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

Photo by Becky Montalvo

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.

Continue reading

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

Photo by Briana Gardener

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.

Continue reading

September 2016 | 2 Tips for Modern & Contemporary Teachers

Photo by Carolyn DiLoretto

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.

Continue reading

September 2016 | 2 Tips for Tap Teachers

Photo by Robert Rosen

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.

Continue reading

August 2016 | Tell It Like It Is

TellIt_1

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.

Continue reading

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

Photo by Briana Gardener

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.

Continue reading

August 2016 | Page Turners

PageTurners_T

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.)

Continue reading

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

Photo courtesy Nina Pinzarrone

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.

Continue reading

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

Photo by Robert Rosen

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.

Continue reading

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

Photo by Becky Montalvo

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.

Continue reading

August 2016 | Thinking Out Loud | Dance Class Matters

TOL_T

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.

Continue reading

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

2TipsModernT

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.

Continue reading

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

Photo by Becky Montalvo

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.

Continue reading

July 2016 | 2 Tips for Tap Teachers | Counterpoint

Photo by Robert Rosen

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.

Continue reading

July 2016 | Thinking Out Loud | Holidays & History Go Hand-in-Hand

TOL_T

Twinkling lights and scarecrows, candy hearts and pumpkin pies—we love to celebrate the holidays. In many cultures, dancing is part of the celebration, so why not bring the merriment into the studio?

Continue reading

July 2016 | Creative Concepts

Fresh tunes and colorful costumes set the tone for Maywood Fine Arts Association's annual holiday productions. Photo by Spooner Baumann

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.

Continue reading

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

Photo by Carolyn DiLoretto

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.

Continue reading

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

Photo by Bill H

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.

Continue reading

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

Photo courtesy Nina Pinzarrone

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.

Continue reading

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

Photo by Carolyn DiLoretto

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.

Continue reading

May-June 2016 | 2 Tips for Hip-Hop Teachers | Explosive Movement and Social Dancing

Photo by Bill H

Tip 1
An explosive quality (driven by the energy of the music) is inherent to hip-hop. The ability to execute explosive movements—sudden, decisive, and fast—makes a dancer stand out onstage.
Tip 2
Encourage students to dance with each other in public as well as in class. While the studio is a great starting point, hip-hop dance is an art form that can be fully realized only when danced as a community, in a social setting.

Continue reading

May-June 2016 | 2 Tips for Ballet Teachers | Leg Stretches on the Barre

Photo by Becky Montalvo

Tip 1
I love walking into a studio where dancers are busy stretching quietly before class or rehearsal. Encourage students to leave conversations outside. When they pass through the studio door, they should enter a quiet and peaceful dance space.
Tip 2
When stretching the leg in devant on the barre, it’s helpful to think of keeping the supporting hip as close to the barre as possible and the working hip perpendicular to the barre. As dancers transition in devant from attitude to a fully extended leg, to relevé, to stretching the split, they must concentrate on keeping the legs crossed. The stretch should be felt equally in the supporting hip and the working inner thigh. Make sure students don’t add stress to the supporting knee by not pulling up or by leaving too much weight in the heel.

Continue reading

May-June 2016 | 2 Tips for Tap Teachers | Pickups

Photo by Robert Rosen

Tip 1
Pickups are sometimes called pullbacks or grab-offs. For many teachers, “pickup” best describes the action of spanking up, not back. With weight on the ball of the action foot, the toe tap spanks (brushes) upward before landing back on the ball.
Tip 2
There are three basic types of pickups.

Continue reading

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

Photo courtesy Nina Pinzarrone

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

Continue reading

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

Photo by Bill H

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

Continue reading

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

TOL_T

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

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

Continue reading

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

Photo by Carolyn DiLoretto

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

Continue reading

March-April 2016 | EditorSpeak

Photo by Chris Hardy

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

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

Continue reading

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

Photo by Robert Rosen

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

Continue reading

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

Photo by Becky Montalvo

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

Continue reading

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

Photo by Bill H

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

Continue reading

February 2016 | Summertime Teacher Training

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

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

Continue reading

February 2016 | Teacher in the Spotlight | Pamela Caira

Photo courtesy Pamela Caira

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

Continue reading

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

Photo courtesy Nina Pinzarrone

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

Continue reading

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

Photo by Robert Rosen

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

Continue reading

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

Photo by Becky Montalvo

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

Continue reading

February 2016 | Ballet Scene | Tales of Two Teachers

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

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

Continue reading

January 2016 | Thinking Out Loud | From Good to Great

TOL_T

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

Continue reading

January 2016 | Homegrown Homework

HomegrownT

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

Continue reading

January 2016 | Teacher in the Spotlight | Kristin Kudla

Photo by Ashlie Dente

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

Continue reading

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

Photo by Carolyn DiLoretto

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

Continue reading

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

Photo by Becky Montalvo

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

Continue reading

January 2016 | Collective Wisdom

CollectiveWisdomT

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

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

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

Continue reading

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

Photo courtesy Nina Pinzarrone

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

Continue reading