“People often ask what surprised me most about my travels in the world I call the Land of Ballet. What always comes to mind is a single word: generosity.”
As a small child, Theresa Landry began dancing for pennies in a French-Canadian club in Central Falls, Rhode Island, where she was raised and still lives. During the 63 years she has operated Theresa Landry’s Dance Studio in Pawtucket, Landry, 93, has taught thousands of children to dance.
Arlynne S. Stark, a dancer who was a pioneer and early advocate of dance movement therapy and was a co-founder of the American Dance Therapy Association, died of breast cancer November 17 at Collier Hospice Center at Lutheran Hospital in Denver. The Baltimore Sun said she was 71.
Mary Hinkson, one of Martha Graham’s most important leading dancers, whose performances from the 1950s through the early ’70s were filled with unbridled dramatic power, died on Wednesday at her home in Manhattan, reported the New York Times. She was 89.
East Harlem dance teacher Robin Williams is fighting to save her Uptown Dance Academy, deep in debt and struggling after Williams’ mother—who acted as the school’s backbone, handling extensive administrative duties—suffered a stroke that left her partially blind and confined to an assisted living facility.
Luigi was a sought-after teacher by some of the brightest stars on Broadway—Liza Minnelli, Ben Vereen, Estelle Parsons, Kelly Bishop, Ron Dennis, Jane Summerhays, Robert Morse, Gretchen Wyler, and others—and many of them have shared their memories of the great jazz dance and New York City master teacher for the film Broadway: Beyond the Golden Age.
The National Dance Education Organization (NDEO) will hold Thank a Dance Teacher Day, a social media giving campaign to celebrate dance education, on December 2.
Beverly Blossom, a leading modern dancer in New York City in the 1950s and 1960s who went on to be a master teacher at the University of Illinois and a celebrated choreographer and performer of pieces that were sly, sardonic, heart-breaking, and funny, has died in Chicago.
5, 6, 7, 8! Kids! Volume 19 | Issue 9 | Buy a print copy COLUMNS Ask Rhee Gold Advice for dance teachers 2 Music Tips for Dance Teachers | The Baroque Period By Nina Pinzarrone 2 Tips for Ballet Teachers | Souped-Up Sauts de Basque By David Arce 2 Tips for Hip-Hop Teachers . . .
It seems to me that most dancers on television are wearing booty shorts and bra tops, and I can’t figure out why. So many of them would look much better in a stylish leotard, and some of them really do need a pair of tights. My students have always had a dress code with no two-piece anything, and they must wear tights for all classes. Those who take ballet attend with their hair in a bun and that’s it. No exceptions.
During the baroque period (1600–1750), new forms such as concertos, sonatas, oratorios, operas, and dance suites highlighted the virtuosity of individual performers. The basic string orchestra was augmented by trumpets, oboes, flutes, timpani, and the keyboard instruments, namely the harpsichord or the organ. Advances in instrumental construction allowed for precise tuning so that for the first time all possible tonalities (keys) were available to composers.
One of the biggest problems when learning a saut de basque is that students tend to do a rond de jambe with the working leg instead of brushing it through à la seconde and maintaining it on the same axis as the torso throughout the jump. It is difficult to hold the passé position in the air while spotting and turning; the extra torque from the rond de jambe makes it even harder.
Before doing any hip-hop moves with students, work on their stance, which embodies hip-hop’s attitude and style. Compared to jazz and ballet, the body is looser and more relaxed, with rounded shoulders, soft knees, and feet in parallel. I tell kids to place a finger on the belly button, then contract like a deflating balloon. (Making deflating sound effects helps!) Emphasize imagining their strength and energy being pushed into the ground—I use the image of feeling your feet sink into wet sand.
Every technique class should include opportunities for students to have fun. I encourage you to begin class by asking, “Who has a joke?” You might keep a supply of your own (lighthearted, non-political, non-religious, mostly silly) jokes on hand in case students can’t think of one. You’ll find that after a while many students will come prepared and eager to share.
The back brush is often called a spank; beginning students learn this as the second sound of a shuffle. The spank that starts from a flat foot on the floor and is used in time steps, drawbacks, and crossover steps (to name a few) is much more challenging and can be introduced once students have strong basic skills and are dancing in eighth-note triplets (because the spank often happens on the count “a”).
Those of you who have attended my seminars for dance teachers and school owners know that I rant about the “grab-the-foot-and-yank-the-leg-to-the-ear” move we all see at every dance competition and on TV. “It’s the way to show a good extension,” a teacher once told me. I don’t agree.
NOMINATED BY: Ericka Aisha Moore, artistic director: “Neisha Hernandez is invested in bringing to students of all levels a world-class experience of studying dance and engaging in enrichment activities and performance opportunities. She hires master teachers and celebrity dancers from across the country to teach master classes. She also organizes biannual teacher workshops with master teachers such as Paula Morgan and Victoria Schneider, and is currently helping instructors become certified in the Paula Morgan Technique. She ensures that dancers are getting the best education to prepare them for the dance world.”
Imagine a typical ballet class: a teacher demonstrates a combination of steps while her students watch. The students then perform the steps, mimicking the qualities they observed in their teacher’s movements. For a visually impaired student, this teaching model is, at best, only moderately effective, for the success of this approach depends chiefly upon the ability of the student to see her instructor. That’s only one example of the complexity of making dance classes available to all students, including those with special needs.
If there’s one thing dance teachers are always on the hunt for, it’s music that their students love. But finding songs the kids think are worth dancing to can be tricky—as well as passing the “coolness” test, the songs need to be age appropriate, with lyrics the students can understand and relate to. To the rescue are followers of Dance Studio Life’s Facebook page. We asked for ideas, and now we’re passing them along to you.
Mary Ramirez Cook teaches a variety of classes each week at her A-Marika Dance Studio in Sharonville, Ohio, including one for students with Down syndrome she created for her son, Matthew.
During the medieval period (650–1450), most music was used for church rituals. Monophonic (unaccompanied single-line) melodies known as Gregorian chants were developed for church use.
A flexed foot is rarely used in ballet technique (one exception is frappé, depending on which style you teach), but is extremely important for any student to be aware of, for many reasons. One of the most important is to allow the dancer to isolate and fully utilize the hamstring muscles. When doing a slow, controlled, flexed-foot lift of the fully extended leg to a tendu height, students can feel maximum turnout without having to think about pointing the foot.
Shows can be more fun if the audience gets involved in the action. So how about holding a hip-hop battle at your next recital? The fun starts with a great emcee to keep the audience engaged and motivated. When there’s a break for a costume change, have the emcee ask for two volunteers from the audience to take part in a hip-hop dance contest onstage. The emcee should have one or two simple steps prepared to show the participants, such as the Dougie or the Nae Nae (see below); or simply have them freestyle.
I find that an opening ritual can be an important component of a successful class. One of my favorites is to have students stand in a small circle. I make eye contact with each one, welcome them, and invite them to “go inside” and notice what is alive for them today. That is, what questions about their bodies’ moving or the work from our last class still resonates? I ask them to share their personal aliveness with another student or, sometimes, with the entire group.
This year I taught a pre-ballet class for 6-year-olds. At first they were unfocused, bored, and sloppy while working at the barre. So I bought rolls of colored ribbon and told the dancers that anyone who did the best plié, tendu, or other barre exercise would get a ribbon—a Ballet Bow. I walked around the class and tied these around the ponytails or buns of students who were doing good work. I have never had a class work so hard on their technique before.
NOMINATED BY: Kristen Brister, teacher: “Susu has owned ABJ for 37 years and the studio currently has more than 500 students. She has trained many beautiful dancers who have gone on to colleges around the country or to professional dance careers. Susu has always advocated providing a proper dance foundation for the youngest dancers, while instilling a love of dance.”
The two basic musical qualities are legato, meaning smooth and connected (indicated by a curved line or phrase marking above the notes to be connected) and staccato, meaning detached and disconnected (indicated by a dot above each note to be shortened). When you explain legato to your students, mention the quality of fondu or developpé movements, and for staccato, mention the frappé movement and jumps.
To achieve grand allegro jumps such as grand jeté, tour jeté, assemblé devant, fouetté, and cabriole fouetté, students must be able to do a strong, square, and properly placed 90-degree sauté in grand battement devant with arms in high fifth position.
For the last week of classes before holiday break, I recommend letting the kids come to class in hip-hop holiday-themed clothing. We have three rooms of classes running per hour, and each class learns a short holiday hip-hop routine. Make the steps easy and repetitive—for example, slides and freestyle poses—so the students don’t stress about remembering. Most of all, make the steps funky and fun.
Moving through space is more about the pelvis than the feet. To prepare students to move freely and efficiently through space, I devote time early in each class session to an exploration of pelvic shifts—transferring the weight from one foot to the other with an initiation in the pelvic floor. I call these actions “undercurves” because the lowest part of the pelvis inscribes a U-shaped curve in each transfer of weight.
One important component of any tap warm-up is a walk-around. The walk-around serves many purposes and can be easily modified for all ability levels.
• Select an upbeat tune that will inspire your dancers to quickly transition from school, home, or another class.
• Encourage dancers to walk like a “real” person.
• Walk on the quarter note, eighth note, eighth note triplet, and sixteenth notes.
• Introduce counterpoint by having the two halves of the class walk on different notes.
• Provide an opportunity for improvising by walking for 8 counts and improvising for 8 counts.
• Vary the walking pattern to try fun staging ideas (diagonals, figure eights, circles).
• Teach the Cole Stroll walk-around created by Honi Coles.
Who needs a bio? If you’re a dance teacher or school owner, you do. And it belongs on your school’s website.
NOMINATED BY: Nicole Zivkovic, daughter and dance teacher: “I am always impressed and motivated by the knowledge, talent, experience, and loving care my mother uses to develop beautiful, technically strong dancers. She has been teaching dance for more than 40 years and she continues to seek new information to improve her teaching. She takes a personal interest in all of her students and cares about them as if they were her own children. Perhaps most important, she expects much of her students while remaining calm, positive, and sweet.”
I understand that teachers need to work on technically challenging feats with their students, but if those are all they’re working on, I start to wonder if they forgot—or never understood—that dance can be stunning, touching, and beautiful even when it doesn’t include a single jump, turn, or “grab the leg and yank it up.”
Tap improvisation is the act of spontaneously creating a musical phrase in response to music or to another tapper’s phrase. Improvisation is an essential part of any tap curriculum. As the dancers’ technique and listening skills improve, their ability to improvise with clear and concise rhythms will also improve. Regardless of level, students of all ages will benefit from the increased opportunity to communicate and create with their feet.
Spatial intent can organize the neuromuscular system for integrated movement, in which all body parts contribute to the clarity of the whole organism. When we give clear spatial imagery to our students, they can experience the elasticity and resilience of spatial pulls.
Partner work in hip-hop can be utilized in many creative ways. Partnering can be done so that the two dancers never come in contact with one another. One way is shadowing, where one partner dances closely behind the other. Isolations, sharp movements, waves, and tuts that are matched by both dancers are simple and effective forms of partner work.
Cambré devant, done between barre exercises, stretches fatigued muscles. The muscles most in need of a break are the gluteus maximus. Cambré derrière is a stretch of the back, not a compression of the spine. In addition, the dancers should pull up in the leg and gluteus maximus muscles and find more turnout through the entire motion.
Melody is the horizontal aspect of music. The first thing most of us notice about a piece of music is the melody; often, it’s what stays with us. For dancers, the melody helps them remember the choreography. Harmony (the chords, combinations of notes sounded at the same time) is the vertical aspect of music; it supports the melody.
One of the most important habits a dance teacher can acquire is to write down everything and store it in an organized fashion—in other words, make a habit of notation. In the August issue, we tackled one aspect of notation: music. Now it’s time to look at ways to document choreography.
I’m a former school owner. For the past year, I’ve been teaching at a local rec center and at a 55-plus community (all adults). It’s been great just to teach and not worry about any business issues. I have developed a following of adults who have told me that they would follow me wherever I go, but I really miss teaching children and feel I have learned a lot through the years.
Dance troupe lets Arkansas locals collaborate, create, and perform By Joseph Carman A pineapple symbolizes hospitality. So says Pineapple Tree Dance Company co-founder Sally Ashcraft. When the dance troupe, located in Fayetteville, Arkansas, was founded in March 2013, the founders’ prime motive was to bring dance teachers, dancers, choreographers, and . . .
This month, ABT has awarded Project Plié scholarships to seven teachers from around the country who have shown enthusiasm and dedication to teaching children from underserved communities.
For the past four years, Sylvie Minot, 50, and her Syzygy Dance Project have been bringing meditative dance to incarcerated women, to ex-soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder at veterans’ hospitals, to addicts inside recovery centers, and to young people at camps for at-risk youth, helping them use physical energy and movement to overcome anger, stress, and self-doubt.
A music teacher was caught on surveillance video in June damaging equipment left by a dance studio that had rented the auditorium of Lake Shore High School, according to Evans [NY] police.
NOMINATED BY: Jennifer Walker, office administrator: “Dana Stone is an amazing person, mentor, and teacher who can’t help but have everyone love her and love being at Stepping Stone. Dana has danced since the age of 3 at Knecht Dance Academy and under the instruction of Carol Willson at Carol Willson Studio One. When Carol Willson Studio One (under new ownership) closed its doors abruptly in June 2011, Dana took over and made sure the show went on as scheduled; by July she had realized her dream of owning a dance studio. [She renamed it Stepping Stone.] What is amazing in this economy is that we have more than 200 students! I did not grow up around dance, but now I can’t imagine not being at the studio every night.”
Choreography has become a never-ending task for studio teachers, which means they’re on a relentless quest for quality music and fresh inspiration. They face overwhelming pressure to outdo the previous year’s work and meet the expectations of students and their parents. Choreographers need to acquire a vast amount of music and fill thousands of counts with movement, all while showcasing the specific strengths of their students. Often, these demands lead them to rush the choreographic process.
During a standard classroom adagio, I hear “Oops!” and “Sorry,” from several of my students. Tongues dart out, lips are bitten, gazes drop to the floor. These signs of discomfort convey how badly they think they are doing a difficult step or exercise. They may think that anything short of perfection is a failure. They may believe they are letting the teacher or their classmates down. What to do about such self-punitive behavior? Establish a “no apologies” policy.
When Diane Abraham was sworn in as the latest president of the Dance Teachers’ Club of Boston in 2013, she was handed a packet tied with string. Inside were the club’s incorporation papers from almost 100 years ago.
Dance Studio Life, a magazine with a back-to-basics approach, is a division of the Rhee Gold Company, whose mission is to be at the forefront of dance and education by promoting the highest possible standards in teaching.