by Joan F. Smith It’s no secret that the technical caliber of competitive dance has skyrocketed over Jackie Del Prete’s three decades of work in the field. Dancers and teachers alike spend hours in the studio training and polishing routines, pushed by the level of talent they face on the competition stage. Pressured by the…Read More
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.Read More
From a young age, dance students idolize professional dancers—and that’s a good thing. They need someone to look up to and goals to aspire to that go beyond their home studio’s doors. That’s why creating opportunities for students to engage with professional dancers is important—it allows them to see that with enough work and dedication, dance training can have long-term payoffs. Even if they have no interest in or potential for a career in dance, students who enjoy the thrill of sharing a studio or stage with the pros may find that the experience deepens their appreciation of dance, motivates them to push past personal limits, and creates long-lasting memories.
How can studio owners create such opportunities for their students? Some ballet companies open their annual Nutcracker to local dancers, particularly children’s roles; school owners can inform students about upcoming auditions. But some schools do more than that, partnering with dance companies on productions that blend professionals and students and giving the students a performance experience they otherwise wouldn’t get.Read More
Goucher College seeks to offer the best of two worlds: intensive dance training for serious dancers and a superior liberal arts education. Goucher dancers live, study, and grow in a lively dance and academic atmosphere, and they design their own courses of study to support their passions in the dance field and develop their potential.Read More
Where do dancers go for training at the college level? In the past, they have typically chosen to attend conservatories like The Juilliard School, or colleges and universities known for their dance departments. Rarely would they choose Ivy League schools or universities like Stanford (called by some an “Ivy of the West”), which have not accorded dance much esteem. On these campuses, dance typically has been limited in terms of class offerings, performance opportunities, and funding.
All that is changing. Now students can choose to immerse themselves in dance—as well as philosophy, quantum mechanics, and comparative literature—at Harvard, Stanford, and Yale.Read More
We typically think about dancing for exercise, but what about exercising for dance? Hip-hop requires strength and stamina, but dancers who start off in the street (like me) may have no prior physical training. Some students struggle to keep up in class because they lack conditioning, not rhythm or ability to pick up steps.
The knee drop is a common but impressive transition to the floor. (Jerkers call it a pin drop.)Read More
Dancers who believe they have lost their ability to turn need to be told quickly and clearly that turning is only one part of their “game”—only one specific skill in a large repertoire of movements for a dancer. A turning slump should not become a dancing slump.Read More
Those of us in dance education regularly witness the power of dance to change lives: the shy child who comes alive onstage, the distracted child who learns deep focus, the uncoordinated child who discovers her own facility. For children in one dance program in Rwanda, this power has even more profound implications. For them, dance training can mean the difference between a life of homelessness and one of education and employment.Read More
Dance teachers can benefit from understanding the difference between what sports psychologists label “process-oriented thinking” and “result-oriented thinking.” I translate these terms as playing a “win–win” or “win–lose” game.Read More
Students who are talented dancers are often exceptional in other ways as well. And that means they need exceptional teaching. In fact, teachers might worry that they will fall short in training these students, who tend to be high-level thinkers, problem solvers who love a challenge. Can you offer them new and exciting challenges that put their talent to the test? Will they (and their parents) want more than you are capable of giving?Read More
From the outside looking in, Phoenix Dance Cooperative and Cypress Dance Project appear to be like any other dance studio. Well equipped and well staffed, each school has a thriving recreational program and a solid competition team, and their artistic visions include community involvement as well as high-quality dance training.Read More
These days, we’re fond of saying dance should be inclusive. Dance training is more welcoming to people with diverse abilities and interests than it’s ever been. But are there still closed doors, physical and emotional hurdles that cannot be overcome?Read More
Until the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989, Russian methods of classical ballet training remained something of a mystery. Only those dancers who had defected from the Soviet Union, such as Rudolf Nureyev, Natalia Makarova, and Mikhail Baryshnikov, or who had emigrated prior to the formation of the Soviet Union, could share their wisdom. Now Americans and Russians move freely across continents and cultures, learning old and new styles of teaching and choreography. Exemplifying that newfound freedom is the Vaganova International Method Conference/Demonstration.Read More
Do you have any advice about working with competition kids and determining who is in the front row, back row, etc.? These are 7- and 8-year-old kids in their second year of competing. It is only a group of 10, so the majority of times they’re in either the first or second row. I try to rotate them as much as I can, but there are always the stronger ones I need at that age. It bothers me because I always try to make sure they all feel important and a part of the routine. How should I base which dancers are in the front row—do I assess them or give preference to the kids who have been with the studio longer than the others?Read More
Summer intensives are meant to challenge students, push them outside of their comfort zones and, ultimately, make them better dancers—and, perhaps, better people for the experience. Last summer the Brazil Project took CityDance Center students far from their spacious, well-appointed studios in Bethesda, Maryland—4,796 miles, in fact.Read More
The ABCs of Image
I hear a lot of talk about professionalism these days. I doubt I could find a dance teacher or school owner who doesn’t claim to have the training, experience, credibility, and expertise that we associate with being a professional. But even when you’ve got all those attributes, you need one more thing: presentation. If you make yourself look careless or uninformed—or even worse, uneducated—you’ve blown that professional image to smithereens.
“All right, first and second arabesque.” The students at Cuppett Performing Arts Center in Vienna, Virginia, all in level seven (out of eight) in the Cecchetti method of ballet training, have finished stretching and are getting ready for center work. It’s time to steel themselves for an exercise requiring focus and determination.Read More