2009 | 05 | May-June

May-June 2009 | Table of Contents

COLUMNS Ask Rhee Gold 2 Tips for Teachers A Better You On My Mind DEPARTMENTS Thinking Out Loud Mail Teacher in the Spotlight | Elizabeth Fisk Barriser FEATURE ARTICLES Higher-Ed Voice | Making the Leap to Academia by Bonner Odell Ballet Scene | Teaching Pirouettes by Vanina and Dennis Wilson Have Wheels Can Dance by…

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Ask Rhee Gold | May/June 09

This is the end of my second year at this location, and I feel that I need to find a new location that is more appropriate for dance classes. The gymnasium has awful acoustics; it’s difficult to hear and communicate there. There is no ballet barre or mirror and the floor is a dense rubber cushion on top of cement. There is no spring to it, and it is always dirty after school hours, so I have to sweep and mop before class. Carrying my boom box, music, notes, and props to the school is a hassle, and after-school activities distract my students.

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A Better You | Coping in a Crisis

Does art imitate life? The lively arts in America historically shadow the ebbs and flows of the economic life of the country, and those who practice them know all too well the pain of the current economic downturn.

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On My Mind | May/June 09

Well, for the last few months it’s been DanceLifeTV.com. This new venture started so simply, in one of those “Someday I would like to . . . ” dreaming sessions with a friend of mine, Mikeal Knight. Like me, Mikeal grew up in a dance school owned by his mom, so we have a lot in common. He’s a dancer who happens to have a passion for making film, so over many days of brainstorming (and a couple of martinis) we came up with the concept for DanceLifeTV.com.

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Thinking Out Loud | What Anna Taught Me

Years ago, a child with a smile so bright it could light up a room walked into my studio. She was there to do a trial class, arranged at my suggestion when the mom asked whether her special-needs child was ready for dance classes. Little did I know I was about to begin a relationship that would become a part of me for life.

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Mail | May/June 09

I read your article [“My Life as a Studio Owner’s Daughter,” DSL, January 2009] and I am so moved. I’m a studio owner with one 13-year-old child. His nursery was more the office at the studio than a crib at home, and the guilt was overwhelming, so he too started class earlier than I normally accept students. He was a handful to say the least. He claimed to have already learned all this “baby stuff” and at age 3 even made music suggestions, during class and at the top of his voice, informing everyone that he was sick to death of this horrible music that he’d listened to “all of my life.” He was right!

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Teacher in the Spotlight | Elizabeth Fisk Barriser

“Elizabeth doesn’t run our school as a hierarchy—the teachers of ballet, jazz, yoga, modern, and creative movement all meet to explore ways we can learn from each other. There are several schools in our area, and Elizabeth strives for a sense of community. Never will you hear a negative word from her lips about another school. Elizabeth has kept our school a nonprofit organization, because she wants to give back to the community.”

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Higher-Ed Voice | Making the Leap to Academia

It’s a thought on the minds of more dance studio teachers these days than ever before: “Maybe I should get into college teaching.” At a time when small businesses are taking a financial hit and funding for professional dance companies is waning, more and more artists, students, and instructors are looking to colleges for career opportunities in dance. Some are lured by the prospect of artistic rigor, others by the opportunity to work with pre-professional dancers. Still others seek access to resources for art making: student repertory companies to set work on, studio space, technology.

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Ballet Scene | Teaching Pirouettes

If classical ballet instruction can be said to have a Golden Rule, it might be “Begin at the barre.” Classes begin at the barre, where students learn to perform a step competently before they attempt it in the center. Most instructors follow this rule in teaching pirouettes; standard instruction books such as Gretchen Ward Warren’s Classical Ballet Technique (pp. 141 and 177) advocate the practice of half-turns with relevé in retiré at the barre (while recommending that beginners execute one full pirouette in the center).

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Have Wheels, Can Dance

Mary Verdi-Fletcher remembers vividly the startled look on dancer/choreographer Bill T. Jones’ face when she showed up to take one of his master classes. “I told him, ‘Don’t worry about me; I will just translate what you are doing. Don’t give it a second thought,’ ” she says.

Jones’ brief moment of panic came about because Verdi-Fletcher dances from a wheelchair.

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Tradition!

“Move your tuckus,” pleads Avi Miller to his students over the microphone. “God created your tuckus to shake it!” With 14 students packed into a small classroom at the Nola studios in midtown Manhattan, Miller and his partner, Ofer Ben, use their indefatigable energy and nonstop patter to nudge the aspiring adult tappers to step on it. The occasion is the semiannual Tradition in Tap workshop, sponsored by the dynamic Israeli duo and held over a weekend last November.

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Making Dance Wishes Come True

Dance educators are, by nature, giving people. We give our knowledge and time to our students; we donate time to local schools or community theaters. But there are bigger opportunities for giving that reach beyond each of us as individuals. Two school owners, Tanya Bleil-Geiselman and Kelly McEvoy, found these opportunities through the Make-a-Wish Foundation; others find their own path to giving.

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Power of Performance

There’s nothing quite like a live dance performance to recharge the studio atmosphere. Whether it’s a local troupe or a world-renowned ballet company, dance teachers report post-show increases of focus, enthusiasm, and dedication in the classroom. In this story, three dedicated teachers chime in on how they have made seeing dance a priority in their studio culture.

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Doing What They Do Best

Plenty of dance teachers can get a 6-year-old to master a shuffle-ball-change. And with enough repetitions, the kid might even smile while doing it at the end-of-year recital.

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Banding Together in Boise

Surrounded by mountains in Treasure Valley, a region of southern Idaho named for its abundance of resources and opportunities, a group of dance teachers gathered last spring in the small meeting room of Dance Arts Academy in Boise. Enthusiasm filled the air as the studio’s owner, Dotty Hancock, reviewed some financial figures. The group’s mission? To determine how to give away $11,000.

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Two Men and a Dream

Michael Barriskill and Dr. Elliot Pack could not have more different dance backgrounds. Barriskill performed with Rudolf Nureyev and the London Festival Ballet at the Metropolitan Opera House when he was just 10 years old. Pack, an obstetrician/gynecologist, discovered dance recreationally at the age of 29. An unlikely pair at first glance, the childhood talent and the late bloomer have nonetheless found success as partners in both life and work.

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Quiet Strength

We all need inspiration at times. Sometimes it comes in an email or as a “feel good” piece at the end of a newscast; usually we don’t experience it on a personal level. But I have three stories of inspiration to share, all of them very personal. All three involve my faculty, and one is about my sister, whose fearful words on the telephone will always remain in my memory: “I want you to come home. I have breast cancer.”

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Be Smart About Your Art

Most teachers aim to produce well-rounded and educated performers, and we’re here to help. Including fun facts in your classes will impress your students and keep them interested. Take this quiz yourself, and then share it with your students and staff.

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