“Art Thieves”: Today we see cookie-cutter dances that borrow too heavily from music videos, TV dance shows, and other popular entertainment. And at Dance Studio Life, we hear from studio owners who complain that former employees or teachers at other schools stole their competition or recital choreography. I don’t mean the poachers borrowed a step, or the idea behind a step, or a story or theme that they then morphed into something of their own creation. I mean they stole the dance in its entirety and presented it as theirs. Judging by these school owners’ outrage—and my own experience in having my writing plagiarized—it’s obvious they didn’t feel flattered. They felt violated.
“Tough Times: Choosing the Team”: The lovefest that is recital is over and we meet in a dark corner of a café for the annual agony of choosing dancers for the team.
It’s more difficult than it seems. If it were only about technique it would be a snap. Perhaps we could pass out a test and set the cutoff at 77. Would parents be terribly upset if we put names in a hat? Would we?Read More
“Conquering Stage Fright”: In October, I watched my daughter suffer intense stage fright in her first show.
Deafening cheers. Phones flashing in the dark auditorium like crazed fireflies. Other kindergarteners smiled—mine looked stricken with terror. Would she faint or throw up? Afterward, she sobbed with disappointment. It wasn’t fun, her stomach hurt, she didn’t expect the noisy dark and blinding lights. Then I remembered that she’d frozen before: as a wedding flower girl, walking the gauntlet of a semi-dark hall thronged with cheering strangers.
“Hold the Flash”: Enough with the pirouettes and the pyrotechnics.
Yes, we’re all impressed with double-digit pirouette counts. Triple sauts de basque, hummingbird-fast entrechats, reverse-twisting, leg-splitting steps you can’t even begin to name—all of those make us gasp. But every time I go online I’m bombarded with videos of dancers performing superhuman physical feats. And it’s becoming tiresome.Read More
“Balance: Beyond the Classroom”: What I do believe in is this: striving for wholeness and balance in every aspect of life. When we do that, we learn where to focus our self-confidence so that it yields the greatest results. If you’re like me, working toward wholeness and balance is an ongoing process, difficult to master. But I’ll keep striving for both.Read More
“Learning to Let Go”: Letting go is difficult. It takes time and wisdom (often someone else’s at first) to understand that we’re better off without those habits, that person, these ideas. Usually only after a period of doubt and mourning do we realize that leaving something has made room for something else.
“Then It Happens”: What happens when one of them is suddenly gone? Growing up is a dangerous activity. The kids come to class, joyous, new licenses in hand, and you make sure to camouflage the worry in your congratulations. Weeks and lessons pass, and you’re consumed with corrections they forgot or how to address fizzling energy levels.Read More
“Points of Connection”: I’m writing this the day after Martin Luther King Jr. Day, at a time when world events make me wonder whether we, as individuals and societies and nations, will ever think of one another as equals. Serendipitously, I came across an interview with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater artistic director Robert Battle in which he speaks about dance’s role as an equalizer.
“Embracing Mistakes”: The computing industry has figured out something we arts folks already knew: failure can be your teacher.Read More
“Cultural Citizens”: In 2013, the great cellist Yo-Yo Ma put down his bow for an evening and picked up a sheaf of papers to give the Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts and Public Policy at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. He called his speech “Art for Life’s Sake,” and though the art in reference was, of course, music, the parallel to dance is obvious. In subsequent speeches he has called on each of us to become a “cultural citizen” who uses art to better the world.Read More
“Beginnings”: It’s January, a month named for Janus, the Roman god of doors and gates. And, because Janus is two-faced, gazing both ahead and back, he rules over beginnings and endings. …
“Catching a Wave, Dancing the Dance”: Catching a wave is like dancing the dance—when it’s caught you or you’ve caught it, nothing else exists. You’re in it, and you’re moving, and your body is a wondrous thing. …Read More
“We ♥ Ballet”: Where were you on October 1? If you’re a ballet lover, you were probably glued to your computer, watching live feeds from five world-class companies: Bolshoi Ballet, The Royal Ballet, The Australian Ballet, The National Ballet of Canada, and San Francisco Ballet.
“Two Lumps, Please”: The words were out, and there was no taking them back. And three feet in front of me, two blue eyes were filling with tears.Read More
“It’s All a Blur”: Once upon a time, I enjoyed watching dance. From recital queens to big-name ballerinas, amateur troupes to Ailey masters, it didn’t matter—if someone was willing to move her body to music, I enjoyed it.
“Looking Out, Not Looking In”: The movie Boyhood is a fictional depiction of a boy, Mason, and his family as they traverse 12 years of his childhood. Remarkably, the film was shot over the course of 12 actual years, allowing us to observe time passing for the characters while the actors mature in real time.Read More
“Remembering Robin”: Robin Williams wasn’t a dancer. Not officially, anyway. During an interview on Inside the Actors Studio, he mentioned taking class with Anna Sokolow at Juilliard; perhaps he trained with others too. Regardless, this was a man who could move—who, as my colleague Lisa Okuhn put it, was a “wildly physical performer. His brilliance and energy took over his body, almost as if he was possessed.”
“Not Alone”: College—or launching a dance career—is tough. Kids can feel overwhelmed to the point of giving up—dropping out, succumbing to despair, or worse. Let’s make sure they know there will always be someone who listens and understands, who values what they have to say, who doesn’t expect constant perfection, who will pick them up and dust them off. Let’s make sure they know they’re not alone.Read More
“Killing It”: And that’s the point. The boys were able to perform well not because they’ve had years of dance training (I assume), but because they got it. If they hadn’t performed with intent and commitment (not to mention expressions that ranged from intentionally blank to starry-eyed to open-mouthed delirium), this skit would have been painful to watch instead of laugh-out-loud funny.
“Missing It”: Comedy is tough, I tell my students. We have to display technique while taking a figurative pie in the face. We can’t break character. We have to trust one another. Even if we do all that, and do it well, comedy is precarious. One man’s Adam Sandler movie is another man’s headache.Read More
“Dance 911”: It was an emergency. My son, then a sophomore in high school, approached me after a dance. “Mom,” he said, “when you dance, do you go back and forth, or side to side?” He demonstrated both, shifting stiffly from side to side, and yes, back and forth. Aghast, I gave him a quick lecture/demo on moving from his center and never bobbing his head.
“Make Your Bed”: What do you need to know about yourself in order to be fully present as a good teacher and choreographer, a successful studio owner—to uphold your values? And once you are aware of your patterns of behavior, how do you support yourself emotionally so that you can do creative and innovative work?Read More
As the cover makes obvious, with this issue Dance Studio Life celebrates 10 years of publication. I’ve been on board for seven years as editor in chief, but I had a hand in some of the earlier issues as a freelance editor—which means I’ve seen how much the magazine has grown and changed since its inception. The anniversary is Rhee’s topic this month in “On My Mind,” so I won’t say more than this: the most gratifying part of my job is seeing you, our readers, respond with enthusiasm to the magazine’s evolution. Our goal is to make a difference, helping you develop as business owners and teaching artists, and offering you new paths to creativity. Like you, we take our work seriously, and that’s as it should be.Read More
The Huffington Post headline caught my eye: “18 Things Highly Creative People Do Differently.” Wouldn’t you know, I fit almost all of the descriptors, from “they daydream” to “they people-watch” to “they ask the big questions.”Read More
There are two singing ensembles in my area. One boasts 100 chosen-by-audition voices trilling out six-part harmonies. In performances the singers wear black-tie garb and are accompanied by a professional orchestra—with a harp.Read More
I love dance neophytes. Accompanying one of those newbies to a performance—whether it’s their first exposure to dance in any form, to a particular kind of dance, or to a specific work—has the added perk, beyond the performance’s offerings, of a delicious mingling of pleasures.Read More
Dance teachers say it all the time: ballet is the foundation for all dance. Yet students who see only hip-hop and contemporary dance in their future don’t think they need ballet. Those students should be taken immediately to a performance by Nederlands Dans Theater and placed somewhere in the first 12 rows. From there they will have an excellent vantage point from which to see absolute proof that ballet is essential to every dancer.Read More
Here’s an observation that’s been getting a lot of press lately: providing people with information doesn’t make them change their behavior. It’s easy to think of examples of this: we all know smoking cigarettes can cause lung cancer, yet many of us won’t quit; a sign says dogs must be on leash, but people let their pups run free. In the world of dance education, a common rule, or piece of information, is that students can’t miss rehearsals and still be on the competition team or in the recital.Read More
I used to judge local scholarship pageants. It was fun, and I liked that the girls got a moment in the spotlight and some money for their educations. But suddenly my services were no longer needed, and I think I know why.Read More
Last August at the DanceLife Teacher Conference, I noticed a recurring theme: school owners unhappy about not being able to run their businesses the way they’d like to. They perceive a disconnect between what they want and what’s possible, citing resistance to change from their employees or clients. Less fearful school owners encouraged the disempowered owners to have confidence and fortitude. No one likes change, they said; what’s needed is the conviction to say, “Yes, that’s how we’ve done it in the past, but now we do it this way.” End of discussion.Read More
I volunteer in a program that offers support to high school seniors—all the first in their families to attend college—as they write their college application essays. At our second meeting a recent high school graduate and program alum, who has been accepted to the University of California–Berkeley, spoke to the group of 50-odd coaches and students.Read More
I was internet stalking for studio news when I came across a dance mom and her irate, two-part blog. Apparently she thought her young daughter was being forced to wear a revealing, sexualized outfit and (to further tarnish the child) perform to a song inappropriate in the extreme.Read More
When I attended the World Irish Dancing Championships, I didn’t realize what a world I had stepped into. Even when I left three days later, having made friends with a former world champion, a band of mothers from Colorado who were flattered by my endless questions, unpretentious professional dancers, charming competitors, and practically an entire studio from Ireland, I still had no clue. It wasn’t until two weeks later, when the horrific Boston Marathon bombings maimed a young Irish dancer, that I began to understand the shared pride that binds Irish dance studios separated by miles, languages, even oceans, into one community.Read More
May 29. One hundred years ago. Paris. As the story goes, an opening night audience became so incensed at what they were hearing and what they were seeing that they punched each other and threw chairs. At the ballet. How scandalous!Read More
I was proofreading an upcoming “A Better You” by Suzanne Martin when one statement smacked me in the face. “And unlike performers, who are only ‘on’ onstage, a teacher is ‘on’ as a role model all of the time. Don’t let your students see you slump!”Read More