March-April 2016 | 2 Music Tips for Dance Teachers | Polonaise vs Mazurka

Photo courtesy Nina Pinzarrone

Tip 1Polonaise or mazurka? It can be hard to know which to use for an exercise. These Polish national dances have similarities: both are in triple meter (3/4 time), use six-count (two-bar) melodic phrases, and accent each bar’s second beat.
Tip 2Try these pointers for using polonaises and mazurkas in class:

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March-April 2016 | 2 Tips for Hip-Hop Teachers | Back Spin and Sweep

Photo by Bill H

Tip 1
The back spin is a good introduction to understanding and controlling centripetal force. It’s often done from a footwork position, but to teach it, start on the floor.
Tip 2
The sweep is a great foundational move for beginner b-boys/b-girls. Begin in a squat, right leg out straight to the diagonal, left hand on the floor for stability. Sweeping the right leg across the front to the left, shift weight to the right hand. Hopping off the floor with the bent left leg, sweep the right leg underneath. Sweeping the right leg behind the body, shift weight back to the left hand and leg. Tell students to keep the sweeping leg straight as long as possible, and to push strongly off the floor so the straight leg can skip cleanly under the bent leg with no trip-ups. Repeat on the left. For a continuous sweep, keep the same leg traveling around the body.

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March-April 2016 | Thinking Out Loud | The Unseen Student

TOL_T

As a dance educator for 20 years and a dancer for 29, I have experienced a spectrum of teacher-to-student relationships. I know that it’s natural for teachers to scan a classroom and group the students according to their abilities; doing so helps us systemize an approach for teaching each student. It’s also natural to be drawn to those students who excel and are easily engaged.

This is where things get tricky for dance educators. As teachers, we have to use our excitement to steer the class and put all students on a path of discovery through the lessons we prepare. This positive driving force sometimes causes us to overlook the dancers who don’t immediately grasp our concepts.

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March-April 2016 | 2 Tips for Modern & Contemporary Teachers | Parallel and Taylor Chassé

Photo by Carolyn DiLoretto

Tip 1
The parallel position is an important aesthetic aspect of modern dance and promotes good alignment of the legs and spine. It’s often difficult, however, for students to maintain a good sense of parallel, and sometimes awakening their awareness of parallel can be more challenging than helping them find turnout.
Tip 2 My old boss Paul Taylor uses the chassé as his go-to traveling step in almost every one of his dances. The Taylor chassé is different from the ballet or jazz chassé.

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March-April 2016 | EditorSpeak

Photo by Chris Hardy

“Put On Your Red Shoes . . .”: In 1983, David Bowie extended an invitation: “Let’s Dance.” The title track of his Grammy Award–nominated album provided the focus for the first mixtape I ever created, and the inspiration that same year to enter—and complete—a 12-hour dance marathon benefiting a housing project. But for me, and countless others in the 1970s and ’80s, Bowie offered much more than an invitation to dance. For LGBT youth, in particular, Bowie’s mere existence could be a lifeline.

“Just Dance”: The teacher’s dilemma was common, one about mean girls and ugly tweets and hurt feelings. “Help,” she cried out on Facebook. Thanks to team-building exercises and a party, the year had started out splendidly, but now she wondered what to do.

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March-April 2016 | 2 Tips for Tap Teachers | Riffs

Photo by Robert Rosen

Tip 1
Students love to do riffs! Whether simple (two sounds) or complex (12-plus sounds), the riff is an important staple in a tap dancer’s repertoire. Once students can distinguish between a scuff and a brush, they can learn the two-count riff.Tip 2
Try these tips for using riffs in class

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March-April 2016 | 2 Tips for Ballet Teachers | Pivot Points and Partner Walks

Photo by Becky Montalvo

Tip 1
After male students understand the basics of a partnered promenade (keeping the female dancer well balanced over her supporting leg, his hands as contact points on her hips), it’s time to work on their footwork in arabesque promenades.
Tip 2
In classical ballet pas de deux, the male dancer typically leads the female onstage in a hand-and-waist position. When entering, assuming starting positions, moving through transitions, or exiting, the male dancer “drives” when partners walk or run together. Younger dancers need to be told this early and often to avoid battles over which dancer leads.

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February 2016 | 2 Tips for Hip-Hop Teachers | Two Choreography Strategies

Photo by Bill H

Tip 1
Individuality is essential in hip-hop. While students need to know how to pick up and execute other people’s choreography, they also need strategies for generating their own movement. Try these exercises to get students’ brains working and creativity flowing. Allot plenty of time, and end with performances and a critique session. As they work, students may find it helpful to jot down steps in a notebook.
Tip 2
Choreograph by “cutting and pasting”: students generate short sequences, then identify beginning, middle, and end sections. They cut apart and rearrange these sections—for example, moving the end to the beginning or the middle to the end.

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February 2016 | Summertime Teacher Training

Educators explore the link between movement and cognition at Creative Dance Center's Summer Dance Institute for Teachers. Photo by Bronwen Houck

Your guide to workshops and intensives across the U.S. and beyond

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February 2016 | Teacher in the Spotlight | Pamela Caira

Photo courtesy Pamela Caira

NOMINATED BY: Demetra Chastang, office manager/instructor: “I have worked for Pamela for three years. She has not only been an incredible boss but an amazing mentor, teaching me and guiding me through the art of dance. Throughout the 20 years she’s owned her studio, hundreds of dancers have benefited from her passion and life lessons, and she has shown her dance family how to give back through dance.”

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February 2016 | 2 Music Tips for Teachers | Bournonville’s Napoli

Photo courtesy Nina Pinzarrone

Tip 1
August Bournonville created the three-act ballet Napoli in 1842, inspired by a trip to Italy with his close friend Hans Christian Andersen (whose diaries contributed to the libretto). In Naples, Bournonville stayed in the Santa Lucia port and swam in the gulf (the settings for Act 1), visited Capri’s Blue Grotto (Act 2), and visited the Monte Vergine shrine and danced the tarantella with peasants (Act 3). Bournonville assigned sections of the ballet’s score to four composers—Niels W. Gade (known as the father of Danish music), Edvard Helsted, Holger Simon Paulli, and Hans C. Lumbye—and he himself suggested several of the musical themes. Tip 2
Napoli’s score includes several dance/musical forms

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February 2016 | 2 Tips for Tap Teachers | Paddle and Roll

Photo by Robert Rosen

Tip 1
The paddle and roll (or paradiddle) is a popular small-footwork movement that combines four basic ideas: heel dig, spank, step, and heel drop. First done in vaudeville and at the Hoofers Club by tap luminaries such as John Bubbles (the father of rhythm tap), Honi Coles, and Steve Condos, the paddle and roll is now a staple of most tap artists’ repertoire, with young artists competing to have the fastest, most articulate footwork at cutting contests around the world.
Tip 2
Try these tips for varying the paddle and roll’s basic four-sound series, which usually starts with either the heel dig or heel drop.

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February 2016 | 2 Tips for Ballet Teachers | Starting Barefoot, and Stretching With Ronds de Jambe

Photo by Becky Montalvo

Tip 1
From time to time, it helps to have students take off their flat shoes to start class. Try this after long breaks, or when students are doing lots of pointe work, or when you notice they’re not using foot muscles to the fullest.
Tip 2
By the time you give a rond de jambe combination, students should be well on their way to reaching their full warmed-up potential, and class should be at the 20- to 30-minute mark—the perfect time for a long stretch.

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February 2016 | Ballet Scene | Tales of Two Teachers

Pollyana Ribeiro brings her detailed and inspirational teaching style to students at SF Ballet School. Photo by Erik Tomasson

Over the past quarter century, some of ballet’s most distinguished teachers have shaped the students of San Francisco Ballet School, among them Irina Jacobson, Lola de Avila, Jorge Esquivel, Antonio Castilla, Gloria Govrin, Jean-Yves Esquerre, and Edward Ellison. Recently, two other teachers joined that list: Pollyana Ribeiro, who became part of the full-time teaching staff in 2014; and Yannick Boquin, who chooses to guest teach exclusively. In February 2015, I watched both of them teach class, with a goal of discovering what they might add to the educational structure Patrick Armand, associate director of SF Ballet School (under the direction of artistic director Helgi Tomasson) is putting in place.

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January 2016 | Thinking Out Loud | From Good to Great

TOL_T

Making the jump from good teacher to great teacher is a chapter we all endeavor to write in the book of our lives. And though it may seem unattainable at times, striving for greatness is a way of investing in yourself and your students every day: practicing, thinking, and reaching. Constantly. Becoming a better teacher is within everyone’s reach, and it starts with the resolve to be stronger.

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January 2016 | Homegrown Homework

HomegrownT

As dance teachers know, conferences and conventions are excellent opportunities to get fresh ideas, network with colleagues, and rejuvenate their love for teaching. However, since many are annual events, teachers can end up with limited options if the dates conflict with other obligations. Cost is also a factor; registration fees, travel, accommodations, and meals can add up to $1,000 or more. In such situations, there are other options for those who wish to engage in professional development: participate in or provide opportunities within their own communities.

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January 2016 | Teacher in the Spotlight | Kristin Kudla

Photo by Ashlie Dente

NOMINATED BY: Michelle Loizeaux, former student/team choreographer: “Kristin was my teacher for 10 years and is now my colleague. She helped shape me into the dancer I dreamed I could be, and now, as a teacher myself, I continue to learn from her. Kristin connects emotionally with her students, successfully communicates the technical aspects of her lessons, and develops meaningful and professional friendships with her dancers and their parents.”

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January 2016 | 2 Tips for Modern & Contemporary Teachers | Contractions and Expressive Feet

Photo by Carolyn DiLoretto

Tip 1
The word contract is often used as a blanket term whenever we want the back to curve, but there is more than one way to curve a spine. There are differences, for example, between a Graham contraction, a rounded back, and a Taylor contraction.
Tip 2
Feet are like hands in their expressive capability, but young dancers often don’t use feet to their full potential. This can be due to thinking about line in an absolute way. These students have in mind an unattainable, ideal image of “perfect lines” that has little to do with their actual bodies. This creates a disconnect between the mind and body. The idea of line becomes a struggle and makes these students feel inadequate—which in turn makes it even harder to create “nice” lines.

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January 2016 | 2 Tips for Ballet Teachers | Cabriole Fouetté and One-Legged Finishes

Photo by Becky Montalvo

Tip 1
There are two ways to do a grand cabriole fouetté sauté landing in arabesque, and the beginning of the jump is identical for both: a 90-degree battement devant upon takeoff. The dancer can either cabriole the leg devant, then fouetté and land in arabesque; or (the more advanced version) fouetté, then cabriole in arabesque before landing.
Tip 2
It’s critical for advanced students to be able to finish pirouettes en dehors in positions other than fourth-position lunge or fifth position. One-legged finishes, such as soutenu attitude derrière or devant, showcase a dancer’s balance, control, and strength.

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January 2016 | Collective Wisdom

CollectiveWisdomT

Who makes ballet mandatory in order to take jazz? I am trying to implement this in my program this year and I have an older student who hasn’t had ballet in a few years and does not want to take it. Do I grandfather her in and let her just take jazz? Or make it mandatory for everyone?

“Reality Check: Must. Do. Ballet”: Q: Who makes ballet mandatory in order to take jazz? I am trying to implement this in my program this year and I have an older student who hasn’t had ballet in a few years and does not want to take it. Do I grandfather her in and let her just take jazz? Or make it mandatory for everyone?
—Ashley Brown

“Classroom Connection: Stories That Move”: Whether you teach a parent/child class, creative movement for preschoolers, or pre-ballet for kindergarteners, starting your youngest kids’ classes with a book can be calming and inspiring at the same time.

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January 2016 | 2 Music Tips for Teachers | La Sylphide and Reels

Photo courtesy Nina Pinzarrone

Tip 1
The first Romantic ballet, La Sylphide, a two-act ballet set in Scotland, depicts a love triangle between James, a farmer; Effie, his fiancée; and a sylph, or forest spirit. Torn between real and fantasy loves, James chooses fantasy, with tragic results. The ballet premiered in 1832 in Paris to acclaim, with Filippo Taglioni’s choreography showcasing his daughter Marie as the sylph. Jean-Madeleine Schneitzhoeffer’s score, with its lilting 6/8 rhythms and buoyant 2/4 variations, especially for the female leads, lends itself to petit allegro—ballonnés, pas de bourrées, brisés, and cabrioles.
Tip 2
Rhythmic and melodic features of Scottish Highland dances (which both Taglioni and Bournonville studied) appear in both La Sylphide scores. The Highland spirit is best captured in Løvenskjold’s Act 1 reel, based on the traditional tune “McDonald’s Reel”—perfect in class for dégagés, petits battements, and petit allegro.

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January 2016 | 2 Tips for Hip-Hop Teachers | Arm Wave and Slowing Down

Photo by Bill H

Tip 1
The wave starts from the fingertips of one hand and travels across arms and shoulders to end in the fingertips of the other. Have students start in a T position—arms out and level with the floor. Tell them to keep a mental image of this position; it will help them hold a clear shape that shows off the wave’s progress.
Tip 2
Students need to learn when and how to create accents—to “stop on a dime” or “hit” a move’s maximum energy—to perform successfully. Usually, accents match sounds in the music, and both dance and music move fast. But that doesn’t mean hip-hop choreography must be taught at fast tempos. Students need to connect to movement and music at a slower pace first, to maintain technique, fine-tune details, discover nuances, and learn to sharpen moves by accenting the music.

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January 2016 | On My Mind

Photo by Mim Adkins

It’s a new year, and I’ll bet you have some sort of self-improvement goals for 2016. If one of them is to become a better teacher, try this: imagine that each time you enter your school you are walking in the stage door, prepared to give the best performance possible.

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January 2016 | 2 Tips for Tap Teachers | Heel and Toe Drops

Photo by Robert Rosen

Tip 1
Heel drops are among the first skills a tap dancer learns, and they add a unique percussive sound. Initially, students can build strength by dropping the heel without a weight shift. For beginners, drop the heel in quarter-note or half-note time with a strong toe dig pressed into the floor. For more challenge, combine quarter and eighth notes, keeping the toe dig pressed and using one heel.
Tip 2
Toe drops produce a very different sound from heel drops and add variety and challenge. Practice repetitive toe dropping on one foot in different rhythmic combinations to build strength and clarity. Initially, this may be difficult—shin muscles tire more easily than the larger leg muscles—so don’t overdo these drills.

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December 2015 | 2 Music Tips for Teachers | Leitmotifs and National Dances in Coppélia

Photo courtesy Nina Pinzarrone

Tip 1
Coppélia (1870), staged in Paris two months before the Franco-Prussian War broke out, is considered the last Romantic ballet. A collaboration between choreographer Arthur Saint-Léon, librettist Charles Nuitter, and composer Léo Delibes, it tells a comic story of a village couple, Swanilda and Franz, and a mysterious doll maker, Dr. Coppélius.
Tip 2
Delibes incorporated several national dances, all the rage then in Paris, into Coppélia’s score, setting a precedent for future ballet composers.

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December 2015 | Teacher in the Spotlight | Brynn Weinzirl

Photo by Shea Weinzirl

NOMINATED BY: Dana Farber, a student’s mother: “Brynn has endless energy for her students. She spends weekends working on choreography, rhinestoning costumes, hand-making accessories, and helping her solo students. She wants the best for her students and encourages them with positive and kind words. What I value most as a dance parent is that Brynn takes class, attends conventions, and looks for performing opportunities to further her own dance experience.”

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December 2015 | 2 Tips for Ballet Teachers | Tombé Pas de Bourrée and Royale

Photo by Becky Montalvo

Tip 1
Tombé pas de bourrée is one of classical ballet’s most common connecting steps, and it lends itself to all forms of center work. Yet its importance is often overlooked, and it can wind up being a combination’s sloppiest-looking step. Students may spend most of their mental energy on preparing for the trick that follows the tombé pas de bourrée, forgetting that in dance, every step counts.
Tip 2
Graduating from changements to royales can leave even the most talented students feeling “toe-tied.” A simple way for them to feel the correct sensation in a royale is to break down the step.

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December 2015 | 2 Tips for Modern & Contemporary Teachers | Using the Legs, Encouraging the Individual

Photo by Ingrid Werthmann

Tip 1
Fully engaged legs are essential to classical modern technique. Yet sometimes so much value is placed on the torso and arms in the classroom that clarity in the legs is lost.
Tip 2
When training is too focused on physical ability, students may miss out on the sense of personal exploration that is one of modern dance’s most important gifts. Especially with codified styles, we teachers may get lost in a sense of achievement as our students advance through the acquisition of vocabulary and proper technique. But it’s important always to be exploring ways to bring forth students’ full humanity in class. We should be able to see the individual in modern dance—it is part of what makes this tradition so beautiful.

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December 2015 | 2 Tips for Tap Teachers | Sound Quality

Photo by Robert Rosen

Tip 1
It’s important to teach an awareness of sound quality as well as rhythm clarity. Once students demonstrate good technique in basic movements, challenge them to explore varying volume and tone. Even beginners can learn to regulate volume.
Tip 2
Using different parts of the tap also affects sound quality. In shuffles, for example, we can choose to produce a full-bodied brush and spank with the full toe tap; a light, high sound with the toe tap’s front third; a sharp, striking sound with the toe tap’s inside or outside edge; or a scuffing sound with the heel edge.

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December 2015 | 2 Tips for Hip-Hop Teachers | Geometry and Fundamentals

Photo by Bill H

Tip 1
If students tend to focus internally or stay in one spot while freestyling, or if choreography isn’t moving around the room as planned, turning basic geometric shapes into pathways can help. This exercise encourages students to focus outward and frees their bodies to travel.
Tip 2
Students can feel overwhelmed when asked to improvise. Focusing on dance fundamentals, basic aspects of movement shared by all dance forms, can help.

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December 2015 | Reaching Out With Jazz

Rutland's educational efforts are championed by Broadway legend Ben Vereen, who has become her personal friend and spiritual supporter. Photo by Falin Williams

Patti Rutland was done. After 20 years, the Dothan, Alabama, resident had sold her dance studio and was set to retire. Then a dancer she had mentored and befriended, Vincent Johnson, posed a question: “Is there anything you wanted to do but didn’t?”

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November 2015 | Collective Wisdom

CollectiveT

“Reality Check: Absence Mindedness”: I am hiring a new teacher; we are days away from making it final. She just told me that she will be away the first week of classes on a trip she’s had planned for a while, so she will not be able to teach her first night. She’s excited about teaching in a studio again with young kids and I am excited because it’s difficult to find a good hip-hop teacher in my area. How would all of you handle a prospective teacher missing the first night of classes? Do you think I should look for another teacher? —Chrystie Kenny Greco

“Classroom Connection: Reminders”: By the time advanced students walk into my classes they know all the steps in the traditional ballet vocabulary. This is not to say they aren’t still learning. And I’ve found that one way to make sure they do so, consistently and continuously, is to use “reminding” tools: verbal cueing, asking, sharing, and touching.

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November 2015 | 2 Music Tips for Teachers | Early Ballet Music and Giselle

Photo courtesy Nina Pinzarrone

Tip 1
Until the 1820s, a ballet’s music was often a compilation of popular tunes, opera melodies, and original pieces by one or more composers, tailored to fit the story. Early ballet composers, hired to provide simple accompaniments for the solo and ensemble dances, were of lower stature than their symphonic counterparts. The choreographer decided the rhythms and number of bars for each dance, and the composer improvised music to fit. Mime scenes often borrowed melodies from well-known songs with words that fit the action; the association helped the audience understand the mime. By the 1830s, however, these musical practices were changing. Full-length, two-act ballets were being performed, and original ballet music was increasingly needed.
Tip 2
In 1841, Giselle debuted in Paris with music by French opera composer Adolphe Adam (1803–1856). Adam excelled in the new genre of ballet music. Giselle’s score, mostly written in major keys, uses minor tonalities to emphasize key themes and moments, including Hilarion’s theme, Albrecht’s entrance in the second act, the appearances of the Wilis, and the deaths of both Hilarion and Giselle.

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November 2015 | Thinking Out Loud | Two for One

ThinkingOutLoudT

Heading into my 19th year of teaching, I have held many titles over the years—dance instructor, movement teacher, dance specialist, and guest artist. But when I started being called a “teaching artist” about 12 years ago, the components of my life came together. “Teaching artist” is the title that best describes me.

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November 2015 | Teacher in the Spotlight | Maggie Dennis

Photo by Jennifer Mauro

NOMINATED BY: Kiana Foster-Mauro, student: “Miss Maggie’s studio is a place where we can be ourselves, have fun, learn dance technique, and create lifelong friendships and memories. Most important, she is an inspirational role model. From time management, to the importance of community service and teamwork, to the true meaning of friendship and family, Miss Maggie leads by example.”

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November 2015 | 2 Tips for Modern & Contemporary Teachers | Spirals and Using Progressions

Photo by Ingrid Werthmann

Tip 1
It’s important for students to understand the modern dance concept of the spiral in the back. The spiral allows dancers to move in a way that feels fully three-dimensional. Think of it as a carving motion, in which dancers use the arms or legs to help them carve through space and generate a turn or fall.

Tip 2
To teach coherent classes with a sense of progression, try incorporating the shapes, movements, and energy of the final combination or phrase into the earlier parts of class. This means no improvising the final combination on the spot—it must be choreographed in advance so the rest of class can be planned too.

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November 2015 | 2 Tips for Hip-Hop Teachers | Camel Walk and Patty Duke

Photo by BIll H

Tip 1
Many of the hip-hop steps we teach come out of popular dances. The camel walk and Patty Duke, for example, are based on 1970s dances that influenced the social aspect of hip-hop’s development. Since these steps started as party dances, have students face each other and interact to get into the right spirit.

Tip 2
There are a few versions of the Patty Duke; here’s one. Stand on two feet, shoulder-width apart, and start the groove, a body rock going backward. Bring one foot forward, leaving the weight on the back foot, to tap the floor on the accented beat. Return to two feet and rock, then tap with the other foot. Repeat.

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November 2015 | 2 Tips for Ballet Teachers | When Rond de Jambe Is Wrong

Photo by Becky Montalvo

Tip 1
Periodically I have to revisit the mechanics of soutenu détourné, because students want to rond de jambe their working leg slightly when closing to sous-sus. This is easiest to correct at the barre, slowed way down, to make sure technique is not compromised.

Without music, have students execute and hold each step in the sequence: a well-placed and square tendu soutenu à la seconde, a tight and lifted sous-sus, and détourné with a crisp spot and tidy finish. Watch how each student closes to sous-sus; the leg should travel in a direct line, with no hint of a rond de jambe. Once students do it cleanly, practice with slow-tempo music, then work up to a brisker speed. If at any point you see students returning to their rond de jambe habit, slow the exercise down again. Make sure to practice soutenu détourné both en dedans and en dehors.

Tip 2
Chassé en tournant can be a striking step in performance, because it has exciting elements—a jump, a turning step, and a traveling step—and plenty of room to add extra dynamics with port de bras. A common mistake is adding a quarter rond de jambe before taking off in the jump. Forced to compensate for the extra inertia, students may sway their backs and/or let their core muscles go.

Remind students that, with or without the turn, the only leg traffic for this step is: plié in fifth position, chassé to sous-sus in the air, plié in fifth. Have students master this sequence before adding the turn in the air, and make sure they don’t try to bring the leg to à la seconde before closing to sous-sus derrière.

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October 2015 | 2 Music Tips for Teachers | 20th-Century Music

Photo courtesy Nina Pinzarrone

The 20th century ushered in a new era in music composition, though Rachmaninoff, Richard Strauss, Puccini, and others continued to write in a Romantic style.

Major 20th-century movements include neoclassicism, minimalism, and experimental music.

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October 2015 | Teacher in the Spotlight | Lisa Marie Pelton

Photo by Kari Schwartz Images

NOMINATED BY: Kim Wood, mother: “In 2003, Lisa opened her school with 80 students. Since then, it has grown and she is living her dream. She is blessed with a 4-year-old son and also a beautiful daughter born two years ago with cystic fibrosis. When she is tired or has been up all night with a sick child, she lights up when she walks into her studio, sees her students, and gets energized to dance with them once again.”

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October 2015 | EditorSpeak

Photos by Chris Hardy

“Recipe for a Better World”: On page 146 of this issue, you’ll find a story about the DanceLife Teacher Conference in which we tell you about many of the goings-on at this big event—but there’s one thing we didn’t touch on because it bears separate mention. It’s the joy and abandon, the sweat and exhilaration of the hundreds of dance teachers who threw themselves into all kinds of technique classes.

“Powerful Girls”: It’s 2015, and our culture still conditions young girls to grow up believing men should be strong and women should be pretty. Misty Copeland’s sinewy leaps, Katniss Everdeen’s archery feats, Title IX, Michelle Obama’s arms, and critical best-sellers like The Princess Problem and Reviving Ophelia haven’t yet washed away mainstream expectations that femininity requires physical weakness.

If you teach girls to dance, you know that isn’t true. But do the girls?

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