Dance Studio Life Magazine
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for our Email Newsletter

Posts Tagged ‘teacher’

At 73, Bill Evans Still Going Strong as Teacher, Mentor, Company Director

Bill Evans Dance; photo by Emily Watson

Bill Evans Dance; photo by Emily Watson

On Sunday, DanceLife Teacher Conference faculty member and Dance Studio Life columnist Bill Evans will celebrate his dance company’s 40th anniversary with, of course, a dance concert, reports the Democrat & Chronicle.

“My 30th anniversary concert was in New Mexico, and I thought that was going to be the end of it,” says Evans, the internationally renowned dancer and choreographer who retired from teaching at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque that year. “I thought I was done.”

But then Evans, now 73, decided he wasn’t finished and joined the dance faculty at The College at Brockport, State University of New York.

“I found these beautiful dancers here in Brockport and decided to continue with my company here,” Evans says. “Here were dancers devoted to my work, and I wanted them to have the chance to perform it, because studying it is (just) one thing.”

Teaching has been the foundation of Evans’ company since he founded it in Utah and choreographed its first concert at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC, in the summer of 1975. He still travels nationally and internationally conducting workshops and lectures and has a personal fondness for teaching and choreographing in Mexico and Latin America.

“I don’t know of anyone in the dance world that doesn’t think of him as a master choreographer and teacher,” says Debra Knapp, director of dance at New Mexico State University, who danced with Evans’ company from 1986 to 1991. “He is an incredible mentor.”

The concert will be held April 13 at 4 and 7pm at Hochstein Performance Hall, 50 N. Plymouth Avenue, Rochester, New York. For tickets, visit

To see the original story, visit



February 2014 Dance Studio Life


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. Dance Studio Life understands the soul of the teaching field.

Dance Studio Life February 2014COLUMNS
Ask Rhee Gold
Advice for dance teachers
2 Music Tips for Dance Teachers | Notation Basics By Nina Pinzarrone
2 Tips for Ballet Teachers | Rules of Ballet By David Arce
2 Tips for Hip-Hop Teachers | Let’s Tut By Geo Hubela
2 Tips for Modern Teachers | Balance and Functions By Bill Evans
2 Tips for Tap Teachers | Rudiments: Fundamentals of Footwork By Thelma Goldberg
College Close-Ups | Hope College
What students need to know about college and university dance programs.
EditorSpeak By Cheryl Ossola
FYI What’s Up In the dance community
On My Mind | Words from the Publisher By Rhee Gold

Classroom Connection By Holly Derville-Teer and Debra Danese
Ideas to incorporate into your curriculum
Words from our readers

Mindful Marketing | Make It Mobile By Kevin Ekmark
Teacher in the Spotlight | Lauren Kipphut
Teachers who make a difference  
Thinking Out Loud | Hats Off to Carolyn By Nancy Stone

Ballet Scene | Fairrie’s Fitness By Joseph Carman
British-schooled Fiona Fairrie is in demand as a “fix-it” teacher.
Bright Biz Idea | On a Mission By Lisa Okuhn
How and why to put your philosophy and goals into writing.
Higher-Ed Voice | The Adelphi-Taylor Connection By Rachel Berman 
One dance department’s unique relationship with Paul Taylor Dance Company.
J.U.i.C.E.-d Up in L.A. By Rita Felciano
Hip-hop collective offers support and encourages creativity.
Schools with Staying Power | Earthbound and Airborne By Steve Sucato
Long’s School of Dance maintains traditions while moving beyond them.
Something New for Summer | Mozart to Mahler By Mary Ellen Hunt
Teaching musicality means going beyond counts and steps.
Something New for Summer | Teaching the Whole Child By Julia Holt Lucia
A summer session to boost mind as well as body.
Something New for Summer | Two Modes for Better Movement By Ann Murphy
Introducing students to Pilates and Gyrokinesis.
Summertime Teacher Training
Your guide to workshops and intensives across the U.S. and beyond.


January 2014 Dance Studio Life


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. Dance Studio Life understands the soul of the teaching field.


January 2014COLUMNS
Ask Rhee Gold
Advice for dance teachers
2 Music Tips for Dance Teachers | Exercises for Musicality By Nina Pinzarrone
2 Tips for Ballet Teachers | Airborne By David Arce
2 Tips for Hip-Hop Teachers | Rock to the Beat By Geo Hubela
2 Tips for Modern Teachers | Shape and Process By Bill Evans
2 Tips for Tap Teachers | Step In Time By Thelma Goldberg
College Close-Ups | Jacksonville University
What students need to know about college and university dance programs.
EditorSpeak By Cheryl Ossola
What’s Up In the dance community

On My Mind | Words from the Publisher By Rhee Gold

Classroom Connection By Dawn Freeman and Karen White
Ideas to incorporate into your curriculum
Words from our readers

Mindful Marketing | Power of Perks By Meghan Seaman
Teacher in the Spotlight | Jessica Starr
Teachers who make a difference  
Thinking Out Loud | Heads Held High By Jennifer Moore Aguilar

Ballet Scene | Crazy for Ballet By Claudia Bauer
The basics of building a program for boys.
Bright Biz Idea | Finding the “Vital Few” By Misty Lown
What a turn-of-the-20th-century principle of economics means to you.
Dance Theatre Goes Global By Rita Felciano
Kid-driven Mudd Butt Mystery Theatre Troupe gets inventive with dance.
Heat, Horton and Happiness By Karen White
One dance teacher’s transformative trip to Haiti.
Johannesburg to Oakland By Toba Singer
How South African dance landed at Laney College.

Living Traditions By Mary Ellen Hunt
In Native American dance, what’s old is eternal – and always relevant.
Mixing It Up By Joseph Carman
World dances, lindy hop, and Denishawn – Vanaver Caravan does it all.
Schools with Staying Power | Making Memories in Mobile By Lea Marshall
Sheffield School of the Dance’s three generations of dance lovers.
Who’s In Charge By Elizabeth McLain
When kids call the shots in class, chaos reigns.


December 2013 Dance Studio Life


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. Dance Studio Life understands the soul of the teaching field.


December 2013COLUMNS
Ask Rhee Gold
Advice for dance teachers
2 Tips for Ballet Teachers | Better Balance By David Arce
2 Tips for Hip-Hop Teachers | Way to Pop By Geo Hubela
2 Tips for Modern Teachers | Get Grounded By Bill Evans
2 Tips for Tap Teachers | Building on Basics By Gregg Russell
A Better You | Thoughts to Carry With You By Suzanne Martin, PT, DPT
What to remember to be the best ‘you’ ever.
EditorSpeak By Cheryl Ossola and Karen White
What’s Up In the dance community
On My Mind | Words from the Publisher By Rhee Gold

Classroom Connection By Megan Donahue and Karen White
Ideas to incorporate into your curriculum
Words from our readers
Mindful Marketing | Online Integrity By Julia Holt Lucia
Teacher in the Spotlight | Staciann Marcucci
Teachers who make a difference  
Thinking Out Loud | Five Lessons By Joan F. Smith

Ballet Scene | Sharing the Love, Shaping the Mind By Melanie Gibbs
How to make ballet fun for kids who resist it.
Bright Biz Idea | Two for One By Mary Ellen Hunt
Cooperation is key in merger of two studios.
Chatting With Chet By Karen White
Jacob’s Pillow musical-theater master talks shows and shop.
From Injury to Inspiration By Ryan P. Casey
How a tap syllabus was born and what it can do for tappers everywhere.
Fundamentally Hip-Hop By Ann Murphy
3 arts activists speak to schoolchildren through dance.
Get Out and Dance! 
Competitions and conventions for schools of every size, taste, and budget.

Higher-Ed Voice | Dancers Without Borders By Bonner Odell
Discovering the power of dance service in Panama.
Hip-Hop for All By Geo Hubela
Teaching methods that suit every student.
Hip-Hop for Tykes By Megan Donahue
Cool moves and lots of action for the preschool set.
Tap From the Heart By Ryan P. Casey
How to put meaning, emotion, and story into tap dance.
Tap’s Past Made Present By Andrew J. Nemr
Tap-dance memorabilia may find a home in a new museum.


November 2013 Dance Studio Life


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. Dance Studio Life understands the soul of the teaching field.


Dance Studio Life November 2013COLUMNS
Ask Rhee Gold Advice for dance teachers
2 Tips for Ballet Teachers | Super Stretches By David Arce
2 Tips for Hip-Hop Teachers | Build a Foundation By Geo Hubela
2 Tips for Modern Teachers | Seeing the Good, Analyzing the Need By Bill Evans
2 Tips for Tap Teachers | Breaking It Down By Gregg Russell
A Better You | Ointment Options By Suzanne Martin, PT, DPT
Before aches appear, research which pain-relieving salve is right for you.
EditorSpeak By Lisa Okuhn and Karen White
FYI What’s Up In the dance community
On My Mind | Words from the Publisher By Rhee Gold

Classroom Connection By Michelle Knell
Ideas to incorporate into your curriculum
Mail Words from our readers
Mindful Marketing | Hootsuite’s Helping Hand By Lori Shecter
Teacher in the Spotlight | Whitney Teyf
Teachers who make a difference  
Thinking Out Loud | Beyond Normal Blue By Jennings Smith

Art for Art’s Sake By Neil Ellis Orts
Hope Stone Kids shouts out for diversity and individuality in art.
Ballet Scene | Personal and Provocative By Joseph Carman
TeenAge WasteLand gets teens talking, and dancing, about sensitive issues.
Boys to Men By Joseph Carman
Atlanta’s Men in Motion helps at-risk boys bypass crime for college.
Bright Biz Idea | You Want It? They’ve Got It! By Karen White
From the tried-and-true to the newest of the new, it was there at the DanceLife Teacher Conference.
Counterpoint and Connection By Ryan P. Casey
Choreographing dynamic duos is all about interaction.
Dancers With Voice By Maureen Janson
Wright State University emphasizes expression with acting and vocal training for dancers.
Dancing Inside By Arisa White
Teaching dance to the incarcerated.
Dancing on Common Ground By Ann Murphy
Dance Canvas turns to partnerships to nurture young choreographers.
Moving Passages By Jennifer Kaplan
Words and dance unite in a creative program for Baltimore students.
Onstage Poetry By Lois O’Brian
UB’s Digital Poetry and Dance Program links words and movement through technology.




Ask Rhee Gold

Advice for dance teachers

Hello Rhee,

I am writing to see if you have any input on a situation I am facing at my small dance studio. Recently we had a “Bring-a-Friend Week” and one of my recreational teen female dancers brought a boy with her. He was fabulous! He tried really hard and kept up as if he had danced all his life. He decided he would like to join the class. Of course I welcomed him.

A week later, three parents of students in this class approached me to say their daughters did not feel comfortable having a boy in their class and asked how I could have put him in there. I calmly explained that we do not discriminate on the basis of gender, race, religion, etc. However, I am facing the real possibility that I may lose three students if this boy stays in the class.

I understand teenage awkwardness and that these particular girls are shy and a little sheltered, but I cannot turn this student away and feel good about it. Of course, in terms of business, I cannot afford to lose three students to gain one. If you have any insight about how to handle this situation, I would appreciate it very much. —Nancy


Dear Nancy,

Unless I have missed something—for example, this boy is creating a problem in the classroom—these parents are off the wall. Actually, as a male and a former dancer, I am offended that they have any reservations about a boy being in class with their daughters. Excluding the boy from this class would be discrimination, and the parents of these girls need to know it.

We must stand up for our beliefs and do what we feel is morally right. If I were facing this situation, I would tell these parents that this boy is entitled to take any class he is capable of, just as their daughters are. If they can’t accept that and decide to leave your school, I believe you will gain respect from the majority of your clientele because you held firm to your policy of non-discrimination.

Think about it: if you don’t allow this boy into your classes, you will close the door to dance at your school for all boys. Word will get around in your community that boys are not welcome. This will hurt not only your enrollment but your current students, who would benefit from having boys as fellow dancers in any genre and as partners in ballet classes. By excluding this boy, you would perpetuate the misconception that dance is for girls only.

My guess is that if you call these parents’ bluff, they will decide to stay. If they still want to leave after you explain all the negative repercussions of denying this boy his right to dance, then they should leave. I wish you the best. —Rhee



Dear Rhee,

What happened to the days when dance teachers presented themselves as professionals? I’m talking about dressing and speaking appropriately, both in class and in public.

Recently, several teachers in our community were invited to an important arts council meeting to explore how the council could better promote dance and how we could develop a mutually beneficial relationship. One school owner and her teachers showed up in T-shirts, pajama bottoms, and ball caps; when they spoke they giggled like teenagers and made offensive remarks about a school whose owner could not attend. (The school they criticized has been in our area for 40 years and is respected by the rest of us.) This school owner and her teachers were disrespectful and unkind. Many of the other teachers, including me, felt uncomfortable and embarrassed by how they represented our dance community.

The meeting was successful, but I can’t stop thinking about the negative impression these teachers made. I feel like I should say something to them because they make all of us look bad. Should I? —Catherine


Dear Catherine,

This is an interesting situation, and I understand why you would be ill at ease. But I am sure the arts council people know that the attitude and behavior of these teachers are not representative of all the teachers in your community.

Unless the offensive school owner or one of her teachers contacts you, I think it’s best to say nothing. Chances are good that they will not be interested in working with the other schools in the area, and it will be their loss.

Think about the positive: what happened at this meeting was productive in building relationships within the arts community. Also, those of you who did present yourselves as professionals probably left the meeting appreciating each other more than you did when you walked in. The representatives of this one school, by dressing and speaking inappropriately, showed the rest of you exactly what you don’t want to do in such situations.

I say you should look forward to the next meeting and the opportunities it could bring, and forget about the way these people acted. —Rhee



Dear Rhee,

I run dance competitions, but formerly I was a school owner. You always talk about how to be a good competitor—what would you say when a teacher asks you to keep another school out of a certain competition? The teacher promised that if I did that, she would send me $30,000 in entry fees and bring everyone to nationals. I asked why she wanted to keep out the other school, and she said having them there is not good for her business. The other school has been to a lot of our competitions. They cause no problems, but they are much smaller in terms of entry fees. It is hard to turn down the money, but I do not want to keep anyone out of my competitions. What would you do? —Uncomfortable


Dear Uncomfortable,

Turn down the deal! You have a loyal client in this smaller school, and they have never created any issues at your events, so why should you penalize them? They may spend less money than the one offering big bucks, but I’d bet they would never make such a request of you.

As a former competition director, I can say with confidence that the schools you want to attract to your events are the ones whose owners and teachers have integrity, loyalty, and strong ethical standards. The size of the school is less important. The request you received is unquestionably an uncomfortable ultimatum. But there is only one response.

On another note, the school owner who called you probably doesn’t realize it, but anyone who thinks she can pay off someone to prevent her students from having to compete with a certain school is not a teacher who will last long. My guess is that she will be swallowed up by her own insecurities. Have a great season! —Rhee




2 Music Tips for Dance Teachers | Notation Basics

46 2 Tips MusicBy Nina Pinzarrone

Tip 1
In written music each tone is written as a symbol called a note, which indicates the pitch (how high or low) and duration. Notes are written on a staff consisting of five lines and four spaces.

A G (treble) clef on the left side of the staff indicates that the notes appearing there are higher in pitch. On the piano these notes are usually played by the right hand. An F (bass) clef is used for the notes that are lower in pitch. On the piano these notes are played by the left hand.

Different physical appearances tell the musician the duration of the tone: a quarter note equals one beat, an eighth note equals half a beat, etc.



Tip 2
Your students should know the most common time signatures used in dance music so that they can count musical phrases when learning choreography or class exercises. Time signatures organize the musical notes into regular units (called measures or bars) that have a specific number of beats. Often each measure has a repetitive pattern of strong and weak beats. The most important time signatures to introduce to your students are the simple ones: 2/4, 3/4, and 4/4.

The 2/4 time signature is most commonly represented by a polka, which has two beats per bar, with the first beat accented. The waltz, polonaise, mazurka, and minuet have 3/4 time signatures, with three beats per bar. The march is the dominant example of 4/4 time, with four beats per bar.

To listen to different dance rhythms and time signatures go to YouTube and search for the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra playing the “Blue Danube” waltz (On the Beautiful Blue Danube, Op. 314) and the Pizzicato Polka, Op. 234 by Johann Strauss II; and the Radetzky March, Op. 228, by Johann Strauss I.





2 Tips for Ballet Teachers | Rules of Ballet

38 2 Tips Ballet
By David Arce

Tip 1
Classical ballet is different from other forms of dance in three fundamental ways. Feet must point as soon as they leave the floor (see “2 Tips for Ballet Teachers: Airborne,” January 2014). Furthermore, every step or pose must be done with turnout.

Turnout is often compromised when beginning or ending relatively advanced steps such as saut de chat, tour jeté, or sissone. I permit my students to learn and practice these steps only at a musical tempo that allows them to properly turn out and point their feet. This lets the students use and feel the correct muscles and gradually work up to a faster or slower tempo.


Tip 2
In any step, from tendu to grand battement to jumps and turns, the working foot and leg must continue in the same direction until the end point of the movement is reached. In a grand battement arabesque, for example, the working foot/leg starts in one of the five positions on the floor and moves in a straight line to its highest point.

From time to time you must remind your students of the proper trajectory of the leg and foot. I do this by manually directing the foot and leg from the floor to its ending position. This is most easily done when students are at the barre. With the student moving extremely slowly, I make sure she is demonstrating proper turnout, a straight knee, and a pointed foot the entire time.




2 Tips for Hip-Hop Teachers | Let’s Tut

44 2 Tips Hip-Hop
By Geo Hubela

Tip 1
For the basic tut, start with both arms straight out to your sides in a flat second position at shoulder height, straight wrists, palms facing down, fingers together. Bend the arms up at the elbow and down at the wrists into 90-degree angles. Return to straight arms, then reverse the tut by bending the arms down at the elbow and up at the wrists. Palms always remain facing the floor. Return and repeat, shooting for perfect 90-degree angles at the shoulders, elbows, and wrists.


Tip 2
When the tut is perfected, work on adding opposition. From that same straight-arm starting position, bring the right arm up and the left arm down into opposing tut positions. Return to straight arms, then reverse, bringing left arm up and right arm down. Next, have students move through all four tut positions repeatedly (returning to the straight-arms position between each): both arms in the upward tut position, both down, right up and left down, then left up and right down. Remember: keep palms down. This great hip-hop exercise also tones the arms.


Watch the “Let’s Tut” video on our new YouTube channel, Dance Studio Life Tips!



2 Tips for Modern Teachers | Balance and Functions

42 2 Tips Modern
By Bill Evans

Tip 1
Proportional balance: Recent research in dance science confirms the importance of proportional balance in classes among time spent on the floor, time spent standing in place, and time spent moving across the floor. All three portions of class are important, but dance scientists recommend that teachers devote approximately one-third of class time to each.


Tip 2
Different functions: Time spent lying or sitting on the floor (as in Bartenieff Fundamentals, Graham, or Hawkins techniques, for example) provides crucial opportunities for students to tune in deeply to breath, kinesthetic sensation, and basic patterns of total body organization.

The portion of class devoted to exploring various bodily articulations while standing primarily in one place (as in Cunningham, Limόn, and other traditional modern techniques) is also essential. It allows students to focus on clarity of initiation, sequencing, phrasing, and form, while also developing muscular strength and control.

Moving through space develops much more total body integration and coordination than the earlier-mentioned portions of the class, and greatly increases overall muscular activity. I suggest devising class structures and strategies that allow students to move through space in every second or third exploration throughout the class, rather than offering those opportunities only at the end.




2 Tips for Tap Teachers | Rudiments: Fundamentals of Footwork

40 2 Tips Tap
By Thelma Goldberg

Tip 1
Rudiments are a series of exercises that build speed and precision in small footwork. These two challenging small footwork rudiment patterns (one stationary and one traveling) are good for warming up.

For this stationary series, begin in quarter-note time (or half-time for beginners). When dancers show clarity, progress to a combination of quarter and eighth notes, and then to all eighth notes.

Standing on the left foot, students do 8 right toe digs, then 8 right heel drops, 8 right toe drops, then 8 alternating heel-and-toe drops. Reverse.

Next do 4, then 2 repetitions of each on both the right and left. For an added challenge, alternate each repetition with a heel drop or toe drop on the standing foot. Always reverse!


Tip 1
This traveling rudiment exercise strengthens opposite heel drops. Working with simple eighth notes, travel to the right with the basic pattern of step right (1) heel drop left right (&2), step left (3) heel drop right left (&4), step right (5) heel drop left right (&6) step left (7) heel drop left right (&8). Note the switch in the final two heel drops. Reverse.

Try the pattern with running eighth notes (1&2&3&4&5&6&7&8; ending heels do not switch) or eighth note triplets (1&a2&a3&a . . . 8&a; ending heels do switch).



Visit YouTube for videos of Steve Condos, a teacher and performer who developed many of the rudiment patterns used today.







Teacher in the Spotlight | Lauren Kipphut

32 Teacher Spotlight
Director and teacher; Spring Mill Dance Academy, Ivyland, Pennsylvania

NOMINATED BY: Maddi Szodfridt, student: “When I was 12, I decided I wanted to have dance as my profession. I told Lauren this. Most teachers would say it was a wonderful idea but never follow up on it. Not Lauren. She increased my training hours and gave me two-hour privates. My private training time was right after school, and my mom found she wasn’t able to get me there that early. Instead of canceling or shortening the sessions, Lauren decided they were important enough that she would pick me up at school and bring me to dance. This is beyond expectations for any dance teacher. Not only is Lauren extremely devoted to her students, she is the fairest individual I know. She is my best friend, my big sister, and the most important person in my life.”


AGES TAUGHT: 2 to adult

GENRES TAUGHT: Creative movement, ballet, pointe, jazz, lyrical, contemporary, modern, hip-hop

32 Teacher Spotlight 2

Photo by Maria Menjivar

WHY SHE CHOSE TEACHING AS A CAREER: I always knew I wanted dance to be a career. As a dance major in college I discovered that I loved teaching. I taught local children as part of the dance conservatory’s curriculum; I loved working with them, developing classes and syllabuses, and finding creative ways to teach. Watching the children develop their skills and knowing I was part of that progress gave me pride.

HER GREATEST INSPIRATIONS: My childhood ballet teacher, Olga Blumenkrantz. Every class was enjoyable and well structured. She let me choreograph for a couple of my classmates and myself. My parents were my inspiration throughout college and at the beginning of my career. I had 100 percent support from them to follow my heart and never give up. Since I started teaching, my students have become my inspiration. They make me strive to be a better teacher. They challenge me, whether that means keeping up with new and innovative choreography or helping them work through their frustrations as dancers.

TEACHING PHILOSOPHY: To dance with your heart, mind, and body—from the top of your head to the ends of your toes and everywhere in between. Put those three together and you are unstoppable.

WHAT MAKES HER A GOOD TEACHER: First, listening. I come up with new ideas—I research, experiment, take master classes, and try to think out of the box to find new ways to teach and choreograph. But listening to my students is what really guides me into new ways of thinking. I teach for them, so I want to know what they want. Second, versatility—the ability to work with students of many different levels: beginners, special-needs students, and those who aspire to become professional dancers. I have been able to adapt to each dancer’s abilities and challenge each one individually.

HER FONDEST TEACHING MOMENT: Seeing a sense of accomplishment on my dancers’ faces. Having a student finally perfect a pirouette or watching them blossom as they perform their first solos makes me proud. A few of my former students have pursued careers in dance and I am overjoyed knowing I had a part in that. As a teacher, you always hope you are instilling something in your students.

ADVICE FOR DANCERS AND TEACHERS: For dancers: never give up. At times it will be frustrating, but always remember to dance for yourself. For teachers: never give up on your students, and give them as much dedication as they give to you.

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS: After 16 years of teaching, I finally achieved my dream of directing a dance studio. I adore my students. They have helped me become the person and teacher I am today. I am blessed to be able to work with such passionate students who have such wonderful support from their families.


DO YOU KNOW A DANCE TEACHER WHO DESERVES TO BE IN THE SPOTLIGHT? Email your nominations to or mail them to Arisa White, Dance Studio Life, P.O. Box 2150, Norton, MA 02766. Please include why you think this teacher should be featured, along with his or her contact information.






Thinking Out Loud | Hats Off to Carolyn

30 Thinking Out LoudBy Nancy Stone

Ten years after selling my studio to two of my former students, I still miss being a dance teacher, with all the fun and heartaches that go with that job. Only now can I discuss, tear-free, not owning a studio. A few years ago I went to a recital at my former school, and it brought home to me all over again how important teachers are. The audience was filled with former dancers who came to acknowledge the 50-year history of a dance studio in a small Georgia town.

For the finale, the owners, Terri and Kim, asked former students to participate in “Footloose,” a number that had often ended my recitals and had always been a hit. Some of the dancers who participated had graduated as long ago as 1978 and some as recently as 2011. Some lived more than 1,000 miles away. Most of these dancers had done the number years before, and of course the choreography came back to them immediately. Eighty-six former dancers filled the stage with big smiles and lots of enthusiasm.

After the show, at a cocktail party, I talked to former students I had not seen in many years. We reminisced about old shows, how talented they were or were not (age, it turns out, brings brutal honesty), dances they performed, and costumes they wore. Throughout the evening, I was reminded again and again about the importance of dance teachers in the life of every student. It is wonderful to have students who dance on Broadway or in Las Vegas, join a prestigious ballet company, or become stars at Disney. But I am also proud of the dancers who chose a different career but still have the love of dance in their hearts.

Carolyn and I became big sister/little sister, mentor/student, and, most important, friends.

After coming down from the high of that evening, I began to think about my first dance teacher and how important she was—and is—in my life. “Miss Carolyn” was from Atlanta. Each week she rode the bus to Jackson and several other towns to teach dance. This was the first exposure the people in these small towns had to dance, and Carolyn was an instant success.

My father had recently died and my mother had no cash, so Carolyn gave me dance lessons in exchange for three nights of room and board each week. Carolyn and I became big sister/little sister, mentor/student, and, most important, friends. One of the most difficult days in my life was Carolyn’s announcement that she was getting married and moving to Virginia. She had arranged for another dance teacher to take over, but classes were never the same.

Not long after Carolyn said, “I do,” she and her husband invited me to visit them. They showed me around Washington, DC, and I spent the better part of that summer with them. It was the 1950s, and Elvis Presley was becoming hugely popular. All I could talk about was his upcoming show in Atlanta and how I would give anything to see it. As I boarded the train to return to Atlanta, Carolyn gave me the name of one of Elvis’ backup singers, in case I ever got to a concert.

When I got home, my mother surprised me with tickets to the concert—and after the concert, Carolyn’s friend introduced me to Elvis! He kissed my cheek, and I still consider not washing that part of my face! My mother and Carolyn made my dream come true.

While I was attending the University of Georgia, Carolyn and her husband returned to Atlanta. Carolyn opened a studio and asked me to teach for her one day a week. The tables had turned—now I was staying at her house.

Carolyn opened so many doors for me. I am the person I am today, in part, because in 1951, a young dancer from Atlanta came to a small Georgia town and took the time to befriend a girl who had lost her father and needed support. We have remained friends through all these many years, and still we talk, laugh, and have fun together.

Hats off to you, Carolyn Phillips Fleetwood. You made a difference in my life and the lives of so many others.


Ballet Scene | Fairrie’s Finesse

Photo courtesy Fiona Fairrie

Photo courtesy Fiona Fairrie

British-schooled Fiona Fairrie is in demand as a “fix-it” teacher
By Joseph Carman

“Don’t kick your leg. Unfold your leg. That’s what makes it an adage,” says ballet teacher Fiona Fairrie to 11 advanced students at The Georgia Ballet School.

Firmly but affectionately, she focuses on details, details, and more details, demanding attention, musicality, centeredness, stretch, fluidity, and energy. During an up-tempo pirouette combination, she reminds the students to end a step looking “as beautiful as when you started it.” Occasionally she stops them and asks what they need to think about before they begin a combination. They freeze in their tracks. This teacher expects insightful responses.

While Fairrie was dancing with Stuttgart, legendary ballerina Marcia Haydee suggested that Fairrie might teach because she had such a gift for pinpointing errors and giving corrections.

Fairrie, associate director of The Georgia Ballet School, garners respect in the ballet world far beyond the Marietta-based school’s walls. She received Outstanding Teacher Awards at the 2005, 2007, and 2010 Youth America Grand Prix competitions as well as an Outstanding Choreographer Award in 2006. And her students never forget her wisdom and influence.

Take, for example, Daniel Ulbricht, a powerhouse of a principal dancer with New York City Ballet and a respected teacher and artistic advisor at Manhattan Youth Ballet. Ulbricht trained with Fairrie in his early teens, when he was in a youth ballet company, Les Jeunes Danseurs, in St. Petersburg, Florida.

“Fiona has a way of balancing a wonderful sense of humor with honesty,” he says. “She’s very comfortable saying something is correct or incorrect. She would always stop me with that long, drawn-out British accent and say, ‘Danny, that was wroooongg.’ I found that if I did something incorrectly, I had to go back and fix it on the spot. A lot of teachers are good at telling you when it’s wrong, but few tell you how to fix it. Fiona fixes it. When someone falls out of a pirouette, some teachers say, ‘Well, that’s bad.’ But what happened? How would you diagnose that? And Fiona could. She’d say, ‘You’re getting too excited,’ or ‘You’re losing your passé.’ It wasn’t ‘This is bad,’ but ‘Here’s the information on how to fix it.’ ”

81 Fairries 1

Fiona Fairrie brings an eagle eye and attention to detail, honed over four decades of teaching, to her students at The Georgia Ballet School. Photo courtesy The Georgia Ballet

Fairrie choreographed a ballet for Ulbricht, then 13, titled Les Rendezvous, that required Bournonville-style precision and focused on line and port de bras, right down to the placement of the fingers. “I was wearing white tights, so it was about getting that polish and nuance,” Ulbricht says. Looking back, he realizes “she tailored that piece so I could work on things that didn’t necessarily come naturally to me as a dancer. It was delightful to have a teacher take that initiative. It doesn’t happen that often—extending someone’s technique class into repertory.”

According to Ulbricht, Fairrie has offered such insights to many dancers. “Fiona has a resume that few people would ever argue with,” he says. “I think the proof is in what Fiona has produced. She has been able to look through the lens of each one of those students and give them individual corrections and opportunities.”

In four-plus decades of teaching, Fairrie has trained dancers from across the globe: Sarah Lane and Kristi Boone, soloists at American Ballet Theatre; Angela Kenny, soloist at Texas Ballet Theater; Stephanie Rae Williams of Dance Theatre of Harlem; Heather Crosby Kotelenets, first soloist at TBT; Amber Miller, formerly of Eifman Ballet; Lauren Parrott, corps de ballet member at San Francisco Ballet; Jim Nowakowski, demi-soloist at Houston Ballet; Jason Kittelberger of Cedar Lake Ballet; Joseph Kerwin, formerly with Louisville Ballet, now ballet master at Finnish National Ballet; Gil Boggs, former principal dancer at ABT, now artistic director of Colorado Ballet; Leslie Hughes, former principal dancer at Hamburg Ballet, now teaching at Hamburg Ballet School; Dawn Scannell, former principal dancer at Houston Ballet; and Rebecca Metzger Hirsch, formerly at NYCB, now a teacher at The Georgia Ballet School.

Fairrie was born and raised in the suburbs of postwar London. When she was a tot, her mother, who had decided to take up ballet as an adult, carted her along to ballet class. “I was only 4 years old thinking, ‘This is so embarrassing watching her get dressed for class. I think I could look better than this,’ ” says Fairrie, whose eye was precociously critical. She says classical music was constantly played in the household, imbuing her with a lasting love for music that inspired her dancing and continues to inform her teaching.

She began studying creative movement at Nesta Brooking School of Ballet in London at age 4, and at 9 attended its boarding school. Much of Fairrie’s devotion to dance and the arts was stoked by Nesta Brooking, an intimidating but nurturing teacher who, Fairrie says, “taught not only the technique of ballet, but, as a human being, taught her students what it was to be an artist and to appreciate art on every level.”

At age 14, Fairrie was accepted into The Royal Ballet School as a boarding student at White Lodge. Among her classmates were future stars Eva Evdokimova, Wayne Sleep, and Lesley Collier. While at Nesta Brooking, Fairrie had choreographed small ballets for Cecchetti competitions, and she asked The Royal Ballet School’s directors if she could choreograph a piece for the students there. The ballet she created, a piece about survivors of an atomic blast, won first prize at a Cecchetti competition. Subsequently, because her piece was successful, the directors decided to hold an annual choreographic competition at White Lodge.

81 Fairries 2

Photo courtesy The Georgia Ballet

“That’s how the White Lodge Choreographic Competition [now called the Annual Ninette de Valois Choreographic Award competition] came to be,” says Fairrie. “That’s where Chris Wheeldon, Liam Scarlett, and many others all came from. A lot of people don’t know that.”

In the upper school, Fairrie was promoted into former Royal Ballet ballerina Pamela May’s class, and then into the graduate class, taught by Dame Ninette de Valois, The Royal’s imposing founder. “Taking her class was the most terrifying experience,” Fairrie says. “The aura of having her teach us was extraordinary. I absorbed every single word that came out of her mouth. She was very quick-witted, very sharp, very articulate. She gave an extremely challenging class that required you to use your brain.”

At her graduation performance from the school, Fairrie danced the White Couple duet from Ashton’s Les Patineurs, but she wasn’t taken into the company. De Valois wanted her to stay in the school, insisting that she would eventually be accepted; a few days later Fairrie received a telegram from Stuttgart Ballet artistic director John Cranko, who had seen her graduation performance, asking her to join his company.

Fairrie danced with Stuttgart Ballet during the golden years of Cranko’s directorship, from 1967 to 1970. Then, feeling burned out, she left to discover a life outside of ballet. After a year in London, she asked to return to Stuttgart and rejoined the company in 1971 for its American tour. “I wanted to go back to America because I had such a good time there. Americans really understood how to enjoy life compared to English people, who seemed eternally depressed. In England, it was always, ‘We can’t do that; we haven’t done it that way before.’ In America, it was always, ‘Why don’t you try?’ America for me had such an uplifting spirit.”

While Fairrie was dancing with Stuttgart, legendary ballerina Marcia Haydee suggested that Fairrie might teach because she had such a gift for pinpointing errors and giving corrections. “Company dancers would say, ‘Watch me do this and tell me what I’m doing wrong,’ ” Fairrie says. What she told them to do would usually fix the problem. “A lot of them said, ‘You’d make an amazing teacher.’ I thought, ‘Maybe that is what I should do.’ ” She returned to London in 1972 and began teaching, quickly developing a following at the Dance Centre in London, now called Pineapple Dance Studios.

Impressed with how one of their students had improved under Fairrie’s tutelage during a summer of training in London, Charles Dickson and Alan Woodard, the directors of Metropolitan Academy of Ballet in Bethesda, Maryland, asked Fairrie to teach at their summer intensive. After a few days in the U.S., Fairrie says, “I decided I wanted to make my life in America.” To secure her green card status, she went to Atlanta, where a friend sponsored her. She taught for Atlanta Ballet and in 1974 established a school at Callanwolde Fine Arts Center in Atlanta. In two years, the school’s enrollment grew from two students to more than 200. She directed the program until 1977.

After a season teaching for the then-nascent School of Cleveland Ballet, Fairrie founded Fiona Fairrie Ballet School and Fiona Fairrie Ballet Company in Chattanooga, which became Chattanooga Ballet in 1980. She taught at her own school and company and then at Chattanooga Ballet for six years. From 1980–83, she also served as ballet professor at the University of South Florida in Tampa, where she met her husband, one of her ballet students. In 2001, she began teaching at Dallas Dance Academy (which later became part of Texas Ballet Theater when that company was formed by merging Dallas and Fort Worth Ballets). In 2013, she took on her current role as associate school director at The Georgia Ballet.

81Fairries 3

Photo courtesy Fiona Fairrie

Fairrie has long been a sought-after instructor on the summer intensive circuit, teaching at Houston Ballet’s Ben Stevenson Academy, Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, Atlanta Ballet, and for ABT Studio Company classes. This summer she will teach for Orlando Ballet School, the Timothy M. Draper Center for Dance Education in Rochester, New York, and The Georgia Ballet, now under the directorship of former NYCB soloist Alexandre Proia.

It was while Fairrie was teaching at the Timothy M. Draper Center for Dance Education’s summer intensives in the late 1990s and early 2000s that Sarah Lane, who was a pre-professional student there, formed a crucial bond with her. “She always had this positive, encouraging energy, but she was really honest,” Lane says. “She’s a perfectionist. If she said, ‘Good,’ she meant it. I loved to watch her demonstrate, seeing the high level of classical training that she had.”

Lane says Fairrie taught her how to use her port de bras and épaulement and to lengthen her legs without gripping. In 2002, when Lane was 18, Fairrie coached her in variations from Raymonda, Napoli, and Diana and Acteon for the USA International Ballet Competition, where Lane took a silver medal in the Junior Division.

Coaching students for YAGP and other competitions comes naturally to Fairrie. “I think one of the ways we become better teachers is through the coaching process,” she says. “It’s amazing how much you learn when you do that. It helps students, but it also helps us grow as teachers.”

Fairrie credits her early education at The Royal Ballet School, which includes Cecchetti and other methods with an RAD syllabus, with giving her a foundation that allows her to teach ballet properly. “We had teachers from the Paris Opera Ballet, Madame Perioslavic from Russia, and ex-ballerinas from The Royal Ballet,” Fairrie says. “It was a mixture of what they thought was the best from every syllabus. That’s what The Royal Ballet was teaching, and that’s what I still do teach.”

Nonetheless, her time in the United States has allowed her to expand on her teaching and learn from teachers here. “Maggie Black is definitely one” of those teachers who influenced her, Fairrie says. “I thought she was extraordinary in the simplicity of what she did, but at the same time she understands where the body has to be to get the most out of it. Vera Volkova was quite an awe-inspiring teacher—just seeing the calm, quiet way she got things out of people.”

Fairrie regards syllabuses as important, but not the sole solution. “A syllabus is like a bible,” she says. “I think it’s something to go from; you need the information from it, but I do think there is room for all of us to find our own way of making it work for us. We are not all blessed with perfect bodies like in Russia, where they can handpick every student. You’ve got to figure out ways to teach well to students who are coming twice a week versus students who come seven times a week. I think you have to be very clever about the way you do that without compromising the standards you grew up with.”

Fairrie’s advice to young teachers: “Watch as many good teachers as you possibly can and absorb what they are doing. And try to simplify what you do.”





Something New for Summer | Mozart to Mahler

59 Mozart to T
Teaching musicality means going beyond counts and steps
By Mary Ellen Hunt

“Get on the music! Can’t you hear the counts?”

It’s a common refrain voiced by frustrated dance teachers in countless studios. The real question is why students have trouble with musicality. And how can we help them? One way is to offer a workshop that focuses on musicality, and summer is the perfect time to stretch a curriculum beyond the usual fare.

“Most dancers don’t have trouble memorizing counts, but that’s an intellectual process,” says Tim Murphy, a veteran accompanist who has played for classes, auditions, rehearsals, and performances since 1973 throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and has taught choral singing at the University of San Francisco. Ask the dancers what step happens on 4, and they probably can tell you, Murphy says; what’s missing is an internalized sense of the music.

Debussy, Mozart, Brahms, Chopin, Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, Copland, Britten, Elgar, Prokofiev—the list goes on. Working with any of them will help develop a dancer musically. —Michael Vernon

Whether your students work with live accompaniment or a recording, by emphasizing musicality and an understanding of music you are not giving dancers merely another set of professional skills; you’re helping them find an inspired synergy between two art forms. It’s an aspect of dance training that is often underdeveloped, even as teachers everywhere exhort their students to pay attention to the music.

Listening to the music for a cue results in the dancer forever being a little late, Murphy says. “When I see this, it disturbs me tremendously, because the quality that is missing is something that a person walking in off the street can see without knowing anything about ballet.”

Viewers can instinctively tell that something is off when the musical dynamics, phrasing, or beats they are hearing don’t match what they see in the movement.

The challenge, it seems, is twofold: on a cerebral level, how do you give dancers the tools they need to articulate and communicate with musicians, and on a more visceral level, how do you develop their ability to respond appropriately and sensitively to what they hear?

Broad exposure

One simple first step is to expose students to as much music in as wide a variety as possible. A rich diet of musical choices is of enormous importance, says Indiana University ballet department chair Michael Vernon, who thinks that even the musical choices a teacher makes for a class or recital piece can have impact.

“I think the music one uses for choreography is an under-utilized tool,” he says. “Debussy, Mozart, Brahms, Chopin, Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, Copland, Britten, Elgar, Prokofiev—the list goes on. Working with any of them will help develop a dancer musically.”

Vernon has piloted a class offered during a two-week summer intensive held at IU that helps introduce pre-college students ages 13 to 18 to music. “We found that students, especially ones coming from smaller studios, lacked music education,” he says.

Taught by Brenda Brenner, a violinist and music education faculty member, the hour-long weekly class takes a broad approach. “I treat the class as a whirlwind tour of music and its relationship to dance,” Brenner says. She offers examples of everything from medieval plainchant to contemporary minimalist composers, and dance music from The Rite of Spring to Bolero.

“The first portion of class focuses on elements of music—melody, harmony, rhythm, texture, all the parameters that go into determining the style,” she says. “Then we can talk about large-scale formal ways of putting music together, melody, contour, phrase links, the beat structure of a piece, how to recognize changes in form or structure.”

59 Mozart to 1As she and the students work through musical examples, Brenner also weaves in parallels between the music and what was happening in the world of dance at the time the piece was composed, as well as the social and political milieu in which the composer worked, to give students a broader, more holistic view.

“They are avid listeners,” she says. “In class, they’ll use an app to identify music and come to me afterward to make sure they’ve downloaded the pieces we talk about. And that’s part of my biggest hope—that they will surround themselves with different music styles and continue to explore and listen to new things.”

Robert Ray, who directs the trainee program for Joffrey Ballet School in New York, agrees that exposure to a wide variety of music is key for students. “Dancers dance the art which is inside them,” he says. “A generation raised mainly on popular music will not have the degree of culture a dancer trained in a variety of musical forms does. Understanding the complex rhythms of Stravinsky, Webern, or Prokofiev takes much musical training.”

In the shorter, more basic format of a summer workshop, in-depth musical training is out of the question. But that doesn’t mean students can’t move beyond the familiar. They might have heard of Bach, but do they know other composers from the baroque period? They might recognize the stormy opening to Beethoven’s Fifth, but do they know his music bridges the classical style of Mozart and the Romantic music of Brahms and Mendelssohn?

Since music history isn’t an area of expertise for most dance studio owners, Randall Benichak, who directs a three-year intensive music course for the Joffrey School trainees, suggests getting in touch with professional musicians at local orchestras or universities. They can discuss works of music they are performing or practicing, and which aspects of music history and genre might be important for dancers to know.

Bring in the basics

If you have time to go beyond music history, a worthwhile direction for a summer music workshop is to teach dancers the fundamentals of reading music, basic terminology, and how an understanding of those elements can improve what they do in class every day.

“There are many aspects to musicianship—qualities of music you’d like to see dancers incorporate in their technique, like the ability to move slowly or quickly, in a staccato way,” says Murphy. “The Italian expressions that describe music are qualities any dancer would like to have in his or her technique.”

Dancers will probably already have a working understanding of terms like “allegro” and “adagio” from technique class, but knowing a wider vocabulary and being able to read music, even at a rudimentary level, will help them; for example, they’ll be more prepared to communicate with accompanists and composers or work through complex music in shifting tempos.

Having a musician help teach students the basics of meters and rhythms, Benichak says, also provides dancers with invaluable insights on how to think about the way they phrase choreography, without having to be told.

“One thing I notice with dancers is that no matter what the meter is, they always count in 5-6-7-8, whether it’s a straight 4/4 or a waltz, which a musician would count as three beats,” he says. “With Stravinsky, where the meter changes all the time, that would be much more challenging.

“A lot of times I hear teachers screaming counts,” Benichak continues, “but when it’s a piece of music where counts don’t change, you don’t need to count it for them. Students have to be able to hear the phrases themselves and listen to music, otherwise they start to lose that natural musicality that is crucial to a dancer. They have to be concerned not so much about the exact beats, but feeling where the music is going. That ability is so important—you want them to feel what the music is telling them to do, even with a recording; then they will know what to do when they dance with live music, or in a situation where the dance drives the music.”

Internalizing music

There are ways to improve students’ musical sensitivity that have less to do with music theory and more with developing how dancers hear music. It’s worth considering incorporating some tried-and-true methods of teaching rhythm into a music workshop.

59 Mozart to 2The challenge of connecting movement to rhythm is hardly a new problem. More than a century ago, Swiss music teacher Émile Jaques-Dalcroze developed a method (named after him) that was meant to develop the ear-mind-body connection in students, to help them develop a kinesthetic awareness of music.

Once popular with such modern-dance icons as Mary Wigman, Marie Rambert, Rudolf Laban, and Doris Humphrey, the Dalcroze method has disappeared from dance training, even as it has taken hold in music conservatories. It is taught in schools from Juilliard to Oberlin College to the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, but today very few dancers are trained in it. However, the concepts can be easily taught to students of all ages, from preschoolers to adults.

Monica Dale, who leads workshops nationwide in the Dalcroze method for dancers and teachers, notes that the Dalcroze approach has three branches: improvisation; solfège, which uses syllables to train students to recognize pitch; and eurhythmics, which uses a person’s natural movement inclinations to encourage understanding such fundamental concepts as structure and expression as well as rhythmic accuracy.

In a typical class, the instructor improvises on the piano, playing musical phrases that they ask students to respond to with movement. Dale theorizes that few dance teachers teach eurhythmics in part because not many of them play piano. If you aren’t a musician, you could partner with an experienced pianist or use a percussion instrument instead (drums or shakers) to incorporate the basics of Dalcroze into a workshop exercise.

There are online resources that can give you ideas for typical exercises. A search on YouTube for “Dalcroze eurhythmics exercises” offers useful examples. Dale says that with younger children, she often starts with the group seated on the floor. She introduces a song or rhythmic pattern that eventually gets them up and moving as she begins to play on the piano. The key is to get students to listen to what they are hearing and then let those patterns emerge as physical movements.

“I might tell them to walk to what they perceive as the beat of the music,” she says. “Or listen to my right hand only, and clap that pattern. Then I’ll instruct them to put that rhythmic pattern somewhere else. Maybe it goes on your feet or nodding your head. Now if I play something different, how would you move? How would you go from the first movement to the second? From there you can build layer upon layer, until you have them moving in a way that is intricate and yet also creative and playful. It’s very experiential.”

According to Ray, dancers have an intuitive way of moving to music. But why not give them the added advantage of real knowledge? Familiarizing your students with the essentials of music theory, giving them a taste of music history, allowing them to experiment with ways of physicalizing what they hear—aside from giving them tools to become better dancers, these experiences can inspire artistry.

“Many successful dancers lack theoretical knowledge and get by on an innate musicality,” Ray says. “But dancers who are trained in music are better positioned to be more sophisticated and expressive in their interpretation.”


Music That Moves You

Here are some ideas for a classical playlist for your dancers that would not only expand their music horizons but also relate to dance repertoire.

• J.S. Bach’s Double Violin Concerto in D minor is used for George Balanchine’s Concerto Barocco.
• Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s German Dances for Orchestra is used in Angelin Preljocaj’s Le Parc.
• Johannes Brahms’ Piano Quartet No. 1 in G minor is used in George Balanchine’s Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet.
• Frederic Chopin’s Nocturne (Op. 32, No. 2), Waltz (Op. 70, No. 1), Mazurka (Op. 33, No. 2), and Prelude (Op. 28, No. 7) are among the Chopin works used in Michel Fokine’s Les Sylphides.
• Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s ballet music—e.g., Swan Lake or Sleeping Beauty
• Claude Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune is used for Vaslav Nijinsky’s ballet L’après-midi d’un faune (The Afternoon of a Faun).
• Sergei Rachmaninov’s beautiful preludes (Prelude in B Minor, Opus. 32, No. 10; Prelude in F Sharp Minor, Opus 23, No. 1; Prelude in A Major, Opus 32, No. 9) serve as backdrop for Ben Stevenson’s romantic Three Preludes.
• Sergei Prokofiev’s music for the ballet Romeo and Juliet is very well known, but other ballets to his music include Cinderella, The Stone Flower, and The Prodigal Son.
• Igor Stravinsky’s scores for Petrouchka and Firebird are great introductions to his music.
• Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring was used by Martha Graham for her work of the same name, but his Billy the Kid, choreographed by Eugene Loring, and Rodeo, choreographed by Agnes de Mille, are equally vibrant pieces for dance.



Something New for Summer | Two Modes for Better Movement

Pilates mat classes utilize props like stretch bands to create resistance. Photo courtesy Blue Sparrow Pilates

Pilates mat classes utilize props like stretch bands to create resistance.
Photo courtesy Blue Sparrow Pilates

Introducing students to Pilates and Gyrokinesis
By Ann Murphy

Not that many years ago it was enough to take a single morning technique class and feel like you had done the physical work you needed to be a dancer. Then, sometime in the 1990s, the demands on dancers to be able to dance anything began to soar, and the old method of relying on daily class to prepare was no longer enough.

The result is that now dancers don’t simply dance, they train. Talk to any longtime contemporary or classical dancer and you will likely find someone who swims, lift weights, studies yoga, or cross-trains. While these are helpful add-ons that can give dancers needed stamina, they don’t necessarily provide the stability or the flexibility or even the efficient strength and ease 21st-century dancing requires.

Pilates and Gyrokinesis are designed to tune any body to be efficient, strong, and fluid. Introducing these modalities to your students could have long-term benefits.

To fill that void, studios can turn to Pilates and Gyrotonic® (or more likely its equipment-free counterpart, Gyrokinesis®), each of which is designed to tune any body to be efficient, strong, and fluid. Introducing these modalities to your students is a service that could have long-term benefits for young dancers and improve teachers’ ability to address physical problems in technique class. One of the best times to do this is during a summer dance session that goes in-depth to explore what these modalities can offer.


The roots of “physical culture”
48 Two Modes 1b

Dr. Suzanne Martin demonstrates a Pilates psoas exercise.
Photo by Eliot Kuhner, courtesy Suzanne Martin

The roots of both Pilates and Gyrotonic date back to the mid-1800s, when a French singer with a damaged voice named François Delsarte developed a system of breathing that soon revolutionized 19- and 20th-century European and U.S. performance practice. By looking at the body as a series of interlocking systems, he launched what came to be known as “physical culture,” challenging the pervasive notion that the body was a mere servant of mind and spirit, like a lowly mule for a lordly rider. Delsarte’s physical-culture practice served as the precursor to many of today’s modalities.

By the mid-20th century, a growing interest in the relationship of the physical and the mental/emotional produced an array of other methods. In addition to Pilates and Gyrotonic, these included Rudolf Laban’s movement analysis, F. Mathias Alexander’s Alexander Technique, Moshe Feldenkrais’ Feldenkrais Method of somatic education, and Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen’s Body-Mind Centering, among others.

What distinguishes Pilates and Gyrokinesis and makes them well suited to a summer dance curriculum are the athletic ways each zeros in on, improves, and revises action, rather than engaging in the more meditative acts of “undoing” that are the foundation of somatic methods like Alexander Technique and Feldenkrais.



Pilates was started in the late 1920s by a German named Joseph Pilates, a former boxer, gymnast, and circus performer. He was a sickly child, but through his own regimen of intense exercise he managed not only to get well but to get strong, so he sought to offer the same fitness and health to others.

Originally called “Contrology,” Pilates’ regimen started as a mat system of integrated exercises inspired by yoga and the movement of animals. He tweaked the system as he went and eventually designed and built machines to take the body out of gravity, then provide counterforce and resistance to specific body parts. Today Pilates is a sophisticated system used by dancers, athletes, and regular citizens, many of whom have back pain, sciatica, or other ailments.

The benefits
Pilates classes can be done on mats or on specialized equipment. Mat classes are most widely employed by dance studios because they use little more than the body, the ground, gravity, and sometimes an exercise ball. Mat classes present all the principles of the Pilates system: core and joint stability, muscular and joint flexibility, streamlined action, and a strong midline as the body’s home base.

Dr. Cicely Hart, a certified New Balance Pilates trainer who runs the Dance Wellness and Injury Prevention Program at Mills College in Oakland, California, says that “Pilates allows you to get muscles to work at full physical range,” something that is critical to the structural well-being every dancer needs.

Dancer and athlete Holly Furgason, owner of Blue Sparrow Pilates in San Francisco, agrees. Certified in both Stott Pilates and Gyrotonic/Gyrokinesis, Furgason rehabilitated herself through Pilates and now can zero in on the well-being it brings. “After a session of Pilates I feel great, because my muscles have worked and I have command of them.” This is not about the burn of 100 squats or push-ups, Furgason explains. Pilates is “not about ‘doing’ exercises. It’s a means of enhancing movement through laser-like refinement of muscles throughout the body.”

Mat classes
A mat class provides a deep and rigorous warm-up to ballet, modern, jazz, or contemporary dance classes. It is also a proven means of homing in on and deepening technical issues that need attention. This is invaluable because young bodies, which seem so resilient and forgiving, are in many cases vulnerable to long-term injury from misalignment, overuse, hypermobility, and other problems.

48 Two Modes 2

Photo courtesy San Francisco Gyrotonic

Dancing does not provide enough conditioning, says Dr. Suzanne Martin, the creator/author of numerous DVDs and books on Pilates (and a former DSL columnist). “Everyone’s body is different, yet those differences aren’t readily addressed in a dance class setting where everyone is simply trying to master a task.” For instance, just because one student in a class is flexible doesn’t mean everyone is, Martin notes, and “Pilates makes that clear. It helps to fill in the blanks, break down the biomechanics, and show the dancers their limitations.” Once dancers understand where their weaknesses and imbalances are, then they can begin to make more rapid progress in class.

In terms of structuring classes, Martin recommends that 6- to 14-year-olds get at least three half-hour sessions of Pilates a week, with progressive deepening or expansion of the same exercises rather than the addition of new ones; props like rings, weighted balls, and therapy balls should be available to intensify workouts. For 15-year-olds and older, hour-long sessions are ideal. In either case, positioning the class before technique classes allows dancers to apply what they learned moments earlier.

“While some of the exercises don’t help optimize performance, they keep dancers free from injury and in the game a lot longer. Pilates also teaches fine articulation,” Martin says—and that is what distinguishes a dancer from the pack.

As a low-tech solution, Pilates mat classes require little investment and only a modicum of storage space. For the machine-based system, each apparatus involves a substantial financial investment plus adequate floor space or a designated room. The equipment is designed for one-on-one training or small-group instruction and should never be operated without prior instruction and/or supervision. Purchasing a Reformer might be a desirable long-term goal, but for a summer program, group mat classes are a far more practical aim.



Gyrotonic and Gyrokinesis, initially called “Yoga for Dancers,” was developed in the 1980s by Romanian-born former dancer Juliu Horvath to treat his ruptured Achilles tendon. Horvath taught it at Steps on Broadway, then opened a studio and universalized the method so that any person of any fitness level could benefit from it.

The method
While Pilates’ method focuses on linear action, Horvath’s system is based on spirals. Debra Rose, a former LINES Ballet dancer and a leading Gyrotonic Master Trainer who helped Horvath refine the system, and now owner and executive director of San Francisco Gyrotonic, explains how it works.

48 Two Modes 3

Photo courtesy Blue Sparrow Pilates

The dancers sit on low stools that place their hips above their knees to allow the torso complete range of motion, from the base of the spine to the top of the head. A series of movements based on spiraling action, Spinal Motions, works the upper body from head to sternum (what Rose calls the “heart center”) and then the legs to the solar plexus—the “seed center.” Elements of yoga and tai chi can be spotted in this series, particularly the concept of rising from a rooted but resilient base, whether the feet or the sit bones, and performing a continuous flow of movement that allows energy to flow freely through the body.

The benefits
Central to both Gyrokinesis and Gyrotonic, which employs machines designed for support and resistance, is the idea of equal distribution of forces, which gives dancers a strong sense of the activation of the whole body rather than isolated parts. The movements “create a gooey kind of push-pull in the body” designed to create openness in the joints and greater range of motion, says Rose. “At the most basic level, we employ the body three-dimensionally.” In this way, Gyrokinesis and Gyrotonic echo dance. The three-dimensional exercises are designed to be kept energetically engaged, even when the body has reached the limit of its range, just as a dancer keeps her attitude position stretching or lunge extending once she arrives.

Such work allows students to “explore how their body is unique and to find the means to strengthen, stretch, access turn out, lift and extend limbs from the body’s center with ease. Students also learn to increase their coordination and heighten their proprioceptive awareness,” Rose says.

The classes
A children’s class begins with single planes of movement, and imagery speaks to the age of the group. With time, as young dancers gain greater self-awareness, they can move on to multiple planes of movement and layer in greater complexity. The mat exercises mirror the machine work and provide the same dance-like experience of moving.

There is an official Gyrokinesis stool; however, the basic requirement is that the sitting surface should be the right height for the students and have no arms that would obstruct movement.


Who to hire

Gyrotonic and Gyrokinesis are regulated methods. Certified practitioners go through rigorous training in biomechanics and acquire a comprehensive understanding of multiple somatic or mind-body modalities, whether it’s yoga or meditation methods. Joseph Pilates never certified his practice, and now nearly anyone can call herself a Pilates trainer. That makes it imperative to find a teacher who is certified in one of the leading Pilates modalities. For both methods, turning to the source––the Gyrotonic website ( or a Pilates instructor trained in a program such as Balanced Body or Stott––helps ensure that you will find a pro.

Pilates? Gyrokinesis? If you’re like Holly Furgason, one method isn’t enough—for her, Pilates and Gyrokinesis train the body in different ways, and together they provide the best of both worlds. Exposing your students to these modalities in a summer “taster” program might lead them to a lifelong practice, whether or not they continue to dance.







Summertime Teacher Training

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

Programs are listed in alphabetical order by sponsoring or producing organization.


2014 Lester Horton Pedagogy Workshop With Ana Marie Forsythe

Sponsoring or producing organization: The Ailey Extension
Dates: Session I: July 7-11, introductory/beginner; Session II: July 14-18, intermediate/advanced
Location: The Joan Weill Center for Dance, 405 W. 55th St., New York, NY
Fees/cost: Session I: $850; Session II: $850; Session I & II: $1,500 (early bird Session I: $825; Session II: $825; Session I & II: $1,450). Materials not included.
Requirements/prerequisites: Three years of teaching experience, and knowledge of Horton technique
Registration deadline: June 30 (early bird June 8)
Description: In-depth review of the Horton vocabulary; learn or review Horton studies, and understand the range and depth of this American modern-dance technique with Ana Marie Forsythe, master teacher and Horton scholar.
Contact: 212.405.9500;; 405 W. 55th St., New York, NY 10019



American Academy of Ballet

Sponsoring or producing organization: American Academy of Ballet
Dates: July 25-29
Location: SUNY Purchase
Fees/cost: $148 per day
Requirements/prerequisites: DVDs and CDs for the Performance Awards program must be purchased, and will be available onsite.
Registration deadline: June 30
Description: Covers basic principles of classical ballet technique, beginner to advanced pointe work, and American Academy of Ballet’s Performance Awards program. Participants receive instruction in 113 choreographic compositions and observe Performance Awards classes and master classes with Paloma Herrera (ABT) and Gilbert Mayer (Paris Opera Ballet).
Contact: Simon Kaplan, 212.787.9500;;



Teacher Training Intensive

Sponsoring or producing organization: American Ballet Theatre
Dates: July 29-August 6
Location: American Ballet Theatre, 890 Broadway, New York, NY (See website for satellite dates and locations.)
Fees/cost: $1,650 plus $150 materials fee
Requirements/prerequisites: An advanced or professional level of ballet training
Registration deadline: See registration form
Description: ABT’s National Training Curriculum aims to assist beginning through advanced teachers in training dance students to use their bodies correctly, focusing on kinetics and coordination, anatomy, and proper body alignment. Artistically, the National Training Curriculum strives to provide dance students with a rich knowledge of classical ballet technique and the ability to adapt to all styles and techniques of dance.
Contact: Meghan Love, National Training Curriculum associate, 212.477.3030 x1168;;; 890 Broadway, New York, NY 10003



Dance Professionals Workshop

Sponsoring or producing organization: American Dance Festival
Dates: DPW Intensive: June 21-29, and DPW Dance Sampler: June 22-29; June 29-July 6; July 6-13; July 13-20
Location: American Dance Festival, Durham, NC
Fees/cost: $875. Additional weeks are half-price.
Requirements/prerequisites: Completed an undergraduate program or five years of professional experience
Registration deadline: June 12
Description: A nine-day workshop with ADF faculty that addresses the needs and interests of dance practitioners and educators. DPW Dance Sampler is a self-guided exploration of classes and performances.
Contact: 919.684.6402;;; PO Box 90772, Durham, NC 27708



The Fundamentals of Teaching Dance

Sponsoring or producing organization: Associated Dance Teachers of New Jersey
Dates: August 12-13
Location: Mary Lou Hale’s School of Dance, 135 N. Beverwyck Rd., Lake Hiawatha, NJ 07034
Fees/cost: ADTNJ members $295; non-members $320 (early bird ADTNJ members $245; non-members $270)
Requirements/prerequisites: Teachers/teachers-in-training 19 years and older
Registration deadline: July 1 (early bird May 1)
Description: New teachers learn the what, when, and why of teaching. Veteran teachers refresh and reinvigorate methods and syllabuses. Directors will adapt a cohesive syllabus for the entire staff. To be covered: syllabus for children; syllabuses for beginning to advanced levels in ballet, tap, and jazz; basic anatomy; music theory; choreography. Limited space.
Contact: Karen Hale-Assante, ADTNJ, 800.825.0933;;



Ballet Magnificat! Teachers Workshop

Sponsoring or producing organization: Ballet Magnificat!
Dates: July 19-27 or July 19-August 2
Location: Jackson, MS
Fees/cost: 1 week $807 ($533 off-campus); 2 weeks $1,272 ($768 off-campus)
Requirements/prerequisites: Dance teachers ages 18 and older
Registration deadline: May 30
Description: Training and development classes with ministry professionals, including opportunity for teachers from a variety of backgrounds to come together with other teachers to learn, share ideas, and be refreshed in the Lord.
Contact: 601.977.1001;;;
5406 I-55 N,
Jackson, MS 39211



Bill Evans Scotland Dance Teachers’ Intensive

Sponsoring or producing organization: Bill Evans Dance, in association with Dance Base and Julie Chilvers
Dates: June 9-13
Location: Edinburgh, Scotland
Fees/cost: $675 (early bird: $535 before April 1, $595 before May 9)
Requirements/prerequisites: Professional and emerging dance educators
Registration deadline: Opening day, if space is available.
Description: Bartenieff Fundamentals and Evans Laban-based modern technique, anatomy, anatomy-based ballet, pedagogy seminars. Taught by Bill Evans, Kitty Daniels, and Don Halquist.
Contact: 585.391.3756;;



Bill Evans California Dance Teachers’ Intensive

Sponsoring or producing organization: Bill Evans Dance, in association with the Department of Performing Arts, Saint Mary’s College of California
Dates: June 22-27
Location: Moraga, CA
Fees/cost: $650 (early bird: $500 before April 15, $600 before June 1)
Requirements/prerequisites: Professional and emerging dance educators
Registration deadline: Opening day, if space is available.
Description: Bartenieff Fundamentals and Evans Laban-based modern technique, pedagogy workshops and seminars, repertory, improvisation/composition. Taught by Bill Evans, Debra Knapp, and Suzie Lundgren.
Contact: Yailey Yaffe, workshop coordinator,; 585.391.3756;;



Bill Evans New York Dance Teachers’ Intensive

Sponsoring or producing organization: Bill Evans Dance, in association with the Department of Dance, The College at Brockport, SUNY
Dates: June 29-July 5
Location: Brockport, NY
Fees/cost: $700 (early bird: $500 before April 15, $600 before May 31)
Requirements/prerequisites: Professional and emerging dance educators
Registration deadline: Opening day, if space is available.
Description: Bartenieff Fundamentals and Evans Laban-based modern technique, repertory, pedagogy seminars and workshop. Taught by Bill Evans, Claire Porter, and Jan Erkert.
Contact: Cynthia Williams,; 585.391.3756;;



Conference on Applications of the Evans Method to Teaching and Creation

Sponsoring or producing organization: Bill Evans Dance, in association with the Department of Dance, The College at Brockport, SUNY
Dates: July 5-8
Location: Brockport, NY
Fees/cost: $200 (early bird: $150 before April 15, $175 before May 31)
Requirements/prerequisites: Professional and emerging dance educators
Registration deadline: Opening day, if space is available.
Description: Presentations by certified teachers of the Evans Method: technique, somatics, creative movement, repertory, choreography, and more.
Contact: Cynthia Williams,; 585.391.3756;;



Bill Evans Texas Dance Teachers’ Intensive

Sponsoring or producing organization: Bill Evans Dance, in association with Contemporary Dance/Fort Worth and the Department of Classical and Contemporary Dance, Texas Christian University
Dates: July 26-30 (tentative)
Location: Fort Worth, TX
Fees/cost: TBA
Requirements/prerequisites: Professional and emerging dance educators
Registration deadline: Opening day, if space is available.
Description: Bartenieff Fundamentals and Evans Laban-based modern technique, ballet for modern dancers, Evans repertory, pedagogy seminars and workshops. Taught by Bill Evans, Kathy Diehl, and Don Halquist.
Contact: Kerry Kreiman,; 585.391.3756;;



Boulder Jazz Dance Workshop Teacher Programs

Sponsoring or producing organization: Boulder Jazz Dance Workshop and the University of Colorado
Dates: July 19-August 2
Location: University of Colorado dance studios
Fees/cost: Weekend Workshop $100; Certificate Program $400
Requirements/prerequisites: None
Registration deadline: July 18 or until classes are filled
Description: Two programs: Weekend Workshop, July 18-20, offers intimate classes exclusively for teachers; Continuing Education Certificate Program is a course of study during the BJDW two-week intensive that includes a completion certificate (optional one-unit graduate credit available through CU for $60).
Contact: 303.449.0399;;;
PO Box 7107, Boulder, CO 80306



Cecchetti USA Residential Summer Course

Sponsoring or producing organization: Cecchetti USA
Dates: August 4-9; welcome banquet and check-in August 3
Location: Richmond Ballet studios, Richmond, VA
Fees/cost: $695 (early bird $595); $100 non-refundable fee; room and food (double occupancy at Crowne Plaza Hotel) $670; single-day tuition $150; single-class tuition $50; additional welcome banquet ticket $30; photo DVD $15
Requirements/prerequisites: None
Registration deadline: None (early bird May 1)
Description: Separate tracks for teachers at several levels to suit individual needs, including: Teaching Certificates 1&2, Associate, Licentiate, and Fellowship. All tracks include the principles of teaching, choosing effective music, and evening lectures. Teachers from all backgrounds are invited to attend.
Contact: 805.636.9444; Denise Rinaldi, executive director,, or Judith Hawkesworth,; 7199 Tuolumne Dr., Goleta, CA



CNADM Summer Dance Workshops: Training School & Convention

Sponsoring or producing organization: Chicago National Association of Dance Masters
Dates: July 14-17
Location: Woodfield Hyatt Hotel, Schaumburg, IL
Fees/cost: Varies
Requirements/prerequisites: None
Registration deadline: None
Description: Emphasis is placed on teaching technique, educational theory, and personal dance development through classes and workshops. Classes focus on teaching ballet, tap, and jazz to beginning dance students, and progress to teaching advanced students by the last day. Technique classes and choreographed materials are notated in book form for attendees.
Contact: 815.397.6282;;; 220 E. State St., Suite G, Rockford, IL 61104



Teachers Training School at UNLV Dance Educators of America, Inc.

Sponsoring or producing organization: Dance Educators of America, Inc.
Dates: July 7-12
Location: University of Las Vegas, NV
Fees/cost: DEA member teachers $1,200; non-member teachers $1,400
Requirements/prerequisites: Online registration
Registration deadline: May 20
Description: Revised, updated curriculums for Level 1 Teachers Training School. Comprehensive training in ballet/pointe, jazz, modern, tap, anatomy, and music theory as it relates to dance. Additional classes in partnering, contemporary, and injury prevention.
Contact: 914.636.3200;;; 3340 SE Federal Highway #262, Stuart, FL 34997



Dance Teacher Web Live!

Sponsoring or producing organization: Dance Teacher Web
Dates: July 27-30
Location: Red Rock Resort & Spa, Las Vegas, NV
Fees/cost: $597 (early bird $497)
Requirements/prerequisites: None
Registration deadline: Open (early bird May 15)
Description: Three days of interactive sessions, expo resources, and special events.
Contact:; 1580 Post Rd., Fairfield, CT 06824



Dance Teacher University

Sponsoring or producing organization: UNLV and Dance Teacher Web
Dates: July 27-30
Location: Red Rock Resort & Spa, Las Vegas, NV
Fees/cost: $895
Requirements/prerequisites: None
Registration deadline: Ongoing
Description: Comprehensive teacher-training program for K–12 teachers and dance studios with multiple disciplines
Contact:; 1580 Post Rd., Fairfield, CT 06824



Dance Masters of America’s Teachers Training School

Sponsoring or producing organization: Dance Masters of America, Inc.
Dates: July 29-August 2
Location: SUNY Buffalo
Fees/cost: Members $400, non-members $470; room $300; meals $260
Requirements/prerequisites: 18 and older
Registration deadline: June 1
Description: Comprehensive curriculum with a focus on technique and teaching skills, and the opportunity to meet fellow dance educators.
Contact: Robert Mann, national executive secretary, DMA National Office, 718.225.4013



The Fundamentals of Ballet Technique: Teacher & Adult Student Workshop

Sponsoring or producing organization: Finis Jhung/The Ailey Extension
Dates: August 9-10
Location: The Joan Weill Center for Dance, 405 W. 55th St., New York, NY
Fees/cost: $425 (early bird $375)
Requirements/prerequisites: Ballet teachers, advanced beginner adult students
Registration deadline: August 1 (early bird May 1)
Description: Finis Jhung leads this 10-hour weekend workshop focusing on balances, turns, and jumps; learn Jhung’s teaching technique, based on years of studying the world’s best dancers in performance.
Contact: 800.357.3525;;; Ballet Dynamics Inc., 119 W. 72nd St., PMB 353, New York, NY 10023



Giordano Dance Chicago Summer Intensive and Teacher Training

Sponsoring or producing organization: Giordano Dance Chicago
Dates: June 18
Location: Chicago, IL
Fees/cost: $300 for one-day teacher-training session only; see website for other workshop pricing options
Requirements/prerequisites: Intermediate and above
Registration deadline: June 1
Description: Master educator Nan Giordano leads a one-day training to guide instructors in teaching Giordano technique. Following teacher training, participate in up to four days of Giordano Dance Chicago repertoire, floor barre, technique, and more.
Contact: Sarah Seeber, 312.922.1332,;; 1509 S. Michigan Ave., 2nd floor, Chicago, IL 60605



Annual Summer Intensive With Lori Belilove and The Isadora Duncan Dance Company

Sponsoring or producing organization: Isadora Duncan Dance Foundation
Dates: July 6-12
Location: New York, NY
Fees/cost: $400-$900
Requirements/prerequisites: Knowledge of Duncan technique required for Advanced Studies Certification; no prerequisite for Basic Studies Certification.
Registration deadline: June 30
Description: Practical work in learning, teaching, and performing Duncan material; required readings; and viewing of relevant films and videos. Basic Studies Certification prepares dancers to teach the dance of Isadora Duncan to children and non-professional adults. Advanced Studies Certification prepares dancers to teach students at all levels and to perform selected repertory.
Contact: 212.691.5040;;; 141 W. 26th St., 3rd floor, New York, NY 10001



Leap ’N Learn Teacher Training

Sponsoring or producing organization: Leap ’N Learn
Dates: June and July workshops, dates TBA
Location: The Ballet Studio, 605 Kaliste Saloom Rd., Lafayette, LA
Fees/cost: Contact Beverly Spell for details.
Requirements/prerequisites: Early childhood dance teachers
Registration deadline: Two weeks prior to workshop
Description: Five-day workshops for teachers seeking licensing in the curriculum. Leap ’N Learn, a progressive, developmentally appropriate dance program for 3- to 12-year-olds, is designed to capitalize on the cognitive and neural development of children.
Contact: Beverly Spell, 888.211.5180,;; PO Box 474, Milton, LA 70558



Luigi’s Jazz Centre 2014 Summer Workshop

Sponsoring or producing organization: Luigi’s Jazz Centre
Dates: July 7-12; July 14-19
Location: Luigi’s Jazz Centre at Studio Maestro, 48 W. 68th St., New York, NY 10023
Fees/cost: 1 week $475; 2 weeks $775
Requirements/prerequisites: None
Registration deadline: May 25 ($100 non-refundable deposit)
Description: A master class series that teaches Luigi’s style and technique. Repertory classes emphasize artistry, musicality, elegance, and sophistication.
Contact: Alisoun Price or Francis Roach, 212.874.6215,;; 48 W. 68th St., New York, NY 10023



Summer Institute

Sponsoring or producing organization: Luna Dance Institute
Dates: July 17-25
Location: Mills College, Oakland, CA
Fees/cost: Contact Luna Dance for details.
Requirements/prerequisites: Application process. Must be in a current teaching practice to apply.
Registration deadline: April 1
Description: Learning in a collegial group of diverse educators, participants improve teaching practice, gain confidence as professionals, and develop long-lasting systems of support. Included: the elements of dance; creating and implementing standards-based dance lessons; human development, 0 to 24 years; learning theories, in particular critical pedagogy and constructivism; observation skills; and more.
Contact: 510.883.1118;;; 605 Addison St., Berkeley, CA 94710



Developing & Implementing Dance Curricula-A

Sponsoring or producing organization: Luna Dance Institute
Dates: July 14-18
Location: Luna Dance Institute, Berkeley, CA
Fees/cost: $480
Requirements/prerequisites: None
Registration deadline: June 23
Description: Course defines a creative, standards-based approach to teaching dance at all levels. Includes: structuring discrete standards-based dance lessons; elements of dance; human development theory; observation and instructional methods.
Contact: 510.883.1118;;; 605 Addison St., Berkeley, CA 94710



PeffPointe Traveling Teacher Trainings 2014

Sponsoring or producing organization: Mme Peff Modelski
Dates: July 25-September 15
Location: Workshops held in your location; must be in a studio or appropriate space that can accommodate the number of participating teachers.
Fees/cost: Two- to five-day training sessions: $100 per day per teacher. Transportation, hotel, and food costs included.
Requirements/prerequisites: 10 or more teachers; local studio organizer within each group; CD player or iPod for class work
Registration deadline: April 15
Description: Workshops address the how-to of turnout, extensions, sequences, memory learning, pirouettes, jumping, creating beautiful arabesques, pointe work, injury prevention, and the effect of port de bras on balance and timing. Sessions run 10am to 4pm and include Feldenkrais-based Now I Feel Great© segments, daily technique class, and Q&A.
Contact: Mme Peff Modelski, 331.645.8347,;; 351 55th St. #104, Clarendon Hills, IL 60514



Royal Academy of Dance USA 2014 Courses for Teachers—Georgia

Sponsoring or producing organization: Royal Academy of Dance
Dates: June 25-27
Location: Atlanta Ballet, Chastain Square, 4279 Roswell Rd., Suite 703, Atlanta, GA
Fees/cost: Members $396; non-members $612
Requirements/prerequisites: None
Registration deadline: May 30
Description: Introduction to the new Grades 4 & 5 syllabi
Contact: 414.747.9060;;; 3211 S. Lake Dr. R317, St. Francis, WI 53235



Royal Academy of Dance USA 2014 Courses for Teachers—California

Sponsoring or producing organization: Royal Academy of Dance
Dates: July 21-23
Location: California State University, 1250 Bellflower Blvd., Long Beach, CA
Fees/cost: Members $396; non-members $612
Requirements/prerequisites: None
Registration deadline: June 9
Description: Introduction to the new Grades 4 & 5 syllabi
Contact: 414.747.9060;;; 3211 S. Lake Dr. R317, St. Francis, WI 53235



USA International Ballet Competition Teacher Training Program

Sponsoring or producing organization: USA International Ballet Competition
Dates: June 14-28
Location: Jackson Marriott Downtown, Jackson, MS
Fees/cost: $1,030 (includes tuition, materials, observation of classes); registration fee $35
Requirements/prerequisites: Designed as a 2-week program; 1-week option not offered.
Registration deadline: April 25, full tuition due May 23
Description: Held in conjunction with the 2014 USA International Ballet Competition, the program is designed to help ballet instructors refine their teaching skills under the instruction of ballet pedagogue Roni Mahler. Three-hour morning sessions held Monday through Friday. Participants receive discounted competitor performance tickets, admission to a performance by Trey McIntyre Project, and 30 percent off the Rhee Gold Project Motivate seminar.
Contact: Krista Bower, Dance School administrator, 601.355.9853;;; PO Box 3696, Jackson, MS 39207



DEL Essentials: An Introduction to Dance Education Laboratory

Sponsoring or producing organization: 92nd Street Y
Dates: June 30-July 2
Location: 92nd Street Y, New York, NY
Fees/cost: $250 (early bird $225)
Requirements/prerequisites: None
Registration deadline: Ongoing (early bird June 23)
Description: Prepare for the DEL Summer Institute by learning the fundamentals: Laban Movement Analysis applications, child development, methods and strategies, lesson planning, creative technique, and integrating dance into school curriculums. Required for new students enrolled in Wonderdance. Taught by Jody Arnhold, MA, and Ann Biddle, MA.
Contact: John-Mario Sevilla, 212.415.5555;;; 1395 Lexington Ave., New York, NY 10128



DEL Summer Institute, Week 1:
92Y DEL WonderdanceTM Teacher Training—A New Early Childhood Dance Education Curriculum

Sponsoring or producing organization: 92nd Street Y
Dates: July 7-11
Location: 92nd Street Y, New York, NY
Fees/cost: $575 (early bird $550)
Requirements/prerequisites: DEL Essentials: An Introduction to Dance Education Laboratory required for new students.
Registration deadline: Ongoing (early bird June 30)
Description: The curriculum encourages learning through play, providing a stimulating, multisensory, and nurturing community for diverse young learners to explore and discover their innate movement capacity. Program helps children develop increased self-awareness, kinesthetic understanding, and self-confidence. Taught by Ann Biddle, MA, Deborah Damast, MA, and Jennifer Katz, MA.
Contact: John-Mario Sevilla, 212.415.5555;;; 1395 Lexington Ave., New York, NY 10128



DEL Summer Institute, Week 2:
Language Of Dance® Foundations–Part 1

Sponsoring or producing organization: 92nd Street Y
Dates: July 14-18
Location: 92nd Street Y, New York, NY
Fees/cost: $575 (early bird $550)
Requirements/prerequisites: None
Registration deadline: Ongoing (early bird July 7)
Description: Create, perform, respond to, and connect with the Language of Dance to develop dance literacy. Explore the universal elements of the Movement Alphabet and integrate movement Motif symbols into dance experiences to connect physical, cognitive, and socio-emotional learning. Participants will utilize dance literacy strategies to transform teaching and creative practices. Language of Dance Foundations—Part 1 awarded to participants upon successful completion of all course requirements. Taught by Tina Curran, MFA, PhD, and Susan Gingrasso, MA, CMA.
Contact: John-Mario Sevilla, 212.415.5555;;; 1395 Lexington Ave., New York, NY 10128



DEL Summer Institute, Week 3:
Dancing Histories, Living Legacies

Sponsoring or producing organization: 92nd Street Y
Dates: July 21-25
Location: 92nd Street Y, New York, NY
Fees/cost: $575 (early bird $550)
Requirements/prerequisites: None
Registration deadline: Ongoing (early bird July 14)
Description: Through the artistry of Pina Bausch, examine the social and cultural contexts of dance trends and selected masterworks. Through embodied experience and an analysis of choreographic excerpts, identify characteristics of movement styles, techniques, and genres of various dance periods and choreographers. Using this dance legacy framework, integrate history into your lessons to create a complete dance curriculum. Taught by Tina Curran, MFA, PhD, with Mari DiLena and guests.
Contact: John-Mario Sevilla, 212.415.5555;;; 1395 Lexington Ave., New York, NY 10128




Lenexa, Kansas, Studio Owner Named ADCC’s Humanitarian of the Year

Erin Lustig; photo courtesy KCTV

Erin Lustig; photo courtesy KCTV

Erin Lustig of Starstruck Performing Arts Center in Lenexa, Kansas, was named 2013 Humanitarian of the Year this spring from the Association of Dance Conventions & Competitions, reported KCTV Channel 5.

Lustig opened Starstruck while she was still a student at the University of Missouri–Kansas City. She also founded and directs the nonprofit dance company, Seamless Dance Theatre, which partners with domestic violence shelters through the outreach program Healing Hearts Through the Arts. “We give a stretch and relaxation class to the women there and teach them some meditation techniques to help them get their mind off what’s going on in their life and get them some personal time,” she said.

Lustig’s nonprofit also runs SPARK Children of Kansas City, which allows children to attend Seamless dance performances free of charge; the Project Dance scholarship program; and Project Access, which provides weekly dance classes to children with special needs.

The ADCC (formerly, the FDC) also recently awarded its 2013 Teacher of the Year Award to Michelle Ferraro of Michelle Ferraro’s Dance USA on Long Island for her outstanding work as a dance teacher, commitment to her students, and contributions to the dance community.

To see the original story, visit  For more information on the ADCC awards, visit



Joan Miller Used Humor and Modern Dance to Comment on Race, Urban Life

Joan Miller (left), with Nadine Mozon, celebrating the 35th anniversary of her troupe, in 2005; photo courtesy Hiroyuki Ito for the New York Times

Joan Miller (left), with Nadine Mozon, celebrating the 35th anniversary of her troupe, in 2005; photo courtesy Hiroyuki Ito for the New York Times

Joan Miller, a dancer, teacher, and enduring presence in modern dance in New York since the 1970s, died on March 23 at her home in Manhattan, said the New York Times. She was 77.

Miller, who performed with Jose Limón’s troupe and Judson Dance Theater, as well as the companies of Anna Sokolow, Ruth Currier, and others, was the founder of Joan Miller’s Dance Players and the founding director of the dance department at Lehman College of the City University of New York.

Her signature works, rooted in the avant-garde and black consciousness movements of the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, leavened sharp social commentary on issues like race and identity with a wry wit. Miller billed her troupe in its early years as the Joan Miller Dance Players: A Dance Company With a Sense of Humor.

In her autobiographical Pass Fe White, its title a play on the traditional “pas de deux,” a solo black dancer spins and heaves onstage as if at war with herself, discarding clothing and accessories in the process, including a blond wig, which she had used to “pass” for white. Miller’s dances often tackled sensitive issues—ghetto violence, class divisions, what she saw as American military aggression—in dances she gave whimsical titles, among them Earth Wind and Flying Things, Jungle City USA, Boots, Backtalk and Beyond, and Caged Bird Singin’ and Swingin’.

“I consider myself a city person, and I like to deal with the problems of the city,” she said in a 1993 interview with Newsday. Despite the spirited titles, she added, the theme permeating her dances was “man’s inhumanity to mankind.”

“I hope that through my work,” she said, “people might question what it’s all about.”

To see the full obituary, visit



Ask Rhee Gold

Advice for dance teachers

Dear Rhee,

A few years ago I became the director of a dance studio where I had taught for years. The first year our enrollment flourished, and the second year it held steady. This year has been very difficult and enrollment has dropped. However, the students who no longer dance here did not leave on a bad note; they graduated or wanted to try new activities. Those families said they loved our classes and teachers but did not want to overextend their children with activities.

In the past, we dealt with the stigma of negativity regarding the former director and the studio’s name, which was changed immediately after I took over. I think we are still proving ourselves to the community.

I am trying everything to bring up our enrollment—advertisements, direct mailers, parades, community events, contacting past students (even from years ago), YouTube, Facebook. I am wracking my brain about how to improve the enrollment, especially of young children. I have even tried contacting local daycare centers offering programs and free classes to get the word out, but no one seems interested. I would be so thankful if you could give me tips on how to grow. —Frustrated


Dear Frustrated,

Sometimes it takes a while to eliminate the negativity surrounding a previous owner. I would continue the marketing you are doing. I would also add that it should be the goal of every faculty and staff person, and you, to ensure that every child (and parent) at your school can only rave about the experience. Give them excellent customer service, mature teachers who care for every child, and the most professionally run school in the area. To help attract parents of young children, go overboard with the little ones who are already enrolled by giving them great choreography for the annual recital. If you make them (and their parents) feel special, word will get around.

You say some students have dropped dance because they are overwhelmed with activities, but I have encountered many students who gave up other activities because they loved their dance teachers and classes. If you offer the best customer service possible and show dedication to every child, the negativity will diminish. Then you will be on your own to develop the best reputation possible. Good luck! —Rhee



Hello Rhee,

I would love your thoughts on a situation. Two dancers (siblings) have missed two and a half months of rehearsals for our studio production number. Their mother felt that six hours with a video of the dance was adequate rehearsal, but I disagreed and removed them from one part (of three) of the production dance. I explained to these dancers that they could continue to work on the choreography for part one, and if it was up to the level of the rest of the group, I would gladly add them into it at a later date. I have 15 dancers who did come for those two and a half months and busted their butts to work on the choreography and staging.

This family also has decided to opt out of mandatory company events, workshops, and trainings.

The studio owner is not backing me up, which hurts, but I know I did the right thing for the 15 dedicated dancers and my colleague. The whole time, I was thinking, “teacher, leader, mentor,” and how the situation is unfair to the dancers who have worked hard. It’s also unfair to give these two girls false expectations and let them slide by with a poor work ethic. The owner has disappointed me by not supporting my choice as a professional. It’s been a very disheartening experience. —Raquel


Hi Raquel,

I agree that these dancers should not be included in the choreography taught during the rehearsals they missed. Unless a dancer has a family emergency, a mandatory rehearsal must be exactly that, without exception. Too many kids and parents believe it’s OK to disappoint the dancers who do make the required commitment. For whatever reason, the families of dancers who miss classes and rehearsals believe they are different from the others.

When teachers or school owners go against their own policies, their credibility is diminished. Eventually everyone starts to miss rehearsals and take advantage of the fact that people at the school don’t stand up for what they think is right for the students, including instilling discipline, commitment, and respect for classmates.

You don’t mention why these kids missed so many rehearsals, or if there was any prior discussion regarding how the situation would be handled if they were absent. My best advice is to have a friendly talk with the studio owner to discuss why she isn’t backing you up and find out if there is more to the story than you know. I wish you the best. —Rhee




I have two questions I hope you can answer. I teach at the studio where my two daughters take class and are on the competition team. What is a reasonable discount on tuition for employees?

Also, my oldest decided to drop tap for the competition team and take it as a rec class. I teach that class. The owner gave me an adjusted statement showing the change in class, and now it costs more than when she did tap with the team. Should I be charged more for my child to be in my class versus another teacher’s class? The enrollment period was over, so she was not taking a spot another child could have occupied. —Teacher-Mom


Dear Teacher-Mom,

There is a lot of diversity among school owners regarding discount policies for employees’ children, from 10 percent to a full scholarship. The variables might include the number of hours worked by the parent or the number of classes the child takes. In most cases, the expense of costumes, entry fees, or other non-classroom-related fees are not covered by the scholarships or included in any discounts.

Your second question is hard to answer because the school owner has the right to charge whatever she thinks is appropriate. I am not convinced that the fact that it is your daughter who is taking your class is relevant. And although initial enrollment is over, many schools accept new students on an ongoing basis. If another child with no relationship to the school registered for the class, she would pay tuition.

That said, I have no idea how much of a discount you receive already. In most cases, competition team classes are less expensive because of the number of classes required by the program policies. We also need to factor in the cost to the studio to run your class, including wages for you and office employees, utilities, and so on.

It might be better to think less about the cost of the tuition and focus on making yourself invaluable to the school owner. Then you can have a conversation about the amount of the discount she offers. I wish you the best. —Rhee





2 Music Tips for Dance Teachers | Exercises for Musicality

50 2MusicTips
By Nina Pinzarrone

Tip 1
As a teacher, the more you know about music, the easier it is to develop musicality in your students. Some students are always “on the music” while others tend to rush ahead or drag behind. You can help the less-than-musical students by developing their listening skills. (Remember that while musicians learn by listening, dancers are visually and physically oriented and learn by watching and doing.) To be on the music, the dancers must slightly anticipate the pulse. When doing classroom exercises, use the musical introduction to set this process of anticipation in motion; it establishes the tempo and indicates the quality, which helps the students prepare to move at the right speed.


Tip 2
If you have an accompanist, have her vary the length of the introduction for each exercise; the students will have to listen in order to know when to begin. If the intro is always the same, the students tend to tune it out. But in performance, an intro might be only one note of music, or there might be no musical introduction at all. Learning to listen is critical.

If you are using CDs with intros that are the same length, try starting the dancers’ preparatory arm movement on a different count of the introduction—the first beat of the second, third, or fourth bar instead of the first bar, for example, to force the students to hear each individual bar of the introduction. If they have trouble hearing it, count out the intro and have your students count or clap along with you.



2 Tips for Ballet Teachers | Airborne


42 2TipsBallet

By David Arce

Tip 1
The most basic rule in ballet is that whenever the foot leaves the floor it must point immediately and completely. The dancer peels the foot off the floor starting from the heel, then the ball, and finally the toes. Although this applies to everything from tendu to grand battement, this rule is extremely important when jumping. Students tend to lose the foot’s connection to the floor in even simple jumps like sauté and changement. Instead, they move this much-needed energy into the upper parts of the body, where it creates tension in the neck, shoulders, and arms. Emphasize the action of the feet pointing hard in the first warm-up jump combination to set them up for petit and grand allegro exercises later.


Tip 2
There are many schools of thought about how to do a changement. I teach my advanced students to change their fifths immediately after they leave the floor. Here’s why: first, it helps students prepare for harder jumps like entrechats. Second, it’s an easy way for dancers to set themselves apart during auditions; it looks brisk and clean, and observers’ eyes will naturally be drawn to that dancer. Third, having spent 12 years as a professional in a major ballet company, I had many photos taken of me in the air in fifth position. When you change fifth immediately, you exponentially increase your chances of looking good in a photograph.



2 Tips for Hip-Hop Teachers | Rock to the Beat

48 2TipsHip-Hop
By Geo Hubela

Tip 1
For the rock, dancers stand slightly hunched over, relaxed and with feet together. On the 1, they bop the head backward (not forward as they’re often inclined to do) and continue bopping back to front with the beat.

Once they’ve got the back-front movement, have the students rock their head in a V shape (i.e., up and back to the right, down and front in the center, up and back to the left). They should step to the side on the right foot on 1, and hold that position for eight beats while the head V-rocks from right to left eight times.

From this position, begin the shoulder rock. Start by swinging the right shoulder forward as the head rocks right. Then the left shoulder swings forward while the right shoulder pushes backward; and the head rocks left. Do this for eight counts.



Tip 2
For a battle rock, add footwork. From a center point, the students will work four directions—front, side, back, and repeat side. Starting the rocking motion with the head, neck, and shoulders, they lunge forward with the right foot on the 1 (leaving the left foot on the center point), turning the body left and opening the arms to the sides. Return to center and lunge forward on the left foot, turning to the right and opening arms again. Return to center and lunge out to each side, right and left directions, then back on each foot, then repeating side lunges to the right, then left.




2 Tips for Modern Teachers | Shape and Process

46 2TipsModern
By Bill Evans

Tip 1
It is important to understand the pathways or processes through which body forms (sometimes called shapes or designs) are created. We do not simply move from one static shape to another when we dance; we engage in a continuous process of change. A change in one part of the body is accommodated by changes throughout the whole organism. It is in sensing and/or witnessing the process through which the body changes form that we find the deepest kinesthetic satisfaction.



Tip 2
The Laban system has four terms to describe this process of shape change. Reaching to a point in the kinesphere (one’s personal movement space) with a straight line that goes away from or toward the body along a linear pathway is a “spoke-like” directional reach. Staying on the edge of the kinesphere to go from one point to another in space (rather than moving through the center of the kinesphere) is an “arc-like” directional reach. Defining the contours of voluminous space, as we do when hugging another person or sculpting space, is “carving.”

In newer modern-dance techniques like release or contact improvisation, our movement does not relate to the space of the kinesphere; instead, the body is moving (growing and shrinking) in relationship to itself. For example, when we squirm in an easy chair to get comfortable, we are moving only in relationship to our own bodies, rather than to the space around us. We call this “shape flow.” It is about sensing the flow, weight, and breath of the movement, rather than focusing on the form, shape, or design being created.




2 Tips for Tap Teachers | Step in Time

44 2TipsTap
By Thelma Goldberg

Tip 1
How many times have you said “Slow down!” to your students? Helping dancers stay in sync with the music is a challenge every tap teacher faces. To improve timing at beginner/intermediate levels, have dancers listen to the music and identify the quarter and eighth notes before dancing; they can do this by clapping, playing drumsticks, or simply walking in time.

Then have them identify the 1. Have half the class clap or play the 1 while the others dance the choreography. Are the dancers in sync with the accompanists? Count the rhythm aloud, making sure students see how you correlate each tap sound with a note in the musical phrase. For example, in a traditional triple time step, what happens on count 3? (Step.) What count is the brush of the shuffle? (The “and” before the 2.)


Tip 2
For advanced dancers, it is important that they fully connect with the music and have the technique to enable complex footwork. Dancers should always start by identifying the quarter, eighth, and 16th notes and whether the tune is straight or swinging.

Encourage them to be concise and articulate. Dropping even one sound will move a dancer forward in time. Is everyone finishing their shuffles? Is the toe dig of the paddle and roll being expressed fully? Is someone missing a heel sound?

Have students dance to different tempos, and have them practice with a metronome to sharpen listening skills. Another tool that works well with all levels is to lower the volume for an eight-bar phrase and then bring it back up. Are the dancers still in time? Most important, are they breathing and letting the rhythm flow through their whole body?






Classroom Connection

Teaching the Tiniest

As an instructor of 2- to 3-year-olds, I use music, movement, and routine to draw these very young students in and share the beauty of dance with them. But there is more to teach than dance steps. I add basic educational concepts and everyday values to my dance curriculum; each complements the other.

When passing out props like scarves, beanbags, and rhythm sticks, I emphasize numbers, colors, size, and shape. I count the items as I pass them out and have the class tell me the number and name of the prop we’re using once they’re distributed. We look at size and shape and identify colors. We also compare what is similar and what is different.

I also stress good “dance manners.” We talk about our “listening ears,” and I gently remind the children that they must keep their hands to themselves. The words please and thank you are considered essential in my classroom. Children are praised when they exhibit good manners.

Routine and consistency are very important for very young children. I make a different music playlist each month but keep the order of class the same. I begin with an intro to class, followed by ballet, then tumbling. I end with tap and group goodbyes.

The beginning and end of class are particularly important. I start my baby classes in a circle, with the children sitting on foam mats singing a song. This draws their attention away from parents and gets them focused on the class. We end each class back in our circle. I pass out a simple reward like stickers or coloring sheets as we sing our school’s special “goodbye song.” Finally, we use sign language to say thank you and dance.

—Dawn Freeman


Games for the Preschool Set

When it comes to teaching preschoolers, you can never have too many tricks up your sleeve. Here are three games to help refocus little ones’ attention.

1. The Fairies and the Sleeping Dolls
Split the class in two. Give half the students “magic” wands (you can use substitutes like pencils)—these are the fairies. Place the other half randomly around the room, standing in first position with arms in first, head tilted and eyes closed. These are the sleeping dolls. To the sounds of a lullaby or gentle ballet music, have the fairies tiptoe randomly from one doll to another, tapping each with her wand. When tapped, each doll opens her eyes, raises her arms to fifth, does a single bourrée turn, then falls asleep again. After a minute or two, have the two groups switch places.

2. Easter Bunnies
Give everyone small Easter baskets. Have the children line up, then place six plastic eggs in the basket of every other student. Spread six carpet squares (or stickers) around the room. The first child hops from square to square, leaving an egg on each, followed by one of the students with an empty basket, who hops to each square, picks up each egg, and places it in her basket. Reverse roles.

3. At the Ball
Place a half-dozen or so empty boxes around the room. Explain that we are all dancing princesses preparing for a ball, and that each box contains something very special that we need. Ask, “What do we need?” and choose one of the answers they shout out—gloves, jewelry, shoes, makeup, tiaras, etc. Students do a ballet walk to each box and mime taking out the specified item, placing it where it belongs (for example, they mime putting shoes on their feet). Everyone “shows off” the item (port de bras to show off gloves, tendus to show off shoes, etc.). Once all the items are collected, everyone dances at the ball.

—Karen White




Teacher in the Spotlight | Jessica Starr

38 Teacher Spotlight T
Founder/director, Muse Dance Company, Los Angeles, California

NOMINATED BY: Lee Hunt, dance teacher: “I have known Jessica Starr for more than 13 years. She has always been a trailblazer in dance. When she was 21, Jessica started Muse Dance Company, an in-house convention and choreography company. She holds workshops across the U.S. to give young people access to prominent dancers and teachers, and has expanded this access by offering scholarships. The program has grown to include workshops abroad, with the aim of sowing a positive image of American dance and culture.”


AGES TAUGHT: 3 to adult

GENRES TAUGHT: Jazz, jazz funk, contemporary, lyrical, and hip-hop

38 Teacher Spotlight 1

Photo by Carolyn Hoffman

WHY SHE CHOSE TEACHING AS A CAREER: Since I started dancing at the age of 4, dance was all I wanted to do. It was my “divine direction.” No matter which path I tried to take, it always led me back to dance. I even tried softball once, and my coach told me I “ran like a ballerina.”

HER GREATEST INSPIRATION: Lee Hunt. I met her when I was 18 and in my first year of college. She was the first dance influence in my life who looked at me and said, “You have something so unique to give; don’t limit yourself—go!” Lee understood movement unlike anyone I had ever met. She did not teach me physical steps or exercises; instead she helped me to develop my movement from an intellectual and spiritual perspective. Lee asked questions: “Why did you choose to do that? What if you approached it from this angle? What is expected from the audience? Can you do the opposite of that?”

TEACHING PHILOSOPHY: To empower each and every dancer who enters my room. It’s about being a better you: knowing who you are as a dancer, what you are fantastic at, and what you fear, then conquering that fear with enthusiasm and confidence.

WHAT MAKES HER A GOOD TEACHER: I don’t discount a strong heart. Too often students get overlooked early on because they don’t have obvious natural ability. When I teach or judge, I often look beyond the front row to see what diamonds may be hiding in the back. I was the diamond in the back row, so I have a soft spot for the enthusiastic dancer with no natural turnout but an incredible spirit.

HER FONDEST TEACHING MEMORY: When I watch some of my students who I have trained for years step up and become teachers and choreographers. Seeing them soar as choreographers and instructors makes my heart sing. Each is an individual with a distinct style and a high level of artistic integrity.

ADVICE TO DANCERS: Know your voice and stay true to it. As dancers, as creators, we too often compare ourselves to others. While I occasionally go to YouTube to admire some of the beautiful dancers in this world, I think it’s important not to obsess over what others are doing.

IF SHE COULDN’T BE A DANCE TEACHER: I am dedicated to encouraging young artists to follow their personal voice. I would do that no matter what the medium.

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS: One of the most unique aspects of my path as a master-class teacher is the fact that I can now offer a touring contract with my newly formed not-for-profit branch of Muse to dancers who have studied with me for years. It’s a wonderful opportunity to invite the hungriest and most talented Muse students into a professional working environment.

DO YOU KNOW A DANCE TEACHER WHO DESERVES TO BE IN THE SPOTLIGHT? Email your nominations to or mail them to Arisa White, Dance Studio Life, P.O. Box 2150, Norton, MA 02766. Please include why you think this teacher should be featured, along with his or her contact information.





Thinking Out Loud | Heads Held High

52 ThinkingOutloud
By Jennifer Moore Aguilar

Most ballet instructors believe a class dress code is essential. Melissa Roxey is one of them. Not only does uniformity of dress allow for accurate technical corrections due to unobstructed views of the body, but the lack of adornment and personal style ensures that the dancers’ technique, not the latest fashion trends, are the center of attention in class. But for one week Melissa, the owner of Mill Ballet School in Lambertville, New Jersey, the school my daughters attend, abandoned the dress code and encouraged students of all ages to wear their favorite crowns, tiaras, or hats to class.

The school-wide event, called “Crown Week: Hold Your Head High,” came about as the result of a conversation Melissa had with a pre-ballet student. When the 4-year-old approached her to say she wanted to wear a crown along with her required ballet leotard and tights, Melissa told me, her initial instinct was to say no. But she said she couldn’t ignore this child’s excitement about dressing up. Eventually, the idea of holding an event that would promote self-esteem and positive self-image began to evolve.

The result was the school’s first annual Crown Week. The goal was to encourage each dancer to hold his or her head up high and celebrate what makes each one unique and a personal work of art.

Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes and is determined not by looks but by who you are and what you value. Beautiful people do beautiful, kind things. Beautiful people think for themselves.

There was close to 100 percent participation in this event—students ranging in age from 3 to 18, boys and girls alike. Even the teachers joined in the fun. Head attire ranged from baseball hats to pink wigs to bumblebee antennae. Of course, tiaras were a favorite.

Along with a goal of educating, inspiring, and creating high-caliber dancers, the school is dedicated to helping mold individuals. In a world in which children are bombarded on a daily basis with images and descriptions of “beautiful” people, and where bullies prey on the weak and uncertain, Melissa believes it is the job of studio owners and teachers to remind their students that everyone is beautiful in their own right.

Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes and is determined not by looks but by who you are and what you value. Beautiful people do beautiful, kind things. Beautiful people think for themselves. Beautiful people have confidence, are strong, and above all, exhibit self-esteem.

Many people believe that self-esteem can have lasting, positive effects throughout someone’s lifetime. Those who have positive self-esteem tend to seek challenges and set goals rather than let their insecurities and fears limit them. In general, they engage in more positive friendships and relationships, because those who are confident believe they are worthy of being treated with respect and kindness. Not surprisingly, people who have high self-esteem often are happier than those who have a negative self-image.

Melissa decided to honor the beauty in each person by designating a time to promote and celebrate self-esteem. And her effort paid off. The benefits of Crown Week: Hold Your Head High proved numerous: creativity (students took on characters that suited their headgear, including a swan, a queen, and Medusa; teachers were inspired to set exercises that suited these characters), excitement, and improved posture—after all, dancers must stand tall in order to keep those headpieces in place.

What’s most important is that a wave of confidence and self-esteem flowed through the studio that week. The beauty of dance is striving for perfection. The challenge is learning that perfection is never attainable. Sometimes it is good to simply pause and remember how far we have come, to be proud of and confident in who we are, and to hold our heads up high.





Ballet Scene | Crazy for Ballet

Left: Kabaniaev acknowledges the boys’ occasionally boisterous energy and handles it with patience and persistence. Photo by Katia Alexandrova Right: There’s no “magic” involved in creating a successful boys’ program, Kabaniaev says – just hard work and a leap of faith. Photo by Paolo Galli

Left: Kabaniaev acknowledges the boys’ occasionally boisterous energy and handles it with patience and persistence.
Photo by Katia Alexandrova
Right: There’s no “magic” involved in creating a successful boys’ program, Kabaniaev says – just hard work and a leap of faith.
Photo by Paolo Galli

The basics of building a program for boys
By Claudia Bauer

“Can we do another jumping competition?” Five-year-old Theo is flushed at the end of his boys’ ballet class. He wants to dance more, jump more, learn more, and keep having fun.

Any teacher would love a studio full of talented, ballet-crazy boys like Theo (not his real name). Nikolai Kabaniaev, Theo’s teacher, is looking for more like him. As the director of the new men’s program at City Ballet School in San Francisco, Kabaniaev has developed a plan to recruit them, retain them, and cultivate their enthusiasm for ballet.

Kabaniaev brings 40 years of experience to this endeavor. Trained as a child at the Vaganova Academy in St. Petersburg, Russia, he was a soloist with the Kirov (now Mariinsky) Ballet for nearly a decade before immigrating to California in 1991 and becoming a principal dancer with Oakland Ballet. After retiring from performing, he served as co-artistic director of Diablo Ballet while choreographing for an array of Bay Area companies. But he has found his métier in teaching boys’ and men’s ballet. He came to City Ballet School after a two-year tenure as senior boys’ teacher at the Kirov Academy of Ballet in Washington, D.C.

His partner in the program is Galina Alexandrova, City Ballet School’s co-owner (with her husband, Ken Patsel). A former Bolshoi and San Francisco Ballet dancer, Alexandrova shares Kabaniaev’s sterling ballet pedigree and his unwavering belief that “if the school wants to progress professionally, it has to have a men’s program.”

You must be willing to conceptualize the program, front the necessary capital, and follow through without compromise. Be willing to start modestly, and build slowly. — Galina Alexandrova

Under Alexandrova’s leadership, City Ballet School has turned out pre-professional female ballet dancers since it began in 1987. To train today’s versatile dancers, current instructors, including Kristin Long, a former San Francisco Ballet principal dancer, and Anne-Sophie Rodriguez, who has danced with Boston Ballet and taught at Joffrey Ballet School, offer Vaganova-style classical training as well as contemporary classes. Graduates have gone on to respected traineeships and schools, including the Bolshoi Academy, while companies such as the Joffrey, San Francisco, and Alberta Ballets count CBS alumni in their ranks.

Boys and men have always been invited to join the school’s summer intensives, but a dedicated men’s program will round out the school. It will also allow the extensive pas de deux and partnering training that are so vital for aspiring professional ballet dancers. Alexandrova and Kabaniaev offer perspectives, insights, and tips on building a strong foundation for a boys’ ballet division.

Think big, start small

City Ballet School’s boys’ program launched in September 2013 with one class and four beginning students: Theo, plus 8-, 11- and 12-year-olds. But Alexandrova was willing to underwrite the program with only one student. “You must be willing to conceptualize the program, front the necessary capital, and follow through without compromise,” she says. “Be willing to start modestly, and build slowly.”

To that end, she has set promotional goals and marketing plans for the first year. Recruitment is a high priority, so she is promoting the program through advertising and special events, such as a party to introduce Kabaniaev to the school and the dance community. The boys performed in the school’s October recital (one of several annual performances), although they had trained for only two months. They partnered four girls in a piece set to Glière—a hit with the audience, a source of pride for the boys, and a publicity boost for the program.

The school has always included boys in its summer intensives, but Alexandrova’s first-year ambitions include an all-boys intensive in the summer of 2014. All along, she and Kabaniaev will focus on creating a positive community among the boys and growing a staff of highly regarded instructors, whose reputations will draw additional students to the program.

Like any business venture, a new boys’ program needs capital until it is self-supporting. Alexandrova and Kabaniaev are fundraising in the private and corporate sectors, and Kabaniaev is at work on a scholarship fund, which can mean the difference between keeping and losing promising boys who lack the resources to pay for training.

Define the program

Alexandrova knows exactly what she offers her students. “Our women’s program is the only one in San Francisco that exclusively offers Russian Vaganova training,” she says. It is the defining philosophy of City Ballet School, and it draws students who desire that training.

110 BalletScene 1

During his two-year tenure teaching senior boys at the Kirov Academy of Ballet, Kabaniaev learned much about training young male dancers. Photo by Paolo Galli

Now Kabaniaev is offering that to boys. The ultimate goal is to make the school a destination for pre-professional Vaganova-based training, and he and Alexandrova have agreed to make no compromises on the rigorousness of the training, the commitment level of the students, or the pace of each individual’s advancement. That kind of clear philosophy on training, and a defined structure for implementing it, can inspire confidence in parents, students, and potential funders.

Designed for students who want to become professional ballet dancers, the program will ultimately include two-hour technique classes five days per week, plus additional classes in variations, partnering, and contemporary dance.

For the time being, Kabaniaev’s beginning class is open to all boys who have a sincere interest. Even so, he and Alexandrova are prepared to turn away hopefuls in whom they don’t see the potential, drive, or enjoyment of ballet they are looking for.

“As long as they want to seriously take ballet, you take every student individually,” Alexandrova says. She and Kabaniaev agree that a school can undermine itself by focusing on short-term income rather than principled training—their choice may mean less revenue in the near term, but it serves their long-term goal of developing a high-caliber program.

Enrollment will eventually be by audition, as it already is for the girls. Kabaniaev and Alexandrova also trust that as the program’s reputation grows, it will draw young dancers with compatible goals. As enrollment grows and boys advance, the school will increase the number of classes, which Kabaniaev will segregate by skill level rather than by age.

Not every school will have such specific parameters, or even desire them. Leveraging what your school already does well and clarifying your values for boys’ dance training can help you establish effective founding guidelines in every style of boys’ dance class, including contemporary, competition, and hip-hop. Market research can also help you discover ways to develop a program that will appeal to your community. Since many boys start dance classes because they have a sister in dance, surveying parents about what dance styles, class times, and music their boys are interested in is a great way to start.

Focus on men’s technique

If you’re starting with only one or two boys, it may be tempting to save money by placing them in a girls’ class, then add boys-only training when enrollment increases. But Kabaniaev and Alexandrova recommend having dedicated boys’ classes from the outset. “Boys have to be with other boys in the class,” Kabaniaev says. “It’s a different training.” Dedicated classes for boys also show that you take their training seriously. Boys show respect for the program by arriving on time and adhering to the dress code (at City Ballet School, a classic white leotard, black tights, and black shoes).

110 BalletScene 2

Kabaniaev helped launch City Ballet School’s boys’ program with four students and a commitment to building a pre-professional program from the ground up. Photo by Katia Alexandrova

They also advise hiring a male instructor, preferably one who has had professional experience as a performer. Not only will he have an innate understanding of men’s technique, he can also serve as a model of strength, athleticism, and artistry for boys to aspire to.

Kabaniaev knows from experience that strength, coordination, flexibility, and turnout are the foundations for everything boys will do as ballet dancers, and he structures his classes accordingly. The boys start out facing the mirror, at standing barres. The barres are parallel to a seam in the marley and positioned about 18 inches (boys’ arm distance) past it. Standing on the seam during pliés, tendus, dégagés, and grands battements, the boys have an easy visual reminder of where their turnout belongs. To teach rhythm, Kabaniaev has them say the counts out loud. While they work, he walks from one boy to the next, gently and repeatedly adjusting their shoulders, chins, and posture, and getting them onto their standing legs.

Patience, persistence, and open-mindedness are his watchwords. “Sometimes you just let them be, even if they’re not exactly doing what they are supposed to,” he says, adding that a two-hour class allows plenty of time for goofing off between focused exercises. When they do lose interest in “the boring stuff,” like repetitive barre work, he often laughs, charmed by their personalities. “Boys will be boys,” he says with a smile. After they burn off some energy, they are ready to refocus, and are once again eager to please.

Let boys be boys

“At 10, girls already want to be ballerinas. Boys, they’re a different animal,” Kabaniaev says. He takes advantage of their natural bent for performing and competing to keep them engaged, enthusiastic, and barely aware that they’re learning technique.

110 BalletScene 3

Kabaniaev is working on establishing a dedicated scholarship fund for boys. Photo by Katia Alexandrova

Most boys can hardly wait to do “fun stuff” like pirouettes, so he uses those as rewards for dutifully completing their tendus. For beginners, pirouettes are an ambitious goal; though performed with verve, they are wobbly and turned-in. But, says Kabaniaev about his training at the Vaganova Academy in the 1970s, “we wouldn’t start pirouettes until we were 13 years old, and then it is too late. Coordination develops at an early age—the earlier the better. They just need to try.”

And Kabaniaev is not above a little trickery. “I told them, ‘In academics, when you want to ask a question, you raise your hand. In ballet, you raise your leg over your head.’ So now when they ask a question, they go ‘Ugh!’ and raise their leg.”

Instead of asking for eight sautés in first position, Kabaniaev might have the boys do a low-stakes competition. Lined up side by side, they see who can sauté longer than the others. “After four jumps, their muscles start getting tired,” he says. “But nobody wants to give up.”

Ever protective of his charges, Kabaniaev makes sure the boys don’t overwork. He will call a tie to bring a competition to a dignified, and safe, end—a result that the boys seem content with. The rule is that when they quit, they have to lie on the floor in the frog position while the others keep going. This double ruse gets the boys doing many more sautés, with much more gusto, than a traditional exercise, while improving their turnout with repeated frog stretches.

Pushups, sit-ups, and changements also work well for competitions. Spread them throughout class time to keep spirits up, and save one competition for the end of class, to finish on a high note before réverénce. It’s a simple and effective way to build camaraderie in the group; after all, the more emotionally invested the boys are, and the more fun they have, the stronger their commitment will be. And even though only one boy gets to taste the thrill of victory, they all learn that giving their best effort can bring meaningful rewards.

Ultimately, all of these efforts are geared toward a critical goal: creating a place where boys can enjoy themselves and fall in love with ballet.

“There is no magic,” Kabaniaev says. It takes hard work, creativity, a financial investment, and a leap of faith. “After the first class, I thought maybe the next day Theo wouldn’t be there,” he says. “But he was there. I talked to his mom and she said, ‘He said the class is too short.’ ”





Who’s in Charge?

57 WhosInChargeT
When kids call the shots in class, chaos reigns
By Elizabeth McLain

Over the past year I taught jazz classes in which several of my students exhibited strong-willed behavior. The children were socially intelligent, strong leaders who didn’t necessarily want to follow my rules, easily pulled others in, and were interested to know how I would react. After reading Setting Limits With Your Strong-Willed Child by Dr. Robert J. Mackenzie and 10 Days to a Less Defiant Child by Dr. Jeffrey Bernstein, I came to understand the children better and I learned some techniques for managing this type of behavior.

I first recognized the problem when I allowed the dancers in my 8- to 10-year-olds’ jazz class to perform a step of their choice across the floor. Most of the students responded with a joyful outpouring of leaps, turns, and floor work. But one student, Cynthia (not her real name), looked at me wide-eyed and said dramatically, “We can’t do gymnastics?” I was surprised by the question, since I enforced a “no gymnastics” rule in every class. I reminded Cynthia that it wasn’t safe for dancers to try gymnastic tricks unsupervised and without a mat. And since this was a jazz class, I wanted to see her favorite jazz steps.

Mackenzie recommends guiding a child’s behavior with specific directions, a calm tone of voice, and a fitting consequence followed by a clean slate.

“Then I have nothing,” Cynthia replied.

“Really?” I said. “Nothing? No step ball changes? No chaîné turns? No leaps?”

In response, Cynthia walked in slow motion across the floor, her head hanging in pretend devastation. I looked across the room at my class who stood motionless and wide-eyed, clearly worried. When it became clear that Cynthia was inordinately interested in seeing what I would do next, I knew my usual methods wouldn’t work. And I realized that several students were behaving in similar ways in other classes. I had to find a different approach to managing this type of personality.

I gave Cynthia a choice, and she picked the one thing that was against the rules. It was clear she was testing me and trying to elicit a reaction. According to Mackenzie, defiant children see boundaries as question marks rather than absolute rules. They learn by testing the limits. In his book he states, “Strong-willed children need to experience your boundaries repeatedly before they accept them as mandatory, not optional.”

Mackenzie also describes three types of parents: punitive (authoritative), democratic (firm and respectful), and permissive. He warns that defiant children rebel most against approaches that are too harsh or too lenient.

In a similar vein, Bernstein recommends correcting children in a non-dominating way. “. . . [A]s long as you think about teaching and not overpowering while disciplining, you will come across as non-controlling. Trust me—the more emotion you take out of discipline, the more effective it is,” he writes.

I thought of myself as a “firm and respectful” teacher. However, Cynthia seemed to sense permissiveness when I offered her options. She also didn’t react well when I asked her, in front of the class, to stop talking. In this case she might have perceived the reprimand as overly authoritative. I responded by becoming more authoritative (because I hadn’t read the previously mentioned books at that time). At first that response worked; however, she ultimately rebelled, just like the books said. What I should have done (and will do next time) was talk with Cynthia’s mom.

57 WhosInCharge 1Mackenzie warns against getting pulled into an argument with children who are probably hoping to provoke a reaction. “If you take the bait and engage your child in an argument or debate over your rules, what you’re really saying is that your rules are negotiable,” he writes.

I shouldn’t have explained the gymnastics rule to Cynthia since she already knew my reasoning. Over-explaining contributes to an overly permissive environment by suggesting that my plan is up for discussion. After I learned that, I limited myself to one-sentence explanations and stuck to my class plan. This approach was effective.

Bernstein advises teachers not to respond with emotion when children are defiant. He writes, “Your student(s) will become less defiant because you are taking away the satisfaction they received by watching you react in anger.”

He believes teachers should ignore some bad behavior. “Pick your battles wisely,” he writes. “If a student comment is merely mildly annoying, ignore it.” I had been letting nothing slide, which could have come across as authoritative and stifling to Cynthia.

As a teacher, I have always wanted each dancer to feel important. I work from a place of supporting ideas, creativity, and enthusiasm. I try to give each child space within my class for creative expression and exploration with improvisation, the chance to do a favorite step across the floor, and the freedom to create choreography for four counts of eight within a combination.

However, in this particular class, I decided I could avoid creating more opportunities for conflict by eliminating free choice. Since I didn’t give the kids those choices in every class, they didn’t notice when I stopped. I also sped up the pace of the class, keeping the kids moving with as few pauses as possible. This seemed to hold any defiant behavior at bay because the kids were busy and having fun. And everyone enjoyed the nonstop movement.

The students’ behavior continued to improve until a few months later, when I had to slow down the pace of the class to clean the recital routine. Not enjoying the process, the strong-willed kids began testing me more aggressively than before.

Mackenzie recommends guiding a child’s behavior with specific directions, a calm tone of voice, and a fitting consequence followed by a clean slate. “Our primary goal in guidance situations is to reject unacceptable behavior, not the child performing the behavior,” he writes. He also states that it is very important to praise and recognize good behavior.

During recital cleaning, some of my students began exhibiting behavior disruptive enough that I realized I needed an effective consequence. I told one child she was to bring her mother in at the end of class so I could tell her about the behavior that had occurred—talking, rule breaking, and rallying the other kids to participate in defiant behavior. The child behaved for the rest of the class; in subsequent classes, I could see her struggling to control her behavior. No doubt she wanted to avoid having me talk to her parent a second time.

When I spoke to the parent, I was careful to describe the behavior in detail, but with no judgment. The parent was very supportive, and this approach proved effective going forward.

At first, whenever I realized I was dealing with a strong-willed child in my class, I expected to find a solution that would fix the behavior completely. When I saw that I was not going to solve the problem completely, I felt like a failure—until I realized my expectations were unrealistic. Mackenzie states in his book, “If you tend to personalize your child’s testing, try to hold on to the bigger picture. Aggressive research is a normal learning process for strong-willed children.”

My research helped me realize that these kids’ initial testing behavior is part of their personality structure; I didn’t need to regard it as failure on my part, only a sign that I needed to do things differently. However, I was naïve to think I could solve the behavior problem quickly. These children have a strong need to continue to test boundaries. I can manage the behavior, but I can’t change the way they are wired. What I can, and did, change was my own approach to managing the class. By doing that I’m giving these students every opportunity to succeed in a group situation.














Loss of Beloved Teacher, Alan Danielson, Lamented by Limón Dance Colleagues

Alan Danielson; photo courtesy José Limón Dance Foundation

Alan Danielson; photo courtesy José Limón Dance Foundation

The José Limón Dance Foundation last week sadly announced the sudden passing of beloved teacher, mentor, colleague, and friend Alan Danielson on February 12.

“Yesterday we lost a dear friend and an amazing human being,” Limón executive director, Juan Jose Escalante, said Thursday in a press release.

Danielson discovered dance at age 22 and subsequently moved to New York to study with Ruth Currier, who performed in the Limón Dance Company for many years and became company director after José Limón’s death. Ten years later he was approached by the director of the Limón Institute, Norton Owen, to help found the Limón School. The Professional Studies Program, an intensive nine-month program in the Limón technique and repertory, was created in 2001 under Danielson’s guidance.

Danielson was an internationally acclaimed choreographer and master teacher, committed to the contemporary relevance of the Humphrey/Limón movement principles and philosophy. He was on faculty at New York University and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center, and taught extensively in Canada, Mexico, Europe, Japan, and Central America.

Once, when asked, “What would you like to offer young dancers today?” Danielson said: “I would like to share my love for movement—what it feels like and what it projects to those who are watching. I would like to share my joy in working with music and creating with other dancers. I’d like to show them how dance is life, and how it communicates our existence as human beings.”




Ask Rhee Gold

Advice for dance teachers

Hi Rhee,

What would you do about a student’s monthly tuition if she was injured (in athletics, not dance, and it required surgery) and out for a couple of months to recover? She is part of a team and her mom wants me to hold her place in the choreography. I’m on the fence about this since she cannot dance; the problem is that she was supposed to be in eight dances, and all of the teachers will need to remember to factor her in. I’m not opposed to waiving her tuition while she is out, but I want to make sure I don’t start something that snowballs with all the other “ouchies” in the studio. Thanks for your help! —Shelly


Hello Shelly,

This is an opportunity for this child, her mom, and the rest of your dancers to learn more than movement. It’s where you teach respect, dedication, teamwork, and more. When young dancers and their parents are truly committed, an injury doesn’t prevent them from going to the studio. I believe injured students should observe all the classes they can’t physically take, and it is imperative that they attend all choreography rehearsals. Injury does not prevent a dancer from using his/her brain; observation can be as educational as taking a class.

As for the choreography, the dancer must know that it is her obligation to be prepared to step back into the piece as soon as she is ready. And she should be able to do this without the choreographer having to spend hours re-teaching the movement. Learning her part while injured is an example of having respect for her classmates and her teachers.

In this case, no refund is applicable. It is the dancer’s and parent’s choice whether to take advantage of the opportunity to be part of what they are paying for. Good luck! —Rhee



Hi Rhee,

You helped me through a very bad time years ago when two of my students who grew up in my school took almost my entire dance troupe and opened a school down the street. I was heartbroken. Now once again I am getting calls from people dropping out right and left. I have tried having a meeting and no one will share what is going on. But we now have only six kids left in one troupe and eight in another. If we keep this number of students, we will lose money paying a teacher, but if we get rid of the dance troupes altogether, then we will lose the students who want to compete. What do we do? —Cathy


Hi Cathy,

I am sorry you are dealing with this situation, but in all honesty I find it hard to understand why your instinct isn’t helping you figure out why these dancers are leaving. How was the previous season? Did the dancers and their parents have any issues? Were you on top of your game when it came to customer service, organization, faculty, choreography, and so on? There must be something you know in your gut that would explain this exodus.

I would like you to think about this: if these departing students or their parents are not offering you any clues about why they made the decisions they did, or if they are not giving you what I might call the typical reasons (“My daughter has decided to do another activity,” or “My child doesn’t have the time to commit,” etc.), then my guess is there is something wrong and they believe you should know what it is. Apparently they are uncomfortable being truthful with you. Work harder to get honest feedback, and if you get it, don’t take offense; instead think about what you could do to avoid doing whatever it is in the future.

With the two groups of students who remain, give them and their parents the best dance year possible, both educationally and in terms of customer service. Though I know situations like this are hard, you’ve been through something similar and you survived quite well. Make it your goal to figure out the reality of the situation, and then get to work making yourself better by learning from of all of these lessons you’re experiencing. —Rhee



Dear Rhee,

I have been teaching for two decades at the same school. I feel like I am at home, and everyone there is an important part of my extended family. The owner and I have had a wonderful working and personal relationship, but it has been more than 10 years since she has offered me a raise. Almost 10 years had passed before I received the only raise I have ever gotten. That happened because I was getting married and I told my boss that I had to cut back my teaching hours in order to get a real job so that my new husband and I could afford our mortgage. She was very generous at that time, increasing my hourly wage from $12 to $22. I appreciated it very much, but the school and the number of students that I teach has doubled since then. Not more classes, but more students in the classes.

My dance family means so much to me and I don’t want to lose it or my relationship with my boss, but my own family thinks that I am being taken advantage of. We are struggling financially. How do I ask for a raise, and if I do will I lose the career I love? I am so scared and I don’t know what to do. Thanks. —Valerie


Dear Valerie,

You should be commended for your appreciation for your dance family and your loyalty to your boss. I would love to have you as an employee. You need to speak up just like you did 10 years ago. If your boss is your “family,” and your relationship is strong, she can’t take offense at your asking for a raise. And if she does, then you must realize that the relationship may not be the same for her as it is for you.

A hint: this time when you speak to her, you should also ask her to agree to discuss wages on an every-other-year basis. You need to establish some sort of boundaries in the relationship. She may know how much your dance family means to you, so it’s possible she doesn’t bring up money because she’s confident that you would never quit. I am not saying it’s right, but it might be how it is in your situation. I wish you all the best. —Rhee


Note to our readers: In this column you often read my responses to studio owners who say their former students or employees open a competing school nearby. Often, when teachers leave, they take their students along with them, and the war begins. Sometimes the circumstances that create the problem in the first place are similar to Valerie’s. She wants to be loyal, and she wants to be part of the “family,” but she can no longer deal with the financial price of her loyalty to her boss.





2 Tips for Ballet Teachers | Better Balance

By David Arce

Tip 1
When on relevé using one or two feet, the weight should be equally balanced between all toes and the ball of the foot. Remind your students to think of spreading out their toes in their shoes, because this gives a more stable platform on which to perform sustained balances.


Tip 2
All three muscles in the calf should be working equally in a high three-quarter relevé. Often the medial (inside, and more pronounced) side of the gastrocnemius, in conjunction with the soleus, is used too much and the lateral side becomes weak. Dancers should practice relevé at the barre next to the mirror so they can visualize all three muscles working to find proper alignment and an equal balancing position.



2 Tips for Hip-Hop Teachers | Way to Pop

By Geo Hubela

Tip 1
Getting young dancers to understand popping is a big challenge. Here is a way to get the movement into their bodies.

Start with a wrist pop. The heel of the hand makes a sharp downward pressing hit on the beat. Keep the arms straight and bend the wrists with the fingers going up. Mimic the revving of a motorcycle and, for fun, let the dancers make a “vroom vroom” sound.

Next, have them keep the hands relaxed instead of in fists. Get them to focus on popping only the wrist, not the whole arm, making the pop sharp and quick.


Tip 2
Popping looks most impressive when multiple body parts are used. Leg pops can be difficult to learn, but they make upper-body pops look more impressive.

Start by leaning side to side on the beat. When leaning left, push the right knee back as if hyperextending it, then reverse. Do it gently until comfortable, then snap the opposite knee back on the lean. Add wrist pops and eventually neck and chest pops to create a full-body pop.




2 Tips for Modern Teachers | Get Grounded

By Bill Evans

Tip 1
Teachers ask if they should mix styles of technique (Graham, Limón, Cunningham, etc.). Of course, but students do need a grounding in the base modern-dance style you have evolved (which has most likely drawn from several sources). If you teach your “home” style through concepts and principles—rather than only steps or exercises—those same core ideas can serve as inroads to different styles. You can investigate movement patterns in a new style or technique on your own until you feel ready to share them, or you can say, “This interests me. Please help me explore it,” and let your students participate in how to unpack it and integrate it with your other work.


Tip 2
We empower our students when we cite our sources. If we let them know the name of the teacher/artist from whom we learned a movement phrase or concept, and something about that person, we can teach them history as well as technique. If we don’t give them a context for new material, students are less likely to integrate it into the larger picture of the work they are learning.






2 Tips for Tap Teachers | Building on Basics

By Gregg Russell

Tip 1
Many trick steps stem from a basic tap step learned early in a student’s training. One reason students should master the basics is that they can learn harder variations or trick steps quicker. As teachers, it is our responsibility to show students the connection between basic steps and more advanced trick steps. Often, I see students stress out when they see a trick step in choreography, but once I show them the basic step it is based on, they calm down and achieve their goal faster.


Tip 2
For example, take a simple paradiddle (scuff the heel front, brush back the toe, step, heel drop). Next, have the students add an extra heel dig after the scuff heel, then a toe stand dig, before the step, heel drop. If they struggle with basic paradiddles (not separating sounds or keeping their weight in the middle), then this step will be extremely difficult for them. What makes this a trick step? It is done all on one foot, with the other lifted off the ground!





Insider’s Look at Pacific Northwest Ballet School Featured in 2014 Teachers’ Seminar

Kayti Bouljon with Pacific Northwest Ballet School students; photo by Rex Tranter

Kayti Bouljon with Pacific Northwest Ballet School students; photo by Rex Tranter

Pacific Northwest Ballet School will hold a Teachers’ Seminar April 9 to 12 featuring presentations in dance training, philosophies, and practical practices, along with tickets to PNB’s production of George Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Participants experience an insider’s view of PNBS’ programs for students ages 2 to professional as they exchange ideas and make new connections within the dance education field. The program will be held at PNB’s dance training facility, the Phelps Center, Seattle.

Topics include: Engaging Young Dancers (ages 4 to 7); Costuming on a Limited Budget; Fostering Emerging Choreographic Talent; Marketing Strategies for Ballet Schools; Injury Screening and Prevention; How to Get Boys to Your School and How to Keep Them; and others.

Cost for the full four-day seminar is $700, with individual days priced at $200.

More information, visit

To register, visit


Teacher in the Spotlight | Staciann Marcucci



Co-owner/director, Motion N’ Dance, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

NOMINATED BY: Jessica Gibson, co-owner and daughter: “My mother and I have been working together for seven years. She was given the chance to buy an existing studio whose owner had only 57 dancers left. My mother made the decision to rebuild and open Motion N’ Dance. We built the studio around the belief that there is more to dance than competitions, trophies, and medals. We provide students with proper dance education and performance opportunities that will help them grow as dancers. My mother has added more than 300 students to the number enrolled when we took over the school.”


AGES TAUGHT: 3 to 18

GENRES TAUGHT: Ballet, lyrical, and jazz

WHY SHE CHOSE TEACHING DANCE AS A CAREER: It allows me to educate and mentor my students as well as provide a second home to them. I have danced my entire life—it is who I am. Growing up with a learning disability, I found that dance provided me with a purpose. It was the one thing I could do that made me feel confident and secure. I wanted to share my passion for the art, so I chose to teach.


Photo courtesy Motion N’ Dance

HER GREATEST INSPIRATIONS: My inspiration comes from watching my students grow as dancers and individuals. My husband and family believe in me and allow me to follow my dream. My mother was also an inspiration; she was able to see me realize my dream before she passed away. However, my greatest inspiration is my daughter—with whom I am now able to share my dance life—as I watch her grow into the business.

TEACHING PHILOSOPHY: My philosophy stems from a quote I learned in childhood: “There is no such word as ‘cannot.’ ” I push my students to strive and reach for their own dreams and to understand that if they believe in their dreams, they will come true. Hard work and dedication do pay off!

WHAT MAKES HER A GOOD TEACHER: I constantly educate myself. One is never too old to take a class, read a book, or attend a seminar. More important, I know my students. I know how to fix their weaknesses and use their strengths. Furthermore, I understand that some may need a high five while others may need a hug at the end of class.

FONDEST TEACHING MEMORY: The Christmas performance for the patients of Sacred Heart Home, for cancer patients. I love watching the dancers interact with the patients, as well as the patients trying to dance along. Seeing the smiles on their faces is moving and rewarding. The dancers and I enjoy spending Christmas Eve at the home every year.

ADVICE TO DANCERS AND TEACHERS: To dancers: believe in yourself. To teachers: believe in your dancers.

IF SHE COULDN’T BE A DANCE TEACHER: I would open a home for children and take the time to mentor them.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: Dance saved me—it changed my life. I am thankful and blessed for all that I have. Because of dance, I have fight in me to push myself to want more and make things happen. I know to never give up. You will get knocked down, but if you believe in yourself no one can make you feel that you cannot accomplish your dreams.

DO YOU KNOW A DANCE TEACHER WHO DESERVES TO BE IN THE SPOTLIGHT? Email your nominations to or mail them to Arisa White, Dance Studio Life, P.O. Box 2150, Norton, MA 02766. Please include why you think this teacher should be featured, along with his or her contact information.



Longtime Dance Teacher Uses Knowledge of Adolescents to Pen Young Adult Novel

Author Lynn Slaughter; photo by Sam Upshaw Jr./The Courier-Journal

Author Lynn Slaughter; photo by Sam Upshaw Jr./The Courier-Journal

For Lynn Slaughter, a longtime professional modern dancer and former dance teacher at the Youth Performing Arts School in Louisville, Kentucky, writing was a way to cope after hip replacement surgery forced her to retire from her career in dance.

“It’s like, you had been doing this thing for 30 years or more, and this is your identity,” Slaughter, 66, told The Courier-Journal. “I really felt like I needed to invent some new dreams for myself.”

Ten years ago, Slaughter began writing her debut novel. While I Danced has been published by Cambridge Books and is now available in bookstores and online. The young-adult drama follows a 15-year-old aspiring ballet dancer as she participates in a competitive summer dance program while dealing with turbulent circumstances in her life outside the studio.

During her five years at the Youth Performing Arts School, where she was head of the dance department, and eight seasons as a counselor at The Kentucky Center Governor’s School for the Arts, an annual three-week intensive summer session, she worked with high school students who often came to her for help with issues ranging from drugs, relationships, and family problems to feelings of inadequacy as an artist.

Prior to writing fiction, Slaughter—who has a master’s degree in sociology and is a mother of two grown children—did research and published roughly 200 articles for regional parenting magazines about parenting adolescents. In doing so, she said, she developed “quite a solid knowledge base” of the challenges of adolescence.

She is already at work on her second book—a mystery novel for young adults—and sees writing as a way to take time for herself, to grow creatively, and to take risks. “I think writing’s a lot like dancing,” she said. “You’re revealing a lot about yourself in your work. Who you are sort of comes out whether you’re dancing or you’re writing.”

To read the full story, visit



Illinois High School Dance Teacher Recognized with Ruth Page Award for 2014

Diane Rawlinson; photo courtesy Wheeling High School

Diane Rawlinson; photo courtesy Wheeling High School

Wheeling [Illinois] High School orchesis director and dance teacher Diane Rawlinson has been selected as the 2014 Ruth Page Award recipient.

The Chicago Tribune said Rawlinson earned this distinction due to her tireless 30-year dedication to teaching young dancers the discipline of the art form, and for always stressing the importance of community philanthropy and citizenship.

As founder of Dance for Life’s “Next Generation,” an annual student-produced concert benefiting Dance for Life and The Children’s Place Association, Rawlinson has helped to raise more than $170,000 since the concert’s inception in 1994. (The 20th Annual Dance for Life’s “Next Generation” concert is set for March 9.)

“Diane has dedicated herself to teaching dance in a unique way,” Venetia Stifler, executive and artistic director of the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, said. “As professionals, we all know that dance teaches discipline and self-esteem. However, Diane extends that teaching to the next generation of young dancers in a real-world manner, imparting understanding of how each of us is connected and the vital importance of community, philanthropy, and citizenship.”

The Ruth Page Award, named in honor of dance icon Ruth Page (1899-1991), honors individuals or organizations who share her passion, artistry, and vision. It has been given annually by the Ruth Page Center on behalf of the Ruth Page Foundation and the Chicago dance community since 1986.

The award will be presented at the Auditorium Theater, 50 E. Congress Parkway, Chicago, on March 23. Tickets are $50 and include a reception at noon followed at 2pm by a performance of Aladdin by the Houston Ballet. Tickets are available at To see the original story, visit,0,3979826.story.



Stories from Past Issues of Dance Studio Life to be Resurrected on Facebook


It started as a humble newsletter: Goldrush, created and published by Rhee Gold, was filled with articles written by dance teachers for dance teachers. It was an instant hit, and Gold—encouraged by the obvious interest of his friends and colleagues in a publication all about dance education—decided to launch a full-fledged, glossy magazine version of his little-newsletter-that-could in July of 2004.

Since that day, Dance Studio Life has grown into the top publication in the dance education industry, printing 10 high-quality magazines a year chock-full of informative, inspirational, and fun features.

In honor of this year’s 10th anniversary, Dance Studio Life staffers have been scouring the archives for favorite articles. Starting this week, three of those articles will be featured each week on the Dance Studio Life Facebook page: human interest features on Tuesdays, business-oriented stories on Wednesdays, and classroom success stories on Thursdays.

So, peruse at your leisure, and enjoy this DSL blast from the past!


Everything Old is New Again: Stories from Past Issues of Dance Studio Life to be Resurrected on Facebook


It started as a humble newsletter: Goldrush, created and published by Rhee Gold, was filled with articles written by dance teachers for dance teachers. It was an instant hit, and Gold—encouraged by the obvious interest of his friends and colleagues in a publication all about dance education—decided to launch a full-fledged, glossy magazine version of his little-newsletter-that-could in July of 2004.

Since that day, Dance Studio Life has grown into the top publication in the dance education industry, printing 10 high-quality magazines a year chock-full of informative, inspirational, and fun features.

In honor of this year’s 10th anniversary, Dance Studio Life staffers have been scouring the archives for favorite articles. Starting this week, three of those articles will be featured each week on the Dance Studio Life Facebook page: human interest features on Tuesdays, business-oriented stories on Wednesdays, and classroom success stories on Thursdays.

So, peruse at your leisure, and enjoy this DSL blast from the past!



Schoolteachers Learn How the Power of Movement and Music Can Help Memorization

“Poetry in Motion;” photo by Daniel Melograna/News Journal

“Poetry in Motion;” photo by Daniel Melograna/News Journal

An art integration program aims to teach public and private school teachers how to use dance, song, and other forms of art to not only promote memorization, but understanding and application as well.

The Mansfield [OH] News Journal reported that 13 teachers participated in a “Poetry in Motion” workshop taught by Kennedy Center workshop leader Randy Barron at the Renaissance Theater in Mansfield. The approach works because it asks the students to create the songs, dances, and movements that they believe will help them best remember the subject material.

The strategy can be used in any subject area, not just English and reading, he said. Angel Vega, a fourth-grade teacher at the Richland Academy School of Excellence, frequently uses the techniques in the classroom. Her students have created raps and dances to describe the scientific method, remember math concepts, and even learn the water cycle.

“If you go back to my room and ask a student about the water cycle, they still know the dance and song they learned at the beginning of the year,” Vega said. “One of them will start singing the song, and then the whole class will join in.”

The Kennedy Center has spent decades developing the strategy, and so far, the concepts have proven successful in the classroom. It’s the same reason teachers in the ’70s and ’80s used “Schoolhouse Rock” videos in the classroom and taught short poems like “In fourteen hundred and ninety-two Columbus sailed the ocean blue.”

To see the original story, visit



American Dance Festival Audition Tour Seeks Candidates for Annual School

American Dance Festival school; photo courtesy Facebook

American Dance Festival school; photo courtesy Facebook

The American Dance Festival audition tour will visit 14 cities between February 1 and March 30, seeking talented candidates for the festival’s 2014 ADF Six Week School.

The ADF school provides professional training programs for students, choreographers, and teachers, and is held in conjunction with the festival (running June 12 to July 26 in Durham, North Carolina).

The faculty will include Brenda Daniels, Mark Haim, Ishmael Houston-Jones, Pamela Pietro, James Sutton, Andrea Weber, and Jesse Zaritt, among others.

Tuition scholarships are offered to promising students who demonstrate a high level of technical and creative ability or potential, as well as financial need. In 2013, more than $200,000 was given in scholarships to more than 50 percent of the students who attended the festival.

Scholarship amounts range from $200 to full tuition.

Notable scholarship alumni include Hope Boykin, Trisha Brown, Steve Paxton, Paul Taylor, and Shen Wei, and many former scholarship students have gone on to have successful careers with renowned companies such as Paul Taylor Dance Company, Pilobolus, Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Ronald K. Brown/EVIDENCE, and Shen Wei Dance Arts, among others.

Applications for the school and audition details are available at





Massachusetts Studio Owner Succumbs After Life-Long Battle with Cancer

Julie Mack; photo by Emily J. Reynolds/The Enterprise

Julie Mack; photo by Emily J. Reynolds/The Enterprise

Julie Mack lived to dance and to share her love of the craft by teaching others. Owner of Julie’s Studio of Dance in West Bridgewater, Massachusetts, Mack died this week at the age of 39.

She had been battling cancer since she was 2.

The Enterprise reported that even as she battled cancer for a fourth time, Mack came to her dance studio daily to share her expertise—thin, and with a cap covering her head, she was still teaching children days before being hospitalized about two weeks ago.

“She battled cancer heroically and with such grace for so long,” said Julie’s husband, Jonathan Mack, of Bridgewater. “Take comfort that she’s no longer in pain and that she’s dancing again. She has touched so many lives and is loved by so, so, so many.”

Mack said her passion for dance is what helped her endure repeated cancer treatments. “Cancer or no cancer, we all just keep swimming,” she told the newspaper just a week before Christmas, as she conducted classes for two dozen children.

She opened her first dance studio in 2005 at the former Joppa Grille site in East Bridgewater, and opened another studio in Bridgewater shortly afterward, before moving her studio, finally, to West Bridgewater last fall.

“Julie had two very important sentences that inspired her,” said her father-in-law, Ray Mack. “One was, ‘It is what it is,’ and, ‘This is not the life I would choose, but this is it,’ and that guided her so many times.”

She also had a wooden plaque on her wall that read, “We can do hard things.”

“That was her motto,” said Ray Mack.

Mack’s studio will remain closed for the remainder of the week and will re-open for dance classes on January 20. To see the original story, visit




Ask Rhee Gold

Advice for dance teachers

Dear Rhee,

As an owner of a dance studio for many years, I wonder if it’s necessary to be at the studio every day. I’ve attended many of your conferences and I know your philosophy about how the owner sets the mood of the studio. I agree with that. But personal life has its ups and downs. I love the studio but feel burned out from time to time. I watch my customers take vacations as I work on the next project. Summer is a busy time preparing for the next season, so I feel like I don’t get a break.

I want the studio to have a good atmosphere, and I’m afraid my being stressed and feeling sad or overwhelmed will permeate the studio. I wonder if it’s OK to give myself a break from the studio and allow my staff to set the tone. Any suggestions? —Lisa


Hello Lisa,

No, I don’t think you have to be at the school all day, every day. And certainly you can give yourself a break or take a real vacation. You will be a better leader if you give yourself what you need in order to stay fresh and able to appreciate what you have built. If you are feeling stressed and sad, you need to step away for a bit. Also, you need to know that you are not alone. The dance-education field is not as easy as most think it is, and many times teachers arrive at a place where they need to put themselves first without feeling guilty.

As for keeping the atmosphere positive, it won’t self-destruct if you are there less often; in fact, it might improve for everyone if you give yourself what you need. It’s obvious that you have worked hard to get your business to where it is today; it’s OK to take a vacation. I wish you the best. —Rhee



Hi Rhee,

I need a morale booster about how to get more business. After 24 years my studio took a huge hit, and I don’t know why. I work so hard! I am hanging on by a thread, super-full of anxiety, and this has sent me into a depression. I’ve been hanging on to your positivity! —Tanya


Hi Tanya,

I think you need to figure out why your clients left. Contact a couple of them (in the friendliest way) to discuss their motives for not returning to your school. It is important to know what their perception is so that you can move forward to eliminate the issues that caused them to leave. Also, it’s time to focus on bringing in a new crop of young students who will grow up to replace those you lost. Go nuts promoting the preschool and young children’s classes.

We sometimes get a kick in the butt that tells us we need to make changes. The catch is being able to recognize what those changes need to be. You can do this! Let go of the anxiety so that you can make good things happen for you and your school. —Rhee



Hi Rhee,

Six dancers on my competition team were in a short video posted on Vine. They were twerking, and they made the video at my dance studio. They did not tag the studio or attach the studio to the video in any way, but they used their first and last names on it and have received a lot of attention (positive and negative) because of it. The video has tens of thousands of hits.

I have made it perfectly clear to them that I never want to see my studio used in such a video again. Some of the girls were remorseful and some are still proud of their popularity. I am so disappointed and frustrated by their choice to post themselves doing a questionable dance move when I constantly tell them to use proper judgment on social media. They have told me their parents see nothing wrong with it, which stuns me.

My dilemma: do I leave it where it stands, having discussed it with the girls? Or do I make an example of them and issue a consequence of some kind? I want the rest of my team and studio to understand that I do not condone what they did. Any advice would be appreciated. —Robert


Dear Robert,

I would sit down with the kids involved and their parents to explain that you are uncomfortable with them having used the studio to make the video. Whether or not they understand, you need to explain that reputation is the most important ingredient for success, in both the dance and non-dance worlds. If they choose to create something like this outside of the school and their parents don’t care, that is their prerogative. But if they choose to continue to represent your school, they must understand that you have the right to ensure that they do not tarnish your reputation.

Make it clear that if they do anything like this again, they will have to find another place to dance. It’s a new world out there, and we adults must keep trying to teach the next generation how important good judgment is to their success. I wish you all the best. —Rhee



Dear Rhee,

This past summer brought lots of heartbreak and confusion to the studio I work at. A girl opened a studio right after high school, and a few girls went with her. Other girls went to other studios or quit altogether. Now my employer feels frustrated and I don’t know how to help.

The dancers who went to the new studio now realize it’s not what they want. A couple of them have been in contact, saying they want to come back, and one returned. However, another dancer I’m close to wants to leave the new studio but doesn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. Her mother has already let the studio owner know that she wants to switch, and so now we are all expecting her back. Yet the young girl feels torn.

This dancer is in contact with me, and I keep telling her she needs to be happy and that we will love her no matter what she and her parents decide. She appreciates that but now says she is going to quit dancing because she doesn’t want to upset anyone. I don’t want this to happen. I encouraged her to keep dancing, but I don’t know what else to do. I have been there for her every step of the way, but it’s starting to become irritating.

Is there anything else I can do to help? Or should I just back away from the situation? I’m confused! —Darlene


Hi Darlene,

I think you need to step back a bit and not let this situation frustrate you. You can offer your best advice, but in the end the decision is up to the dancer and her parents. I would be sure to let any students who leave the school know that the door is always open if they change their mind, or if they just want to come back to visit. That is how school owners can make it less uncomfortable for young people to return if they discover they made the wrong decision.

My guess is that the school owner should evaluate why the students left. It might not be her fault, or it could be a sign that she needs to make changes that will boost her students’ loyalty to the school. Sometimes the hardest situations are the best learning experiences, but it can take a while to figure out what the lesson is.

I can tell how concerned you are about your students’ well-being, and I commend you for that. Now you need to get back to your classroom to inspire the kids who love to take your class. The rest will work itself out in the long run. Good luck! —Rhee



2 Tips for Ballet Teachers | Super Stretches

By David Arce

Tip 1
To passively stretch the hamstrings, I give a parallel fourth-position hamstring stretch at the beginning of class. While holding onto the barre with one hand, and with the other arm in fifth, students bend forward from the hip. While pliéing on the back leg, they pull the front foot’s toes back with their hand. Then they return to upright and cambré back. Repeat on the other side.


Tip 2
Giving students free time and music to stretch uninterrupted after barre exercises allows them to commit their personal corrections to memory, gives them time to “work out their kinks,” and lets them start center rested and ready. A few minutes are all it takes, and this short break is helpful to and much appreciated by all.




2 Tips for Hip-Hop Teachers | Build a Foundation

By Geo Hubela

Tip 1
Sometimes hip-hop steps are right, but how they’re being done is wrong. If the foundations (such as popping and locking) and technique (such as isolations and contractions) are lacking, the steps will never look right or funky. Students need to connect with the music and translate it through movement.

Start progressions with a simple walk—no instructions, just tell your students to walk. Use a song with a moderate, funky beat. Ask a dancer who connects with the music and puts style into the movement to demonstrate.

Drive home the foundations of hip-hop so that your dancers can incorporate it into movement, even something as simple as a walk.


Tip 2
Get creative with progressions and add a new challenge after every exercise. After the basic walk, instruct dancers to move without lifting their feet. If they glide and wave, it should be easy. Can they glide or wave?

In many studios, I see that dancers are given hip-hop and commercial-style choreography without understanding where the movement comes from. Ballet dancers don’t do pirouettes without knowing what a passé or relevé is—why should hip-hop training be any different?



2 Tips for Modern Teachers | Seeing the Good, Analyzing the Need

By Bill Evans

Tip 1
When judgment starts, learning stops. When students perceive they are being evaluated, they become concerned with being “right” rather than actively engaging in a process of investigation. They lose their willingness to fail and then try again, and again, developing new skills and neuromuscular capacities. Analyzing what students need from us, and from themselves, in order to move forward successfully, is different from looking for what is “wrong” with them.


Tip 2
I like to look for the good in each new student. I ask myself, “What does this student bring that I can affirm and encourage to become a basis for developing additional skills and knowledge?” It is not my job to “fix” a student. Rather, I am a guide; I help students understand their gifts and skills as areas that could be further explored and developed. It is then my responsibility to help them understand the concepts and principles that can lead to accomplishment of personal goals.



2 Tips for Tap Teachers | Breaking It Down

By Gregg Russell

Tip 1
One key to success for tap dancers is recognizing and mastering patterns. The teacher’s job is to find ways to communicate these patterns to students in a simplistic manner. One suggestion is to use numbers during the breakdown. For example, say you’re teaching this combination: step shuffle ball change, shuffle ball change ball change, shuffle ball change, shuffle ball change ball change, shuffle ball change step clap. Try teaching it as: step 1, 2, 1, 2, 1 step clap. (The numbers represent the ball changes after the shuffle.) The students will find the pattern and master the combo more quickly.


Tip 2
Varying teaching methods is very important. One “outside-the-box” method is to have students mark the steps with their hands before trying them with their feet; they can focus on rhythm and coordination without getting overwhelmed by the mechanics of the steps. And try this: instead of breaking down a combination step by step, have the students follow and mimic you. This emphasizes the feel of the movement and improves students’ ability to pick up choreography.


Share this page with your dance friends
All Dance Studio Life content

Rhee Gold on Twitter
April 2014
« Mar