Posts Tagged ‘teacher’

January 2017 | On My Mind

by Rhee Gold

A new year is upon us, the time when we traditionally make resolutions about things we want to change about ourselves—lose a few pounds, read more, budget better, and so on. It’s a great opportunity for studio owners and dance teachers to resolve to change their professional lives for the better too. Here are my suggestions for you to adopt and share.

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January 2017 | Teaching Traditions

by Constance Hale

Native Hawaiians often express their way of learning in a neat trio of verbs: ho‘onana, ho‘olohe, ho‘opili (“watch,” “listen,” “imitate”). Whatever the craft, the idea is the same: find a master, open your eyes and ears, and if you don’t get it quite right, trust your teacher to correct you.

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January 2017 | 2 Tips for Tap Teachers | Making Tap Dances

Read 2 great tips for tap teachers from the legendary Thelma Goldberg, teacher and director of The Dance Inn in Lexington, Massachusetts, since 1983, who is the author of Thelma’s Tap Notes: A Step-by-Step Guide to Teaching Tap: Children’s Edition.

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January 2017 | 2 Tips for Ballet Teachers | Height and Control in Grand Jeté

Tip 1
The grand jeté is one of ballet’s most rewarding steps, for both the audience and the dancer. The ability to propel oneself from one foot into the air, reach a perfect split, then land on the other foot, all while showing grace and ease in the upper body, is a hallmark of excellent ballet technique. However, I often see students sacrificing jump height to achieve perfect splits. To address this tendency, tell students to throw the leading leg first, as if hurdling over a barrel. Ask them to battement above 90 degrees upon takeoff—this will help them get air time rather than jumping straight forward, which gives an appearance of “flatlining” in the air.

Tip 2
Don’t overlook the grand jeté’s landing; in terms of student safety, it is the step’s most important aspect. Properly turned out placement of the standing leg is a must, as any turning in puts extra stress on the knee’s tendons.

Try this simple combination to help students develop correct landings. Start in tendu devant, traveling downstage, directly en face to the studio mirror. (This allows students to observe their own landings.) Chassé, grand jeté, and land in attitude derrière with the same arm in fifth and the other in à la seconde (two counts). Hold the attitude landing (four counts), then step back to tendu devant (two counts). Repeat on the other side. Once students can land on one leg, turned out and in control—no hopping or fidgeting—have them increase the height of the takeoff battement, but without sacrificing the amount of control they exhibited in the landing previously. This encourages them both to jump higher and to land with more control.

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December 2016 | On My Mind

Let’s imagine that one town has two very good schools, and let’s say that they are roughly equal in size and that each offers a quality dance education. What could make one school stand out above the other?

Believe it or not, the answer is kindness. At a time when new schools seem to be popping up everywhere, you can push yourself to the top of the pack by building a strong reputation as the school that makes students and parents feel like they are part of an extended dance family. From the clients’ perspective, the kind of dance school they want for their children or themselves is a place where people know their names and where they believe their business is appreciated.

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December 2016 | 2 Tips for Ballet Teachers | Two Rules for Male Partners

Tip 1 In partnering classes, the first thing I tell male students is that their most important job is to make their partners look good. Only after their partners are comfortable and balanced should male dancers consider their own poses.

A male student should remember this rule even in simple exercises, such as a partnered piqué first arabesque from a B+ position with his hands on the female’s hips. In this case, he must watch her lower back and allow her to travel in piqué before he steps in behind to pose in tendu. If he poses first, and she travels more or less than he expects, he won’t be centered behind her, making both partners’ jobs harder. To be centered, the male dancer should place his standing leg next to hers as she piqués—imagining his standing leg and hers are the same—before assuming his pose.

Tip 2 I tell male students to keep their hands low on their partners’ hips—the lower the better.

To correct your students’ hand placement, tell them to rest their ring fingers on their partners’ hip bones and to use those fingers as balance points. This ensures the hands are low enough for the male dancer to make minor adjustments to his partner’s pelvis and keep her on balance. This placement also encourages a gentle touch, since the ring finger is the weakest finger and the male partner can’t squeeze very hard with it. If during partnering the male student continually reestablishes this grip, he’ll be able to move his partner’s whole pelvis with ease, instead of finding his hands riding up to her abdomen and lower ribs, a grip that makes his job much harder.

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December 2016 | 2 Music Tips for Dance Teachers | Ballet Divertissements from Operas: Part 2

Tip 1
Last month I wrote about useful music from operas. (See “2 Music Tips for Dance Teachers: Ballet Divertissements from Operas: Part 1,” November 2016.) Here are more examples.

Meyerbeer’s Robert le diable: Act 2’s “Pas de cinq” occurs during a medieval tournament. Use its light, bouncy tunes in 6/8 for ballonné, ballotté, and glissade jeté. Use its sections in 2/4 for petit battement, petit allegro, and pointe work. Act 3’s Ballet of the Nuns, the first Romantic ballet, or ballet blanc, starred Marie Taglioni dancing en pointe. Use “Seduction par le jeu,” a lively waltz with continuous eighth-note melodic movement, for pointe work at the barre, piqué turns, ronds de jambe en l’air, and bourrées. Use “Seduction par l’amour,” a 4/4 andante, for a lovely port de bras, slow warm-up, or easy-to-count développé exercise.

Tip 2
Gounod’s Faust: Act 5’s ballet takes place on Walpurgis Night, when the dead wander freely on earth. Balanchine used the music for Walpurgisnacht Ballet (1975). Use “Les Nubiennes” for a fondu, rond de jambe en l’air, or center-practice waltz; “Variations de Cléopâtre” for a strong tour en l’air; and “Variations du miroir” for tendu pirouettes in center.

Rossini’s William Tell: Act 1’s “Pas de six” and Act 3’s “Pas de trois,” both dances for Swiss peasants, contain two of my favorite pieces for petit battement or terre à terre allegro—the 2/4 allegrettos, with their constantly running 16th-note figures. I often combine them, especially for center. Act 3’s “Pas de soldats” begins with my favorite small jump music; its consistent upbeat lifts dancers into the air.

You can find these selections on the albums Meyerbeer: Ballet Music from the Operas (Nesterowicz/Barcelona Symphony Orchestra); Gounod: The 2 Symphonies, Faust Ballet Music (Marriner/Academy of St. Martin in the Fields); and Rossini/Donizetti: Ballet Music (Almeida/Orchestre National de l’Opéra de Monte-Carlo).

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December 2016 | 2 Tips for Hip-Hop Teachers | Essential Moves: Kick Ball Change

Tip 1
Make sure your students have the kick ball change (also called kick cross step) in their hip-hop vocabularies. This move is fundamentally about shifting the weight.

Start with feet shoulder-width apart, weight balanced evenly between the feet. Kick the right foot out in front and then cross it over the left leg. Bring it to the floor in a cross-legged position with the weight on the right foot. Step out with the left foot to the left, uncrossing the feet; now the weight should be on the left foot. Tell students to make this move look as casual and effortless as possible.

Now reverse it: rock the weight back onto the right foot, kick the left leg out, cross it over the right, step onto the left foot to shift the weight, then step out with the right leg and shift the weight back to the right foot. Give the kick ball change a three-beat rhythm (kick step step), repeating on “1&2” and “3&4.”

Tip 2
Once your students have the feel of the kick ball change, add a little variation to give the move more power and style. For example, have students kick out the right foot with enough force so that they have to hop backward on the left foot. Complete the move, ending with the left leg out, but this time, rock the weight immediately back over to the right foot, freeing up the left in order to switch sides seamlessly. Give this version a four-beat rhythm (kick step step switch), repeating on “1&2&” and “3&4&.” To help students get the rhythm, say “Kick, step, rock back, switch, kick, step, rock back, switch,” as they repeat the move from side to side.

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December 2016 | 2 Tips for Tap Teachers | Across the Floor and Around the Room

Tip 1 Small, stationary footwork is important to master, but it’s equally important that tap dancers learn to move rhythmically across the floor and around the room.

Beginners can move with swinging skips, marches, and step ball changes. The simple ball change can move in a grapevine pattern in various rhythms, for example “a1a2a3a4” or “1&[2]&3[&]4&.” Try steps and heel drops in different patterns; this requires control and a distinct decision whether to swing the rhythm or play it straight. Dancers who know Irish and Maxie Ford can alternate them with steps to travel in one direction or in a square or circle. After students master the flap, they can combine it with ball changes, hops, and steps to travel in any direction—even backward.

Tip 2 Two simple flap ball changes can easily become a half turn (tell the dancers, for example, “Let’s face the front; now face the back”), which adds variety to traveling combos. Add a shuffle hop cross and step step, and you have a nice advanced-beginner sequence that can reverse. Replace the step step with a step ball change, and you can repeat the sequence on the same foot to head back in the opposite direction.

Other favorite across-the-floor steps include a cramp roll turn that begins with a stamp (R), followed by an around-the-world (LRRL) cramp roll; two Maxie Ford turns with a step step (try this to challenge advanced dancers, or add the pick-up sound for even more difficulty); and the traveling time step.

Moving side to side, forward and back, or in circles and squares will add variety and fun to your tap classes and help keep your students on their toes.

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November 2016 | EditorSpeak

Preschool dance education—it’s a frequent topic among studio owners and dance teachers. In fact, in my conversations with attendees at the DanceLife Teacher Conference and the International Dance Entrepreneurs Association conference, preschool dance seemed to come up more than any other topic.

Throughout the Rhee Gold Company we’ve taken that message to heart. As we noted in a story last year, DLTC sessions that covered creative movement, ballet, tap, musical theater, hip-hop, and jazz classes for preschoolers “were packed with both note takers and teachers eager to get up and play along.” (See “One for All: the 2015 DanceLife Teacher Conference,” October 2015.) And a significant portion of a Back to Basics Teacher Intensive at the DanceLife Retreat Center this month is devoted to classroom concepts, tips, and strategies for preschool class success.

Since the magazine’s inception, Dance Studio Life has covered preschool dance education, with stories about marketing to parents of preschoolers, tips for making recitals successful and fun for preschool-age children, a guide to teaching aids and props for preschool classes, advice from teachers and studios that specialize in teaching the youngest kids, and more.

This month we take the next step, with our first preschool-themed issue. In these pages you’ll find five features—as well as our “Page Turners” and “Moving Images” book and video recommendations, respectively—that cover preschoolers in the dance world from various angles.

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November 2016 | On My Mind

In the adult world, sex sells—witness Miley Cyrus singing nude in her controversial music video for “Wrecking Ball” and Beyoncé appearing on the cover of Time magazine in her underwear. But the rules for children are different, and they should be. Children depend on us to protect them from being exploited or sexualized. In a society that appears to accept and promote the sexualization of women and girls, it’s hard to stand strong and insist—as I’ve done for decades—that dance teachers must be advocates for their students. But I believe every dance teacher must stand firm against movement, music, and choreography that inappropriately sexualize young girls.

So I will continue to speak out about what I believe is a black eye on the dance education field. When it comes to the issue of inappropriateness, I have never had a discussion that didn’t start with teachers blaming the competition world. To me, that’s a cop-out to avoid taking any responsibility in the matter.

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November 2016 | 2 Music Tips for Dance Teachers | Ballet Divertissements from Operas: Part 1

Tip 1
Ballet divertissements featuring the corps de ballet, soloists, and small ensembles were integral to 19th-century grand opera productions. These musical interludes—occurring at Act 3’s beginning, or during Act 1—enhance the story by using tunes that illustrate the setting, depicting weddings (Rossini’s William Tell) and masked balls (Mozart’s Don Giovanni), and providing pauses from dramatic action.
Tip 2
Here are some useful examples.

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November 2016 | 2 Tips for Hip-Hop Teachers | Essential Moves: Crisscross

Tip 1
The crisscross is an essential element of the hip-hop vocabulary. Funky and stylish, it’s a great move to be able to pull out, whether in choreography, freestyle, or battles.
Tip 2
When students have the foot patterns down, have them add a body roll in reverse (rolling upward from knees to head). Crisscross, jump back out to a dip (land with bent knees and push the pelvis forward), and roll up through the chest and head. Add a stylish accent to the body roll by coming to a hard stop with the head, as if hitting a brick wall.

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November 2016 | 2 Tips for Modern & Contemporary Teachers | Landing Lifts and Turning Heads

Tip 1
Developing lifting skills is fundamental to learning how to partner. Teachers often emphasize a lift’s take-off and apex, but the most important part of any lift is the landing. Partners must be set down gently; to encourage this, instruct the lifters to give one last “pulse” of support at the moment of touchdown. This pulse slows the momentum of those being lifted, giving them time to come down smoothly and silently.
Tip 2
“Look side, farther side, all the way side!” Sometimes I find it difficult to get students to turn their heads. Clarity of focal intent can be tricky. Students often think they are turning their heads when they are merely shifting their eyes. Of course, the eyes can be used effectively, but if dancers want to display a clear focal intent, they need to turn their heads.

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November 2016 | 2 Tips for Ballet Teachers | Spokes on a Wheel and Ready, Set, Reverse

Tip 1 Learning to complete a manège is important for advanced students. A manège involves many skills, including the ability to change your spot while traveling, plus sufficient stamina to do the steps correctly throughout.
Tip 2 Ingrain in your dancers the ability to reverse any simple center combination. Toward the week’s end, I often give a simple center tendu/dégagé combination after barre to make sure students are on balance and transferring weight correctly. I usually split them into two groups, as my combinations tend to travel. After the second group of dancers finishes, I have them immediately reverse the exercise. When they finish, I restart the music so the first group can reverse the exercise. I then allow all dancers a little time, usually 30 seconds, to correct their own mistakes before having each group repeat the reversed combination. This exercise trains students to reverse sequences by themselves, and quickly—valuable skills for any performer.

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October 2016 | 2 Tips for Ballet Teachers | Pointe Shoe Drill and Fondu Footwork

Tip 1
It’s awe-inspiring how quickly professional dancers can get into and out of pointe shoes. When I started teaching, I noticed that my students took a long time to put on their shoes—minutes that cut into valuable class or rehearsal time. So I created the “Two-Minute Drill.”
Tip 2
In fondu combinations at the barre that begin in fifth position—for example, en croix, battement fondu développé to 45 degrees, place toe on the floor in tendu, close in fifth—place extra emphasis on the footwork in moving from fifth to coupé in plié. This is a great opportunity to strengthen the feet. Ask students to visualize the toes of the working foot as an ice cream scoop. Then, instead of simply picking up the foot and placing it in coupé, they should imagine scooping ice cream from several inches below the floor. Not only does using this image guarantee that the feet will be completely pointed when they arrive in coupé, it also improves the strength and dexterity of the toes and the muscles in the soles of the feet.

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October 2016 | 2 Tips for Hip-Hop Teachers | Sitting in the Pocket

Tip 1
Teaching musicality can be harder than teaching moves. An especially difficult skill is “sitting in the pocket,” stretching a move to fill the space (or pocket) between counts. Mastering this skill (also called “finding the groove” or “riding out the beat”) is important to hip-hop’s style, flow, and execution.
Tip 2
To help students learn this skill, vary your intonation when counting, drawn out where students should sit in the pocket and sharp where they should end it: “Ooone, twooo. . . ” or “Ooone, two! Threee, four!”

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October 2016 | 2 Tips for Modern & Contemporary Teachers | Landing Jumps and Trusting Partners

Tip 1 We want students to jump high and give the illusion of being suspended in midair. But what about landings? Do your students make a lot of noise when they land? Are they able to bounce high in the air but unable to put their heels down when landing? Landing carelessly is likely to lead to injuries. To develop a strong, sustainable, and healthy jump, a young dancer must develop a pliant landing with a generous plié. Here are two helpful directions that are easy for students to remember and effective in reminding them to land softly.
Tip 2 Trust may be the most crucial aspect of partnering. Partners must have faith in each other to achieve the sometimes seemingly impossible tasks that choreography calls for. One way to build this trust is an exercise I call “Blind Date.”

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October 2016 | EditorSpeak

“Recital Memories”: The recitals of my childhood blur together.

“Offense, Not Defense”: A teacher’s life is one of lessons learned. Forgive me that cliché, but it’s true. Most of these lessons hit hard, but as you get older—if you are supple and reflective—you might find a trick or two among the bruises.

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October 2016 | 2 Tips for Tap Teachers | Building a Foundation

Tip 1
Building a strong foundation in tap basics enables your dancers to make steady progress in acquiring new skills. Begin with mastering the single sounds of tap, heel dig, toe dig, step, brush, spank, tip, toe drop, heel drop, and heel stand. Whether beginning or advanced, all students will benefit from combining these single sounds into various quarter-note phrases.
Tip 2
Once they’ve mastered single sounds, students can progress to playing eighth notes, both straight and swinging (1&2& and a1 a2). Shuffles, ball changes, double heel drops (such as press or traditional cramp rolls), and slaps and flaps add challenges for dancers who have a strong single-sound foundation.

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October 2016 | Repetition Through Play

A child’s work is play, and classroom games can make learning more fun. We teach technique through repetition, and creative play helps mask that repetition so that students stay engaged. (See “From the Top—Again.”) Supplies for most of the following games cost little or can be found at your home or studio.

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October 2016 | From the Top—Again

It’s been one of those days. The energy in the studio is off, and your students look more bored with each brush of the foot in a tendu exercise. You saw an eye roll, maybe two. And in a ballet/tap combo class, the little ones were more interested in playing with each other’s hair than working on their shuffles. You love teaching, but days like these make you feel tired. You’re repeating the fundamentals over—and over, and over—again. If this scenario sounds familiar, you’ve faced one challenge inherent in dance training—repetition.

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September 2016 | 2 Tips for Ballet Teachers | Jump Readiness and Ending on 7 (not 8)

Tip 1
Most students look forward to the transition in the center from adagio and turns to jumps. It’s usually the most exciting part of class, and dancers are at their warmest, with legs and arms feeling their fullest range of motion, and hand-eye coordination in full effect.
Tip 2
When I create a grand allegro, several factors come into play. I include the theme I’ve been using that class, day, or week, so that students finish class with one more opportunity to think about it. I take into consideration how hard I’ve pushed the students in class and their remaining workload that day or week (rehearsals, performances, etc.), then adjust accordingly the combination’s length and difficulty level. Finally, I set the combination so that the final pose or step comes on a music accent.

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September 2016 | 2 Tips for Hip-Hop Teachers | Spins as Accents

Tip 1
Spins or turns are great “punctuation” elements to introduce into students’ vocabularies. Spins can accent a specific beat or the end of a phrase, and they look cool, whether in choreography or freestyle. There are many turns you can teach to add dynamic motion to students’ dancing.
Tip 2
Pencil turns are another good accent. Begin with feet shoulder-width apart, arms loosely at the sides. Bend the knees, jump the feet together and wrap the arms tightly around the torso to create momentum, and spin the body 360 degrees in either direction. Spin up on both toes, keeping weight distributed between the feet. Tell students to look as narrow as possible, as if squeezing into a tight space.

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September 2016 | 2 Tips for Modern & Contemporary Teachers

Tip 1
Young dancers often become self-conscious and timid when asked simply to walk; make sure to teach students this necessary skill.
Tip 2
Are your students stuck in the mirror? They may be addicted to looking at their own images, or they may be using the mirror as a tool to mask sequencing problems. In my own teaching, I became weary of repeating, “Don’t get stuck in the mirror.” One day, instead of repeating myself once again, I pointed at the mirror and shouted, “She lies!” This broke the students out of their mirror stupor with a laugh; for the rest of class, they used the mirror less. I now use this idea almost daily. When I notice students focusing on the mirror, I point to it and say, “What does she do?” The students respond with a resounding “She lies!” As a result of this practice, my students now depend less on the mirror.

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September 2016 | 2 Tips for Tap Teachers

Tip 1
The start of a new dance season is a perfect opportunity to spice up your tap program with new ideas that will reinforce your lessons and inspire students to practice.
Tip 2
Flash cards with one-bar rhythm phrases can provide a wealth of teaching moments. Whether dancers are novices or experienced tappers, the clarity of their sounds depends on their ability to reproduce specific rhythms, and seeing a phrase in addition to hearing and doing it will help bring success. In particular, when dancers see the rests, or silent notes, in a rhythm, they are more likely to respect them and produce accurate footwork.

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September 2016 | 2 Music Tips for Dance Teachers | Minkus’ Don Quixote and La Bayadère

Tip 1
Ludwig Minkus (1826–1917), a Vienna-born Czech who worked in both France and Russia, composed melodic, rhythmically clear, and uncomplicated ballet music, mostly in waltz rhythm. He excelled at giving each ballet an underlying mood, for example the passionate Spanish flavor of Don Quixote (1869) or the tragic atmosphere of La Bayadère (1877).
Tip 2
Both Don Quixote and La Bayadère—landmark achievements in Minkus’ long association with Marius Petipa—contain music that’s perfect for ballet class.

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August 2016 | Tell It Like It Is

When it comes to teacher evaluations, dance studio owners could benefit from adopting some common practices in the business world. Teacher evaluations benefit employees and studios alike, providing a system for reflection, assessment, goal setting, and decisions about compensation.

In the business world, where many people work full time for one employer, typically there is a formal process for evaluations, reviews, and pay increases, usually on a yearly basis. But in dance studios, many owners hire part-time teachers (either as employees or independent contractors) and have no formal system of evaluation or raises. Formal evaluations and systematic pay increases can be difficult to implement in schools where staff turnover is frequent.

In exploring the topic of evaluations and pay increases, we surveyed 100 dance teachers at studios in 22 states. Their feedback is synthesized here to offer suggestions for best practices when hiring and evaluating teachers.

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August 2016 | 2 Tips for Hip-Hop Teachers | Introducing Freestyle

Tip 1
Freestyling (improvising) has been around since long before hip-hop began, making dance come alive on street corners and at parties. In recent years freestyling has become increasingly important in the hip-hop world—it’s a major component of the urban street dance movement—mostly because it encourages so much spontaneous creativity. New freestyle moves come out of experimenting or trial and error; trending moves, like the Dougie or the dab, are often born from someone’s take on a preexisting move. The basic concept is doing whatever comes to mind while listening to a song and letting your movement be completely free.

Tip 2
Impromptu and improvised, freestyling gives dancers creative control over their bodies—and that can make students nervous. Framing freestyling as an activity or task can help them feel more comfortable exploring their own movement. For example, ask students to freestyle for 16 counts at certain points within set choreography, perhaps during the intro or at the end, and either individually or all together.

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August 2016 | Page Turners

Books of note (new and not)
1. The Art of Grace: On Moving Well Through Life
2. Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker
3. Safe Dance Practice: An Applied Dance Science PerspectiveBody, Mind & Spirit in Action: A Teacher’s Guide to Creative Dance (2nd ed.)

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August 2016 | 2 Music Tips for Dance Teachers | Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty

Tip 1
Before The Nutcracker, Tchaikovsky and Petipa first collaborated on The Sleeping Beauty (1889), with Petipa providing detailed descriptions of his musical requirements. Listen to the overture for the two leitmotifs that, throughout the ballet, represent the conflict between good and evil: strident, disjointed chords for the fairy Carabosse; and lush, lyrical music, like a barcarolle (a lilting piece that imitates gondolier songs) for the Lilac Fairy.
Tip 2
The story’s 100-year time span gave Tchaikovsky the opportunity to explore various historical dance forms. Act 1’s waltz (no. 6) is a wonderful piece for introducing waltz steps. Try Act 2’s gavotte (no. 12c) with tendus in center, or Act 3’s polonaise (no. 22) with grands battements or polonaise walks.

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August 2016 | 2 Tips for Tap Teachers | Military Tap Dance

Tip 1
There’s nothing like a flag-waving, rhythmically precise tap dance to lift spirits and boost interest in tap. In 1904, George M. Cohan danced the buck and wing to his song “Yankee Doodle Boy” to embody his proud American heritage. During World War I, Broadway chorus girls danced “soldier” numbers that integrated tap and stepping sounds. Later, movie musicals like Gold Diggers of 1937 (1936), featuring Busby Berkeley’s amazing formations, and Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), with James Cagney’s patriotic strutting, helped introduce military-style tap to a larger population. With their precision and fast footwork, traditional military routines are still a hit. For music, try a version of “Yankee Doodle,” “You’re a Grand Old Flag,” fife and drum tunes, military anthems, and armed forces medleys.
Tip 2
Though military tap can be challenging, beginners can combine marching steps with single sounds, hops, ball changes, and shuffles in straight quarter- and eighth-note time. Add simple but precise formations with quarter- and half-turns; use an upbeat tune like “MacNamara’s Band” to inspire students to dance like they’re in a parade, lifting knees high and moving with pride and joy.

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August 2016 | 2 Tips for Ballet Teachers | Facing the Barre and Lifted Balances

Tip 1
Beginning a class with students facing the barre in first position is a common practice; I often do this after a long weekend or extended time off. Doing simple, slow tendus, stretches, and even a balance in first or second position with both hands on the barre allows students to internalize their focus and to find their center and “ballet muscles” before starting pliés.
Tip 2
I find one constant among students balancing at the barre: those who lift the supporting side and maintain an aligned position achieve longer and more productive balances. Other students try what I call a “gamble balance”: they begin correctly but then release the core and supporting side, and to compensate, make massive adjustments with the torso.

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August 2016 | Thinking Out Loud | Dance Class Matters

As a teacher at University at Buffalo [NY], I often rant about how the act of taking class needs to be practiced and developed like any other skill. Recently, a senior taped a piece of poster board that said “Class Matters” to the studio door, to remind her younger classmates that much of their growth occurs in class and that they should take it seriously.

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August 2016 | 2 Tips for Modern & Contemporary Teachers | “Relinquish Your Ribs” and Rhythmic Turns

Tip 1
When students’ ribs are splayed, it probably means they are not engaging the abdominal muscles correctly. Throughout my early training, instructors would often tell me to engage the abdominals by puffing out my chest and sucking in my stomach, using words like “hold,” “grip,” “tighten,” and “squeeze.” Unfortunately, this created tension in my torso and was a terrible waste of energy. I was well into my 20s and taking class with the great Susan McGuire (a longtime Paul Taylor dancer) when I heard her say, “Relinquish your ribs.”

Tip 2.
Multiple turns are not the province of ballet only; modern and contemporary choreographers do sometimes ask for them. Yet this skill can be enigmatic. Turns come and go, and sometimes we wonder if we ever understood them. At times in my performing career, turns came easily; at others, they eluded me. Then, during one period of excellent turning, it dawned on me that when I was “on,” my turns flowed with the music. The rhythms of my head spotting and my body turning were harmonious.

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July 2016 | 2 Tips for Ballet Teachers | Multiple Ronds de Jambe

Tip 1
When a barre combination includes multiple ronds de jambe, students frequently need to be reminded to draw a complete half circle on the floor with the working toe before starting the next rond de jambe.
Tip 2
Another mistake often seen in multiple ronds de jambe is cutting short the final one to close in fifth. To correct this, try giving one fewer rond de jambe than the music suggests.

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July 2016 | 2 Tips for Tap Teachers | Counterpoint

Tip 1 Merriam-Webster defines counterpoint as “the combination of two or more independent melodies into a single harmonic texture in which each retains its linear character.” How can we use counterpoint in our choreography and classroom exercises?
Tip 2 For advanced dancers playing more complex rhythms, make sure the volume of each counterpoint section is equal—otherwise one rhythm will drown out the other.

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July 2016 | Creative Concepts

Does that Nutcracker recording keep buzzing in your head from September through December? Some dance school owners and teachers think so, and they’ve decided not to follow the Sugar Plum Fairy’s lead. Included here are four directors who have created or produced holiday shows that offer alternatives to The Nutcracker and still draw audiences.

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July 2016 | 2 Tips for Modern & Contemporary Teachers | True Side Bends and the Pinkie Proposal

Tip 1
In a side bend exercise, students may pike and pitch forward slightly, thinking they are increasing their side bend. Instead, they are likely inhibiting it in the long run. Remind them, as you demonstrate and as they do the exercise: “Truly side!” They won’t be able to bend far at first, but with repetition their spines will loosen and they will both increase their true side bend and develop the strength to support it. Bad habits always creep back in, so keep constant watch for the true side bend.

Tip 2
Lifeless, shapeless hands! How do we help students to extend through the tips of their fingers without tension? The only rule I follow for hands came from the great José Limón dancer Betty Jones. “Human hands,” she would say—and suddenly I released all notions of trying to create shapes with my hands, instead allowing them to be simply hands; this in turn allowed me to extend them without tension. Try asking students for “human hands” that include the two thumbs.

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July 2016 | 2 Tips for Hip-Hop Teachers | Beginners’ Dive and the Dodger

Tip 1 I’ve previously described the dive (“Two Tips for Hip-Hop Teachers: Drop-Freeze and Dolphin Dive,” March-April 2015), a house dance move. Here’s a basic version for beginners.

Tip 2 To teach the dodger, another house dance move, have students stand with the torso and weight shifted toward the left, left knee slightly bent. The right foot is on the ball, slightly behind the left; the right shoulder is angled forward. In this move, the shoulders always move in opposition to the working leg.

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July 2016 | 2 Music Tips for Dance Teachers | Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker

Tip 1 For many dancers and musicians, the holiday season is synonymous with The Nutcracker. Tchaikovsky’s 1892 score, composed according to Petipa’s libretto, is fascinating in many ways. The orchestration includes toy instruments and the celesta, a recently invented cross between a piano and glockenspiel. Its silvery sound fit perfectly Petipa’s instructions that the Sugar Plum Fairy variation evoke water splashing in fountains.

Tip 2 The Nutcracker includes many dances that work well for class. In Act 1, try the March (no. 2) with marches in children’s class and the Gallop (no. 3) with gallops and spring points in 2/4. In Act 2, try a section of the accelerating Russian Trepak (no. 12d) with turns from the corner, the Spanish Bolero (no. 12a) with pirouettes and pas de basques in center, and the Tarantella (no. 14, first male variation) with frappés at the barre.

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May-June 2016 | 2 Tips for Modern & Contemporary Teachers | Healthy Heads and Sequence Recall

Tip 1
Maintaining a healthy head position is a constant challenge for students at every level. Students often jut the chins forward, which can create a number of problems with alignment. This first came to my attention while I was recovering from rotator cuff surgery. My physical therapist pointed out that my chin was out and the base of my skull was sinking into my cervical spine. “That’s why you have shoulder problems,” he said.
Tip 2
Maintaining a healthy head position is a constant challenge for students at every level. Students often jut the chins forward, which can create a number of problems with alignment. This first came to my attention while I was recovering from rotator cuff surgery. My physical therapist pointed out that my chin was out and the base of my skull was sinking into my cervical spine. “That’s why you have shoulder problems,” he said.

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