by Patrick Corbin
Tip 1: When teaching young dancers the basics of partnering, make sure to stress the importance of focus.
Tip 2: Teaching students the correct way to make contact with the floor when they roll from a standing position will help them to execute this common move effectively while avoiding injury.Read More
“Studios as Safe Spaces” by Tamsin Nutter: No teacher can fix the world for her kids. Still, we adults owe it to children to be our best selves for them, and with them. We owe them love and safety. We owe them our protection.
“Inherent Value” by Karen White: How many of your studio’s alumni studied dance in college or went on to professional dance careers?Read More
by Rhee Gold
A new year is upon us, the time when we traditionally make resolutions about things we want to change about ourselves—lose a few pounds, read more, budget better, and so on. It’s a great opportunity for studio owners and dance teachers to resolve to change their professional lives for the better too. Here are my suggestions for you to adopt and share.Read More
by Constance Hale
Native Hawaiians often express their way of learning in a neat trio of verbs: ho‘onana, ho‘olohe, ho‘opili (“watch,” “listen,” “imitate”). Whatever the craft, the idea is the same: find a master, open your eyes and ears, and if you don’t get it quite right, trust your teacher to correct you.Read More
Read 2 great tips for tap teachers from the legendary Thelma Goldberg, teacher and director of The Dance Inn in Lexington, Massachusetts, since 1983, who is the author of Thelma’s Tap Notes: A Step-by-Step Guide to Teaching Tap: Children’s Edition.Read More
by Constance Hale
We are the junior class of San Francisco’s largest hula school, which also happens to be one of the largest hula schools in the world.
Many of us have been dancing here for years. We started by learning the basic steps of the ancient art form, which include the graceful kāholo, the movement most people associate with hula. That’s when we move side to side, letting our hips flow in patterns as smooth as shore waves. We added the awkward-at-first ‘uehe—those hips keep moving while our knees take us into a plié and then suddenly pop out to each side, making our legs into hollow diamonds. Then we tackled eight other odd-seeming steps.Read More
by Joseph Carman
When flamenco artist Carlota Santana demonstrates her snaking arms, articulate fingers, fiery footwork, stalking strides, and laser-like gaze for observers at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, she evokes the ancient echoes of Gypsies in Andalusia. The pride and passion of her flamenco moves ignite the soul. Santana has produced numerous flamenco symposiums at Duke University, but they represent only a fraction of her efforts to share the technique and cultural aspects of this art form through performance and instruction.Read More
Books of note (new and not)
1.America Dancing: From the Cakewalk to the Moonwalk
2.Stompin’ at the Savoy: The Story of Norma Miller
3.Physics and the Art of Dance: Understanding Movement, 2nd ed.
4.Song and Dance Man
From winter competitions to summer national galas to fall intensives, there are exciting learning and growing opportunities for dancers of any age. In our annual listing, you’ll find the right fit from among nearly 125 competitions and conventions, ranging from old favorites to intriguing new options.Read More
The University of Utah School of Dance, in Salt Lake City, offers separate degree programs in ballet and modern dance and attracts students from across the world. While honoring the legacies of these two dance forms, which the University began offering more than 60 years ago, the school maintains an environment of open inquiry that encourages questioning, risk-taking, and sensitivity.Read More
Last month I wrote about useful music from operas. (See “2 Music Tips for Dance Teachers: Ballet Divertissements from Operas: Part 1,” November 2016.) Here are more examples.
Meyerbeer’s Robert le diable: Act 2’s “Pas de cinq” occurs during a medieval tournament. Use its light, bouncy tunes in 6/8 for ballonné, ballotté, and glissade jeté. Use its sections in 2/4 for petit battement, petit allegro, and pointe work. Act 3’s Ballet of the Nuns, the first Romantic ballet, or ballet blanc, starred Marie Taglioni dancing en pointe. Use “Seduction par le jeu,” a lively waltz with continuous eighth-note melodic movement, for pointe work at the barre, piqué turns, ronds de jambe en l’air, and bourrées. Use “Seduction par l’amour,” a 4/4 andante, for a lovely port de bras, slow warm-up, or easy-to-count développé exercise.
Gounod’s Faust: Act 5’s ballet takes place on Walpurgis Night, when the dead wander freely on earth. Balanchine used the music for Walpurgisnacht Ballet (1975). Use “Les Nubiennes” for a fondu, rond de jambe en l’air, or center-practice waltz; “Variations de Cléopâtre” for a strong tour en l’air; and “Variations du miroir” for tendu pirouettes in center.
Rossini’s William Tell: Act 1’s “Pas de six” and Act 3’s “Pas de trois,” both dances for Swiss peasants, contain two of my favorite pieces for petit battement or terre à terre allegro—the 2/4 allegrettos, with their constantly running 16th-note figures. I often combine them, especially for center. Act 3’s “Pas de soldats” begins with my favorite small jump music; its consistent upbeat lifts dancers into the air.
You can find these selections on the albums Meyerbeer: Ballet Music from the Operas (Nesterowicz/Barcelona Symphony Orchestra); Gounod: The 2 Symphonies, Faust Ballet Music (Marriner/Academy of St. Martin in the Fields); and Rossini/Donizetti: Ballet Music (Almeida/Orchestre National de l’Opéra de Monte-Carlo).Read More
In a hot and humid gym on the Mercyhurst University campus in Erie, Pennsylvania, teacher Jon Lehrer was putting some 30 young jazz dance students through their paces. As Lehrer, a former dancer with Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago and founder of Lehrer Dance, extolled plié as “the single most important step for moving,” the dancers appeared to take in this knowledge and experiment with it.
The occasion was Regional Dance America’s 2016 Northeast Festival, held June 2 to 4, 2016. It was a homecoming of sorts—in 1960 Erie had hosted the second Northeast Regional Ballet Association Festival (NERBA, now known as Regional Dance America). And that predecessor of this year’s event was a seminal moment in the grassroots regional dance movement in the United States. One reason for its impact was the impression it made on a very important attendee: George Balanchine, co-founder and director of New York City Ballet.Read More
As a dance form, hip-hop emerged from the streets, and its spontaneity, energy, and individuality reinforce its appeal. So when you place hip-hop in concert form, as choreographer Lorenzo “Rennie” Harris has done successfully for 25 years, it’s vital to retain that freshness while instilling it with discipline and stagecraft. Enter Rennie Harris Awe-Inspiring Works (RHAW), a second company to the acclaimed Rennie Harris Puremovement.
“There is no street dance academy,” says Harris, “so to transition street dancers to theater, I realized I had to start a second company. When these dancers come out of high school or when they’re starting college, they’ll do about four years with me. And if they decide to stay and dance, or move on, that’s cool. It’s a way to train them in etiquette and how to be professional.”Read More
It was three and a half days into National Dance Education Organization’s four-day jazz dance conference when the first pirouette appeared. Attendees included 94 jazz dance educators from higher-ed, public school programs, and private studios, yet when the hours of technique classes wrapped up at the conference’s end, not one had included head-high battements.
“What kind of jazz is that?” you might ask.
Questions like that—about what jazz dance is, where it lives, who does it and why—drove discussions at the conference, Jazz Dance: Roots and Branches in Practice, held July 21 to August 3 in Newport, Rhode Island, hosted by the dance program at Salve Regina University. Hailed by attendees as a rare opportunity for educators, historians, choreographers, and master teachers to come together in celebration of jazz dance, the conference addressed not only the jazz lexicon but issues of race, relatability, and respect that impact how the art form is taught and viewed.Read More
Located only 45 minutes from New York City, Rutgers University’s Mason Gross School of the Arts provides a personal approach to dance education with extensive performance opportunities and access to a wide range of guest artists. The Dance Department offers an intensive, conservatory-style BFA degree that trains students to be well-rounded performers and choreographers. The BFA curriculum includes a strong theoretical base in a variety of dance studies and required liberal arts courses.Read More
Classroom Connection: Picturing Dance
Dance photos can support your curriculum and offer playful springboards for activities with students—from preschoolers to high schoolers.
Reality Check: Tough Moments
Q. I just lost my first student to another studio. I understand we all offer different things and people will choose what matches their needs best. But it still hurts and makes me wonder if I am doing enough. How do you handle these moments?
Every seven and a half seconds, a baby boomer turns 60—which means dance classes for senior citizens can be viewed as a growth industry. By 2020, 35 percent of the U.S. population will be age 50 or older, and that’s an age group that gravitates toward movement, dance, and fitness activities.
The benefits of dance and fitness classes for senior citizens are well documented, including the data cited in a 2014 Saint Louis University research study: improved posture, bone density, and stamina; less stress and tension; and a reduced risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and diabetes. Other benefits can include improved balance, mobility (reducing the chance of falls), and cognitive and memory skills, as well as less depression.
Savvy dance teachers around the country have created programs for elders. Whether the genre is improvisation, Zumba, chair dance, ballet, or cardio-based movement, senior citizens are making dance a vital part of their lives.
One of the first priorities in teaching seniors is finding a proper space. Bringing a dance class to a recreation center, retirement community, or assisted-living facility is generally easier than asking individuals to find their way to a studio. Here’s a look at four approaches that have proven to be both popular and effective.Read More
What’s up in the dance community
❱ BalletBoyz Film Honors WWI Troops
❱ R.I. Company Thinks Big in Small State
❱ She’s the Top: Brenda Bufalino Recognized
❱ Scholarships, Info Available at CNADM College Fair
Preschool dance education—it’s a frequent topic among studio owners and dance teachers. In fact, in my conversations with attendees at the DanceLife Teacher Conference and the International Dance Entrepreneurs Association conference, preschool dance seemed to come up more than any other topic.
Throughout the Rhee Gold Company we’ve taken that message to heart. As we noted in a story last year, DLTC sessions that covered creative movement, ballet, tap, musical theater, hip-hop, and jazz classes for preschoolers “were packed with both note takers and teachers eager to get up and play along.” (See “One for All: the 2015 DanceLife Teacher Conference,” October 2015.) And a significant portion of a Back to Basics Teacher Intensive at the DanceLife Retreat Center this month is devoted to classroom concepts, tips, and strategies for preschool class success.
Since the magazine’s inception, Dance Studio Life has covered preschool dance education, with stories about marketing to parents of preschoolers, tips for making recitals successful and fun for preschool-age children, a guide to teaching aids and props for preschool classes, advice from teachers and studios that specialize in teaching the youngest kids, and more.
This month we take the next step, with our first preschool-themed issue. In these pages you’ll find five features—as well as our “Page Turners” and “Moving Images” book and video recommendations, respectively—that cover preschoolers in the dance world from various angles.Read More
In the adult world, sex sells—witness Miley Cyrus singing nude in her controversial music video for “Wrecking Ball” and Beyoncé appearing on the cover of Time magazine in her underwear. But the rules for children are different, and they should be. Children depend on us to protect them from being exploited or sexualized. In a society that appears to accept and promote the sexualization of women and girls, it’s hard to stand strong and insist—as I’ve done for decades—that dance teachers must be advocates for their students. But I believe every dance teacher must stand firm against movement, music, and choreography that inappropriately sexualize young girls.
So I will continue to speak out about what I believe is a black eye on the dance education field. When it comes to the issue of inappropriateness, I have never had a discussion that didn’t start with teachers blaming the competition world. To me, that’s a cop-out to avoid taking any responsibility in the matter.Read More
Ballet divertissements featuring the corps de ballet, soloists, and small ensembles were integral to 19th-century grand opera productions. These musical interludes—occurring at Act 3’s beginning, or during Act 1—enhance the story by using tunes that illustrate the setting, depicting weddings (Rossini’s William Tell) and masked balls (Mozart’s Don Giovanni), and providing pauses from dramatic action.
Here are some useful examples.
Developing lifting skills is fundamental to learning how to partner. Teachers often emphasize a lift’s take-off and apex, but the most important part of any lift is the landing. Partners must be set down gently; to encourage this, instruct the lifters to give one last “pulse” of support at the moment of touchdown. This pulse slows the momentum of those being lifted, giving them time to come down smoothly and silently.
“Look side, farther side, all the way side!” Sometimes I find it difficult to get students to turn their heads. Clarity of focal intent can be tricky. Students often think they are turning their heads when they are merely shifting their eyes. Of course, the eyes can be used effectively, but if dancers want to display a clear focal intent, they need to turn their heads.
Once students have a variety of basic tap skills, start introducing combinations that challenge them to connect short ideas into complete phrases of 4 to 32 counts. Even beginners can connect single sounds to form combos they’ll find interesting.
You can also increase a combo’s complexity based on the students’ level. Consider the waltz clog (leap shuffle ball change). For beginners, develop a four-count phrase by adding another leap, shuffle, or ball change. For intermediate dancers, add a brush before the leap, and/or a heel drop after the leap, the shuffle, or the ball change. And, for advanced dancers, make the combo more challenging still by adding a pullback after the shuffle.
Any young dancer who contemplates a career in dance will get plenty of cautionary advice. From the modest salary to the relatively short stage career, there are real considerations that well-meaning elders can be quick to point out. But there’s one piece of advice that PeiJu Chien-Pott, a soloist with Martha Graham Dance Company, has found to be downright wrong.Read More
When Alicia Jonas first taught preschool classes, she found herself on her own. Curriculum, format, music, expectations—all were left up to her by studio owners who offered little guidance.
She discovered a completely different attitude toward preschool dance when she began teaching at Arts in Motion in St. Louis, Missouri, where then-owner Susan Bennett had created a preschool curriculum and set of teaching methods, called Magnificent Moving KidzTM. “I realized how important that age group is, and how important it is to have appropriate classes,” Jonas says. “Preschool is the heartbeat of the studio and shows teachers what they are made of.”
Jonas, now the owner and director of the school, renamed it Arts in Motion School of Dance & Music, changed the program’s name to Magnificent MovementTM, and founded The Confident Dance Studio to train dance educators in Bennett’s curriculum. Bennett, semi-retired, works for the Missouri State University Theatre and Dance Department. The two chat often about preschoolers and their needs.Read More
Smart studio owners are always looking for ways to reach an untapped market. Babywearing dance classes—in which the dancers take class with baby on board, via a front-pack or sling—provide parents with the earliest possible introduction to your school as well as a heartwarming experience.Read More
“Some teachers love laying choreography on 16-year-old dancers,” says Donna Rathe, owner of Tiny Dancers in Northern Virginia. “I love working with squirmy little 3-year-old boys and girls and getting them to understand first position and plié.”
Likewise, Tilly Abbe, who has been teaching ballet to little ones at Miss Tilly’s Ballet & Theater Arts in San Francisco for more than 40 years, likes the youngest students best and dislikes it when studio owners and teachers don’t take these children seriously. This is one of many points these two teachers agree on. “We don’t have 16-year-olds teaching 3-year-olds,” Rathe says. “It’s just as important to have a professional teaching a 3-year-old as it is to have a professional teaching a 16-year-old.”Read More
Tip 1 We want students to jump high and give the illusion of being suspended in midair. But what about landings? Do your students make a lot of noise when they land? Are they able to bounce high in the air but unable to put their heels down when landing? Landing carelessly is likely to lead to injuries. To develop a strong, sustainable, and healthy jump, a young dancer must develop a pliant landing with a generous plié. Here are two helpful directions that are easy for students to remember and effective in reminding them to land softly.
Tip 2 Trust may be the most crucial aspect of partnering. Partners must have faith in each other to achieve the sometimes seemingly impossible tasks that choreography calls for. One way to build this trust is an exercise I call “Blind Date.”
After months of attending conferences and giving speeches across the United States and Canada, I’ve discovered that there is always more to appreciate about our dance education community.
We are witnessing a time in dance history when many school owners have become smart small business owners who offer quality dance education to every child—and they are being rewarded with financial success. For dance teachers, there have never been more opportunities to teach, not only at these schools but also in a new field that has evolved, in which master teachers travel throughout North America to teach and choreograph at small-town studios. And everywhere they go, they inspire young people to pursue their dance dreams.Read More
Hannah Wiley has been educating Seattle dance audiences for more than 25 years, and she’s doing it in a way unlike anyone else in U.S. academia. As the director of the University of Washington’s MFA program in dance, and its associated Chamber Dance Company (CDC), Wiley, a former ballet dancer, has made it her mission to present, record, and archive works of historical and artistic significance. The current trend in the modern dance world is to pay homage to the past. Since 1990, Wiley and her company have honored the pioneers who forged the way, and nowhere else can this unique collection of archived works be found.Read More
Sometimes, ballet and recitals don’t mix. Except at ballet-only schools, including ballet numbers in a dance recital can be difficult, especially when they’re part of a parade of dances, all tied to a loose theme, in which dancers enter and exit the stage with military precision. And ballet pieces that are excerpted from longer works can be bland and difficult to comprehend, even if they’re danced well. If you offer ballet at your school, or if you teach ballet, the last thing you want to do is give audiences any reason to think ballet is boring.
So what do you do?Read More
At Middlebury College, located in a small village in Vermont’s Champlain Valley, the dance department’s goal is “to present dance in its many facets,” says the department’s head, Christal Brown, “and decentralize the hierarchy in which ballet has been established as the dominant form.” That’s apparent in the kind of courses open to dance students—courses that resonate with the concerns and enthusiasms of contemporary college students, such as Body and Earth; Writing the Body; and Ethics, Aesthetics, and the Moving Body.
Middlebury is hours away from major cities, and it’s small, with approximately 2,500 students. Dance students choose Middlebury precisely because it is small, and despite the fact that ballet, jazz, and tap are not offered for credit. In 2015–16 the department served 175 students (25 majors and 150 non-majors); four to six majors graduate each year.
The department has undergone much change in recent years, including the retirement of Andrea Olsen and Penny Campbell as leaders. Brown credits the college’s new and first female president, poet and scholar Laurie Patton, with starting new initiatives on campus, maintaining a humanitarian focus. The dance faculty collaborates with other professors across the campus, and the department—which consists of four dance professionals along with two musician/composers and a lighting designer/technical director—partners with the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts in Burlington; artists who perform there offer master classes at Middlebury, and students regularly board vans to see its shows.Read More
“They don’t make tights for ugly people.”
That’s what Robin Gamble-Maddrey’s daughter, a student at Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH), said to her mother. And Gamble-Maddrey, who is African American, was brokenhearted to hear those words. “I saw the pain and the hurt,” she says. “She didn’t like to look at her body, and she would tell people, ‘I’m too dark.’ As a woman and a mother, that’s something you never want to hear from a young girl.”
The reason for the girl’s self-criticism? She couldn’t find tights and shoes that matched her skin tone. “I told her, ‘It’s not you; it’s not your fault,’ ” Gamble-Maddrey says. The incident led her to start a tights manufacturing company, Shades of Dance. “The first color I created was for [my daughter],” she says.Read More
Books of note (new and not)
1. The Night Before My Dance Recital
2.Bolshoi Confidential: Secrets of the Russian Ballet From the Rule of the Tsars to Today
3.Changing the Conversation: The 17 Principles of Conflict Resolution
4.The Ballet Lover’s Companion