What’s up in the dance community
❱ Jacob’s Pillow Four-Season Studio
❱ Gift Leads to Doctoral Program in Dance Education
❱ It’s Good to Be the Ballerina Boss
❱ Hip-Hop Arrives at NYPL
What’s up in the dance community
Videos of note (new and not)
1.Shake the Dust
2.Inside the Circle
3.Check Your Body at the Door
4.Sweethearts of the Gridiron
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
Dance in Time: December
Quotable: About Dance
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.
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.
Books of note (new and not)
1. Flora and the Peacocks
2. Dan’s Adventure: Ballet Hero Fantasy, vol. 1
3. Ballerina Gets Ready
4. Numbers on the Move: 1 2 3 Dance and Count With Me
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
Dance in Time: November
Quotable: Dancers on Dance
Advice for dance teachers
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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.”
Dance in Time: October
Quotable: About Dance
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.
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.
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?
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.
“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.
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
For most ballet fans, the name George Balanchine is synonymous with American neoclassicism. It’s true that this great ballet icon is famous for revitalizing classical ballet in the 20th century—think Serenade, Agon, and Stravinsky Violin Concerto—but Balanchine also found inspiration in other dance styles, including popular entertainment.
After immigrating to the United States in 1933, Balanchine continued working in revues, variety shows, and the like for the next two decades, while founding the School of American Ballet and forming short-term companies that would evolve, in 1948, into New York City Ballet. His choreography for the popular stage and screen in the United States included 2 revues, 14 musicals, 4 operettas, 5 films, and a circus spectacle for 50 elephants.
There are two major streams of tap dance from which all other styles have evolved. One is rhythm tap (or jazz tap), which derives from the musical qualities of jazz music and includes core elements of rhythm, call-and-response, and improvisation.
The other is a more theater-derived style that can be called musical theater tap, a full-bodied style of percussive dance that incorporates elements of soft shoe (an early form of stage dancing derived from the jig and clog, performed in slow 4/4 time without tapping), ballet, and ballroom, and often relies on set choreographies for large choruses, with relatively simple step patterns that allow the dancers’ meticulous steps to be seen and heard.
It’s been one of those days. The energy in the studio is off, and your students look more bored with each brush of the foot in a tendu exercise. You saw an eye roll, maybe two. And in a ballet/tap combo class, the little ones were more interested in playing with each other’s hair than working on their shuffles. You love teaching, but days like these make you feel tired. You’re repeating the fundamentals over—and over, and over—again. If this scenario sounds familiar, you’ve faced one challenge inherent in dance training—repetition.
Competitions can be high-octane extravaganzas or simple, single-day events. Yet no matter the size or scope, at some competition somewhere a dance studio owner is bound to say, “Can you believe what’s going on? Maybe I should start my own competition. After all, how hard can it be?”
Three studio owners know exactly how hard. “We work on the competition year round,” says Teresa Mackereth of the BC Annual Dance Competition, which she founded in British Columbia, Canada, in 1988. Its organizers take only one week to decompress after each May’s weeklong event before beginning work on the following year’s. “It’s an ongoing commitment,” says Mackereth, who is also artistic director of Dance Academy of Prince Rupert. “And we have never had a paid staffer. It’s all volunteers, always.”
What’s up in the dance community
❱ Dancer Featured in DSL Dies in Bombing
❱ Modern Master Lubovitch Honored by ADF
❱ Live and Print Arts Intersect in Dance Ink
❱ Computer Careers Calling BA Dancers
“Starting With Why”: I’ve just returned from three jam-packed days at the inaugural International Dance Entrepreneurs Association (I.D.E.A.) conference in Scottsdale, Arizona, where I, alongside several hundred dance studio owners and administrators, listened to speakers representing a range of school types, sizes, longevity, and business approaches. I learned a great deal from these mainstage sessions.
“Farewell to My Arabesque”: Recently I realized something: my arabesque has gone the way of the dodo. Extensions to the front and side? I’ve still got ’em, sort of. To the back? Eighteen inches off the floor—maybe.
Today school owners want to learn to lead with confidence, both in their schools and as mentors, leaders, and teachers in their communities. They want to be part of a unified voice in dance education that stands for everything that is good for their students and the field. By working together, teachers and school owners can preserve the integrity of dance education—and, on a personal level, evolve in this exciting, ever-changing world of dance and dance studios.
I am proud to lead this call to unified action by founding the International Dance Entrepreneurs Association (I.D.E.A.), the first business association for dance school owners who are ready to stand up for a business model based on a code of ethics. In addition, I.D.E.A. focuses on cultivating new knowledge—the members’ website is loaded with management tools, e-learning courses, and webinars, along with such tools as customizable forms, correspondence, policies, coloring pages, and marketing materials. Regional professional development seminars will be held around the United States and, eventually, internationally.
Dance in Time: September
Quotable: Dancers on Dance
Young dancers often become self-conscious and timid when asked simply to walk; make sure to teach students this necessary skill.
Are your students stuck in the mirror? They may be addicted to looking at their own images, or they may be using the mirror as a tool to mask sequencing problems. In my own teaching, I became weary of repeating, “Don’t get stuck in the mirror.” One day, instead of repeating myself once again, I pointed at the mirror and shouted, “She lies!” This broke the students out of their mirror stupor with a laugh; for the rest of class, they used the mirror less. I now use this idea almost daily. When I notice students focusing on the mirror, I point to it and say, “What does she do?” The students respond with a resounding “She lies!” As a result of this practice, my students now depend less on the mirror.
Dance studio owners open additional locations for numerous reasons—to increase profits or to house a growing student population, for example. Or maybe a nearby area needs a dance studio, or an opportunity arises to take over an existing one. Whatever the reasons for branching out, those who have done so find that managing multiple locations has its own set of benefits and challenges. Here are some tips on how to run more than one school location efficiently and effectively.
The start of a new dance season is a perfect opportunity to spice up your tap program with new ideas that will reinforce your lessons and inspire students to practice.
Flash cards with one-bar rhythm phrases can provide a wealth of teaching moments. Whether dancers are novices or experienced tappers, the clarity of their sounds depends on their ability to reproduce specific rhythms, and seeing a phrase in addition to hearing and doing it will help bring success. In particular, when dancers see the rests, or silent notes, in a rhythm, they are more likely to respect them and produce accurate footwork.
Sometimes we learn lessons from the most unusual situations or, in an incident involving my students, even objects. This year, my school’s competition team learned the value of teamwork as the result of a Frisbee.
At dance competitions, it’s easy to be critical of the judging panel. Teachers and parents spend hours staring at the back of the judges’ heads trying to gain clues from their posture about what they’re thinking, and they study the judges’ biographies. Who are these people who will critique and rank their students or children?
But how many people know what goes into judging a competition? Not that many. I have been a dance adjudicator for more than 30 years, and it’s always an honor and a privilege to do this job. But it’s not always what people expect! Here’s a glimpse into the on-the-road life of people like me.
From a young age, dance students idolize professional dancers—and that’s a good thing. They need someone to look up to and goals to aspire to that go beyond their home studio’s doors. That’s why creating opportunities for students to engage with professional dancers is important—it allows them to see that with enough work and dedication, dance training can have long-term payoffs. Even if they have no interest in or potential for a career in dance, students who enjoy the thrill of sharing a studio or stage with the pros may find that the experience deepens their appreciation of dance, motivates them to push past personal limits, and creates long-lasting memories.
How can studio owners create such opportunities for their students? Some ballet companies open their annual Nutcracker to local dancers, particularly children’s roles; school owners can inform students about upcoming auditions. But some schools do more than that, partnering with dance companies on productions that blend professionals and students and giving the students a performance experience they otherwise wouldn’t get.
It’s September, and all around the United States kids are returning to school and dance studios are beginning their fall sessions. This is also the time of year when competition directors begin hiring adjudicators for the upcoming season. If you aim to book your first gig as a competition judge this year, it’s time to make your move. Put your best foot forward with these tips from three competition directors and three seasoned adjudicators.
At the University at Buffalo, where I teach, the dance and athletic departments stand side by side. I often cite this architectural relationship as a metaphor for the two sides of a dancer—one part artist and one part athlete.
The benefits to dancers of aerobic exercise, weight training, and cross-training are common knowledge. Less widely understood is what dance teachers can learn and integrate into their work from the field of athletics, specifically the concept of periodization, which I learned about at an International Association for Dance Medicine and Science conference. Let’s look at how we can apply this idea to dance education in order to support students’ growth, health, and safety.
With 2016’s nationals in the rearview mirror, competition directors across the nation are prepping for the season to come. Directors of 11 competitions took time out of their busy schedules to share their thoughts on a few topics we threw their way. Their responses (some directors did not answer every question) appear in alphabetical order by company name (sometimes abbreviated). As always, we thank them all for their participation.
The University of Michigan (U-M) offers a world-class dance education within a leading public research university. First offered in 1909 as a course in aesthetic dancing, dance is a vibrant and celebrated part of the U-M School of Music, Theatre, and Dance. The current faculty includes active performers, choreographers, scholars, screendance artists, and former members of such companies as Urban Bush Women, Martha Graham Dance Company, and Laura Dean Dancers and Musicians. Alumni have distinguished themselves as performers, choreographers, scholars, and leaders in higher education.