faculty, plus guest artists if appropriate, along with a history of the organization. Hill suggests posting both short and long versions of each. “Depending on the media outlet, they may not have the time to truncate a long bio into something usable,” he says.
Also include a history that chronicles performances and studio highlights, such as an overseas tour, participation in a prestigious community event, gala recital, or a studio visit from a big-name choreographer. List the events chronologically and also present them as a short narrative that a journalist can copy and paste.
What to do when you get coverage
Respond immediately to any press requests. Make it easy for reporters to schedule interviews. Don’t be nervous about the interview. The reporter will know how to ask questions to get the information and quotes she needs. If you think you haven’t answered well, ask if you can rephrase your response. If it’s a story that involves students, such as a performance trip to Japan, be prepared to offer contact information for one or two of the most articulate ones by getting permission from the students and their parents first.
Not every audition yields a job, and not every media pitch results in a story. Be persistent yet pleasant, and thoughtful enough to work with journalists to find a story that meets their needs. Respond immediately to requests for information, photos, or interviews. It’s your job to help journalists do theirs. Do this, and getting media coverage should come easily.
Community groups add spice and surprise to dance recitals
By Misty Lown
The beauty of a dance recital is that it’s all about the kids. The downside of a dance recital is that it’s all about the kids. Say what? Consider this: if your recital is focused solely on the people you already interact with on a weekly basis, you may be missing out on an opportunity to engage with your community at large.
Studio owners have three primary roles: quality control in the classroom (including overseeing teachers and curriculum), marketing, and developing strategic relationships in the community. Recitals are a golden opportunity to build those strategic relationships. With some creative planning, you can add production value to your show and share the best your studio has to offer with a wider audience.
The business of relationships
A strategic relationship is a mutually beneficial arrangement between two parties created for a specific objective. For example, on three occasions I have coordinated dance performances by my school, Misty’s Dance Unlimited in Onalaska, Wisconsin, with the local symphony orchestra. The arrangement was strategically sound for both organizations. Why? Three reasons: the dancers’ presence elevated the production value of the concert and drove ticket sales for the symphony. We showcased our dancers in front of our target audience—families who value the arts. And the dancers got to perform to live music, which is a rarity. Talk about a “win-win-win” event.
If your recital is focused solely on the people you already interact with on a weekly basis, you may be missing out on an opportunity to engage with your community at large.
After several years of sending dancers to perform at other people’s events, I thought it would make sense to include some of these organizations in our big shows. Since that time, the annual spring recital has become my number-one opportunity to develop valuable strategic relationships with community organizations.
Over the years we have featured various community groups at our recitals. The first was a karate studio. I knew the school had a substantial client base and a target market similar to mine. I had seen these karate students perform demonstrations set to music at local events, so I asked the owner if his students would perform in our show. His students’ parents bought tickets, and the karate school owner was pleased with the exposure. And my school gained exposure within a wider community.
We have hosted a soloist from a local show choir, the mayor, a Hmong break-dance crew from a high school, a state-champion pianist, two local musicians (to accompany senior solos), daycare students performing routines we choreographed for them, and in our Christmas show, a performance by another dance studio.
Each guest appearance fulfilled a strategic objective. The singer added variety to our show while the mayor added prestige. The break-dancers introduced a new form of urban dance to our audience and later became renters at the studio. The pianist created a mutual endorsement opportunity between my school and the music studio (which has continued for seven years). The accompaniment of local musicians inspired more live music collaborations with the city concert band. The performance by the other dance studio built friendships and goodwill. And the performances by the daycare students brought in a lot of young families to see our program in action.
One of my favorite invitations, however, wasn’t issued with business growth as an objective; instead I was hoping to salvage a recital. A week before the recital, we were looking at sold-out shows with standing room only, in a stuffy theater. To lighten the mood, we invited a well-known local clown/entertainer to come through the audience before the show saying, “Does anybody have a seat? Anywhere, anywhere? Anybody!” It was exactly the icebreaker we needed to get the audience laughing so they could forget about the ticketing fiasco and enjoy the show.
Bringing in solo acts or small groups can add a pop of fun to your show. But for a bigger impact, consider one of the ideas Nancy Stone, of Art Stone/The Competitor, pulled off during her 40 years as a studio owner. From a dancing football team to a gospel choir to an entire marching band, Stone has wowed audiences at her recitals.
She says incorporating the local football players into the recital was the easiest and most fun of the three big production numbers mentioned. The show opened with a 1950s number; each teen girl was asked to recruit a football player to be her partner. The boys attended eight weeks of rehearsal with the girls to learn basic swing steps and a few lifts and turns.
The number was a huge hit. “The guys were eager to do it. In fact, the response was so great that we had alternates,” says Stone. To make sure costuming wasn’t a barrier, she had the football players wear jeans, a white T-shirt, and a leather jacket if they had one. The girls wore classic poodle skirts with shorts underneath (all from the Art Stone costume collection, of course). “All of my years dancing at Arthur Murray paid off! The number was sensational,” Stone says. “Some people thought the guys had been in dance all year.”
Another time Stone asked a family friend’s church choir to sing at the recital. The choir sang before the dancers performed a number to “Walk Him Up the Stairs” from the Broadway show Purlie. Stone, who made a small donation to the church in exchange for the choir’s participation, says, “Most of the people in the audience had never heard this choir, and all thoroughly enjoyed them.”
And then there was the band—a full-size high school marching band that paraded along four aisles through the audience. Stone sweetened the invitation by convincing the band director to give extra credit to the musicians.
When asked about the choice of a marching band, Stone laughs and says, “The band was known to be good and I didn’t think many of our people had a chance to hear them. I thought it would be a great surprise for everyone.”
While it is always wise to optimize opportunities to market your studio by broadening your audience base, not every invitation to the community needs to be part of a strategic objective. Some studio owners get involved with a community group because it is a good and right thing to do and because they want to teach their students the importance of service.
Shannon Putter, owner of Exhale Dance Studio in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, believes in getting the community involved in her shows. But instead of inviting groups to be in her shows, she takes her shows to the community. In only three years of business, Putter has made a habit of community involvement. Her young dancers produce mini-recitals at several nursing homes each year and every May the older students do a special recital at the Teddy Bear’s Picnic, in support of the Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba.
Before she opened her studio, Putter knew working with community groups would be an important part of the experience she wanted to provide to her students. “I performed at a nursing home as a child and always said if I was ever a studio owner I would do it as well,” Putter says. “I think my first dance teacher started a good thing, and I thank her not only for teaching me right from left, but also to give back whenever the opportunity arises.”
Making it happen
If you are ready to involve community groups in your next recital, it’s time to brainstorm. Here are some tips for getting started.
Plan ahead. The greater the feat, the more time will be needed to pull it off. I was able to invite a clown to show up with only a week’s notice, but it took Nancy Stone eight weeks to teach high school boys how to swing dance. If in doubt, err on the safe side and extend the invitation early.
Know what you are getting into. If you are not choreographing or creating the number, be sure to preview the group before putting it onstage. They call it “live” theater for a reason! Remember, there are no re-dos or edits if something reflects poorly on your studio.
Don’t overdo it. Even if you have the chance to showcase an incredible group at your show, the focus of your recital should be on your students. Any additional performers should add entertainment value to the show without distracting from the accomplishments of the students.
Aim for every other year. Stone says, “Even big surprises lose impact if you do them year after year. I did not try to make every show out of the norm, but every few years I liked giving the audience a little surprise.”
Give credit to your community partners. Make your guests feel at home by presenting them with a welcome basket, personally introducing their group, inviting their leader to say a few words at the performance, or putting a free ad in your recital program for them. Many of my school’s community partners have become long-term advertisers in our recital program book.
Take your show on the road. Have your dancers perform at community events as a way to build relationships with other organizations. It will expose your dancers to a wider audience and lay a positive foundation for inviting community groups to perform at your show as well.
Reach out, stand out
Whether you own a small studio in a big city as Putter does, or a big studio in a small town like Stone did, getting the community involved at recital time is sure to make you stand out. “My main focus with my studio, to separate us from the rest, is to instill strong community values into each student,” Putter says. “It is truly rewarding to teach students to reach out to the community at a young age. When the community is involved, everyone wins.”
Common mistakes teachers make and how to avoid them
By Megan Donahue
Carrie Mazzucco still remembers the bikini she had to wear as a teenager in a recital dance. “That was rough,” says the owner of Infinity Dance & Performing Arts in Boardman, Ohio. “I was not a skinny dancer.”
Dance students have all kinds of bodies. As a teacher, your choices of recital costumes can make your students feel good about themselves and excited about performing, or they can undermine their confidence. Helping dancers feel confident onstage and off requires thinking the process through, making smart choices, and speaking about bodies in a positive way.
It’s common knowledge that many teenage girls are unhappy with their bodies, and it’s not only those with “problematic” bodies who are tormented.
Although Mazzucco studied at a studio that did weekly public weigh-ins once kids hit middle school—a rarity nowadays—her costume nightmares are by no means unique. Stretchy fabrics allow the body to move but can also showcase every lump and bump. If you combine overly revealing outfits with the tenuous self-esteem of teenagers, you can create serious trouble.
It’s common knowledge that many teenage girls are unhappy with their bodies, and it’s not only those with “problematic” bodies who are tormented. It’s likely your students who have thin, lean “dancer bodies” are equally self-conscious. Consequently, it’s wise to be as careful in choosing costumes and talking about bodies with them as with those who are bigger, stockier, or curvier.
Teachers and other adults “have a lot of impact” on young people, and what they say to them matters, says Dr. Jane Shure, who co-founded and directed Inside/Outside Self-Discovery Program. She co-authored a curriculum that was published as Inside/Outside Self-Discovery for Teens: Strategies to Promote Resilience, Relationships, and Positive Body Image, with Helen Feinberg-Walker, PhD, and Sarah Barrett, LCSW. A psychotherapist with The Resilience Group in Philadelphia, Shure has significant experience counseling people with eating disorders, including as a founding board member of the A Chance to Heal Foundation.
Feeling consistently comfortable and attractive can promote a long-term positive body image, while even a few bad costume experiences can impart lasting damage. Consider the self-esteem, sensitivities, and body types of all your students equally. If you fall in love with a costume that works for 13 out of 15 dancers, you’re disregarding the feelings and needs of the two girls it doesn’t fit. In addition to feeling self-conscious, they may decide that not only is this costume not for them, dance is not for them.
Try reversing the process—instead of picking a costume and trying to make it work for all your dancers, look for costumes that will flatter those who are harder to fit. Such clothing will probably work well for the other body types you’re fitting.
As a school owner, Mazzucco lets her personal experience inform how she approaches costuming for her students. She’s not going to force anyone to wear a bikini. “Knowing how I felt, I would never want to make a child feel like that,” she says.
One solution that has worked well for Mazzucco is to choose four tops and bottoms in four colors and allow her students to mix and match them. Those who want to cover up more can do so without drawing attention to themselves. Although the result is a mix of outfits, they’re variations on a theme that present a unified look. “Everybody loves those costumes,” Mazzucco says.
Costumes that reveal what students would prefer to conceal can often be fixed with small alterations, but do so with care. If you insert a sheer fabric panel to make a two-piece costume into a one-piece, for example, alter all of the costumes to avoid singling out anyone. Being the only dancer with a tummy-masking panel isn’t much better than being the only dancer with her stomach sticking out.
No matter how carefully you choose costumes, it’s probably impossible to choose a single outfit for any group of people without encountering some fitting issues. In these instances, Shure says, the way teachers talk to children about their bodies is very important.
You can probably remember something someone said about your body that has stuck with you to this day. Dancers are more likely than most to amass a collection of these often inaccurate yet wounding statements since they hear more about their bodies in general. Such comments don’t have to be particularly vicious to make a lasting impact. Even seemingly innocuous remarks that you mean purely as statements of fact (“You need a bra,” or “You’re too tall to be on top of the pyramid”) can hurt. Shure cautions adults to start “paying attention to language and avoiding that which is shaming.”
For example, if a student needs to wear a bra with a costume, Shure suggests handling it privately. Calling public attention to the need may be perceived as shaming, even if that’s not your intent. Shure points out that people often receive only the “criticism” part of “constructive criticism,” which means even well-intended remarks can have a negative impact on a student’s self-esteem. She suggests involving parents in sensitive communication.
Consider making general announcements to avoid singling out anyone. For example, sending an email to the class asking anyone whose bra size is bigger than an A cup to wear support garments under costumes gives students privacy and doesn’t call attention to who does or doesn’t need to wear a bra.
When fitting problems arise, make them be about the costume, not the bodies. When Mazzucco’s student soloists push for a costume she thinks won’t do their bodies any favors, she avoids mentioning bodies at all. Instead, she speaks positively about other costumes. “I would love to see you in this,” she’ll say about another option. She may try to steer the students toward something more slimming, but the word “slimming” never passes her lips. “Dancers are super-critical,” she says. “You have to be careful.”
Shure says how we talk about bodies matters all the time, not just when we’re dealing with costumes. That includes our own bodies. When we say, “My two-piece days are over,” or “You girls can wear that; you’re skinny,” we send the message that something is wrong with our bodies. “No ‘fat talk,’ ” Shure says, even if it’s about yourself. However, she doesn’t advocate skirting the subject altogether. “I don’t think it’s good to not talk about bodies,” she says, “[but] I think we need to avoid references to size and shape and thin and fat and good and bad.”
Dance students may dance into adulthood or leave dancing for other pursuits. But they’ll have their bodies forever, so speak kindly and wisely about them. By making smart choices about costumes and being sensitive when talking about bodies, you can help your students enjoy and inhabit their bodies fully. And that positive attitude will look great on any recital stage.
How a recital crisis helped build a dance community
By Elizabeth Zimmer
What makes dance communities thrive? Big cities like New York, Chicago, and San Francisco have what I call a rich “forest floor”: support for the art from spectators, many of whom are former or current dance students. These places have concentrations of professional performers and teachers, to be sure, but it’s the people who dance for pleasure and for love, who buy tickets and serve as volunteers, that nourish a dance culture and allow it to flourish.
To a large extent, amateurs who need to move—and who believe that dance training is an essential part of the education of children and the healthy functioning of adults—create the economic and social environments in which dancing thrives.
Rima Faber was invited to teach for Chance to Dance in the summers of 1974 and 1975—“a month in the city and a month in the bush,” as she puts it, referring to Halifax and various rural locations that hosted workshops.
These metropolitan environments are fed by new arrivals from smaller places, a phenomenon which may weaken the dance culture of the towns they leave. Once in a while, though, a smaller city creates this human “mulch,” encouraging generations of young and older dancers to keep studying—and to put down roots.
Halifax, Nova Scotia, a provincial capital in Atlantic Canada, has long been such a place. It currently boasts small professional companies and supports several excellent schools, one of which, Halifax Dance, is a nonprofit organization about to celebrate its 40th anniversary. I had a hand in its founding.
In 1969 I emigrated from Long Island, New York, to Halifax. At the time, the municipal region that includes Halifax had a population of about 260,000. The biggest city for 600 miles in any direction, it was a center for education, defense, medicine, and fishing. I’d moved there to teach at the local art college.
A committed recreational dancer with a sedentary job, I was hungry for an adult ballet class, but all my research turned up nothing. I sneaked into some dance classes at Dalhousie University taught by British transplant Pat Richards, but officials there were getting strict about enrollment. I finally found my way to Janice Merritt Flemming.
Flemming taught children at what was then the Maritime Academy of Dance (now called the Maritime Conservatory of Performing Arts), in downtown Halifax. Her parents had been active in the local ballet community; she trained in Halifax and attended summer programs at Canada’s National Ballet School in Toronto and Montreal’s Les Grands Ballets Canadiens. Poised to attempt a dance career in New York, she instead married a promising young lawyer and set up shop as a teacher in Halifax.
Over the years her students, who ranged from third-graders to high schoolers, have included New York choreographer Rebecca Lazier and dance historian Naomi Jackson, now a professor at Arizona State University. Judith Garay began her training with Flemming, continued it at Halifax Dance, and wound up in New York dancing for the Martha Graham Dance Company. Flemming also taught Penelope (Penny) Evans, who later became a force in the continuing success of Halifax Dance.
“She taught really good, solid RAD technique,” says Jackson, who also performed interpretive dance with Flemming. “I was a butterfly!”
Flemming asked me how long I’d studied ballet.
“Two years,” I said, though I’d also had a lot of modern and some jazz.
She let me enroll with her 9-year-olds. I was five foot ten and stuck out dramatically in that roomful of little girls, but I knew how to take class and was rarely distracted by side conversations; the other students were afraid to talk to me.
Months went by. I got stronger and leaner. One afternoon Flemming took me aside.
“You don’t want to be in the recital, do you?” she asked.
The question blindsided me. I’d never been a ballet kid; my parents didn’t have the money, and I was pretty uncoordinated. My mother worked and couldn’t drive me to class, and my interests as a child leaned more in the direction of theater.
“Are you kidding?” I replied. “Of course not.”
“Good,” she said, “because there are eight girls in this class, and I want to make a piece for four couples.”
All through the spring I rehearsed her choreography for the “skeleton dance,” to the “Fossils” section of Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals, standing behind the others. I held the recital date on my calendar; I was interested in community activities and figured I’d cheer my classmates on.
The night before the performance my telephone rang. One of the young skeletons was ill and couldn’t dance in the recital. I had to fill in or the girl’s partner would have to drop out too.
“Don’t worry,” said Flemming. “The costume is a stocking over your face, so nobody will know it’s you.”
The costume also included a black leotard and tights, the bones drawn on with white adhesive tape. “It was quite a feat,” Flemming, now in her late 70s, told me recently. “Nobody wanted to spend any money.”
I survived the recital. It took a great deal of adhesive tape to apply the bones to my costume. The overlap between the crowd of parents in the house and my circle of academic friends was just about zero, so even the fact that I towered over the other skeletons did not give away my identity.
I remembered the steps, and even the blocking, and finally felt a bit of camaraderie with the young dancers. The audience responded cheerfully to our misalignment, but enough, I decided, was enough. The experience goaded me, along with other local adults longing for professional-quality dance classes, to begin the work of founding a school.
Certified as a nonprofit organization in 1973, the organization is still functioning as Halifax Dance (hfxdance.ca), offering a full range of training for children and adults and providing a home for several local dance companies. In 2014 it will celebrate its 40th anniversary with gala parties and performances.
In 1972, however, dancers older than about 17 were essentially homeless in Halifax, apart from those classes at Dalhousie. A bunch of us, eager for a place to dance, pooled our resources and rented a studio upstairs over a carpet store in a commercial building downtown. The original group consisted of 20 adults, each contributing $20 monthly. The space had a hard floor and no plumbing; you had to take care of your needs before you showed up. But it was ours. We called ourselves the Halifax Dance Co-op.
At the same time the commissioner of youth for the Province of Nova Scotia, then worried about the emerging drug culture, funded a series of workshops called Chance to Dance, held first at St. Mary’s Elementary School (the site of Flemming’s above-mentioned ballet recital) and later at the studio rented by the Dance Co-op.
Ellen Pierce, an ardent dance student, had for years been developing arts programs serving playgrounds in the City of Halifax. She was deputized to hire teachers for Chance to Dance; initially they were recruited from Toronto and later from New York.
Modern dance in Halifax, according to Richards, grew out of an experimental theater-for-children movement in which Pierce was a central figure, running a company called the Spinners, and later, one called Junction. “We did theater and dance, and always had a dance warm-up as part of the theater [work], which was based on movement and gesture along with story,” says Pierce. This may have contributed to the enthusiasm for improvisation that pervaded the local scene as it matured.
Rima Faber, now the chair of the Dance Force of the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards and president of CREDO (Capital Region Educators of Dance Organization), was then living in Great Neck, New York; she was invited to teach for Chance to Dance in the summers of 1974 and 1975—“a month in the city and a month in the bush,” as she puts it, referring to Halifax and various rural locations that hosted workshops.
“It was a wonderful experience,” Faber says. “Most of the people were experiencing modern dance and improvisation for the very first time. They were the most open adult students I’d ever had, hungry for new experiences.”
Canada, in those years, ran extraordinary programs designed to put young people to work; in 1973 a troupe of local dancers applied for a grant from one of them, Local Initiatives Project, and was awarded enough money to pay livable salaries for a year. Called Halcyon, the troupe used the Co-op’s studio during the day to choreograph and rehearse; every evening one of the dancers taught an open modern class, available free to the rent-paying members and for a small fee to others. Halcyon folded barely a year later when David Weller, its director and principal choreographer, left to join a contemporary dance company in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Next to surface, a few years later, was an ensemble directed by Sara Shelton Mann, a native of Tennessee who had been dancing with Alwin Nikolais and Murray Louis in New York. In Nova Scotia to visit friends, she was recruited by dance-mad locals. After teaching Chance to Dance workshops for several summers in Halifax, she was charged with creating a modern troupe, initially named Dance Atlantic; but “everyone called it the Halifax Dance Co-op Company and it stuck,” according to Randy Glynn, one of the members (who wrote about it in Dance Collection Danse, a Canadian magazine, in 2008).
The troupe toured the province from 1977 through 1979 before dissolving, performing outdoors and in school gyms. It was a first professional experience for most of the members, guided by Shelton Mann, who then moved to San Francisco to form Contraband, a collaborative dedicated to an interdisciplinary dance vision. “I developed Contraband based on what I’d learned in Canada,” says Shelton Mann. “I wanted to know what I’d make without New York City.”
“She managed to make the odd, multi-disciplinary nature of the company work, even though jazz and ballet were not her interest,” wrote Glynn.
Penny Evans, the youngest of the Co-op’s original teachers, is still closely involved with Halifax Dance, now located in rented quarters at the Maritime Center, in the city’s historic downtown. The organization has moved many times. “Our dream,” says Evans, “is to have our own home. My idea is to buy the old library on Spring Garden Road and make that into a center for the arts. All we need is $40 million.”
It’s a school that has legs, and also tenacity. “We’re very demanding,” Evans says. “It’s like a family; [the students] grow up together, work really hard. They have babies, and all the babies are going through the children’s program. We’re into the third generation. It’s a very successful story; we tend to keep our teachers. We don’t make as much money [as we might at other schools or in larger cities], but somehow we stay. The ones who aren’t dedicated go somewhere else and make more money.”
Touring companies rehearse and offer workshops at Halifax Dance, sometimes for the general public and sometimes for professionals, with special in-class time for students who participate in the studio’s Intensive Training Program (ITP).
“We teach Pilates, yoga, social dance, and partnering,” Evans says, as well as other disciplines, in an adult recreational program. The Young Company, consisting of students from the ITP, has been operating since 1988, and has produced 22 seasons. “We bring in choreographers from across the country and use our own local people,” she says. “Many students go on to dance careers, and have been accepted into all the big schools: at the National Ballet of Canada, places in Montreal. They go to universities to get degrees in dance. One of our students, Ruth-Ellen Kroll Jackson [currently the director of Halifax Dance Young Company], was in David Parsons’ company, touring the world.”
Now 61, Evans still teaches contemporary modern jazz, “a middle level, up to around 14. I do musical theater, too; produce, direct, the whole bit. I can choreograph on highly technical dancers. This year I’m teaching 8- to 10-year-olds.”
Students—serious dancers 8 and older—in the ITP take, says Evans, “two ballets, a modern, a jazz, and creative or choreography every week. When you’re in the Young Company, you’re there every day, and rehearsing on the weekends. We do a Nutcracker [with Symphony Nova Scotia]; we’re starting a youth company, younger than the Young Company, and doing a big show that encompasses the whole school, including the companies in residence.”
Those companies are Mocean, a vibrant contemporary troupe supported by the Canada Council; Gwen Noah Dance; The Woods, a hip-hop company; and Compañía Azul, Megan “Azulita” Matheson’s flamenco troupe. They rent space in one of Halifax Dance’s five studios at low rates, use Halifax Dance’s administrative staff, and are listed in its publications. In return, they give workshops to ITP students.
Richards, who died of cancer in 1998, in an essay published posthumously (“Dance and the Outsiders: Ballet and Modern Dance Companies in Nova Scotia”), posited that most of the enduring efforts to establish a dance culture in Halifax were begun or supported by outsiders, people from Britain or the United States or other parts of Canada. Flemming’s original teachers in Halifax came from Latvia.
In the province of Nova Scotia as a whole, 25 dance styles are studied on a regular basis, according to Dance Nova Scotia (dancens.ca), founded in 1974. The sheer number of these forms—which include, in Halifax alone, flamenco, belly dance, salsa, Nia, Zumba, tango, African dance, breakdancing, and of course the “legacy” styles like Scottish country dance, Highland, Irish step, and clogging, as well as traditional ballet-studio offerings—argues for the strength and value of the “forest floor,” the mulch of passionate dance enthusiasm that sustains community and nurtures art.
Parents and students chime in on the recital experience
By Debbie Werbrouck
As dance educators, we all know what goes into making a recital happen—months of work and organizational effort—ours, as well as that of our staff and volunteers. When showtime comes, we see the magic happen from our vantage point in the wings. But what about the view from the “outside”: from the parents who shuttle kids to and from rehearsals, the young dancer who tries on her first dab of lipstick? What do students and parents think about the recital experience?
For most families, the pleasures of recitals are simple: seeing joy on a child’s face, watching young dancers take more and more responsibility for themselves, and celebrating a performance with friends and family.
To gain access to this perspective, I interviewed several students, parents, and teachers from my own school as well as others from across the country.
Most students say the excitement begins early in the school year when they learn which music they will dance to and what their costumes will look like. They dream about being onstage in their beautiful costumes; often, young students are even more excited about the glamorous makeup they’ll be able to wear. Many parents report that their children model their costumes at home to give dads or grandparents a sneak peek.
Anticipation mounts as students move on to the challenge of learning their dance. And then, with the day of the recital getting closer, as they practice their dances and take photos of themselves in costume, dancers’ excitement increases even more. The week of the recital takes on a festive air, one that buzzes with nerves, enthusiasm, and camaraderie. Annaliese Wagner, 20, a student at Marilyn School of Dance in Tomah, Wisconsin, says that what she loves about performing is “the adrenaline rush!”
Parents too are recital participants—sometimes to an extent and in ways they didn’t anticipate. Their understanding of and follow-through with all the details of schedules and recital needs can be the make-or-break element that determines the students’ (and school owners’) experience.
Parents’ responsibilities at performance time most likely vary from school to school, but typically they include making sure their child’s costume is complete and unwrinkled, and that hair and makeup (if not done by school staff or backstage helpers) are done as specified. They need to be well informed about rehearsal and performance locations and times; procedures for check-in; how to purchase tickets, photos, and videos; and any pertinent school policies and related activities.
Parents who have dance experience have a general idea of what to expect. Others often have no idea what’s involved; for them, the recital process can be overwhelming. They need some handholding to ensure that they and their children have a good experience.
Donna Ziegler, owner and director of Willow Street Dance Theatre in Mokena, Illinois, illustrates how parents can misunderstand even simple things with a story about a parent at her school. This mom did a beautiful job putting her daughter’s hair in a bun for photo day. But no sooner did Ziegler compliment her than the mom started to remove the hairnet. When Ziegler told her not to, the mom said, “I thought that was just to keep the hair neat during transportation!”
Our method of helping new parents—and busy, sometimes overwhelmed, returning parents—remember all the details of the recital is to use repetition, repetition, repetition. We present the information in a school information packet given to all new students when they enroll. We verbally reinforce this information at the first-semester Parent Observation. We also offer reminders via paperwork, emails, and Facebook posts.
Prior to receiving costumes and tickets in the spring, parents are asked to attend a recital information session during which staff members explain all details and answer any questions. Parents are again given written recital information with specific, individual student information. General information is continually updated on Facebook.
Other “new” parents come with their own set of needs, such as those whose children previously attended other dance schools. Such parents may need help adjusting to your policies and practices surrounding recital, and comparisons are bound to be made. Every teacher has heard new clients say, “That’s not how we did it at our old school.” How we handle those comparisons is important.
At our studio, my staff and I invite families to talk about the transition from the other school to ours. In some cases, these discussions have taught us better ways to operate. Mostly, though, this kind of communication simply helps parents understand why we do things the way we do. When they do, they’re more likely to respond the way parent Loni Oehlwein did. She relocated to South Bend, Indiana, from Missouri, and when recital time came she invited family members from three states to attend. To me, that was a positive sign that Loni was pleased with our school and comfortable enough to invite relatives to see her child in her new environment.
Preparation won’t guarantee perfection
Students, parents, and teachers all have nightmares about possible disasters at recitals. Sometimes these nightmares come true. Whether it’s amusing, irritating, or panic-inducing, “stuff” happens.
Students Kate Parsons and Anna Waugh described a scary incident at their school, Columbia Dance Academy in Columbia, Tennessee, that later became a story to laugh about. During the recital, a smoke machine set off the theater’s alarm. As the junior high and high school dancers danced and smiled for the audience, each time they turned to face upstage they looked beseechingly at their teacher, Millie Landers, wondering what to do. Landers signaled that they should keep dancing, and the show never stopped.
Annaliese Wagner shared a story that demonstrates how everyone contributes to the success—or stress—of a performance. At one recital, each dancer was expected to have a chair ready in the wings to use for a particular dance. One dancer who forgot to preset hers grabbed the nearest chair—which happened to have wheels! It was a challenge not only for that dancer but for everyone; during the piece, they moved from chair to chair, which meant each dancer had to adapt her movements to keep the chair from rolling across the stage.
Cheryl Kaiser of Cheryl Kaiser School of Dance in Quincy, Illinois, described a harrowing “costume malfunction.” One class of teen dancers had to make a quick change into a harem pant–style costume, stepping into both the trunk/panty and the sheer pants simultaneously. As the dancers ran onstage with scarves held overhead, Kaiser saw the panic on one dancer’s face as she realized she’d missed the trunk/panty. The dancer exited into the opposite wing for a costume “do-over.”
Parents whose children have performance experience have an easier time than those who are new to recitals, but even veterans sometimes feel the pressure of their responsibilities. Many parents say the major factors that affect their recital experience are communication and organization. Knowing what to expect and when to expect it, and being offered some organizational assistance, helps them plan and keep their children comfortable and on track.
Many years ago at my school, we borrowed and expanded on an idea created by a super-organized parent: she put her daughter’s costume in a garment bag and ziplock plastic bag, labeled with her daughter’s name and the name of her dance. Since then we have provided garment bags for all students so they can keep all of their costumes, shoes, and props together. We label the bags with the student name, dance title, and a number indicating at which point in the show the dance occurs.
At the recital, each class is given laundry baskets to keep street shoes and personal belongings from straying. “Class Moms” are equipped with Sharpies so they can write names in shoes and personal items that aren’t already marked.
In addition to anxiety about logistics, other parental concerns include overly long performances and recital costs. Many parents purchase tickets for family and friends who attend, and some feel pressured to purchase all the extras such as photo packages, DVDs, and flowers. To keep show lengths comfortable for the audience and performers, the teachers I spoke with make sure their recitals run less than two hours, even if it means doing additional performances. They also try to keep costume and ticket costs reasonable and offer an à la carte menu of those extras.
Most parents find that their worries disappear when they see their children dancing their hearts out in beautifully choreographed numbers for an enthusiastic audience.
The backstage experience
Parents who volunteer backstage experience the performance on two fronts: as viewers and participants. Working backstage provides an understanding of what goes into a smooth-running production. After volunteering, Chris Doctor, whose daughter, Allison, has been dancing for six years, says she gained new appreciation for the amount of organization that’s needed. Such awareness can instill a heightened sense of responsibility in parents—Doctor recalls watching a show from the audience and worrying about whether everything was getting done backstage since she wasn’t there.
Virginia Berger, whose daughter Shelby is in my school’s advanced classes, has volunteered for 11 recitals. She describes her role as “a parent, helper, costume repairer, makeup artist, skilled tutu fluffer, hair repairer (with some overuse of hairspray), last-minute seamstress, fun maker, nerve soother, hugger, rule reminder, parent/child matchmaker, photo-pose provider, smile giver, praise provider, backstage herder, tear wiper, lipstick assistant, tattletale recipient, tights puller-upper, tap-shoe taper, and entertainment committee.” Her “duties” began when Shelby, then an “incredibly shy” 6-year-old, begged her to help.
Berger compared being a backstage volunteer to being in the military: “It’s not a job; it’s an adventure!” She started volunteering so she could peek into Shelby’s favorite activity without pushing, to see what made her daughter’s heart soar three days a week. In doing so, Berger says she learned that having caring people behind the scenes was important not only to her daughter but to all the performers.
For most families, the pleasures of recitals are simple: seeing joy on a child’s face, watching young dancers take more and more responsibility for themselves, and celebrating a performance with friends and family.
Eight-year-old Tyler Sorenson of Granger, Indiana, a first-year tap dancer, had firsthand knowledge of what goes on behind the curtain at the recitals presented by his great-aunt. After seeing a cousin perform, he decided to try tap. As his own recital approached, his excitement became contagious. His mother, Michelle, says the entire family eagerly anticipated the show.
Helene Shafer of Granger, Indiana, says her daughter Hanya, age 7, couldn’t wait to wear her costume and blush for her second recital. Shafer basks in her daughter’s excitement and the courage she displays when she is onstage.
Chris Doctor appreciates and has always relied heavily on the studio’s handouts, information sessions, and web postings when her daughter began dancing. But now, as her daughter has gotten older, Doctor has given her more responsibility in preparing for the show; for example, Allison uses a checklist and organizes her things in bags labeled for each separate dance to keep items from getting mixed up. She also brings emergency supplies like safety pins, needle and thread, and Band-Aids.
Allison’s recital performance is a major family event. Relatives travel from around the Midwest to attend the performance and celebrate afterward.
Cindy Sudlow’s daughter Anna has danced in eight recitals. Year after year, Sudlow says, Anna looks forward to the performances because she wants to show how much she has mastered in a year. The whole family, including Anna’s grandparents, attends; the family tradition includes a post-performance dinner in Anna’s honor.
Although most people attend recitals to see dancers they know, in general, audiences are delighted to see all the students perform. They are smitten by the unpredictability and sheer cuteness of the youngest students, and admire the advanced dancers’ high level of performance. Sudlow and Doctor both say they enjoy seeing how the dancers progress from year to year, along with seeing the variety of choreography produced by all the teachers.
All for one and one for all
Next time you think parents don’t appreciate all the work you do on your recital, think about the ups and downs, twists and turns, and sometimes utter confusion they experience. Above all, remember that most of them want the same outcome you do: a well-organized performance that makes everyone happy and proud.
Mathematicians and scientists make smooth movers on the ballroom dance floor
By Jennifer Kaplan
They are our future astrophysicists, neurobiologists, computational linguists, medical researchers, and nuclear engineers, these undergraduate and graduate students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Among them, 120 to 150 set aside their computations, research projects, lab coats, and study sessions for up to 15 hours a week to devote themselves to perfecting the art of ballroom dancing.
MIT might be known for its esteemed science majors, but it also has an esteemed ballroom dance team—and an accompanying ballroom dance club, for those students not interested in competitive dancing.
These math, science, and technology students make good dancers, because there are lots of technical requirements to dance well—geometry, physics, math configurations of patterns, study of body movement in physics. —Angela Prince, USA Dance DanceSport
Angela Prince, PR director of USA Dance DanceSport, a national organizing body for ballroom dance groups and competitions, and a Charlotte, North Carolina–based ballroom dancer, isn’t surprised that the MIT team has been so successful.
“These math, science, and technology students make good dancers,” she said, “because there are lots of technical requirements to dance well—geometry, physics, math configurations of patterns, study of body movement in physics. Some of the best post-collegiate ballroom dancers are chemists, physicists, or mathematicians.”
The MIT team grew out of a ballroom dance club that interested students formed in the 1970s in order to socialize and learn dances. By the late 1970s, some members became interested in the competitive ballroom world, but ultimately that wing folded. The current MIT team was revived 22 years ago. It is not a member of USA Dance DanceSport, which fields about 120 teams on the collegiate circuit nationwide, but MIT participates in numerous ballroom competitions in the college-heavy New England region.
Nationally, ballroom dance competitions at the collegiate level attract a wide array of students and are open to those between ages 16 and 35 under the USA Dance DanceSport organization, which is a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee.
Entirely student run, MIT’s ballroom team collaborates with nearby Wellesley College, is open to all, and does not require prior experience. Every fall, prospective ballroom students attend open houses where they learn a few basic steps, practice them with a partner, and watch a program of dances that includes both beginners and the most experienced team members.
“It was a challenge, and I could learn new things,” says Mandi Davis, an alumnus of Wellesley’s class of 2008, now a scientist in Cambridge, Massachusetts, about why she joined. “The first time I went to a competition—it was the MIT Ballroom Dance Open in 2006—I was impressed by how professional everyone was and how well they danced. I knew there was a lot to aspire to.”
Davis signed on and put in the hours, often two or three a day, three or four times a week. Now a leader on the team’s governing board, she helps with publicity, policies, competition organization, and other programming for the team.
MIT team members who have had no prior ballroom dance experience are initially taught by more experienced team members; if they remain committed and, of course, practice, they often move up the ladder in the collegiate competitive world. At that point professional instructors take over to prep them for higher levels on the competition circuit.
Like professional and pro-am dance competitions, college competitions are divided into bronze, silver, and gold levels, all of which restrict dance figures to those included in official syllabi; and novice (or pre-bronze), pre-championship, and championship levels with no syllabi requirements.
Amy Fan, a junior biology major at MIT, first checked out the program as a freshman, bringing along a friend so she wouldn’t worry about finding a partner. The partner decided not to join, but Fan did. She says the team does a good job of creating social and dance opportunities so that even novice members can find an appropriate partner.
“Everybody learns the steps together and then you rotate partners,” she says. “That gives you a chance to find someone who’s a good personality match, a good height match, a good skill match. There can be a lot of drama, but most of the time it works out relatively smoothly as people become good friends on the team. The community is so tight-knit, and you spend so much time together—and there is a common language—that you’re able to overcome [any hesitation] during that first year.”
Team members pay a fee; for $50 per semester, rookies get access to formal classes four days a week in the standard forms: standard, Latin, smooth, and rhythm. But they’re also encouraged to try additional classes, for example in the Latin rhythm forms. Fan says that, on average, rookies might spend 5 to 10 hours a week dancing during their first semester. “They may increase or decrease that depending on how many styles they want and how serious they want to get,” she says.
Alums and any non-MIT or non-Wellesley students pay higher fees, as do members of the team who continue beyond the first semester. The team fee varies depending on whether a member is an undergrad, grad, professor, or alum; there are fees for each cycle of classes the member signs on for.
The MIT team is structured so that it’s easy for new members to learn all four basic styles, within which they have 19 dances to learn. Classes can be quite large, with 15 to 20 couples. The team sponsors one major competition each spring, the MIT Open Ballroom Dance Competition, for which all team members are expected to help. The team attends six competitions each year; individual members are required to participate in at least one competition each semester, though many choose to attend more.
Additionally, throughout the year the team offers many opportunities for members to socialize, something many of the MIT students prize.
Ballroom dance lessons and competitions are not cheap, but MIT team members benefit from a great deal of support, including an expanded dress-lending bank, advice on makeup and hair, and volunteer coaching from the most experienced students and alums. “The team,” Fan says, “is primarily self-funded, although we do have some large alumni donors who help us put on the competitions, a yearly dance concert, and other big events.”
The group has no dedicated practice space, but the university allows students to use various rooms during non-teaching hours. For individual and group practices outside of classes, students often find an open lobby or elevator lobby, plug in an iPod and portable speakers, and practice.
For serious team members, there’s a cohort of professional teachers and coaches, including Mark Sheldon, an MIT alum with a PhD in computer science who started teaching ballroom more than 20 years ago. Aside from being a five-time undefeated U.S. Senior Ballroom Champion, a North American Senior Champion, a Northeast U.S. Amateur and Senior Champion, Belgian Open Senior Champion, and a three-time British Open (Blackpool) Senior finalist, among other honors, Sheldon is a visiting professor of computer science at nearby Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering.
Larinda McRaven taught classes for and coached the MIT team for seven years before recently relocating to her home state of Missouri. She, too, began dancing in college, as a theater major at Missouri State University. When ballroom dance eclipsed acting, within a few months she was teaching ballroom basics; she went east after graduation. She says she loves working at the collegiate level and hopes to do so again in Missouri.
“It’s a fascinating environment,” she says. “The type of people who come to class, and their backgrounds, are amazing. I find it hard to let them go after just a few years.”
She notes that in a pro-am studio setting she might work with a student for a decade or longer. But she loved collegiate teaching and coaching so much that she would often lower her standard studio rate ($95 for 45 minutes) for couples preparing for competition. “When I teach the group class, it’s slightly less” than what she charges at a private studio, she says. “I understand that in their system they do things differently.” She went on to describe the diversity of interests her students have—from engineering and math, to physics and astronomy, to humanities and social science majors from Wellesley—that enrich the atmosphere of the class. “These are very driven, very focused [dance] students,” she says.
Some practices are very different. For example, most private studio students would not compete in multiple forms or styles, especially not with different partners for each style.
“[The MIT students] could have four different partners in one competition!” McRaven says, laughing. “I’m floored by this. Then next semester two of these partners might change.” She told them they could go much farther if they stuck with the same partner, but then she realized “that’s not what it’s about for them. Many of them are very competitive and extremely good at what they’re doing, but they’re also there just to taste life.”
Fan, the biology undergrad, provides one example of the focus these MIT students demonstrate. When the university sent out a list of student organizations and clubs to incoming freshmen, Fan, a Seattle native, studied it carefully and decided to give ballroom a try. Here’s how her thought process worked: “In high school I played tennis and I was involved in the music scene, but I wasn’t going to be able to bring a cello or a piano [east], and finding a tennis partner can sometimes be hard. I wanted to do something that would meld the athletic side and the musical and artistic side, like the activities I had in high school.”
She found dancing fit her bill. “I wanted to do some type of dance that worked on technique so I could learn how to control my body, and I also wanted to have some kind of community,” Fan says. She considered various campus dance groups and saw that the ballroom team required no prior experience. She noted how prominent MIT’s team was in the Boston area, where numerous colleges field teams. Plus the training seemed solid, and she would find a built-in social community of like-minded students.
McRaven recalls one of her favorite photos, which is emblematic of the focus and commitment of MIT Ballroom Team members. “The picture, of one of my students, was taken right after she was done with a competition. She was working on a project and had to go straight to the lab after she finished dancing. The picture shows her with ballroom hair, makeup, and false eyelashes, wearing a lab coat.”
The juxtaposition may look incongruous to an outsider, but it’s not at all surprising to anyone on the MIT team.
Planning and running a tight show
By Ryan P. Casey
For many dance teachers, the greatest reward at recital time is seeing the infectious grins of their students as they show off a year’s worth of hard work. But the fact that the performers are enjoying themselves does not mean that audience members are equally delighted. Even the most enthusiastic dancers and dynamic choreography lose their charm when viewers spend too much time in their seats. What should be an entertaining, high-energy event can become a disjointed, four-hour affair with parents questioning the tuition they pay and relatives constantly glancing at their watches.
A two-hour recital is perfect. Three hours is the maximum that any human can take. —Michele Ribble
A recital is a complicated and stressful undertaking, no matter how many years you’ve been in business. Yet it is a significant event and achievement. Your students and their families and friends deserve to be treated to a high-quality production, one that demonstrates the professionalism and integrity with which you run your studio, and leaves your customers and audience wanting more. Many dance studio owners have developed strategies to ensure such memorable, seamless performances.
Tell a story
When planning your recital, “having a theme or storyline to follow makes the experience more engaging for the audience,” says Carol Zee, 42, artistic director of The Gabriella Foundation. Since 2005, this nonprofit organization has operated dance-themed Gabriella Charter School in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. These students, from kindergarten through eighth grade, have an hour of dance every day and perform in their own year-end recital.
For 14 years, the Foundation has also delivered high-quality dance education to underserved Los Angeles youth through a separate, afterschool program, everybody dance!, in several locations throughout the city. Last season, the program’s annual performance, based on The Wizard of Oz, included more than 500 dancers.
“The audience enjoys watching a story unfold, and the students like knowing they are playing a specific part in the show,” Zee says.
“It’s important that the audience is familiar with the story, which contributes to their enjoyment and keeps their attention,” says Cheryl Cusick, 47, the owner and artistic director of Narragansett Performing Arts Center in Narragansett, Rhode Island, for 22 years. Integrating students from both recreational and career-oriented programs, she develops her recitals around a well-known tale such as Peter Pan, The Lion King, or Cinderella.
“The first half of our show is a rendition of that story,” Cusick says. “Our older company dancers are cast as the main characters. They often work with our youngest dancers during their classes and perform as a part of their routine. These lead roles tie each scene together as the story progresses. The second half is based on the theme, but not in a story format, allowing teachers to come up with eclectic and contemporary pieces to a variety of song selections.”
Cusick says having young dancers perform early in the show is ideal. “They can arrive and leave early, which makes it easier for them and their parents,” she says. “If I do have a younger age group in the second half of the show, they are always within a few numbers of intermission, so it remains an early night for them.”
Zee, who incorporates more than 400 Gabriella students into annual recitals, also accommodates young dancers by putting them in fewer performances.
“Our pre-ballet and level-one students dance in only one performance, while the other students dance in all four shows,” she says. “This gives our more advanced kids additional performance experience and keeps the baby/beginner dances to a minimum. They’re cute, but the audience doesn’t need to see 10 ‘baby’ routines over the course of a night.”
Brandon Rios, artistic director of Old Dominion Performance Arts Studio in Waynesboro, Virginia, notes that interspersing various disciplines is as important as alternating age groups and levels. Old Dominion is in its 14th season; it offers dance and martial arts instruction to about 150 students.
“Keep the show as varied, dynamic, and entertaining as possible,” says Rios, 29. “Jazz, lyrical, hip-hop, contemporary, tap, babies, competition—switch it up. This also helps with quick changes. The studio director and I often make a spreadsheet of who is in what dance, cut it into strips, and lay them out to ensure that there are enough dances to accommodate costume changes. These rosters allow us to see who is in each dance and make sure they have minimal back-to-back pieces.”
Jennifer Prete, 43, who has run Jennifer Prete School of Dance in Charlestown, Rhode Island, for 13 years, also considers costuming and undergarments when determining the order of her show. “I make sure tights can be layered on the dancers,” she says. “Pink tights for ballet are on top and light suntan tights for jazz are underneath, for instance, which makes it easier for the people who help them change.”
“We always have big opening and closing numbers for the shows,” says 39-year-old Nancy Stanford, the owner, director, and sole instructor at Nancy Stanford School of Dance. Located in Clarenville, Newfoundland, Canada, the school has offered recreational classes since 1999. “This gives the show a true ‘performance’ feel and anchors everything,” Stanford says.
Vital to presenting a polished, professional-looking show is securing adequate backstage assistance. Staff and volunteers can help with quick changes, organize groups, supervise dressing rooms, and do other tasks to keep the show moving along.
“I have a runner who gets my groups lined up in the hallway four or five groups ahead,” says Prete. “Stage managers have lists with children’s names, or each child is designated a number so they can get in order. Younger students hold hands while they’re waiting so they stay in line.”
“Have specific backstage jobs for your staff: stage manager, on-deck supervisor, quick-change supervisor, stage left headset, stage right headset, dressing room monitors,” Zee says. “Make sure you have enough headsets for all key people so everyone can stay in communication throughout the show.”
“Your helpers backstage and in the dressing rooms should not be related to the performers,” says Michele Ribble, 56, artistic and executive director of Red Hook, New York’s Rhinebeck Dance Centre. “Students can act up in front of their parents, and parents can fuss excessively over their children and worry about watching them onstage rather than helping them get ready. An outsider who doesn’t have a personal relationship with the dancers can keep them focused on what they need to do.”
“Having a lot of experienced backstage volunteers is critical,” says Prete, 43. “They should get memos and checklists ahead of time so they know the groups they are in charge of and what the costumes look like, where accessories go, and what color tights are to be worn.”
“Our students have 90 seconds between classes to change their shoes and be ready for the next class,” says Rios. “If they can get in the habit of changing quickly at the studio, they will be able to do it come performance day.”
“Take time to teach your students, especially younger ones, how to preset their props, complete quick changes, and behave backstage,” Zee says. “They should know to stay focused on what’s happening onstage, to stay clear of the wings and out of the way of dancers who are exiting, and to be mindful of the space around them, because it’s dark.”
Keeping everything flowing onstage is as important as a smooth-running backstage operation. Too many pauses or speeches between numbers or long breaks for set changes impede the momentum of the show and make audiences restless.
“As one group is exiting, the next is entering,” Zee says. “I require all dances to enter from stage right and exit stage left. The curtain doesn’t open or close once the show starts. You have to keep it moving.”
“I suggest blackouts between numbers,” Cusick says. “I only use curtains prior to a large ballet piece or a routine requiring a set of any kind.”
“I run smaller group routines in front of the curtain while my stage manager presets the next act, a larger group, behind it,” Prete says.
“Our teachers often have their routines enter during the last eight counts of the previous song, either walking on or doing choreography,” Rios says. “The dancers who just finished exit to the beginning of the next tune, which minimizes the need for blackouts.”
When there are many students and routines to include, maintaining smooth transitions from one number to the next helps to minimize the show’s length. “Have a time limit for each dance,” Zee says. “For beginner or younger students, no more than two or two and a half minutes. For older and more advanced dancers, three to three and a half minutes maximum.”
“I don’t allow all my team pieces in the show, although I will allow one piece that represents each company or ensemble,” Ribble says. “A two-hour recital is perfect. Three hours is the maximum that any human can take.”
Experience pays off
These dance studio directors agree that experience, and the sometimes difficult lessons learned by trial and error, have been their best teachers.
“We’ve changed venues over the years,” says Cusick. “We’ve attempted to put on a production at local high schools, but found that although it was more convenient travel-wise, we gave up some of the professional quality we pride ourselves on. We’ve opted to stay at our college theater, 40 minutes away—and it’s air-conditioned! There is nothing worse than melting through a show for two or three hours; people can’t wait to leave.”
“We got a very positive response when we shifted our productions into storytelling mode,” Zee says. “The audience has more enjoyment if they’re watching a story unfold.”
“Often, I will invite a guest group or other local artists to perform in my show,” says Ribble. “The dads in the audience especially appreciate a different twist, such as fencers or karate students, and it’s great entertainment. We once invited the West Point Academy Cadets to do a drill, and a belly dancer once brought snakes!”
“Although I think it’s important to change with the times, it’s just as important to acknowledge when something works,” Cusick adds. “Consistency works well; people appreciate knowing what to expect from year to year. A professional performance is your best marketing tool.”
Banish the recital blues by saying goodbye to the tried-and-true
By Julie Holt Lucia
The annual recital is unquestionably one of the most important events on a dance school’s calendar. It’s a rite of passage for dancers and a choreography showcase for teachers—and it is one of the biggest and best ways for studio owners to market their schools.
Most of us school owners, I would venture to guess, know our recital planning like the backs of our hands; not much changes from year to year. We rely on what’s routine and comfortable, which is understandable when we’re dealing with a large production. But wouldn’t it be fun to jazz things up? Here are some ideas to stretch your creativity beyond mere dance steps. Think of them as a booster shot for your business!
Do you have a group of super-creative students who love making up dances? Consider letting them create choreography that they’ll perform in the recital (subject to your approval, of course). This could be accomplished with a dedicated dance composition class that teaches the basics of choreography, or it could be more informal, like a side project outside of classes.
Multimedia effects can present your dancers with a performance challenge and offer your audience a new perspective on how dance can be viewed.
The dancers can work together to create movement, or each one can be responsible for choreographing one section of music. Another possibility is to have these students set choreography on a group of younger students, either a class (chosen by you) or a group of volunteer dancers who are willing to commit to extra rehearsal time.
Give the student choreographers parameters to work within, such as a dance genre or pre-selected music, and have an instructor supervise and guide them to ensure the results comply with your expectations. Keeping the costuming and lighting simple will let the students focus on making movement.
Multimedia in the mix
Multimedia effects can present your dancers with a performance challenge and offer your audience a new perspective on how dance can be viewed. Multimedia in dance typically involves projecting something—video footage, photos, or text—onto a screen behind or alongside the dancers. The dancers can react to or interact with the images or text, or the projections can serve as part of the setting. Some venues include projectors in the rental package; if yours doesn’t, consider purchasing a projector if you plan to use multimedia effects often.
Ideas abound for using multimedia. A class or small group could dance alongside video footage of themselves from class or performance, performing complementary choreography. Or you could project images or photos that inspired the movement, illustrate it, or expand on an idea. Try depicting a history of dance using images of famous choreographers, or project a poem that a narrator reads aloud while the dancers perform to the rhythm of the words. With so many possibilities, you could incorporate something new with multimedia each year.
If you have a small school and want to approach your recital from a less traditional angle, holding it in an unconventional venue can add a spark. Art and science museums, park amphitheaters, sculpture gardens, and arboretums offer unique performance spaces. Choose a recital theme that fits the site, such as “Visual Art + Dance” or “The Elements of Life,” and let the surrounding space inspire your choreography. Visit the site well in advance to take note of assets or limitations or photograph the environment, and make sure to relay that information to your staff. It may be possible to hold one or more rehearsals in the space.
With site-specific performances, make sure the logistics are well planned and communicated to staff and customers ahead of time, including details about parking, tickets, programs, and volunteers. If you go with an outdoor space, arrange for an alternative site in case of bad weather.
If your school’s large enrollment makes a site-specific performance difficult, another option is to host a variety of small site-specific performances throughout the year. Make videos of those performances and integrate them into the full-scale recital, either as accompaniment to other dances (perhaps using some of the same choreography) or as pre- and post-show entertainment in the lobby.
Live music for a dance performance doesn’t have to mean hiring an orchestra, or even using an orchestra pit. A solo musician or ensemble playing onstage or in another part of the theater can add an exciting element to any performance. Ask a college music department or local music school if some of their students would be interested in playing for a dance performance (and are willing to commit to the rehearsal and performance schedule). Determine how many dance routines they’ll accompany, and discuss appropriate music selections. If you’re able to plan well in advance, consider asking if anyone would like to compose original music for the recital. (Be sure to get samples of their work, and interview any likely candidates to determine whether they can write to your specifications regarding length, tempo, tone, and style.)
Even if you face limitations (maybe your only option for live music is percussion, or the only available dancers are beginners), play to the musicians’ and dancers’ strengths as best you can, and get creative. Don’t be afraid to shake things up. For example, instead of setting a traditional ballet suite to piano or strings, choreograph a classical-music–based modern dance instead. Or try contemporary ballet or a traditional jazz routine accompanied by drums. Don’t forget to credit the musicians and/or music school in the recital program and include them in curtain calls.
Dance and theater go hand in hand, so why not invite a local children’s theater troupe to share performance space (and expenses) with your school during recital time? With a broad theme like “That’s Entertainment!” or “Once Upon a Time,” you could easily incorporate a variety of short monologues, scenes, or songs by the young actors—perhaps a theater segment after every four or five dance routines. (This would also give your busiest dancers more time to change costumes.)
You could also take the idea a step further with a theme called “On Broadway,” keeping the acting, singing, and dancing within the boundaries of kid-friendly Broadway musicals. If you already have a rapport with the theater director, collaborate with the troupe on a big opening or closing number as well.
Set similar time limits for theater scenes and dance numbers (three to five minutes), and use simple sets to avoid lag time between routines. If you think a collaborative show might be too long, consider breaking up the recital into two or three shorter shows instead.
Regardless of how many shows you present, plan enough time for tech and dress rehearsals so the dancers and actors know exactly what to expect regarding cues for everyone’s entrances, exits, lights, and sound.
Remember Choose Your Own Adventure books? At critical junctures, the reader could decide which angle of the story to pursue. Your recital audiences might like to have the same option, even in a small way. This requires good planning but could result in a surprise showstopper.
To start, have a group (or more than one) of intermediate to advanced dancers prepared to perform two very different routines. With the tickets or programs, include a voting card listing the two options. Ask audience members to turn in their votes during intermission, during which time a designated stagehand or volunteer tallies them. A quick method is to have the tickets pre-printed with, for example, A and B on a perforated end, and they could tear off their choice. And voilà! By the end of intermission the dancers will know which routine they are performing, and the audience will be eagerly waiting to see if their choice won the vote. (Use the other routine elsewhere in the show or for a future community performance or competition.)
Another way to engage the audience is to extend the reach of the recital theme to include them. Call the show “Summer Fun” and ask the audience to wear their luau best, or call it “Inspiration” and ask them to bring clothing or food donations for a local shelter. Instead of doing a traditional finale, keep the theme going by inviting the audience to participate in a student-led dance jam. Bring most of the dancers onstage and send a handful of them into the aisles to get the audience dancing.
Take a leap!
If none of these ideas excites you, try exploring stage technology for inspiration—even small changes to lights and sound or music can make a difference—or brainstorm ideas with your staff. When you find something that feels right, take a leap! A fresh approach does more than entertain—it keeps your clients and audiences wondering what you’ll do next and eager to go along for the ride.
Dancers have until March 30, 2014 to submit applications for the first annual international Contemporary Dance and Choreography Competition, which will be held April 28 and 29 at Symphony Space, 2537 Broadway, New York City.
The competition is produced by former Bolshoi ballerina Valentina Kozlova, creator of the Valentina Kozlova International Ballet Competition.
For the new contemporary competition, competition divisions include solos (two pieces), duets, and groups, and pieces may be entered as competing dancers and/or competing choreographers. Dancers may perform either barefoot or in soft shoes. Unlike the ballet competition, there is no age restriction.
Prizes include scholarships for summer intensives with The Ailey School, Peridance Capezio Center, and the Juilliard dance division, plus a choreography workshop at an international location. The judging panel will be headed by Bolshoi Ballet star Andris Liepa.
For information or the application, visit www.vkibc.org or call 212.245.0050.
A city council committee has approved a $5.46-million funding request for a proposed $17.9-million dance facility in Calgary’s Beltline, reported the Calgary Herald.
At 3,250 square meters, the Decidedly Jazz Danceworks Dance Centre would be the largest facility of its kind in the city. It would house several dance studios, performance venues, a recreational school, and community space.
“We moved into our current facility in 1993 . . . and we paid $35,000 a year in rent,” said Kathi Sundstrom, executive director for Decidedly Jazz Danceworks. “We now pay in excess of $250,000, so we can’t afford to operate where we are because we can’t expand our revenue because there are only so many studios.”
DJD is partnering with the Kahanoff Centre for Charitable Activities to build a $40-million, 12-story building at Centre Street and 12th Avenue S.E. DJD, which is kicking in $17.9 million for the project, would occupy the first five floors of the building through a 49-year lease.
The $5.46 million, which still needs council approval, is through the Municipal Sustainability Initiative Culture-Related Infrastructure Fund. The provincial and federal governments have already approved $5 million and $1.9 million, respectively, for the project. DJD has also received $1.5 million from the Calgary Foundation and $3.5 million in private donations.
Sundstrom said the new performing arts facility should open in November 2015 and will provide the community with additional arts space. “Our objective was to bring dance to the street and make it accessible,” said Sundstrom.
To read the full story, visit http://www.calgaryherald.com/entertainment/Proposed+dance+facility+Beltline+receives+million+boost
Limón4Kids, an arts and education program that introduces contemporary dance and modern dance pioneer, José Limón, to grades 4 to 12 in New York City schools located in largely Hispanic neighborhoods, is starting up again in December.
The Limón4Kids program is now five years old and has quickly grown from serving 150 students to more than 600 hundred per year in schools in Harlem, Brooklyn, Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, and Rockland County. The program introduces students to such concepts as heritage, community, and identity by sharing Limón’s personal story as a Mexican-American immigrant. Movement classes are used as a tool to help students develop movement language skills and discuss social issues that may be relevant to their own life journey. After learning sections of Limón’s choreography, students are asked to create their own dance, taking into account narrative and core movement phrases. The program, free to all participants, ends with a performance for classmates, teachers, and parents.
For more information, visit http://limon.org/community/community-engagement/.
Mikhail Baryshnikov and an ensemble tell two of Anton Chekhov’s brilliant anti-love stories through a myriad of mixed media and movement in the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s production Man in a Case, running now through December 22 in the Lansburgh Theatre in the Harman Center for the Arts, 450 7th Street, NW, Washington DC.
In Chekhov’s brilliant tale of humor and despair, a pair of hunters talk late into the night sharing stories: one of an anti-social man (Baryshnikov) and his involvement with an aggressively extroverted woman. The second is a tale of moral ambiguity in which the protagonist forgoes his love for a married woman.
Drawing from surveillance footage, folk dance, and instructional hunting videos, Man in a Case creates a bridge between our time and that of these 19th-century anti-love stories. For details and tickets, visit http://www.shakespearetheatre.org/plays/details.aspx?id=394&source=l.
Crowdfunding sites have been primarily used by small dance companies or individual dancers to raise money, but that’s changing.
A story in Crain’s New York Business reported that earlier this month, the New York City Ballet raised $20,000 for a documentary using crowdfunding, and now the Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance surpassed its Kickstarter goal of raising $25,000 to commission a new work by noted choreographer Nacho Duato.
“We are just absolutely thrilled,” said LaRue Allen, Martha Graham Dance Company executive director, said. “It’s just great.”
The need for funds has been especially acute at the Martha Graham company since Superstorm Sandy engulfed the company’s New York City basement storage space, destroying or damaging $4.2 million of costumes, sets, and pieces of equipment—an amount roughly equivalent to the dance company’s $4.1 million budget.
Ms. Allen plans to raise about $1 million a year over four years to replace damaged goods, along with several hundred thousand dollars to fund new works. That’s in addition to the $1 million a year the company already raises. The company has already raised nearly $1 million for this year thanks to both monetary and in-kind donations.
“I think you’ll see more of the larger companies start using crowdfunding,” said Lane Harwell, executive director of Dance/NYC, an advocacy group.
To see the full story, visit http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20131127/ARTS/131129887#.
A New York City neighborhood dance studio is bringing young football players into their studio for a six-week ballet workshop that’s designed for athletes.
FOOTBALLet at Cora Dance, located on Richards Street in Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood, focuses on footwork, balance, and strength-building exercises by using movements from ballet and the field.
A parent approached dance instructor Courtney Cooke with an idea for the workshop. “I immediately saw things that were practiced in football drills . . . that could be translated to ballet,” said Cooke, 28, who first taught the class last year.
Cooke, who will lead the workshop for 9- to 13-year-olds beginning December 7, starts each class with ballet fundamentals and then teaches exercises like petit allegro jumps and graceful adagio movements, she said.
But since her young students are more interested in becoming better football players, not ballerinas, she created challenges that combine ballet skills with sports drills. In one exercise, each student, football in hand, must chasse across the room, end with a grand jeté over a three-foot barrier, then quickly turn and throw the football to the next student.
To see the original story, visit http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20131204/red-hook/football-inspired-ballet-classes-combine-dance-with-drills-red-hook.
The director of the Deirdre O’Mara School of Irish Dance in Yonkers, New York, used an in-studio camera and social media to find a thief who broke into her studio in November.
According to The Irish Voice, O’Mara had installed a camera in order to keep an eye on her students when she was teaching, but in the early morning hours of November 12, caught eight minutes of footage showing a male ransacking the studio.
Once a picture of the suspect was released by the police, O’Mara turned to social media to spread the image in hopes of an arrest, sharing the photo on Facebook pages of community groups such as the McLean Avenue Merchants Association and the McLean Avenue St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
The community response was enormous, she said, with the wanted poster being shared on Facebook pages hundreds of times. The very evening the posters were shared, a 30-year-old resident of the Bronx turned himself in. He was placed under arrest and charged with third degree burglary. (Among the stolen items were a laptop, an iPod player, and petty cash.)
O’Mara expressed her gratitude to the community and the Yonkers Police Department, and hopes the enormous community response will prevent something like this from happening again.
“I hope it makes people think twice about breaking and entering in this area,” she said. “It’s community watch at its best.” To read the full story, visit http://www.irishcentral.com/IrishVoice/Yonkers-Irish-dance-teacher-uses-social-media-to-catch-a-thief-233664281.html.
The North Platte [NE] High School Pacers dance team is fundraising this holiday season by offering Christmas dance-o-grams to area residents with hard-to-shop-for people on their gift lists.
The North Platte Telegraph said the team is working to raise money to help pay expenses for a trip to the state competition in Grand Island in February.
Dance-o-grams will be “delivered” on December 20 when the Pacers will perform a Christmas dance routine for recipients at home or at work. The cost is $10 and includes a special holiday greeting candy bar with the name of the giver.
Members of the team also raised money by wrapping gifts for Black Friday shoppers at the Platte River Mall beginning at 7am. To see the original story, visit http://www.nptelegraph.com/news/dance-o-grams-are-the-perfect-gift-this-holiday/article_c0ec4198-924d-5c6f-858d-4e2dec32ed71.html.
All members of the dance education community—including organization and association leaders; private, K–12 or higher education teachers; dance retailers or wholesalers; dance therapists, dance advocates, and others—are invited to attend UNITY’s 17th annual meeting, “Celebrate Our Common Goals,” set for January 18 and 19 at the Skyline Hotel, New York City.
UNITY is a nonprofit coalition of dance education organizations, associations, merchants, and others, with the goal of promoting cooperation and dialogue within the national dance profession. UNITY speaks with a strong, unified voice on dance-related issues.
For more information on UNITY’s annual open meeting, visit www.unitydance.org.
Guiding Light Dance Academy of Dracut, Massachusetts, will be supporting The Andréa Rizzo Foundation’s nationwide fundraising effort, Dance Across America, with donations of proceeds from its holiday showcase.
The showcase, Gifts of Joy, is set for December 15 at 2pm at McCarthy Middle School, 250 North Road, Chelmsford, Massachusetts.
The Andréa Rizzo Foundation is a nonprofit, 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization dedicated to bringing dance therapy to children with cancer and special needs in pediatric hospitals, public schools, and Ronald McDonald houses across the country. Created in memory of a young dance therapy graduate student and survivor of childhood cancer, killed by a drunk driver at the age of 24, the Foundation aspires to bring dancers together to blend dance and compassion.
Gifts of Joy will feature 65 students performing tap, jazz, ballet, lyrical, and Bollywood. Tickets are $10 and must be purchased at the dance studio by December 7, as they will not be available at the door. Twenty percent of the proceeds collected from this event will benefit Dance Across America.
The Daily Pennsylvanian reports that University of Pennsylvania students organizing a petition asking the university to implement for-credit dance classes have made moves to get their plan approved.
After receiving more than 500 signatures on their Change.org petition and hosting a “Dance Dance Revolution” event last week, organizers of the campaign plan to meet with a professor from the provost’s Art and Culture Faculty Steering Committee to push for further administrative changes. Organizers are also trying to meet with College of Arts and Sciences dean Dennis DeTurck.
“As Penn has been expanding its course offerings, it has increasingly focused on interdisciplinary study between our four undergraduate schools,” the statement in the petition said. “Dance is a perfect avenue to encourage this form of study.”
“Over the summer, I was thinking about my academic life here at Penn and thought about how I would love to study dance in a classroom,” Wharton junior Alexandria Wiggins, chair of the Dance Arts Council and creator of the petition, said. “I have been dancing my whole life, and as a Wharton student I’ve become more interested in arts management, specifically within the dance industry.”
Wiggins, who developed the petition with as part of her Management 104 class, said that compared to other performing arts such as theater, voice, and instrumental music, dancing is the only one without academic credit.
Moreover, Penn is the only school in the Ivy League that does not offer dance courses.
“There is definitely a lot of enthusiasm around the movement for dance for credit in the larger dance community at Penn,” Sara Cohen, President of Penn Dance, said. “Dance is an integral part of our lives, not just an extracurricular activity, so getting credit for our work would likely feel very rewarding.”
To read the full article, visit http://www.thedp.com/article/2013/11/student-petition-calls-for-dance-class-credit.
According to the Washington Post, bus-riding disco dancers will meet up near the Takoma Park Metro station for what is being billed as “Public Danceportation: Silent Disco on the Metrobus.” They’ll don wireless headphones, board a Metrobus and for about an hour or so dance to their heart’s content. Other bus passengers may see these folks making dance-like moves, but they won’t hear any music. After all, that’s the whole point of a Silent Disco Dance Party.
Organizer Barry Silber’s company Silence of the Jams has held a number of Silent Disco Dance Parties through the region. The parties are a way for folks to enjoy dancing and music without annoying the neighbors. This isn’t Silber’s first foray into the world of WMATA. Last year, he and fellow dancers turned a train on Metro’s Red Line into a moving dance club. Silber said it was a great success.
“It was fun—most people who watched were very interested in the spectacle,” he said. But he’s always looking for something a little different. Hosting a party on a moving Metrobus, “added [a] level of complexity and interest,” to the event.
Silber said dance party participants will follow all Metrobus rules. If it turns out they can’t dance in the bus aisles, they’ll make due with dancing while sitting.
Kim Gibson’s dance class for students with cerebral palsy has been taking place on Monday nights for almost 13 years. “Oh, it’s a highlight of his week,” says one parent of Gibson’s classes, held at the Brentwood [MO] Community Center.
“I love to change lives. I love to make people happy,” Gibson told KSDK.
The idea for the class began in the Cerebral Palsy Center at St. Louis Children’s Hospital where parents come from all over the world to have their children treated by Dr. Jan Brunstrom, who has cerebral palsy herself. One day Brunstrom asked Gibson about her goals for her daughter, Gracie. “And I said, ‘Well, I’ve always danced and I really want Gracie to be able to dance,’ ” recalls Gibson.
Cerebral palsy is a disorder that affects a person’s ability to move their limbs, maintain posture, and in some cases communicate, but none of that seem to be a problem in this class. “I think in dance class they’re kind of free to be whoever they want to be and dance the way they want to dance,” explains Gibson.
To see a video report on this story, visit http://www.ksdk.com/story/news/health/2013/11/24/dance-class-for-kids-with-cerebral-palsy/3694979/.
In the moments between classes, half a dozen young ladies gathered around a knee-high fence at the edge of their dance floor, watching and petting six puppies as Michelle Holmes-Bello responded to their inquiries and observations.
To Holmes-Bello, co-founder and artistic director at USA Ballet, the moment was proof that starting an animal rescue group, My Loveable Angels, earlier this year in the USA Ballet’s Bloomington, Illinois, facilities was the right thing to do. The animals have an opportunity for socialization while young dancers learn about animals’ needs.
She told The Pantagraph that the organization was created in memory of her recently deceased sister, Leslie Holmes, and has saved more than 80 creatures, mostly dogs on “death row,” by placing them with loving foster families until they find them homes.
“The [dancers] look so forward to meeting a new one and hearing its story,” she said, explaining the rescued animals are contained, and students must have their parents’ permission before interacting with them. “Just reaching them when they’re younger to help educate; that’s going to affect them as adults to help the cycle of what we’re trying to prevent.”
While last week’s canine visitors were a 3-month-old litter of dogs from Kentucky, Holmes-Bello said My Loveable Angels draws animals, mostly dogs, of all ages and in all health conditions from all over the Midwest.
Fabrice Herrault’s documentary about Rudolf Nureyev, La Passion Noureev, will have its American premiere in Los Angeles on December 5, 2013. The filmmaker is a respected New York City dance instructor and the product of the French ballet academy.
The exclusive fundraising event, benefiting Dance Camera West, will take place at the United Talent Agency screening room in Beverly Hills and will feature champagne, caviar, and Herrault’s “tone poem” of a movie, followed by a conversation about the art and impact of the Soviet Union’s first and greatest exiled danseur noble, to be led by Debra Levine.
The film, previously screened in Paris, will also screen next February at Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Dance on Camera festival. Herrault has assembled previously unseen found-footage, including long clips from home movies captured by rogue filmmakers whirring Super-8s from balconies and opera boxes.
For tickets, visit http://dancecamerawest.org/nureyevfundraiser.htm.
To see the original story, visit http://artsmeme.com/2013/11/25/la-passion-noureev-to-premiere-in-los-angeles-for-dance-camera-west/.
Ten years ago choreographer and artistic director Larry Keigwin and associate director Nicole Wolcott founded the contemporary dance troupe Keigwin + Company. One of their signature works was Mattress Suite.
As part of the company’s 10th-anniversary season, which ran October 29 to November 3 in New York City, Keigwin and Company sponsored a video series called #Share the Mattress, which captures artists and friends dancing on mattresses. The videos can be seen online and feature dancers like modern-dance great Gus Solomons Jr., Michael Trusnovec of the Paul Taylor Dance Company, and Ryan Steele, who appeared on Broadway in Matilda and Newsies. Many, if not most of the performers are underwear-clad—though some of the youngest are in diapers.
For more on the project and to view videos, visit http://www.keigwinandcompany.com/company/special-projects/sharethemattress.
According to DanceBlog with Judith Mackrell, dance is apparently the new darling of the advertising industry. Not only have advertisers cottoned on to the fact that the art form is having a global moment, but they’re discovering that dance has its own expertise at combining the subliminal emotional message with the instantly striking image.
One recent dance ad was a glossily black and white promotion for Lexus, in which Tamara Rojo dances fragments of a solo choreographed by Russell Maliphant.
Dance delivers a very different vibe in a [Volkwagen] Polo ad; the tango moves, hip-hop soundtrack, and the sexy, grimy styling of the dancers appearance all resonating with the selling point of “tough.”
Gap also opts for urban cool in its use of hip-hop dancer Lil Buck in the denim moves campaign. The main message is simple: buy these jeans and channel the dancer’s charisma too.
A Nutcracker-themed Christmas ad from Baileys is choreographed by Benjamin Millepied, cast with top-flight dancers Steven McRae and Thiago Soares from The Royal Ballet and Iana Salenko from Staatsballett Berlin, and features an unusually generous amount of screen time devoted to their actual dancing.
To read the full blog and to view ads, visit http://www.theguardian.com/stage/dance-blog/2013/nov/18/advertising-dance-ballet-nutcracker-tamara-rojo.
Still Moving: Pilobolus at Forty, a new documentary about the innovative dance company that was born when four forward-thinking male athletes joined a Dartmouth College dance class in the early 1970s, is now available for sale on DVD.
Produced and directed by Jeffrey Ruoff, Still Moving recently completed a successful run at prestigious film festivals including Dance on Camera at Lincoln Center, DOC NYC, and Dance Camera West at LACMA. It was also shown at festivals held at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, in Athens, and in Sebastopol and Mill Valley, California.
A synopsis of the film: On the eve of its 40 anniversary, internationally-renowned Pilobolus returns to New Hampshire for a Dartmouth College–commissioned premiere of a collaboration with cartoonist Art Spiegelman. Still Moving: Pilobolus at Forty focuses on the company’s lifecycle—including a founder’s death—its evolution, transformation, and regeneration.
To purchase the DVD, visit www.pilobolusfilm.com/dvd.
Seventy-three dancers from Nancy Chippendale’s Dance Studios, North Andover, Massachusetts, will soon travel to Riesa, Germany, to represent the United States at the World Tap Championships, according to Wicked Local/North Andover.
The International Dance Organization’s World Tap Championships will run from November 30 to December 8 and host dancers ages 10 to 31 from 31 countries.
During their trip overseas, the United States team is scheduled to travel to Dresden, Meissen, Leipzig, Berlin, and Prague. “I am extremely proud of all of their hard work and can’t wait to see them perform on stage,” said studio founder Nancy Chippendale. “Go USA!”
To read the original story, visit http://www.wickedlocal.com/northandover/newsnow/x348810670/Dance-studio-to-compete-internationally.
UNITY, a nonprofit coalition of dance education organizations, associations, merchants, and others, has several $500 scholarship and grant opportunities available for dance teachers and school owners.
They include: two Studio Owner Scholarships (sponsored by Cicci and DanceWearCorner, Inc.), one Teacher Professional Development Scholarship (sponsored by UNITY), and one Community Outreach Grant (sponsored by Curtain Call). Deadline for submission for all scholarships/grants is January 1.
Applicants must be a member of any of the following UNITY member organizations:
Chicago National Association of Dance Masters, Dance Alliance of Rhode Island, Dance Masters of New England, Dance Masters of Wisconsin, Dance Teachers’ Club of Boston, Florida Dance Masters, More Than Just Great Dancing, National Dance Education Organization, National Registry of Dance Educators, New York State Dance Education Organization, Southern Association of Dance Masters, or Tennessee Association of Dance.
The extraordinary legacy of Anna Sokolow, one of the premiere modern dance choreographers of the 20th century, will be honored in a new production, Anna Sokolow Way, December 4 to 8, at the Theater at the 14th Street Y in New York City, reported The Huffington Post.
Conceived and directed by Jim May, Sokolow Ensemble’s founder, artistic director, and former dancer, Anna Sokolow Way will include new choreography, rare video, live performance, and narrative script, along with highlights from Sokolow master works, Dreams, Rooms, From the Diaries of Franz Kafka, Opus 65, and Magritte, Magritte.
From the Horse’s Mouth, the acclaimed dance/narrative series co-directed by Tina Croll and Jamie Cunningham, will present its unique blend of movement, storytelling, and supportive visual imagery to bring Sokolow vividly to life by tapping into the personal experiences of dancers, actors, critics, and musicians who worked with Sokolow over the course of her 60-year career in dance.
To see a From the Horse’s Mouth video segment on Sokolow, visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7uyqQzhxDo.
Sokolow choreographed for Broadway (Street Scene, Camino Real, Candide, and the original Hair). She taught at New York’s Clark Center, at The Juilliard School in the dance and drama divisions, at HB Studio, the Actor’s Studio, and the American Theater Wing. Her work is in the repertories of the Joffrey Ballet, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Royal Winnipeg Ballet, and others. She helped influence Israeli dance and had a lifelong association with the dance and theater arts in Mexico, and returned to both countries frequently as teacher and choreographer.
To read the full story, visit http://www.huffingtonpost.com/adria-rolnik/anna-sokolow-way-honors-l_b_4234416.html.
Football and dance aren’t usually mentioned in the same sentence (other than homecoming), but both are featured prominently—and work well together—in the upcoming production of Touchdown by Georgia’s Kennesaw State University department of dance.
The dance concert will be presented November 20 to 23 at 8pm and November 23 at 2pm at the Howard Logan Stillwell Theatre.
Wonder how football and dance came together on the stage? Ivan Pulinkala, department chair and choreographer, said, “There’s a lot of overlap between athletics and dance: both emphasize kinesthetic training. The announcement of the start of football at KSU presented the perfect opportunity to celebrate our synergies.”
Once KSU made the official announcement, Pulinkala met with KSU’s athletics director Vaughn Williams. “I asked him, ‘Would you be interested?’ And before I could finish my sentence, he said, ‘Great idea!’ seeing the opportunity to partner athletics with an academic degree program at KSU.”
Williams said, “We’re really excited about the collaboration and Touchdown. We anticipate even more of these types of partnerships as KSU grows over the next few years.”
School of music professor John Lawless has written an original score for part of the work, which will be played live by the school of music’s percussion ensemble. The performance will feature scenic design by theatre and performance studies’ professor Ming Chen, and lighting design by dance resident lighting designer David Tatu.
For more information, visit http://www.kennesaw.edu/arts/COTA_News/2013/11-05-13_touchdown.shtml.
An expanded edition of Anna Pavlova: Twentieth Century Ballerina, (Booth Clibborn Editions, $40), by Jane Pritchard, with dance and costume historian Caroline Hamilton, has been republished in time for holiday gift giving.
Chicago Sun-Times reports that the book is a “beauty”; a grand celebration of the widely photographed dancer (and fashionista) whose costumes, streetwear (she loved red shoes), and friends (don’t miss a couple of wonderful photos of a very handsome young Charlie Chaplin) all served to make Pavlova a most alluring artist.
Between 1914 and 1917, Pavlova, a delicate, dark-eyed, Russian-bred ballerina who initially had been a principal artist with the Imperial Russian Ballet and with Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, toured the world with her own company. The dancer, for whom the “Dying Swan” solo was created, was something of a ballet rock star, bringing her art to the masses, traveling hundreds of thousands of miles, and giving about 9,000 performances.
To see the original story, visit http://www.suntimes.com/entertainment/weiss/23755657-421/a-beauty-of-a-book-about-ballets-anna-pavlova.html.
The Bates Dance Festival, a contemporary dance training and presenting program held each summer in Lewiston, Maine, announces its 32nd season will run June 27 to August 10, 2014.
The festival includes the Professional Training Program for dancers 18 years and older (July 19 to August 10), offering 30 classes a day in a wide range of dance disciplines; and the Young Dancers Workshop, a three-week, non-competitive intensive training program for pre-professional dancers ages 14 to 18 (June 27 to July 19).
During the festival, workshops, residencies, and performances will be offered by the New York–based troupes Camille A. Brown & Dancers and David Dorfman Dance; Boston contemporary company Prometheus Dance; South Africa’s Vincent Mantsoe; and Chinese-born choreographer Yin Mei, as well as members of Delfos Danza, among others.
The Professional Training Program offers classes in modern, jazz, ballet, Afro-fusion, contact improvisation, repertory, choreo lab, creative process, yoga, Pilates, teacher’s toolkit, the business of dance, and others, from teachers David Dorfman, Lisa Race, Jennifer Nugent, Rachel List, Mark Dendy, Chris Aiken, Angie Hauser, and Cathy Young.
The faculty for the Young Dancers Workshop includes Charlotte Griffin and Karl Rogers (modern); Shonach Mirk-Robles and Martha Tornay (ballet); Courtney B. Jones (jazz); Shani Collins-Achille (West African specialist); Pamela Vail (improvisation); and Tommy Neblett (repertory).
For more information, visit www.batesdancefestival.org/.
Antioch, Illinois, resident Robin Parfitt has opened a dance studio in loving memory of her daughter, Nicole, a member of her school’s dance team who was killed last year in a plane crash.
“I opened the studio in her memory. She was fun and beautiful and had a passion for dancing,” Parfitt told the Lake County News-Sun.
On November 18, 2012, Nicole, 14, a freshman at Antioch High School, was taking a joy flight with her father, Todd, in a plane he had flown for many years, when the Grumman two-seater nose-dived shortly after taking off and crashed, killing both. Todd, 50, married to Robin for 20 years, was a dispatcher for United Airlines who had served in the U.S. Air Force and loved to fly.
The 4,500-square-foot studio at 942 Tiffany Road was named the Shine Bright Dance Studio because, in Parfitt’s memory, her daughter “shines like a diamond.” A grand opening was held Friday night.
Calling herself “a mom on a mission,” Parfitt said she is leasing the space for the facility, formerly part of a Ford dealership. It has been extensively remodeled based on Parfitt’s own design, and painted purple, Nicole’s favorite color. On the wall is a huge picture of her daughter from her first solo at age 11. So far, four instructors from Chicago have been hired, and 30 students have enrolled.
With no former business experience, Parfitt said, “I’m learning, moving forward one day at a time.” To see the full story, visit http://newssun.suntimes.com/business/23780179-420/mom-opens-dance-studio-in-antioch-in-memory-of-her-daughter.html.
Eight studios in the Denver and Colorado Springs area will be joining together in “Hope for Conner,” on December 8 at 1pm at Wasson High School, Colorado Springs, a performance to help support Make-A-Wish Colorado and grant one little boy’s wish.
At the show, more than 225 dancers and 50 Palmer High School student council members will present 35 routines for an anticipated audience of 1100.
Lyndzi Barnes, director of Danceworks of Colorado Springs and her husband, Doug Barnes decided to host this show, the studio’s first annual Project Benefit Show. “Young dancers deal with so much pressure and hard times in the competitive world and professional dance community that sometimes it is nice to just see dancers do what they love and know it is making a difference,” Lyndzi said. “They get to feel good about their art and love for dance and it makes them realize that they can help people by sharing that passion with other people for a good cause.”
A Summer Intensive Jazz Dance Workshop featuring the renowned Luigi technique and style will be held for two weeks next July.
Appropriate for all levels, beginner to professional, the session will run July 7 to 12 and July 14 to 19. Participants are welcome to join one week or both. The workshop will be taught by Luigi Jazz Centre faculty in New York City. Application deadline is May 25, 2014.
For information, contact Luigi’s Jazz Centre, c/o Studio Maestro, 48 West 68th Street, New York City, 212.874.6215.
So You Think You Can Dance season six winner Russell Ferguson may be known for his krumping skills, but the Boston native will prove he’s more than a hip-hop dancer when he takes the stage in this year’s Urban Nutcracker, presented by the Tony Williams Dance Center.
The Bay State Banner reports that the show, which meshes classical ballet, urban tap, hip-hop, swing, flamenco, step, and jazz in a modern twist on the classic two-part ballet, will run December 6 to 22 at the John Hancock Hall, Back Bay Events Center, Boston.
Ferguson first appeared in the Urban Nutcracker as a high-school–aged self-taught tap dancer. This year, Ferguson will appear with professional dancer Khalid Hill, who directed the Urban Nutcracker for nine seasons and taught tap at the Tony Williams Dance Center, in the popular prologue that features a face-off between two different genres of dance, and in two other scenes.
This year’s show will also feature Tony Award–winner Yo-el Cassell, fifth-year performer Gino DiMarco, Russian ballerina Ksusha Melyukhina, singers from Pro Arte Orchestra and the Boston Pops, and members of the 1950s doo wop group, the G-Clefs. A new scene added to this year’s show was inspired by children’s picture book Make Way for Ducklings, illustrated by Robert McCloskey.
Tickets range from $25 to $65 with special Director’s Seats for $85. Tickets can be purchased in advance by visiting www.backbayeventscenter.com. To see the original story, visit http://baystatebanner.com/news/2013/nov/14/so-you-think-you-can-dance-winner-russell-ferguson/.
A documentary about the remarkable underground house dancers and dancing that took place in New York City during the “golden decade” of the 1990s, Check Your Body at the Door, is now available for purchase ($9.99) and rental ($3.99) from TenduTV on iTunes.
Filmed at the clubs, and in a studio against a white background or in silhouette and light pools, this one-hour documentary reveals the virtuosity of this eclectic urban dance style. In 2013, house is a music/dance craze practiced worldwide. Check Your Body at the Door serves as a historical record as it contextualizes a wide variety of house dance forms and answers: What did house dancing look like? Who were the dancers? Why did they dance?
According to executive producer Sally R. Sommer, the idea for Check Your Body at the Door began in 1982 at David Mancuso’s “Loft” where she first went with dancer Archie Burnett. As a dance journalist and social dance historian, Sommer saw “amazing artists dancing in the dark.” At the time, club footage only glamorized torsos bouncing to loud music under multicolored lights. “I saw more,” she said. “I wanted a film that featured dancers and illuminated the entire body in motion.”
To view a trailer and learn more, visit http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLUxOzZYi1J1NMVmA90ukUzm1nrS_htZL_.
The National Museum of Dance in Saratoga Springs, New York, will break with tradition this year by remaining open for visitors through the winter months.
The NMD typically closes its doors in November, reopening them mid-April. However, the museum, heeding advice from the Leadership Saratoga organization, will remain open this year for visitors Thursday through Saturday from 10am to 4:30pm.
The museum will be closed for the holidays November 24 through December 4, and December 22 through January 1. For more information on exhibitions and activities, visit www.dancemuseum.org.
“Gotta Dance!”, a free exhibition of vintage movie posters of Hollywood dance musicals, will run through February 8 in the William Rolland Gallery of Fine Art at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, reported The Sun.
The exhibit features 40 posters on loan from film producer Mike Kaplan’s larger collection. It spotlights the poster as an art form and explores the ways dance was used as a dominant image in promoting Hollywood musicals and non-musicals.
Many of the featured posters were created by well-known illustrators of the day. They include a whimsical French stone lithograph by Bernard Lancy featuring Danny Kaye as The Kid from Brooklyn with a chorus line of cancan dancers in the style of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and an original French-release poster for An American in Paris that belonged to Gene Kelly.
The exhibit also features a rare American Strike Up the Band poster featuring Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland in caricaturist Al Hirschfeld’s hand, and the Italian poster for Salome with its colorful depiction of Rita Hayworth’s dance of the seven veils.
To see the original story, visit http://www.sbsun.com/lifestyle/20131112/gotta-dance-celebrates-vintage-movie-posters-at-california-lutheran-university.
Michel Rodriguez, a part-time faculty member in the Columbia College Chicago dance department, was one of 10 artists to receive a 3Arts award, including an unrestricted $15,000 cash prize, reported The Columbia Chronicle.
3Arts, a nonprofit organization that advocates for women, minorities, and disabled Chicago artists, also awarded two Columbia alumni; Vershawn Sanders Ward, 2002 dance alumna, and Marta Garcia, 2011 photography alumna.
Rodriguez, a Cuba native in his second semester of working at Columbia, said he plans to use his financial award to get health insurance, since the college does not offer it to part-time faculty.
Onye Ozuzu, dance department chair, said the department is pleased with Rodriguez’s accomplishment and his talents are evident in the classes he teaches. “We really enjoy his artistry,” Ozuzu said. “We expect that it will take him to other levels, which would be a gift to the city and for the future of dance.”
Rodriguez said he hopes his work inspires his students to keep pursuing dance and that this award shows that hard work pays off. “If you work hard and create a network of people and show that you are interested in art and dance, good things can happen to you,” Rodriguez said. “It is hard, but it’s not impossible.”
To see the story, visit http://columbiachronicle.com/dance-professor-granted-unrestricted-15000-from-3arts/. For more information on 3Arts and Rodriguez, visit http://3arts.org/artist/michel-rodriguez/.
Team USA will be competing in the IDO World Show Dance Championships with 15 entries—probably the biggest field of entries ever seen at the IDO in Riesa, Germany, according to team captains Gary and Angela Coburn.
The team includes 19 dancers from the Coburns’ West Warwick, Rhode Island, studio, Lets Dance, along with six dancers from South Carolina and two from Massachusetts. The competition is set for November 25 to 30.
“The dancers have all worked hard at fundraising for the past three months,” Gary Coburn said. “Our dancers alone have raised over $30,000 toward their trip. It has been a dedicated group effort, with a lot of fun mixed in with work. And it is all worth it for the thrill of seeing the American flag raised and hearing our National Anthem at an awards ceremony.”
Team members include: Flora Dickens, Brooke Coburn, Nicholas Gessner, Ella Dickens, Hailee Clarke, Samantha Rao, Hannah Sechio, Hanna Cooke, Brianna Heffner, Alejandra Lazo, Leslie Lemus, Jamie McFarland, Madison Robertson, Kiley Thompson, Alexa Ray, Anna Ryan, Cheri Skurka, Kendyl Ward, Kathryn Printer, Allyson Jennings, Kaylynn Carroll, James Bonneau, Max Monti, Morgan Napolillo, Rachel Silva, Britney Lane, and Emily Perry.
For more information on IDO, visit http://www.ido-dance.com/ceis/webHomeIdo.do.
A Coal History, a dance performance that tells the story of the coal mining industry in Appalachia from the turn of the century to the 1920s, will be presented this weekend by WV Dance Company (WVDC), the state’s only professional, touring modern-dance company, in conjunction with the National Coal Heritage Area Authority (NCHAA).
According to the Herald-Dispatch, the free, public performance will take place November 17 at 2pm at Huntington High, Huntington.
Choreographed by WV native and WVDC managing artistic director, Toneta Akers-Toler, A Coal History is a series of works that depict immigrants passing through Ellis Island, African-Americans coming from the south, and locals all making their journey into the mines.
“It’s a passionate, engaging, and entertaining tale showing a variety of emotions—including adventure, promise, love, fear, joy, sorrow, camaraderie, and strength—that affected workers, families, and their respective communities in company towns,” said Akers-Toler.
Christy Bailey, NCHAA director spoke of the performances’ importance. “It expands our work of interpreting the history of coal and coal communities through a different medium. The lives of the early coal miners and their families are portrayed in this remarkable performance, giving us a way to honor their sacrifices and struggles. The story we will be presenting is theirs, and we are very proud to showcase that story through the art of dance.”
To learn more, visit www.WVDanceCo.com. To see the original story, visit http://www.herald-dispatch.com/features/x1584257995/No-Headline.
The Chicago Human Rhythm Project is offering up to $10,000 in tuition awards to dancers between the ages of 12 and 18 who compete in its annual Tap Scholarship Auditions, held as part of CHRP’s annual Winter Tap JAMboree, January 24 to 26.
The auditions will be held January 25 at 7pm at the American Rhythm Center, 410 S. Michigan Avenue, Suite 300, Chicago. These scholarships will allow young tappers to attend CHRP’s annual Rhythm World tap festival, set for July 7 to August 3, 2014, with classes taught by a faculty of more than 25 master teachers/performers from around the globe. Audition participants must register for at least one Tap JAMboree class.
Winter Tap JAMboree faculty members include Ayodele Casel and Sarah Savelli, who recently appeared in Savion Glover’s STePz in New York City; CHRP founder/director Lane Alexander, Starinah Dixon, Bril Barrett, and others. Classes for teens and adults take place January 25 and 26 from 10am to 6pm at the American Rhythm Center. A Tap JAM performance, open to the public, will take place at a venue to be determined.
Master classes are $17.50 per class plus a $15 registration fee. Tap Scholarship Audition registration is $15. To register for Winter Tap JAMboree classes or the Tap Scholarship Auditions, visit www.chicagotap.org.
Ballet students and teachers can view the library of Finis Jhung instructional videos for $9 a month when purchasing a full year of streaming services in advance. (Streaming is also available through a monthly or quarterly subscription).
Almost 30 titles are available for streaming; including favorite Jhung DVD titles such as The Art of Pointework, The Ten-Minute Stretch Break, The Boy Ballet Dancer, Use Your Arms & Dance, The Art of Teaching Turns, as well as lessons that illustrate several levels of barre work, center work, jumps, turns, turnout, and extension.
Since 1972, Jhung has been a mainstay of the New York dance scene. He has taught dancers of New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, The Joffrey, Ailey, Taylor, Graham, and Cunningham companies, as well as star gypsies from Broadway, aspiring professionals, and amateur adult beginners.
For more information, visit http://finisjhung.com/Streaming/.
University of California–Riverside’s Department of Dance will celebrate the 20th anniversary of its Ph.D. program in critical dance studies—the first of its kind in the U.S. and one of the few in the world—with a yearlong series of special events and guest artists, reported The Press-Enterprise.
Commemorating the anniversary, the Congress on Research in Dance and the Society of Dance History Scholars will hold a joint conference at the Mission Inn November 14 to 17. The conference opens with the Schlundt Lecture in Dance Studies delivered by Susan Leigh Foster, an internationally renowned choreographer, dancer, and scholar.
“Our program is unique in the world,” said Jacqueline Shea Murphy, professor and chair of the Department of Dance. “We are known as the preeminent site for intellectual inquiry into dance, corporeality, movement, choreography, and performance. The specificity of the program’s focus on dance studies—as opposed to performance studies or theater studies—distinguishes it in the field.”
The training doctoral students receive at UCR prepares them to become dance scholars, she said, adding that Ph.D. graduates teach in and lead prestigious dance studies programs around the world, from universities in the United States such as UCLA and Rutgers University, to Canada, England, Germany, Norway, Malaysia, South Korea, and Taiwan.
Upcoming public activities include:
• November 14: Delicious Movement Workshop with Eiko Otake, an award-winning, New York–based movement artist and choreographer.
• January 23, 2014: evening artist’s talk by Ann Carlson, award-winning choreographer, director, performer, and conceptual artist.
• Spring 2014: Activities will highlight more than a decade of programming in indigenous contemporary choreography at UCR; visiting guest artists include Charles Te Ahukaramū Royal, a Māori composer, musician, and scholar; Rosy Simas, a Seneca and contemporary choreographer; Jack Gray, a contemporary Māori dancer and choreographer; and Rulan Tangen, founder of Dancing Earth Creations, the first Native American contemporary dance company in the U.S.
For more information on the UCR doctorate program, visit http://dance.ucr.edu/. To see the original story, visit http://blog.pe.com/news/2013/11/08/riverside-ucr-celebrates-20th-anniversary-of-dance-program/.
Dance educators involved with Isadora Duncan dance practices are invited to participate in a short research questionnaire that will assist York University graduate dance program student Sarah Lochhead as she explores Isadora Duncan’s ideas on education in conjunction with other educational ideas (like pragmatism and embodied knowledge).
Lochhead aims to collect the opinions of current Duncan dance educators about current trends in Duncan dance education as she considers the relevance of her ideas for current and future dance educators and students.
Interested educators ages 18 and older will be asked to answer 10 questions, such as, “What initially drew you to this style of moving?” and “Based on your experiences with Duncan based movement practices, what do you feel are the essential ideas about dance education presented in her work?”
Participating educators consent to the use of their names and affiliations and possible quotation of responses for the inclusion in an academic research paper for the completion of a course requirement in the researcher’s MA in Dance Studies.
This research paper may also be submitted for consideration in scholarly research journals or for presentation at academic conferences. Questionnaires need to be completed by November 22. To participate, contact Lochhead at email@example.com or 416.736.5137.
Advice for dance teachers
I have worked as an instructor at the same studio for seven years. A year ago I was promoted to manage our recreational department; it has suffered over the past few years. I raised the numbers a bit, but our studio’s company has always made up the bulk of our enrollment.
Now we have experienced a mass exodus. Since the company is small, when a few decided to leave, the rest wondered who they’d be grouped with for their numbers and they all went to a larger studio. I will be assuming the company director’s responsibilities if we have a new team at some point.
How do I rebuild? How do I cope with the loss of my beloved students? I also should mention that the studio is not a traditional one; we are part of a large facility that provides gymnastics and cheer on recreational and competitive levels. Many parents who bring their kids to our facility for gymnastics go elsewhere for dance. Our owners are frustrated with the loss of these accounts. I need their support to advertise and rebuild, and we are in a very oversaturated market, with three of the city’s most popular studios on our street. Thanks for any advice. —Defeated and Heartbroken
I am sorry you’re dealing with a mass exodus. Students and their parents don’t always realize that most dance teachers consider their students their “kids.” When they lose one student, let alone many, all kinds of emotions go along with it.
With that said, it is time to concentrate on building flourishing preschool and recreational programs. It’s a fact that when school owners focus the majority of their energy and time on the company or competitive dancers, inevitably they have a hard time maintaining the “bread and butter” enrollment, which consists of the once-a-week students who dance simply for the joy of it. Those students pay full tuition, unlike the company dancers at most schools, whose classes are discounted. In many cases, schools cannot sustain themselves when their most advanced students move on, which is exactly what you have described.
You need to rethink whether you want to rebuild what you had. If your market is oversaturated, it’s probably time to determine what you can offer the community that the other schools can’t.
Also, and this is important, let the students who left know that your door is always open if they want to return. Wishing them the best in whatever they do maintains a feeling of mutual respect. I wish you all the best. —Rhee
My 10-year-old daughter has been dancing at an amazing school and has been a company dancer for five years. She has always had solid spots in routines, but this year she was moved to the back in everything. Granted, she is the tallest in the class, but there is a definite difference in her placement. She was also removed from her small group and was not given anything in place of it. Every girl in the small group was given a special role (duo, trio, etc.) except her. Also, this year there was a switch in teachers.
My daughter has trouble lifting her leg and holding it and stretching, but all in all she’s a really good dancer. Every year there is solid improvement. She does not have that “kill or be killed attitude,” and I think she feels she let herself down. She became withdrawn from her class, as did I. I felt very hurt for her and removed myself from the studio, whereas before I was their biggest cheerleader.
With all the time, money, and energy my family puts into dance, I want to make sure everyone is happy. The teacher had promised me this would be a better year for my daughter. How can I approach her to ask about my daughter’s future in the class? —Rosanne
Class placement is one of the hardest tasks for dance teachers. The placement itself isn’t the problem; expertise guides those decisions. What’s difficult is dealing with the parents’ reactions, especially when a child doesn’t progress as much as her classmates.
If I were teaching a child who I believed would lose her joy for dance if the material was beyond her capabilities (at that time), I would keep her where she was. The goal would be to allow the child to keep up and still enjoy dance. Often, if we push children to do what they aren’t ready for or what is too difficult, they quit dancing altogether. Children gain confidence when they are on top of the class rather than struggling. However, if parents don’t accept a teacher’s decision, the children are caught in the middle. Who should they believe when their teacher and parents argue about what’s best for them?
You say you think your daughter feels she let herself down and became withdrawn, as you did. But is that what your daughter truly feels? Is it possible that she knows where she belongs? Could it be she knows she would have a hard time keeping up with the group if the choreography included “lifting her leg” or stretching? Kids know more than we give them credit for.
My advice is to have an honest talk with your daughter about where she believes she belongs, based on her capabilities. I hope this helps. —Rhee
I worked for a studio for seven years. I loved where I was and felt like an integral part of the studio, but things changed when the director gave more responsibilities to her daughter. Enrollment dropped drastically and morale was low, and the competition director resented me because I was often requested for private lessons. The studio became a haven for gossip instead of dance, divided between teachers who were structured and teachers who taught haphazardly.
When I quit (which I did in plenty of time for the owner to find new teachers), I got a few nasty emails and phone calls from her. I quit only after years of being called anorexic (because I don’t eat animal products), being harassed for my political beliefs, enduring sexual harassment by the owner’s husband, and being accused of favoring my students from another studio because they were “spoiled rich” like me.
That was a year ago. I love the studios I am currently with; they couldn’t be more different from teaching for my old boss. They’re professional, fair, and dedicated to the art of dance and the artistic growth of students and teachers alike. However, my former employer is still saying untrue things about me. She speaks negatively about almost everyone; if you are anything besides white, Christian, straight, and middle class, rest assured you’ve been trashed.
Because of that, I wasn’t taking her badmouthing personally, but now I’m moving. I feel dishonest not listing my employment at her studio on my resume, but I’m afraid of what she might say about me. Months back I asked her to stop saying untrue things about me and apologized for anything I could have handled better. I heard nothing except more gossip about myself and my husband.
I don’t understand this. I’m here to share my knowledge about dance and the wonderful values attached to it, as well as give kids a place to express themselves and accomplish artistic goals. I thought that’s what the studio was for. I never signed up for this type of nonsense. Please advise. —Glenda
It sounds like you have a level head on your shoulders. If this woman has time to waste on untruths and gossip regarding her former employees, then you have less to worry about than you think. Her unethical behavior will catch up with her.
You need to move on and ignore her negativity. She probably knows that what she is doing breaks your heart, and you can’t give her that satisfaction. Use her negativity as your motivation to be the best dance teacher you can be. In other words, turn her negativity into your reason for always being a positive dance teacher and person.
As far as your resume goes, list only the schools you’ve taught at since you left your former employer. If someone asks about your prior employment, speak positively about the students and how much you loved teaching there and say you had professional differences with the owner. It’s likely that potential employers will be more interested in your most recent experience. Good luck! —Rhee
By Bill Evans
Most students learn longer combinations more efficiently if you follow a whole-part-whole strategy. First demonstrate the whole phrase as clearly, musically, and qualitatively as possible, so that the students get the big picture or context. Then, unpack the various parts and teach portions of the phrase. After each part has been investigated, it is time to put the whole pattern together again: whole (oneness), part (differentiation), whole (integration).
I often hear teachers talking about what they “covered” in their classes. I prefer to focus on what I can help students “uncover.” Dance class can be a process of discovery in which each student participates. Pouring information into our students is less useful to them than structuring opportunities for them to participate in investigations of movement concepts.