November 2015 | Bulletin Board: Pin, Post, and Share


Click! What’s new online at the Rhee Gold Company
Dance in Time: November
Quotable: Dancers on Dance

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November 2015 | Thinking Out Loud | Two for One


Heading into my 19th year of teaching, I have held many titles over the years—dance instructor, movement teacher, dance specialist, and guest artist. But when I started being called a “teaching artist” about 12 years ago, the components of my life came together. “Teaching artist” is the title that best describes me.

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November 2015 | On My Mind

Photo by Mim Adkins

We all have opinions. And sometimes, when they’re on topics that have the potential to affect large groups of people, our perspective can be controversial. When I know that’s the case, I try to convey mine in a non-judgmental way, hoping to stir up thoughtful debate rather than offend people who disagree with me. Recently I stood strong on an issue, and I made some enemies.

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November 2015 | Ballet Scene | Character Dance

Mount Airy (MD) Performing Arts Center students study character dance as part of their RAD training. They are introduced to traditional steps and costumes such as these Grade 2 dancers practicing a heel degage.

In classical ballet, the traditions of European culture come alive onstage. Watch a production of Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty, Giselle, or Don Quixote and you’ll see fairy tales and stories of royalty and ordinary people told through the classical technique handed down from King Louis XIV. But you’ll also see character dances—ballet versions of traditional folk dances such as the Hungarian czardas, in 2/4 or 4/4 time; the Polish mazurka, in 3/4 time; the krakowiak, a fast, syncopated dance in duple time from the region of Krakow; the Italian tarantella, usually danced with tambourines in 6/8 time; and the Spanish seguidilla, in quick triple time that often starts on the “off” beat.

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November 2015 | Bright Biz Idea | The 21st-Century Office


Dance school owners often start out as jacks-of-all-trades, doing everything from answering the phone to cleaning the mirrors. As the fledgling school grows, however, it becomes impossible for one person to handle all the tasks, especially the administrative ones, and owners who try to do so will limit their businesses’ growth. Adding staff helps to relieve the owner’s workload, of course, but it’s not the whole answer. To maximize efficiency and profit, you’ll need to adopt technology that makes certain tasks easier and takes a smaller bite out of your budget.

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November 2015 | 2 Tips for Hip-Hop Teachers | Camel Walk and Patty Duke

Photo by BIll H

Tip 1
Many of the hip-hop steps we teach come out of popular dances. The camel walk and Patty Duke, for example, are based on 1970s dances that influenced the social aspect of hip-hop’s development. Since these steps started as party dances, have students face each other and interact to get into the right spirit.

Tip 2
There are a few versions of the Patty Duke; here’s one. Stand on two feet, shoulder-width apart, and start the groove, a body rock going backward. Bring one foot forward, leaving the weight on the back foot, to tap the floor on the accented beat. Return to two feet and rock, then tap with the other foot. Repeat.

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November 2015 | Ballet on Broadway

The show gambled by including three extended ballet sequences. Photo by Angela Sterling

For decades, Broadway and ballet have shared a bloodline, if not exactly a blessed marriage. And a select number of ballet choreographers from George Balanchine, Agnes de Mille, and Jerome Robbins onward have gained fame and felt equally at home on the Great White Way and on the ballet stage. But the recent artistic and box office success of the Tony Award–winning An American in Paris, choreographed by ballet’s prolific whiz kid, Christopher Wheeldon, has many wondering if Broadway has embraced a new type of musical essentially driven by ballet as a theatrical tool.

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November 2015 | Moving Images


Videos of note (new and not)
1. The Dance Goodbye
2. Black & White Ballets
3. Creole Giselle
4. American Ballet Theatre: A History

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October 2015 | On My Mind

Photo by Mim Adkins

I’m noticing a lack of creativity in choreography lately—or maybe it’s people’s inability to think for themselves. At a respected ballet company’s performance, on the competition stage, and on TV, choreographers are creating contemporary work that’s strikingly similar. Yes, the level of technical mastery among dancers is diverse, but there’s a disturbing sameness to the mood, expression, and movement—which typically convey ideas about suffering and tragedy. This dark subject matter combined with moody lighting and zero humor add up to a sad observation: today’s dance productions may be depressing audiences instead of entertaining them.

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October 2015 | Teacher in the Spotlight | Lisa Marie Pelton

Photo by Kari Schwartz Images

NOMINATED BY: Kim Wood, mother: “In 2003, Lisa opened her school with 80 students. Since then, it has grown and she is living her dream. She is blessed with a 4-year-old son and also a beautiful daughter born two years ago with cystic fibrosis. When she is tired or has been up all night with a sick child, she lights up when she walks into her studio, sees her students, and gets energized to dance with them once again.”

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October 2015 | College Close-Ups | Five College Dance Department

Ballet, contact improvisation, jazz, modern, tango, and West African technique classes are offered every semester. Here, FCDD dancers perform Marilyn and Sekou  Sylla's Carnivale. Photo by Jim Coleman

Founded in 1978, the Five College Dance Department (FCDD) combines the distinct dance programs of Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, and Smith Colleges and the University of Massachusetts–Amherst (UMass–Amherst), pooling offerings and resources to create one of the nation’s largest college dance departments.

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October 2015 | EditorSpeak

Photos by Chris Hardy

“Recipe for a Better World”: On page 146 of this issue, you’ll find a story about the DanceLife Teacher Conference in which we tell you about many of the goings-on at this big event—but there’s one thing we didn’t touch on because it bears separate mention. It’s the joy and abandon, the sweat and exhilaration of the hundreds of dance teachers who threw themselves into all kinds of technique classes.

“Powerful Girls”: It’s 2015, and our culture still conditions young girls to grow up believing men should be strong and women should be pretty. Misty Copeland’s sinewy leaps, Katniss Everdeen’s archery feats, Title IX, Michelle Obama’s arms, and critical best-sellers like The Princess Problem and Reviving Ophelia haven’t yet washed away mainstream expectations that femininity requires physical weakness.

If you teach girls to dance, you know that isn’t true. But do the girls?

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October 2015 | FYI

rtistic and executive director Robert Curran starts this season at Louisville Ballet with generous funds to support his artistic vision. Photo by Sam English

What’s up in the dance community

Warming of U.S.–Cuba Relations Leads to Historic Giselle

Louisville Ballet Benefits From $1 Million Anonymous Gift

Risky Marketing Makeover Yields Big Rewards

I’ll Take That Dance to Go

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October 2015 | One for All: the 2015 DanceLife Teacher Conference

More than 800 dance teachers and school owners, plus dozens of vendors, faculty members, and guests, packed the Gala Luncheon.

This year’s DanceLife Teacher Conference began with producer Rhee Gold making a request of the 800 dance teachers and studio owners in attendance: “Make this week about you,” he said. “Take the time to rejuvenate.” He recalled his mother telling him, when he was a child, to go outside and get lost—in a good way, of course. It was time for the attendees to “get lost” themselves; for these few days at The Phoenician in Scottsdale, Arizona, he said, let others handle the school, the house, the kids.

They did, if the smiles, laughter, and conversation witnessed at every turn were any indication. And they did it together. Everywhere, collegiality trumped competition. At breakfast and lunch, teachers welcomed strangers to their tables and swapped stories and ideas.

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October 2015 | Only One Boy

Themes that play up the "cuteness factor" work best when solo male dancer, such as Boucher School of Dance student Daltin McCarthy, is a preteen. Photo by Sarah Nicoloro

After years of pink sequins and fairy princesses, you’ve finally snagged a boy for your competition team or teenage ballet class—great! Whether only one boy is enrolled at your studio, or there are several boys who fall singly into various technical levels, having an available male creates new possibilities for choreography, themes, and music choices.

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October 2015 | Moving Images


Videos of note (new and not)
1. Peter and the Wolf
2. Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance
3. Mary Wigman: The Soul of Dance
4. Mat Ek’s Carmen

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October 2015 | Page Turners


Books of note (new and not)
1. A Time to Dance
2. Tallulah’s Solo
3. Ballet Spectacular: A Young Ballet Lover’s Guide and an Insight Into a Magical World
4. Creative Dance for All Ages (2nd ed.)

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October 2015 | Bright Biz Idea | Primed for Success (Part 5)


In this business series we’ve taken a comprehensive look at the process of launching a dance school: the business plan, the facility, branding and advertising a studio in the digital age, and forecasting cash flow. In the fifth and final installment, we’ll focus on strategies for maximizing enrollment.

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October 2015 | Creativity Counts


When you’re choreographing, nothing is more frustrating than finding a song you’re excited about, then realizing you can’t use it. If bad words, length, or repetitiveness are obstacles, don’t give up—there are ways to alter any song, by cutting, adding samples, and mixing in other songs. The editing process might seem overwhelming at first, but there are numerous apps and programs on the market that allow you to create your masterpiece even when you’re not an audio or tech expert.

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October 2015 | Thinking Out Loud | Encouraging Young Teachers


Like many of my peers, I began teaching dance at a young age. In high school I assisted my tap teacher with her youth classes, and when she was absent I was entrusted to lead the class on my own. Before I knew it, I was teaching my own boys’ tap class and beginning to sub for other local instructors.

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October 2015 | 2 Tips for Modern & Contemporary Teachers | Relaxed Placement and Direction Changes

Photo by Ingrid Werthmann

Students often try to achieve correct placement through tension. But to maintain correct placement while moving, dancers must feel engaged, not tense.

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October 2015 | Higher-Ed Voice | Dance at the Ivies

Harvard dance department students (here in Jill Johnson's Look Up) train and perform in the atmosphere of collaboration that Johnson has made a priority. Photo by Eric Antoniou

Where do dancers go for training at the college level? In the past, they have typically chosen to attend conservatories like The Juilliard School, or colleges and universities known for their dance departments. Rarely would they choose Ivy League schools or universities like Stanford (called by some an “Ivy of the West”), which have not accorded dance much esteem. On these campuses, dance typically has been limited in terms of class offerings, performance opportunities, and funding.

All that is changing. Now students can choose to immerse themselves in dance—as well as philosophy, quantum mechanics, and comparative literature—at Harvard, Stanford, and Yale.

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October 2015 | 2 Tips for Hip-Hop Teachers | Box Step and 360-Degree Dancing

Photo by Bill H

The box step is a basic step in many styles. In hip-hop, it was popular with early b-boys/b-girls and lofters.

Most hip-hop dance is done inside a cypher. Dancers address the people around them with their movements, dance together, or dance at each other in battle. Make sure your students think about dancing in 360 degrees. If they always face forward in the studio, their dancing will stay too flat.

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October 2015 | 2 Tips for Tap Teachers | Released, Relaxed, and Ready

Photo by Robert Rosen

Clear weight shifts are essential for strong and articulate footwork. A dancer needs to have one foot released, relaxed, and ready for whatever step is next. A brush, spank, step, stamp, stomp, tap, toe dig, heel dig, or toe tip, for example, requires a 100-percent weight shift to one foot, over the arch, and with the shoulder stacked over a relaxed hip, knee, and ankle. In contrast, only a partial weight shift is needed to produce a strong heel drop or toe drop.

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October 2015| Concept to Choreography to Curtain

The rewards of performing are especially sweet when the students have been involved in every aspect of the production.

One evening before a rehearsal one of my students said to me, “It must be great to be a dance teacher. You can sleep all day and then show up for a few hours of work at night.” This happened during preparations for a rather large-scale show. Like many studio owners, I was responsible for handling all aspects of the production; I’d started planning months beforehand.

This dancer’s comment made me realize how little students understand about what goes into producing a show. In response, I created Production 101, a class that introduces students to the process of theater and dance production, from concept to performance. I also wanted them to see how they could be involved in dance aside from performing.

The two-hour class, open to advanced students, meets weekly for 16 weeks. I also offer the class as an enrichment course at a private high school for international students—a month-long intensive that meets four days a week for three hours each day. On the fifth day, I take the students offsite for field trips. We have toured theaters, observed rehearsals, attended performances, and spoken with production professionals. I also invite guest speakers to the studio for Q&A sessions. Each program ends with a performance at the studio that is open to our dance families.

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September 2015 | College Close-Ups | Shenandoah Conservatory

Above and below: More than a quarter of Shenandoah's full-time undergraduates are music, theater, and dance majors. Dancers take six semesters of choreography study culminating in a concert created and performed by seniors. Photo by tony Miller

The Dance Division of Shenandoah Conservatory, at Shenandoah University, is a dynamic program thriving in a private university setting in Winchester, Virginia, 70 miles west of Washington, DC. Conservatory majors—in music, theater, and dance—make up more than a quarter of the university’s full-time undergraduates. Dance Division graduates perform in companies around the country, on Broadway, in touring productions, and on cruise lines.

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September 2015 | EditorSpeak

Photo by Chris Hardy

“Art Thieves”: Today we see cookie-cutter dances that borrow too heavily from music videos, TV dance shows, and other popular entertainment. And at Dance Studio Life, we hear from studio owners who complain that former employees or teachers at other schools stole their competition or recital choreography. I don’t mean the poachers borrowed a step, or the idea behind a step, or a story or theme that they then morphed into something of their own creation. I mean they stole the dance in its entirety and presented it as theirs. Judging by these school owners’ outrage—and my own experience in having my writing plagiarized—it’s obvious they didn’t feel flattered. They felt violated.

“Tough Times: Choosing the Team”: The lovefest that is recital is over and we meet in a dark corner of a café for the annual agony of choosing dancers for the team.

It’s more difficult than it seems. If it were only about technique it would be a snap. Perhaps we could pass out a test and set the cutoff at 77. Would parents be terribly upset if we put names in a hat? Would we?

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September 2015 | On My Mind


I’m writing this two days after the 2015 DanceLife Teacher Conference, our biggest and best yet. Each time we produce this event I’m overwhelmed by the amount of work that goes into it—and each time, as it concludes, I forget about the work because I’m overwhelmed by the enthusiasm, spirit, and generosity of the hundreds of dance teachers and studio owners who spend those four or five days with us, immersed in dance.

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September 2015 | 2 Tips for Hip-Hop Teachers | Cross-Training and Knee Drop

Photo by Bill H

We typically think about dancing for exercise, but what about exercising for dance? Hip-hop requires strength and stamina, but dancers who start off in the street (like me) may have no prior physical training. Some students struggle to keep up in class because they lack conditioning, not rhythm or ability to pick up steps.

The knee drop is a common but impressive transition to the floor. (Jerkers call it a pin drop.)

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September 2015 | Tiny Dancers

Kid-centered themes and props amp up the fun in competition dances for young children at Dreams Dance Academy. Photo courtesy Jenny O'Brien

With the rise of unrealistic reality television shows, the dance competition world is often given a bad name. It can be perceived as a catty, tear-inducing experience for children and their parents. But dance teachers know that competition dance can be a positive experience—it teaches children confidence, teamwork, perseverance, and the value of hard work. It teaches them to set goals, and that reaching those goals doesn’t always come easily. It teaches them how to adapt and overcome their fears.

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September 2015 | Face Time

Above: Both eyes have shadow above the eyelid crease; the left eye has liner on the top lid. Both brows have been filled in. Right: Apply eyeliner so that the upper and lower lines remain separate and angle slightly toward the temple. Far Right: to define the jaw from the nexk using a soft brush, apply brown shadow under the chin and jawline. Photos by Cheryl A. Ossola

By the time performance season rolls around, most school owners have put hours of thought and research into finding costumes for their students. As critical as dressing the body is, it’s also important to dress the face. Whether the dancers do their own makeup or your staff or volunteers serve as makeup artists, these guidelines can help your students look their best onstage.

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September 2015 | Unequal Rights

Choreographer Wendy Rogers (here with longtime collaborator/dancer John Diaz in REPO the Body of Work) approaches her modern dance work as "inquiry-based exploration." Photo courtesy Grand Rapids Ballet

Dancing women have a long history of rattling society’s cage and making people nervous. Take Isadora Duncan and Maud Allan. As the 19th century turned into the 20th, these San Francisco natives dumped their heavy dresses and lace-up shoes for gauzy tunics and bare feet in order to let their bodies move freely. As they boldly danced to Chopin or Schubert, they scandalized the mainstream and became the darlings of suffragettes, free thinkers, and artists. Later in the 20th century, choreographers like Martha Graham, Katherine Dunham, Elizabeth Streb, and the women of Axis Dance Company, to name only a few, challenged social expectations and prevalent stereotypes about gender, race, or ability.

Why, then, more than 100 years after the first modern dancers proclaimed women’s freedom through movement, do women in dance, who significantly outnumber men, find themselves often left out in the cold when it comes to commissions, mainstage billings, mentoring, or even initial opportunities to try choreographing?

The answer: traditions, roles, and power structures.

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September 2015 | Bulletin Board: Pin, Post, and Share


Click! What’s new online at the Rhee Gold Company
Dance in Time: September
Quotable: Dancers on Dance

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September 2015 | Breaking the Mold

CK DanceWorks Inc. students in CK Airways, described as a crowd-pleaser. Photo courtesy Christina Wiginton

Competition dances often present angst-ridden choreography set to lyrics that convey pain or despair. Whether they depict personal suffering or take a bleak perspective on the state of the world, these pieces are dark—and though they can be powerful, they can be difficult to watch, and in some cases, similar to one another, or derivative. What happened to dance as joyful entertainment, we wondered, and is there value in originality? To answer these questions, we asked readers whether such dances have a place on the competition stage, and why. Here’s what they said.

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September 2015 | Bright Biz Idea | Primed for Success (Part 4)


In this installment of our business series for aspiring school owners, we explore the basic elements and purposes of a cash flow projection. Forecasting income and expenses might not be the most exciting part of starting a school, and for some, it may be the most intimidating part of the process. But without a clear (and realistic) understanding of those figures, it’s impossible to know what it will take to open a dance studio and make it profitable.

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September 2015 | No Experience Necessary

Co-directors Brigitta Herrmann and Manfred Fischbeck (in background) lead a Friday Night Workshop group. Photo by BIll  Hebert

Organized by the Oakland-based, mixed-ability Axis Dance Company, this class for non-dancers is one among many that keep popping up in studios around the country. They enlarge traditional curriculum offerings and widen a studio’s customer base—similar, perhaps, to how tap and hip-hop did so in the past.

Part of this interest in dance as a pleasurable, non-technique–driven activity may be related to an increasingly sedentary society’s need to become more physically engaged. But not everyone is comfortable in a gym’s competitive atmosphere or jogging in the park. Dance tunes the body, but it also offers something else.

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September 2015 | Thinking Out Loud | Theater Etiquette


As a dance educator and former performer, I believe dance teachers have an obligation to teach theater etiquette to their students. I teach it for many reasons: because I want my dancers to take pride in the art they have chosen to study, and to behave in a manner that exemplifies this when attending a performance; because I want them to show respect for the performers onstage and courtesy to the patrons seated around them; and because I want them to understand what it means to immerse themselves in a theater experience. I also want them to realize that their behavior can directly affect the theatergoing experience of others.

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September 2015 | Teacher in the Spotlight | Wendy Stein

Photo courtesy Wendy Stein

NOMINATED BY: Elaina DiBenedetto, student: “I am so lucky that more than 10 years ago Wendy Stein walked into my dance studio and my life. She introduced me to modern dance and encouraged me to dance my first solo; her unwavering confidence has pushed me to do things I might otherwise have let pass by. She is the epitome of what a dance teacher should be.”

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September 2015 | Mindful Marketing | Rethinking Tradition


When I vented my frustration to my non-dancer husband, he asked why we did it this way. Stunned, I stared at him and said, “But it’s always been done that way.” Wrong answer. Clearly everyone else’s old ways of doing “it” weren’t working. We needed to change “it.”

The first thing I did was eliminate the words but and always from my vocabulary. Then I began finding solutions.

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September 2015 | Directors’ Perspective


It’s that time of year again, when we ask dance competition directors to give us their thoughts about topics relevant to our readers. This year the top brass at a dozen competitions spoke up. Their candid responses to our questions (some directors did not answer every question) appear in alphabetical order by company name (sometimes abbreviated). We thank them all for their participation.

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September 2015 | Bloopers and Bedlam


Sitting in a judge’s seat at countless competitions, I have witnessed hundreds of onstage mishaps. I’ve seen dancers trip, collide, slip, and fall down. I’ve seen costumes split, drop, or fall off altogether. Wigs will shift, shoes will slip off, shorts will climb, and straps will break. Some dancers bounce back from these mini-disasters like Tigger in Winnie-the-Pooh, while others crumble and cry. I’ve seen plenty, and learned plenty of lessons for both students and teachers.

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September 2015 | 2 Tips for Tap Teachers | Back to Basics

Photo by Robert Rosen

Let’s focus on the basics. Which fundamental skills and techniques form the core of a tap curriculum?

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