Luigi was a sought-after teacher by some of the brightest stars on Broadway—Liza Minnelli, Ben Vereen, Estelle Parsons, Kelly Bishop, Ron Dennis, Jane Summerhays, Robert Morse, Gretchen Wyler, and others—and many of them have shared their memories of the great jazz dance and New York City master teacher for the film Broadway: Beyond the Golden Age.
The National Dance Education Organization (NDEO) will hold Thank a Dance Teacher Day, a social media giving campaign to celebrate dance education, on December 2.
Beverly Blossom, a leading modern dancer in New York City in the 1950s and 1960s who went on to be a master teacher at the University of Illinois and a celebrated choreographer and performer of pieces that were sly, sardonic, heart-breaking, and funny, has died in Chicago.
Mary Ramirez Cook teaches a variety of classes each week at her A-Marika Dance Studio in Sharonville, Ohio, including one for students with Down syndrome she created for her son, Matthew.
During the medieval period (650–1450), most music was used for church rituals. Monophonic (unaccompanied single-line) melodies known as Gregorian chants were developed for church use.
A flexed foot is rarely used in ballet technique (one exception is frappé, depending on which style you teach), but is extremely important for any student to be aware of, for many reasons. One of the most important is to allow the dancer to isolate and fully utilize the hamstring muscles. When doing a slow, controlled, flexed-foot lift of the fully extended leg to a tendu height, students can feel maximum turnout without having to think about pointing the foot.
Shows can be more fun if the audience gets involved in the action. So how about holding a hip-hop battle at your next recital? The fun starts with a great emcee to keep the audience engaged and motivated. When there’s a break for a costume change, have the emcee ask for two volunteers from the audience to take part in a hip-hop dance contest onstage. The emcee should have one or two simple steps prepared to show the participants, such as the Dougie or the Nae Nae (see below); or simply have them freestyle.
I find that an opening ritual can be an important component of a successful class. One of my favorites is to have students stand in a small circle. I make eye contact with each one, welcome them, and invite them to “go inside” and notice what is alive for them today. That is, what questions about their bodies’ moving or the work from our last class still resonates? I ask them to share their personal aliveness with another student or, sometimes, with the entire group.
This year I taught a pre-ballet class for 6-year-olds. At first they were unfocused, bored, and sloppy while working at the barre. So I bought rolls of colored ribbon and told the dancers that anyone who did the best plié, tendu, or other barre exercise would get a ribbon—a Ballet Bow. I walked around the class and tied these around the ponytails or buns of students who were doing good work. I have never had a class work so hard on their technique before.
NOMINATED BY: Kristen Brister, teacher: “Susu has owned ABJ for 37 years and the studio currently has more than 500 students. She has trained many beautiful dancers who have gone on to colleges around the country or to professional dance careers. Susu has always advocated providing a proper dance foundation for the youngest dancers, while instilling a love of dance.”
The two basic musical qualities are legato, meaning smooth and connected (indicated by a curved line or phrase marking above the notes to be connected) and staccato, meaning detached and disconnected (indicated by a dot above each note to be shortened). When you explain legato to your students, mention the quality of fondu or developpé movements, and for staccato, mention the frappé movement and jumps.
To achieve grand allegro jumps such as grand jeté, tour jeté, assemblé devant, fouetté, and cabriole fouetté, students must be able to do a strong, square, and properly placed 90-degree sauté in grand battement devant with arms in high fifth position.
For the last week of classes before holiday break, I recommend letting the kids come to class in hip-hop holiday-themed clothing. We have three rooms of classes running per hour, and each class learns a short holiday hip-hop routine. Make the steps easy and repetitive—for example, slides and freestyle poses—so the students don’t stress about remembering. Most of all, make the steps funky and fun.
Moving through space is more about the pelvis than the feet. To prepare students to move freely and efficiently through space, I devote time early in each class session to an exploration of pelvic shifts—transferring the weight from one foot to the other with an initiation in the pelvic floor. I call these actions “undercurves” because the lowest part of the pelvis inscribes a U-shaped curve in each transfer of weight.
One important component of any tap warm-up is a walk-around. The walk-around serves many purposes and can be easily modified for all ability levels.
• Select an upbeat tune that will inspire your dancers to quickly transition from school, home, or another class.
• Encourage dancers to walk like a “real” person.
• Walk on the quarter note, eighth note, eighth note triplet, and sixteenth notes.
• Introduce counterpoint by having the two halves of the class walk on different notes.
• Provide an opportunity for improvising by walking for 8 counts and improvising for 8 counts.
• Vary the walking pattern to try fun staging ideas (diagonals, figure eights, circles).
• Teach the Cole Stroll walk-around created by Honi Coles.
Who needs a bio? If you’re a dance teacher or school owner, you do. And it belongs on your school’s website.
NOMINATED BY: Nicole Zivkovic, daughter and dance teacher: “I am always impressed and motivated by the knowledge, talent, experience, and loving care my mother uses to develop beautiful, technically strong dancers. She has been teaching dance for more than 40 years and she continues to seek new information to improve her teaching. She takes a personal interest in all of her students and cares about them as if they were her own children. Perhaps most important, she expects much of her students while remaining calm, positive, and sweet.”
I understand that teachers need to work on technically challenging feats with their students, but if those are all they’re working on, I start to wonder if they forgot—or never understood—that dance can be stunning, touching, and beautiful even when it doesn’t include a single jump, turn, or “grab the leg and yank it up.”
Tap improvisation is the act of spontaneously creating a musical phrase in response to music or to another tapper’s phrase. Improvisation is an essential part of any tap curriculum. As the dancers’ technique and listening skills improve, their ability to improvise with clear and concise rhythms will also improve. Regardless of level, students of all ages will benefit from the increased opportunity to communicate and create with their feet.
Spatial intent can organize the neuromuscular system for integrated movement, in which all body parts contribute to the clarity of the whole organism. When we give clear spatial imagery to our students, they can experience the elasticity and resilience of spatial pulls.
Partner work in hip-hop can be utilized in many creative ways. Partnering can be done so that the two dancers never come in contact with one another. One way is shadowing, where one partner dances closely behind the other. Isolations, sharp movements, waves, and tuts that are matched by both dancers are simple and effective forms of partner work.
Cambré devant, done between barre exercises, stretches fatigued muscles. The muscles most in need of a break are the gluteus maximus. Cambré derrière is a stretch of the back, not a compression of the spine. In addition, the dancers should pull up in the leg and gluteus maximus muscles and find more turnout through the entire motion.
Melody is the horizontal aspect of music. The first thing most of us notice about a piece of music is the melody; often, it’s what stays with us. For dancers, the melody helps them remember the choreography. Harmony (the chords, combinations of notes sounded at the same time) is the vertical aspect of music; it supports the melody.
I’m a former school owner. For the past year, I’ve been teaching at a local rec center and at a 55-plus community (all adults). It’s been great just to teach and not worry about any business issues. I have developed a following of adults who have told me that they would follow me wherever I go, but I really miss teaching children and feel I have learned a lot through the years.
This month, ABT has awarded Project Plié scholarships to seven teachers from around the country who have shown enthusiasm and dedication to teaching children from underserved communities.
For the past four years, Sylvie Minot, 50, and her Syzygy Dance Project have been bringing meditative dance to incarcerated women, to ex-soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder at veterans’ hospitals, to addicts inside recovery centers, and to young people at camps for at-risk youth, helping them use physical energy and movement to overcome anger, stress, and self-doubt.
A music teacher was caught on surveillance video in June damaging equipment left by a dance studio that had rented the auditorium of Lake Shore High School, according to Evans [NY] police.
NOMINATED BY: Jennifer Walker, office administrator: “Dana Stone is an amazing person, mentor, and teacher who can’t help but have everyone love her and love being at Stepping Stone. Dana has danced since the age of 3 at Knecht Dance Academy and under the instruction of Carol Willson at Carol Willson Studio One. When Carol Willson Studio One (under new ownership) closed its doors abruptly in June 2011, Dana took over and made sure the show went on as scheduled; by July she had realized her dream of owning a dance studio. [She renamed it Stepping Stone.] What is amazing in this economy is that we have more than 200 students! I did not grow up around dance, but now I can’t imagine not being at the studio every night.”
Choreography has become a never-ending task for studio teachers, which means they’re on a relentless quest for quality music and fresh inspiration. They face overwhelming pressure to outdo the previous year’s work and meet the expectations of students and their parents. Choreographers need to acquire a vast amount of music and fill thousands of counts with movement, all while showcasing the specific strengths of their students. Often, these demands lead them to rush the choreographic process.
During a standard classroom adagio, I hear “Oops!” and “Sorry,” from several of my students. Tongues dart out, lips are bitten, gazes drop to the floor. These signs of discomfort convey how badly they think they are doing a difficult step or exercise. They may think that anything short of perfection is a failure. They may believe they are letting the teacher or their classmates down. What to do about such self-punitive behavior? Establish a “no apologies” policy.
When Diane Abraham was sworn in as the latest president of the Dance Teachers’ Club of Boston in 2013, she was handed a packet tied with string. Inside were the club’s incorporation papers from almost 100 years ago.
Dance Studio Life, a magazine with a back-to-basics approach, is a division of the Rhee Gold Company, whose mission is to be at the forefront of dance and education by promoting the highest possible standards in teaching.
It was an emergency. My son, then a sophomore in high school, approached me after a dance. “Mom,” he said, “when you dance, do you go back and forth, or side to side?” He demonstrated both, shifting stiffly from side to side, and yes, back and forth. Aghast, I gave him a quick lecture/demo on moving from his center and never bobbing his head.
An accent is an emphasis on a note or chord. There are four kinds of accents in music.
Instead of saying, “Point your toes,” I say, “Reach through your toes,” or, “Allow energy to pour out through each toe tip.” I find that the image of “pointing the toes” can create tension that immobilizes the many joints in the foot and ankle. Thinking of the foot in isolation can cause disintegration. Our continuous goal in guiding our students should be integration, recognizing that the foot (like the rest of us) is a constantly reorganizing and adaptable part of the whole human organism. The images of “reaching through the toe tips” and “allowing energy to pour out through the distal ends,” however, can create a synergistic energy balance through the leg and foot. The result: they are resilient and pliable and look longer.
One of the biggest challenges I face, especially with younger kids, is helping dancers maintain proper spacing during class and in their routines. Many kids have a tendency to lose track of spacing and end up dancing on top of each other. Using colored rubber dots on the floor helps tremendously. The dots assist me in many basic hip-hop steps.
Tours are one of the most important steps for male ballet dancers to master. The most important tip is to practice tours every day. Here are some other tips for perfecting them.
My competition students are at odds with each other. They are starting to get cliquey, with two different tribe-like groups. One is a group of great kids who are not the best dancers, yet they give it their all and get better all the time, like most students do. The other is a clique of those who think they are the best, and even among them there are some harsh feelings.
In the classroom, I look for different ways to convey my point. To connect with all of my students and help them understand on multiple levels, I’ve started using math and science alongside explanations and analogies.
Dance education goes well beyond teaching steps and technique. Students of all ages benefit—and gain appreciation for the art—when the history behind the traditions and choreography is shared during classes.
After 16 years in business I am purchasing a building to make a new home for my studio. The new space is close to downtown, where there are a couple of schools that are very competitive. I have always done my best to stay on the good side of both owners.
“Night Blizzard,” a poem written by Joan Kunsch, associate director at Connecticut’s Nutmeg Ballet, has won an International Publication Prize from the Atlanta Review, and will be featured in the fall 2014 issue, reports the Register Citizen.
Celebrating 10 Years, plus Holiday Shows and Sparkle Volume 19 | Issue 5 | Buy a print copy COLUMNS Ask Rhee Gold Advice for dance teachers 2 Music Tips for Dance Teachers | Quality and Dynamics By Nina Pinzarrone 2 Tips for Ballet Teachers | Preparing for Big Jumps By David Arce 2 Tips . . .
Jillian Ricks, a Soddy-Daisy [TN] native teaches belly dancing at the studio she opened three years ago. Jillian’s Studio is unique—she uses a hands-on approach to teach her students by feel, reports the Chattanooga Times Free Press. It’s a necessity, as she began losing her sight at age 6 and is now legally blind.
I attended the DanceLife Teacher Conference in Phoenix last summer. I have made the exciting move of opening a studio, and I thank you for giving me knowledge about this process. Now I am creating a philosophy, goals, and a business plan, and I wondered if you could provide me with a few key elements that I should or shouldn’t include. Thank you! —Sophia
There are important terms relating to changes in tempo that teachers need to know:
When broken down to its simplest form, a pirouette is a quick passé with a relevé and a spot—period. It doesn’t matter how many spots are done. Doing fewer pirouettes with a proper classical ballet finish is always preferable to multiple pirouettes with a sloppy finish.
Here’s how to teach a cross-touch with a two-point turn: starting on the right foot, have students cross the right foot over the left on 1 and step out on the left on 2. The left foot crosses over on 3, stepping out on the right on 4; repeat the right foot crossover on 5, stepping out on the left on 6.
Balance is the key to healthy functioning, in dance as in all aspects of our lives. Activating internal (inward) as well as external (outward) rotation in the hip joint is crucial to our students’ well-being. Turning out more than turning in creates unhealthy imbalances. Because muscles that are not continually engaged become weak and muscles that are overworked become disproportionately strong or hypertonic (inelastic), it’s important to give students opportunities to work in outward rotation, neutral rotation (parallel), and inward rotation in every class. I enjoy sharing phrases that move through inward and outward rotation and linger for crystallizing moments in positions that allow students to experience being turned in, parallel, and turned out in both the supporting and gesturing legs.
The traditional cramproll combination of step, step, heel drop, heel drop in the basic RLRL or LRLR pattern is an important staple in many dance routines. Consider the following ideas to add variety and new challenges for your students.