Joe Tremaine started dancing when he was 4, and hasn’t stopped since. Today, the charismatic, 6-foot-tall professional performer, master teacher, studio owner, friend of stars, and convention/competition owner can still pack a studio filled with eager students of all ages, and will certainly do so next summer at the DanceLife Teacher Conference.
Tremaine grew up in tiny Oak Ridge, Louisiana (population 250) where his mother would drive him 35 miles three times a week to dance class. He started teaching dance in high school, furthered his passion in college, got his first dance job in New Orleans, then swiftly began landing dance and summer stock jobs in New York City.
Words from our readers
I love my article [“Jivin’ With Joe,” December 2011]! You really captured the essence of who/what I am! I believe it’s one of the best articles ever written about me. Thanks so much!
Los Angeles, CA
I was speechless when I saw the “Teacher in the Spotlight” in the January issue. I just can’t thank you enough for giving me the opportunity to voice my passion and love for teaching dance. I applaud you (with a standing ovation) for all you do for our dance community. Dance Studio Life magazine is always such a wealth of information. As always, I’m looking forward to the next issue!
Tallahassee Dance Academy
Thank you for the incredible article on Suzanne Kakouris [“Teacher in the Spotlight,” February 2012]. I have tears of joy after reading it and am so happy Suzanne had this honor. Thank you again for recognizing her.
Karla Pattavina’s Dance Academy
Thank you for including Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet in the February  edition by way of the Where Snowflakes Dance and Swear excerpt that speaks to the work of founding artistic director Marcia Dale Weary. We hope readers enjoyed the excerpt as much as we did!
Director of Strategic Marketing and Communications
Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet
Tremaine tells all on jazz, teaching, and his own high-stepping life
By Karen White
Joe Tremaine is the quintessential jazz dance pro. Growing up in the New Orleans area, immersed in what he calls “the best music on Earth,” Tremaine danced his way to New York City and Europe, cruised through TV jobs and Vegas shows, and eventually landed in Los Angeles, where he ran a “studio for the stars” for almost 30 years. He combined that teaching experience with his insider’s knowledge of show biz to create his Tremaine Dance Conventions and Competitions, now heading into its fourth decade. Through it all, Tremaine has been an ambassador for his own brand of heart-pumping, high-kicking, funky-and-fun style of jazz dance that still thrills his students and fans today. We caught up with him this fall, fresh off his appearance at the DanceLife Teacher Conference.
At the DLTC, the teachers couldn’t get enough of your jazz classes. What’s your secret?
I want everybody to have a great time, and I think number one is the music. Music is what jazz is all about. It’s the vernacular form of dance based on American popular music. My first trick is to have them dance to the hottest music possible. Get the class engaged in a few steps, then put the music on. The pacing of the class is extremely important, especially if you’re teaching younger kids. When I teach 6-, 7-, 8-year-olds, I’ll teach them an 8 or two 8s, and I’ll go, “Do you want to do it with music?” “Yes, yes, yes,” they’re screaming right away. As you progress from there, you can correct the technique and so forth.
How long have you been teaching?
I started teaching a little bit in high school. I didn’t want to, but I lived in the cotton fields of Louisiana. In that area I knew more about dance than most people, which is not saying a lot! People had to drive 35 miles to get to a dance studio, so they said, “You can teach us.”
Did you always gravitate toward jazz?
Jazz was always my favorite. I tapped at first, then modern jazz, as they called it, was beginning to evolve and I said, “Oh yeah, that’s what I want.” When I was 8 or 9, I was dancing to music on the radio in my dad’s grocery store, and I remember one of the workers said, “Man, you’re good! When you grow up, you’re gonna be an exotic dancer!” He didn’t know what an exotic dancer was, and neither did I. I felt it was a great compliment at the time.
But I had that influence, considered back then the street influence. It wasn’t hip-hop obviously, but it was called freestyling. I got many jobs because I could tap dance, I could do ballet, and I could out-freestyle anybody. I’d go into nightclubs and clear the floor dancing if I wanted to. But again, it’s all about the music.
You worked in the early days of TV, on The Jackie Gleason Show, The Jerry Lewis Show.
I moved from the cotton fields into New Orleans and worked in the French Quarter in legit shows, then moved to New York on a one-way bus ticket and lived at the Y. I started getting jobs. June Taylor hired me for a show called Mardi Gras starring Louis Armstrong and Joel Grey, and we played at Jones Beach in New York. After eight weeks June took me and three other guys to Miami to do The Jackie Gleason Show.
Most TV shows in those days were done live. How did that help you grow as a dancer?
It’s either do it or die. Today they call a season 12 shows—we did a 32-week season, and I did two years of live TV with many, many stars. It was the best training ground ever. There were no second takes—you really had to know what you were doing.
And I never stopped taking class, ever. We finished a show or walked out after rehearsal, where would we go? We would go to class. It was the best thing I ever did. You can never stop working on your instrument, on your body.
How did that all lead to teaching?
I was very lucky because I met so many stars on The Jerry Lewis Show—Jane Powell to Bobby Darin to everyone imaginable, and they would be like, “You’re really good—would you work for me?” That’s when I started choreographing. Eugene Loring had a school in Hollywood [Loring was director of the American School of Dance] and he said, “I want you to teach for me.” I opened my own dance center in 1971.
What was your studio like?
It was almost all adults. When I first opened I don’t think I let in anyone under 14, and then eventually dropped it to 12. But they were stars. Choreographers would take my class. Even Cyd Charisse took my class.
That was before people were going to gyms to get physically fit, so everybody would come to dance class. I’m not being egotistical, but my beginner and intro jazz classes would be huge—50, 60, 70, 100 people in a room that should only have 35 or 40. So I’d teach class harder and weed out the people who couldn’t keep up. Every secretary, every waiter, everybody out here wanted to be actors. That’s how my studio mushroomed—because they came to class.
How did you develop your style of jazz?
Every night I would go out dancing in the discos—not just to dance for my pleasure, but to hear the music, see all the street stuff. I’d say, “Boy—that could make a great step.” I would make it mine. I’d put it in a jazz form, and that’s how I developed my style.
What was best about running your own dance studio?
The freedom to do what I wanted to do, and do it the way I wanted to do it. I’m kind of strong-headed in the things I believe in. I like to teach fast and challenge people.
I don’t know that there was a worst part. I feel selfish sometimes that I am able to do what I want to do, having the time of my life and meeting incredible people. I really don’t know how to do anything else, and I don’t care how to do anything else. I just want to dance. I always wanted to dance.
“When I was 8 or 9, I was dancing to music on the radio in my dad’s grocery store, and I remember one of the workers said, ‘Man, you’re good! When you grow up, you’re gonna be an exotic dancer!’ He didn’t know what an exotic dancer was, and neither did I.”
How do you see jazz dance changing?
Jazz encompasses so much, from lyrical to boogie-woogie to basic jazz to Broadway-style jazz. The most popular form now is probably contemporary. Everyone wants to do contemporary, even the 6-year-olds. My one concern is they don’t know why they’re doing it. I don’t think kids who lack emotional maturity should be doing it in competition. But in studios across the country they’re all trying to emulate the TV dance shows to some degree.
Teachers say they’re confused about what jazz is and that at competitions, different styles end up in the same category.
Jazz is open-ended. If you’ve got five people, you’ve got five opinions. There’s basic old regular jazz, funky jazz, then all the others. Obviously there is a Broadway-style jazz, but what is the fine line between that and musical theater? It depends on the competition and the way the judges define those genres. I think teachers have to define for themselves what it is and enter their numbers accordingly.
So jazz is connected to popular music, and since the music has changed, the movement has changed.
Jazz has no boundaries. Everybody is still going to dance to “Hit the Road, Jack,” or “R-E-S-P-E-C-T,” and that’s the old kind of jazz stuff. The great thing about jazz is that it’s an amalgamation. It’s a big stew. You throw in anything and stir it up with some good music and that’s jazz.
Is hip-hop jazz?
I said that jazz dance is an American form of dance which comes from the vernacular. It’s the same with hip-hop. It’s picking up on the trends in the music, and that’s street stuff and the kind of jazz I’ve always tried to incorporate. So I guess yes, hip-hop is a derivative of jazz.
Where is jazz going?
I think it’s going to continue just as it is with all kind of variations on the theme. The direction of popular music is what drives it. That’s what has driven it all along, all the way back to the cakewalk and the black bottom to jitterbug and boogie-woogie swing, Caribbean influences, everything. It’s so wonderful and it’s all interconnected.
What was your reaction to receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award at the DanceLife Teacher Conference?
I almost fainted dead away. I had no idea I was getting an award. I was sitting there, enjoying everybody else’s performances, then suddenly it’s all about me, which was just astonishing. I was almost speechless, which I’m usually not. It was great to be honored in such a way by your peers. It can’t get any better than that.
Do you have any advice for studio teachers?
Keep training the kids to the best of your ability and know that we all get frustrated. Teachers say, “I haven’t taught in four years and I want to start again,” and my first reaction is that they should have never stopped. You can slow down; you can change your pace. You don’t have to teach four million classes a week. Teachers have to remember we’re training bodies, minds, and souls, not just bodies to do hop shuffle ball change or boogie-woogie. I always say dance training is life training. I would tell them not to stop—don’t give up.
Any last thoughts?
Anybody who moves to music or without music, if they consider it dancing, I think it’s fabulous. Everybody should be moving all the time. Get out of the damn chair and lift your legs and roll your head and snap your fingers and sway to the music. It’s so important to our lives.
Hot tips and straight talk at the 2011 DanceLife Teacher Conference
For four days in July and August, dozens of master teachers, business experts, inspirational speakers, and entrepreneurs shared their secrets for success with more than 700 attendees at the latest DanceLife Teacher Conference. In describing this year’s conference, perhaps master teacher and professional dancer Derrick Yanford said it best: “It’s all about inspiration.”
Sweating and still breathing hard after teaching a packed-to-the-walls contemporary class, Yanford continued, “Here, we get people together who love what they do, all sharing that artist experience. It’s a powerful thing when you come out of class and people are thanking you, saying ‘I’m going to take this home to my students.’ I know I reached someone and changed their life, and they’ve changed my life, too. I’m getting gifts as well as giving gifts.”
Held in the midst of a heat wave at the five-star Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona, the DLTC kept four ballrooms pumping with lectures, technique classes, and roundtable discussions. Attendees happily spoke of the difficulty of taking it all in. Vendors, from costume companies to competitions, flooring specialists to software sellers, enjoyed an almost-endless stream of visitors who stopped to learn more about their products.
Lessons even spilled out into the hallways, where master ballet teacher Roni Mahler seemed to be constantly surrounded by a small pack of teachers with notebooks in hand, furiously scribbling down her words of wisdom. “Passé is like an elevator on the outside of a building,” she said during a class on ballet for 6- to 8-year-olds. “Don’t lift the knee; lift the toes.”
Over yogurt parfaits and breakfast coffee, studio owners traded advice on how to keep team members in line, where to rent space (cheap), or who had the shortest recital. (At 45 minutes max, Fabulous Talent Center for Dance in Hamilton, Ohio, was the winner.)
The dance talk seemed never-ending. One night at about 11pm, DLTC speaker Misty Lown was relaxing in the resort’s hot tub when she was pounced on by teachers from several studios, eager to pick her brain about customer relations. She happily obliged—for almost an hour.
For the most part, seminar speakers presented strategies and solutions based on their own successful experiences in the dance studio world. At a marketing seminar offered by DLTC producer (and Dance Studio Life publisher) Rhee Gold, the audience packed into the grand ballroom was quiet and attentive, their pens moving quickly as Gold’s voice boomed out over the loudspeakers. “When it comes to marketing, wipe your ego out of it,” he said. In a later business seminar he elaborated on that idea, expressing the importance of “making decisions for your students that aren’t based on what will make you look good.”
Lown, owner and director of Misty’s Dance Unlimited in Onalaska, Wisconsin, described her definition of success “as having significance in your community.” Her “three-legged stool” formula of “people, profits, and positive programs” allows her not only to give away thousands each year in scholarships for students and teachers, but also to contribute to programs such as the American Red Cross that serve the greater community outside her dance studio.
Nancy Stone, vice president of Art Stone Theatrical, has owned and operated a dance studio since 1961. Her recital-theme session was a cornucopia of creative, age-appropriate ideas, including oodles of song titles and ideas to fit all the themes. For a recital with “A Day in the Park” theme, why not do a number about “Horseback Rides $5” to music from Gaîté Parisienne, and while you’re at it, why not walk a live pony across the stage? She once did. “Your show is your calling card, your brand, your image,” she said. “The idea is to always make your show exciting and different, give the audience something to talk about later.”
In one session, certified life coach and former studio owner Sandi Duncan instructed teachers on how to find inner peace and balance in their lives; the next day she answered questions about how to reach troubled kids and dispel negative energy in the classroom. “I like to check in with kids on a regular basis,” she said. “Teens especially need to know they’re being heard. Make eye contact. Let them know you care. Hugs, hugs, hugs, and energy.”
Geo Hubela, hip-hop master teacher and director of the ICONic Boyz, expressed a similar sentiment. Although he advocates challenging kids, it should always be in a positive way. “Encourage, encourage,” he said. That kind of positive approach can rub off on teachers too. “When I feel that I made a kid feel better about himself, it makes my day better.”
Tap teacher Mike Wittmers, teaching a call-and-response method of rhythm training, had an even more succinct take on Hubela’s and Duncan’s emphasis on positivity: “Tears, fail. Smiles, win.”
Master modern teachers Bill Evans and Don Halquist presented a slide show on modern dance pioneers Hanya Holm, Rudolf Laban, Martha Graham, Erick Hawkins, Doris Humphrey, Merce Cunningham, José Limón, and Alvin Ailey, among others. Evans presented poignant encapsulations of each, touching on their unique contributions to the development of modern dance. His lecture was dotted with personal memories of studying with these masters. For example: “Her mere presence onstage was enough to give me goose bumps,” he said of Pearl Primus.
Through a simple port de bras exercise, Evans proved to his seated audience the importance of breath in giving movement weight and meaning, a concept that he expounded on during a modern technique class the next day. “We study quality, a way of moving, not just putting bodies in motion,” he said, pointing out one dancer who, although she was just learning the unfamiliar combination, was “dancing from the heart.”
Halquist used breath to illustrate the feeling of his movement, sighing and brrr-ing his way across the floor. “I love to be gooey and elastic, so I’m not a good tap dancer,” he said. “I need to luxuriate in movement.”
A packed room listened as Beverly and Annie Spell, co-authors of the Leap ’N Learn early childhood dance syllabus, explained the importance of pretend play. They spoke of the various ways it can assist in skills development through the use of songs, words, verbal responses, and visual prompts. When teaching dancers ages 3 to 6, exercising the imagination through creative movement goes hand in hand with learning proper classroom behavior, they said, such as how to enter the studio and how to “sit and stand like a dancer.”
“The feeling you get on the inside from dance is a gift. Pass that gift on, and your students will pass it on, and it will impact more generations than you know.” —Rhee Gold
Longtime studio owners generously shared their business knowledge in seminar after seminar. Paul and Tiffany Henderson of the seven-studio California behemoth Tiffany’s Dance Academy elaborated on the three components they feel have led to their success: a strong “babies” program; a fully invested, full-time teaching staff; and ample outsourcing of business services (which allows teachers to spend time doing what they do best—teaching).[ad#Store]
Author and life coach Laurie Johnson did double duty, first teaching a killer tap class, then zipping into “motivational speaker” mode. Johnson, who left a corporate career to return to the dance world, caught the attendees’ attention with her opening statement: “My mother owned a dance studio for 20 years and never made a profit”—and kept them rapt as she explained that creating a brand is all about being yourself. “From that very first handshake, that first hello, you’re teaching people how to treat you,” she said. “Your brand is what people say about you. So what do you want to be known for?”
The incomparable Joe Tremaine led two high-energy jazz lessons jammed with his signature combos. At the luncheon gala, he and Georgia Deane, of Deane School of Dance in Mendon, Massachusetts, each accepted a Lifetime Achievement Award from Gold. At age 92, Deane happily took to the stage to sing “When You’re Smiling,” complete with an elegant soft shoe.
The four days ended, as the DLTC always does, with a heartfelt goodbye from Gold. He had spent hours of the conference onstage, leading Q&A sessions, sharing business advice, outlining handbook info, or chatting about summer camps. Now as the event came to a close, he urged the attendees to find a memento of the conference to bring home. “Put it on your fridge to remind yourself of the attitude you had when you left here today,” he said.
“The feeling you get on the inside from dance is a gift. Pass that gift on, and your students will pass it on, and it will impact more generations than you know. It’s not about kicking a high battement. Remind yourself of the difference you really are making in the lives of these kids.”
As ballet master teacher Madame Peff Modelski put it, “Everything counts, all the time.”
Karen White, Cheryl A. Ossola, and Arisa White contributed to this article.
Are We Having Fun Yet?
This summer at the DanceLife Teacher Conference I was reminded of a good practice that’s easy to forget: if you want to engage people—in just about anything—make it fun. I can thank Dance Studio Life editorial assistant Arisa White for tuning in to that aspect of human nature since the example I’m talking about was her idea.
At each DanceLife Teacher Conference we hold a seminar about the magazine, usually pegged as a brainstorming session. We like to get people’s input, find out what they like and don’t like about the magazine, and collect their ideas about what would make it better. But in the past we’ve found that people seemed reluctant to talk. Whether they had no ideas or felt intimidated about speaking their minds, I don’t know. But when Arisa and I talked about how to do it this time, she went into creative mode and proposed a no-miss solution. We’d make the session a game, a team version of Family Feud in which we’d challenge the participants to come up with three great ideas for various topics—recitals, competitions, preschool dance, and so on. It’d be fun, and what better way to get a bunch of dance teachers talking than to ask them to outdo each other?
It worked. The room was full of chatter, laughter, and friendly disputes, with people jumping on each other’s ideas and sharing their experiences. Whereas in the past we’d had to deal with painful silences, this time we didn’t have enough time to talk about the flow of ideas. And everyone left with a smile.
So thanks, Arisa, for reminding me that whatever your goal, the approach really matters. After all, in today’s stressed-out world, who doesn’t grab any excuse possible to laugh? —Cheryl Ossola, Editor in Chief
Jazzed About—Well, Jazz
Just wait a minute, teachers lamenting the demise of real jazz—don’t give up yet! Kids think jazz is creaky, uncool, and so last century, you say? I say, “Give them Joe Tremaine!”
We all know Joe, that pied piper of pivot turns who has never grown tired of teaching good old-fashioned jazz dancing. For years he’s been crisscrossing the country, leading workshops jammed with dancers in love with his lindys, and this summer’s DanceLife Teacher Conference was no different.
With an energy that literally burst through the wall, Joe stepped out on the dance floor, showing a trademark combination of strong arms and sultry struts. There was nothing contemporary about it—chassé, kick ball change, chaîné, hit—but the crowd couldn’t get enough. They clapped as they waited to “Cotton Eye Joe” across the floor, laughed as they got caught up in complicated combos. And these dancers were no Studio 54 leftovers, either—many were 20-somethings who have never worn a French-cut leg or fluorescent fringe. Still, they pumped out Cuban hips and sugarfoots, shook their jazz hands, and begged for more.
Watching, I said, “Wow.” Why have so many teachers apparently forgotten what Joe knows so well? Jazz isn’t dead—and it isn’t out of style. It’s clean, dynamic dancing, done in unison to infectious music. It’s stylized steps, kicks and digs, kimbos and camels, cranked out at such a speed it makes your heart race. It’s energy, energy, energy, taught by a teacher who yells over the music and who remembers what it feels like to be 13 and crazy about calypsos.
So, you teachers out there who have written off jazz, take up those opposition arms! Give your students the jazz you loved, and when they stop panting, they’ll thank you. —Karen White, Associate Editor[ad#Store]
Tremaine Dance Conventions recognized Dancing With the Stars judge Carrie Ann Inaba and legendary performer Ann-Margret at its National Gala Show, held Sunday at the Renaissance Orlando at Sea World, Orlando, Florida.
Inaba was on hand to collect the Contribution to Dance Award for her performing, choreography, and Dancing commentary. The gala also honored Ann-Margret as Entertainer of the Year. Tremaine, a Los Angeles-based dance company, was co-founded by choreographer and teacher Joe Tremaine. Inaba discussed the event with the Orlando Sentinel:
What does this award mean to you? It’s a huge honor. Joe Tremaine is someone I look up to. I used to takes lessons from him. It’s a big milestone in my life. The dance community is most important community in my life.
Why is the Tremaine organization so important?
Joe Tremaine owned a studio I trained at in Los Angeles. He has had conventions for 30 years. He takes the cream-of-the-crop teachers from Los Angeles and gives back to smaller dance communities. I have always thought that he was a genius. He helped spread quality dance throughout the United States.
How does it feel to be honored in the same year as Ann-Margret?
I’m truly humbled that my name is on the same program as Ann-Margret. She’s a huge inspiration. What is so beautiful about the way she dances, she’s so effervescent. She embodies the joy of dance. It’s the celebration of life. She’s such an amazing performer as she grows older. That’s something I aspire to. I want to spread the joy of dance. You could see the joy that dance brought her. Usually those who have the effervescence take home the trophy [on Dancing With the Stars].
To read the full interview, visit http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/os-ppl-center-carrie-ann-inaba-20110707,0,7116983.story.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT:
Rhee Gold Company 508.285.6650
COMPETITION ORGANIZER AND JAZZ EXPERT JOE TREMAINE
TO TEACH AT 2011 DANCELIFE TEACHER CONFERENCE
NORTON, MA, March 26, 2011
Joe Tremaine, internationally known as a choreographer, teacher, and producer of dance conventions and competitions, will share his jazz teaching skills with dance teachers from across the United States at this year’s DanceLife Teacher Conference, held at the Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona July 30 through August 2.
Tremaine will lead classes in “Intermediate and Advanced Jazz Warm-Up and Progressions” on July 30 and “Intermediate Jazz Progressions, Jumps, and Turns” on July 31. Veterans of his past sessions at DanceLife Teacher Conferences will know that the pace is high-energy and that there’s no standing on the sidelines at a Joe Tremaine class.
After a performing career that ranged from Las Vegas reviews to television shows, Tremaine opened his Joe Tremaine Dance Center in California. In 1981 he launched Tremaine Dance Conventions and Competitions, which tours about 25 U.S. cities every year, bringing professional choreography and teaching to more than 50,000 dancers.
For more information about the DanceLife Teacher Conference, visit www.dancestudiolife.com/dltc/.
Mark Kanemura, a finalist on So You Think You Can Dance and a tour dancer for Lady Gaga, has joined the Tremaine Dance Convention tour as a guest teacher. A native of Oahu, Hawaii, Kanemura will be guest teacher when Tremaine visits New Orleans, Louisiana, on December 4 and Austin, Texas, on December 11.
Kanemura danced at Toyko DisneySea and choreographed shows for Norwegian Cruise Lines. He trained in Hawaii with 24-7 Danceforce, Mid Pacific School of the Arts, and Hawaii Ballet Theater. Since moving to Los Angeles he’s made appearances on Ellen, worked with Disney and Nickelodeon, and danced for choreographers Kenny Ortega, Travis Payne, Gil Duldalao, Brian Friedman, Tyce Diorio, Laurie Ann Gibson, Tony Testa, Chuck Maldonado, and Michael Rooney.
For other dates and cities on the Tremaine tour, visit www.tremainedance.com or call 800.832.2050.
Bellissimo, born in Buffalo, New York, was one of the 20 finalists on the fifth season of So You Think You Can Dance.
Tremaine Dance has outlined the stops of its 30th-anniversary 2010-2011 tour schedule. The winter tour begins October 30 at the Westin Galleria in Houston, Texas, and ends April 16, 2011, at the Los Angeles Airport Marriott Hotel. Details on this tour and next summer’s stops are available at www.tremainedance.com.
The DanceLife Teacher Conference has announced faculty members and curriculum offerings for its sessions in Scottsdale, Arizona, from July 30 to August 2, 2011.
The conference is produced by Rhee Gold, a well-known motivational speaker, former dance studio owner, and publisher of Dance Studio Life magazine. It was last held in 2009 in Orlando, Florida.
Faculty members booked thus far, in addition to Gold, include Susan Biali, Maureen and Tony Corso, Sandi Duncan, Bill Evans, Ellen Ferreira, Rennie Gold, Melissa Hoffman, Geo Hubela, Laurie Johnson, Kathy Kozul, Misty Lown, Roni Mahler, Hedy Perna, Art Stone, Ashley Stone, Nancy Stone, and Joe Tremaine.
The curriculum promises tips on maximizing studio income; marketing and packaging Mommy & Me programs; concepts for children’s summer camps; and the latest in online marketing.
In addition, technique classes will be offered in ballet, jazz, tap, modern, contemporary, and hip-hop, along with practical advice on working with male students and preschoolers and other teacher concerns.
The conference will be held at Scottsdale’s Phoenician Resort, where attendees will receive a sharply discounted room rate. For registration, call 888-i-dance-9.
“The Big Guns” feature some of the biggest names in the business, including John Crutchman, Brian Foley, Joe Lanteri, Tom Ralabate, Jo Rowan, Gregg Russell, Nancy and Art Stone, and Joe Tremaine. Together they share their inspiring stories of success in a very up-close and personal way. Hear about their mentors, their careers, their philosophies, and more. You’ll be touched by their candor and moved by their words of inspiration. Filmed at the 2009 DanceLife Teacher Conference, this is a unique chance to tap the expertise of some of the brightest minds in the field.
Nigel Lythgoe, the co-creator, producer, and judge of So You Think You Can Dance and former executive producer of American Idol, will receive the Tremaine Entertainer of the Year Award at the Tremaine Dance Conventions & Competitions National Finals Gala in Orlando, Florida, on July 10.
Lythgoe teamed up last year with director Adam Shankman, Dancing with the Stars judge Carrie Ann Inaba and actress Katie Holmes to form the Dizzy Feet Foundation, which provides scholarships to aspiring professional dancers (see “ ‘Dizzy’ Over Dance Education” in the December 2009 “FYI” section of Dance Studio Life).
Also at the gala, the top nine National Final numbers will be performed and one will be chosen as the $5,000 Tremaine Performance of the Year.
The finals will be held July 7-11 at the Renaissance Orlando Hotel at SeaWorld. For more information, visit www.TremaineDance.com.
The legendary Joe Tremaine has had a tremendous impact on today’s dance world as a pro dancer, choreographer, school owner, master teacher, and an entrepreneur producing some of the largest and most respected dance events in the world. Joe shares his wisdom about success, teaching, and the life . . . his frank, inspiring, and often humorous words will move you.
The deadline is March 26 for submissions to Dancin’ Downtown, a performance and choreography competition produced by and benefiting Dancers Responding to AIDS that offers applicants the chance to be seen on the stage of the Joyce Theater in New York.
The competition’s 13 judges—including choreographers Rob Ashford and David Parsons and dance directors Joe Lanteri and Joe Tremaine—will award prizes that include the Joyce Theater Choreography Award, the Joyce Theater Performance Award, and the chance to perform at New York’s Central Park SummerStage.
Submissions can be in any style of dance. Only group pieces requiring from 4 to 15 dancers, all age 24 or younger, can be submitted. For details on the contest, go to http://www.dradance.org/ddatj2010/ddatj2010.html.
Jazz dancing past and present
By Tom Ralabate
Born in America at the beginning of the 20th century, jazz dance melds the spirit of improvisation with the discipline of applied technique in a style that constantly redefines and reinvents itself. Jazz dance is seen on stages and in movies, on streets and in clubs; it is taught in dance studios and researched at universities. Its history engages both the past and present in a uniquely American way.
The history of jazz dance is an expansive subject, and following a time line encompassing four fluid periods makes it easier to grasp. Though this article highlights only key figures and events within each period, jazz dance’s rich history includes many more notable figures and details.
Pre-history and roots (before 1900)
In the early 1500s, as slavery forced Africans out of their homes, and their sophisticated culture of music and dance, to settle in the West Indies and the Americas, the resulting blend of African and European traditions gave birth to American jazz dance. Though dancing and drums were banned, African slaves found outlets to express their feelings through music and dance in daily life. The stamping and shuffling of bare feet, the clapping and patting of hands against the body, the improvisational celebration of movement and vocalization, the banjo, fiddle, and musical pipes—all were ways to maintain their identity.
The chanting, drumming, and dancing of the slaves mixed in the plantation setting with their white owners’ traditional, European-inspired dances to form what historian Marshall Stearns calls “vernacular” dance. These shared dances and culture led to stereotyping of African dancing by white performers, who blackened their faces and imitated their steps in an exaggerated manner.
In 1789, John Durang emerged as one of America’s first noted professional white dancer/actors, the predecessor of white dancers in blackface who popularized minstrel shows some 30 years later. At the same time, slaves began to satirize the dances of their white masters with dances such as the cakewalk, a high-strutting competition dance in which they mimicked Southern aristocratic manners.
Later, in New Orleans in the early 1800s, African dance thrived without outside influences; the French and Spanish Catholics who occupied this area allowed slaves to drum and perform their traditional dances during their leisure time.
Before the Civil War, white dancers monopolized the professional entertainment scene. It was the talents of William Henry Lane, a freeborn slave known as “Master Juba” and considered at that time the best dancer in the world, that catapulted black American vernacular dance to popularity by combining Irish jig–type movements and African polyrhythms.
From 1845 to 1900, minstrel shows were the most popular form of American entertainment. They popularized tap forms of the buck and wing, jig, clog, and soft shoe, along with vernacular jazz dances such as the cakewalk, but they also portrayed blacks in stereotypical and denigrating ways. Around 1900 variety entertainment became big business through the vaudeville circuit, and minstrel shows and such offshoots as medicine shows, gillies, carnivals, tent shows, and circuses became fixtures across America.
Early vernacular dance (1900–1940)
The next major change in American jazz dance came when “America went dance mad,” as noted by musicologist Sigmund Spaeth. With the popularity of ragtime music (from the 1890s until about 1920), hundreds of new dances flooded American ballrooms. Animal dances such as the grizzly bear, monkey glide, kangaroo dip, and turkey trot, at first popularized by Vernon and Irene Castle (who later rejected them as inelegant) were all the rage.
Early musicals brought social dances into the realm of entertainment. In 1913 Darktown Follies opened in Harlem, intertwining the plot with flashy dance steps. And in 1921, Shuffle Along exploded onto Broadway with the Charleston, a tap-and-jazz blend of movement, and a 16-girl chorus line. Anchored at the end of the line was the instantly popular Josephine Baker.
In the late 1920s, swing music allowed social dancers to experiment with movement, both in partner and solo forms. By 1936 the Lindy hop (later called the jitterbug), had become a recognized part of the American dance scene. The creative expressiveness of the Lindy allowed partner challenges and personal styles (like that of George Snowden) to come to the forefront and gave theatrical choreographers a wealth of new dance material. Its movement style and specific patterns gave teachers much to build on in early jazz classes. And the Savoy Ballroom–based White’s Lindy Hoppers changed the face of American movies with their acrobatic dancing.
Just as jazz music and jazz dance were evolving along parallel lines, so was the Broadway musical, in which movement and story eventually became integrated. Modern dancer/choreographers Helen Tamiris and Hanya Holm, who crossed over into musical theater, influenced jazz dance with their demands for better-trained dancers. George Balanchine, the co-founder and director of New York City Ballet, integrated jazz movement with ballet in his work on Broadway musicals, including On Your Toes (1936), of which the “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue” portion is now a discrete ballet in NYCB’s repertory. In 1943, ballet choreographer Agnes de Mille added an extended ballet in Oklahoma!, creating the musical dance-drama form. Balanchine’s and de Mille’s blending of ballet with jazz movement paved the way for choreographers such as Katherine Dunham, Jerome Robbins, and Jack Cole, whose personal signatures influenced the next period of jazz dance’s evolution.
Fusion styles (1940–1970)
Katherine Dunham, schooled in anthropology, blended ethnic dance forms from Africa and the West Indies with theatrical dance. Jerome Robbins combined his ballet background with theatrical and social forms to create West Side Story (1957), popularizing this blended jazz dance style in theatrical entertainment. In 1954 Bob Fosse choreographed his first musical, The Pajama Game, following it with three decades of Broadway and motion picture successes. His distinct style, characterized by use of the pelvis, rounded shoulders, and arm and hand isolations, is considered a classic theatrical jazz form. Choreographers Daniel Nagrin and Alvin Ailey fused jazz dance elements with modern dance, giving a new dimension to modern jazz works.
However, it was Jack Cole who left an indelible mark. Known as the “father of theatrical jazz dance,” he borrowed from modern dance (Humphrey-Weidman), ballet (Cecchetti), bharata natyam (a style of Indian dance), African and Caribbean dances and rhythms, and other world forms to create a new jazz hybrid. His style utilized African movements, such as deep pliés with explosive hip movements; East Indian isolations; the rhythm and syncopation of swing; athletic and acrobatic movements; and intricate floor work. The influence of his style, though redefined, is visible in current jazz choreography.
Cole, who never received star recognition, did not establish a codified technique, but the dance classes he gave to fellow film professionals such as Gwen Verdon, Carol Haney, and Rod Alexander helped to perpetuate his style.
In the mid-1950s, Matt Mattox, a protégé of Cole, began to teach jazz classes in New York, using the structure of a ballet class as a model. He codified movements that he learned from Cole, and his work evolved to emphasize an understanding of isolating the body with a keen sense of coordination. He used the word “freestyle” to describe his jazz style because it allows one to make both creative movement and stylistic choices.
Also emerging at this time was dancer Eugene Facciuto, known as Luigi (a nickname given to him by Gene Kelly). After a serious car accident left him paralyzed on his right side, Luigi designed a series of exercises and port de bras to rehabilitate his body. Incorporating the foundations of ballet with lyricism, his style reflects the harmonious aesthetics of movement and music. Today, Luigi’s oppositional rib stretch can be seen in a redefined manner in most center floor jazz warm-ups.
Two other prime movers in the development of jazz dance in the 1950s and 1960s were Ruth Walton and Gus Giordano. Both were influenced by modern dance techniques, Walton by Martha Graham and Giordano by Hanya Holm and Alwin Nikolais. Walton and Giordano made significant contributions to the evolution of jazz-class structure and in standardizing terminology for jazz dance education. Giordano, the founder of Jazz Dance World Congress and one of the 20th century’s strongest advocates for jazz dance, worked tirelessly to elevate the perception of jazz dance from entertainment to a respected art form.
With the advent of rock ’n’ roll in the 1950s and the English invasion and Motown sound of the 1960s, new social dances such as the twist, pony, and monkey emerged on TV. On Broadway, jazz dance took a step forward through the talents of Ron Field as seen in his smash hit Cabaret. The 1970s ushered in the disco era, and as line dances became the vogue, dance schools incorporated these fad movements into jazz classes.
In 1975 Lee Theodore formed American Dance Machine, a dance company devoted to preserving Broadway choreography (and thus vernacular jazz movement). Also at this time, resident Las Vegas choreographer Ron Lewis created a high-energy look for club acts that mixed African and street movements with isolations. Popularizing his technique were two extraordinary jazz teacher/stylists, Ann Marie Garvin on the West Coast and Betsy Haug on the East Coast.
New hybrids (1980–present)
Along with the technological advances of the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s, the world witnessed the movement phenomena of hip-hop, music dance videos, and reality TV dance shows. In the 1980s, the early hip-hop choreography of Michael Peters (“Beat It”) highlighted the King of Pop, Michael Jackson. Hip-hop escaped its 1970s ghetto roots and hit mainstream America as a dance trend in the early ’80s.
“Hip-hop” is an umbrella term for a wide range of movement and music styles that originated in urban centers on both coasts. Key figures include Afrika Bambaataa, the “godfather of hip-hop”; Don Campbell, who invented locking; Sam Solomon, who invented the boogaloo; Timothy (Popin’ Pete) Solomon, who invented popping (which led to robotics, strobing, dime-stopping, waving, liquid, and tutting); and Rennie Harris, who took hip-hop onto the concert stage.
Today’s dance studios often offer classes that blend hip-hop with ballet, tap, jazz, ballroom, contemporary dance, and gymnastics. The TV show So You Think You Can Dance, along with YouTube, has showcased these “new style” hybrid dances, making this style of dance accessible to all.
Among the choreographers who have influenced Broadway theatrical jazz dance are Susan Stroman, Rob Marshall, Graciela Danielle, Bill T. Jones, Garth Fagan, Jerry Mitchell, and Wayne Cilento.
Jazz Dance Time Line
This partial list of innovators in jazz dance reflects the four fluid periods of jazz dance history in commercial theater, film, television, dance videos, concert dance, and dance education. Although some artists’ contributions and influence expand over several decades, they are listed in the decade during which their contributions emerged.
John Durang (1768–1822): the first professional American dancer, made famous by his hornpipe dance. In 1789 he appeared in blackface, popularizing the minstrel shows.
William Henry Lane, aka “Master Juba” (1825–1852): one of the first black performers to tour with white minstrels and play to white audiences.
Thomas Dartmouth “Daddy” Rice (1808–1860): a blackface performer, credited with a step called “jumping Jim Crow,” similar to trucking of the late 1930s. Called the “father of American minstrelsy.”
Whitman Sisters: considered the royalty of black vaudeville entertainment from 1900 to 1943. Introduced the cakewalk in 1908.
Joe Frisco (1889–1958): a vaudeville star of the 1920s and 1930s; billed himself as the first jazz dancer. His trademark step was Off to Buffalo. He wore a derby hat and danced with a cigar in his mouth.
Vernon (1887–1918) and Irene Castle (1893–1969): popularized ballroom dances, including ragtime dances such as the turkey trot and grizzly bear.
George “Shorty” Snowden (~1904–1982): popularized the Lindy hop and breakaway moves (e.g., Shorty George, camel walks, Suzie Q, boogie-woogie) at Harlem’s Savoy Ballroom.
Fred Astaire (1899–1987): Academy Award–winning icon of movie musicals whose signature style (which he called “outlaw style”) of musical theater dance blended ballet, tap, and ballroom. His career in vaudeville, stage, and film lasted 76 years. Credits include Top Hat, Shall We Dance, The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle.
Jerome Robbins (1918–1998): Academy Award–winning film director and choreographer; co-artistic director of New York City Ballet. He had an expansive career in classical ballet, contemporary and musical theater dance. Credits include The King and I, West Side Story, Gypsy, Fiddler on the Roof.
Katherine Dunham (1909–2006): American dancer and choreographer who blended African tribal movements with modern dance. Credits include Carnival of Rhythm, Stormy Weather. Former student: Talley Beatty.
Jack Cole (1911–1974): the “father of jazz dance.” His style blended ballet, modern dance, and world dance forms. Credits include the film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Broadway’s Man of La Mancha.
The Nicholas Brothers, Fayard (1914–2006) and Harold (1921–2000): Dance team of stage, screen, and TV. Their act combined early vernacular jazz movements, tap, and athletic innovations.
Matt Mattox (1921–): disciple of Jack Cole. His technique emphasizes the coordination of multiple body parts with polyrhythmic music. Former students include Bob Boross, Nat Horne, Charles Kelley, Graciela Daniele, Frank Pietri, Margo Sappington, Alan Johnson.
Michael Kidd (1915–2007): award-winning film and stage choreographer noted for his high-energy, athletic choreography. Credits include Guys and Dolls, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.
Gene Kelly (1912–1996): award-winning dance film icon. His career extended over six decades. Credits include An American in Paris, Singin’ in the Rain, On the Town.
Gus Giordano (1923–2008): jazz dance innovator and founder of Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago and Jazz Dance World Congress, dedicated to establishing jazz dance as an art form. Developed a codified technique and style. Former students include Marcus Alford, Lea Darwin, Nan Giordano, Pattie Obey, Sam Watson, Michael Williams, and Susan Quinn Williams.
Daniel Nagrin (1917–): modern dancer and choreographer who incorporated jazz into his modern works. Credits include Jazz, Three Ways.
Peter Gennaro (1919–2000): Tony Award-winning choreographer who shaped the style of jazz dance on TV variety shows through the 1960s. Credits include Your Hit Parade, The Judy Garland Show, The Ed Sullivan Show.
Alvin Ailey (1931–1989): modern dancer, choreographer, and director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Credits include Revelations.
Donald McKayle (1930–): modern dancer, choreographer, and master teacher. He broke racial barriers and made contributions to film, TV, and commercial theater. Credits include Golden Boy, Raisin, Sophisticated Ladies.
Bob Fosse (1927–1987): award-winning choreographer and director who created a personal style for dance on Broadway and in film that is studied by theater-dance professionals worldwide. Credits include Pippin, Chicago, and Dancin’.
Chuck Kelley: an internationally acclaimed “teacher’s teacher” who has produced syllabuses and instructional CDs in jazz, tap, and acrobatics/tumbling. His former students work in every sector of the entertainment industry.
Phil Black: modern jazz-based teacher and choreographer who designed a class structure for Broadway dancers, teachers, and students of jazz. Former students include Greg Burge, Irene Cara, Charlotte d’Amboise, Eddie Mekka.
Ed Mock (1938–1986): jazz dancer and choreographer; founded Ed Mock Dance Studio, West Coast Dance Company, and Ed Mock Dancers. He fused modern, jazz, acting, and mime into an improvisational and kinetic style. Former students include contemporary jazz teacher Cecilia Marta.
Beverly Fletcher (1929–): master teacher and founder of AM-Dance in Concert, dedicated to preserving American dance idioms. Her tap dictionary, Tapworks, standardized tap and jazz terminology. Former students include Michael Bennett, David DeMarie, Sam Fiorella.
Michael Bennett (1943–1987): Tony Award–winning musical theater director, choreographer, writer, and dancer. Credits include Follies, A Chorus Line, Dreamgirls.
Ron Lewis: choreographer who shaped the dance entertainment style in Las Vegas during the 1970s and 1980s by working with headliners like Liza Minnelli. Credits include the Tony Awards, The Act.
Lee Theodore (1933–1987): Broadway performer, choreographer, and master teacher; founded American Dance Machine, devoted to preserving Broadway choreography.
Joe Tremaine: performer, master teacher of West Coast style of jazz, and dance convention director. Former students include Paula Abdul, Marcea Lane, Barry Lather, Marguerite Derricks.
JoJo Smith (1938–): dancer, choreographer and teacher whose unique African-Caribbean style became popularized at JoJo’s Dance Factory in NYC in the 1970s and 1980s. Father of tap sensation Jason Samuels Smith, and a key influence on his former student, Debbie Allen, choreographer of TV’s Fame.
Lou Conte: founder of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. He partnered with internationally acclaimed choreographers to create a force in contemporary dance.
Frank Hatchett: master teacher and choreographer, created the VOP jazz style. Former students include Savion Glover, Madonna, Brooke Shields.
Twyla Tharp (1941–): award-winning dancer and choreographer recognized for her reinvention of the modern dance style in concert and commercial settings. Credits include Movin’ Out, Deuce Coupe.
Lynn Simonson (1943–): master teacher and founder of the Simonson Technique, inspired by jazz music and based on principles of anatomy and kinesiology (see “Letting the Joy In,” page 76).
Brian Friedman (1977–): choreographer for such recording stars as Mýa and Britney Spears. Video credits include “My Love Is Like . . .Wo.”
Mia Michaels: award-winning contemporary dance choreographer for concert and commercial venues. Credits include Celine Dion’s A New Day, Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal, Joffrey Ballet.
Rennie Harris (1963–): director, choreographer, and master of hip-hop in concert dance. Artistic director of Rennie Harris Puremovement.
Danny Buraczeski: founded JAZZDANCE, a force in contemporary concert dance for 25 years, blending early vernacular forms with contemporary styles.
Susan Stroman (1954–): Tony Award–winning director and choreographer. Credits include Crazy for You, Contact, The Producers.
Randy Duncan: Chicago-based contemporary dance choreographer and master teacher. Credits include Joffrey Ballet and River North Chicago Dance Company.
Garth Fagan (1940–): Tony Award–winning modern dancer and choreographer; blends modern, ballet, and African-Caribbean traditions in concert and commercial works. Artistic director of Garth Fagan Dance. Credits include The Lion King.
Billy Siegenfeld: Emmy Award–winning choreographer and director of Jump Rhythm Jazz Project. One of the greatest innovators of jazz technique in the 20th century.
Notes on the 2008 DanceLife Teacher Conference
By Cheryl Ossola
An energetic vibe filled the air at the DanceLife Teacher Conference last August, with 585 attendees (mostly dance teachers, with a smattering of spouses and office managers) from the United States, Canada, Italy, and Mexico enjoying the luxe accommodations of The Phoenician in Scottsdale, AZ. Smiling faces were everywhere, along with a visible determination to make the most of the dozens of technique classes, business seminars, brainstorming sessions, and practical how-tos offered in four packed days.
Everywhere I turned I met friendly people with fascinating stories, gung-ho attitudes, and tons of great teaching and business ideas. My fly-on-the-wall perspective (I was there to observe, schmooze, and ferret out story ideas for Dance Studio Life), revealed that dance teachers, or at least this bunch, are savvy, smart, eager to learn, and willing to help others by sharing their experiences.
The conference began with an inspirational speech by Rhee Gold, whose evangelistic fervor guaranteed that no slumbering souls missed out on his “sermon.” Attentive listeners filled every chair, many of them smiling and nodding as Gold’s welcoming message boomed out, at times interrupted by a feedback problem that sounded like an amplification of his pounding heartbeat. As the revved-up crowd surged by me en route to the first classes, I tagged along to sample as many as I could. Here’s a taste of what I encountered in my travels from room to room.
In the business and motivational seminars, people were as eager to talk as they were to listen, keeping the handheld mic runners hopping. That hyped-up level of enthusiasm permeated every class and discussion. One particularly lively seminar, called “Income: What a Good Idea,” generated dozens of moneymaking ideas as one attendee after another took the mic. School owners reported positive responses to such activities as Princess Camps for 4- to 10-year-olds, group guitar lessons for boys, renting space to a Pilates teacher, badge-fulfillment workshops for Girl Scout groups, themed tea parties, and birthday parties. How to choose? The creative thinking going on in that room was impressive—and infectious!
People left Hedy Perna’s packed seminar on props gushing about her creativity. Exclamations of “Wow!” and “Whoa!” peppered the air as slides of her homemade library set and stage-wide airplane filled huge projection screens. Perna has an obvious new career path as a prop-and-set consultant waiting for her when she’s had enough of school ownership.
During a lecture/demo on teaching preschool classes, attendees crowded around RoseMarie Boyden and her arsenal of props, and no one hesitated to play a 3-year-old when she asked for volunteers to be the “leaves” on her “oak tree.”
Joe Tremaine, always the entertainer, delivered practical advice combined with dry wit in his talk on teaching and choreographing for boys. I particularly liked his solution for guys with “funny hands”: Tape Popsicle sticks to their fingers until their bad habits are history.
Brian Foley filled his class on using class plans with great advice and common sense. Class plans are “for the future,” he said. “We teach for the future; work hard when they’re young and you’ll work less hard when they’re teens.” Putting thought into class structure pays off in more ways than one, since structure gives teachers the freedom to be creative. “There are no boring steps,” declared Foley, “only boring teachers.”
The technique classes were filled to capacity, with teachers crowding the portable floors and spilling over onto the surrounding carpet. Most participants approached the classes in one of three ways: by jumping in and dancing full-out; by marking the movement and then grabbing a notepad to jot down reminders and key points; by listening from behind video cameras, or pushing the “record” button and then joining in the class. Then there were those multitaskers who set up their video cameras in a lecture or discussion group and went to another room to take class.
In Tremaine’s high-energy jazz class, everyone from fresh young things to veteran teachers was working it out (and working off those pastries from the generous breakfast buffet). Diane Gudat’s humor and verve spiced up her tap class—her constant patter was as fun as her combinations. Laughter also filled Avi Miller and Ofer Ben’s classes on paddles and rolls and rhythm tap. With their vaudeville-style humor, they entertained as much as they taught—but underneath their smiles and jokes lies a serious approach to technique.
In Tremaine’s high-energy jazz class, everyone from fresh young things to veteran teachers was working it out (and working off those pastries from the generous breakfast buffet).
No slackers were tolerated in Gregg Russell’s hip-hop class: “I don’t start till you start, so get going,” he shouted, flashing that huge smile of his. “Like I tell my teens, this is not optional!” He ended his “Urban Tap” class with a killer shuffle scuff hop-and-click double-heel combo, laughing that “we look like Irish dancers on Red Bull!” Camaraderie was the name of the game in Russell’s “Husband Hip-Hop” class. The group of about 18 guys in baggy shorts and sneakers yelled and clapped for each other, laughed at their own mistakes, and cheerfully singled out the class champ. They never even missed a beat when I violated the “no women allowed” policy to peek in on the class.
In her intermediate/advanced ballet class, Jo Rowan made her personal flair a statement by costuming herself all in in red, topped with a turban-like head wrap. She showed me the sword she planned to use as a prop—clearly, this was not your average ballet class. People were scattered around the room, sprawled on the floor intently taking notes or using the backs of chairs as barres. These folks were serious. Margarita de Saá’s sweetness and love of ballet permeated her classes on teaching adult students and choreography/variations. Whether sitting quietly or taking class, the attendees hung on the words of this soft-spoken teacher. “I walk to work every day excited to teach,” de Saá said. “There is drama every day—you never know what you’ll encounter.” Heads nodded in agreement.
Finis Jhung’s popular ballet classes were filled with his on-the-money explanations and observations, like “Every leg needs a shoulder,” and (as he urged people to relax in a turn preparation) “Turns have no emotion; they’re very rational. Jumps have emotion.” My favorite: “Ballet is very simple—you either stand up or fall down.”
Joe Lanteri urged participants in his jazz and lyrical classes to give it their all—“This is for you!”—and offered as many words of wisdom as steps. The ballet foundation behind his style is obvious, and he drives that point home during class. “Technique comes from ballet class, not Wal-Mart, not Macy’s,” he said as he finessed a move. Later he cautioned the dancers to turn, not spin: “This is not the Tasmanian School of Turning.” Encouraging them to combine portions of combinations in infinitely variable ways, he emphasized the importance of including variety in class: “Wake ’em up; shake ’em up,” he said.
I was surprised at the amount of interest in the ballroom classes, taught by Art Stone—perhaps a welcome result of the popularity of TV’s Dancing With the Stars. Regardless of the reason, though, both sessions of “Ballroom Blitz” were overflowing, and the couples (most female/female due to the few men in attendance) were having an absolute blast. Enthusiasm was high as hips swiveled to a disco/Latin beat, and I saw more than a little improvising going on.
Outside of the classes, people never stopped talking. They shared ideas, made new friends, set up rendezvous times for poolside chats, and found new reasons to go on teaching. I chatted with one teacher who said she came to the conference ready to sell her school—but instead, she’s more fired up to keep going than ever. At least one brand-new school owner was there to soak up ideas and wisdom before opening her doors for the first time in September. When the attendees weren’t talking shop, they did some serious shopping at the 44 vendors’ booths, nabbed faculty members after class for photos (all of them with ear-to-ear grins), or enjoyed the resort’s five-star pampering.
Out of four long, intense days, here’s what stuck with me most: teachers connecting with teachers. One woman told me how frustrated she is with the social isolation in her community, where local dance teachers treat each other like competitors instead of colleagues. Others, who live in small towns in remote areas, experience the same kind of isolation for geographical reasons. But when dance teachers band together with a feeling of community, they find mentors and soul mates who can help them feel connected. And that, to me, is one of the conference’s most valuable benefits: networking. Teachers have so much to learn from one another.
Convention teacher, choreographer, dancer, designer—Desiree Robbins does it all
By Nancy Wozny
There’s no single way to make a go of a life in dance. But too often, young dancers limit themselves and thus their options. Not so for Desiree Robbins of Tremaine Dance Conventions, who set out to make a living in the dance field at an early age. She carved out her unique path by getting an early start, paying attention to the professionals around her, and developing the skills needed to diversify her income. Robbins’ story shows that equal measures of creativity, perseverance, and determination can make just about anything possible.
Today Robbins, 37, divides her time between directing the Tremaine National Teen Performing Company, teaching in studios nationwide, working with dance teams, and designing DezWear, a line of dancewear. It’s not a life for anyone who is less than mega-organized. Her career trajectory reveals that she had concerns early on about sustaining herself through dance alone. But with the freedom and confidence that a stable career offers, she has also taken an interest in mentoring young dancers.
Robbins’ own mentor, Joe Tremaine, saw the young dancer’s potential “from day one,” he says. “Her eagerness and ability to soak it all up—she’s one smart cookie and I saw that right off the bat. She was always listening and paying attention. I knew she would have a good future in dance.”
Robbins’ dance story started when she was 9 and a student at Lynn Vogen’s dance studio in Costa Mesa, CA. Vogen, a former swing dance champion, made sure that her students were adept at partnering. “I learned a lot from her, especially about all kinds of partnering, which came in very handy later in my career. The studio was small, so we would go outside to practice our lifts,” says Robbins. “I was lucky to have a teacher who really cared about technique—but she also knew her limits.”
At the tender age of 12, Robbins spent weekends on the road with Tremaine Conventions, working as a demonstrator for Marcea Lane-Maglia, whom she had met when she was 10, at her first convention. When Lane-Maglia began to teach at Vogen’s studio, she noticed Robbins’ steady growth and invited her to be her demonstrator. The young dancer found a home there, a place where everyone worked toward the same goal.
Robbins’ early taste of convention life shaped the rest of her career. “I just ate it up—everybody learning together. It was so energizing,” she says. “I was hooked.” She also began her studies with Joe Tremaine—but on the road, since she was too young to take classes at his studio, Joe Tremaine Dance Center, in the Moro Landis building, commonly known as the center of the Los Angeles dance universe. When Robbins turned 14, Tremaine made an exception to the age requirement of 16 and allowed her to take classes.
Robbins came from a sports-oriented family, so she played basketball and ran track. But by high school, she says, “all I wanted to do was dance.” She took early-morning classes at school so that she could leave early enough to make it to Tremaine’s classes. “I knew I had to keep my grades up. It was important to Joe and my family [that I] have all my schoolwork done.”
As a teen, on weekends Robbins traveled to private studios with Lane-Maglia to assist her teaching, paying attention to every detail of the job. “I knew then that I wanted to do what she was doing some day, so I watched her like a hawk,” she recalls. “Especially the business part.” Robbins started teaching at a local school at age 15, before she could even drive.
Robbins remained with Tremaine’s company with the exception of a two-year period when, at 18, she dabbled in having a performing company of her own. “I did a lot of freelance teaching and corporate gigs,” she says. Although being on her own provided her with business and decision-making skills, she missed the convention life. So when Tremaine invited her, at age 20, to be his assistant, she began her life as an official convention teacher. The job came with free classes—an offer she could not refuse. “The opportunity was so great that I didn’t want to miss the chance to grow,” Robbins says. “I had to pick one or the other; it would have been too much to keep it all going.” She also realized that she would be doing more of what she loved—teaching and dancing—and less administrative work.
The young teacher took to convention teaching seamlessly. After years of being a demonstrator, she discovered that it wasn’t that different to be the one giving the orders. “I had already learned a lot about controlling the room from having been around the convention scene for so long,” says Robbins. She started with the junior and senior room and now teaches all levels of students, plus the teachers. “I love all the rooms for different reasons; I get to be a different person in each one,” she says. She describes her forte as “looking at a dancer and being able to take apart what they are doing.”
The teen room is the toughest, according to Robbins, and it’s where she’s most likely to find a mixed technical level, which is part of the convention landscape. “That’s a quirky age [group]—kids that have danced 20 hours a week are in the same room as one-day-a-weekers. I have to be careful not to alienate my recreational dancers and still keep my serious dancers excited,” Robbins says. Her goal is to keep both levels engaged in a way that doesn’t divide the group. “I always start class with something simple across the floor, so they can get an idea of who I am. I give lots of options as the class continues, with added leaps and turns, and ways to keep the advanced students challenged.” Convention kids are used to mixed-level classes, so Robbins’ approach works well.
With young dancers Robbins notices that the pervasive problem is not a lack of technique; what’s missing is style. “Salsa is a great way to work on that,” she says. “The [kids] start to get grounded and connected to their feet, legs, and the floor, and not so worried about technique and how they look,” she says. “They find their style by finding their groove, and it works for all levels.”
With her increased exposure to kids of all ages and abilities, Robbins began to notice the growing need for guidance for the top students. “There was a group of kids that followed us from city to city. Parents didn’t know what to do with their advanced children who didn’t want to go to college,” says Robbins. “They weren’t ready to head to Los Angeles. There seemed to be a void for students who weren’t college dance-major types or ready to go professional.”
Robbins’ early taste of convention life shaped the rest of her career. ‘I just ate it up—everybody learning together. It was so energizing,’ she says. ‘I was hooked.’
She also noticed that those students needed to spend more time around dancers at their level. So the entrepreneurial young teacher formulated a plan for a teen company that would perform in several cities a year and get free convention tuition plus career guidance. “We had all these people coming already,” Robbins says. “The program just needed to be organized.”
She took her plan to Tremaine, who says, “I was all for it right away—a perfect idea, and she was just the person to make it happen.” After a year of planning, in 2004 Robbins assumed the role of national director of the Tremaine National Teen Performing Company. “She teaches, nurtures, and grooms these young people to handle all aspects of being a dancer. She’s such a taskmaster, and the kids really respond to her,” says Tremaine. “The kids get a good experience of what it’s like in the professional world. She seems to have boundless energy.”
For 2007–08, the Teen Performing Company includes 80 students ranging in age from 12 to 21 (the average age is 15). Roughly one-quarter of them are in the company; the rest are apprentices. Most students stay in the program for a year, but they can stay longer. Regardless of their status, all of the students perform in the concluding shows at the Tremaine conventions. Company members are required to travel to six cities a year and apprentices to four. The show is choreographed at the beginning of the season and stays relatively the same throughout the year. Everybody learns all 10 numbers and most of the parts. They are also required to help with the door or dressing rooms. “It keeps them humble and makes them feel like they’re part of the whole operation,” Robbins says.
For Robbins, the career-advice aspect of the program is the most rewarding. “There’s a morning meeting where [my assistant and I] cover career info, but we are available the whole weekend,” she says. “I want the career part of dance to be part of the program’s center.” For Robbins, mentorship is not “about telling someone to do this or that, but to listen and be available,” she says. “I can’t make their choices [for them]. But I can tell them what’s out there. For some, college is the best choice; a few can go straight to L.A. or New York.”
Following in Tremaine’s footsteps, Robbins began doing some mentoring of her own. Ashley Silva, now 26, began traveling with Tremaine Conventions as Robbins’ assistant when she was 10 years old. “Desiree paved the way for my dance career,” says Silva. “She is always honest, sometimes brutally honest, which makes her the amazing person that she is. I think that is an extremely important quality today, because everything seems to be sugarcoated. Kids need to know that they have to work hard to become great and succeed in whatever they do. Dez has taught me this and I’m sure has inspired many others in the same way.”
In 2003, after spending some time in Japan, Silva rejoined Robbins, assisting her in master classes she teaches at private studios. “Desiree’s drive and passion are what encourage dancers to push forward,” says Silva. “She is willing to go above and beyond when she trains young dancers, and it produces technical, determined, and appreciative dancers.”
In addition to her life on the Tremaine trail, Robbins teaches and choreographs independently at studios across the United States; this year she will also venture to Costa Rica and Australia. Teaching in studios keeps her in touch with what’s happening at the ground level and gives her a break from the convention crowd.
Sharon Butler, owner of West Side Performing Arts in Madison, WI, watched Robbins grow on the convention circuit and then invited her to be a guest artist at her studio several times. “She always teaches exciting classes and is a great motivator,” says Butler. “It’s great to have an L.A. choreographer at the studio.”
Another component of Robbins’ career is working with dance teams at the college and professional levels. “When I was in high school, dance teams were not very good,” Robbins says. “That has changed, and the technical level just keeps getting better.” She has been working with the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders for 10 years, cleaning up their routines, giving critiques, and teaching challenging classes two to three times a year. “Now that they have their Country Music Television [reality] show, Making the Team, they have been getting good studio dancers,” Robbins says.
Robbins also works with the Kings Royal Court Dancers (the dance team for the Sacramento Kings basketball team), plus several college teams, including the Universities of Illinois, Alabama, and Wisconsin. Under her guidance, both the University of Wisconsin’s Panther Dance Team and the University of Illinois’ Illini Dance Team jumped from rankings in the teens to the top 10 in the National College Dance Team Championships. “We brought Desiree in for our first bid for nationals. We knew we needed a dynamic routine that would showcase the team’s strengths, and that’s exactly what we got with Desiree,” says Sarah Zeisser, Wisconsin’s former coach. “Her choreography is innovative and exciting, and her style was exactly what we needed in our breakthrough year.”
To succeed in her multifaceted career, Robbins has had to develop organizational skills that rival her abilities as a dancer, teacher, and choreographer. She does all of her own scheduling, which she has down to a science. Tremaine weekends are set far in advance so that she can arrange other jobs, including some occasional commercial work, around her travel schedule. Some recent commercial projects include choreographing for a tribute to Mary Tyler Moore, for the Michael Awards, and for recording artists Nicky Barot and Liane Valenzuela.
Because she still performs in the Tremaine show, Robbins must keep up with her own training. In her book, if you are onstage you need to be in class. “Being around the kids keeps me young,” she says. “I get so much energy from our company.”
With her varied career, you might call Robbins an overachiever—but there’s more. She has designed a line of dancewear, DezWear, that she sells at Tremaine conventions. And the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders and Kings Royal Court Dancers sport Robbins’ casual designs as well as her choreography. “I try to keep my collection on a small and doable scale,” she says with a note of weariness in her voice. “It’s the basics, mostly class wear.”
Robbins has made her career work with her personal life. She and her musician husband of six years, Michael Binikos, “are both gypsies,” Robbins says. “He goes with me to the cities he likes.” She feels fortunate to be making a living in the dance industry. When this dance dynamo was in her teens, her father had wondered how she could make a living dancing. But a few years back he told her, “You are so blessed to be able to do what you love.”
Dance teachers share their great ideas for the classroom and the office
Too often we hear about the competition between dance teachers or school owners. But with all the great ideas out there, we’d all be better off (and so would our students) if we shared our collective wisdom instead of keeping it to ourselves. Take advantage of your fellow teachers’ generosity in sharing these successful practices—you just might find that a few of them fit you and your school perfectly.
Communication and Awareness
“Bring Your Dad to Dance” Week
All students are invited to bring their dads (or uncles, brothers, grandpas—it just has to be a male so that the other dads aren’t embarrassed to be there) to class with them. The dads do part of the class with us (warm-up and stretching), observe what their students are working on, and then learn a daddy/student dance. The students love showing their dads what they do and sharing this aspect of their lives with them. I knew the students would love it, but what surprised me is how much the dads do. I always get so many positive responses after class and have received countless cards, letter, and emails thanking me for allowing them to be involved in their children’s lives this way.
This is our third year for this program, and it has become my favorite week of the year. It is a great tool to educate dads about our program. Many times it is just the moms who come to parent visitation week. Even though the dads are involved in the decision about whether their children should continue their dance education, most of them have little information; they have little idea of what goes on in class and often just see all the checks written to the studio. —Angela Schneider, Encore School of Dance and Gymnastics, Aurora, NE
Parent conferences and progress reports
I have done parent conferences ever since I opened my school six years ago. I was an elementary school teacher before I opened my dance school; if parents and teachers need to communicate on a student’s progress, attitude, and personal growth in the academic setting, why should dance class be any different?
These conferences are a great opportunity to make personal contact with the parents and concentrate your attention (even for only 15 minutes) on each child. As dance teachers we rarely have time to speak with parents, and when we do, often it is when there is a behavior issue or a parent corners us unexpectedly. So this dedicated time for the parents has been very good for my studio.
During one week of classes in January the students stay home and the parents come in. I put signup sheets on the bulletin board a couple of weeks beforehand and let the parents schedule time slots every 10 to 15 minutes. I offer some slots in the morning for nonworking parents; the rest are held all afternoon. I ask the teachers to write a couple of notes on each child—at least one positive comment and one suggested area of improvement. It is interesting to see how each student works and behaves for each teacher.
I always start by asking the parents how their children like dance so far. I then speak of my personal experience with their children and review the teachers’ notes. After the conference, the parents are asked to review the notes with their children and let them know how proud we are of them for what they are doing well and what we want them to work on. Many times the relationships between parent and teacher and student and teacher improve because everyone knows where everyone stands.
This year I added a progress report for my competition students only. The reports went out to the families in November, and we followed up on them with the January conferences. I wanted to show the parents that we would hold the students accountable for what’s expected of them. —Beth Fagan, Main Street Dance, Hammond, LA
I designed postcards with our school logo and had 1,000 of them printed very inexpensively. Each week I send postcards to 10 students, with a quick note from me to make them feel special. I always do it if something negative happened or if they weren’t smiling in class. I am still refining this system to make sure that everyone gets a couple each year. It’s a “feel good” practice that encourages student retention. —Angela Schneider, Encore School of Dance and Gymnastics, Aurora, NE
Dealing with small classes
When do you cancel a class because of low enrollment? If there are only three or four kids in a class, combine two classes. In small classes the energy is low, and you’re working twice as hard. Big classes can be good—the energy is usually high. However, if you keep a class of three or four students going through the season, you’ve usually locked them in, so it’s successful in the long run (even though you’ll lose money in the short run). —Rennie Gold, The Gold School, Brockton, MA
Run ads even if you don’t need more enrollment—you need to keep your school’s name out there. Also, put something in the ads that creates a sense of urgency—make people feel they need to enroll now! For example, say that classes are closed or there’s a waiting list. —Rhee Gold, publisher, Dance Studio Life
Classroom dance buddies
Give second- to fifth-grade dancers a buddy to go across the floor with. Buddies help each other remember the rules and etiquette, and kids love to show somebody else how good they are. Let them clap for each other. Also let them make up combinations for their buddies to try.
This also helps when you have different levels in a class. The kids who need to be challenged more can come up with or be guided to more difficult combinations, while dancers who need to work on technique can practice that. That way the whole class is not watching them and they have the support of their buddies. Try changing buddies frequently or pairing a weak dancer with a stronger one. The instructor or instructor’s assistant can work as a buddy as well. —Colleen Rudnicki, Dancin’ Feet Dance School, Andover, MN
For cleaning competition choreography, I partner up the kids and have them watch each other to note areas that need improvement, as well as areas they are excelling in. It’s amazing to hear the detailed critiques they give one another, and it avoids me having to sound like a broken record. Sometimes having another voice give the correction to a student can make a difference. It’s also a self-esteem boost to get a compliment from a peer. —Rhiana Hoffman, Starz Dance Studio, Becker, MN
In the Classroom
Favor the “bad” side
Years ago I had a left-handed dance teacher. She taught everything from the left side first, and I noticed that my “bad” side became much stronger. I use that method today in all my classes, from age 3 to adult. By learning the movement on the less-coordinated side, the students must concentrate harder and make more effort in order to master the movement. The end result is a well-rounded dancer who does not have an obvious weak side. —Suzanne Goodman, Easley Dance Conservatory, Easley, SC
Recycle lesson plans
Keep detailed lesson plans for each age level and save them from year to year. Referring to them can be a great refresher when you need to spice up your classes—that creative movement game you created in 1999 (and forgot about) might be just the ticket for your current class. —Rhiana Hoffman, Starz Dance Studio, Becker, MN
Teaching vs. demonstrating
When teachers demonstrate combinations and then continue to do them with the students, the students are not challenged to remember the steps. I prefer to demonstrate a few times and then ask the students to do the combination for me while I watch. I will help them by calling out the steps or dancing a small portion with them if necessary. But after several attempts I’ll ask them to do it without my prompting.
When it’s time to dance to music, I sing the rhythm of the song before they dance the steps. That aids the dancers in staying together and with the music. —Linda Kalnen, South East Dance Academy, Wilmington, NC
Teaching the shim sham
In teaching a basic shim sham (no break), this nursery rhyme makes learning the step easy: “This old man, he played one, he played knick-knack on my thumb.” It mimics the actual terminology of shuffle step, shuffle step, shuffle step step, shuffle step. —Audrey Dascomb, Dance Expressions Unlimited, Tyngsboro, MA
Working With Young Students
For young students who are learning to keep their “ballet square,” I stick brightly colored circles onto their leotard, at the hip bones and shoulders. The students get a big kick out of correcting their own placement while looking in the mirror. —Erin Thompson Messenger, Erin Messenger School of Dance, New Liskeard, ON, Canada
Welcome rhyme for Tiny Tots
We do a welcome rhyme before our Tiny Tot classes. It is a wonderful learning tool in so many aspects, from participation to feeling important to learning names and patterns. We sit in a circle and the instructor leads all the dancers in patting their legs and repeating the rhyme for each dancer’s name. For example:
“Aubrey’s here today” (pat legs three times, once for each word),
(repeat) “Aubrey’s here today” (pat legs three times, once for each word),
“Aubrey’s here at dance today” (roll hands in front of you),
“Hip” (one hand on hip),
“Hip” (other hand on hip),
“Hooray!” (both hands up overhead).
As long as you keep all the children involved and keep the pace moving, they love it! —Colleen Rudnicki, Dancin’ Feet Dance School, Andover, MN
As a fun way to help young students correctly rotate their legs in second position, I tell them they have a little light on their heel, just under their anklebone, which has to shine to the front to light our way. Then we do tendus to the side singing, “This Little Light of Mine.”
To help 8- to 9-year-olds become mindful of always pointing their feet, we do a silly game in which the children march around the room and the assistant teachers give out “tickets” to the unpointed feet. This age group finds the game amusing, and it still brings their attention to correct technique. —Nancy Whyte, Nancy Whyte School of Ballet, Bellingham, WA
At recital time, we find that our young (3- to 5-year-old) dancers become distracted by the signs of spring. They have been working on their recital routines for a while, so they are sometimes bored. Consequently, we have developed Big Buddy/Little Buddy routines for our recital. We invite a class of older students (usually over age 10) to come to the preschool class and learn these routines. They are short and simple but add the needed simulation for this time of year. The little ones idolize their big buddies and the older students feel special. Because of this one-on-one attention, we are able to introduce the preschool dancers to new steps late in the season. It is also a good introductory lesson for the older children on how to interact and help teach. Often our student assistants grow out of this exposure. And the parents are thrilled because all these children get onstage one more time in our recital. —Wendy Holmquist, Dance Dynamics Studio, Thunder Bay, ON, Canada
Keep the dancers constantly moving and the choreography constantly changing. Make the audiences work! Their heads should be moving constantly as things draw their eye. —Joe Tremaine, Joe Tremaine Dance Center, Los Angeles, CA
Do you have a teaching- or business-related idea that you’d like to share with other teachers and school owners? Send it to Jeff Warzecha at email@example.com or to Dance Studio Life, 10 South Washington St., Norton, MA 02766. Write “Collective Wisdom” in the subject line of your email or on the top of your letter, and be sure to include your name, phone number, and email address, plus your school’s name and address.
4 days of career-building in Boston
During the first week of July (2007), Boston was home to hundreds of dance school owners and teachers, along with dozens of studio staff members and dance industry vendors. The event was the first DanceLife Teacher Conference, held July 3–6 at the Park Plaza Hotel in the heart of the city’s Back Bay district. With four days of business- and dance-track classes and seminars presented by top names in the field, there was something for everyone. Sharing the billing were presentations on marketing, selling a school, business brainstorming, summer camps, preschool and jazz curriculums; sessions on choreography, career guidance, and music; and dance classes that ran the gamut from ballet to Gyrokinesis® to hip-hop.
The guest faculty included Rosemarie Boyden, Joseph Giacobbe, Rennie Gold, Tom Ralabate, Joe Tremaine, Gregg Russell, Derrick Yanford, and many others. At the gala luncheon Ralabate and Shevon McBride delighted diners with a swing dance, and Russell tore up the stage with a tap dance. Lifetime achievement awards were presented to Nancy Bradford Lonero, who recently celebrated her 60th teaching anniversary, and Marjorie Sellers, who finished her 74th year.
Teachers from 38 states around the country attended: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Canada made a good showing, with 24 schools represented, and a few teachers made the trek from such faraway places as Scotland, Singapore, and the Canary Islands.
Thank-yous and words of praise have been pouring in. Will there be a DanceLife Teacher Conference in 2008? You bet! See you next year!
“I really enjoyed knowing I’m not alone. I feel like now I am a member of a secret society that only others in my field can understand. So many positive things were expressed that I feel like I can continue to teach until my body wears down.” —Janet Graham, Janet’s Dance Studio, Mexico, MO
“Wow, what a great week! I feel so full of new ideas and motivation! I only wish I could have taken all the classes offered—there were so many great choices.” —Barb Jackman, Dance Images by BJ, Moose Jaw, SK, Canada
“To be educated, to be informed, to be challenged, to be the best I can be—this is what the conference put in my heart. I had a marvelous and rejuvenating time. I discovered that at 51 years young, I need to keep dancing and teaching. That is priceless to me!” —Caroline Batson, Vicki Michelle [Studio], Spring, TX
“The entire program was better than great! Your selection of guest teachers and presenters was unmatched! Motivation, inspiration, and over-the-top enthusiasm! Amazing!” —Jeannie Rizzo, Marblehead, MA
“Even after 29 years in this business as a studio owner, I walked away with a notebook full of ideas and suggestions to improve my business.” —Terrie Legein, Legein Dance Academy, Coventry, RI