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 | 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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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.) Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Place the right foot’s shoelace area against the back of the left knee. Keep the foot glued there during the drop; it shouldn’t slide around or pull away. As the left leg starts to bend, the body angles toward the protruding right toe. The left knee keeps bending and the body eases toward the floor, until the right foot lands. Balance on the balls of both feet, weight on the right, left leg crossed in front, hands off the floor. Repeat on the other side.

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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


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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September 2015 | 2 Tips for Ballet Teachers | Inside Pirouettes

Photo by Becky Montalvo

A common mistake with inside pirouettes is turning in the passé leg during the turn. To correct this, have your students start in a straight-leg lunge preparation.

The straight leg in the lunge preparation for an inside pirouette harnesses a great deal of the energy and force needed to get a dancer on balance and turning. Yet students often rely too heavily on their upper bodies during the preparation, swinging their arms to acquire momentum.

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August 2015 | Upstairs, Downstairs

Above left: Nancy King in 1978, eight years after founding her school. Center: The King family, left to right: Brendan, Michael, Nancy, Skip, Natalie, and Chris. Right: a studio shot of Chris at age 11. Photo courtesy The King Centre for the Performing Arts

It was the King family’s version of “home, sweet home”: a 10,000-square-foot warehouse in Wanaque, New Jersey. Upstairs was the four-bedroom abode of Nancy and Brendan “Skip” King and their children: Natalie, Brendan, Michael, and Chris. Downstairs was The King Centre for the Performing Arts, a five-studio dance school with two music rooms, a lounge, and an office: a “home away from home” for 600 to 700 students.

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August 2015 | 2 Tips for Modern & Contemporary Teachers | Focal Points and Weight Shifts

Photo by Ingrid Werthmann

Help your dancers remember the material, even when facings change or more complex spatial patterns are introduced, by encouraging them to find a focal point in the room for each direction.

Helping your students identify their weight shifts aids them in defining the quality of their movement.

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August 2015 | 2 Tips for Hip-Hop Teachers | Hand Styles and Backslide

Photo by Bill H

Hands play a major role in hip-hop dance and can say a lot about a dancer, displaying personality and performance style, showing confidence, and telling a story.

To teach the backslide, have students start with their weight on the left leg. The right knee is bent with the heel raised and the ball of the foot planted.

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August 2015 | Think Eco


Studio owners often search for ways to make their businesses more efficient and profitable. You can scrutinize your operations, policies, and processes for potential cost-saving improvements, certainly, but don’t forget to look at your physical surroundings. From water and electrical use to stocking the bathroom and overhauling communications, there are ways to both cut costs and do some planetary good.

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August 2015 | Higher-Ed Voice | Artist Residencies

Student Rebecca Diab performs in Sidra Bell's Beyond the Edge of the Frame at Loyola Marymount University, which aims for a mix of genres in its guest offerings. Photo by Denise Leitner

For college dance students, visits from professional artists can ignite a spark that propels them forward for years after graduation. College dance programs dedicate themselves to providing such opportunities to their students through artist residencies that enable working professionals to share their knowledge and experience in an academic setting. Successful residencies can nourish guest artists, students, and faculty alike, but to do so they require careful planning and open, ongoing dialogue.

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August 2015 | College Close-Ups | California Institute of the Arts


The Sharon Disney Lund School of Dance at California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) offers dance students a unique creative environment. As an internationally recognized conservatory for the performing and visual arts (dance, film, theater, visual art, music, and writing), CalArts has a philosophy that emphasizes the exploration of new paths beyond conventional boundaries.

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August 2015 | EditorSpeak

Photos by Chris Hardy

“Conquering Stage Fright”: In October, I watched my daughter suffer intense stage fright in her first show.

Deafening cheers. Phones flashing in the dark auditorium like crazed fireflies. Other kindergarteners smiled—mine looked stricken with terror. Would she faint or throw up? Afterward, she sobbed with disappointment. It wasn’t fun, her stomach hurt, she didn’t expect the noisy dark and blinding lights. Then I remembered that she’d frozen before: as a wedding flower girl, walking the gauntlet of a semi-dark hall thronged with cheering strangers.

“Hold the Flash”: Enough with the pirouettes and the pyrotechnics.

Yes, we’re all impressed with double-digit pirouette counts. Triple sauts de basque, hummingbird-fast entrechats, reverse-twisting, leg-splitting steps you can’t even begin to name—all of those make us gasp. But every time I go online I’m bombarded with videos of dancers performing superhuman physical feats. And it’s becoming tiresome.

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August 2015 | Lighting the Way

Em's Spotlight recitals can include everything from modern, jazz, and Broadway to clogging and Polynesian dance, all connected by an umbrella theme with a positive tone. Photos courtesy Em's Spotlight

“I don’t know a whole lot about dance.” That’s an unusual admission from a director of a multifaceted dance outreach program, but there is little that’s ordinary about Vicki Silverman and Em’s Spotlight.

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August 2015 | On My Mind

Photo by Mim Atkins

For most dance teachers, this time of year—the beginning of a new dance season—marks a fresh start. You’ll welcome back students who are growing up before your eyes, and you’ll see many new faces, students who will experience the excitement of dance for the first time.

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August 2015 | Teacher in the Spotlight | Toni Zeakes Copeland

Photo by Sarah Clark

NOMINATED BY: Soozie Zeakes, daughter: “She is 75 and celebrating 60 years of teaching dance this year. She still goes to her studio every day, and she’s never stopped loving what she does. She’s touched too many young lives to count and now even has third-generation students at her studio. I’m proud of her accomplishments and marvel at her endurance.”

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August 2015 | Page Turners


Books of note (new and not)
1. Like a Bomb Going Off: Leonid Yakobson and Ballet as Resistance in Soviet Russia
2. Dancing Through It: My Journey in the Ballet
3. A Dance Like Starlight: One Ballerina’s Dream
4. Irina Baronova and the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo

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August 2015 | Thinking Out Loud | Teaching Tradition


I love the shared aliveness of the field of dance—the kinetic way we pass down our knowledge from person to person, class by class, articulating through body and voice all that we understand and feel. It is exciting to know that the generation of students I am teaching is absorbing information I gleaned from my own teachers. The dance family tree is rooted in oral tradition and information is passed down through direct interaction—both verbal and physical—between teachers and students.

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August 2015 | FYI

Performances by Heidi Latsky Dance promoted Dance/NYC's initiative to provide opportunities to disabled dancers. Photo by Arial Sneed

What’s up in the dance community
Chicago Dancers Help Their Own
Access to Dance for the Disabled
Joffrey Establishes an Endowment
A Ballet Barn Dance

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August 2015 | Quick-Change Artists

Masking and risers convert a studio at Motion Pacific Dance Studio into a stage equipped for aerial dance. Left photo by Crystal Birns, Right photo (insert) by Christina Neilsen

While many dance schools may set out folding chairs in a studio for informal student showings, some school owners have transformed their educational spaces into performance-ready theaters. While an in-studio performance space may sound like an ideal alternative to expensive theater rentals and seems to offer the flexibility of holding shows whenever the recital bug bites, building and maintaining a studio theater come with a variety of challenges and rewards. The owners and directors of five dance studios with convertible studio theaters provided a broad range of perspectives on the costs and benefits of an in-house performance space.

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August 2015 | Learning on Their Feet

Two students at Silvio O. Conte Community School have made it to the correct place on the Dancing Number Line, and another stands ready to begin at a Jacob's Pillow Curriculum in Motion residency program. Photo by David Dashiell

“Great ideas originate in the muscles.” So said Thomas Edison, not exactly a slouch in the science arena.

Researchers differ on the percentage of the population, ranging from 5 to 45 percent, for whom kinesthetic learning is the primary mode of learning. Nevertheless, students often combine this modality with auditory and visual comprehension, and children in particular seem to gravitate to kinesthetic learning. Educational theorists from Swiss developmental psychologist Jean Piaget to Italian physician and educator Maria Montessori understood the importance of tactile learning, particularly in primary and secondary education.

However, in academic environments the implementation of kinesthetic learning hasn’t been explored or utilized nearly as often as auditory and visual learning. To buck that trend, a growing number of dance educators are exploring how to use dance to teach academic subjects, such as mathematics, science, social studies, and language.

Finding an entryway to understanding mathematical, scientific, and other academic concepts through dance has become the focus of a number of U.S. schools.

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August 2015 | Temp Teachers

Photo by Scott Shaw

Back in the day, I clerked in a big Manhattan department store. Because I was young and quick and flexible, I was assigned to the “flying squad,” a group of clerks who could cover any counter if a regular called in sick, and immediately grasp what was necessary to assist customers.

The situation is more complex, and more tender, when the business at hand is teaching dance, especially to children. Finding a last-minute substitute can be tricky, especially in small studios with skeleton staffs. And kids don’t always react well to the sudden appearance of an unfamiliar face. Here to give some insights into smart strategies for handling absences are instructors from various parts of the country, at various levels, and on both sides of the “temp” equation.

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


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

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July 2015 | Teacher in the Spotlight | Anna Marie Leo

Photo by Ean Mosser

NOMINATED BY: Gail Skinner and Amelia Kinsolving, Leo’s lifelong friends and fellow teachers: “At the 2013 DanceLife Teacher Conference, we were amazed by the number of people who approached Miss Anna Marie to tell her what a great influence she had on them. At the age of 84—and as her studio enters its 64th year—Anna Marie continues to teach, always willing to share her talents with students and fellow studio owners alike.”

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